TIP challenge comes to fairgrounds

Trainers prepared their horses for the handling class at the first-ever TIP Mustang Challenge at the Huntingdon County Fairgrounds Friday afternoon. The trainers had 76 days to train the wild mustangs before the event. The open show begins at 3 p.m. today.

Eight trainers from Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland and Canada showed off their hard work Friday at the first-ever TIP (Trainer Incentive Program) Mustang Challenge in Pennsylvania at the Huntingdon County Fairgrounds.

For the challenge, the trainers picked up wild mustangs 76 days before the event and had to train them to first be comfortable around humans and then perform different tasks.

“Some of these guys were wild less than a year ago, so they’ve come a long way. And the ones that came from Canada, they got picked up 63 days ago. It’s been a really short time, two months, to train these horses. They’re all doing really well,” said Stacy Hickes, owner-operator at Gentled Hearts Stable in Miller Township and organizer of the event.

Friday, the trainers handled their mustangs, going through the TIP requirements.

“For the TIP program they’re required to be haltered, penned, unhaltered, led, pick up all four feet, brushed and loaded in a trailer,” said Hickes.

One of the judges for the event, Clarence Crumpton, asked the audience to withhold all applause until the end of each participant’s run, reminding everyone that these animals were only recently taken off the range and many were still easily spooked.

Trainers from across the state and outside of Pennsylvania checked in at the fairgrounds to make sure the horses are healthy.

Only two of the trainers had been to the fairgrounds before. For everyone else, this is the first time on the grounds.

“Usually the events are a little bigger, but because we had to drive to Illinois to pick up the horses, that dropped the numbers way down,” said Hickes.

This wasn’t necessarily a negative.

“It’s actually nice for the first one. If you had 30 horses here for the first one, it would be a lot more hectic. This way we can go through and get everything ironed out were we get to the point where we’re prepped better for next year. We’re hoping the event grows two to three times bigger,” she said.

The TIP Mustang Challenge was started by the Mustang Heritage Foundation, whose primary mission is to create and promote programs that provide information and education about wild horses.

Most challenges take place in the western portion of the US.

Hickes said Friday she expects more horses to register for today’s show.

The event is free to the public.

The open show will begin at 3 p.m. today in the horse show ring at the fairgrounds.

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com.

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