GLEN ROSE - Running free and uninhibited, wild mustangs have roamed the vast lands of the west for centuries, but how do they fare when taken from their natural habitat and placed on center stage?
For Bobby Kerr, learning the beauty and trainability of wild mustangs began when he took in an Extreme Mustang Makeover show in 2010.
“I had said no for a couple years and well, my old buddy in Glen Rose, Jeff Payne, talked us into going and watching it in 2010,” he said. “We went and watched it and I was impressed with what they were doing and how good the horses were trained and how good they looked.”
Sponsored by the Mustang Heritage Foundation, the Extreme Mustang Makeover gives trainers 120 days to train wild mustangs, purchased from the Bureau of Land Management, to do a three and half minute freestyle performance, which features show-stopping tricks and theatrics.
Kerr already had 40 years of horse training under his belt, and due to financial difficulties, he decided that after watching his first ever Mustang Makeover he would go ahead and take a chance on training a mustang to do a performance that would wow an audience.
In order to perform Kerr needed a mustang and he got his first performance mustang, Poncho by accident or really one could call it by fate.
The mustang that he originally bid on was nowhere to be found, so Kerr was given Poncho as a replacement. It wasn’t love at first sight and Kerr was unimpressed with Poncho, but he decided to take a chance on him anyway. It turned out Poncho and Kerr bonded right away and in 2011 they entered into the Extreme Mustang Makeover with a plethora of tricks to perform.
During that show, Kerr came in fourth performing with Poncho, was voted fan favorite and received $15,000. He now believes that Poncho was a gift from God.
Kerr was hooked on performing after his wins at the 2011 show and he couldn't wait to do it again.
“I [placed] fourth, fifth, was fan favorite and won $15 grand,” he added. “I got all excited and did it again in 2012, won and was fan favorite again and then in 2013 it was Mustang Million, which had a million-dollar purse.”
In 2013, Kerr was one of five trainers that participated in Mustang Millionaire, a miniseries produced by ABC and Nat Geo Wild. The series followed Kerr and the other trainers around as they trained and tamed their mustangs for the freestyle finals at the Mustang Million competition.
Being on national TV is an experience that Kerr will never forget.
“It was good, I think pretty much everywhere we go to this day, it doesn’t matter where, people relate to me that they saw me on the TV show and ask me questions about it,” he said. “There were a lot of people that watched the show.”
Unfortunately, Kerr didn’t win Mustang Million. He ended up taking home second and third place honors and won $160,000.
Even though he didn’t win, being on the show thrust Kerr into a national spotlight. People from around the country got to see what it took to actually train a wild mustang. Plus, he got to be on Good Morning America and had the chance to drive through Time Square with Poncho in the passenger seat.
The Mustang Million set in motion a chance for Kerr to capitalize on his success and take his mustang show on the road.
“[My wife] and I love traveling the country and I get to ride my horse and get paid for it,” he said. ”I tell everybody I have the best job in the world.”
The tricks that Kerr performs with his beloved mustangs are achieved through a trust and bond between he and the horse. The acts are thrilling and entertaining to watch and coming up with those acts takes creativity and staying one step ahead.
“I basically know what I want to pull off before I even start and I’m looking at horses that will fit my act,” Kerr explained. “There have been a lot of people at the Mustang Final that say ‘well if I make the finals I’m not sure what I’m going to do for my freestyle.’” I know even before I get my horse what my freestyle is going to be.”
Some of the freestyle tricks Kerr and his mustangs have become known for include Kerr being pulled around the arena on a surfboard, having the mustangs jump in the back of a 1946 pickup and of course them riding around in the passenger seat of a car.
Whether you have seen him perform in person or have only watched YouTube videos of Kerr’s performances, it is easy to understand why he has been voted fan favorite multiple times. And while the fans love him, Kerr enjoys nothing more than putting on a performance that appeals to everyone in the audience.
“I really enjoy making people happy, seeing a smile on their face and showing off our mustangs,” he said.
People in the audience aren’t the only ones that love Kerr’s show. Kerr has had many cowboys come up to him after a performance and tell him they enjoyed the show, too.
“For me to get a real-deal cowboy come up and shake my hand and say it was the best act they’ve ever seen is just the icing on the cake,” he stated.
If you haven’t seen Kerr perform in person you might want to head to the PRCA rodeo next weekend and catch his show. He hinted that he has two new acts that he might very well pull out during his two-night performance.