Shannon Barnhart has wanted a horse of her own for a very long time.

The 26-year-old Wallowa Memorial Hospital physical therapist has ridden friends’ mounts, worked summers as a wrangler at horse ranches and trained horses under care leases.

Last year, she decided to take the plunge and adopt a wild mustang. On Thursday, Jan 7, she and certified mustang Training Incentive Program trainer Dawn Medley-Fowler, of Imnaha, got together at the federal Bureau of Land Management Wild Horse Corrals in Burns to choose her new mount. From the 900 mustangs at the facility, Barnhart chose a 6-year-old chestnut gelding from the Paisley herd.

“He seemed calm and he had good confirmation, good bone, a deep heart-girth and good feet,” she said. “And he has a kind eye.”

Medley-Fowler trailered the horse and two other wild horses back to Imnaha Thursday night, and began working with Barnhart’s horse — formerly No. 6283, and now named Finley, or Finn — Friday morning.

By Saturday morning, when Barnhart made her first visit to learn more about training a wild horse, Medley-Fowler had Finn’s forelock braided and a second halter on him, and Barnhart could gently pet his forehead. On Sunday, Barnhart and Medley-Fowler continued their work.

There’s still weeks of work ahead to get Finn to lead, have his feet picked up, load and unload from a trailer — all requirements before he goes to Char Williams’ Joseph stable, where Barnhart will train him to ride as her trail horse. But he’s off to a good start.

“He’s going to be pretty easy to train,” Medley-Fowler said at the facility. “He’s smart. He’s a leader. And he wants to learn.”

—Ellen Morris Bishop, for the Wallowa County Chieftain

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