LIVERMORE — With just days to go before their day in the spotlight at the Western States Horse Expo in Sacramento, Beverly Vreeland and her mustang Diamond are finishing up a three-month training regimen that transformed the once-wild mare into a choreographed dancer.
"Is she ready?" Vreeland said. "I would say, 'yes.'"
Vreeland has put a lot of time and work into the mare since taking her on as a charge back in March with the Mustang Challenge, a program sponsored by the Mustang Heritage Foundation and the Bureau of Land Management.
Diamond is one of 30 horses that were taken from a northern Nevada preserve and put into the hands of trainers, who have 90 days to convert the rough stock into a showpiece.
Vreeland is very pleased with the progress Diamond has made, but she's certainly not underestimating her competition. "We should do well, but I'm sure a lot of other mustangs out there are also doing awesome," she said.
Training has been rigorous and frustrating at times. As of last week, they'd only missed one of the 90 days they are given to work together. Some seemingly simple obstacles — such as putting splint boots around the animal's ankles — can prove to be an unexpected hurdle.
But they've come a long way since then. They've got a four-minute choreographed routine down, done to a medley of three songs. It starts out country, segues into "Blue Suede Shoes" and ends with what Vreeland hopes will be a showstopper.
Just getting to perform that routine is not a sure thing. To qualify, the pair must be one of the top 10 finalists on Saturday in the preceding ground work and saddle work.
Vreeland doesn't know exactly what will be required of Diamond. The horse and the course will not meet until performance time, though trainers will be given a walk-through earlier that day.
But if the Sacramento expo challenge is anything like similar events around the country, there will be a number of obstacles, and Vreeland has been working to get the mare accustomed to potential pitfalls.
"She might have to go in and out of a horse trailer, cross a bridge, go through an L-shaped obstacle," said Vreeland, who has rigged a makeshift course at Basso's Arena in Livermore, where they have been training.