A Burbank resident is continuing his mission to prove that wild mustangs are just as good as any other horse breed at competitions.
Roberto Flores will be heading to Reno, Nev., with his 6-year-old male mustang named Lucky Little Sparrow on June 24 to compete in the Extreme Mustang Makeover, a national competition in which horse trainers have 100 days to tame a wild mustang and teach it to perform different types of maneuvers.
Flores, 20, won first place in his class during the Extreme Cowboy Race in May and said he is ready to go to the Silver State and nab himself another win.
"We need to work a little bit more on his gait and backing up, but he's really good with ranch work, which is roping and anything else you need to do around a ranch," Flores said Tuesday morning after going through several drills with Lucky Little Sparrow at Coyote Creek Ranch in Sunland.
Flores and Lucky Little Sparrow have been together for only about three months, but Flores said he and the horse have formed a tight bond.
After practicing their routine, Flores tied the horse to a metal training pen that he built and then took a seat in a camping chair not too far from Lucky Little Sparrow. Once Flores had caught his breath, he let out a mellow sigh and his horse did the same.
"Isn't that the weirdest thing? I just got relaxed right now," he said. "They say that mustangs build a bond with you and, with him, I really just felt it. He's just the same as me. Whatever I feel, he feels."
Though it seems Flores and Lucky Little Sparrow have been best friends from the get-go, it actually took a bit of persistence to forge that bond.
Lucky Little Sparrow, who was caught in Little Owyhee, Nev., was castrated just a month after his birth and was nearly just skin and bones when he was assigned to Flores for the competition.
"The difficulty I had with him was for him to accept me," he said. "He had a lot of spirit, and he didn't want me on him. When I tried to get on him, he didn't like it and always tried to get me off him."
Flores said he was thrown off Lucky Little Sparrow about 16 times before the mustang finally started trusting him, and it took about two weeks for Flores to be able to ride the horse.
Had this happened to him several years ago, Flores said that he would have quit training Lucky Little Sparrow. However, after being in the horse-training world for the past five years and being older and wiser, Flores persisted and used the knowledge he has picked up from other trainers to tame his mustang.
"The fact that I know more and because I want to be so involved with making sure mustangs get to a good home, I didn't want to go back," he said. "I made an oath to myself to make sure that these mustangs get to a safe home."