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At the heart of the MUSTANG CHALLENGE, you will find six devoted trainers who are generously giving their time and expertise to “gentle” our six Mustangs. These six trainers, each with a different training style, will work with and train the Mustangs for 120 days. You can follow their training progress online by clicking their social media sites below.

At the event, the trainers and their horses will compete in several challenges, judged depending on harmony and partnership. Unlike many horse shows, the MUSTANG CHALLENGE focuses not on top performance but the partnership between trainer and horse. We want the trainer and horse teams to be able to train without pressure to perform since our ultimate goal is to re-home these Mustangs. Following our core mission, Horses Helping Humans, we know that wherever these Mustangs find their home, they will create a unique and lasting bond that is magical!

Meet our Mustang Challenge Trainers

carol robertson

Carol Robertson
Mustang “Tucker”

Bio Coming Soon!

Carol Robertson Dressage with Assistant Trainers: Jenna Coonen & Maggie McKitrick

Kimberly Forhman

Kimberly Forhman Team
Training ‘The Duke’

Kimberly Forhman, Forhman Performance Horses (949) 878-2858

Western Trainer, Huntington Central Park Equestrian Center
Fohrman Performance Horses is owned and operated by Kimberly Fohrman. Kimberly set out to get a proper education in the industry and attended equine college running in many collegiate rodeos. Kimberly earned a degree in Horse Training and Management and graduated with honors from Lamar Community College.

Kimberly was hired at an established reining barn directly after her internship and went on to win countless reining championships. Kim continued to build her skills and developed a solid foundation on any horse. Kimberly then went on to work as the head trainer for California’s largest equine rescue facility, helping to rehabilitate horses and find new loving homes while also developing a Gymkhana program. Kimberly has now crossed over to barrel racing. With multiple titles across the west coast with her own horses, she continues running her training barn and lesson program(s) at the Huntington Central Park Equestrian Center, in Huntington Beach.


Madi Makoff

Madi Makoff Team
Training “Misol”

Madi Makoff, Free Rein Foundation Trainer

Madison Makoff is an amateur rider, ocean conservationist, and philanthropist who has been riding horses since she was five years old.  Madison started riding Batman and Tucker in the hills of Southern Idaho and later trained with Tracy Burroughs in Huntington Beach. Madison loves riding, but more importantly, embraces building a connection with the horse. Madison believes building a connection with the horse and spending lots of time doing groundwork allows the horse to better understand what you are asking when riding.

The Mustang Challenge is something Madison has wanted to do since she was 13 years old. To train a wild horse is a once in a lifetime opportunity. To gain their trust, learn to communicate with one another and take something that is wild and help them adjust to being domesticated takes patience, love and lots of kindness. Mustangs are known to be extremely intelligent and once you gain their trust they will do anything for you. The hardest part about this challenge will be sending them off to their new home. As the only amateur competing in this challenge, Madison is enlisting the help of her good friend and horse whisperer, Pedro Gandara.


Melanie Rigdon

Melanie Rigdon
Training “Pedro”

Melanie Rigdon, MNR Western Training (714) 864-8043
Western Trainer Huntington Central Park Equestrian Center

Melanie Rigdon began riding at age 4 when her family purchased their first horse, Ginny. She immediately began developing a real love for not only riding horses but in doing anything and everything associated with owning and caring for horses. Even at that young age, she was “all in” when it came to the myriad of duties associated with true horsemanship.

Melanie began showing in Western Pleasure at age 8 when her family purchased their second horse Lil Bit Sneaky, a Western Pleasure Show Horse, earning many championship titles in halter, equitation, pleasure, trail, and horsemanship classes until the age of 17. Horses remained her true passion and priority through her school years, which led to teaching lessons as her first job in high school. Aside from teaching lessons and schooling horses during the school year, on summer break she lived and worked on private ranches for Mary Behrens schooling horses, caring for livestock and assisting in minor property maintenance. After graduating from high school she began assisting western pleasure trainer Denise Schryer and within the 3 years of working with Denise, she began taking on her own clients to train for competition.

A new training path came Melanie’s way when the owner of an ex-racehorse was looking for help and solutions to the dangerous behavior the horse exhibited that essentially made the horse difficult to approach, let alone handle and ride. She chose to restart this horse with the consideration that it appeared vital this horse needed a new beginning. After 9 months of working with this horse, she found her niche in learning alongside this horse and creating new approaches, methods, and making the job fun. This horse eventually became a gentle lesson horse for her. This was the beginning of the journey that led her to where she is today.

Melanie enjoys working with any breed of horse, in any discipline, to help riders and their horse work through situations or experiences that have led to unsuitable partnerships or dangerous and unpleasant routines. With problem-solving and sensory training she is always learning and growing with her clients and enjoys finding what really works for each horse. She has been successful in turning around many horses with behavioral issues and seeing her clients and their horse(s) get a fresh start in a new partnership.

In 2014 the Huntington Beach Police Department started a Mounted Enforcement Unit (MEU) and selected Melanie as their trainer. She remains in that role today, training the police officers how to ride, and also works daily with the police horses training them in sensory situations that continue to benefit them when on duty.


Natalie Donaldson

Natalie Donaldson
Training “Tru”

Natalie Donaldson, Donaldson Equine (714) 595-9114

Western Trainer Huntington Central Park Equestrian Center

Natalie is a graduate of the University of Southern California where she earned a degree in Psychology while playing college soccer. In her time there, she learned that Psychology also helped guide her in her horse training.

Natalie has been around horses all her life and began taking lessons at the age of six. She has studied many types of riding styles including hunter jumpers, dressage, cutting, cow horse and barrels, while competing in many of these event disciplines, earning awards and money in jumping and barrel racing and the occasional cow sorting jackpots.

Natalie has broken three of her own horses, two she got when they were 6-7 months old and one off the track, a quarter horse. She also has one yearling filly that she is training now. Natalie enjoys doing groundwork with her horses to build a great foundation under saddle. She also enjoys teaching people how to ride and how to build a relationship with their own personal horses. A large part of training includes training the rider on how to properly interact and communicate with the horse.  Natalie also loves teaching horses to load in and be comfortable on trailers. Although she loves hard-working horses, she leaves plenty of time for trail riding and obstacles.

Natalie’s education continues today by attending as many clinics as she can, working directly from world champions like Ron Ralls, Clinton Anderson, Charmayne James, and Michelle McCleod. She has studied under the instruction of accomplished cutting and cow horse trainers like Roy Rich and barrel racing trainers like Melanie Southard-Thompson.

Today Natalie competes in barrel racing and continues to learn every day. She also provides equine fitness and equine rehab services by providing sessions on the Theraplate, Game Ready ice machine, and Nebulizer breathing treatments. Her goal is to fill her permit to become a professional and compete in pro rodeos once her young horses become more seasoned in competition. I am currently going to be breaking two horses, one mustang and the training her yearling.


Rick Baer

Rick Baer Team
Training “Sanders”

Rick Baer, Rick Baer Training Stables (714) 842-3011

Western Trainer Huntington Central Park Equestrian Center

Rick Baer has been training horses professionally at HCPEC for over 35 years. He is trained in all disciplines of western riding. Fun fact, Rick’s first year in business Rick started 132 BLM Mustangs on his own. He has worked with the top line of horse trainers including Glen Gimple, Ronnie Richards, and Todd Crawford. Rick puts love and effort into every horse he trains! We are so excited for this adventure!