LEWISVILLE, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) - Some Lewisville ISD students are saving your tax dollars, one horse at a time.
They're part of a months-long program for wild mustangs.
An estimated 88,000 horses and burros roam free in the U.S.; they are spread across public lands in ten states but federal officials say there's not enough space to sustain them.
To thin the numbers, the Bureau of Land Management uses choppers to round up thousands of mustangs and guide them to holding facilities with food and water. Last year the agency spent $81 million caring for the animals.
Now a lucky few are learning a new way of life in Lewisville, with agriculture teacher Melissa Barnett and her FFA students. "We're managing their nutrition, making sure they're always being groomed, and taking care of the behavior side of things," said Barnett.
The group adopted four mustangs in September. At first the animals were so nervous the teens had to use pool noodles to get them used to being touched.
"She wouldn't go in the stall," said senior Rebecca Wittek. "She kept pacing and spinning around everywhere." freshman Trevor Moreno said his horse started out the same way. "She didn't really want to come near me. She was kind of scared of me."
Since then the students have spent nearly every day teaching the horses maneuvers and building trust, taking the horses from wild to mild. "She's really easy to teach and once you teach her she picks up on it fast," said senior Maddie Trussell. "But she does get a little sassy here and there."
The next step: The Extreme Mustang Makeover Youth Competition at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo.
"They get to showcase what they've done and it shows their relationship and personality," said Barnett. The students will compete for $9,000 in prizes while hopefully attracting new owners. The plan is for each horse to be adopted by the end of the stock show. "She's got a really good personality so I'm hoping she goes to a good home," said senior Briauna Gutierrez.
It's a feeling all the students echo.
"I plan on being a little sad," said Moreno. "I'm going to miss her."
After months of work the students will send their mustangs to new families and start the wild process all over again. "It's amazing to see these horses get a new home and a new outlook at life," said Wittek. "Rather than being overpopulated and starving out there."
This is the third group of horses adopted by Lewisville ISD's FFA.
Each horse has its own Facebook page:
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