Cover Story: Up for the Challenge

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Samantha Rock Doubles Her Chances of Winning $50,000 at First Ever Mustang Challenge in Las Vegas

Samantha Rock and mustang mare Princess Fiona. Photo by Madeline Biner.

Why mustangs? Samantha (Sam) Rock wanted a challenge and found it in 2015 when she started gentling and training wild horses and got hooked on mustangs. Sam considers herself a very competitive person and training two mustangs was an opportunity for her to push herself further. “Once gentled, there is not much difference between mustangs and domestic horses. Starting off, mustangs have more respect and pay more attention to you—they’re more attentive and very smart, but every horse is different.” says Sam.

Her strategy for the Mustang Challenge competition is to compete with two horses giving her double the chances to win and more opportunity to be in the top 10 finals. She wanted to go for it and have a better chance to be in the money. Sam is also a new mother with a 1-year-old child. “I might be crazy,” she says. 

What’s the difference between her two horses? Princess Fiona is a grey mare from Buffalo Hills, Nevada and 15.2 hands; Handy Dandy is a chocolate palomino gelding from Divide Basin, Wyoming, and only 13.3 hands at 5 years old.

Completely different horses, Handy Dandy is small, athletic and likes to go. Princess Fiona is draftier and likes to just chill. And yes, Fiona is named after the character in Shrek. 

Samantha Rock and Handy Dandy. Photo by Madeline Biner.

It’s an adjustment for Sam to train one after the other. She must adapt her attitude and style of handling to each horse’s very different learning style. 

Sam is excited about the opportunity to compete at the famous South Point Arena in Las Vegas, with its electric atmosphere and first-rate arena. She also knows the other competitors will be of the highest quality. 

Sam says it’s been a challenge to be a new mom, manage a family, and train two mustangs. Her son has been ringside many times supporting his mother. She thinks he just might be her good luck charm. 

The Mustang Challenge is the richest national mustang competition. It will be held at South Point Arena, Las Vegas – July 11-13, 2024. The preliminary classes are reining pattern, trail class, and ranch riding. The Championship Finals will be July 13, Saturday night at 6:00 with $50,000 awarded to the champion (ticket required). For more information or to purchase tickets please visit

See this article in the June 2024 online edition:

June 2024

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