Lost Cowboy has found his place, his purpose and the new person in his life -- all at a thoroughbred breeding farm in Riverhead.
Dana Grimaldi, founder of Serendipity Farm, won the wild mustang at auction after the Extreme Mustang Makeover challenge Aug. 23 in Pennsylvania, weeks after falling in love at first sight as he loped around her training track.
Her $5,000 bid was the highest among the 23 mustangs in the contest, which gave trainers 100 days to take the horses from raw to ready-to-ride so they can get adopted.
"I knew when he placed his head in my chest that he was special," said Grimaldi, 32. "He just had good energy."
It didn't matter that Lost Cowboy and his makeover trainer, Cliff Schadt Jr. of Holtsville, missed the top 10 by a fraction of a point -- a controversial scoring to some Long Island spectators. Lost Cowboy, captured in 2010 in a federal roundup of mustangs, placed fourth in handling, fifth in riding and 17th in the trail challenge. Rain made the arena so muddy that he spooked upon stepping on a mud-covered rail.
Schadt, who also trains colts for Grimaldi, will keep working with Lost Cowboy. The mustang will be ridden on trails and beaches, but he'll also work as a teacher by example to the farm's equine newcomers.
"I can't think of a better life for a horse than having purpose," Schadt said. "There's a lot of horses that people enjoy for recreation, then they get busy and the horses get forgotten. . . . That will never happen with this horse.
"For a wild horse, he's figured that people are OK and he really desires to be with people."
MORE MUSTANGS ADOPTED
Five other Long Islanders also took home mustangs after making winning bids or -- at the urging of trainer Cliff Schadt Jr. -- adopting those that weren't auctioned off. Here are the stories of three of them:
Jackie Rappel of Huntington felt for a dappled gelding that didn't get bids or the chance to perform because his trainer was sick. She had no intention of buying a horse, but then her boyfriend sat on the mustang and the saddle slid off because the girth was loose.
The mustang didn't twitch and, impressed, Rappel paid a $200 adoption fee, even though she's an unemployed lawyer.
Her son Kolby, 13, wants to ride -- the first time he has asked to get on a horse since falling off one a few years ago.
"I thought, 'This is the reason why this horse was sent to me,'" said Rappel, who named the mustang Ocho, which means eight in Spanish. It's her favorite number and was Ocho's number in the competition. "He follows my kids around. He's like a puppy dog pony."
At the arena, Joseph Fontana of Islip Terrace resisted pressure from daughter Kelan, 13, to get a pal for their horse, Nico.
Then his heart went ba-dump over Mustang GT, who in the freestyle performance chased and was chased by a mechanical bull that was a little bigger than a football.
When the trainer let his hat fall, the mustang picked it up with his mouth and passed it back, Fontana recalled. "I said, 'That's it. I love this horse.'"
His winning bid was $1,700.
The trainer told the family that Mustang GT just likes to pick up things, a natural ability that Kelan successfully tested with a stuffed animal.
"He's very sweet," she said.
Middle-school teacher Donna Sabeno of Manorville needed someone sweet enough for her young niece and nephew. Milo didn't flinch when his trainer waved a kiddie pool over his body, something that could spook tame horses.
Sabeno paid $1,250 for Milo, who she imagines had a "confusing life" after being captured.
"I'm looking forward to giving him his forever home," she said. "He's going to get a lot of hugs and kisses."