By CLINT FOSTER
The results are in. When the season finale of Mustang Millionaire aired on Nat Geo WILD over the weekend, a champion was crowned and Mineral Wells’ own Travis Dittmer fell just short of the top 20 and a shot at the $1 million prize at the Mustang Million competition in Fort Worth.
Mustang Millionaire followed five cowboys and cowgirls as they bought completely wild mustangs at auction and transformed them into fully-tamed, trusting stunt horses in just four short months. Dittmer was among three road-tested Texan cowboys who starred in the shows first season, culminating in the largest-ever prize in one of the biggest annual mustang-training competitions in the world.
A seasoned, well-respected horse trainer and veteran of mustang competitions since 2008, Dittmer was chosen from a list of 40 names from the Mustang Heritage Foundation to star in the show’s inaugural season, thanks in large part to his infectious personality. The lifelong cowboy – who was sponsored by Walden Farm and Ranch Supply in Mineral Wells – finished 21st out of 200 entries, barely missing the final freestyle competition at Will Rogers Coliseum in Fort Worth.
Despite it being the first time for Dittmer to ever not qualify for the finals, he told the Index he was not too upset saying he takes failure “pretty well.”
“I wasn’t that disappointed,” he said. “I showed three horses and it was way too much. I was so exhausted. I wasn’t all torn up about it. I was just glad I could actually go to sleep that night.”
Tom Hagwood, who was not featured on the show, took the grand prize in an emotional finish, while Dittmer’s co-star and 2012 champion Bobby Kerr of Hico took second and third place for a total of over $175,000 in much-needed prize money.
In the show’s first episode, Dittmer bought five mustangs at auction for about $2,200 at the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth. He focused in on three of them – Iggy, Iron Man and Ivan – thinking that having more horses in the competition would maximize his chances to win. But ultimately, this strategy meant he could not spend as much time with each horse and the plan backfired. He said it turned out to be a wake-up call about his own modesty and a reminder to always know your limitations.
“I really bit off more than I could chew,” Dittmer said. “I usually just show two (horses). You’ve got to give them special attention, it’s not just like you ride them an hour every day.”
Dittmer’s twin sons, Jayde and Jerrad, were also prominently featured on the show as entries in the youth competition and ended up faring much better than their dad. With trained yearling mustangs, Jayde and Jerrad both finished in the top 10 at ninth and sixth, respectively.
Jerrad outranked his brother for the first time with a Duck Dynasty themed routine in which his horse retrieved a duck decoy he pretended to shoot out of the sky. The crowd-pleasing routine earned scores of 28, 30 and 30 (out of 30) from the three judges. Travis said both of his boys’ great performances made him proud and really helped soften the blow of his own loss.
As for the eldest Dittmer, 45-year-old Travis had originally thought that this competition would be his last. After 30 years of “riding rough,” he said he is growing tired from the sheer amount of time and energy necessary to train wild mustangs for these contests. But after falling just shy of the top 20 this year and coming as close 3.5 points away from first place in the past, the “challenge-driven” Dittmer told the Index he may return to the competition again to end on a better note.
After repeated attempts to contact media relations at Nat Geo WILD, the prospects for a second season of Mustang Millionaire are unclear. However, Dittmer told the Index he was unsure whether or not he would want to rejoin the show for another season.
“I want to see how it works out,” he said. “This first year, they didn’t pay us. But if it’s a hit and there’s a second season, that’s when everyone will start thinking more about contracts and stuff like that.
“Everybody’s expecting it to be a big hit, but who knows. I’m not worried about it. It’s not like I’ve lost anything.”
Although his future on the small screen is uncertain, Dittmer said he certainly enjoyed his time on the show, adding that those involved were all very professional and easy to work with.
“We’re supper happy with how it went,” he said. “I think I really got fortunate. They did a great job. But I don’t know (if I would return for another season).”
He joked, “I’ll burn that bridge when I get to it.”
To see the Dittmers in action, watch re-runs of Mustang Millionaire on Nat Geo WILD.