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I’m a child of the west and grew up on a steady diet of movies and books about cowboys and their horses.
I lived in Cheyenne, Wyoming – home of Cheyenne Frontier Days, and one of the biggest rodeos ever.
To me, the wild mustang embodies the spirit of the west – wild, free and beautiful.
But there’s a problem in this paradise. There are too many horses for the land.
So every year the Bureau of Land Management rounds up these gorgeous animals.
The lucky ones find homes.
That’s how Red, the mustang contingent in the Herd of Oldsters came to his people many years ago.
Frankly I hate the stories about the roundups.
Horses are terrified, exhausted from being herded by helicopters, and often separated from their family groupings. They’re held in close quarters with horses they don’t know, or like, which makes for anxiety and behavior problems.
One bright light in this whole saga is the Extreme Mustang Makeover Challenge.
In this annual contest, trainers have ninety days to tame a wild mustang. These are horses that have never known humans. Trainers must use their knowledge of horses, their courage, and their heart to succeed. At the end of the ninety days, the horses are made available for adoption.
Wild Horse, Wild Ride is a new film that chronicles a handful of unforgettable characters from their first uneasy meeting with their horses, and follows them over three months as they attempt to transform from scared strangers to the closest of companions. Follow this link and watch the trailer. It will make you smile.
The film is billed as a “crowd pleaser.” I’m eager to see it and check it out for myself.
If any of you have already had a chance to view this film, let me know. I’m not sure yet when it will show here in northern Colorado, but you can count on me being in my seat, popcorn in hand, with Red’s spirit keeping me company.
I mean we are human and as such, we’re more alike than not.
I’m looking for soul mates.
Not the romantic kind.
The kind that book themselves on guilt trips.
As I do.
On so many occasions.
Here’s how it went down recently in the pasture.
It was windy.
My hair was standing up, supported by ongoing gusts of wind.
My eyes stung from the wind and dirt.
And my lips were gritty from the dirt and bits of hay that stuck to my lip balm.
It was not pretty!
And did I mention that the wind was freezing?
Well, it was.
I got my two old sweeties settled with their feed pans. They were content to munch away on their grain. I handed out a few snacks to the rest of the oldsters. And I tried to sit on the back edge of the car and enjoy my time with the horses.
It’s just that it wasn’t all that enjoyable.
Cold, windy and gritty are not my favorite adjectives when it comes to describing weather.
So I decided to slip into the car and get a break from the wind. It was a blessed relief to be on the inside of the weather.
I took a deep breath, and settled into the seat. Eventually I peeked in the rearview mirror to assess the damage. I planned to pat down my hair and wipe the first layer of grit off my lips.
What I saw instead was Red, standing at the fence giving me the evil eye. His mane was blowing, his tongue was sticking out and he was willing me to get out of the car and give him more snacks.
Oh, no! Not the mustang mind control.
I looked away.
He held his ground.
Never get in a battle of wills with a mustang.
You will most certainly lose.
That is if you are anything like me, which as I said earlier, I hope you are.
I sighed, zipped up my jacket and headed into the wind. Guilt works with me nearly every time.
Have you been sent on a guilt trip by one of your animals? Or humans? Leave a comment below. Please don’t leave me all by myself in this very human experience.
I’m on a mustang theme this week. Don’t ask me why, because I couldn’t give you an answer.
I just am is the best I can come up with!
A couple of months ago when I was out feeding, Red’s people were there too.
He was getting the full spa treatment – grooming, hoof picking, and his most current round of shots.
And he was munching away on a pan of grain.
He was one happy boy.
And that made me happy.
I’m always pleased when anyone in our herd of oldsters gets special treatment.
They’ve earned it.
So on this particular day, Red’s people were telling me stories about this gnarly old boy.
It was clear they’d had many good times together.
Red was a darned good cutting horse in his younger days.
And a mountain horse extraordinaire.
Apparently one afternoon after a nice day of riding in the mountains, Red and his peeps were heading home. They were driving down one of those winding mountain roads at around forty-five miles per hour when the driver looked in his rearview mirror and noticed the traffic behind him had come to a dead stop.
Then he thought he saw his horse on the road.
“What the heck?”
He slammed on the brakes and jumped out of the truck to investigate.
Sure enough, Red was on the road, looking a bit dazed.
One of the other drivers reported that the door of the trailer came open, and Red backed out.
At forty-five miles per hour!
This could have ended very badly. But it didn’t.
The story is that Red sort of bounced out of the trailer, and then shook his head as if to say, “Watch that first step. It’s a doozy!”
No One Was Hurt
Thank God the other drivers were alert and no one, horse or human, was hurt.
Now this alone would be an amazing story. But wait, as they say on late night television infomercials, there’s more!
This amazing horse was led right back into the trailer.
Horse people everywhere will be shaking their heads and saying, “No way!”
But it’s true.
At least according to the story I was told.
That sweet mustang stepped into the trailer.
He didn’t balk or pull away.
He got in like it was no big deal.
And that may be the biggest miracle of all in this story.
Getting horses into trailers isn’t always so easy.
And after being bounced out of one?
The odds aren’t good.
But Red did it.
When life knocks you down, you can either stand on the road complaining, or get back in the trailer and keep going.
P.S. I’m not one hundred percent sure this story is true, but I‘m passing it on to you just as I heard it. And knowing Red as I do, I believe it!
I’ll start by answering this rhetorical question.
At least my answer holds true for one particular mustang of my acquaintance.
Actually, he’s the only mustang I know, so my sample size is rather small.
I’m sure you figured out by now that I’m talking about Red.
He’s part of the herd of oldsters, and he is trouble with a capital T, especially when it comes to fences.
He breaks them. The broken fence isn’t enough to let horses out of the pasture. It just requires ongoing maintenance. Someone has to string that wire again.
I’m sure the owners of our boarding facility just love that!
And love Red for giving them something else to do.
I’ve written about our bad boy Mustang before. For a while he and Pepper were an item, though that romance has ended. Lately he’s only had eyes for Baby, the youngster in our herd of twenty-something horses.
So about those fences.
He does it to get my attention. “Yo! You aren’t handing out the snacks fast enough,” his actions say.
“Yoo hoo, remember me?”
He can be a tad demanding when it comes to snacks.
And yes, you may be thinking that I’ve created this problem by handing out snacks in the first place. You’d be correct.
But I didn’t teach Red to snap the fences.
He figured that out all by himself.
Red is an equal opportunity destroyer of fences. He’ll work on metal gates too.
In fact, there is a gate leading into the winter pasture that’s in bad shape. Red didn’t actually break this gate, but he hasn’t helped it any, either.
He lifts his hoof onto the rung and pulls. The gate sways back and forth. It’s only hanging by one bolt.
Every day I fully expect to find that gate lying on the ground, but it’s still holding.
No thanks to the Mustang.
Has one of your animals done anything lately to try your patience?
Leave your comment below so I don’t feel like the only indulgent animal lover.
It’s day two of my Petfinder challenge to raise awareness about less than adoptable pets.
Yesterday I talked about the values of senior animals.
Today, I want to tell you about some really wonderful horses.
Icons of the west.
Not technically pets, but still in need of good homes.
Let me put a familiar face on the mustang.
Remember Red? He’s Pepper’s mustang boyfriend. If you’re new to the blog or missed this post, here’s a refresher that details their “relationship.”
Red is a sweet old guy, though somewhat of a bad boy. At least in his mind.
His people told us they adopted him long ago from the Bureau of Land Management.
That’s what happens to the lucky mustangs.
You see there’s quite a controversy about them. Some people have gone so far as to call mustangs nothing more than vermin.
That’s because the wild horses of the west compete with cattle for land.
And cattle ranchers have far more clout than a bunch of horse people.
Though things have improved over the years.
Mustangs are no longer routinely slaughtered, just because.
Now they are “gathered” a couple of times a year and sold at auction. You can get a mustang from the BLM for as low as $125 if you meet their requirements. I think that’s what his peeps paid for Red.
And he’s a gem.
If you want to see a fictionalized story about the plight of the mustang, and enjoy looking at Viggo Mortensen at the same time (and who doesn’t!), take a peek at the 2004 movie Hidalgo. It’s become one of my favorites.
Maybe it’s that I was raised in Wyoming in the era of kids playing cowboys and Indians. Maybe it’s that I’m connected in my soul with horses, maybe it’s just that I’m a bleeding heart liberal (which I’ve been called a time or two.) I don’t like to see animals mistreated. Any animals.
I don’t know the answer to the mustang dilemma in the west. I don’t have nearly enough information to even make educated comments. I just know they are amazing, gorgeous, spirited animals.
If you’re in the market for a horse, take a look at the mustangs offered by the BLM. It might take a bit of work, but you will be rewarded with a smart, strong, beautiful animal that will give you his (or her) heart.
If you’d like a testimonial, ask Miss Pepper. She knows quite a lot about the heart of at least one mustang!
When I pulled up to the gate for yesterday’s noontime feeding, I did a quick scan of the pasture for my two sweet old things. I always hope they’re close by, which makes it a much easier process on me. Some days I just don’t have the time to go traipsing out to the hinterlands to call Bud and Pepper to come in for lunch. Of course, I do it anyway.
Nine times out of ten they’re right by the gate waiting for me, and their food. Or maybe they’re waiting for their food first, and then me.
Bud is easy to locate because of those gorgeous spots on his hindquarters. He was with his small herd and on first glance the usual suspects were all there – Macie, Amigo, Baby, and Hanger.
Wait a minute!
Where was Pepper?
And where was the mustang?
Bud was ready to eat, NOW. He’s like that. No nonsense or fiddling around when it comes to food. I figured I’d get him fed and then go look for Pepper and her boyfriend. I had a pretty good idea they were in the shed.
Bud was about three quarters of the way finished with his grain when I saw Red poke his head around the corner of the shed. He saw me and began a slow saunter toward the gate.
Now if horses wore clothing, Red would be dressed in Wranglers, maybe torn at the knee, a black leather biker jacket, and scuffed shitkicker boots. He’d have black Ray-Ban sunglasses, a five o’clock shadow and a scar or two on his face. If you were to lift up his shirt, you’d see more scars and a lot of muscle. He definitely has that bad boy “don’t mess with me” look going. In his youth he must have really been something. These days, he reminds me a little of Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart.
He took his place in the lineup at the fence, waiting not so patiently for me to notice him and bring him treats. Red is missing the gene for patience.
I still saw no sign of Miss Pepper. Hmm?
I forgot to mention that Red has a pretty good set of dreadlocks going in his mane. And on this afternoon, there were bits of leaves and stalks of weeds stuck in his hair. He looked like he’d just gotten up.
Now I don’t want to jump to any wrong conclusions here, but you tell me. Doesn’t this seem a bit suspicious?
A good ten minutes later, I saw a familiar brown face emerge from the shed. I breathed a little sigh of relief.
And slowly, very slowly, Pepper began to walk toward me.
As she got closer, I noticed that her purple stretchy blanket was undone in the front and hanging open.
Still not jumping to conclusions, but I’m getting very close.
What were those two doing in the shed?
When Pepper got to the gate, I could see the same bits of leaves and weeds in her mane as Red had. Okay, now I know there was some hanky panky going on.
She came through the gate and ate her lunch without much dawdling this time. I brushed the debris from her mane and tried to get her to tell me what was going on.
But she wasn’t talking. Occasionally she’d glance at Red, who remained at the fence line demanding treats, and I swear I saw her smile at him.
These days she only has eyes for Red. He’s her main man and she can’t wait to get back to him. She finished eating and I let her into the pasture. She stood beside her mustang and they touched noses in greeting. It was such a tender gesture.
I guess even bad boys have a soft side when it comes to their girls.