On Friday, I went to the BLM’s wild horse and burro facility at the East Cañon Correctional Complex near Cañon City, Colorado. I was there to visit and to photograph the 1000 wild horses from Adobe Town and the 170 horses from Salt Wells Creek that were rounded up in October and November. These horses are in jail, separated from their families, their homes, and yet they are innocent of any wrongdoing. They are simply guilty of living on our public lands.
Cañon City is the largest BLM short term holding facility in the country, and it is a unique situation – the BLM has the help of 55 trained prison inmates to feed, water, care for and train the horses at the facility. It is a situation that helps both prisoners and horses, and on my tour of the facility I was impressed by the efficiency and quality of care provided for these wild horses. If these horses have to be in jail, this is the best possible place for them to be. I saw horses in individual pens that had come in thin, and were given a much better chance to get enough food so they could fatten up. I saw prisoners working with wild horses, getting them ready to be border patrol mounts. They were being slowly introduced to and led over obstacles on horseback.
And then I was able to see my beloved Adobe Town horses. Pen after pen with horses – mares in one area, stallions in another, and weanlings, yearlings, and mare/foal pairs. It was when I was standing in front of the fourth pen full of weanlings, and realized that there were hundreds of them, that I was hit by a wave of despair. How could all of these horses possibly find homes? It is always the youngsters and the trained horses that are best able to be placed in adopted homes, but who was going to take HUNDREDS of youngsters? How could they have removed all of these horses when the adoption market is at its very lowest? How could 55 prisoners possible train all those horses? It cannot be done. Most of these horses will go to long term holding.
The weanlings were the most approachable and the most curious. I had a few following me as I walked along the fence of their pen.
The stallions stayed far away, and were extremely flighty still, not yet reconciled to their captivity. As the feed truck came through with copious amounts of hay, they ran and stampeded, running with fear in their eyes.
Those stallions – I have always had a soft place in my heart for them – so magnificent, some with gorgeous long manes, proud faces, all colors, red roan, many greys, bays, sorrels, and one lone gorgeous cremello.
I found the older gray stallion who had put up such a valiant fight at the roundup. He was in a big pen with many other gray stallions, so it was only the distinctive hoof- shaped scars that had him stand out in the crowd.
I looked in vain for the red roan stallion who had waited for and called for his family – and hope that he was released. I did see his pinto palomino mare in the mare pen.
The stallions have not yet been gelded – that will happen in February. The horses have not been sorted yet by age, so there are young and old faces together in the mare and stallion pens.
When I approached the mare/foal pair pens the mares were protective and kept their babies far from us. But when we drove through the mare pens, the mares did not seem disturbed, in fact a couple of young mares came right up to the truck, curiously looking at us. We discovered a newborn foal in one of the mare pens – a bit of hope here for the future!
I spent quite a bit of time with the weanlings, taking photos as I know they will be the most easily adoptable.
I also was glad (and sad) to see that pale palomino colt with dark legs was indeed the one I had followed in the wild, with his gorgeous sorrel father, who I believe was released. I had decided that I would adopt him, and bring him home to my herd of two other mustangs. It seems like such a drop in the bucket- there were 8 other horses adopted that day. I wanted to take them all, put them in a sanctuary where they would be free to live out their lives with their families………….maybe someday I can do that.
Until then, I am getting the word out about the next adoption in Cañon City – Friday, December 17th. They are offering an unprecedented free delivery within 150 miles. Contact the BLM if you are interested in attending and adopting, and want to have a wild horse for the holidays like I do. Here is a link to my photos of many horses there:
There was no way in one day to do justice to all of them, but you can see how beautiful they are, and larger in size than horses in many other herds. This herd has been blood tested and found to have a high percentage of Spanish blood in them. Steve Mantle, who has probably trained more of these wild horses for the BLM than just about anyone else says the Adobe Town horses are his favorite to work with. Please spread the word.