In Wyoming last October, as I photographed the brave fight an older gray stallion put up to save his family from the helicopter and the trap, I had no way of knowing that there would be a way for him to be free again. I watched him valiantly struggle to keep his family from the trap for over a half hour, and finally the relentless helicopter pushed his family in in a great cloud of dust. But he was not there! He had escaped – but only for a short time – two wranglers went after him and roped him and dragged him into the trap. The proud old battle -scarred warrior hung his head down with fatigue. That was one of the saddest sights I had ever seen at a roundup.
I had been posting the events as they unfolded on Facebook, and Sandra Longley said that she would find a home for Gray Beard, as she named him. In the weeks after the roundup I sent his photo with the distinctive “W” mark on his left shoulder to Lona and Fran at Canon City, where all the Adobe Town horses had been shipped, and Fran found him in the pens. It would have been like searching for a needle in a haystack had he not had that distinctive scar – most of the older stallions were also gray!
There were 251 horses over the age of 10 years old from Adobe Town. These are referred to as “Sale Authority” horses courtesy of the Burns Amendment, which allows wild horses over the age of 10 to be sold without limitation. Sandra heard that a man was interested in taking all 251 of the older horse as soon as the stallions were gelded and that his plan was to drop off 1 – 2 horses all over the Midwest to people wanting the horses for “Agricultural Deferral.” However, this sounded like an all too convenient excuse for buying them to ship to slaughter. So a plan was born – Sandra decided that not only would she rescue Gray Beard, but also a load of sale authority horses, including mares and old stallions who would be saved from the difficult and life-threatening process of castration.
I volunteered to go select the stallions at Canon City, and arranged with Lona and Fran to do this at the next adoption. Sandra and I had already fallen in love with a Cremello stallion I photographed at the previous adoption she named Dust in the Wind, so he was already selected. Some advocated from Colorado had asked us if Ben, a bay stallion from the Piceance Herd could be included, so he was the lone Coloradan in the group. Fran allowed me to go into the pens with him, and I tried to select the older horses. It was so sad knowing that not all of them could go. Some of the stallions had already been castrated, and as we went to the last pen of intact stallions I had almost given up hope of finding the red roan who had so touchingly called for his mare during the roundup. He was in the back of the last pen – I was very sad to see him there at Canon City, but happy that he could be part of the lucky few to find a new home.
One of the stallions that we selected had escaped the day the trucks were unloaded at Canon City. He jumped two 6 1/2 foot fences to escape to a 2000 acre property that was across the road from the Canon City facility. None of the Adobe Town horses that had been adopted could be released to their new homes for over a month because they had been unable to catch him and do a blood test on him. They tried trapping, putting a gentle saddle horse out with him ( who then started following him around) and tried to dart him with a tranquilizer gun. My imagination was captured by this elusive gray stallion who was so unwilling to give up his freedom. I named him Liberty, and told Fran and Lona that we wanted him on the truckload of horses. But this was not to be. Two weeks ago we heard the sad news that he had been darted with a tranquilizer, and never came out of it. He was 20 years old, and died free.
On Thursday of last week, I traveled to the Blackstone Ranch in Taos, NM where we waited for the horses to arrive. Finally after 5 months in captivity and just a day before the stallions were scheduled to be castrated, Sandra received the message that it was a go. 32 horses had been loaded into a huge transport vehicle that morning at Canon City, the eleven stallions I had selected and 21 older mares Lona selected, most of them pregnant.
It was a windy day, and the trailer had to go slowly, so we waited anxiously for it to arrive. As it pulled up into the ranch, the sound of kicking and stamping of feet could be heard. The horses were moving around restlessly and we could see where hooves had bent the sides of the trailer! The driver told us that for the last 100 miles the stallions in the back had been kicking. As it drove around to the ramp leading to the stallions’ pasture, we realized that even the door had been bent, and the first efforts to raise it were in vain. The ranch manager John rode to the rescue on his tractor and was able to get the back door open. We were worried about the condition of the stallions, if they had been fighting. None of them wanted to come out – to venture down the ramp, out of the trailer, but finally a faded gray pinto came sliding down the ramp, then the red roan, that I had named Paprika, The bay roan followed, and then after some prodding through the sides of the trailer, one more stallion came out and ran into the large pasture. They all stood for a moment, waiting, then moved toward the hay.
The next divider separated the stallions form the mares, and the mares once again were initially reluctant to come out. And then we discovered the sad reason for all the uncertainty and disruption – there was a mare that was down in the trailer. She was not moving, and soon the driver told us she was dead. Finally the remaining mares in that divider section came flying out of the trailer, and grouped up to work their way down an alleyway to their pasture.
The next divider section also held mares, and the driver and John moved the mare who was down to the side so they could come out. They waited in the alleyway, as if for their fallen companion, and as the next group of stallions came out, the Cremello, Dusty, was the first to come out. He wandered over to the mares, over the fence in the alleyway, and started to make friends. Finally the rest of the stallions came out, Grey Beard neck and neck with Adobe Wind, of the long mane, and another gray stallion, then the last two, and the dark gray Adobe Steel was last to come off the trailer -he ran very fast to join the other stallions!
I was very happy to see them all finally free at last. It was sad that the mare had died, of a twisted colon, a month away from foaling. But she is free now.
The stallions would be kept separate from the mares, with one large pasture between them, so that they could settle from their trip. I moved to the back of the stallion’s pasture so that I could observe themas they settled down to eat hay and grass, which they had not seen for 5 months. Most grouped together, but Dusty stayed separate from the larger group, finally going over to greet Paprika, then moving to join the group. Three of the stallions who had been in the back of the trailer had cuts and bangs from the trip, but all appeared to be walking and trotting ok, so the decision was made to keep an eye on them and see how they were the next morning.
On my way back home to Colorado, I stopped to see the horses. I went first to the pasture with the mares, as I had not had a good opportunity to look at all of them before. there was a sorrel mare with a long blaze, two dark brown mares, and a lighter bay, a little mare with a very long mane and plenty of spirit! The rest of the mares were gray, which makes sense given the predominance of gray in the Adobe Town horses.
The mares were very alert and all grouped together looking at me, so I stayed well back with my long lens, and observed them. When I moved away, they finally turned back to grazing, but kept an eye on me as I moved toward the stallions.
I stayed in the pasture next to the stallion pasture so that I would not agitate the stallions, who were on hyper-alert status. The older stallion who is fleabitten gray that I called Freckles snorts at me several times. The reddish pattern on his coat makes him appear from a distance as if he is a roan. He is cut and swollen on his legs, but still walking and trotting. Dusty the cremello and Ben the bay are the most relaxed, walking leisurely while the other stallions move back and forth. It is Gray Beard who leads the stallions toward me, walking confidently. They all take a look, then move off. I see this as mu cue to go, and leave them to settle in their new home in peace.
If you are interested in sponsoring one of the horses, or helping with their expenses, please go to Spirit of the Wild Horse:
I was praying someone would save them as I was crying when I saw the video of them… so GLAD most are safe.. you are all a Blessing and the Bestest and so AWESOME!!!
Tamara and I were happy to hear this was finally a done deal.
We are glad you followed up with the release and your great photos. We hope to get over there and see some of our old friends from Adobe Town, and I don’t mean the Chopper pilot ;))
GOD BLESS YOU!!
Bless you, is right! I saw the photos on FaceBook, but so love reading ALL about this wonderful and joyous new beginning for these magnificent Horses. So very sorry to read of the Mare that didn’t make it. She IS free, and her foal as well. They roam forever free among those that have gone before them.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for everything that you do, have done, and continue to do in the name of LOVE for our Mustangs.
Thank you all for saving what you could. Happy tears this time.
If I read this right the stallions are still in tacked? I hate that they gild any of them!
Can’t wait to see the foals. At least they will never know BLM.
Love & Hugs to All of you AND THE HORSES
CAROL, A JOB WELL DONE. THANK YOU. I WAS SO WORRIED ABOUT GRAY BEARD NOT FINDING A HOME. HOWEVER, THANKS TO YOU AND SANDRA THEY FOUND THEIR FOREVER HOME. THE RANCH LOOKS LIKE A BEAUTIFUL PLACE AND THEY SHOULD ALL BE HAPPY. IS THE ADOPTION FOR THE ADOBE HORSES LOOKING GOOD? AGAIN THANK YOU ALL.
So glad these ones are saved, though deeply sad about the loss of Liberty. He was one valiant stallion.
You are their angel, Carol. Your courage and strength to save their lives, and preserve their heritage is amazing. Bravo to you and your team for persisting under difficult circumstances, to get the job done. All in all, these magnificent equines now have a second, wonderful chance to live out their lives in peace. Blessings, Ellen
This SO Fantastic!!
Here’s hoping that the rest of their days will be free!
Hi Carol,thankyou for this lovely update on the Adobe wild horses-trusting they will all adjust well to thier new lives and to thier new guardians a big thankyou too!
Thank the goddess for you guys… I so wish I lived out that way so I could be part of that, but it seems you have a great group and helped as many as you could… I would love to sponsor one of those fine horses, like the little bay mare, as I have all bay Arabians… God bless and thank you again!
Such a wonderful story so beautifully and passionately expressed.
I really enjoyed reading this article. And I love a happy ending, altho I know this is not the end for these wild horses. I would like to hear they are turned loose to form herds and live the life they were meant to have. Thank you for doing what you can for these horses.
If this is how we treat our historical animals who fell along with our soldiers during the Civil War as well as the War against the Redcoats – horses that as a huge part of our history fell NOT of their own volition yet nonetheless fell just the same as did the men – what does that say for the future? You can’t shit on the past and then expect a bright future. I think this is being spelled out in America in so many ways already. When do we learn? Will it really take a nuclear war for the greed, mass consumption and production to end? I think so.
well said & I agree
Studies of ancient peoples they keep playing the same temptation of greed and not love for one another little respect for creatures of our blessed world. The same game different players another time. How beautiful are the blessings we trade for false happiness. Holy Sprit stay near and please protect the beauty that remains. Prayers for All. Mother Earth and Father Time rides with the beauty of our world and universe Always has Always will. Katherine
Beautiful pictures. So good to hear about some positive endings.
These horses just steal our hearts… Carol, you rock; you rock; you rock! Sandra, you rock; you rock; you rock! Thank you for helping restore the dignity and respect these stallions so richly deserve and the security the mares need.
I’m so happy for the horses set free & hope some day someone can get close enough to comb their manes.
You are doing God’s work
BLESS YOU & THANK YOU Carol & everyone that helped & helps YOU.
I wish I could afford to support YOU in your cause monetarily, but sadly I’m not able.
BUT, I will always sign Petitions against the inhumane, cruel & abhorable treatment these beautiful sentient beings are subjected to by government & private organizations.
PLEASE continue in your struggle to do GREAT work for the wild horses & mustangs.
Ottawa, ON CANADA
I wonder if anyone knows where these horses came from and how did they end up wild in the first place? From the photos they look a lot like some of the horses you see in Europe with their long heavy manes and stocky bodies.
Thanks for the wonderful article and pictures. Just wish this could get out to more people.
I adopted a BLM mustang 2 years ago…he is an amazing horse, so willing and trusting. I wish I could adopt a dozen more! It’s hopeful to read articles like this one but there are so many good horses that will not be saved. The cattle industry is to blame for this entire mess. Boycott Nevada, spend your tourist dollars elsewhere and boycott beef…eat chicken!
JOB WELL DONE. CONGRATULATIONS!!
Several centuries back good hearted people would buy slaves from the auction block and then give them their freedom.In this century it is the wild horses and burros who are the slaves. Thank you for continuing the tradition of good hearted folks who ransom our wild ones! And thank you for documentating their release from bondage.
I rejoyce in their freedom and thank you so much for saving them, thank god for horse people, it is so sad that our government is not acting on their behalf. I have deep saddness and shed many tears for the ones left behind.
We will save our wild horses thanks to people like you.
great work, well done. how do we save the rest of the group, you said the total was 230 [?] … ?????????? what is the cost buy each one?
Bless you, and thank you ☺
I admire you, I have visited this site numerous times, only to be touched by each story that I read. It is sad to think people could so easily forget they are dealing with a living creature. Thanks to you those who cannot speak now have voices.
Not only THANK YOU but also, so well written!!! It was interesting all the way threw. Now…. let’s all pitch in with whatever we can.
I live in Taos and have been wanting so badly to locate these horses. I wish only to sit and draw them or take pictures of them. Wild horse behavior is interesting enough, but I’m really interested in how the dynamics will play out in their new home. I grew up with horses and have the utmost respect for them, I would take every precaution to avoid disturbing them or agitating them. I’ve called the ranch and haven’t heard back from them. Just thought I’d give this a shot. Bravo to you and the rest of the crew that got them here! You are my hero(s)!
Thank God someone cares. It’s going to be a pretty sad world, when know one is left that cares. We’re not quite there yet. But we’re getting there.
Thank You, thank you, thank you. We are getting to a point in America where We the People need to get up and actually MOVE to save what is left of our country and the Constitution upon which it was created. Each and every person can make a difference and if we all work together we can save not only the last of our wild horses, but the fast disappearing wild land that is left. God Bless you.
I like the blogs article and also the posts.
this tale is so heartwarming! i cried tears of joy watching the horses you saved getting off that trailer and finding their way to their new home! thank you so much. i want to be part of a rescue group. how do i go about doing that? really appreciate you and ginger kathrens, who saved the “freedom fund” mustang band who was caught “trespassing” on usfs lands and never returned to their range in the pryors. now they have a great home near billings, montana, and will be safe forever!!
That’s a nice post.Thank you for sharing.