It was a month ago that I had followed behind the trailer on route to deliver our two wild mustang girls to Engler Canyon Ranch just on the borders of Colorado and New Mexico. With mixed emotions I watched the trailer ahead moving along the highway and down the dirt road to what would become their final destination back to the wild. I was joyful for them, but their release was a place of sadness for me knowing that my interaction with them would be limited from this point forward. Its been a season of emotions with all the changes I have been faced with over the last several months. I was unsure how I would posture myself after I came back home without a pasture of horses that had been with us for over the last 15 years.
Last Friday I headed back to Engler Canyon Ranch to visit the girls. I loaded the truck with a cooler, camera, guitars and a great anticipation as I made our way down the highway. I was joined by good friend and music partner, Karl along with meeting my new marketing and promotional director, Mary and her husband at the ranch. I had sage, tobacco and a red tie from 'Thundering Hooves' to offer up to the wild ones when we arrived. We hit the road to head north in hopes to find some wild ones and enjoy the good medicine they offer and enjoy the quiet beauty of the open range.
We pulled into the sanctuary and parked just inside the gate. The skies were vast and blue with rain falling across the northwestern horizon. Karl pulled his his guitar and we started our short hike across the range to find a few bands of about 40 mustangs grazing on the northwestern side of the bast 22,000 acre landscape. The mesa views were brilliant with hues of colbalt and ultramarine blues and shades of purple in the distance. Blue skies with clouds and every shade of green and sage filled the eye.
With camera in hand I slowly walked closer to the quiet sound of mustangs grazing when I noticed our two girls with a small band off to the right. I turned on the camera and kneeled on the range to steady my camera and began to call out with my high pitch to SierraCancion. Their ears perked up and they began a quick trot towards the familiar sound they had heard for years. I was amazed to see other wildies joining with them as they approached us.I felt the warm smile begin to curve on my face as they made their way toward us. The dust followed them close behind until they stopped short about 20 yards from us with their new wild friends in tow. It was comforting to see them stop, knowing they had settled into their previous wild state, with caution and curiousity confirming their distance. I knew then and there, they had returned 'home' to their wild place within.
Of the 110 or so wild mustangs on the sanctuary , most all of them have a story of being gathered and then released in long term holding facilities across the west. Some we we're told by the staff, had bee in holding for over 16 years. Its hard to imagine the sheer glee some of these mustangs must have felt to find their freedom under their feet after so many years. I would imagine though, it took some time to find their wild comfort as well. Like picking up a paint brush after years of not painting, the first touch of canvas with the tip of the brush can feel a bit intimidating and uncomfortable as you move across the canvas the first time seeking for that familiarity once again. Robert, one of the ranch staff members, shared the story of one of the mustangs upon being released, ran the fences for days and days, probably seeking to find its original homeland and family.
I could hear Karl strumming 'My spirit runs wild and free' on the guitar as I was snapping pictures of the girls and the other wildies at their side. A song I wrote several years ago from a wild mustang perspective going through a round up, separated from his family band and homeland. I was on my knees on the warm earth and as I stood I lifted my eyes to shift onto my feet I saw about 20 mustangs had approached and were standing with ears forward, drawn to the sound of the music coming from behind me. They were just listening, and loving it. I felt their spirits connecting to the lyrics and sound as it moved across the soft breeze over the land. We stood watching, it was beautiful. The mustangs kept their distance, and we honored them in the space they demanded, but watching them, watching us and listening was an incredibly profound experience. The music moved them just as it moves us, it was a beautiful moment of silent interaction with them. I continued taking video and photos as Karl strummed the guitar, he sensed the moment at work. I continued collecting those moments on video and photos to be cherished forever.
Good medicine was at work that afternoon, for the horses, and for us. I believer that the medicine of our hearts compassion through the music was received as well as our forgiveness for the pain we as humans have caused such spiritual creatures. These are mustangs that have not experienced the kind hand as our girls, until they had been released onto the land below their feet here at the sanctuary. Its a difficult thing, to stand in the presence of wild, knowing the injuries and injustice they have been handed out by human beings. Being removed from homeland, family and all they have known to be truth. To being rounded up, separated from family, and branded to a land of fences unfamiliar in all its ways to them, some for years and years. The ability to survive and thrive is an incredible testimony of the strength, grace and beauty of these magnificant equine.
This visit was a day of good medicine for all. For the mustangs, and each of us standing on soil that has been committed to offering a life of promise, healing, hope and freedom...good medicine indeed.
Enjoy the pictures from this trip!
As always, You can find me,
Running with the Horses!