If someone would have said I would be living with Mustangs on a 5000 acre ranch in an RV...I would have thought they were crazy. 15 years ago, we didn't have horses as much as even be living in a region where there are wild horses. But the destination is as important as the 'journey'. This started several years ago as we made our eventual dream 'move' to the west, after a series of events, meetings and such the story began to unfold unbeknowest to myself, and to my husband.
But here we have landed this week, with a studio shed before us, and in a 30' RV on just under 5000 acres in the midst of 120 or so wild mustangs. Even as I type this morning, they are making their way outside the front of the compound. Many of you reading this will say 'it's a dream come true'...for me, its more about 'me' coming 'truly alive' to what my purpose and passions entail. The little girl within, has bloomed to become the painter, mustang advocate and woman that was being culitvated all along.
We can push and press to make our way all our life and never really hit the target, thinking we know whats the best path for ourselves...or we can learn to rest in who we are and what we love, moving forward one step and a time and trusting that destiny in the hands of the 'Divine' One will move us closer to who we are within.
And so begins, another journey...We will nest here and make ourselves useful on the ranch and for the mustangs. This will be my new 'painting' ground and the 'hub' for the Mustang Mansion while the tour slows over the winter season.
Living with the mustangs will afford me the luxury of learning them, their charachter, structure and more, to educate me to become a greater advocate and voice for those few who remain in the wild on our public lands. Living with the mustangs will affor me the luxury of studying body movement and perfecting my painting skills to produce greater works that reflect thier beauty and incredible contribution to our nation and culture.
Living with the mustangs...winter ahead...alot of work to do here at the ranch. My husband will be helping with some of the daily maintance and repairs that are a nonstopissue here,
I extend the invitation for you, come...stay for awhile...bunk in the Mustang Mansion, take a tour...soak in the beauty, listen to the thunder of the hooves as the mustangs pound across the range, put your muscle and mind to good work as you volunteer here at the ranch...there will never be a lack of work here thats for certain.
Time to busy this morning as I have some fenceing to run, and then later...
you will find me 'Running with the Horses'...
And so...I am learning so much new stuff! Haha, the snowfall here in northern New Mexico has been gorgeous with several inches each time we get new snow, it makes for blanketing the landscape with crisp whites and tender blue hues bouncing off the reflection of the sky. The 'mud' on the other hand, well...lets just say, living in various locations from east to west, I do not think I have ever seen mud like the mud of northern New Mexico. It is no wonder that 'adobe' brick is the choice of ancient and present building composite here in the area. Mix in a little straw under boot and let it dry and you have a concrete sole that only a carving knife has the capability of removing, lol. So, yes...I embrace the beauty of the snow, loving the hardness of the ground it affords!
We have retreated to Rv living for a 6 month stint in the Carolina's...but it was in the summer and fall...quiet different then what we are experiencing here in the bowels of winter! I am learning much about my own tolerances and growth, as are our horses. Being without running water for 4 months now stretches your capacities in more ways than one can imagine! I have developed quiet a technique in 'spit-bathing' that if one could put a patent on it, I could probably make enough money to tour for the next several seasons! Learning to navigate in the mud is a skill that is developed over practice and time...I am still learning that one, but I do believe that by summers end I will have shapely calves as the extra 10 pounds that adheres to the underside of your boot is much like leg weights during a work out! All in humor, I am learning to laugh at these modern conveniences that we so take for granted on a daily basis.
Watching our domestics has been as much fun as well, they are learning the dynamics of being in a small band with a stallion, who is very tolerant to thier lack of education around these things. I watch our 4 year old filly, Belle, as she continually tries her 'independance' routine with the little half pint mustang stallion...she keeps him on his toes as he is constantly 'telling' her to stay with the band...she prefers to operate independantly thinking she is the lead mare...it is humorous to watch the banterings and interaction betweent them. And the mud...well that just brings a bit more humor as well as they move much slower sliding from time to time if the pace is too quick...their hooves pack up on the top with heaps of mud causing them to lift thier feet with exaggerated effort in hopes to loose the mud.
Spring is not far off, with nearing the end of February, one would anticipate the sightings of springs arrival with new growth popping up out of the ground and the meltdown of snowfall increasing. I have always loved the new 'birth' of springs arrival, we'll see how that affection fares this season with the mud of New Mexico mixed in with its drama! I am watching the birds as they flit from branch to branch picking the pinons and sage with snow beneath, watching the mustangs forage pawing the snow to reveal the tender grasses below the surface, all is quiet as fresh snowfall makes its way to the ground.
Yesterday we had 'snow thunder', as I watched Bailador Viento 'hearing' this for the first time, jumping and trotting trying to escape its threats, after an hour or so, he became more rested in its rumbles above. Clinging close to mama's side for assurance the sky wasn't coming down to eat him up.
The beauty here does outwiegh the inconveniences of modern living, and the stresses and tensions that come with the lack of it. The serenity and the peace of sitting and drinking it all in surpasses any therapuetic session you could pay good money for! There is something healing and reviving when we 'reconnect' ourselves to the earth. Last night as I sat in the studio, lights off and fire burning, a heavy snowcloud cover came through and settled low to the ground all across the ranch, limiting visibility and creating a soft glow as the moon was trying hard to shine through...it was beautiful to see the ghostly images of mustangs in the shadows.
The sunsets, the glows of winters glory on the Brazos, the songs of the coyotes, the nickers of wild horses in the horizon...
So, mud come...bring your squeeshy mucky mess...my muck boots are ready.
Bailador Viento...born mid September...and quickly approaching his 4th month, this little guy is my heart throb, lol. He is as far from wild as one would expect, with good reason, my hands have been on him since he emerged from his mothers womb, Sierra Rosa.
He is an energetic little bundle of love and joy. I wanted to share a few 'growing' pics. I chuckle every time I go to visit with him, he is one furry little ball of fuzz...his deep dark eyes shining behind all the hair that surrounds them. Like I did with our domestic filly when she was born...I began with scratching and touching and being 'close'...and he reminds me much of her when she was tiny, only little does he realize, he comes from a genetic pool of little colonial spanish mustangs.
He is attentive and curious, he loves to snuggle. Our favorite paddock time is when he nickers at my arrival and approaches...then he buries that fuzzy little head of his into my arm pit and stands close and I whisper sweet nothings and give him love back. He has captured my heart. He is at that awkward stage where I just have no idea what he will look like come spring, haha. He is growing fast with a beautiful roan color under all those winter woolies, two white socks on the rear and black socks on the front legs. His soft and wispy mane and tail black with strands of silver running through.
And running...he loves to run! He has a generous way of saying thankyou at turn out time, taking a few circles around the large snow covered paddock. Bucking and kicking all the way, practicing the dance of generations before him. His mother Sierra Rosa with her big dark eyes, continue to swallow my heart strings as she watches this little curious soul of hers so open to human touch and affection. I can see the curiousity in her eyes, and even a longing to 'enter' that profound place, called human. But the wild inside her...still calls. So for now she watches her son interact with the human side of her life. He truly loves the interaction, and why shouldn't he...he hasnt' been removed from his homeland, his band, all that he has ever known like his mother. We humans have done a great injustice of interupting these lives, these wild and free lives. In the innocence of Bailador he gladly accepts where and who he is in this time.
I have been introducing our domestic gelding, Liberty to Rosa, in hopes they continue to make a generous connect with each other...her pasture mate, Sierra Cancion has attached herself to the little 'Ragamuffin' band of our two domestics and two other mustangs. My hope is that as I continue to make the introductions she will graft herself in and call them her new 'family' at which upon weather improving, and seeing the longing for her to join them...will be released on the land here to rebuild somewhat of a life she experienced on the range long before she ever had contact with the human race. Meanwhile...Bailador Viento and I will continue in building a wonderful relationship together...and in time...not only will I hope he will become an incredible 'ambassador' for all the wild mustangs, but a great companion and riding horse.
To present, he is proving to those who visit here that he can surely charm thier socks off and melt thier hearts as they peer into those deep almond El Rito eyes, and make a physical contact of 'touching' and feeling the bloodline of the wild...all the while, mama Rosa watches from a safe distance....
Who knew!? When we adopted our two 'El Rito' Mustangs, who knew there was this bouncing bundle hidden inside! Sierra Rosa has blessed us with a surprise we aptly named 'Bailador Viento'. On September 19th we were 'surprised' with this little small framed long legged bundle of everything equine.
We had come to the conclusion just a short two weeks prior that Sierra Rosa was not just 'wormy or being fed well' but that indeed she was carrying something special inside. And much to our surprise, this little 'fatherless' El Rito colt came faster than we anticipated.
He is adorable to say the least, very small, and becoming the 'smoosher' that any girl would ever hope for, lol. A late baby to say the least, so we have been 'buffing' him up with calf manna and night blankets to assure him a healthy and strong future. Just a month later and he is already beginning to roan and show that he will be a colorful youngster come next spring.
For now, we are enjoying this late little bundle who loves to smoosh, and has no idea he is truly from a wild gene pool of colonial spanish mustangs. His mother, Rosa, still timid watches with wonder as we hug the daylights out of her pride and joy. Bailador Viento (WindDancer) will be a strong ambassador, and a loving one too, for the vanishing El Rito mustangs of northern New Mexico, as well as all wild mustangs that are fighting for thier right to remain on the land.
Bailador has no idea of what he represents, nor will he ever know his Sire (Daddy) from the range his mother was removed from. Another bittersweet story will follow as he grows and matures. We are keeping him with his 'auntie' Sierra Cancion, and Cromado here at the ranch in hopes to socialize him as best as possible so he isn't compelely spoiled...we'll do our best not to make him a rotten young boy, haha!
Enjoy the pics of this late baby gift, and follow his journey and story as he grows learning who he is, and who he will become on behalf of America's Wild Mustangs.
We had a blast in Taos this weekend, this is what I call a 'grassroots' community, with creativity bulging from every adobe crevise and sidewalk. The landscape a beautiful area surrounded by mountain range and Rio Grande Canyon and Rio Grande River running through the terrain. A beautiful drive from Abiquiu to Taos, even with the challenges we were dealt every day.
We met some wonderful 'creative' people with a passion for horses and art that stimulates and draws people to thier beauty. A fun and enthusiastic crowd tapping into thier creative being and using thier skills and giftings in wonderful ways. Great food and wine's for the evening reception including Cip's fish taco's he assembled in the Mustang Mansion. The event was hosted at 'Stables Gallery', which had quiet a history of its own as it used to be a 'stable' and has been turned into a wonderful gallery nestled in the heart of downtown Taos.
Once again we were amazed as we met community folks and out of town visitors sharing around the plight of our american mustangs how little truth people know of the reality our mustangs are faced with. This weekend was a wonderful opportunity in a creative forum to present the facts through provacative conversation and handing out literature. The overall 'feel' we received in our sharing is the american public DO care about the preservation and protection of our american mustangs.
The more we travel and share, the more we see a true concern and compassion for our wild ones. Though education is a critical intervention to bring the truth to the public. Without education we are lured into a mentality that says the government is doing a wonderful job of protecting our wild horses, preserving our wild horses and looking out for their best interest. Of the public we engaged with ... NONE, knew how many of our wild horses are in longterm holding facilities (much less what those are) and how many, and even where they are located, on the range.
The 'mission' behind the Mustang Mansion is being fulfilled at every stop we make. People are drawn to this colorful (and educational) tincan RV, and it makes for incredible conversation opportunities that are so needed to promote the protection and preservation of our wild american mustangs that remain on our public lands. Sadly, even this week the Bureau of Land Management defies its own guidelines as it is rounding up newly born foals and running them for miles across rocky terrain ... the truth has to be heard, and through general public events like this one, it provides a community and an opportunity to bring the message to a people group unaware of the realities that surround our american mustangs.
So, yeah, great art, food, connects...but more...bringing people to understand the need to get involved and make a stand for our wild ones.
Two days after the delivery of 'Sierra Cancion and Sierra Rosa', we took a drive up to Monero Mustangs to do some easy round pen work of getting acquainted. I started with Sierra Cancion first, and she began to whinny as she was seperated from her little adoptee band...and thus, confirmed why she was chosen (unknowingly of course) the name she was given...she is a soprano for certain, lol...I don't know if I have ever heard such a high pitched whinny before!
She wasn't as thrilled about our 'engagement' as I was, it was a good hour before I could get her feet to stop moving around me and get the halter on her head. Once the halter was on, the progress from there was quick. We shared snuggles and kisses, and she had a good rub down and learned to stand while ropes were thrown to and fro and over and under. I considered it a good first start, I hope she felt the same.
Then came Sierra Rosa's turn...I initially thought she would be the challenge...well, she proved me completetly wrong, haha! She was unbeleivable from the start, no jitters, no hang ups, and loved affection! And what a sweet rose she is! She will make a remarkable advocate with a countenance as tender as the petals of the flower she is named after.
I will head out tomorrow for a few days with the Mustang Mansion, some needed
R & R for me as I have been hitting it pretty hard the last couple of months. I will enjoy the mornings with coffee on the sanctuary with Headlight, and the others I have grown an affection for, and founder ' Sandi Claypool' as well, haha...taking the guitar and hope to be 'still' enough in the evenings to 'hear' somethings that the hustle and bustle drowns out...maybe a new song will arise!
Enjoy the pics...and check out the 'Living Legends' page for new recent work completed. I am amazed that I have done 4 paintings during this travel hustle time...wow. But for the next two nights and three days...a little rest, and connecting with some wild ones.
See you in a few!
Enjoy the slide show below....
Sometimes you just don't know what life holds, and just when you think you have it figured out...there comes that curve ball again! Well, at the Wild Horse Festival, Cip and I fell in love with two little red roan mustangs, I filled out the paper work, and yesterday they were delivered. They are 'El Rito' mustangs from New Mexico no more than an hour from us here. The tag #'s 31 and 33 on what we believe to be a year old and just under two year old fillies. They have been 'somewhat' gentled from the 'Mustang Camp' for the last 8 weeks, just two weeks after they were bait trapped and removed from the range, once wild and free...no more. We will spend the summer and the fall continuing to gentle and prepare Tag #33 (now named as Sierra Cancion - Desert Song in spanish) to keep with her spanish roots, preparing her to be an Ambassador for the road tour and the Mustangs she represents. 'Sierra Rosa (Desert Rose) tag #31 will be turned out to pasture for a season as I work with Sierra Cancion, whom will also be turned out to pasture for the winter, then bringing her back in in the spring to spend more time reminding her of the lessons learned from this season. It is my desire to give them a full life, with as much 'freedom' as I can offer them as they also become eventual traveling Ambassadors. I have 'fallen' for many mustangs, but fate does our choosing for us at times when we think we know whats best for us...and as fate would have it, These two fillies are those who have been chosen to come under our guardianship. I will take my time building trust and respectful relationship, with little pressure, but desire being the constant relational connector. I am anxious to make the initial contact with them both. For now this is where their 'new story' begins after living free and wild on the range. A life long interruption, that one hopes they will both embrace with kindness and grace. For now, enjoy the pics, and the journey as we learn to walk together, forgiving and accepting a new destiny they have had little choice to choose.
Just home from the weekends event, The first annual, Wild Horse Festival. The morning started out with a scenic drive to Santa Fe with Mustang Mansion and truck loaded to the roof with artwork, music and so much more! We pulled in early, and as the other artists, vendors and presenters began arriving we could tell it was going to be a good 'fit' of a weekend. This was a wonderful gathering of diverse and gifted Mustang lovers from both sides of the fence. There was a great 'sharing and celebrating' of our wild mustangs on all fronts with art, music, film, photography, books, and presenters alike. We are happy to say this was the beginning event of more to come! If you missed this years event in Santa Fe, don't fret as there are more in the works across the west to come!
Enjoy the slide show of some of the pic's I took through the weekend. The spirit of comradity and collaboration was more than evident and felt by all. Its amazing what can happen when we all come together, putting all differences aside, and combining efforts, and giftings to make a difference for our wild ones.
A great start to a hopeful continued story as we celebrate the Wild Mustang!
And so I loaded my guitar, few paintings and bag into Craig Downers Chevy Cavalier for the two day drive that was ahead of us. Craig is a wildlife ecologist with a new book out titled 'Wild Horse Conspiracy', it is a wonderful read, I am about 3/4 the way through it and can't read it fast enough! He has been presenting the 'Reserve' design to our public management of the wild horses, the BLM. So far, he has had incredible feedback on the book, it is an educational read for sure as Craig has been in the wild horse movement for well over 40 years working as an intern under Thelma Johnson, more known as 'Wild Horse Annie' who was instrumental in the passing of the 1971 Wild Horse and Burro Act. She accomplished this incredible bill by having children flood the congress with letters. Don't think for a moment we can't make a difference.
Craig and I got connected via facebook several months ago, and I have so enjoyed our discussions via phone and so we have established a commradity of freindship, so it was wonderful to have finally met him in person and start our collaborative tour through the season together, not to mention, he and my husband Cip totally hit it off, makes for great travel company in the Mustang Mansion!
We left Maybell shortly after the Sombrero Horse Drive and began making our way through the back roads of Colorado from the Sand Wash Basin towards Wyoming...I think we made it about 20 minutes out when we made our first of many stops at 'Irish Canyon'. A beautiful red rock canyon with ancient petroglyphs. we spent a bit of time there reading up and taking pictures before heading through the canyon and making our way into Wyoming. We traveled through the Salt Wells and Adobe Town public rangelands, but did not see any wild mustangs. This is a herd management area (HMA) that has been continually cut, and yet you drive through and see oil and mining that is unreal. I counted well over 65 oil drills within just a few miles of range, oh, and lots of cattle. You know you have entered Wyoming when you see the oil drills.
We crossed through Rock Springs Wyoming making our way into Utah. The landscape beautiful as always, though littered with oil, coal and mining scabbing mountain sides where miles of earth have been removed, excavated and left the interior on the mountain range raw like a huge sore, exposed for all humanity to see.
But not one mustang. Not a one. Craig shared as we drove through Utah that in Nevada we would see lots of mustangs being Nevada has the largest HMA's in the nation. So I calmed my frustrations as we crossed over miles and miles of land in hopes to reach Nevada. We made a quick stop in Utah at Salt Lake, it reminded me of the smell of the Oceoan's bay growing up in Florida, very humid and salty smelling. But I did see where the little 'Morton' girl works, hills of white salt that is harvested, it must be really hard scooping all that salt into those little Morton cardboard containers, hehe.
As we left Utah, we entered Nevada, finally I thought to myself...we will begin to see some mustangs! It was about a three hour drive before sundown, so my camera was perched in my lap for sightings. We drove for a couple of hours, and nothing. We were on the Salt flats area, very surreal to see such white flat lands with the mountains just at the edge curling up to meet the sun, which was fading fast, along with my hopes of seeing any wild horses for the day.
The sunset was spectacular as we drove into the west, chasing the sun to meet its end before it dissapeared on us until next dawn. No mustangs, my heart was sad. we passed through hundreds of miles of open range. and not one mustang, even though we crossed right through the areas they call home.
We pulled into Windover, a lovely expression of the gambling scene. Tired and looking for a cheap room, Craig pulled into the 'Red Garter' Hotel and Casino...wow. I was chuckling under my breath, I don't think I ever had been to a casino in my entire life. And from the look on my face Craig seemed to get it too, lol. He said I looked like a deer with headlights shining in my eyes, haha. We booked the room and got our ticket, a free drink and slots along with the room key. I had to laugh as Craig in all innocence remarked, 'we'll, were not going to have a drink at the bar, and were not gonna gamble, so guess we will just go to bed!'. It made the heart light and full of laughter as we 'chewed' on that one through the evening.
Early rise and on the road, winds blowing full throttle as we closed the car doors and headed out of Windover and back on the road through the rangelands. Today, I thought, today were going to see hundreds of Mustangs! After all there are a proposed 7-800 alone in one HMA. We made our way to Cherry Creek, a small sleepy mining town with a once prominent history of bringing in 3 million dollars in mining revenue. A rich history now sinking into the earth as the town crumbles beneath its foundations. We made an unannounced stop at Arla Ruggles, a wonderful wild horse supporter and great photographer. She gave us a tour of her unique and quaint studio nestled in this little mining town. Another facebook connection for me, and I was thrilled once again to put a face to the computer screen. Craig shared his book and me a music Cd as she shared with us where to look for wild horses as we would take the dirt roads through the HMA to spot wild ones on our way to Carson City.
I will say, after driving for hours...nature calls...I had to go so bad...Craig and I found a 'real' outhouse...I mean, REAL outhouse. I did use it, and it was great, haha. I posted pics of it just to prove it.
And so, over the hill and through the woods of Cherry Hill we went to travel homeward to Craigs, and to spot mustangs as we traveled. For hours we watched dust fly in the rear view mirror as I scanned the mountains and the meadows for those shining glimmering spirits of promise. It was nearly three hours before I spotted a few. Craig pulled the car over, they were more than a half mile away and the moment Craig pulled over they scattered and ran into the trees. There have been numerous reports of harrasment and shooting of wild horses of recent, obviously this was a band that was experiencing just that. We took a couple of quick pics and were on the road again. Several miles down we saw another small band on the mountain side, more restful these were, but wary with thier heads popped up and tuned in like antennas until we drove off.
It would be another couple of hours before we would spot the next three, obviously bachelors, and far off, but from what I could see one a beautiful roan with a dark head and legs. I only wished we could get a little closer, but they had no intention of exploring their curiousity on our behalf.
What we did see, what lots of sheep. Land use that was overgrazed, land that was much like a garbage dump from over use, and ranchers leaving trash and debri scattered for the wind to pound and drag for miles. It was very sad to see such a beautiful expanse of country used up in such a way. As we continued driving towards Hwy 50 through the public lands, we continued to see more and more sheep, the ranchers horses, one a mustang tied to short poles to stand in the heat and dust all day until it was time to work. These were my impressions, not quiet the romantic story of the west we see on the movies or read about.
More an imprint left of exploitation of land and beast...very disheartning. Over 6 hours of driving through some of the most beautiful country, through the largest HMA areas...4 states...and only a small handful of mustangs.
As we made our way to Hwy 50, known as the 'loneliest' road, we passed through small historic towns like Eureka, Austin and Fallon before making our way into Craig's hometown late that night of Carson City, Nevada. We were both wiped out and saddened at the lack of spotting mustangs after passing through 4 states and two days of driving. We ate a quick plate of spagetti and hit the rack, hopeing for a better day in the morning.
Tuesday night we had a collaborative event at a wonderful historic hotel, The Gold Hill Hotel. A building of brick and heavy timbers, you could almost imagine seeing time go back with miners sitting at the bar talking of their find for the day. Another mining town still showing its scars today as mining continues to eat away at the mountain sides. I played a few songs, shared of my early beginnings and involvement in the witness of the mustangs demise, and set the stage for Craig ending with my mustang song, 'My spirit runs wild and free'. At which, Craig got up and shared from his new book, and his 40 years of experience. There was a small but enthusiastic crowd, whom had a great affection for their wild horses in Nevada. It was wonderful to see a community so 'for' their mustangs.
I got to meet another wonderful facebook friend, photographer and advocate, Cat Kindsfather! Our kindred spirits were bound immediately and she has left a wonderful imprint on my heart of friendship, now miles apart, but will anxiously await our next mustang rendevoux. We had our bellies filled by the Hotels graciousness and met lots of other great advocates and folks who were just learning of the wild horses. Lacy J Dalton came along with some others and made for a great night!
Craig, Cat and I spent the next couple of days taking drives into the Virginia Range photographing a small token herd that the community has embraced. Beautiful new foals, and a serene peace on these few mustangs as they have found their acceptance in a small corner of the community there.
Time was coming to a close for my trip in Nevada as I would soon be tagging a ride with Celso Rubio from Las Vegas Nevada, along with 'Headlight'. Finally the mustang bucking horse from tribal lands would be making his way to Monero Mustang Sanctuary in NM! After much travel confusion we won't go into here, and a few lag days, Craig met Rubio midway, I bid Craig a farethewell, and we arrived at 3:30am at Rubio's house...a long day, long night, short sleep! I couldn't wait to get up in the morning and finally meet 'Headlight', this mustang is stunning with his white head, one blue eye, and one brown eye...and he has 'presence'. I was up before I barely brushed my teeth and out the door to make his acquaintance. He moved off the panels quickly, a life of a bucking horse, people are not their favorite companions, they have spent their lives bucking them off, he was no exception. A 14 year work life and this boy had no idea he was en route to retirement as a wild horse, back to his roots from the time of his birth. I was thrilled to be a part of this experience.
Rubio, the transporter, and friend, made the decision we would leave at 6pm, driving straight through the evening and morning hours of the cool, arriving to Monero by mid morning the following day. He loaded, we loaded and off we went. Running on about 4 hours of sleep, it would lend for an interesting evening. We drove through the night and as Rubio switched seats with his other driver, Todd, I was moved from the back seat to the front. Todd was minutes from the coastal town I grew up on, made for great conversation and had a real interest in the welfare of the mustangs...I do think we won another advocate that evening. A long haul, and morning took forever before the sun rose in Alberquerque with a load of weary travelers.
We did a quick drop of two other horses at our place and headed right out to Monero Mustang Sanctuary. As always camera in hand and ready to shoot, I wanted to get some great pics of this moment...the moment of a mustangs captivity, to its moment of release. Within only a few minutes, his eye softened and you could see 'he got it'...a white/gray gelding immediately bonded with Headlight, and since they are still 'range buddies' as they are becoming grafted in to the 5000 acres and over 100 mustangs there on the sanctuary. I caught the glimmer in Sandi's eye, the force behind the sanctuary, developer and president...worker, lover of mustangs and all equine. Finally, the time had come, he was here. It was a good feeling...and will continue to be. And I will hope to express that in my paintings of this stunning mustang named 'Headlight'.
And this is where this leg of the tour ends, after 4 states and a mustang. There will be more stories to tell, more pictures to share, and a book to follow all these short insights, that will elaborate more of the full impact each of these moments have made. There is great faith at work as I move forward, great dissapointments, but also wonderful glimmers of hope and promise for the future of our mustangs. For me, Headlight represents that hope. The promise of a future of freedom deserved.
This tour was a special one...it started where it all began, The Sand Wash Basin in Colorado. This was the 'birthplace' for me as an artist to find the passion that has fueled what I have come to consider my 'lifes work', Painting and advocating on behalf of our Living Legends, the American Mustang. And...my husband joined me on this trip, and had his first visit ever to public rangelands to see the Wild Ones...special indeed for me in so many ways. We spent the prior days getting loaded and prepared, I wanted a full set up to showcase and share the beat of my heart, and so we loaded till we could fit no more.
As we made our way north through Abiquiu we stopped to gas a bit at Bode's general store, a historic little 'everything' place that was founded in the late 1800s and still flourishing in this quaint little stretch of colorful highway. I have made it the 'stop' as we begin our road tours, turning heads at the pump and causing a bit of commotion as Mustangs painted on the sides eagerly await their next tour destination.
Seatbelts buckled we began the trip over the Chama pass as I listened to my husbands groanings as I wiped the drool off his face gleaning at the streams and rivers that we passed along the highway...an avid fisherman he is, and a true appreciation for the wilderness, it is one of the things I fell in love with upon our meeting over 33 years ago. I smiled inside as his continual pleadings to stop just for 5 minutes to toss his ginger line upon the waters, knowing we would be camped on the roadside all day as I watched him hike downstream...so reluctantly...I said a firm 'no'...he whined...and I prevailed in hopes we would make our destination somewhat timely, besides...there were wild horses waiting for us and the first arrival of the Mustang Mansion on the range!
We were just short of making it into Craig Colorado and so stopped at a roadside campground just short in Hayden and plugged in the Mansion, hit the bathroom and brewed that favorite beverage we have on board at all times, java. I cooked up some Raman soup, an easy cheap fix for the belly growls and we subsided at the table to dine. It was quiet and we slept well dreaming of wild ones dancing in the fields. Up early the next morning before the sun had fully arrived we made our way to the local BLM office in Craig to show off the glory of the Mustang Mansion, they glanced out the window and I even got a great compliment of its 'cuteness'. We loaded some of the BLM maps on board to share with the public to encourage rangeland visits and made our way to the range well before noon. We took the low road in near the old corrals and continued northbound until we found a side road watering hole, and to our joy spotted two large bands, this was the spot, we parked and set up camp...I grabbed the camera and started shooting! It was wonderful to see The Wild Ones before we barely drove in, we met Gail, an enthusiastic photographer who frequents the range to snap away at their beauty. We invited her down to visit after we talked and she shared of John Wagner telling her about the Mansion and artwork I do of our mustangs.
I got some wonderful pics so early on and as the sun began to set we lit the gas lantern and I cooked us up some dinner while we watched the mustangs on the range. The winds picked up and the cradle rocks began as we settled in anxious for the morning to come so we could see more mustangs!
Morning came early and we were greeted with the same band the evening before, and the new foal and his family as well along with the smell of fresh coffee...Camera in hand I headed for the watering hole to see whom I might find. One of the larger bands of the Sand Wash, totalling 11 and getting some great pics of the bachelors practicing their skills as they mature to stallions who will eventually fight for their own bands, stealing mares and gaining the famous battle scars that the seasoned stallions wear like badges of honor.
We were greeted by the photographers on the range as they like us were seeking that perfect picture that speaks freedom and beauty. As we shared and made acquaintances I spoke of the need for their preservation, and Craig Downers new book 'Wild Horse Conspiracy' that is a wonderful and educational read around the dilemma and solutions that face our wild mustangs. Enthusiasm for their preservation won out as we sold two of Craig's books right there on the range, winning two more voices of advocacy on their behalf. It was wonderful to see the Mustang Mansion vision coming alive right there on the range, with mustangs in the view, and advocates being won...sitting at the vintage dining table talking about our Wild Ones...truly a vision coming to pass before our eyes. It was wonderful.
The next morning we were joined by Craig Downer and painter and mustang enthusiast Karen McLain, she was thrilled to see the nearby bands and with camera and paints in hand to do some plain air painting along with Craig getting shots on his camera. Another night for Cip and I came to a close on the range as we pulled in from a day of driving dirt roads looking for more mustangs. Sightings were rare, and not many were spotted through the remains of what little forage was left in much of the range from overgrazed sheep only days before. It is frustrating to see the lack of care and management when the terrain is a 'shared' terrain, and the mustang is continually judged as the destructive one...As we figured from the range acreage and wild horses with Craig, there were one mustang for every 740 acres...not nearly enough to desecrate the land, another myth to be countered as we photographed and documented the range land.
Friday we head out to the Centennial Mall for setting up in preparation the art show along with photographers including local advocate Nancy Roberts and others. It was a slow evening and so we along with Craig decided to take the Mustang Mansion back to the range and take advantage of the early morning hours to view mustangs.
We all three camped in the Mansion, Craig was the first 'overnight visitor' to bunk with us, he took the sofa bed, and Cip and I folded down the dining room table and cozied up as the winds died down and we had a great night of discussion and spagetti on the range. Early rise in the morning as we drove for miles hoping to see wild mustangs...to our dissapointment we saw only two outside of the bands that were mingled around the Mansion and the wateringhole during our stay on the range. Craig showed great concern for the lack of, and abuse of the range...and will be offering his input to local BLM management in hopes for range improvement and standing as he submits his professional 'ecological' input. As we headed back Craig spotted a favorite, 'Ranger' a wonderfully marked pinto whom was the first mustang that I ever painted...so for me especially, a wonderfully special sighting. He graced us with his presence offering us camera poses and the time to drink in his spirit and bask upon his beauty and countenance before we loaded into the truck to head to the mall, late...the mustangs won out on the clock that morning, but well worth staying late for!
The mall event was wonderful to see the collaborative efforts of artists, photographers, book auther, the local BLM's new director 'Jerome' and a true enthusiasm from the general public as they walked through the end of the mall showcasing the areas wild mustangs. I was surprised how few had not been on the range, and the value the public held for their local herds, it was wonderful to see and hear that Craig residents have a real love for their mustangs. we stayed until things closed down, packed up and made our way to the next leg of the journey, Maybell...the little sleepy community that would be wakened by the thundering of hundreds of domestic horses being driven through town as they were rallied back to work on riding camps and dude ranches for the spring and summer. But the first order of business, taking a shower...after three days on the range...it was well needed.
We parked on the corner to be sure to draw the eye to the Mustang Mansion as the horses would run past down the highway. With coffee brewing on the stove I set up a small display, and Craig stacked up a pile of his book and we greeted and 'meeted' folks sharing the message of the Mustang to passer-bys as they waited for the arrival of the horses to come. With great interest we drew a crowd through the morning and handed out great reading material, sold a few books, and I played a few songs with a nip in the air and snappy cold fingers, ouch...but all worth it to share the story around the mustangs.
For now...this is where the story will end as the night is late...but the ride doesnt end here, Cip leaves with the Mustang Mansion for home, as I ride with Craig Downer to Nevada for our next collaborative tour date...so check back in after your morning coffee to read up on the rest of the weeks tour...and enjoy the pictures!