Monday, November 1, 2010

In the Beginning....Fate Brought Me a Mustang


I've had Beautiful now for two and half years. I adopted her when she was about a year old. I didn't purposely set out to adopt a Mustang, but fate, as usual, had other plans.



It had been a sad year for me with horses. You know how you sometimes pinch yourself and say, "Wow, nothing has happened to my horses in years--they're healthy, happy--everything's GREAT!!"?

Then your horse friends (who know you've just cursed yourself) hit you and tell you never, NEVER say that. Sure enough, about that time, just because you bragged to the universe about your good luck, everything goes wrong.

That was the year Cowboy broke his coffin bone and I lost his twin, a colt I'd raised from a weanling that was his nephew, to colic.

I'd gone through the rest of the year in a bit of shock and mourning....then, without any prior planning, I came around the corner at Ride the West, a horse fair here in Spokane where I was volunteering, and saw these sweeties--the BLM had brought in--

MUSTANGS!!



It was the first time I'd felt excitement like that in a long time. When you're suffering a string of bad luck, you tend to shut off excitement--hope--emotions in general. But the Mustangs snuck by my defenses by first appealing to my sense of curiosity, then wonder, and finally, amazement. I'd NEVER seen wild horses before, so it was like being in the presence of gods--in this case, sad ones--with collars and numbers around their necks.



Still, I didn't want a Mustang--I didn't want another horse at all. I had plenty at home. So, my daughter and I and a friend who was with me, all stood around and watched the proceedings.

Now, I said "fate" was involved, and I believe it was because guess what time it was when we came around that corner and saw those Mustangs? It was mid-morning on a Sunday. And guess when Mustang auctions end--well, mid-morning on Sundays.

Quite quickly, we realized no one was bidding on many of the Mustangs there and the quiet little filly who caught my eye--shockingly enough,she wasn't going home with anyone unless I stepped up.

I did. I signed the silent auction paper, was whisked off to the BLM tent by a sweet volunteer who'd been bending my ear about how wonderful Mustangs were--money passed, papers were signed, and the next thing I knew--my husband, my daughter and I were backing the trailer into the chutes to pick up our Beautiful Girl.



You can't begin to imagine the doubts that went through me as I saw her proceed through the panels. I so did NOT feel prepared for what I was doing, what I was embarking upon, but I continued forward anyway...one step at a time...much like she was doing as she went through each open gate toward a fate she could not comprehend.



Beautiful had been captured late fall of the previous year. I imagine she was at her mother's side during the roundup. She has a long, thick, gnarly scar on her hind end that speaks of some trauma--what, I'll never know.



In the tent they'd asked me--halter or no halter? I hadn't even begun to contemplate such a thing, but the volunteer by my side assured me I'd WANT a halter. She even helped me pick one out at one of the booths before I left to get my trailer. Like I said, she was VERY helpful! And, I think she was right about the halter--although, Beautiful somehow got hers off after the third day home.



In the beginning, there was a lot of this--feeding out of my hand. We had to take it slow because the first time I picked up the lead rope she was dragging around, and she saw me at the other end, she propelled herself the opposite direction into the bars of the pen like they weren't even there. It was obvious, touch was a LONG way away, and would first be accomplished through the use of a bamboo pole.



This was her eye--glossed over--as if she was somewhere deep inside. She was a fearful, timid horse who preferred to hide in the corner of her pen--hind end turned against me--as if pretending I wasn't there. The first lessons were all about getting her to acknowledge me--face up--and accept my presence.



I found these pictures as I was looking for one to use on my Mustang Pumpkin, and all these memories just came flooding back.

Life with a Mustang has been different than anything I've ever experienced. In the beginning, they're vulnerable--but not because they've been abused, instead it's because they don't know what humans want from them. They're a wild animal--not like a colt born on a ranch who hasn't been handled much, but like a deer or an elk. They're proud--like only a horse who was born running with a wild herd over thousands of acres can be proud.

In the end, they're a horse, too--and have so much in common with the domestic horses in my herd. If you'd seen me out grooming Beautiful today, you wouldn't have guessed she was any different than the others. She's quiet, calm, respectful, and comfortable with human contact. But I know--and I think she knows--there's a difference.

Working with a Mustang probably does different things for different people. In my case, it brought me back into the world of emotions with my horses. If Beautiful could be vulnerable, I could be vulnerable and open my heart to a horse even though they'd taught me how fragile they can be and how easy they are to lose. If Beautiful could be courageous, I could step up and face my fears--many of which centered around working with a wild horse.

Beautiful Girl has taught and continues to teach me many things--I'm very thankful I got a little crazy that day, listened to that BLM volunteer, and adopted a Mustang.



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After this post, I'll be on a little bit of a blogging hiatus as I pursue a few projects, spend time with my herd--dogs and cats included--and prepare for the holidays. I hope all of you have a wonderful fall with your horses!

19 comments:

  1. I just started reading and what a perfect post for me to read first! Such an interesting story as I have never known anyone who has adopted a mustang. I can't wait to read more!

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  2. I've enjoyed following Beautiful's journey, every step of the way. She is different from the others somehow, no doubt. Maybe it has something to do with that courage she's had to summon so many times. When I see that picture of her glossy eye, it reminds me of my cat. She was in the humane society for over 4 months and had pretty much stopped visual contact when we adopted her. Now those eyes shine with mischief!

    Enjoy your hiatus, Linda, and your projects too. Happy trails to you :)

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  3. Ashley--thanks--hope you enjoy the posts. The ones about her early days of adoption are during the first year of the blog in the archives.

    Joanne--I think you're right--Mustangs experience trauma during their roundup--especially the youngs ones who are separated from their mothers. Even domestic horses are quite stressed when they're weaned from the mares. My first colt cried for two days while his mother, who was on the same property, called over to him. Sometimes the stress will cause them to get a little sick with whatever's going around. So, I can't even imagine what it's like for a wild herd to be run through the desert by helicopter--into pens--separated from their mothers and hauled by semis to holding pens and then by semis again to public adoptions. I do think it's harder on the younger ones and a miracle that they survive it. (Some don't.)

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  4. Thank you for sharing this with us. I still look at my mustang, Ranger, with surprise at what he has given me over the years. He was 9 or 10 when he was brought in, and pretty set in his ways, but after 11 years, he's getting used to his new life.
    Bill

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  5. I love the way you described Mustangs - as an animal. I'm always telling people that they are wild animals first, horses second. They have an innate, hard-wired survival instinct that humans cannot comprehend, yet they are trusting and loving creatures. I am so glad Fate took a hand and you are now enjoying the splendor or these marvelous creatures. Fate employed herself with us, also. We didn't intend to buy 'wild animals', but wouldn't trade them for any other now! When that bond develops, they will do whatever they can to protect you also. Enjoy your journey.
    Juanita

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  6. Loved the background. I've been doing that too with one of our horses. Sometimes it's not possible to go back and read all the blog entries from previous months. This hooks the new reader immediately. She's a beautiful horse. Enjoy your hiatus.

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  7. Bill--You were definitely on the opposite side of the spectrum from me with age and probably confidence, too. A 9 or 10 year old has really spent some time proving himself in the wild--he's a survivor!

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  8. Juanita--I think you really have to have experienced a Mustang to grasp the initial wildness. I don't think I would have understood had I just read someone else's account. It's amazing when that switch is flipped and they understand their human isn't going to kill them---and yes, I agree with you, I think that experience creates an amazing bond, too--both in my mind and hers.

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  9. Wilsonc--so much time has passed since I started this blog, I'd even forgotten where we'd come from! lol. It was good for me to remember back. You're right, new readers can't possibly catch up with years of posts. I'll still be keeping up with other blogs in this holiday season--I need to do some catch-up reading myself.

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  10. It's wonderful to hear the beginnings of your story with Beautiful, and to see pictures of her from back then - thanks!

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  11. Glad you enjoyed the oldies but goodies! I'm glad to be in on the beginning of your story with Pie--it's been really fun to watch you search for him, find him, and bring him home.

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  12. Linda, I enjoyed your story. She is such a beautiful "Beautiful"

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  13. Thank you, Lea--I enjoyed the story of how you and Bob first got into Mustangs, too. Very interesting.

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  14. I just went on a trail ride with Fox just recently. I've been practicing barrel patterns on him since I joined the equestrian team. I just recently posted some old pics to look back on. Some was of our mustang that we adopted but we sold her after having her a couple of years. I was at the adoption where you got Beautiful.

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  15. That's funny, Alexa--do you remember seeing Beautiful at the adoption? How are you liking the equestrian team? Is he fun to run barrels on? That should keep you on horseback throughout the winter. I want to practice barrels, too, in the indoor arena--just for fun. I think it's good practice to help them turn properly, and they kind of seem to enjoy it--especially running to the finish line. :O)

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  16. Linda, what a beautiful post! And, enjoy your time off!

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  17. Oh...I LOVE the new header! Her mane looks like Scout's!

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  18. linda, what a beautiful and moving account of 'beautiful' and how you found her...you are such a good person and i am thankful i get to read your blog. i am not a fan of blm and thing what they are doing is not right for the horses just because big cattle ranchers don't want them around...but good souls like you are helping the situation which makes me feel better about it. i am so sorry about your losses with your other babies...so very sad. i hope beautiful will mend your heart. thank you so much for joining our blog. jill

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  19. I teared up reading this, love this post. I just adopted my Mustang a month ago and absolutely love her to death! Your girl is absolutely gorgeous, I love her color! So sorry about your losses.

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Please feel welcome to join our discussion--tell us about your own thoughts and experiences.