“Look back at man's struggle for freedom.
Trace our present day's strength to its source,
And you'll find that man's pathway to glory
Is strewn with the bones of a horse”
|Wild Mustangs in Nevada. Photo by Kathy Klossner|
There is no greater symbol of freedom than a horse, in particular, a wild one. Wild horses are the gypsies of the land, roaming without restraint. During my research on these beautiful, magical and powerful creatures, I came across this fantastic quote by Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu (Democrat): “The image of hundreds of wild horses roaming free in the open terrain in the American West is reminiscent of times past and our country’s trailblazing heritage.”
Today, however, many of these wild horses are running in fear -- in fear of the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which continues to round up and relocate them. The BLM’s reason is that the nation’s wild horse population is expanding so much that theses Mustangs must be relocated in order to prevent the exhaustion of land resources. These senseless round-ups have caused many Mustang deaths, and wild horse advocates continue to fight to stop them.
More than half of all Mustangs in North America are found in Nevada. Since the passage of the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act in 1971, the focus of wild horse policies has shifted from ensuring their survival from exploitation to determining how many and where they should remain. Currently, there are more wild horses living in government holding facilities than there are left wild on the range. Besides Nevada, these horses can be found in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming. Six states have already lost their entire wild horse populations.
I really didn’t know much about the current state of these wild horses until a good friend of mine Kathy Klossner sent me a personal story about her amazing encounter with a group of wild Mustangs while on a trip in Nevada.
Here is her story about her surreal experience in the Wild West:
I’m still waiting for my 15 minutes of fame Andy Warhol promised each one of us in 1968. Do surreal moments count? I believe these moments happen when we are least expecting them. My unexpected surreal moment unveiled itself while on an early morning walk along the Carson River with my dog Boss.
With the sunlight creeping over the eastern foothills casting a soft, warm light along the hiking trail, Boss and I began our journey along the Carson River with its abundance of majestic cottonwood trees. With no other person on the trail, I allowed Boss to run ahead and get his fill of smells.
As we continued on the dirt path -- Boss splashing mightily in and out of the river for most of the hike -- I began noticing a lot of horse droppings. My first thought was that these trails must be popular with equestrian riders, as the east side of the Carson River backs up to open space with a few pockets of home developments. One could ride a horse on these trails for hours without ever crossing any pavement. As I continued onward, taking in the sweet smell of sage brush and grass, the wild bushes along the trail became thicker and overgrown, making it harder and harder to get through. As I ducked and pushed the overhead brush and branches aside, I decided the only horse that could make it through this had to be a miniature horse.
About a half hour into the hike we came around a bend in the river and I was startled to see a couple of Mustangs grazing along the river’s edge. It never occurred to me that the Mustangs would be this close to the airport. I always thought they would prefer being way out in the boonies, far away from humans and their noisy contraptions. As I continued to gaze in amazement at these two beautiful brown horses with black manes and tails, my years of training as a professional photographer kicked in and I realized I had not brought my camera along with me to document this. Just as I let out a curse, I remembered I had my cell phone – with its built-in camera. I was in luck!
Having been a horse-crazy little girl and a proud owner of two pure bred horses, I began to speak softly to them so they wouldn’t be spooked or startled that we were there. They didn't seem too concerned with me and Boss, which again surprised me. I knew being this close to wild Mustangs was a rarity, so I had to take photos of this amazing experience. As I was easing my cell phone out of my purse, I was startled when I heard rustling sounds coming behind us in the trees. As I turned to see what was causing all the commotion, a brown baby foal with a large white blaze on his nose came sauntering through the bushes towards us. Right behind the foal was its white colored mare, which I figured for his mother, and seven other horses. I became utterly speechless at this point and my most surreal moment began.
Watching this colorful herd of free-roaming Mustangs walk out of the sunlit trees was like watching angels come out of the clouds. Boss also had a keen awareness of what was going on and sensing he needed to stay put, my dog sat faithfully and quietly beside me as the Mustangs continued to make a circle around us.
And then the most astonishing thing of all -- the brown foal boldly walked straight toward us. In utter astonishment I watched as this tender yet wild little life inch closer and closer until he came so close, I carefully began to raise my hand and put it out for him to smell. I could hardly believe it -- He allowed me to touch him, and as I stroked his soft muzzle he inhaled the scent of my hand, reading me like a book, realizing I was a friend and not a foe.
When the foal was done having his nose stroked, he retreated back to his mother just a few feet away. As the foal moved away, a proud mustang, who I figured was the stallion, proceeded to walk closer towards us. I put my hand out and the stallion allowed me to touch his nose. Realizing I had been holding my breath the entire time, I began to breathe, taking in the smell of the horses and the dew on the grass. Boss and I hung out in the circle of Mustangs for another 30 minutes or so not wanting this moment to end. I wanted to take in as much as I could, figuring something like this would never happen again.
As we turned to leave the mustangs tagged along behind us. I felt honored to have been allowed into their space and be in their presence for that short surreal moment.
These wild horses are a living symbol of our American heritage and freedom and need to be protected. Standing idle, lives unfinished, these captive Mustangs await uncertain futures as the cost of feeding and maintaining them increasingly burdens our government. I encourage you to learn more about the fate of the Wild Mustangs at: www.wildhorsepreservation.org/news/ , www.savingamericasmustangs.org and http://thecloudfoundation.org.
Below are some photos Kathy took during her Mustang encounter:
|This is the foal Kathy fondly named "Chance."|
|Kathy's dog Boss hangin' with "Chance."|
|Kathy having a bonding moment with "Chance."|
www.WaterDancerPhotos.com and www.Surfergirls.com.