*Special* special event

25 10 2021

As far as we know, Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum‘s special exhibit this year celebrating Colorado’s mustangs and highlighting the 50th anniversary of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act is the only one of its kind in the country.

From the museum’s website:

*The BLM Canyons of the Ancients Museum and Visitor Center is proud to announce our new exhibit, “Home on the Range; Managing Wild Horses on Colorado Public Lands” opening to visitors in 2021. The exhibit celebrates the 50th anniversary of the “Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act” of 1971 through captivating photographs and in-depth information about the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program. The exhibit features information about Colorado’s four BLM Herd Management Areas and stunning photographs by TJ Holmes. Visitors will learn about BLM’s work to manage wild horses, unique traits of different herds, and how the public can get involved in stewardship and adoption. The BLM will announce public programs in 2021 to engage visitors and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Act.*

While we are hyper aware of the enormous challenges surrounding the management of wild horses and burros on America’s public lands, we’re also very well aware of the positive management going on in our own backyard: Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area in Disappointment Valley. Humbly, it is the celebration of these positives and understanding of the challenges that has led us to what we consider to be one of the best managed herds in the country. Why *wouldn’t* we celebrate that? And why wouldn’t we celebrate America’s wild horses (and burros, though none of Colorado’s wild herds include burros), their beauty and diversity and strength and the way they bring us together? THAT is the real message of this very special exhibit of Colorado’s mustangs in a very special visitor center and museum in Southwest Colorado.

Thank you, particularly, to all the visitors who came yesterday, whether you came specifically to see the mustangs or whether your travels brought you at just the right time and day. We very much enjoyed meeting all of you and talking about our hearts’ dearest subjects: our mustangs.

Being the high-desert mustangs they are, Whisper (left, with Tif Rodriguez) and Skipper (right, with Keith Bean) walked willingly onto the cobbled walkway that leads from the parking area to the plaza, but those brick pavers caused the horses to take a bit of a pause. After much encouragement from Tif and more than a few glances at his pal to see what Skipper thought of the while thing, Whisper was the first to set hooves on the bricks. Skipper, however, was the first to follow Keith fully onto the brick plaza at the base of the museum building.

The plaza is hollow underneath to allow for heating elements that keep it clear of snow in the winter. The horses took a few tentative steps across it at first, but it must not have sounded too different from crossing a trail bridge over a mountain stream – which these guys are well used to from all their backcountry travel and trail work – and pretty soon, they were right at home. (And yes, the size difference between gentle-giant Whisper and super-pony Skipper really is that great!)

Museum curator Bridget Ambler (responsible for printing all the amazing images and information panels and designing the special exhibit), who has horses of her own, got to meet Skipper before the visitors arrived.

What he really wanted was to check out her mask. No mask-wearing qualms here!

For people unfamiliar with horses, as many of the visitors were, this sign listed basic etiquette to help keep mustangs and people safe.

Tres Rios Field Office Manager Connie Clementson talks with Lyn Rowley and Tif Rodriguez, left, and Marianne Mate and Keith Bean. Interesting side note: Marianne was mayor of Dolores when I was editor of the Dolores Star.

Whisper was kind enough to pose with a poster of Hollywood on the outside wall of the visitor center and museum. Whisper is the son of Bounce (who passed away a few years ago) and Alegre, who is still wild in the basin – with Hollywood’s band!

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument Manager Ray O’Neil, with Connie Clementson at left and the visitor center and museum’s Amala Posey-Monk at right, welcomed visitors and gave them a brief introduction to the exhibit and why we were all gathered: to celebrate mustangs!

A very large portion of my gratitude goes to Bridget Ambler, supervisory museum curator, for working so diligently to select images and work with me and Spring Creek Basin herd manager Mike Jensen (who unfortunately couldn’t attend the day’s event) for captions for each, and for designing the exhibit hall, which, as I mentioned in a previous blog post, stopped me in my tracks the moment I first walked through the doors and caused me to bawl my eyes out! Kat Wilder and one of Ray O’Neil’s daughters listen in the background.

Amala Posey-Monk, visitor services and recreation program manager at the visitor center and museum, did an excellent job keeping us on schedule and bringing new groups of people into the special exhibit hall where Kat and I extolled all the virtues of Colorado’s wild horses – and adopters! Here, she’s introducing Kat, who read a couple of excerpts from her book, “Desert Chrome: Water, a Woman, and Wild Horses in the West,” in the museum’s theater. (If you’re interesting in purchasing a copy of Kat’s book, contact her through her blog! She’ll even autograph it for you!)

I’m afraid I didn’t take a lot of photos (OK, any) of the tours of people inside the exhibit, but you can see some of it again on my original post from back in June: ‘Home on the Range.’

Mostly, I wanted to take pix of the visitors greeting the mustangs, Whisper and Skipper. 🙂

Skipper and Whisper listen attentively as Keith and Tif introduced themselves and their mustangs to the crowd of visitors.

Skipper wonders what the heck I’m DOING back there! 🙂

Visitors were equally attentive, soaking up all the information given by Tif and Keith about their mustangs.

Skipper particularly enjoyed meeting all the pretty girls. 🙂

And the kids. 🙂 I haven’t met a mustang yet that didn’t love kids.

Big boy Whisper had his share of fans.

Most of all, he loves his mama Tif! 🙂

Skipper was having too much fun being admired to leave Keith’s side. This image of the crowd of visitors was taken as introductions were being made at the beginning of the event. I’d love to know the total count of people who came to see the mustangs and the exhibit; we guessed at least 60?! Pretty good crowd for a crisp autumn day in Southwest Colorado!

These two were among our favorite visitors! Whether you’re new to the blog or go way back, you’ll recognize Sue Story’s name as an everyday commenter on the posts. 🙂 She and her husband, Dennis, are local to Southwest Colorado, and they came by in the afternoon to meet the mustangs and see the exhibit. Most recently, we’d met almost head-on (! no, no, we were all going pretty slowly 🙂 ) on a quiet and golden forest road while out looking at the glorious autumn aspen!

Karen Keene Day (left) had the quick thought to ask Amala to capture us and Alice Billings (right) in the exhibit hall for a photo in front of one of photos (Hollywood and his band). I’m so glad these ladies joined us from Ridgway!

A couple of key people had left for the day by the time we quit yakking and took a group pic in front of the banner below Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum. From left: Skipper, Keith Bean, Alice Billings, yours truly, Lyn Rowley, Amala Posey-Monk, Kat Wilder, Karen Keene Day, Tif Rodriguez and Whisper.

We want to extend our sincere, grateful and enthusiastic gratitude, respect and love for everyone who made this special exhibit and special event, well, SPECIAL.

Thank you, thank you and more thank yous!
It takes a herd, and we have the best herd in the country. 🙂


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12 responses

25 10 2021
axelsmom20

Wow – what a wonderful day that was – I’m so envious! The mustangs look fantastic (as of course they would) & to get to see faces that either comment here or you write about was super. Wish I had been there. Thank you so much for these pictures & descriptions. Still really tickles me to read about your herd manager who wanted to be there – we read about the other kind of people all the time. The fellows that work with you are just the other side of the coin.
Every Western state with Wild Horses needs a place like this!

26 10 2021
TJ

We’ve worked very hard to achieve the partnership we have with our BLM folks, and we’re very proud of all that we’ve accomplished! This was a great opportunity to show it off as well as our mustangs!

25 10 2021
Karen Ann Schmiede

Really looked like a great time for horses and humans! It’s nice to put faces together with some people who post, and others who work so hard for the horses! Thank you all so much!

26 10 2021
TJ

It WAS a very great time for us all. 🙂 We enjoyed it immensely!

25 10 2021
patricia field

Enjoyed and appreciated! Happy day from NC!!

26 10 2021
TJ

Thank you for visiting, Patricia! Hope you had a wonderful time!

25 10 2021
Martha Kennedy

Wonderful! I wish I could have been there. I’m in love with Skipper. The horse instructions made me think of a horse I know named Simeon who’s HUGE. I’m small, 5’1″. Simi took to me as soon as we met out in a field and was ready to follow me everywhere which I didn’t know. I was walking back to a gate, feeling honestly frightened by this big thing with giant hooves (Tennessee Walking Horse) that was suddenly tromping along happily beside me where I couldn’t see him but he saw me fine. It’s weird but I got a “message” from him that said, “That’s why we need a halter, Martha, so you can ‘see’ me.” I stopped. Simi put his big head on my shoulder so I knew where he was. I’m miles and miles and miles away from being a horse expert and I love everything every horse I’ve known has taught me. And, whenever I see Simi, he tosses his head and comes to visit. No idea why except maybe curiosity and the awareness of goodwill.

26 10 2021
TJ

Horses know. They know things we do not know and things we don’t expect them to know. And they have particular likes and dislikes, just like humans. I’m glad you have such a good friend in big Simeon!

26 10 2021
Martha Kennedy

Me too since he’s enormous. 😀

26 10 2021
Martha Kennedy

I’m amazed by what horses know. I wish I’d been aware of this a long time ago when I was around horses a lot more. Oh well. At least I know now.

26 10 2021
Sue E. Story

A lot of great photos from the day, TJ…we were surprised to see ourselves and were touched that we “made the cut!” Thank you for your kind words. Most of all, thank YOU and all the wonderful people who made this happen. This event was such a good idea and you all pulled it off magnificently!

26 10 2021
TJ

Of course! 🙂 We were so thrilled with the community interest in the mustangs, and of course grateful to the BLM staff who put together both the exhibit and the event, and all our advocates and the mustangs who made it a perfect day!

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