NMA/CO’s night for mustangs

19 10 2018

Wednesday night at the Sunflower Theatre (Cortez, Colorado), the Colorado chapter of the National Mustang Association hosted a fundraising gala to benefit the mustangs of Southwest Colorado, including Spring Creek Basin, Mesa Verde National Park and off the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation.

Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin was our guest speaker and presented information about the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office‘s Mounted Patrol, which uses mustangs, on the long-ago recommendation of members of Mesa Verde Back Country Horsemen, some of whom are mustang adopters.

Short film “500 Miles” also was shown. It’s about Heroes and Horses, and how these wild horses help human warriors after combat and service to their country. From the Heroes and Horses website:

“Heroes and Horses is a Montana-based nonprofit organization that has created an innovative, three-phase reintegration program, which is offered to qualifying combat veterans (at no cost to them) suffering from PTSD. Our program utilizes the remote wilderness of Montana, coupled with human and horse connections, to challenge and inspire personal growth in veterans suffering from mental and physical scars.”

We know mustangs help those of us who *don’t* bear these tremendous physical, mental and emotional burdens. How much more intense must their connection be with these veterans??

On behalf of board members Tif Rodriguez, David Temple, Lynda Larsen, Sandie Simons and Nancy Schaufele, we are so thankful to our donors and to everyone who came to the Sunflower Theatre last night to help us in our ongoing endeavors to support and protect the wild horses of Southwest Colorado. (List of donors at the end of this post.)


Board members Sandie Simons (right) and Lynda Larsen look over the offerings for the night’s silent auction.


Some of the art donated: At left is a painting by renowned artist Veryl Goodnight of Mancos, Colorado (just east of Cortez); in the middle is a print by Corrales, New Mexico artist Ric Speed; and at right is a drawing of my boy, Grey/Traveler, by my friend, Denver-area artist and Spring Creek Basin mustangs (two!) adopter, Teresa Irick.


Also close to my heart is this painting by friend and long-time supporter of Spring Creek Basin mustangs Karen Keene Day. It’s of Grey/Traveler (disclaimer: yes, it came home with me! :)).


Taken from the theater balcony as people arrive to the fundraiser. Two Spring Creek Basin mustang supporters and often-visitors – Sue and Dennis Story – are in this crowd. Fun fact: They were the first to arrive!


Attendees talk near the sheriff’s display of photos of the county’s Mounted Patrol Unit, which features three mustangs.


Sandie, right, talks with Jeri Friesen while Jeri’s husband, Vern, bids on an auction item. Jeri and Vern have adopted three Spring Creek Basin mustangs, and as members of Four Corners Back Country Horsemen, have ridden two of them in Spring Creek Basin as part of 4CBCH’s wild horse counts. At left, Lynda talks with artist Veryl Goodnight (in blue) and Kate St. Onge, who bid on and won Veryl’s beautiful painting.


Tif Rodriguez, NMA/CO’s executive director, introduces our organization and what we do to help mustangs. In the foreground is a photo (part of the auction) she took of Mesa Verde National Park mustangs a few weeks ago.


The attentive crowd.


Sandie speaks about the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office’s Mounted Patrol Unit during her introduction of Sheriff Steve Nowlin.


During Sheriff Nowlin’s presentation, what struck me most – even more than all the work he and his staff did to bring mustangs to Montezuma County – was how admiring he is of the horses and their deputies and the work they have done, not only in crime fighting (pulling over drunk drivers!) but in community outreach.


Because of grants and BLM help, bringing mustangs here as part of the county’s first mounted patrol cost taxpayers nothing. Each of the three mustangs – Rebel, Charlie and Cody – is valued at about $85,000. WOW – am I right? These horses are valuable not only because of the time and training and care put into them but because of how they help Montezuma County be a safer place. Criminals apparently ignore people on horseback (this is a rural county, after all, and people on horses is a common sight), but kids and community members are drawn to them as if by magnetic force, the sheriff said.


Sheriff Nowlin also told the crowd how he and a local representative crafted a state bill that affords law-enforcement horses the same legal protections as law-enforcement canines. That bill was signed earlier this year by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, and Sheriff Nowlin has a framed photo of the occasion and the pen used that he brought as part of his display.


The sheriff showed the display his office made that they took to all the schools in the county, asking for help naming their new mustangs. More than 2,000 schoolchildren responded, and the names Rebel, Charlie and Cody were chosen (Nowlin said it took his staff a month to pick from all the suggestions). The horses and their deputies visit schools and senior centers throughout the county as part of their community outreach efforts.

Sheriff Nowlin said he has received interest from police and sheriffs across the state and country, asking about their program. Another big win for mustangs. 🙂


Also recognized during the evening were these talented young wordsmiths from Mancos Elementary School. Hannah Sword, right, was presented with a poster featuring her winning poem about Sundance and Arrow. Aysia Mathews was presented with a poster featuring her winning poem about Spirit. Each of the girls read their poems to the crowd. The third winner, Jordan B., who wrote about Sundance, moved away earlier this year (her poster will be mailed to her). The girls were in fifth and fourth grade, respectively, when they wrote their winning poems.

Artist and idea-bringer Ginny Getts also was recognized for her help in getting Mancos teachers and kids excited about mustangs. (And she donated a painting to the auction!)

Added thanks to San Juan Mountains Association‘s volunteer coordinator, Kathe Hayes, who not only provided finger foods for this event (and others we’ve done) but has done so much for Spring Creek Basin’s mustangs through work projects, especially alternative spring break (see blog roll for posts … late March every single year :)). Alternative spring break brings University of Missouri students to Southwest Colorado for a week each March to work on projects on public lands: BLM Tres Rios Field Office (including Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area), San Juan National Forest and Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.

Again, we sincerely thank every single person who donated to our silent auction and came to our event to respect and honor mustangs and the work NMA/CO does in Southwest Colorado on their behalf. Special thanks to Tif Rodriguez who did the lion’s share of work pulling together this fabulous evening!

Many huge thanks to these donors who helped us help mustangs (below from Tif … list unfortunately delayed by yours truly, who had technical difficulties this morning 🙂 ) :

Kerry O’Brien
Montezuma Mexican Restaurant, Dolores
Shiloh’s Steakhouse, Cortez
Ric Speed
Equus Chiropractic – Petra Sullwold
Skyhorse Saddlery
Ginny Getts
Teresa Irick
Veryl Goodnight
Karen Keene Day
Dunton Hot Springs
Victoria Calvert
Trail Canyon Ranch
Chavolito’s, Dolores
Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Cortez
Abundant Life, Cortez
Kokopelli Bike & Board, Cortez
FB Organics, Cortez
Millwood Junction, Mancos
Lynda Larsen
Tim McGaffic
Wendy Griffin
Nancy Schaufele
TJ Holmes

Special thanks to Ginny Getts, Mancos Elementary Students, Hannah Sword, Aysia Mathews, Jordan Berry; and to Diane Law (graphic design for poster art), Lisa Mackey (photo/poster printing).


Sheriff Nowlin and the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office Mounted Patrol Unit mustangs
Heroes & Horses – https://www.heroesandhorses.org/

And a very special thanks to:
Sunflower Theatre’s Dan and Desiree, Lyn Rowley, Kathe Hayes, Sandie Simons, Curly and Madison Rodriguez, and TJ Holmes

They’re totally rock stars

12 08 2017


Earlier this week, I visited the BLM state office in Denver (Lakewood). As we walked into the entry way … I was drawn to the photo of mustangs on the wall (naturally, right?!).


Photos also were on the opposite wall, but the mustangs catch your eye (of course!). (Above: Already out the door is BLM’s Ben Smith, wild horse and burro specialist based in Grand Junction, and holding the door while yours truly geeked out taking photos of a mustang photo is Jim Hyrup, president of Friends of the Mustangs, which is the group that advocates for Little Book Cliffs mustangs near Grand Junction.)


This is the view of the photo as we walked into the building. It’s the view EVERYONE has as they walk into BLM’s state office!

I stopped to look closer … and was about to ask if anyone recognized the horses … when *I* suddenly did.

I might have gotten a little loud. 🙂

Pictured are Hayden, Jif, Chrome, Two Boots and Rio (now named Legado, owned by an NMA/CO board member). The BLM people didn’t know who took the photo, but it had to have been taken in 2010.

Because our wild beautiful ponies are just that famous. 🙂

In other pretty awesome news, we were there to support friends who advocate and volunteer and partner and collaborate with BLM for the good management of our Colorado mustangs on Colorado’s herd management areas and wild horse range: Sand Wash Basin, Little Book Cliffs, Spring Creek Basin (specifically) and Piceance-East Douglas (coming soon, we hope!). BLM folks, including Laria Lovec (on-range management), Steve Leonard (off-range management) and Ben Smith (wild horse and burro specialist based in Grand Junction), were there to recognize folks including Michelle Sander and Aleta Wolf (with Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary and Sand Wash Advocate Team), and Jim Hyrup (president of Friends of the Mustangs).

FOM has been involved with Little Book Cliffs mustangs for more than 30 years and have been using PZP for more than a decade. SWAT and GEMS are about 5 years old, and advocates have been darting in Sand Wash Basin for at least the last three years. We are so happy and proud to support their efforts and call them friends and heroes/heroines for mustangs!


Left to right: Steve Leonard, Laria Lovec, moi, Michelle Sander, Aleta Wolf, Jim Hyrup and Ben Smith.

Many of our valued volunteers couldn’t attend the meeting, but Stella Trueblood and Connie Wagner (SWAT), Marty Felix and Billie Hutchings (FOM), and Pat and Frank Amthor and Kat Wilder (Disappointment Wild Bunch Partners) are standout folks who spend hours working for our mustangs – and have done so for years and years. Marty earns the longevity award for more than FORTY years with Little Book Cliffs’ mustangs! Pat and Frank Amthor have logged TWENTY years supporting Spring Creek Basin’s mustangs!

In the “coming soon” category, Dona Hilkey and Pam and Tom Nickoles have been visiting, photographing and documenting Piceance-East Douglas’ mustangs for at least 12 years. They’ve been working closely with BLM, and folks are close to forming an advocacy group for that herd (and perhaps casting an umbrella over West Douglas as well). When that happens, it will mean every mustang herd in Colorado will have the support of volunteer advocates!

THANK YOU to every one of our dedicated volunteers!

And THANK YOU to BLM for recognizing and appreciating their work for our Colorado mustangs!

Black is beauty

17 08 2016


Pretty Raven in the secret forest.

Many readers know that Raven was born and raised in Sand Wash Basin and came here in 2008 with Mona and Kootenai to help boost our genetics. Because Spring Creek Basin’s appropriate management level currently is just 35 to 65 adult horses, BLM periodically introduces horses in order to help keep our herd’s genetics viable, per a recommendation by equine geneticist Dr. Gus Cothran (at my alma mater, Texas A&M University).

An EA has recently been released for a bait-trapping operation in Sand Wash Basin. Information about where to send your comments by the Sept. 4 deadline may be found here, in a news brief in the Craig Daily Press.

“The BLM seeks comment on the Environmental Assessment of this gather plan, available at the Little Snake Field Office at 455 Emerson St., Craig, CO 81625 and online at: 1.usa.gov/23gjg6w. Public comments will be most helpful to the BLM if received by Sept. 4. Written comments can be mailed to the Little Snake Field Office or submitted via email to blm_co_sandwash_hma@blm.gov.”

(Note that the website indicated in the press release leads to an error page.)

Of note in the very positive category, Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary and Sand Wash Advocate Team are specifically mentioned for their partnership with BLM in managing this herd: “Our partnership with SWAT and GEMS has been vital to meeting our goal of maintaining the health of the Sand Wash wild horses and the lands they depend upon,” BLM Northwest District Manager Joe Meyer said in a news release.

Also: “While confined in a corral, BLM employees and Sand Wash Advocacy Team members would identify mares, that would be treated with a contraceptive called PZP, which delays fertilization, before being released back to the range. Up to 50 young wild horses would be removed for placement in the Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary training and adoption program.”

Please take a look at the EA and send comments. SWAT volunteers are currently using fertility control in Sand Wash Basin, and they need support in order to continue their efforts to manage this herd well.

‘Mustang Tales’

24 07 2016

It may not be the tale she wanted to tell, but Kat Wilder’s latest “Mustang Tales,” written exclusively for American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, tells a tale that mustang adopters should read.



NMA/CO to show ‘Unbranded’

16 10 2015


The Colorado chapter of the National Mustang Association will feature a showing of “Unbranded” at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 26, at the Sunflower Theatre in Cortez, Colo. See the above for more information. If you’re local, we’d love to see you there!

Visit NMA/CO’s website to purchase tickets online.

“Unbranded” is the story of four Texas Aggies and their 16 mustangs on a journey across some of America’s most stunning public lands, from Mexico to Canada. It’s a must-see testament to the mustangs that represent the freedom and pioneering spirit on which America was built.

Special visitors

31 05 2015
Katie and Ben Masters in Spring Creek Basin with Chrome's band.

Katie and Ben Masters in Spring Creek Basin.

The “Unbranded” crew may not have ridden through Colorado, but ahead of Telluride’s Mountainfilm festival last weekend, Ben Masters and his very lovely wife, Katie, came to Spring Creek Basin to see our “beautiful” mustangs.

We talked about wild horses and wild burros and public lands and challenges and solutions. As you might imagine, Ben’s mustangs, partners in his and friends’ trip of a lifetime, have made him a mustang advocate. “Unbranded” has catapulted him into a unique position of being respected by a variety of disparate interests.

Ben Masters checks out the NMA/CO sign on the water catchment in Spring Creek Basin with wife Katie. Chrome's band is beyond.

Ben checks out the NMA/CO sign on the water catchment in Spring Creek Basin with Katie.

One does not travel from Mexico to Canada with mustangs and friends alone. It requires preparation and support from numerous people along the way. When traveling across public lands with a pack string and a camera man (at least one), one needs permits from the government: the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service. Observant travelers notice the tread of others on those lands, and Ben and Ben and Thomas and Jonny were no different. To say they made the most of their observations and appreciation of America’s remarkable public lands is a huge understatement.

Katie and Ben Masters in Spring Creek Basin's east pocket with Comanche's, Aspen's and Hollywood's bands.

Katie and Ben enjoy a wonderful visit with beautiful mustangs in the basin.

“Unbranded” is a journey story, and like all good journeys, it includes challenges and obstacles and perseverance and education. While their physical journey may have ended at the Canada border, their education is ongoing, and their search for solutions for America’s wild horses and burros likewise is ongoing.

Ben Masters with Chrome's band in Spring Creek Basin.

Ben was pretty stoked by his visit with our mustangs!

Not surprisingly to the sold-out crowds fortunate enough to see “Unbranded” in Telluride (350 people in line were turned away from the Saturday showing after the theater filled), the film won the Audience Award.

This was the second film festival for “Unbranded”; it was the second Audience Award. Ahhhhhhhhhh-mazing!

When you get the chance to see “Unbranded,” see it. It’s not the typical mustang film. It will leave you wanting more – more mustangs, more conservation of public lands, more involvement, more “what can I do.”

Ben Masters with Chrome's band in Spring Creek Basin.

Ben … mustangs … a wide-open place.

We were so fortunate to meet Ben and Katie Masters and some of the rest of the “Unbranded” crew. What an amazing film. They’re carrying an important message, as Ben says, to show the worth of America’s mustangs.

Pati Temple

5 02 2013


Mustang angel and lover of all wild life Pati Temple passed away yesterday evening.

Look out, God, whirlwind coming your way!

Pati was one of the most influential people in my life, despite having known her for just the last few years. Words cannot come close to describing the dynamo that was Pati, and at this point, the heartbreak is too raw to try.

God speed, Pati, on the wings of your beloved mustangs. You are much loved and will be most incredibly missed.


15 01 2013

With all the craziness surrounding the wild horse “issue,” here’s something that looks pretty cool:


From the email that alerted me to this endeavor:

Backcountry  Horsemen,

This is Ben Masters. Myself and three friends are training 11 mustangs and riding them 3,000 miles from Mexico to Canada starting in March. Our route will take six months through Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. We’re making a documentary: Unbranded that aims to promote conservation of open spaces, inspire mustang adoptions and get people outside horseback.

We’re trying to promote our journey and documentary. We need your help by pledging your support and sending the information to others who like horses, the backcountry and conservation. Here is the video, it’ll put a smile on your face:


For more info, our website is http://www.unbrandedthefilm.com/

Western Horseman’s blog over our trip: http://blogs.westernhorseman.com/unbranded/

Thank you,

Ben Masters


Check out their story; I’m sure you’ll follow them as I will! Have I ever mentioned I’m an Aggie? Gig ’em, Ags. What a ride it will be!

Rockin’ steady

13 12 2012

We pick up our story of Asher and Vern after they had left the round pen and walked through the pine forest to the “arena,” which contains obstacles from a past Craig Cameron “cowboy race” in the area. I had heard that Vern had had Asher on the “teeter-totter” and thought, “WOW! Have I got to see THAT!”

But first:

Asher and Vern on the pallet.

Put your left foot in … or up, as the case may be. Vern shows Asher how to step up on the pallet.

Asher and Vern on the pallet.

There’s a little mister proud of himself and looking back to mama Jeri (Vern’s wife, Jeri) for approval!

Asher and Vern on the pallet.

That’s it, kid!

You can really see his grey streak in these pix. It’s only on this side, not his other side.

Asher and Vern on the bridge.

Next, it was on to the “bridge.” Vern coaxes him onto the surface step by step.

Asher and Vern on the bridge.

And he’s up! That’s Jeri in the background.

And then, the moment I was waiting for: the teeter-totter!

Asher and Vern on the teeter-totter.

Watch the end closest to the camera …

Asher and Vern on the teeter-totter.

It’s not a huge teeter.

Asher and Vern on the teeter-totter.

Almost all on board.

Asher and Vern on the teeter-totter.

Watch the end of the teeter again.

Asher and Vern on the teeter-totter.

Back and forth, up and down. Asher rode it like a pro!

Asher and Vern on the teeter-totter.

Are they cute or what? 🙂

Asher and Vern on the teeter-totter.

Asher: I’m sure you didn’t feed me enough for breakfast.

Asher and Vern

Jeri wanted me to see Asher show off his tail-flagging trot, so Vern released him in the pasture. His gal pals, Vern and Jeri’s Rocky Mountain mares, were still in their pen up the hill by the barn. This little mister, like little misters everywhere, is a slave to his belly. He much preferred eating to showing off, but we did get to see some moves.


Super cute!


He kept coming back to Vern.


Morning sunshine!



There’s our little show-off!

Asher and Vern

And he was no trouble at all to catch.

Asher and Vern


Asher and Vern

Love these two. 🙂

Asher in the round pen

11 12 2012

Horses know dragons exist. Humans call them tarps, but horses know better.

With Vern’s help, Asher has conquered the dragon:

Vern puts a tarp on Asher's back. Asher is completely unphased.

Vern puts a tarp on Asher's back. Asher is completely unphased.

Vern puts a tarp on Asher's back. Asher is completely unphased.

Note Vern’s relaxed hold on the lead rope. Asher wasn’t bothered in the slightest.

Vern leads Asher with a tarp on his back. Asher is completely unphased.

Even walking around the pen with the dragon – err, tarp – flapping against his legs!


Here, Vern’s tugging on the rope around Asher’s belly to simulate tightening the cinch. He has had a lightweight saddle on Asher.


With his original mustang, Miss Dolly, Vern was part of the Range Riders program at Lone Mesa State Park, where they helped move cattle. Any good ranch pony needs to be desensitized to the feeling of something – like a rope – under his tail. He’s ready to rope a cow, Vern figures!

Asher checks out his saddle.

Vern shows Asher his saddle.

Asher checks out his saddle.

Asher: Are you sure you gave me enough for breakfast?

Asher backs up with the saddle on.

Backing up. He didn’t think he wanted to do this at first, but Vern was patient. Eventually, all Vern had to do was wave his index finger back and forth, and back Asher would go.

Asher shakes with Vern.

Asher and Vern shake. Vern taps his shoulder and says, “Shake.” After a little bit, Asher lifted his leg to shake!


Having fun! Apparently, Asher likes to steal Vern’s hat. Vern pre-empted his thieving ways by giving Asher his hat before he could steal it!

Asher makes a funny face during his workout with Vern.

We’re laughing WITH you, Asher! Such a good boy!

Part II will include some pix of Vern and Asher on the teeter-totter!