No Colorado mustangs left behind!

2 04 2019

This past weekend in Fruita, Colorado, you would have been lucky to take home one of the 26 mustangs or two burros offered for adoption.

Lucky because they ALL got adopted.

Every. Single. ONE!

Lucky because it took several hundred dollars to adopt many of the mustangs.

Lucky because one 2-year-old gelding was adopted for – wait for it – $2,750.

Twenty-four of the mustangs are from Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Range, and two of them were captured from private land outside Piceance-East Douglas Herd Management Area.

Twenty-some potential adopters had filled out applications by the end of Friday’s demo day. By the time the clock started on the adoptions Saturday morning, close to 60 people had filled out adoption applications.

Do you have goose bumps now? 🙂

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One of our BLM partners in Grand Junction – Ben Smith, who started his career here in Southwest Colorado – said later that about 100 people braved the cold, wind and snow flurries on Friday to see the training demos (including Inez Throm, Diane Shipley, Stephanie Linsley, Montrose 4-H kids and their mustangs, Mustang Maddy and Anna Twinney), and at least TWO HUNDRED people showed up for the gorgeous day that was Saturday and adoption day!

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In this pic, taken from the opposite side of the arena from the top photo, you can see the very first adopter driving into the arena (Rimrock Adventure Rodeo Grounds) to pick up their mustang – which is the light palomino mare, named Sunshine, at bottom left.

Also visible in this photo are the booths set up at the far side of the arena representing Colorado’s marvelous mustang advocates.

Let’s take a minute to applaud these amazing folks (follow the links to learn way more about each of these groups than I can possibly share here):

Friends of the Mustangs, advocacy group for Little Book Cliffs mustangs, spent hours and hours and weeks and months preparing and advertising for this adoption, which followed last fall’s adoption of LBC mustangs. Members know every single horse on the range – as well as sires, dams, siblings, etc. (And that’s how *I* know that the palomino above is Sunshine. :)) Their resources don’t end on the range; they offer training help and mentorship to adopters, and they’re the first to congratulate new adopters! This group has been around for nearly 40 years; they have fabulous BLM folks (shout out to Jim Dollerschell, Ben Smith and Wayne Werkmeister); they count as long-time members two of my very first inspiring people (Marty Felix and Billie Hutchings); their adoption team (Kathy Degonia and … ???) pulled off a TRIUMPH here! Massive, ginormous, astounding and grateful KUDOS to all of these folks!

Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary/Sand Wash Advocate Team are the dreams of Michelle Sander (dedicated to her dad) and the hard-working advocates for Sand Wash Basin (including but certainly not limited to Stephanie Linsley (head trainer at GEMS), Petra Kadrnozkova, Stella Trueblood and Connie Wagner). On the range, SWAT documents the mustangs, darts mares with PZP, and hosts range-project days, working closely with BLM. At GEMS, they offer sanctuary to some mustangs, and they take in more mustangs to gentle/train and find new, wonderful, loving homes. Also at GEMS, they host a wide variety of events, including horsemanship clinics and yoga with the mustangs!

Wild Horse Warriors for Sand Wash Basin also advocate for the Sand Wash Basin mustangs. They raised money to haul water to the horses during last year’s devastating drought, and they’ve raised tens of thousands of dollars to help build fence along the highway to keep the horses within the basin and safe from traffic. Cindy Wright represented the group to help educate people about mustangs.

Piceance Mustangs is a brand-new group formed to advocate for the mustangs of Piceance-East Douglas Herd Management Area, the largest HMA in the state. Some of the FOM members are taking on double-duty working for this herd, and they’ve already hosted range projects, during which they have removed miles of fence (repurposing old barbed wire into wreaths that they are selling to raise funds) and completed water-improvement projects. They’re working with BLM to hopefully implement PZP darting in the future. Tracy Scott (Steadfast Steeds Mustang Sanctuary) and Kathy Degonia (FOM) are working hard for this herd, and BLM herd manager Melissa Kindall is an amazing (and amazingly grateful!) partner in their endeavors.

And I attended to support these amazing advocates, their mustangs and their BLM partners … and to set some Spring Creek Basin brochures on FOM’s table to round out the full complement of Colorado mustang herds. 🙂

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The amazing George Brauneis, pictured above with Michelle Sander and me (photo taken by Kathy Degonia), announced all the trainers and pertinent information during the weekend. George has adopted numerous mustangs (he currently has 12!), and he is one of the most enthusiastic promoters of mustangs in Colorado! He has a resource list miles long, all related to helping adopters help their mustangs. He’s a Colorado native, and he is supremely dedicated to Colorado (and other) mustangs. On Friday, his gorgeous black Little Book Cliffs mustang, Rango, helped trainers Stephanie Linsley and Anna Twinney help potential adopters by serving as a model.

My gosh, folks. This is the way it should be done everywhere. Everyone is mutually helpful and supportive and respectful. We appreciate our BLM partners, and they listen to our voices when it comes to our Colorado mustangs.

BLM’s Northwest Colorado District Manager Stephanie Connolly and BLM Colorado State Director Jamie Connell attended the adoption and saw the benefits of their partners for Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Range, Friends of the Mustangs.

Also deserving of a big round of appreciation for their work for and during this adoption event are the following BLM folks: Steve Leonard and Monica Mohr (from Canon City); Jim Dollerschell, Ben Smith, Wayne Werkmeister and Bob Price (Grand Junction Field Office); and Melissa Kindall (White River Field Office, Meeker).

To repeat: Not a single horse went unadopted this weekend. Not a single horse returned to BLM’s short-term holding facility at the prison complex in Canon City. Not a single horse costs taxpayers another dime.

As George and Kathy said: No mustang left behind! 🙂

I can’t say enough about the people who make up Colorado’s mustang advocate community (and although I specifically named several people in this post, never doubt that there are many, many, MANY more). There simply aren’t enough superlatives. They worked long and hard, and their ultimate reward was seeing all of the horses and burros get adopted.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHMAAAAAAAAAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Some additional links: Photo gallery in the Grand Junction Sentinel.

And this little girl, Jade, stole everyone’s hearts!

 

 





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.)

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

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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.

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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! :)).

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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!

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

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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.

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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.

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The attentive crowd.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 🙂

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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).

AND

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





Mustangs in poetry

25 05 2018

Something a little different for today’s post. 🙂

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Recently, our NMA/CO board members worked with local artist and substitute teacher Ginny Getts to hold a poetry contest with Mancos elementary students. A few weeks ago, each student got to pick one of three photos (one of Sundance; one of Spirit; one of Sundance and Arrow (his mare)), which were designed by executive director Tif Rodriguez like a postcard: photo on the front with room on the back on which to write their poems. Wednesday, at the school’s end-of-the-year assembly, we gave honorable mentions in each of the classes that participated: first grade, two third-grade classes, two fourth-grade classes and two fifth-grade classes. And we gave blue ribbons for the best poem for each photo. Above are all the fantastic winners. 🙂 Aren’t they cute?

These are the winning poems:

Fast as lightning’s bolt
Beautiful as a flower
on a brown dust trail.
~ fourth-grader Jordan B., Sundance

Beautiful mustangs
with your glorious manes.
The touch of your heartbeat rings,
your hooves thumping the ground
as you run faster and faster.
Precious and fragile
we admire you.
~ fourth-grader Aysia M., Spirit

One is day, one night
They go together dark and light
Like fire love burns bright.
~ fifth-grader Hannah S., Sundance & Arrow

Pretty nice, right? It was hard to pick from all the super entries!

Congrats to all these winning kids, and thank you to all the students who used their creativity to express their love of mustangs!

 





Boundary fence – aka the fruit of the students’ labor!

28 03 2013

When the students finished work on the fence Tuesday, I was so excited, I forgot to take pix of said finished fence! So yesterday, on a near-perfect spring day in Disappointment Valley, I straddled my mountain bike for the first day this year and pedaled up to the boundary. I haven’t figured out a decent way to carry my camera while biking (it’s not little), so I apologize in advance for the crappy quality of these cell-phone images. But I believe they show the excellent quality of our new, student-built fence!

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I say, isn’t that a rockin’ mountain bike! Oh, wait, I mean, isn’t that a *tight* H-brace! This is at the road (the cattle guard  is immediately to the left), and the brace was loose. Despite the poor image quality, I think you can see the shiny new wire. The sign says something about no motorized vehicle access (because it’s McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area).

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This was shot from in front of my bike looking up the fence line. Does it rock or what?!

Compare the above shot – brand-new fence – with the one below, the original fence, photo taken the previous weekend when the crew cleared the greasewood and other brush from the fence line so the students could build:

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This is from the other (west) side of the fence, looking back toward the road, but it’s the same section of fence.

WHAT A DIFFERENCE!

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The shadows don’t allow for much detail in this shot, but this is the first H-brace the students built, using the tree as the anchor. Notice the extra “padding” around the tree.

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Here’s a closer view. The staves protect the tree from wire biting into the bark – thank you (again), Tom Kelly, Forest Service fence-builder extraordinaire!

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This is the brace just to the left of the tree and shows – I hope – the somewhat intricate weaving of the wrap, which holds it all together.

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And here’s the fence continuing on up the hill.

Kudos again to the students for building this wildlife-friendly, mustang-protecting fence!





Alternative spring break – day 2

27 03 2013

We must not have worn out the Mizzou students Monday because they came back Tuesday! (All except one of the Sarahs – who came up sick – and Tori, who stayed with her. Sarah, feel better soon!)

With the H-braces set in place, the day’s plan was to take out the old wire and string new wire. Following wildlife-friendly strand spacing, the top wire is smooth twisted wire and 42 inches above the ground. The bottom wire is smooth twisted and 18 inches above the ground. The middle two strands are barbed wire. Deer and elk can jump over, fawns and calves can crawl under, and cattle hopefully will respect the barbed.

So we had to cut wire pieces off the existing fence strands and pull staples and roll barbed wire. Gloves and shades were must-have accessories. Once again, fence-building guru Tom Kelly showed the most jaded of us, who thought we knew a thing or three about fence building, a new technique to tighten the wire fence strands to T-posts (metal) and staves (between T-posts or wood posts).

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Tif watches Tom demonstrate the new-to-us tool to attach a wire fence strand to a metal T-post. She’s holding a stave on which she has marked the heights of the wire fence strands.

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MK took over this “wonder tool,” and I’m not sure she ever let it go! Instead of a traditional “clip,” this is a short piece of wire with loops on both ends. The hook goes through both ends, you swivel it, and voila! Your wire strand is tight to the post!

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But I’m getting excited and ahead of myself. First, we had to get rid of the old wire. Here, Emerald demonstrates careful barbed-wire-rolling technique.

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MK and a “barbed wire wreath”!

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More perfect rolls.

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BLM guy Tom with his, uh, not-so-perfect “roll.” Lesson: Don’t let BLM roll up your fences! Fortunately, he redeemed his agency’s good name later with his wire-strand tightening skills.

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Marissa carries wooden staves to drop off along the fence line. These help stabilize the wire and keep the spacing even. Note the colorful eyewear, courtesy of SJMA. This was to protect against the potential boinging – Kathe’s word! – of broken wire. (Note: As far as I’m aware, there was no boinging of wire or injury to students!) Right in front of Emerald’s shins, note the strand of wire. This is how it got there:

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Students Chalen and Marissa help volunteer Keith unroll smooth twisted wire. Note the wire strand in the bottom left corner of the pic. It started at the road, tied off at the H-brace there, and was unrolled up to the first H-brace, which is just beyond Tom Kelly (back left), where the trees start. Then another strand is tied off there and the roll walked back to the road and that brace. The process is repeated with the barbed wire in this section, and then with the smooth and barbed wire strands from the H-brace behind these guys up the hill to the next brace.

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Keith carries rolls of old wire to the trucks while Tom and Chalen carry good wire to the next H-brace to string it from there to the third brace. Note the very valuable set of fencing pliers sticking out of Keith’s pocket. Students were well-acquainted with these tools after two days in Spring Creek Basin!

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Here, the bottom and top strands are in place and have been stretched (tightened). In this pic, Sarah and Aaron are measuring and stapling the strands of fence wire for the rebuilt fence. Note the marks on the stave Sarah is holding. The marks are at 18 inches, 23 inches, 30 inches and 42 inches. Marking staves made it easy for students to work in pairs: measure and staple.

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Emerald and Ellen, foreground, and Corrie and MK measure and staple fence strands to posts. Ellen and Emerald are at the next H-brace, up the hill.

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Mizzou students are the epitome of seriousness after day 2 of fence work on Spring Creek Basin’s southeastern boundary line. In the background, our excellent new fence! I can’t believe I didn’t take a pic of the finished product; to come. (It looks excellent!)

Front row from left: volunteers Corrie and Tif, Mizzou site leader Chalen and volunteer Keith. Standing: MK (diving) and Kathe with SJMA, students Marshal, Sarah, Marissa, Kara, Ellen, Aaron and Emerald, Tom Kelly with the Forest Service, BLM’s Tom Rice and Dave with the Forest Service.

An important side note, Corrie, Tif and Keith all adopted Spring Creek Basin mustangs in 2011/2012.

After their work on the fence, we took the students into the basin to scout mustangs. We saw Chrome’s band, Duke and Kreacher, Hollywood’s and Comanche’s bands with Bounce, and bachelor boys Aspen, Hayden, Tenaz and Apollo. Those boys were very accommodating for students’ pix!

On our way out, we stopped to investigate the dugout, likely used during construction (way back when?!) of the defunct Custer dam.

Chalen takes a break in the old dugout in Spring Creek Basin.

Chalen taking a well-deserved break. Word Monday was that he would be awake at 4:30 a.m. (!) Tuesday to cook breakfast.

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Students gather for a group photo op in the dugout. Are those some happy faces or what?

Today – Wednesday – the students will work with Kathe and MK and my friend Sam on one of my favorite mountain bike trails in Southwest Colorado: Phil’s World, just east of Cortez. It’s a not-so-secret course anymore. Thursday, they’ll work at Sand Canyon, part of Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, west of Cortez.

Once again, huge thanks to these fantastic university students! We so appreciate your willing and enthusiastic work to help protect our Spring Creek Basin mustangs. We hope you had fun to balance the work and that you’ll enjoy your next work projects as much as we enjoyed having you work with us! Come back soon to our corner of Colorado!





Alternative spring break – day 1

26 03 2013

Monday was the first day of work for 10 students (including two site leaders) from the University of Missouri, here to work on public lands in Southwest Colorado on alternative spring break. Instead of going to Cancun or Fort Lauderdale or South Padre Island, these young men and women pursue service opportunities across the country. For more than a decade (13 years now?), San Juan Mountains Association, a nonprofit partner with BLM and the Forest Service on San Juan public lands, has organized work projects that always include at least one day in Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area. This year and last year, students will be and were here for two days. This year, as last year, students worked on the southeastern boundary fence. Last year, they rebuilt a section of fence that had been vandalized before the roundup (someone cut it in several places); this year, they’re installing braces, tightening some wire and replacing some other wire – maintenance projects much-needed on that fence line.

Volunteers from Mesa Verde and Four Corners Back Country Horsemen and the Colorado chapter of the National Mustang Association also are helping with the project. Some or all of the materials were purchased with funds from last year’s Director’s Challenge, awarded because of BLM’s partnership with Disappointment Wild Bunch Partners, made up of representatives from 4CBCH, MVBCH and NMA/CO.

From SJMA, Kathe Hayes and MK Thompson, from the Forest Service, Tom Kelly, and from BLM, Tom Rice, were overseeing the project.

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Sarah holds the wire strands to give Marshal room to dig a hole for a post as the first step toward building an H-brace.

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Four Corners BCH volunteer Bob Volger and student Emerald watch student Ellen pound in a stake to hold an H-brace to the post set in the hole dug by Marshal in the first photo.

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Student Kara helps Mesa Verde BCH and NMA/CO volunteer Tif Rodriguez tamp dirt around a post set at another H-brace while Forest Service fence-builder extraordinaire Tom Kelly supervises.

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From left, Chalen, Marshal and Aaron saw limbs off a juniper to make way for building braces using the tree. Of the 10 students on the trip, these are the group’s only guys. Chalen is one of the site leaders.

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SJMA’s MK painstakingly removes staples from wire embedded in the juniper tree seen in the previous photo. Moving forward, each tree used for braces will get protective staves to prevent this from happening (thanks, Tom Kelly!).

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Tif watches while Kara drills a hole for a spike through the brace and tree for stability.

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Emerald drills the way for another spike in another brace. Altogether, three sections of braces had posts dug and posts set in place. Because this area of Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area also is part of McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area, all the work had to be done by hand – no mechanical help such as chainsaws.

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Sarah holds wire while Bob, Tom Kelly and Tori (also a site leader) wrap wire around the H-brace and tree (with staves) to tighten.

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Bob, Tom Kelly and Tom Rice do the last bit of work for the day: tightening the wire around the farthest H-brace for stability.

Today, we’ll tighten and replace wire strands.

Thank you to everyone who is helping with this project! We so appreciate your work ethic and commitment to our public lands!





Preparing for fence work

17 03 2013

In a couple of weeks, it will be spring break time again. And here, alternative spring break comes in late March, courtesy of San Juan Mountains Association, which has brought University of Missouri students to Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area (and other places on San Juan public lands) for something like 10 years now!

Yesterday, a crew of volunteers helped SJMA’s Kathe Hayes clear greasewood and saltbush and small pinon/juniper trees and a small, interwoven shrub we couldn’t identify away from the southeastern boundary fence so the students can start rebuilding the fence from the road with BLM, Forest Service, SJMA and Disappointment Wild Bunch Partners help. For the second year, the students will work for the basin’s mustangs for two days (previous years have had them in the basin one day), and not for the first year, we’re excited to welcome them!

Some pix from our work:

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Tif and her daughter, Madison (yes, our Madison is named after *this* Madison!), cut and toss greasewood away from the fence near the road.

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Kathe and Lyn clear the fence of greasewood. This shot is looking back toward the road; you can see the metal supports of the cattle guard in the distance. Note Kathe’s handsaw; this part of the basin also is part of McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area, meaning no motorized travel or mechanized tools – like chainsaws. Kathe and other volunteers cut some trees on another day for the students to use to make H-braces; those also were cut using handsaws.

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Lyn, Madison and Tif clear brush while Kathe moves on to the next bush in need of clearing. Lyn is clearing the last bit of saltbush; the ground here was moist enough that we were mostly able to pull it up through the soil.

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The couple that saws together stays together! Tif and her husband (and Madi’s dad), Curly, cut and saw a small juniper tree out of the fence line.

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Curly and Madison head back to the truck after an excellent day’s work. The family that volunteers together … is super fun to have on your work crew!

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Tif, her mom, Lyn (Madison’s grandma), and Kathe walk back to the truck along the newly cleared fenceline boundary of Spring Creek Basin.

In other good news, about 37 drops of rain fell while we were working. 🙂





Wild Horse Scientists

6 01 2013

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Behind the scenes and out of the public spotlight – the way they like it – are a number of people – scientists – working to improve wild horse management. A new book by Kay Frydenborg, Wild Horse Scientists, published in November by Houghton Mifflin, looks at a couple of these scientists: Dr. Jay Kirkpatrick and Dr. Ron Keiper.

Dr. Kirkpatrick is director of the Science and Conservation Center in Billings, Mont., where PZP is made and darters are trained. His work has proved especially invaluable with the wild horses managed on Assateague Island National Seashore. Dr. Keiper came up with a system of identifying the Assateague Island horses when research and fertility control started there around 25 years ago.

The book is aimed at children 10 and older, but given the myths and misconceptions I still hear about fertility control and wild horses, it’s likely appropriate for all age levels. Also, the idea that science IS being applied to the management of wild horses – particularly on Assateague, where the population is controlled only by the use of fertility control and a roundup hasn’t been conducted in many years (?) – is important and has applications that readers of all ages can appreciate.

Hoping to get more kids aware of the mustangs of Spring Creek Basin, our National Mustang Association/Colorado chapter and Disappointment Wild Bunch Partners are working with the Telluride Institute to get schoolkids to the basin. This book could become an important part of their unit about good, in-the-wild management of these horses.

For more information, see Kay’s website: http://www.kayfrydenborg.com/

From her website:

“Dr. Ron Keiper and Dr. Jay Kirkpatrick have both, in their own unique way, made the wild horses of Assateague Island, Maryland their lives’ work. Experience Dr. Keiper’s handwritten notes—taken over countless watchful hours in the field—which are both a diary and a scientific log that chart the lives of his equine subjects, some of nature’s greatest survivors. And follow Dr. Kirkpatrick from the lab to the field as he works tirelessly to find a way to manage the horse population with a birth control vaccine, and helps keep the precarious balance of Assateague’s ecosystem intact.

“Descriptive prose meets solid science as author Kay Frydenborg offers a rare glimpse into the wild herds of Assateague, sharing beautiful photos of the Assateague herds in their island home and of both of the scientists at work—some of them never seen before.”

Also visit the website where Houghton Mifflin promotes authors, photographers and conservationists who highlight all kinds of topics to get kids interested in science: http://www.sciencemeetsadventure.com/

Find the book on Amazon. I just ordered mine.





Kids and mustangs

17 09 2012

Today, 15 seventh-graders from Naturita came with their science teacher to Spring Creek Basin for a wild horse educational unit set up by Alessandra and Laura of the Telluride Institute.

Kiley Whited, our herd manager based at the Tres Rios Field Office in Dolores, and Kathe Hayes, volunteer program coordinator with San Juan Mountains Association, offered the students a fantastic hands-on activity checking plant inventory along a transect Kiley set up near the water catchment. Students learned about grasses such as blue grama, galleta and Indian ricegrass and shrubs such as shadscale and greasewood, and how those form part of the horses’ diet – and how BLM managers inventory the range to know the appropriate population range – appropriate management level – a given area can support.

The range is looking fantastic now with a lower population level after the roundup and less pressure on the range, despite a significant lack of rain this year. But the little rain we have had has really brought up the vegetation!

Kiley talks about vegetation within the frame along the transect with a Naturita student.

Four groups of students worked along four transects to identify and weigh plant material.

Painted fingernails and a mustang hoof. Kathe Hayes brought this hoof and leg found in the basin several years ago to demonstrate how veterinarians and others are learning about good hoof construction from the hooves of mustangs. The kids thought it was “grody” but kinda cool!

Some “juicy” words the kids used to describe the mustangs: Majestic (love this one!), pretty, field trip!

We had lunch near Seven, Kreacher and Duke, Hayden, Tenaz and Apollo, and also got to see Chrome’s band with little Kwana during our trip.

Thanks all around to everyone who made this trip possible – including the parents who transported the kids! Hopefully we can make this an annual event. The Naturita Colts certainly deserve to learn about the mustangs in their backyard!





What we want to know

6 01 2011

Today, I was so honored to spend some time with three smart, beautiful young ladies at a local elementary school, talking about horses – specifically, wild horses – more specifically, the wild horses of Spring Creek Basin. They wowed me from the start, with the list of things they knew about horses and then a list they had compiled that they wanted to know.

A, M and M, thank you for sharing part of your day with me! I hope I contributed to your excitement about wild horses, and I can’t wait to see you next week!

With permission from K at the school, these are their questions:

WHAT WE WANT TO KNOW:

1. Is there a first aid for horses?

2. Is there a cure for horses that break their leg?

3. Measuring horses by hands.

4. How fast does a wild horse run?

5. What are the symptoms of colic?

6. What is founder?  Do you wild horses get founder?

7. Since wild horses aren’t shoed, does that have an impact on them?

8. Why is it called “Disappointment Valley” where the wild horses live?

9. How do you find the wild horses?

10. How many wild horse herds are in Colorado?

11. What diseases do wild horses get?

12. Are the wild horses affected by car crashes?

13. How long is a horse pregnant?

14. How long before a colt stands?

15. How many breeds of horses are there?  What are they called?

16. How do you transport rescued horses?

17. How do you train a horse that’s been abused?

18. Can you feed a horse chocolate?

Can you believe those fabulous questions?! (I love the last one!) Also next week, the girls will meet a local couple that rescues abused and unwanted horses. They’re getting quite an education!

This is the list they had come up with of things they know:

1. Different horses have different tempers.

2. Horses have no nerves in their manes.

3. Some horses need you to click and say trot if you want them to trot.

4. In order to make a horse canter, you have to slap their rumps – hard.

5. You pull on the reins very softly to make horses slow down.

6. Horses have a muscle in their hooves called a frog that makes them able to trot and canter at amazing speeds.

7. If a horse has a broken leg, you have to kill it.

8. Horses like apples and carrots.

(Note that the second to last thing they “know” in this list becomes the second question they “want to know.”)

Check out how many of their questions have to do with the horses’ health and well-being. Are you as impressed as I am? A and M are in second grade; M is in fourth grade.

Beautiful, beautiful and beautiful.