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? 🙂


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!


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. 🙂


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.


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

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



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: 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”

(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.

BLM to round up West Douglas and Piceance-East Douglas mustangs

12 02 2015

BLM is planning roundups in West Douglas Herd Area and Piceance-East Douglas Herd Management Area, both in northwestern Colorado.

BLM gave just a two-week comment period about these proposed roundups, and the deadline is Saturday – Valentine’s Day.

Read information from the Cloud Foundation – – and American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign – – for more information and to send comment letters.

BLM info:

BLM scoping notice:


Tell BLM …

5 01 2015

… you want to see bait trapping in the future in Spring Creek Basin.

Today, BLM sent a scoping letter to gauge the public’s interest in doing bait trapping there in the future as opposed to helicopter-driven roundups. I think you’ll all agree that we want bait trapping instead of a helicopter. It was very successful in Little Book Cliffs in 2013, and we’re confident it can be successful in Spring Creek Basin – when needed.

The scoping letter (and bait-trapping proposal submitted by our groups to BLM last year) can be found through links on NMA/CO’s website.

It is important to note that there will NOT be a roundup in Spring Creek Basin this year. Our population is below the appropriate management level of 35 to 65 adult horses, and the use of native PZP has slowed population growth. Apparently, all of Colorado’s wild horse herds were put on the “2015 gather list,” but none were approved because of lack of funding and lack of corral space (this information is as of November 2014).

Note that the name of our herd management area is Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area. Also note that Spring Creek Basin is in Disappointment Valley (there’s no such thing as Disappointment Basin – at least not locally).

Please submit respectful and positive comments by Jan. 30. Members of the Colorado chapter of the National Mustang Association, Four Corners Back Country Horsemen and Mesa Verde Back Country Horsemen (a coalition known as Disappointment Wild Bunch Partners) have established a long-term working partnership with Tres Rios Field Office managers with regard to managing our Spring Creek Basin mustangs well. Our network of mustang advocates helps reinforce this partnership.

Thank you for your support of our mustangs in Spring Creek Basin!

Comanche, Piedra and Aurora

How does your donation to NMA/CO help the Spring Creek Basin mustangs?

28 05 2013

This question was asked recently, and answering it gives me another chance to let local folks know about the Pati Temple Memorial Benefit Bash we will hold next week, Monday, June 3, at the Kennebec Cafe in Hesperus, Colo. Follow that link for the details and to purchase tickets if you haven’t and plan to attend.


Now, on to an answer(s) to the question!

First, see this page, compiled last year by Pati, for a list of the National Mustang Association, Colorado chapter’s past accomplishments:

As it says, NMA/CO has spent nearly $100,000 to date on projects that directly benefit the mustangs of Spring Creek Basin! We rarely do fundraisers, relying mostly on memberships and donations. Administrative expenses are low, mostly what we put toward mailing newsletters. We had T-shirts and hats printed for the adoption in 2011, and we’ll soon have a link to purchase them through the website.

Fence repair and maintenance is ongoing through volunteer labor. As a result of their partnership with us as part of Disappointment Wild Bunch Partners, BLM received $25,000 last year through the Director’s Challenge grant, which purchased some materials to be used in a project on the basin’s southeastern boundary line (read about alternative spring break and University of Missouri students’ work here – – and here – I fix fences as needed while I’m in the basin doing documentation. Sometimes we use materials provided by BLM, other times by ourselves.

We also are continually encouraging BLM to look at water-enhancement projects. More than a decade ago, NMA/CO paid for a water catchment to be built in Spring Creek Basin, and it supplies the mustangs’ only clean source of water (all others being extremely alkaline, at least). We have a signed agreement from about 12 or 13 years ago with BLM to construct at least one more catchment, but it has never been built. I think the catchment cost about $10,000. Several years ago, we also started talking to BLM about water guzzlers (such as those installed on Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range) to add to the horses’ quality of water. Those are about $8,000-plus. NMA/CO also has purchased parts for the catchment’s troughs, which work on floats.

NMA/CO contributes funds to combat noxious/invasive weeds in Spring Creek Basin (knapweed, tamarisk, musk thistle, etc.).

A decade or more ago, NMA/CO was able to purchase the cattle AUMs from one of the two ranchers who held permits in Spring Creek Basin. With the help of the National Mustang Association, we were able to retire those AUMs permanently. In the process, BLM conducted a grazing EA (not sure the exact reference) and then drastically reduced the remaining AUMs and changed the timing to dormant-season grazing only – Dec. 1 through Feb. 28. For the last several years, NMA/CO has been trying to buy or trade for the permit in Spring Creek Basin to also retire those AUMs, with the goal of no cattle grazing in the basin. As BLM itself says, managing wild horses is easier when the mustangs are the priority. The permittee is willing, so we are trying to work with BLM to accomplish this goal.

NMA/CO also is asking BLM to consider the use of bait trapping in the basin, instead of helicopter-driven roundups to complement the use of fertility control. We submitted a proposal for a program using native PZP that was implemented at the 2011 roundup. To bait trap requires the use of a facility in which to hold horses as they are trapped. This facility requires a chute and pens. We recently purchase a chute ($18,000) with donated funds from the National Mustang Association (of which we are a chapter). Our primary goal in fundraising currently is to purchase the required infrastructure for this facility so BLM won’t have only the option of using a helicopter and won’t need to transport one or two horses at a time – as they’re trapped – to Canon City, which is full, as most/all of BLM’s facilities seem to be. NOTE: NO ROUNDUP CURRENTLY IS PLANNED FOR SPRING CREEK BASIN. We are planning this now to have the facility in place so a future EA can include it in the planning process. As BLM said in 2011, bait trapping was not considered because it wasn’t in the EA. It wasn’t in the EA because no facility was available. However, note that we started asking specifically for bait trapping in 2008.

Enhancing water sources, retiring the remaining cattle AUMs, establishing a fertility control program and making bait trapping the priority for roundups all were Pati Temple’s goals for the Spring Creek Basin herd. In addition to the accomplishments made for the mustangs during Pati’s lifetime, we plan to accomplish these goals in her honor.

SCB mustangs in the spotlight

22 04 2012

Most readers of this blog aren’t local to this neck of the woods, but if you are, I’d like to invite you to the “Southwest Colorado Spring Creek Basin Wild Horse Management Program” at the Center of Southwest Studies at Fort Lewis College in Durango. It’s part of the center’s “2012 Program Series: Celebrating the Preservation of our Natural and Cultural Heritage.”

Guest speakers will be Fran Ackley from Canon City; Tom Rice from the Tres Rios Field Office in Dolores; and Kathe Hayes with the San Juan Mountains Association. Our Disappointment Wild Bunch Partners will represent our member groups – National Mustang Association/Colorado, Mesa Verde Back Country Horsemen, Four Corners Back Country Horsemen and SJMA – during the event. It’s a great way to let the public know about our groups individually and Wild Bunch as a whole, and educate people about our Spring Creek Basin mustangs and how we help, including being part of the Director’s Challenge award that netted our BLM office $25,000 for projects for the horses. We’re excited to be part of this educational series hosted by the Center of Southwest Studies!

The event will start with a reception at 5:30 followed by the program at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 24, in the center’s Lyceum on the Fort Lewis College campus.

If you are local, or even passing through, we hope to see you there!


20 09 2011

The last few days have been hellish tough.

THANK YOU to ALL who worked to make this as safe as possible for the horses and people attending. Those folks had a thankless job, and I hope I thanked you as often as I saw you, and as far as I know, they handled the event with professionalism and compassion. They certainly helped me.

We had some issues …

And we had tragedy: Cinch broke his neck in the alley while we were sorting the stallions for Canon City and adoption. I did not see it happen. The APHIS veterinarian made the decision to euthanize him almost immediately. I wish I could give you details … I wish I knew how it happened. What I’d like to know now is how to prevent that from ever happening again. I know it happened when or right after Hook crawled up and over the panel into the mare/foal pen. I won’t sugar-coat it. Cinch died, and that’s something I’ll always live with. He had at least two potential adopters waiting for him … one simply connected with him in the pen, and he reminded another of the very first mustang she had. I wish he was waiting for them right now.

It was a learning experience. (What an understatement.)

I learned that even though I thought I had prepared myself for the difficulty of it all, it was harder and more painful than I could ever have expected.

I learned to rethink some pre/misconceptions that don’t help us move forward.

I learned people and horses will surprise you in surprising ways … good and/or bad … surprising.

I kept learning that change is possible, and it probably never comes easily.

I learned that our Spring Creek Basin mustangs have touched people from Telluride, Colo., to Washington, D.C., and beyond. (WOW.)

I learned my heart wasn’t yet as shattered as I thought … and that what breaks it can also heal it – the horses.

I found solace in what brought me here in the first place.

Yesterday. Traveler. With a new family.

The horses … it’s always for the horses.

The last few days, I’ve been focused completely on the horses. Although many people had remarkable cell service, I had zero. I’ll apologize now, but all my energy was on the horses, and I couldn’t deal with the public with everything going on. My undying thanks and love to, especially, our Disappointment Wild Bunch Partners volunteers for talkingtalkingtalking. You bore the brunt of everything, and I can never repay you for your amazing fortitude.

You have questions, and I’m not sure I have all the answers. In fact, I’m sure I don’t. All the people involved did an amazing job with the circumstances we were dealt, and I will be forever grateful to all of them.

This was a hard, harsh, difficult thing, and I stand behind my belief that it was necessary for the overall health of the Spring Creek Basin mustangs and the Spring Creek Basin range. The horses look fantastic, and the range looks amazing.

Rain and rain and rain and a plane. … We never look down our noses at rain here, but the plane was absolutely an unnecessary danger to the horses.

Some numbers – because I think simple facts help in the overall understanding:

40 horses were ultimately removed.

42 horses are now on the range (this is shy just one horse of what was on the range after the roundup in 2007) – with one due any day.

22 are stallions (“males” of varying ages).

20 are mares (“females” of varying ages).

37 adults, 5 foals (this is the same number of adults and one foal shy of post-roundup 2007).

We released 5 stallions: Traveler, Bounce, Comanche, Chrome and Hayden

We released 5 mares and 2 foals: Kestrel, Juniper, Piedra, Houdini, Gaia, Alegre and Aurora

Six stallions went to Canon City: Mouse, Bruiser, Hook, Steeldust, Butch, Mesa

Five mares and one foal went to Canon City: Kiowa, Hacho, Luna, Alpha, Mahogany, Gemma

That means just 12 horses went to Canon City, and if you still wonder “why the roundup this year?” – this is why: So we didn’t put even more horses through this and send even more horses to Canon City next year or the year after.

Twenty-five horses will be offered for adoption:


Gideon – yearling

Fierro – yearling

Rio – yearling

Wind – yearling

Sage – 2

Ze – 2

Cuatro – 2

Milagro – 2

Whisper – 2

Pinon – 3


Liberty – 2

Sable – 2

Hannah – 2

Spook – 2

Ember – 3

Iya – 3

Two Boots – 4

Baylee – 4

Foals also will be offered at adoption: Deniz, Eliana, Briosa, Boreas, Cougar, Varoujan, Coal

I’ll put up pix of all of them in the next few days.

Last night, I saw Traveler – with Alegre, Aurora and Gaia; Chrome with Hayden; Bounce with Houdini; Ty with Chipeta, Puzzle, Reya and Maiku, Copper following; Tenaz with Corona; Aspen; Seven’s band – Mona still pregnant.

“The foal.” Partly because of the delay caused by the unsafe actions of the plane, the roundup was delayed at least a day. The second day, the helicopter pilot found a large group of horses (15-20) bunched around a foal (Chipeta’s). He couldn’t easily separate them, so he left them alone. When he went back, the horses had separated o their own, and he saw the mare (Chipeta) but not the foal. The foal was later found and brought to the trapsite and cared for. He has been adopted by a local resident who took him to her vet (the same vet who was there as a volunteer with our Wild Bunch folks). He is doing very well.

I can’t say enough good about the helicopter pilot. He bears the brunt of people’s hostility, but he did an amazing job. Because of the rain and mud in Spring Creek Canyon, the trapsite was moved to the west side of Filly Peak. I was initially worried about that location because of the broken terrain on the “back side,” but in many ways, it turned out to be a much better location than the canyon.

If I can address the viewing location, too, for a minute … I know people were upset that they were so far away, but with safety of the horses paramount, the overall view was much better there than it would have been at the canyon – and I believe the horses were safer coming to that trap location than they would have been at the canyon. The second morning, the helicopter pilot had to bring horses in from that hill. Lots of things had to tie together to make this a successful operation, and one of those things was that we had to capture horses in order to make good decisions about who to keep and who to remove – and how many. Because of the rain and sloppy road that morning, very few people were on the hill when he brought that band in. If the crowd had been on that hill when he was trying to move the horses, the safest thing for the people would have been for him to abandon that band. Maybe you think that wouldn’t have been such a bad thing, but I was already upset about the lack of horses I was going to be able to release.

Thank you again for your patience. Please don’t ignore the positives here, which are many. I won’t ignore the negatives, either – as long as we can use them to effect change. That’s what got me into this, and it’s what keeps us going.

One last thing for now: I did not take a single photo … until yesterday with the horses when it was all over. I will post those as soon as I can. Too much else going on, and I owed my attention to the horses, not to my camera.