*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. 🙂





The *special* in special exhibit

24 10 2021

Yesterday, Saturday, we were so privileged to have the opportunity to talk about Colorado’s wild horses – and Spring Creek Basin’s, in particular – at a special event tied to the yearlong special exhibit at Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum.

Several of our longtime advocates and adopters were at the event to talk to visitors about adoption, management, fertility control, helicopters vs. bait trapping roundups, wild vs. feral, responsibilities of management, documentation, the rainbow of mustang (equine!) colors, etc. Tif Rodriguez brought Whisper and Keith Bean brought Skipper – both rounded up in 2011 – to meet-n-greet visitors, and they were the undisputed stars of the show! They arrived around 9 a.m. and were there until at least 3 p.m. (the event was officially from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.), standing on the paved plaza of the museum and allowing many hands to reach out and touch their fuzzy faces, necks, shoulders. I cannot give enough enormous praise to these boys (both 12 years old), who were so good, so calm, so accepting of it all. How many domestic horses could have been so patient?! Tif’s mom, Lyn Rowley, helped with the horses and talking to visitors.

Kathryn Wilder also was there to do a couple of readings from her book, “Desert Chrome: Water, a Woman, and Wild Horses in the West,” in the museum’s theater. Her family (two sons, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren from Dolores and sister from Oregon) was in attendance as well. 🙂 She also talked to many people about a variety of topics mustang-related.

Artist and advocate Karen Keene Day came with artist, advocate and mustang adopter (Spring Creek Basin’s Liberty among several others) Alice Billings to greet visitors and talk about adoptions and visiting mustangs on the range.

Tres Rios Field Office Manager Connie Clementson welcomed visitors and introduced folks to the visitor center, followed by Canyons of the Ancients National Monument Manager Ray O’Neil, museum curator Bridget Ambler (who was so instrumental in all the organizational aspects of getting the images printed and info panels created and designing the exhibit), and visitor services and recreation program manager Amala Posey-Monk. For all their contributions to the partnerships we so enjoy here in Southwest Colorado, we thank them hugely!

And with that, I’m going to share some teaser photos … because it’s late, and it was a long and wonderful day, and we were around more people than I see in a double handful of months (! all masked and observing Covid protocols). So you’ll have to wait another day for more pix of a couple of gorgeous Spring Creek Basin mustangs welcoming all those many people into the world of mustang lovers.

Because … how could people NOT fall in love with them? Because … that’s part of their magic. Because … mustangs. 🙂

Connie Clementson (brown vest) welcomes visitors to Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum. Amala Posey-Monk is behind her; Ray O’Neil is in the blue jacket; Bridget Ambler is in the white shirt beyond Whisper’s forehead; Tif Rodriguez and Whisper are at left, and Keith Bean and Skipper are at right.

Kat Wilder reads from “Desert Chrome” in the museum’s theater to a crowd of early attendees while a slideshow of Spring Creek Basin mustangs runs on the screen above her.

Skipper greets Ray O’Neil’s daughters and wife at the event. Is this guy a schmoozer or what?! 🙂

More to come!





Skipper update

5 12 2011

Last week, I went to Skipper’s new home at the edge of the San Juan National Forest to visit with him and his adopters, Keith and Amy. He’s not phased by much, and although he wasn’t terribly keen about it at first, he allowed me to stroke his neck and eventually was pretty relaxed. He definitely has a bond with Keith and has quite a bit of trust in him – even blindfolded!

From Amy: “Our little Skipper is now a gelding; he was gelded just two days before Thanksgiving, and everything went very well. In fact, Keith took Skipper to the vet clinic to have it done because the vet thought that only one testicle had dropped, but as it turned out, they were both there so it was a simple procedure. Keith did a trial run, taking Skipper to the vet clinic the Friday before his appointment. Skipper did great! He walked into the clinic as if he had been doing that all of his life; so that made the actual trip to get the gelding done much easier!”

“We didn’t want him to think that every time he gets into a trailer he was going to the vet. So on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, we took Skipper to friend’s house who lives outside of Cortez. She has horses and had a good place to unload him and also a round pen that we could put him in. So off we went and once again, he did a great job of going to a strange place with horses that were running round (they don’t get vistors very often), and Skipper was very nonchalant about being there. Keith worked him over some very small cavaletti, and Skipper was very willing to do what was asked of him. We think he liked it there because he was a bit reluctant to get back into the trailer, but he finally did.”

Doesn’t he have the sweetest little face? (His mama and daddy are Kiowa and Copper.)

These two are well-matched, though Keith says Skipper will be Amy’s trail horse. Amy is a music teacher at the local elementary school and was actually giving a piano lesson to Tif’s beautiful daughter most of the time I was with Skipper and Keith. I’m pretty sure that just means I’ll have to go back to get pix of Skipper and Amy! 🙂

“He’s been a great horse to work with. He’s not a super affectionate guy but has a great attitude about doing what is asked of him. He’s very calm and has had lots of visitors come and see him, which he takes in great stride.”

Very quiet boys.

“We’d like to thank TJ for taking these most recent pictures of Skipper and also all of the people that have come to visit him. Thank you, Tif, for all of your helpful tidbits of information as to what to do about handling Skipper. This has certainly been a learning project but very enjoyable. I still have a picture in my mind of Skipper standing in one of the bucking chutes at the fairgrounds that Sunday morning that the BLM was going to take the horses back to Canon City that hadn’t been adopted. The little Skipper was tugging at my heart strings, and I said to Keith, ‘Go and get the trailer!’ I just couldn’t bear the thought of him being taken to Canon City. So here we are, and we think that we have the best little horse in the world. Keith refers to him as ‘the little mustang that could.’ He’s certainly gotten a lot more of our attention than our other horses lately, and hopefully in the next couple of weeks, we’ll be turning him out with the rest of the gang!”

A progression of the blindfolding (which they’ve done before):

Here, he had shaken it off his head, and it fell on the rope. But this was his only reaction – to look at it. What a smart pony!

Licking – thinking it over.

Such a sweetheart.

One of my favorite shots from the evening. 🙂

Tucking the edges under Skipper’s halter.

Although Skipper has followed Keith before while blindfolded (talk about trust!), he didn’t want to do it with me there, lurking somewhere unknown in his round pen. Pretty amazing what these mustangs will do!

Keith and Amy have three other horses, a warmblood-cross gelding, a Tennessee Walking Horse mare and a little Icelandic. The big gelding and the mare – both shiny jet black – came to the fence quite a bit while we were in the round pen with Skipper, watching to see what we were doing with the little guy. They have a great setup for Skipper: The round pen opens to a smaller pen attached to a small barn, part of which is an indoor “stall” for Skipper. They also used the trailer backed up to the pen when they first brought him home, and he also quickly figured out how to use it for shelter during bad weather!

Thank you for the visit! 🙂 Love seeing all the progress he has made!





Skipper update

4 11 2011

Sounds like Amy and Keith are doing very well with Skipper (Milagro)!

In Amy’s words: “We’re making progress with Skipper. This last weekend, we were able to get a neck rope on Skipper and lead him without food. I also got a halter on him but haven’t led him in the halter yet. Yesterday, Keith was able to get a halter on him without food so that was a big step. Skipper still is not the friendliest horse, but I think he enjoys being worked with.”

Skipper and Amy – first time with the halter on, she says!

With the halter on and the rope over his back.

Keith getting Skipper used to things in his mouth.

Keith leading Skipper.

Amy and Skipper

A man and his mustang – love this. 🙂

Update to the update: “Skipper’s kind of a funny horse in that he isn’t super interested in us, he’s very independent. He’s not bothered by loud sounds or having the tractor driven into the building where we’ve made a stall for him at the back of it, even when he’s standing in his stall. Since I sent you those pictures, Keith worked with him yesterday, putting a rope over his back and pulling it off of him. He was a little skittery the first couple of times, and by the third time, he was more at ease.”

Love the pix and the updates! It all happens differently with the different horses and adopters, and I just love watching it all unfold. Thank you, Amy and Keith, for this glimpse into your journey with Skipper! 🙂





Milagro – now called Skipper

24 10 2011

Milagro, now Skipper, is doing well with his adopters, Amy and Keith. Tif, who adopted Ze and Asher, went to visit recently and sent this write-up and photos of the little guy (Kiowa and Copper’s son).

Here’s her report: “Talk about a lucky mustang! Skipper (formerly known as Milagro) has what I would call a chateau at his new home in the forest.  Keith and Amy absolutely adore him, work with him often and have come a long way. Skipper is calm, confident and aloof, is how I would describe him. I was honored when they invited me up to their place to visit with them and see how well Skipper is doing. He eats right from their hands, works for them, lets them touch him and pet his face and all in all is really calm in their presence. It warms my heart to see how well this little guy is doing. They are in the process of getting his place ready for winter. Yes, I did say “his place,” complete with access to a beautiful round pen, a run that leads right into an indoor stall inside their barn. Wow. I’m impressed. I better not let my boys over to play, they may get a little jealous! Thank you, Keith and Amy, for letting me see how well Skipper is doing and how patient you two are. Thanks, too, for letting me join in the fun!”

Skipper at his new home in the pines.

Keith and Skipper

Amy and Skipper. He definitely takes after daddy.

Such a sweet photo!

Whatcha lookin’ at?

And coming up to Tif!

Amy, Keith and Tif, thank you so much for letting us know how he’s doing! It’s wonderful to see!