Releasing Mustangs from Captivity
FORT COLLINS, Colo. — It may be hard to imagine, but just a few months ago the gentle giants at the Wild Rose Mustang Advocacy Group’s horse boarding house in Fort Collins were wild animals.
“It’s Sparkle,” said Teri “West” Hall, horse advocate and wild horse sponsor. “It’s a mustang from the Desatoya mountain range in Nevada.”
Hall and others work tirelessly to give wild horses a second chance at life after they were rounded up and held captive by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
“Personally, I have worked with close to 100 [wild horses] myself,” said Cayla Stone, head trainer of the Wild Rose Mustang Advocacy Group.
Wild Rose trainers strive to break or “soft” wild horses that have been rounded up.
“We’ve grown tremendously, a little more than expected,” Stone said.
Wild Rose was founded in 2018.
“The best way we can help is just to get these guys adopted into the private sector,” Stone said of the mustangs she trains.
The BLM roundups made national headlines two weeks ago after several captive horses died at a holding facility near Cañon City – victims of an equine flu outbreak that has now killed nearly 130 horses and more.
The question obviously struck a chord. Denver7’s email was flooded with expressions of outrage, such as a note from Scott Wilson who said the deaths were “tragic evidence of a broken system”.
“I’m disgusted with Cañon City because the horses have been there for months and not vaccinated,” Hall said.
Horse advocates like Hall and others think roundups are inhumane. One viewer called the roundups and detention centers “taxpayer funded animal cruelty”.
Proponents say keeping horses in captivity is dangerous and deadly for these icons of the American West.
“They are the American West,” Hall said. “There is nothing more beautiful than seeing a herd of wild horses running through the landscape.”
But the BLM says horses breed too quickly and roundups are needed to cull herds that are simply getting too big – often overcrowding and overgrazing public land. Others argue that ranch livestock, such as sheep and cattle, are overgrazed, wild horses are not.
Stone says she understands the BLM dilemma, but also says there needs to be more urgency on the part of the BLM after the roundups to work with nonprofit training centers like Wild Rose.
“Where we can help is getting these horses adopted,” Stone said. “So they’re not all sitting in detention centers.”
These mustangs are proof that they can be mellowed, and advocates say the vast majority of feral horses can be trained.
“Mustangs, in particular, being bred with natural selection for so long, they’re the toughest, smartest horse I’ve ever worked with, and I’ve worked with horses for 50 years,” said Lobby.
“If we can show people that they’re as good as other horses, that can be a way to control that,” Stone said.
“It was positive reinforcement and it was all mustangs and they all turned out wonderful,” Hall said of the work Wild Rose does.