Just home from the weekends event, The first annual, Wild Horse Festival. The morning started out with a scenic drive to Santa Fe with Mustang Mansion and truck loaded to the roof with artwork, music and so much more! We pulled in early, and as the other artists, vendors and presenters began arriving we could tell it was going to be a good 'fit' of a weekend. This was a wonderful gathering of diverse and gifted Mustang lovers from both sides of the fence. There was a great 'sharing and celebrating' of our wild mustangs on all fronts with art, music, film, photography, books, and presenters alike. We are happy to say this was the beginning event of more to come! If you missed this years event in Santa Fe, don't fret as there are more in the works across the west to come!
Enjoy the slide show of some of the pic's I took through the weekend. The spirit of comradity and collaboration was more than evident and felt by all. Its amazing what can happen when we all come together, putting all differences aside, and combining efforts, and giftings to make a difference for our wild ones.
A great start to a hopeful continued story as we celebrate the Wild Mustang!
And so I loaded my guitar, few paintings and bag into Craig Downers Chevy Cavalier for the two day drive that was ahead of us. Craig is a wildlife ecologist with a new book out titled 'Wild Horse Conspiracy', it is a wonderful read, I am about 3/4 the way through it and can't read it fast enough! He has been presenting the 'Reserve' design to our public management of the wild horses, the BLM. So far, he has had incredible feedback on the book, it is an educational read for sure as Craig has been in the wild horse movement for well over 40 years working as an intern under Thelma Johnson, more known as 'Wild Horse Annie' who was instrumental in the passing of the 1971 Wild Horse and Burro Act. She accomplished this incredible bill by having children flood the congress with letters. Don't think for a moment we can't make a difference.
Craig and I got connected via facebook several months ago, and I have so enjoyed our discussions via phone and so we have established a commradity of freindship, so it was wonderful to have finally met him in person and start our collaborative tour through the season together, not to mention, he and my husband Cip totally hit it off, makes for great travel company in the Mustang Mansion!
We left Maybell shortly after the Sombrero Horse Drive and began making our way through the back roads of Colorado from the Sand Wash Basin towards Wyoming...I think we made it about 20 minutes out when we made our first of many stops at 'Irish Canyon'. A beautiful red rock canyon with ancient petroglyphs. we spent a bit of time there reading up and taking pictures before heading through the canyon and making our way into Wyoming. We traveled through the Salt Wells and Adobe Town public rangelands, but did not see any wild mustangs. This is a herd management area (HMA) that has been continually cut, and yet you drive through and see oil and mining that is unreal. I counted well over 65 oil drills within just a few miles of range, oh, and lots of cattle. You know you have entered Wyoming when you see the oil drills.
We crossed through Rock Springs Wyoming making our way into Utah. The landscape beautiful as always, though littered with oil, coal and mining scabbing mountain sides where miles of earth have been removed, excavated and left the interior on the mountain range raw like a huge sore, exposed for all humanity to see.
But not one mustang. Not a one. Craig shared as we drove through Utah that in Nevada we would see lots of mustangs being Nevada has the largest HMA's in the nation. So I calmed my frustrations as we crossed over miles and miles of land in hopes to reach Nevada. We made a quick stop in Utah at Salt Lake, it reminded me of the smell of the Oceoan's bay growing up in Florida, very humid and salty smelling. But I did see where the little 'Morton' girl works, hills of white salt that is harvested, it must be really hard scooping all that salt into those little Morton cardboard containers, hehe.
As we left Utah, we entered Nevada, finally I thought to myself...we will begin to see some mustangs! It was about a three hour drive before sundown, so my camera was perched in my lap for sightings. We drove for a couple of hours, and nothing. We were on the Salt flats area, very surreal to see such white flat lands with the mountains just at the edge curling up to meet the sun, which was fading fast, along with my hopes of seeing any wild horses for the day.
The sunset was spectacular as we drove into the west, chasing the sun to meet its end before it dissapeared on us until next dawn. No mustangs, my heart was sad. we passed through hundreds of miles of open range. and not one mustang, even though we crossed right through the areas they call home.
We pulled into Windover, a lovely expression of the gambling scene. Tired and looking for a cheap room, Craig pulled into the 'Red Garter' Hotel and Casino...wow. I was chuckling under my breath, I don't think I ever had been to a casino in my entire life. And from the look on my face Craig seemed to get it too, lol. He said I looked like a deer with headlights shining in my eyes, haha. We booked the room and got our ticket, a free drink and slots along with the room key. I had to laugh as Craig in all innocence remarked, 'we'll, were not going to have a drink at the bar, and were not gonna gamble, so guess we will just go to bed!'. It made the heart light and full of laughter as we 'chewed' on that one through the evening.
Early rise and on the road, winds blowing full throttle as we closed the car doors and headed out of Windover and back on the road through the rangelands. Today, I thought, today were going to see hundreds of Mustangs! After all there are a proposed 7-800 alone in one HMA. We made our way to Cherry Creek, a small sleepy mining town with a once prominent history of bringing in 3 million dollars in mining revenue. A rich history now sinking into the earth as the town crumbles beneath its foundations. We made an unannounced stop at Arla Ruggles, a wonderful wild horse supporter and great photographer. She gave us a tour of her unique and quaint studio nestled in this little mining town. Another facebook connection for me, and I was thrilled once again to put a face to the computer screen. Craig shared his book and me a music Cd as she shared with us where to look for wild horses as we would take the dirt roads through the HMA to spot wild ones on our way to Carson City.
I will say, after driving for hours...nature calls...I had to go so bad...Craig and I found a 'real' outhouse...I mean, REAL outhouse. I did use it, and it was great, haha. I posted pics of it just to prove it.
And so, over the hill and through the woods of Cherry Hill we went to travel homeward to Craigs, and to spot mustangs as we traveled. For hours we watched dust fly in the rear view mirror as I scanned the mountains and the meadows for those shining glimmering spirits of promise. It was nearly three hours before I spotted a few. Craig pulled the car over, they were more than a half mile away and the moment Craig pulled over they scattered and ran into the trees. There have been numerous reports of harrasment and shooting of wild horses of recent, obviously this was a band that was experiencing just that. We took a couple of quick pics and were on the road again. Several miles down we saw another small band on the mountain side, more restful these were, but wary with thier heads popped up and tuned in like antennas until we drove off.
It would be another couple of hours before we would spot the next three, obviously bachelors, and far off, but from what I could see one a beautiful roan with a dark head and legs. I only wished we could get a little closer, but they had no intention of exploring their curiousity on our behalf.
What we did see, what lots of sheep. Land use that was overgrazed, land that was much like a garbage dump from over use, and ranchers leaving trash and debri scattered for the wind to pound and drag for miles. It was very sad to see such a beautiful expanse of country used up in such a way. As we continued driving towards Hwy 50 through the public lands, we continued to see more and more sheep, the ranchers horses, one a mustang tied to short poles to stand in the heat and dust all day until it was time to work. These were my impressions, not quiet the romantic story of the west we see on the movies or read about.
More an imprint left of exploitation of land and beast...very disheartning. Over 6 hours of driving through some of the most beautiful country, through the largest HMA areas...4 states...and only a small handful of mustangs.
As we made our way to Hwy 50, known as the 'loneliest' road, we passed through small historic towns like Eureka, Austin and Fallon before making our way into Craig's hometown late that night of Carson City, Nevada. We were both wiped out and saddened at the lack of spotting mustangs after passing through 4 states and two days of driving. We ate a quick plate of spagetti and hit the rack, hopeing for a better day in the morning.
Tuesday night we had a collaborative event at a wonderful historic hotel, The Gold Hill Hotel. A building of brick and heavy timbers, you could almost imagine seeing time go back with miners sitting at the bar talking of their find for the day. Another mining town still showing its scars today as mining continues to eat away at the mountain sides. I played a few songs, shared of my early beginnings and involvement in the witness of the mustangs demise, and set the stage for Craig ending with my mustang song, 'My spirit runs wild and free'. At which, Craig got up and shared from his new book, and his 40 years of experience. There was a small but enthusiastic crowd, whom had a great affection for their wild horses in Nevada. It was wonderful to see a community so 'for' their mustangs.
I got to meet another wonderful facebook friend, photographer and advocate, Cat Kindsfather! Our kindred spirits were bound immediately and she has left a wonderful imprint on my heart of friendship, now miles apart, but will anxiously await our next mustang rendevoux. We had our bellies filled by the Hotels graciousness and met lots of other great advocates and folks who were just learning of the wild horses. Lacy J Dalton came along with some others and made for a great night!
Craig, Cat and I spent the next couple of days taking drives into the Virginia Range photographing a small token herd that the community has embraced. Beautiful new foals, and a serene peace on these few mustangs as they have found their acceptance in a small corner of the community there.
Time was coming to a close for my trip in Nevada as I would soon be tagging a ride with Celso Rubio from Las Vegas Nevada, along with 'Headlight'. Finally the mustang bucking horse from tribal lands would be making his way to Monero Mustang Sanctuary in NM! After much travel confusion we won't go into here, and a few lag days, Craig met Rubio midway, I bid Craig a farethewell, and we arrived at 3:30am at Rubio's house...a long day, long night, short sleep! I couldn't wait to get up in the morning and finally meet 'Headlight', this mustang is stunning with his white head, one blue eye, and one brown eye...and he has 'presence'. I was up before I barely brushed my teeth and out the door to make his acquaintance. He moved off the panels quickly, a life of a bucking horse, people are not their favorite companions, they have spent their lives bucking them off, he was no exception. A 14 year work life and this boy had no idea he was en route to retirement as a wild horse, back to his roots from the time of his birth. I was thrilled to be a part of this experience.
Rubio, the transporter, and friend, made the decision we would leave at 6pm, driving straight through the evening and morning hours of the cool, arriving to Monero by mid morning the following day. He loaded, we loaded and off we went. Running on about 4 hours of sleep, it would lend for an interesting evening. We drove through the night and as Rubio switched seats with his other driver, Todd, I was moved from the back seat to the front. Todd was minutes from the coastal town I grew up on, made for great conversation and had a real interest in the welfare of the mustangs...I do think we won another advocate that evening. A long haul, and morning took forever before the sun rose in Alberquerque with a load of weary travelers.
We did a quick drop of two other horses at our place and headed right out to Monero Mustang Sanctuary. As always camera in hand and ready to shoot, I wanted to get some great pics of this moment...the moment of a mustangs captivity, to its moment of release. Within only a few minutes, his eye softened and you could see 'he got it'...a white/gray gelding immediately bonded with Headlight, and since they are still 'range buddies' as they are becoming grafted in to the 5000 acres and over 100 mustangs there on the sanctuary. I caught the glimmer in Sandi's eye, the force behind the sanctuary, developer and president...worker, lover of mustangs and all equine. Finally, the time had come, he was here. It was a good feeling...and will continue to be. And I will hope to express that in my paintings of this stunning mustang named 'Headlight'.
And this is where this leg of the tour ends, after 4 states and a mustang. There will be more stories to tell, more pictures to share, and a book to follow all these short insights, that will elaborate more of the full impact each of these moments have made. There is great faith at work as I move forward, great dissapointments, but also wonderful glimmers of hope and promise for the future of our mustangs. For me, Headlight represents that hope. The promise of a future of freedom deserved.
This tour was a special one...it started where it all began, The Sand Wash Basin in Colorado. This was the 'birthplace' for me as an artist to find the passion that has fueled what I have come to consider my 'lifes work', Painting and advocating on behalf of our Living Legends, the American Mustang. And...my husband joined me on this trip, and had his first visit ever to public rangelands to see the Wild Ones...special indeed for me in so many ways. We spent the prior days getting loaded and prepared, I wanted a full set up to showcase and share the beat of my heart, and so we loaded till we could fit no more.
As we made our way north through Abiquiu we stopped to gas a bit at Bode's general store, a historic little 'everything' place that was founded in the late 1800s and still flourishing in this quaint little stretch of colorful highway. I have made it the 'stop' as we begin our road tours, turning heads at the pump and causing a bit of commotion as Mustangs painted on the sides eagerly await their next tour destination.
Seatbelts buckled we began the trip over the Chama pass as I listened to my husbands groanings as I wiped the drool off his face gleaning at the streams and rivers that we passed along the highway...an avid fisherman he is, and a true appreciation for the wilderness, it is one of the things I fell in love with upon our meeting over 33 years ago. I smiled inside as his continual pleadings to stop just for 5 minutes to toss his ginger line upon the waters, knowing we would be camped on the roadside all day as I watched him hike downstream...so reluctantly...I said a firm 'no'...he whined...and I prevailed in hopes we would make our destination somewhat timely, besides...there were wild horses waiting for us and the first arrival of the Mustang Mansion on the range!
We were just short of making it into Craig Colorado and so stopped at a roadside campground just short in Hayden and plugged in the Mansion, hit the bathroom and brewed that favorite beverage we have on board at all times, java. I cooked up some Raman soup, an easy cheap fix for the belly growls and we subsided at the table to dine. It was quiet and we slept well dreaming of wild ones dancing in the fields. Up early the next morning before the sun had fully arrived we made our way to the local BLM office in Craig to show off the glory of the Mustang Mansion, they glanced out the window and I even got a great compliment of its 'cuteness'. We loaded some of the BLM maps on board to share with the public to encourage rangeland visits and made our way to the range well before noon. We took the low road in near the old corrals and continued northbound until we found a side road watering hole, and to our joy spotted two large bands, this was the spot, we parked and set up camp...I grabbed the camera and started shooting! It was wonderful to see The Wild Ones before we barely drove in, we met Gail, an enthusiastic photographer who frequents the range to snap away at their beauty. We invited her down to visit after we talked and she shared of John Wagner telling her about the Mansion and artwork I do of our mustangs.
I got some wonderful pics so early on and as the sun began to set we lit the gas lantern and I cooked us up some dinner while we watched the mustangs on the range. The winds picked up and the cradle rocks began as we settled in anxious for the morning to come so we could see more mustangs!
Morning came early and we were greeted with the same band the evening before, and the new foal and his family as well along with the smell of fresh coffee...Camera in hand I headed for the watering hole to see whom I might find. One of the larger bands of the Sand Wash, totalling 11 and getting some great pics of the bachelors practicing their skills as they mature to stallions who will eventually fight for their own bands, stealing mares and gaining the famous battle scars that the seasoned stallions wear like badges of honor.
We were greeted by the photographers on the range as they like us were seeking that perfect picture that speaks freedom and beauty. As we shared and made acquaintances I spoke of the need for their preservation, and Craig Downers new book 'Wild Horse Conspiracy' that is a wonderful and educational read around the dilemma and solutions that face our wild mustangs. Enthusiasm for their preservation won out as we sold two of Craig's books right there on the range, winning two more voices of advocacy on their behalf. It was wonderful to see the Mustang Mansion vision coming alive right there on the range, with mustangs in the view, and advocates being won...sitting at the vintage dining table talking about our Wild Ones...truly a vision coming to pass before our eyes. It was wonderful.
The next morning we were joined by Craig Downer and painter and mustang enthusiast Karen McLain, she was thrilled to see the nearby bands and with camera and paints in hand to do some plain air painting along with Craig getting shots on his camera. Another night for Cip and I came to a close on the range as we pulled in from a day of driving dirt roads looking for more mustangs. Sightings were rare, and not many were spotted through the remains of what little forage was left in much of the range from overgrazed sheep only days before. It is frustrating to see the lack of care and management when the terrain is a 'shared' terrain, and the mustang is continually judged as the destructive one...As we figured from the range acreage and wild horses with Craig, there were one mustang for every 740 acres...not nearly enough to desecrate the land, another myth to be countered as we photographed and documented the range land.
Friday we head out to the Centennial Mall for setting up in preparation the art show along with photographers including local advocate Nancy Roberts and others. It was a slow evening and so we along with Craig decided to take the Mustang Mansion back to the range and take advantage of the early morning hours to view mustangs.
We all three camped in the Mansion, Craig was the first 'overnight visitor' to bunk with us, he took the sofa bed, and Cip and I folded down the dining room table and cozied up as the winds died down and we had a great night of discussion and spagetti on the range. Early rise in the morning as we drove for miles hoping to see wild mustangs...to our dissapointment we saw only two outside of the bands that were mingled around the Mansion and the wateringhole during our stay on the range. Craig showed great concern for the lack of, and abuse of the range...and will be offering his input to local BLM management in hopes for range improvement and standing as he submits his professional 'ecological' input. As we headed back Craig spotted a favorite, 'Ranger' a wonderfully marked pinto whom was the first mustang that I ever painted...so for me especially, a wonderfully special sighting. He graced us with his presence offering us camera poses and the time to drink in his spirit and bask upon his beauty and countenance before we loaded into the truck to head to the mall, late...the mustangs won out on the clock that morning, but well worth staying late for!
The mall event was wonderful to see the collaborative efforts of artists, photographers, book auther, the local BLM's new director 'Jerome' and a true enthusiasm from the general public as they walked through the end of the mall showcasing the areas wild mustangs. I was surprised how few had not been on the range, and the value the public held for their local herds, it was wonderful to see and hear that Craig residents have a real love for their mustangs. we stayed until things closed down, packed up and made our way to the next leg of the journey, Maybell...the little sleepy community that would be wakened by the thundering of hundreds of domestic horses being driven through town as they were rallied back to work on riding camps and dude ranches for the spring and summer. But the first order of business, taking a shower...after three days on the range...it was well needed.
We parked on the corner to be sure to draw the eye to the Mustang Mansion as the horses would run past down the highway. With coffee brewing on the stove I set up a small display, and Craig stacked up a pile of his book and we greeted and 'meeted' folks sharing the message of the Mustang to passer-bys as they waited for the arrival of the horses to come. With great interest we drew a crowd through the morning and handed out great reading material, sold a few books, and I played a few songs with a nip in the air and snappy cold fingers, ouch...but all worth it to share the story around the mustangs.
For now...this is where the story will end as the night is late...but the ride doesnt end here, Cip leaves with the Mustang Mansion for home, as I ride with Craig Downer to Nevada for our next collaborative tour date...so check back in after your morning coffee to read up on the rest of the weeks tour...and enjoy the pictures!
Our first 'launching' out was back to Colorado for the 'Medicine Horse Program' in Boulder Colorado, for 'Mustang Awareness Days'. After diligently packing and loading the Mustang Mansion and the truck, I made my way towards Chama to pick up my assistant for the weekends event. It was an incredible drive from the start as we headed over the first of many passes, the first with snow and a heavy mist in the air...we felt like we were driving into the 'unknown' which to some degree did parallel with the unknown of how we would return home to NM as I had just enough funds to get us there to the event...how to get home...I put that in the hands of the Divine One, trusting that the 'call'" would fulfill the need...my newest term...'Recklessly Responsible'...I think its a trend that will carry on as we scatter much seed across the miles sharing the message of Our American Mustang.
The views were incredible all the way as we took back rural roads to get the best eye candy for our buck, I am not one who enjoys interstate driving as you miss so much of what the 'real Americana' is about. So we began! We arrived just before dark at Medicine Horse and parked the Mustang Mansion in the hay barn for the night to bed down after we unloaded and set up for the next morning, as I brewed us a cup of coffee, and cooked dinner on the adorable aqua vintage stove, the winds swayed us as we filled our bellies and hoped for a full house and event the following morning. As we unzipped what I call the 'bumblebee' sleeping bags *they are a pod design with black and yellow fabric my husband picked out* we chuckled as we bedded down and turned out the lights...not much later the trusty little songs began as the winds chimed through the aluminum channel and wooed us to sleep, I am greater gaining a love for the hugs this little Mustang Mansion gives as it cradles you to sleep at night.
Morning came early, and we washed our faces and put on our hopeful best for a great event of bringing greater awareness to the need surrounding our wild mustangs for preservation and protection. A great day filled with wonderful speakers, art, photography, books, slideshows, mustang performances, and mustangs themselves. Along with a full set up of original art, novelty items and a collection of artsy creations from other artists laid out to promote the mustang'...I performed a few songs including 'My Spirit Runs Wild and Free it is the song of the Mustang as they loose their freedom on the very lands promised them back in 1971 following the Wild Horse and Burro Act. By 3pm things were winding down and my husband called to see how things were going and how I would make my way home, haha...I chuckled with all sincerity on the phone sharing that I had absolutely no idea, lol. Trusting that the Divine would intervene and make a way out of nowhere...and behold...at 10 minutes to closing the event, good friend and mustang supporter who has followed my shenanigans on Facebook (which I must say I love meeting all of you facebookies fave to face and giving the hugs after all our time of typing keys to connect, it is a wonderful connecting tool!) Karen purchased a lovely print just short of my stressing how we would get home, affording just the gas needed to make our way back over that beautiful Chama pass to NM.
My trusty assistant that joined me, Samantha was an incredible helpmate in packing, setting up and packing again, she much enjoyed the travels in the Mustang Mansion as we toured across the state, putting a few extra miles as I got lost continuously. We ate the breakfast of champions the next morning, Starbucks and cold pizza...it was wonderful! Making our way through more country roads (after getting lost all evening prior) to finally hitting the route and gazing once again at the beauty from what I will title the book to follow the tour (Views from the window seat)...we do live in a incredible nation, with prairie and meadow, valleys low and mountains high...we must fight to preserve our land, the heritage of the land...for miles as I drove I was reminded and confirmed of this at every new turn, at every snow capped mountain that appeared at the next bend...we must value and preserve the natural beauty that was given for our indulgence by the Creators hand...once gone, gone forever. See you on the roadways with continued stories as we journey onward...