Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mustang Monument

In 2009, a few weeks after I was laid off from my job, I went to the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary in Hot Springs, South Dakota. A strong feeling of unexplainable urgency came over me, telling me I had to make the trip; a now or never feeling. 

Here's the first picture I took of wild horses in the Black Hills

Painted Desert, a gorgeous Medicine Hat Stallion

I went on a three hour tour of the sanctuary and I haven’t been the same since. I wept as I  drove down the three mile driveway back to the main road and to my hotel. The experience of photographing mustangs for the first time was so profound. My tears were for a kind of love I had never felt before, a love so beautiful that I still struggle to put it into words.

My last picture of the tour. 
These Spanish mustangs stole my heart like a thief in the night.

Ever since that first trip I have been obsessed with finding a way back into the world of mustangs, and how I could become a working advocate for wild horses. I have been working on my degree, while sharpening my photography skills on the side. I  finally have some hope for the future thanks to Madeline Pickens.

Madeline has been working tirelessly for the last seven years to start an eco-sanctuary, Mustang Monument, for wild horses. Pickens was finally approved by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) on April 19th, 2012. According to the approved plan, the BLM will maintain ownership of the wild horses. They will be allowed to graze on the public land as long as Pickens maintains the land, water wells and fencing on the property and manages the horses. The BLM will provide some financial support to Pickens’ eco-sanctuary, approximately the same amount of money it costs to keep the wild horses in holding pens.

Image courtesy of Mark Terrell & taken at Mustang Monument

Mustang Monument is a 14,000-acre ranch south of Wells in northeastern Nevada. The horses will graze on 530,000 acres of BLM land instead of being corralled in government holding facilities or sold at auctions for slaughter.

I would like to acknowledge and give a special thanks to Mark Terrell for the use of his photographs. Mark gives wild horse tours in Nevada, sharing his love of mustangs with others. I hope I get to meet him someday at Mustang Monument.

Image courtesy of Mark Terrell & taken at Mustang Monument 

Pickens’ plan will not only protect the wild horses, it will also be open to the public so thousands of visitors each year can see the mustangs up close and learn about their contribution to the history of the western United States.

Image courtesy of Mark Terrell & taken at Mustang Monument 

I have kept in touch with Madeline over this last year. I am praying that I will be able to tap into this extraordinary opportunity and find employment. I want to be a tour guide and tell everyone about what a treasure wild horses are. I want to help with fundraising efforts and write programs for educational opportunities and grants. I even have plans to write a children’s book about horses. 

I pray several times a day for my wish to come true. It is the only thing I want to do. I fear that many people will want to do the same thing and I will fall through the cracks. After being unemployed for so long I feel like an old mare that no one has use for but I keep praying. 

Spanish Mustang Mares

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