With eyes wide open, Aura surveyed his surroundings. His tangled tail, black as soot, was swishing to and fro in anxious wonder. He’d never been touched. He was gathered last fall, in Wyoming, during a roundup of his herd. He belongs to the Bureau of Land Management, and his future is uncertain.
Anna Twinney knows she can’t help every mustang caught in the unfortunate web of population control of the wild herds in North America. Her effort is as steadfast and sure as the mustang’s iconic image in the American West.
Recently back from her annual “Reach Out to the Untouched Horse” event, held in Cody, Wyoming at the Dimock Ranch, Anna talks about Blackjack, Downtown, Augustus, Ohanzee, Mr. Dean, and Aura. “I’ve been teaching people how to listen to their horses for more than 20 years. Horses have a language of their own, no matter if they are wild or domesticated. It’s imperative that mustangs, newly collected into captivity are supported. Every year, we take a group of students to work with mustangs that have been gathered and to observe those still free to roam.”
The BLM’s herding process is a traumatic event in the life of a mustang. Anna works one on one with a group each year to help aide the transition.
“We show the horses that we are here to support them. We use gentle but effective methods to prepare them for domestication; first touch, grooming, haltering, leading, visits from a veterinarian, farrier … for baths, loading in and out of a horse trailer. Remember, these horses are truly “untouched”. They’ve barely seen people and it’s likely that their first encounter was detrimental … being handled is a big deal. It must be done with correct techniques and a heart for helping them. When they have a good beginning, their chances of finding a good home soars. Some of them are not so lucky.”
Ohanzee found a home, but his five herd mates still wait.
Horses are prey animals, meaning they are hunted in the wild by natural predators. Given the round up process, “man” falls squarely in the predator category. The horse’s reaction to being preyed upon is to either run away (generally the first instinct) or to fight. Often times, newly gathered mustangs are put in to holding pens from which they cannot escape. Given that they can’t employ “flight” all that’s left is “fight”. Because of this circumstance and the disrespect and ignorance in how the horses are treated, they react as nature equipped them to do and then they are often branded as “crazy” or “dangerous”. While all horses have this innate response to fear or danger, the mustang’s reaction times are in milliseconds; in the wild, it’s the difference between life and death.
This is why ROTH is dedicated to working with the mustangs each year and also why Anna created the Whispers from the Wild Ones DVD.
“Education is everything with these horses. People must understand that “untouched” truly means the horses have never had a human hand on them. As people, we don’t even like strangers touching us! It’s rather intimidating to have an animal that walks on its “hind legs”, smiling at you with its teeth and reaching for you with its “claws”. I teach students about keeping themselves very “quiet” so that facilitating that first touch is smooth and welcome.”
To learn more about what the American Mustang has to teach us and to understand their plight, please visit https://youtu.be/aBI-VGNZBgY to watch the trailer for Whisper to the Wild Ones!
To meet Augustus, Mr. Dean, Downtown, Blackjack and Aura please watch our video below.
If you are interested in adoption, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.