My world of the mustang revolves around working closely with the Bureau of Land Management for both on and off range support of these American icons. The horses that come through our doors are straight from BLM corrals and have tales to tell of where they came from, how they were gathered and how their lives are now awaiting their chance for adoption and their forever home. That is the beginning of Lucy’s tale.
Her neck tag number was drawn by a trainer for the 2016 Extreme Mustang Makeover…born in 2011, Lucy finally had her chance. After months of training and eventually being bucked off, her trainer decided that Lucy would be best suited to go back to the BLM corrals. Our Head Trainer, Stephanie Linsley, stepped in and offered to find an adopter for her and promptly took her from the trainer assigned to her charge…Lucy’s second chance. Within a few days, Stephanie found a great home for this mare…Lucy’s third chance. This adopter made the perfect partner for Lucy and with quiet, yet confident leadership, their relationship flourished. Many photographs and videos of trail rides filled Stephanie’s inbox. It was indeed a great match. Unfortunately, circumstances hit this family hard and they needed to find another home for their mustang, which they did. This is when Stephanie lost touch with the mustang she helped place. Lucy was off to her fourth chance.
We were reunited with Lucy’s story after receiving an alert from a fellow mustang advocate. She had gotten word that there was a BLM mustang mare at the livestock auction. After quick research from a photograph of her brand and help from others via social media, Stephanie was alerted that the mare she had helped place was getting ready to go up for auction.
By the time we could react, she was sold…sold for slaughter at $475…Lucy’s fifth chance…discarded. We contacted the individual that made the purchase and asked if we could buy her. Her ransom, a hardy $750. He said that he was done feeding her and that she would soon be on the trailer headed south to Mexico. We arranged to get her the very next day. That day was yesterday…Lucy’s sixth chance.
In the world of horse auction, buyers buy “killers’’ for slaughter, as they’re referred to in the business. My eyes have been opened. Horse slaughter happens, it happens everyday, regardless of whether or not slaughter houses exist in the United States. Shutting down these facilities in the US has actually created an even bigger problem…extra hardship on the horses because of the lengthy transport to Mexico or Canada, with very little control over how things are being handled once they are there. This is an industry, and the individual that we bought Lucy from is profiting from it.
Loading her was intense, like loading an untouched mustang for the first time. She was scared out of her mind. Finally she was in, money exchanged, brand inspection in hand, my son and I turned down the road with Lucy in tow. When we got far enough away, I pulled over. We walked beside the trailer to where Lucy was. I reached through the trailer bars and touched her nose, which was wet with sweat and still trembling. With my eyes welling up in tears, I told her aloud that she was safe…she stood stock still with my hand resting on her nose, her eyes softened and stared straight into mine. She began licking and chewing. I think she understood.
She is safe. She is my responsibility. I made that promise to every horse that touches our organization when we began 8 years ago — the year, in fact, that Lucy was born. Stephanie started working for us at The Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary & Training Center last year and Lucy came through her hands before then. However, Lucy has touched our organization and our commitment to these horses will stand.
It makes me upset that people discard their horses. If any of her owners would have had the same commitment to her that we see as the first standard of care, she would have never ended up at the sale barn…none of them would. This industry would not have any legs to stand on.
If only we would choose humane euthanasia for our equine companions that can no longer lead the quality of life that they deserve. Or if those that can no longer care for their equine companions or choose to re-home them would seek appropriate adopters. I struggle with social media for many reasons, but it is a good way to find homes for animals, ask for help and receive it, and spread the word about animals in need. I urge people to act responsibly when taking on the role of a caregiver to these incredible animals. Put your animals in your will, designate money to their care, identify rescues and/or sanctuaries that you believe in to take your animals if no one else is able…horses live 25-30 years, burros 35-40, you think of your human family in this way, why not your animal family? Take responsibility.
It is our responsibility to be their voice. The day an animal comes into our lives, it is our responsibility to care for them. They don’t choose us, we choose them. They cannot care for themselves, we care for them. They do not have a voice, if we do not give them one.
I am so extremely proud of the work that we do at GEMS, where we work diligently everyday to give the mustangs that touch our organization, whether while still on range or when they come off, an opportunity and a voice.
~ by Michelle Sander, Executive Director GEMS