National volunteers of the year assist in local mustang roundup
Ron and Carol Pownall from Vicksburg, MO. were in their height of glory last Tuesday helping BLM officials gather wild mustangs from Cedar Ridge, far above Cottonwood Canyon in East Carbon County. The Pownalls adopted their first wild mustang in 1999 and have been adopting these free-spirited horses ever since.
"We really wanted to see where these horses were coming from and what they are going through out here on the range," said Carol, her eyes sparkling as she talked about how these mustangs have changed her life.
Their first adoptee came from Nevada and was named Starbuck. They adopted her because she had been mistreated and it took nearly six months before they could get their hands on her, then within weeks they were riding Starbuck.
"It was very clear when we became hers," said Carol. "I saw the change starting to happen," she explained," adding, "I got through to her and it was the greatest feeling in the world." The bonding between the horse and its new owner is so incredible.
The Pownalls recommend spending time with the horses during the adoption process. "You have to pick out the horse and the type that you are attracted to and will best fit your personality," said Ron.
The Pownalls were featured several months ago on Animal Planet with their nine adopted wild mustangs. In addition to the national television program they were recently honored with the National Volunteer Award for their work with the Adopt-a-Horse program and their dedication to the wild horses.
High above Cottonwood Canyon overlooking the Northeast end of Nine Mile Canyon a group of cowboys have been busy rounding up horses the past week.
But this is not your typical roundup. This particular gathering is headed by a 30-year veteran who knows the canyons and hillsides like the back of his hand. He knows the coulees and which springs make up the high desert country in East Carbon County.
This veteran cowboy wasn't decked out in wranglers and chaps with a wide-brimmed stetsen or leather cowboy boots. He didn't handle a lasso and ride smoothly in his custom saddle. This cowboy is a helicopter pilot, who has been gathering wild mustang horses for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Utah since the early 70's.
BLM Adopt-A-Horse program finds homes for wild mustangs
BLM needs to find good homes for the 4,000 wild horse and burros we have in our corral facilities through the bureau's Adopt-A-Horse or Burro Program," said Lee Delany, group manager for the BLM's Wild Horse program in a recent newsletter, adding, "We need to find as many good adopters as possible to make room for the animals that we will be gathering from the emergency."
The mustangs are wild and full of spunk, according to Lisa Reid, Utah BLM public relations specialist for the Adopt-A-Horse program, but with a little patience and a lot of love these horses will make excellent riding stock. "With proper training some adopted horses become national champions in dressage, trail endurance, jumping, and snaffle bit competitions.
They are sturdy, sure-footed animals ideal for any outdoor horse activity, particularly trail and pleasure riding.
More than 150,000 animals have been placed in private homes since the Adopt-A-Horse or Burro Program began in 1973.
Horse adopters must be at least 18 years old, though parents can adopt for their children. They must be U.S. citizens and have no convictions for inhumane treatment of animals. At home, they must provide a corral with at least 400 square feet of living space surrounded by a six-foot fence built of pipe or boards.
An adoption fee of $125 per animal is charged to help defray the cost of gathering and preparing the animals for adoption.
For more information about the bureau's adoption program call 1-866-4-mustangs or visit the BLM web page at www.wildhorseandburro.blm.gov.
Cowboying from helicopters is unique and effective, especially when you are tracking down and herding wild mustangs into captivity. The past week BLM crews have gathered an estimated 180 mustangs from the eastern mountains of Carbon County.
It was deemed an emergency gather this year because of severe drought conditions and recent wildfires throughout the western United States. Thousands of acres of habitat for America's wild horses have been destroyed and this prompted the BLM to conduct emergency gathers to save as many of these animals as possible.
"We could be facing emergency gathers of more than 4,000 animals," said Lee Delany, group manager for the BLM's Wild Horse program in a recent department newsletter.
These removals ensure the rangelands will remain healthy for the remaining wild horses.
Free roaming herds are monitored and excess animals are removed from public lands to ensure an ecological balance will be maintained for the remaining wild free roaming horses and throughout the western states, as well as native wildlife and livestock.
"These animals are a living legend that symbolize the historic and pioneer spirit of the Old West," said Lisa Reid, BLM public relations specialist from Cedar City.
For the most part the horses that were gathered last Tuesday appeared to be strong and healthy, most having slick black coats. But the animals were thinner than normal because of the drought.
The set up, conducted by the BLM and its volunteeers, went like clockwork the first day on the range . Corrals, referred to as the trap were set up on a corner of a large fenced pasture, tucked under a hillside. The fences leading into the trap were camouflaged with burlap netting on both sides of the fences leading to the trap.
The vehicles were hidden in a far-off grove of juniper or pinyon trees, the cowboys took their places along the outside of the fence, hiding under large sagebrush plants. Two cowboys took trained horses, known as "Judas" horses to the top of the hill overlooking the trap and the men knelt as the helicopter twirled away from the setting on its way to bring in the first group of mustangs.
It was a hurry up and wait situation. The sun was already climbing in the east, a faint breeze rustled through the sagebrush and pinyons, the high desert was perfectly quiet.
Then the tranquility was broken by the twirling of the helicopter as it swirled and wound its way over the canyons and coulees, appearing to be chasing fast moving birds, but then the horses appeared. Slick black mustangs, racing over the horizon, mares with their colts, geldings and stallions, all thundering over the prairie trying to free themselves from the hovering giant in the sky.
But within seconds the "Judas" horses guided the wild mustangs into the trap, gates were closed, and the new life of a once free-spirited mustang changed. Many of the gathered horses will be adopted and someday find themselves domesticated on family farms and ranches.
Once the mustangs were gathered they were hauled to the corrals in Nine Mile Canyon where they were sorted. The mares and colts were paired up again and released, while the team carefully determined the numbers of mares, geldings and stallions to be adopted and the rest, returned to the range. All the animals received their vaccinations and worming medication.
The helicopter cowboys continued gathering mustangs throughout the day, sometimes bringing in as many as 15 horses at a time, but more often settling for three or four. The farther away from the trap the horses were found, the longer it took to gather and the fewer they were able to roundup at one time.
The BLM gathers nearly 10,000 wild horses off public lands per year. The wild horse is recognized by congress as a part of America's heritage and the BLM is entrusted with maintaining and preserving these living legends.
Since the wild horse has virtually no natural predators and herds reproduce at an average rate of 25 percent per year, they can quickly over populate an area and deplete available food and water supplies. "It is not healthy or responsible to let the horses over populate the range," concluded Reid.