Dispatch from the field: getting hooked on mustangs!

Amy Dumas, wild horse and burro specialist and program lead in California, shares her story of how an adopter became hooked on mustangs. 

Trina West and her family are avid trail riders who also enjoy horse camping. When the Wests were looking for an additional horse, they decided to try a mustang. In 2016, they adopted their first horse, Maverick, aptly named as he is from the Maverick Medicine HMA near Elko, Nevada. They enrolled him in the Trainer Incentive Program, and soon fell in love with him. Trina sent me this message about Maverick, “AMAZING horse and we will forever choose mustangs.” They dipped their toes into the “mustang pool” and dove in! 

In 2019 when the Wests needed another horse, as promised, they opted to adopt another mustang. The Wests decided to drive the six hours from their southern California home to attend an adoption at the Western States Horse Expo, in Rancho Murieta, California, and enjoy the Expo, too.

The BLM offered eight horses; four were halter gentled by well-known trainers and four were started under saddle by the inmates at Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center (R3C). On Saturday night, after a bout of highly competitive bidding, the Wests won Tiny Dancer, a saddle-started mare from the Stone Cabin HMA near Tonopah, Nevada. They took her home on Sunday and began trail riding her almost immediately. 

A horse in a grassy field.

In October 2020, Trina reached out to me about adopting another R3C horse as one of her horses was lame and needed extended recovery. She also provided an update, “Tiny Dancer is great…what a treasure she has been for our family! I included a picture of her in a slot canyon in Utah. We took her on a two-week journey all over the Bryce Canyon area, on some very complicated rides, and she was perfect.”

With the pandemic occurring, R3C and BLM could not host a traditional adoption in person. However, BLM devised a way to hold the adoptions via Zoom. Like all the potential adopters, Trina was not able to see any of the horses in person and she was nervous about technological glitches (and so was I!). The BLM and R3C posted numerous photos and videos of the animals on a webpage created just for the event -- blm.gov/cawildhorseadoption

I advised Trina to reach out to the head trainer at R3C, JP Dyal, to get his opinion of which horse might best suit her family’s needs for a solid trail horse. After several discussions with JP, the Wests had a good idea which horses would be best for them. Trina also asked me how many horses she was approved to adopt. The answer: two. Trina’s response, “I better only come home with one, or else I’ll need counseling 😊.” 

Adoption day arrived and Trina was as nervous as I was. We both had concerns about connectivity issues. She emailed me, “I’m sooooo nervous…but not for the same reasons you are…I’m praying to successfully bid on my new heart horse.”

The Zoom adoption started at 6:00 p.m. One of the horses JP recommended was offered early in the adoption, but after much bidding activity, they were outbid. I did not see her number on the next few horses and wondered if she was giving up or waiting for the last horse? Secretly, I was hoping she would bid on another and find her new heart horse. Finally, I saw her number bidding on the last horse. Several people were bidding on this horse and the bids rose higher and higher. After much exciting bidding, the Wests won! They became the proud new adopters of Shasta. 

At pick up day, Shasta’s inmate trainer, KJ, was hoping the Wests would be the last to pick up. He was very attached to Shasta and told me why she was his favorite horse and how great she was to train. I assured him that Shasta’s adopters had other mustangs and she was going to a great home. That made him feel a little better but did not stop the tears -- he was going to miss Shasta.

Horse and adopter in arena.
Trina West and Shasta meet in person for the first time.

In January 2021, I heard from Trina with another update on Shasta, background on Maverick, and photos: 

Shasta has been more than I could have hoped for!  She is so friendly, willing, curious and dependable under saddle. She hadn’t been ridden in about a month when we did this camping trip. Then, the weekend before the trip I tweaked my back so I put off riding to let it heal. I wasn’t sure how she’d be – she didn’t miss a step! The Santa Ana winds were crazy on the desert floor from Friday to Sunday morning and she handled it like the seasoned horses. We are taking her to Utah in June (along with our other Mustangs) so we are starting the conditioning process now. 

The BLM left a video of him [Maverick] up after an IA (Internet Adoption now known as the Online Corral) event (which is how I found him) and he looked awesome. Not sure why he was never adopted – maybe because he was already 7 at the time? He has been a wonderful horse too.

Thank you, Wests, for your support of the BLM’s adoption program and providing great homes to your animals. Many happy trails to you and Maverick, Tiny Dancer, and Shasta!

Find your next opportunity to give a good home to a wild horse or burro!

Horse and rider in slot canyon.
Tiny Dancer in a slot canyon at Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Horses in a corral.
Maverick and Shasta camping 2021


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