My Wild Horse Story: How Lois Helped Save the Mustang Jolene Bean

This story is courtesy of Lois Fritz, New Freedom Farm and Shawn Farnsworth, BLM Wild Horse and Burro Specialist

Did you know the BLM conducts inspections on adopted wild horses and burros?  Inspections may be completed in-person or virtually by a BLM wild horse and burro specialist, a trained volunteer, veterinarian and/or humane official.  In Fiscal Year 2022, the BLM completed nearly 8,000 inspections on adopted wild horses and burros, with nearly all of those inspections showing great adopters providing good homes for their adopted animals.  

The care and condition of adopted wild horses and burros are our primary concerns, so when we encounter severe compliance violations, the BLM takes action as soon as possible. Depending on the violation and the condition of the animal, we work with the adopter to correct the violation or remove the animal from that adopter's care.  

But what happens in the very rare occurrence when the BLM does repossess a horse or burro from an adopter? What happens to the animal, especially if it needs help or special care? 

In steps Lois Fritz. Lois is a mustang enthusiast with a soft spot in her heart for veterans and people who help other people and animals. Lois founded and runs a non-profit farm located in Buchanan, Virginia focused on helping veterans, called the New Freedom Farm, Inc. 

“New Freedom Farm exists to aid veterans and first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder, substance use, traumatic brain injury, and other conditions, by using the therapeutic activity of interacting with equines, farming, and peer-to-peer support,” Lois explained. “These interactions foster improved physical, emotional, and spiritual health, assisting individuals with reintegration into civilian life.” Additionally, Lois is a certified trainer with the Mustang Heritage Foundation’s Trainer Incentive Program.

In 2017, Lois also began to volunteer with the BLM to offer fostering assistance for any mustang in need of a home.  Over the years, Lois has become a reliable ambassador for the Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Program and has helped foster and find homes for many wild horses in need. However, it’s the story of one particular horse that pulled at our heart strings.   

On March 13, 2022, Lois received a call about a mustang in dire straits that needing to be fostered.  Unfortunately, her adopter failed her on multiple levels, and the mustang had been repossessed by the BLM. 

“There are a variety of reasons why an adoption might not work out,” explained Wild Horse and Burro Specialist Shawn Farnsworth, who is in charge of adoptions, compliance checks and partnerships for the BLM in the Southeast Untied States. 

“We endeavor to only place animals into good homes that will provide good care, but people’s conditions can change in unexpected ways and you can lose the ability to provide the high level of care needed to keep a wild horse healthy. In those rare circumstances, the BLM always does what is best for the animal, which might mean repossession if needed. Repossession is very rare, and most adoptions end with a happy story.” 

“We prepare for these situations working with our partners and friends to have foster homes ready to take in animals if needed. We are so thankful for folks with good hearts like Lois who are stand ready to help a wild horse in need,” added Farnsworth. 

There was no question that this horse was not receiving the care from its adopter that is required by BLM. Veterans programs do not typically take on animals that need special care. However, Lois did  not hesitate. She immediately connected her stock trailer and drove 366 miles to Pikeville, TN to pick up this special  mustang, which was in a dangerously malnourished state. 

Horse in trailer
The mare in a trailer after being repossessed by the BLM.

“Upon arrival at New Freedom Farm on March 14, the care and rehabilitation of the mare immediately became a team effort,” Lois explained. “Veterans and volunteers worked together in concert and around the clock to save this mustang.”  

The farm’s veterinarian, Blue Ridge Equine’s Dr. Marissa Bennett, assessed the newly arrived mare to develop a care plan.  The horse’s body condition was rated a one on the 10-point Henneke Body Condition Scoring System and was immediately put on a special re-feeding program comprised of select grain, supplements, and re-introduction to quality hay.  

To be able to approach and touch her for blood work and other aspects of her care, the mare’s gentling process became one of the highest priorities.  

“She was gentled slowly, with all deliberate speed, consistently and continuously with 100% natural horsemanship methods,” Lois added.  It is a credit to Lois and the veterans at New Freedom Farm that she was able to be haltered and handled sufficiently in time to enable the veterinary care she so desperately needed.  

The mare was also treated for parasites and required special supplements and topical treatments for mange/rain rot.  Luckily, she allowed the special bathing sessions necessary to alleviate her mange/rain rot.

Horse and woman in a pen.
Special care and bathing was needed to alleviate mange/rain rot.

Throughout her intensive care and recovery, Lois and all the veterans and volunteers of New Freedom Farm fell in love with and became forever connected to this sweet mustang. She was quick to show her love and personality and was no longer just a number on a tag.  She was named “Ms. Jolene Bean” after a dedicated supporter of veterans and advocate for the New Freedom Farm, Mr. Joseph Bean.  Joe passed away suddenly on March 9, 2022. 

“Ms. Jolene Bean was there to help us in our healing process after the of loss of Mr. Bean,” Lois said. 

By April 2022, Ms. Jolene Bean was no longer just a foster mustang at New Freedom Farm, she was officially adopted by Lois.  Since that time, she has progressed to become “healthy as a horse” as Lois says.  She is even known to have taken care of getting the mail at New Freedom Farm.  

Horse and woman getting mail.
Ms. Jolene Bean fetches the mail at New Freedom Farm.

In addition to taking care of the mail, she has been busy healing the veterans who visit daily.  Lois plans to include Ms. Jolene Bean in other therapeutic aspects of life at New Freedom Farm, including mobile visits to the homes of veterans who are “shut-ins.”  As recently as the writing of this article, Ms. Jolene Bean helped with a local news interview showcasing the extraordinary relationships that some of the veterans and mustangs have forged at the farm.

Man and horse.
Ms. Jolene Bean has a role in many activities at the farm, and a place in the hearts of the veterans who she meets.
Ms. Jolene Bean performing her spokesperson’s duties at the farm as the media share her story with thousands.
Ms. Jolene Bean performing her spokesperson’s duties at the farm as the media share her story with thousands.

Lois hopes that future adopters realize the amount of care, effort, and commitment that goes into adopting a wild mustang.  

“Caring for some Mustangs may include special feeding, medical attention, and training techniques,” she explains.  “For anyone who is interested in fostering a mustang in the future, there is a lot of hard work that goes into it.  Bringing a troubled or sick wild mustang foster back to good health is a challenging endeavor.”  

Though providing a home to an adopted wild horse or burro can be an extremely rewarding and fulfilling endeavor, it is not a decision to be made lightly. Wild horses and burros are often untrained and ungentled. It takes a lot of time, patience and learning to train a wild horse or burro, and it should not be undertaken by a novice horse owner or trainer. The BLM provides this caution to prospective adopters, and that’s why the compliance check system is so important. 

“I am so thankful for Lois and the New Freedom Farm for taking this mare on and giving her new life,” said Shawn, who says it’s not typical that adopted animals need to be rescued like this, but this was an emergency. 

Lois’s commitment to this cause includes offering herself as a resource to anyone interested in in adopting, fostering, or starting a mustang program.  She is available, accessible, and willing to help by sharing her experience and understanding.  Visit  www.newfreedomfarm.org for contact information and access to the various articles showing mustang healing heroes.