Deb Kastner here, talking about my May release from Harlequin Love Inspired, The Cowboy’s Twins. In it, the heroine, Faith Duggan, follows her dream of opening a mustang sanctuary. Luckily for her, hero Jax McKenna knows all about horses.
I was blessed in my research of the plight of wild mustangs because my sister Amy Viskocil actually runs a mustang sanctuary, Happy Haven Farm and Sanctuary. So I thought rather than me sharing my interesting research on these amazing horses, I’d let Amy talk about her rescue. From the horse’s mouth, so to speak. So without further adieu, please welcome my sister Amy to the Inspy Blog.
There are more mustangs in holding pens today than in the wild. The BLM (Bureau of Land Management) sites data claiming the land cannot support all the horses while casually ignoring the number of cattle and sheep in direct competition. They reduce the herd numbers to a “viable” size, while reducing the genetic viability to zero. And that’s when they don’t remove the herd altogether. Once in holding, these horses spend most of their lives in large dirt lots, most without any form of shelter or windbreak, 365 days a year.
Mustangs’ lives in the wild and initial their handling by the BLM has taught these magnificent horses that humans are a predator, and therefore a threat. They don’t give trust and respect easily.
When Happy Haven Farm & Sanctuary (HHFS) was first conceived, it was to be a live-in facility for troubled kids as an alternative to jail. The idea was to teach them honor and respect by having them gentle wild mustangs. Any unhandled horse is a challenge, but a wild mustang has no reason to trust you or to try to connect.
Much like troubled kids, these horses are judged by criteria that is based largely in myth. The horses are called “mutts, feral, worthless” and other breed owners snub their noses at them. Yes, they are wild, and yes they value their freedom, and no, gaining their trust doesn’t come easily. You have to earn it – by showing them you are worthy.
While an excellent idea that is in use at the prison in Canon City with adult inmates, before long, it became quite clear that the logistics of this grand design were out of reach. Oddly, it seemed no one would insure a program for troubled kids and wild horses! So the vision changed.
Still wanted to help troubled kids, still wanted to help mustangs. The ranch now helps ANYONE who has a need to find peace, healing and purpose. Our horses include over 13 different breeds – all rescued. The program expanded to include veterans and families, as well as a cadre of other animals–llamas, ducks, chickens, dogs, cats, goats and even one very shy but playful pig.
Despite our growth, it is still our desire to teach as many people as we can about the amazing wild horses living in their backyard. Horses that are a huge part of our history and, I believe, a chapter that will be closed in my lifetime….forever. The reality is, many people don’t even realize there are still wild horses in the U.S. Those that do know are strongly divided in their loyalties. Those that want to preserve the horses; and ranchers, livestock owners, and the government who see the horses as a blight on the land and an inconvenience that needs to be moved. Unless more people become aware of what’s going on and how amazing these horses really are, they will become a part of our history that our grandkids will only read about.
Deb again! If this struck a chord with you, there are several ways you can help. HHFS is a non-profit and you can make a donation right on their website (which also suggests other ways to donate, such as Amazon Smile.) Better yet, you can sponsor the animal of your choice, from one of the wonderful mustangs to any of the animals HHFS hosts. I personally am the proud sponsor of Valentino the pig. Isn’t he cute?
Read all about Faith Duggan’s experience opening her own mustang rescue in Deb Kastner’s next book, The Cowboy’s Twins, a May release from Harlequin Love Inspired.