I own a mustang. That really isn’t a fair thing to say. I feel like I can’t really own her. To own something means that it is yours to do with it what you will. You hold no accountability to it. In truth I don’t own a mustang, I care for her. It was a choice I made when I filled out the paperwork for the government so I would be able to adopt her. It was one of the most intimidating things I’ve ever done. I knew I would be embarking on something much larger than me, and it turns out I was right.
I care for a mustang. I will care for her until the last day of her life. I will do this because I owe her a debt, and it is a large one.
My horse comes from a small herd in a place called Stinkingwater in Oregon. It is a harsh but beautiful landscape with sweeping golden hills peppered with sharp volcanic rock. She was born free to a herd known for its heavy stocky build and roan coats. When I look at my horse, this is what I see.
I see the blood of the horses that had the strength and heart to pull the wagons of the settlers that came across the Oregon trail. They carried hopes, dreams and fears on their backs, and the survivors of that journey came out the stronger. My horse carries the blood of the plow horses that broke the ground and helped turn the West into a fertile bread basket, an Eden at the end of a long and harsh journey.
In her blood she carries the echos of the horses that carried lonely cowboys across the west, herding cattle, or pulling stage coaches. In the time before the railroad, she tied the country together.
In her blood she carries the courage of the cavalry horses that fought in the Civil War. Those horses didn’t know their cause, but they knew their soldier, and they carried him into battle facing cannons and muskets, and the smell of fear and death. Yet, they charged on because they carried a soldier, and the soldier asked them to.
In her blood she carries the legacy of the Native American horses that hunted buffalo across the plains and moved the tribes from winter to summer again and again.
She carries the blood of the Native ponies that fought against the cavalry horses. In the aftermath of terrible conflict and consequence, she carries both sides as one in her strong legs and thick mane. Sometimes I see it all in her soft brown eyes as she stares out into the woods. I imagine she hears the whispers of the history in her blood.
I owe her. As a young horse she was chased away from her home by a helicopter, and suddenly, though her history is deep, her future was uncertain. She spent over two years as the “property” of the Federal Government. She was on her last chance to find a home when I found her.
The price to adopt her was $25 to keep her from living the rest of her life and dying in a feed lot. I had the cash in my pocket, but the decision wasn’t made lightly.
I knew I would owe her so much more than that. I owe her a home. I owe her care. I owe her attention. I owe her my heart and my dedication. I owe her my gratitude for everything she is.
She is a mustang.
She is everything to me.