Once upon a time, (a few years ago) a pair of boys arrived at sort of an orphanage…they had been taken from their mothers and put together and had formed a strong bond, and trailered together, and when they got out, shaking, they were all each other had. Luck soon turned up one of their moms, who also found sanctuary, and took both boy under her protective wing, and the three formed a little family. The boys grew, played, made other friends, went to school together, seasons turned into a few years; their attachment to their mother faded, but they remained together, thick as thieves. They were very different height and very different physical abilities, and were often found apart, playing with friends that matched their temperaments, but when one was in trouble, a shout would bring the other running. They grew into confident, happy young adults, together. They were family.
In another once upon a time (also a few years ago) in a different world, another two brothers, twins, grew happily together, with their family. Wild. Untouched by humans. Unusually handsome, with dark coats and blonde tails, the pair could be found always in harmony, no matter what they were doing. But one day, they were taken prisoner, locked into a jail, for no crime at all, just for living in the wrong place. They spent as long in jail as they had been alive, but they had each other. They survived.
In due time, someone came to get them out of jail, to adopt them and give them a new life in the east. They were to be ‘a driving team’, a matched pair. Together, the brothers made the long journey from Oregon, their home, to upstate New York.
Training began, the pair managed to learn (we will not say ‘excel’). It was a huge, seismic shift for them to become captive but they tried, and at least they had each other. They were their only remaining herd, but now lived with a small group of other mustangs. They were officially ‘adopted’ a year later.
Then, tragedy struck. One of the brothers broke his leg, found in the field, and suddenly his young life was over. He was put down. The remaining twin was bereft, so shaken by this last loss. His owner lost interest in him, then moved away. She gave him away. This lonely scared boy was given to someone charged with finding him a forever home. Not many want a tiny, sad, scared mustang. This new person did not have space or skill to keep him forever but she tried to find it for him; she looked, and she found a nice gentle man, who promised to finish the training and find him a home, and the story should have ended happily there. You can guess, it did not.
Two short weeks later, instead of training him and finding a home, the mustang was taken to an auction. Fact is, this man takes a lot of horses to auction, after telling a lot of people that their horse will be ‘safe’. Too common a story.
The auction, for this little mustang, was overwhelming; the noise, the strangers, the amount of horses was terrifying, and it looked like this would be the last place he would see alive. Kill buyers bid to sell his meat and his hide. It was by chance, totally luck, that the same kind woman who had tried to help him once was there! She grabbed a friend, and together, with no plan, they bid and won him, to save him from slaughter. The pair stayed with him, got him back out, and to a borrowed field to search, again, for a safe home. A rescue was contacted, Rosemary Farm, and initially said ‘no’; the rescue is constantly full and had no free space for quarantine; but the discussion continued, and the identity of that dealer is known. A new plan was put into place; IF the women could do his quarantine and his initial medical care, Rosemary Farm agreed welcome him. This could work. Weeks passed in this field, the vet was brought in, they drove to visit and care for him, and the little mustang rallied his spirits. So much change.
The Sunday arrived to move him, the new paddock at the rescue was ready, everything in place; but when the trailer arrived, he refused to get on. And who can blame him? Hours were spent, he said NO. The trip to the rescue was cancelled that day, the mustang was left in the field, and instead, another horse was brought for company. Were they keeping him after all? Rosemary Farm reminded them that there was a horse in need nearly every day, so if the mustang was no longer ‘in need’, if they wanted to keep him, that was great. It would make room for another horse in trouble. We hoped that an attachment had formed. I do not know how much was debated, but after their care and the effort, the women were reaching their own end of energy; after all, this was not a situation they created. The statement from Rosemary Farm, about ‘if he was no longer in need’, had been misinterpreted as a decline of the horse; while waiting for a call if the horse needed sanctuary, the woman began other plans.
The woman searched for somewhere closer, and two days later the mustang moved nearby to a nice family, a family that said they wanted him and would work with him. Well, it was ‘supposed’ to last. Neighbors of THIS family, an amish family who had a lot horses, offered to “help”, and jumped on his back to ‘try him out’. Without any riding training, the little mustang panicked, and their rough handling terrified him. He was declared bad, and unsafe and they were advised to get rid of him immediately. Ownership transferred, again.. Now the mustang was owned by an amish horse dealer.
The end of the week; what was it about that day?
The rescue called after him; it had been just five days since he was due to arrive and plans changed, so he should still be in the same field. Had the woman made a decision? Was he still possibly coming to the rescue? Was he well?
He was not well, and he was not even where people thought he was. Suddenly there were MANY phone calls. Where was he? It was auction night and everyone had a sense of dread. The very first woman who helped tried again, calling friends, found one going to auction who knew the horse, and agreed to check, but no one thought he was really there. There were many horses at auction that night, surely he wasn’t among them? Surely he was safe at his new home?
Way in the back, getting the stuffing beaten out of him by a tired old amish buggy horse, was the little mustang. A dealer had brought him in. Again. Just FIVE days after he was safe in a field. Not much left to his spirit or his body. Nameless and unloved, limping and shaking, getting ready to sell to kill.
Many friends who had never met him went into action that night, as a trailer was hooked up, a bidder was ready, and the rescue community stepped up. By the time he ran the floor that night, the team was waiting and his safety was won for $255. Cut and bruised and exhausted and spent, he loaded quietly on the trailer to the sanctuary, where he is recovering today.
He is just six years old.
In the nearby paddock, the adopted brothers Sawyer and Hamlet are together and can see the new mustang, who has to start out alone for health reasons. Over a week ago, Hamlet went to the hospital for a few days and Sawyer won’t let him out of his sight now. It is not surprising for us to witness strong family ties in horses, but it’s surprising for many. It’s even more rare to have them respected and honored. We pay attention and protect these bonds. Yes, that makes it more complicated, but it’s the honorable path. As I watched these brothers tonight, calm, healthy, gentle, and then turned to observe the broken spirit of our newest charge, I was flooded with his sorrow and his loneliness. He matters and his feelings matter. And yes, he has them. All we can do now is try to slowly build new family with him.
It will take time to heal his broken heart.
Our new little mustang cannot go home, and will never see his herd again. He is alive, and he is young. He will never be the same again, but, there is hope that something new will grow. There must be.