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Georgia asked me to write a short story about the unexpected adventure. As a youth, I had a passion for challenging trail rides. Cottonwood trail allowed me to dip into that almost unforgotten passion.
Beautiful pre-Autumn day, two fit endurance horses, a friend (Carol), and free time to see the wild mustangs. Even as a professional trainer, my time off meant riding and viewing horses. Just a few minutes after passing through the Cameo gate at the Little Book Cliffs, we spotted our first mustangs—mares and foals. They are viewing us as we are viewing them. Wild animals normalized to degrees of human presence. I experienced this while working on a game reserve in South Africa. The modern wild animals that are on open land, but still confined by ranches, homes, preserves, parks etc. Grateful for the BLM and visionaries/supporters who want to preserve a slice of “wild”.
After meeting our objectives within the first hour, we decided to head up the canyon and explore. Of course, we didn’t come prepared with a map or water. Cottonwood trail was the path and it required a combination of riding and leading. What a cool trail! Thank you BLM for the markers on the trees! The views were gorgeous and we were wondering how much the wild horses had helped create the design of the trails. We made it to the top and really appreciated who had the grit to put in a spring fed water trough. The horses were very glad and we drank some too!
Now what? Find our way back to the trailer, but by what trail? Cell service popped up, so Carol called the number for Friends of the Mustang to get guidance. Three options: go back the way we came (“No way!” was my reaction), go down an even more difficult trail, or have Georgia pick us up. It was 5:30 pm, it was going to be getting dark by 7:30, so we opted for the remarkable taxi service. We went another two hours on the trail to meet the trailer—a short ride turned into a seven plus hour ride. The horses were in good spirits and good condition.
Crazy amazing that we were not going to have to spend the night on the mountain. As Georgia pulled up with the trailer, we initially had no idea what a remarkable intervention it was that someone who didn’t know us had a rig and the experience to navigate the road to us. Wow! I was interested in knowing more about the mustang world and had been contemplating adopting one. How perfect that our rescuer had been involved with the local herd for just under twenty years. It was like a magic carpet had shown up. As she skillfully navigated the road and enthusiastically filled us in on the herd history, status, and more, we were in awe of her kindness, as we connected with a paved road. By this time, I was growing thoughts of writing a small book with a short chapter dedicated to different herd members. By 11:30 pm we were back to the trailer and by 1:30 am, we were unloading the horses at home. Surreal in many ways, but we were more then lucky.
Looking at photos of the herd, it has more then inspired me to look for an adoptable horse. Georgia graciously offered to give us a tour in the daylight. I can hardly wait!