Another Windy Day

chasing a life in the high desert

(Not Exactly) A Dream Come True

Ten years of waiting, working, preparing – and it all came down to one day. February 13th, 2012, was the day of my appointment to visit the BLM Holding Facility in Ridgecrest, California. I was finally going to adopt a mustang!

When you have an appointment to adopt, you get to drive out into the pastures of wild horses on a Gator. You take your time, looking and walking through the herds, trying to find out if there is one horse out there, the right horse, the one you feel a connection with. The one you want to bring home to train.

So we set out early from the Yucca Valley Equestrian Center, where I ride and board. Accompanying me on this exciting day was my friend and TIP trainer (and ranch owner), Cindy Lapp, and friends Claire, Vickie, and Helen. Helen took most of the photos along the way, ready to document my big day.  It started out beautifully.

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(photo by Helen Morgan)

Then we drove through a heavy downpour, but it didn’t last long, and I breathed a sigh of relief. That didn’t last long either!

When we reached the holding facility, we were subjected to sustained winds of 45 – 50mph, with gusts over 60mph. In a flat, open, space filled with horses and hay that meant a constant sandblasting with hay, dirt, and yes, dried manure. It was so bad that they drove us out to the pastures in a pick-up instead of the gator, and we nearly lost the doors each time we got out. But we did get out – this was my day, and I wanted to do everything. I wanted to find the right horse. So I got out and looked them all over.

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Cindy, our guide, and me, checking out the horses (photos by Helen Morgan)

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And then it happened, despite the wind and the flying dirt. One of the horses came up to me, and Helen caught him on camera.

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(photos by Helen Morgan)

I looked at all the horses in this pasture, but kept coming back to this dark bay. He had the sweetest look, nice conformation, and he liked me. I looked over his legs and tried to make him move a little in the wind, at which point something caught my eye – I couldn’t say exactly what it was, other than something about his hind legs looked stiff to me. I asked Cindy to watch him move, but we didn’t see it again so I thought I’d imagined it.

We moved on the the second pasture of eligible TIP geldings (horses 2 – 3 years old that were part of the Trainers Incentive Program). In that pasture I was the only one to get out and brave the elements to look at the horses. There was one cute little chestnut boy who allowed me to touch him, but by then I had my heart set on the dark bay I had already seen. So we finally headed out of the wind and back to the office to get the paperwork started, while the BLM hands rode out to round up and bring the entire herd in from that pasture. They’d be sorted out until my horse was separated and ready to load on the trailer!

By the time the horses made it into the 5 small holding pens by the office, CJ from the office had found the papers – and the note that said that the horse I had chosen had a leg problem. I hadn’t imagined it – he was stiff in back. I was already feeling attached, and this news crushed me – but it wouldn’t have been fair to either him or me to take him home. Once his training started, it would only put more pressure on his sore leg. He could still be adopted by someone with a less physically demanding career in mind, or he would be allowed to live out his days in a herd with the other horses. But I still felt horrible.

And then, CJ asked me if I had a second choice! Unfortunately, the only other horse I remembered was the little chestnut, who had been in the second pasture. But the cowboys had already rounded up the first pasture, and in that terrible wind there was no way I could ask them to run them all back and bring down the other ones!

So I faced looking at a bunch of horses who had just been run down into holding, stressed and scared in the 50mph wind and separated into little groups. How on earth would find “the one”? How would I be able to make a connection this way, to find a horse that responded to me? I walked from pen to pen, pretty much at a loss. This is NOT how I had pictured this day going.

Everyone tried to help, pointing out their favorites, and Cindy was doing everything she could in the situation to find a match for me. She watched the horses moving through the herds, ruling out the ones who were pushing and biting, or stirring the others up, and pointing out the ones who looked calmer and more patient. But I was still feeling crushed, and though no one hurried me I knew the poor cowboys were ready to get out of that wind and go to lunch. I paused to pet the nose of a horse that Vickie really liked (he was adorable and did let me pet him, but too tall for my purposes). Then his buddy came up, a chunky little bay with a white star and snip, and no neck tag. And he let me scratch him.

Cindy came over and we tried to assess if he was one of the ‘trouble makers’ in the group, but he didn’t seem to be. He seemed interested and slightly confused, but I liked his look, so I chose him. It wasn’t the way I had planned it, but it was done. I had my horse.

The cowboys separated him out, and ran him into the holding chute.

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(photo by Helen Morgan)

He was run into a crush chute, were one of the cowboys had the task of tying my halter onto him. Which he didn’t appreciate…

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(photos by me)

When the door opened, my new horse Ezekiel “Zeke” Sullivan ran toward the trailer. But he stopped at the edge, pausing to look it over a minute before the cowboys shushed him in and shut the door. We thanked them not only for their help, but for their patience in those 60mph gusts. As we drove away, I looked over Zeke’s papers.

He was born in 2009 (most wild foals are born in April or May), and captured with his mother in October of 2009 from the Clover Mountain HMA in southeastern Nevada. So he’ll be 3 years old in the next couple months.

He traveled well, even when we stopped for lunch.

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(photos by Helen Morgan)

When we finally arrived back in Yucca Valley, it was getting dark and was very windy. Even after the long day, Helen snapped a couple photos as Zeke made his way out of the trailer and into his new pen. He was very careful, pausing to look but not panicking. He stepped carefully out with his front feet, but his leadrope was caught under a hind foot, and he had to back up to free himself. Once he figured it out, he hopped off smoothly!

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(photos by Helen Morgan)

Thanks to everyone who went with me on this much anticipated, sometimes disappointing, but definitely stand-out day. It may not have happened how I always dreamed it would, but I have Zeke now, and it’s what happens from here on out that really counts!

Postscript: After she posted her photos to me, Helen and I discovered that she had actually captured Zeke in his herd in several of her photos! Here they are – and see if you can spot him in a few of the above herd photos as well! 

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(photos by Helen Morgan)

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3 thoughts on “(Not Exactly) A Dream Come True

  1. Mary Maiorano on said:

    Debbi, What a great documentation of your adventure! From the photos, it looks like Zeke was ment for you. He was trying to get your attention. I hope all works out with him….he’s beautiful. How long will it take before you will be able to ride him? How exciting!

  2. anotherwindyday on said:

    Hi Mary! How long it will take to ride him depends on how he responds as we go along. I only had the first few days off work, so now I will have to fit his workouts in around my work schedule. Until it stays light later, they’ll be very short works! With any luck we’ll be able to ride in a few months, though.

  3. fran c. on said:

    Having seen you on Zeke is a real pleasure. You two seem just right for one another.

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