Group is horse power behind the herds
Whenever Beverly Madaris and her husband, Henry, went to a horse adoption, he tried to talk her into a bay or a paint or some other gleaming eye-catcher.
But Beverly only had eyes for the palominos. They’ve always been her favorites. So, at the Bureau of Land Management’s 1992 wild horse adoption, a 6-month-old, buff-coated beauty not only caught her eye, but won her heart.
And over nearly 20 years, Cochise was her friend and companion. That he came into this world wild didn’t matter, because “a horse is a horse,” she said, smiling.
He died in January and she misses him still, but as a member of Friends of the Mustangs, her passion for the horses and the herd is undimmed.
The group celebrated its 30th anniversary Saturday afternoon, commemorating three decades of partnering with the BLM in stewardship of the Little Book Cliffs Mustang herd and the Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Range.
“We’ve become a model for all the other (wild horse) groups,” said Marty Felix, one of Friends of the Mustangs’ five founders.
She said she and the others were wild horse enthusiasts who wanted to adopt locally, rather than having to travel to Rock Springs, Wyo. They approached Sam McReynolds with the BLM, she recalled, who said he’d try to get approval as long as they organized into a group, drafted bylaws and signed a cooperative agreement with the BLM. The nonprofit group became official in 1982, and in 1983 members helped the BLM with its wild horse gathering and adoption.
“Your role as ambassadors for the wild horse program is phenomenal,” Catherine Robertson, Grand Junction BLM Field Office manager, told the more than 70 Friends of the Mustangs gathered Saturday. “We do honor and celebrate this special partnership.”
Members of Friends of the Mustangs participate in population surveys, range management, herd monitoring, water source maintenance, population control, gathering and organizing adoptions. The group’s members, who number more than 100, know each horse and its lineage, said Jim Dollerschell, a BLM rangeland management specialist. They are so familiar with the herd, he added, that they are able to help keep it genetically strong.
The BLM strives to maintain the herd, which roams on 33,000 acres, between 120 and 150 horses.
When its numbers top 150, the BLM holds an adoption. In recent years, use of the Porcine Zona Pellucida (PZP) vaccine has slowed the herd’s growth, and Friends of the Mustangs members help administer it.
Robertson said that in the group’s 30 years, they’ve volunteered about $2 million worth of labor to the wild horse herd. They do it, said group president Georgia Manus, for love of the horses.
“The first time I saw them…” she said, and fluttered her hand over her heart. They were breathtaking. A treasure herd, Felix said.
At Saturday’s ceremony, Robertson and other BLM officials unveiled a sculpture created by Chris Muhr and a BLM employee — two wild mustangs carved in metal and embedded in an 8,000-pound sandstone rock with a plaque that commemorates the group. It will be placed near Low Gap in the horses’ range, Robertson said, and honor the group’s stewardship of “these amazing animals.”