Before moving to Palisade in August, Kelley Hastie used to come to the area and hike in the nearby Little Book Cliffs in hopes of glimpsing some of the wild horses there.
Today, she gets to see two of the animals who once roamed that area all the time. She adopted them last fall after the Bureau of Land Management removed some of the horses from the Little Book Cliffs herd because the population was growing too large. Hastie adopted a young brother and sister pair.
"They were cute and they needed homes," she said.
She said she wanted to keep the siblings together, and she likes to think t they now live not far from their former range.
Hastie and others adopted 23 of the 27 horses the BLM made available at a November auction at Rimrock Adventures, while the rest went to a trainer under a program that allows people to be paid if they successfully train horses that are later adopted.
Now, horse lovers will get the chance to provide a home to the rest of the horses removed by the BLM in last year's Little Book Cliffs operation when a second adoption event is held starting at 8 a.m., March 30, also at Rimrock Adventures, 927 Colorado Highway 340, Fruita. The event, which will involve a similar number of horses as during the last auction, is being put on by the BLM and the local nonprofit Friends of the Mustangs group, which work together on behalf of the Little Book Cliffs wild horses.
An associated mustang training demonstration and clinic day will be held March 29 at Rimrock Adventures, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Horses offered for adoption can be viewed all day March 29, and up until the silent bidding starts at 10 a.m. March 30.
"What Friends of the Mustangs is doing is amazing," local BLM official Jim Dollerschell said of the work the group does to get the word out and otherwise try to make sure horses taken off the Little Book Cliffs range get adopted.
"… They have an adoption committee that's working hard on all of this."
Said Clifton resident Jerry Searcy, a former vice president of the group, "We do a lot of things the BLM doesn't have the manpower and the money to do."
Among its projects, the group is involved with a program that involves firing darts at wild horses to administer temporary birth control drugs, helps the BLM with range projects such as maintaining watering holes, provides tips to the public about training adopted horses, and checks up on adopted horses.
Searcy has done things like taking his tractor out to blade Little Book Cliffs roads to help out the BLM, and letting the agency temporarily hold all the horses it rounds up in his corrals before they're shipped away to be readied for adoption.
The BLM did last year's horse gather in two phases. In the second phase involving the horses now ready for adoption, it switched from using feed and water as bait to trap them and instead used a helicopter to drive them in corrals.
The horses were sent to a Cañon City facility for freeze-branding, vaccinating and other processing.
Searcy, who's nearly 80 and grew up in Wyoming training horses, ended up adopting two horses himself in last November's event.
He just began training them to lead by with a halter.
"They're wonderful. They've adjusted. They never had a rope on them or anything (before). They've had to learn it all."
Hastie said her newly adopted horses "are very curious. They're very friendly."
She has adopted six wild horses altogether, having adopted the others in online auctions when she lived in New Jersey.
Hastie said some have taken six months to even let themselves be touched, but now she can ride them. She said patience is key with mustangs.
"Once you earn their trust — and this is pretty universal with wild mustangs — once you earn their trust they're really very, very good horses."
Searcy said a 12-year-old Little Book Cliffs horse adopted by someone else in November also is living on his property, as is a wild horse he adopted two years ago from a herd outside Craig and a mustang out of Wyoming that someone also is boarding with him.
He said of wild horses, "You've got to have the time to work with them. Once they give you their trust they're totally loyal horses for the most part. Each one's an individual but I've been really impressed."
He said he began the halter training with his two newly adopted horses on Thursday "and they're already following me around on a loose rope."
Hastie says of adopted wild horses, "They are very therapeutic. If you're having a bad day and you've never gotten to touch your horse, that may be the day that your horse comes up and touches you. They're very sensitive. They kind of understand things that people don't understand, it seems like."
She said wild horses are "a piece of American heritage." She advises people to make use of resources such as those provided by Friends of the Mustangs and the BLM's website to do their homework when considering adopting a horse and what such a commitment requires.
Searcy said he might end up adopting more in the upcoming auction if there's any left over after others have had the chance to adopt them.
"I just want to see them all adopted, see all of them get a good home, because they're all beautiful animals," he said.
More information may be found at blm.gov/programs/wild-horse-and-burro/adoption-and-sales and friendsofthemustangs.org, and at the Friends of the Mustangs Facebook page.
A few horses from northwest Colorado's Piceance-East Douglas herd and two burros also will be available for adoption, along with 26 Little Book Cliffs horses.