November 5, 2013

The Spirit of the Mustang. ~ Michelle Sander

It’s the clouds—the clouds are in their eyes.

You can see reflections—who you are, who they are, the past, present and future, all in their eyes.

Forgiving, understanding, patient, gentle, willing, trusting.

Stop to listen. It’s the silence. It’s the unspoken communication we can learn from.

Listening to them is our job—we are the custodians.

I grew up with three horses in our backyard. One horse in particular, Penny, a bay mare with her white star and wise eyes, was my confidant. Later in life, I would also realize she was a teacher.

My father showed a respect for animals often only reserved toward other humans. Our dogs, ducks, cats, horses and hamsters were all part of our family, like siblings.

My father held the wisdom of many past lives, ageless and knowing, like the spirit of the mustang. He was part of nature and took any opportunity he could to involve my mom, sister and I in his passions.

Once my two boys were born and old enough to sit up on their own, my proud father put them on horseback.

There was so much to share and not enough time to do so.

I witnessed my father’s respect in many ways, like the day he revived a near frozen bunny that was drowning in our swimming pool one January day. How, with a set of tweezers, he untangled thin strands of a spiders web to free the feet of a Gypsy Moth that I had raised from caterpillar to cocoon to moth.

This is what it meant to be a custodian, to show respect for every living thing.

My father was my greatest friend and my greatest teacher.

His dream was to share his respect. When he retired, he set out to make this dream a reality. With a beautiful piece of land in the central valley of California, he began to carve out his place—a sanctuary for the mustangs.

My father passed before he could see even one horse on his land, but before he left this earth, I promised him that I would carry on.

I am now the custodian of the dream.

At first, this promise was enormously daunting.

How could I do this?

My father had the knowledge, experience, the wisdom. How could I carry on without him?

It then quickly became apparent that I could—he had been giving me the knowledge, wisdom and respect I would need my whole life.

I have it all in me.

His dream now lives as the Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary in Colorado.

The mustangs—ancient, highly social, sensitive, intelligent and a vital piece of our history—are disappearing right before our eyes. With over 49,000 wild horses in short-term and long-term holding facilities nationwide and less than 32,000 remaining out in the wild, something has to be done. A new model for management has to be explored.

We believe that organizations partnering directly with the Bureau of Land Management and specific herd management areas will not only help alleviate the pressures on holding facilities, but more importantly, keep family bands together, ensuring that lineages unique to certain range areas continue to exist.

This is exactly what the Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary is setting out to accomplish.

By offering support on and off the range, we are able to be an effective solution to the problem. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit, we are offering training, adoptions, clinics, tours and future retreat facilities, educating and connecting.

We believe that mustangs deserve a voice and that the public can make a positive difference in their future. We are here to foster a connection between the horses and people in order to increase awareness and education.

We dedicate the sanctuary to the vision and passion of Gerhard K. Sander.

He is greatly missed every day, but his spirit lives on through the horses we save.


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Assistant Ed: Steph Richard/Ed: Bryonie Wise

{Photo: Bob Decker via Pixoto}

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