by Lynn Walker
During a school break in the fall of 2017, Jade Walker travelled with her Aunt Kate, grandma Oma, and sister Alanah to visit the Black Hills of South Dakota. Of all the sites and experiences, her favorite was visiting the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary. So, when planning to go camping for her Spring Break at the end of March, 2018, Oma researched the Little Book Cliffs mustangs above Grand Junction and contacted Marty Felix of the local Friends of the Mustangs.
Marty told them how to access to the Book Cliffs canyons to explore and met up with them. While hiking up Coal Canyon, they came across Cole and his band and followed them up and over to Main Canyon where the horses found water and lingered in the valley. Along the way, Jade and Cole made eye contact a few times and Jade was thrilled. This was also the day that Marty took the famous photo of Cole featured in the Friends of the Mustangs 2019 calendar. We told Marty that if Cole ever became available for adoption, Jade was interested.
Upon returning home to the Eastern Slope, Oma and Marty corresponded often. Marty shared that in the Fall of 2018, some of the herd would be removed to insure good forage for the number of horses left on the range. She then confirmed that Cole was among the horses who were gathered in September, and we assured her of our continued interest in Cole. When Marty let us know that Cole would be at the March 30 BLM adoption event, we began making plans to attend.
When we learned from Steve Leonard of the BLM that we needed 6’ tall fences on Cole’s pen, there was no time to modify a pen at the Ranch. So instead of taking the trailer to bring Cole home right away, Jade and Oma loaded up the tent and sleeping bags to camp above the sale yard to be there for the trainer demonstrations the day before the auction. They eventually realized their plan to find a place and trainer to gentle and keep Cole until he could be haltered to bring him home to his 5’ high pen at the Ranch.
The Auction itself was an amazingly uplifting experience. Immediately after meeting Cole, Jade began earning money by doing chores as well as adding up incentive money to (successfully) break an undesirable habit. Over the course of the year, she had saved $600 to bid on Cole. Cole’s age, color, conformation, and alertness combined to make him a top contender for bids. When the high bid went over Jade’s $600, others contributed amounts to keep us bidding until we did win the horse! It then turned out that Blaine and Tracy Scott of www.steadfaststeeds.org Steadfast Steeds Mustang Sanctuary at Glade Park above Grand Junction were able to take Cole to their home at 7000’ elevation to gentle him and acclimate him for his Colorado Mountain Ranch forever home at 8500’. Jade and Oma stayed until dark (on a school night!) to attend the full-day Sunday clinic offered at Steadfast Steeds by www.reachouttohorses.com Anna Twinney , whose 2-hour demonstration had enthralled Oma two days before.
Anna demonstrated how to use the language of the horse to communicate with and approach an untouched mustang. Then Jade got in Cole’s pen and moved closer, too. Deann Town, a clinic participant, commented, “This was so cool to watch. This girl has a natural talent. Her movement was amazing to see!!!” Another participant, horse gentler George Branneis, said that this was his favorite moment during Anna’s clinic.
Cole’s gentler Tracy reports on Tuesday, April 2, that she's doing 10-minute sessions with Cole a few times a day and continues to get closer and closer. On Tuesday, April 16, Cole and Tracy’s dog touched noses! The human hand will be next very soon, and this is only the beginning of the story of Cole and Jade!