Friday, November 23, 2012


Howdy Folks, 

It was a lonely time in 2002 when Lucia's husband, Matthew was sent to Kuwait leaving her and their three children behind. At the time the family had no horses, but having grown up with horses, Lucia knew that to get through this trying time she would need the strong shoulders of a horse to lean on. Matthew needed her support and letters, the children needed her love and shelter. She needed a friend she could count on to carry her over the rough patches of loneliness and worry.

She set out on a quest to find that friend. The first moment she saw Thunderhawk standing knee deep in mud in a small corral she knew he was the one who could carry her. At the time she had no idea how far he would carry her, or how much influence he would have on her life – and the lives of others.

The Original Wind Dancers
Thunderhawk was Lucia's introduction to the world of the Spanish Mustang, the rare amongst America's historical horse population; they are descendents of the Marismeno breed. The very horses Columbus brought from Spain on his second voyage. "Today there are about 1500 remaining Spanish Mustangs, they are listed with the Equus Survival Trust as endangered." Lucia explained.

It wasn't long before the proud horse, in whose veins pulsed the ancestral blood of bull fighters in Spain, and buffalo hunters, war horses and the sacred dog of the Native Americans, not only led Lucia and her family through that hard year of separation, but he began to cause a stir in Lucia's heart. "This breed should be preserved for future generations." She told Matthew.

Within in a year she had five Spanish Mustangs. Then nine years ago, gathered around the kitchen table at Christmas with friends, the topic of the decreasing number of quality horses within the breed was discussed. In the fall of 2007 the topic came up again and there seemed to be no good vehicle for preservation or public awareness and according to Equus Survival Trust there were only one to three-hundred breeding mares within the Spanish Mustang horse population. 

Robert Brislawn Sr., Gilbert Jones and a small group of men had years earlier founded the Spanish Mustang registry to preserve the Indian pony of old who so gallantly served the Pony Express, vaqueros, and old cowboys – and prevent the horse portrayed in Remington and Russell art from disappearing. They feared the Spanish Mustang was getting out crossed and outsized out of existence and were pivotal in beginning the preservation of these horses. In fact they had not been recognized as a breed until the 1950's. Many of the Spanish Mustangs genetics place them in the same families as today's Andalusians, Lusitanos and Sorraias of the Liberian peninsula. The "Mustang" name is a bit of a misnomer in truth.

While serving as a moderator on a Spanish Horse forum Lucia met Pam Keeley. Pam was a country girl from Kansas and had a great big soft spot in her heart for the Spanish Mustangs because they reminded her of her childhood mustang crosses. Pam was immediately excited to jump on board and reaffirmed Lucia's idea that a conservancy called "Windcross" was in fact a real possibility.

Running Free

By January 2008 The Windcross Conservancy was fully established as a South Dakota non-profit corporation and a 501(c)3 dedicated to the preservation of America's Heritage Horse, the Foundation Spanish Mustang and poised to continue the work of Robert Brislan and Gilbert Jones.

Within this amazingly short four year period Windcross has grown from Lucia's sixty acres to securing a 440 acre preserve in Buffalo Gap South Dakota. They have welcomed horses from across the country that they feel are some of the best examples of the breed and have them there on the preserve. "We acquire horses in two ways," Lucia explained. "Sometimes we'll be given a life-lease for the preserve herd, and other times we'll do a rotational breeding program where the mares or stallions will stay for one, two or three years and the progeny will stay at the preserve, or go to what we call ambassador homes, and the mares and stallions go back to their owners."

"Our Ambassador Program, is a seedling of public awareness." Lucia explained they place horses in homes for life, or until they retire back at the conservancy, where they will be seen at shows, exhibitions and public appearances. In addition to the United States and Switzerland, Windcross also has ambassador horses in Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. To learn more about Ambassador horses and Windcross go to

Thunderhawk and his children
Thunderhawk is now a lesson horse. "And he's a great teacher." Lucia laughed. "He'll stand like a statue until the student gets it right. He'll use his magnificent charm to let the student know when they've nailed it! Overall these horses are excellent with children."

Lesson horses at Windcross are becoming more important as this year the conservancy begins a program to receive interns from several different universities. They are also launching their newest outreach program, "Horse in a Class" which has two levels. One is a teacher's lecture in a box which shows the Spanish Mustang and its contribution to America's history. The second part is to take living history to the classroom, and bring the classroom to Windcross.

2012 saw the beginning of regular summer tours and onsite live on volunteers and interns. Young adults came from all over the world to learn what it takes to understand and work with these horses. Several of the students will be returning next year. The program filled quickly and is already filling for 2013 and 2014.

2013/14 should see the implementation of the ambassador horses for the preserve taking part in a program with PTSD veterans as equine therapy horses. Windcross has been working with a local facility for over a year to get the program working and it looks as though they may finally be moving forward into reality.

2013 Will also once again see Windcross ambassadors in St. Gallen Switzerland taking part in the jubilee Agricultural festival and the parade there, which is one of the largest horse breed showcases in Switzerland. Three horses were sent as ambassadors 2 years ago and remained in Switzerland to represent Spanish Mustangs to Switzerland and Europeans.

The future holds many terrific new and exciting challenges, goals and rewards for Windcross and the Spanish Mustang. With the newest of outreach programs falling into place providing the ability to touch folks young and old and introduce them to the majesty that is the Spanish Mustang, it as if we hear Thunderhawk saying, "Take what I give you and pass it on."

Thank you, Thunderhawk, we will.

Gitty Up
Dutch Henry

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Laura Leigh & Wild Horse Education Wins ANOTHER STEP for the Wild Ones!

Howdy Folks,

As an update to last Friday's Feature Friday Laura Leigh and Wild Horse Education had a big win in  court yesterday for the wild ones. ... Here is the Press Release she sent me to share.

Gitty Up,
Dutch Henry

Wild Horse Education

Wild Horse Advocates Advance Inhumane Treatment Case Against BLM in Federal Court

(Reno) Today, a federal court advanced the ongoing case against inhumane conduct by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The judge set a deadline requiring the BLM to provide plaintiff Laura Leigh, president of Wild Horse Education (WHE), a complete record of BLM’s activities and documents in question. The court also set aside a tentative date to conduct a settlement conference. In the usual course that gives the BLM the upper hand when filing the final brief that could decide the case without a trial, the court acknowledged the unfairness of the process and instead, required the BLM to file its briefs at the same time as the plaintiff.

In 1971 the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (WFRH&B Act) was passed to protect wild horses and burros from private land owners who brutally rounded them up and sold them to slaughter in a practice called “Mustanging.”

In the past forty years BLM, the agency tasked with managing these protected American heritage animals, has failed to implement any humane treatment standard for their care and handling. Horrific images of BLM’s actions toward these animals continues to outrage the public, but BLM persists in inappropriate treatment and inadequate protection and management of these animals.

This ongoing crisis is what forced the nonprofit, Wild Horse Education (WHE), to file against BLM in Federal court. WHE gained a restraining order against BLM for conduct –the first ever in the history of Act. Federal Judge, Hon. Howard J. McKibben, called BLM’s stated justification for their treatment of the horses “a blame-the-horse affront.” BLM’s own review team, set up to answer allegations in the Triple B roundup, found that, “horses were observed being struck in the face, and often confused due to aggressive loading procedures and excessive pressure by multiple handlers. Several videos reveal that a few horses were repeatedly shocked with an electrical animal prod, sometimes in the face, and in one case, the use of this electrical prod led to a horse becoming stuck in a panel at the loading site. Some videos reveal horses being struck in more than one instance with the trailer gate to induce loading, and in one instance a horse appears to have been kicked in the head by a Sun J employee (BLM contractor). In one video it appears that a horse was dragged into a trailer by a rope around its neck.”

Laura Leigh, President of WHE, observed an incident where a single wild horse was pursued and apparently struck intentionally by the helicopter skids.

To date, WHE has won two restraining orders and an injunction against BLM for their conduct toward wild horses in this ongoing courtroom saga since August of 2011.

In spite of BLM’s continued reassurance that the agency is addressing these issues, and creating an enforceable policy, this type of conduct continues in practice. Leigh has documented current conduct (when her access is not overly restricted) that demonstrates no change on the range during operations.

“We will not stop our effort on these cases until a reasonable standard of humane handling and penalties for violations are outlined” stated Leigh “It is well past time that our wild horses and burros are protected from abuse as was the original intention of Congress in 1971.”


These cases, investigations and supporting documentation, are supported solely by Wild Horse Education, a registered Nevada non-profit.

Links of interest:

Video of horse hit with helicopter:

History of the legal battle for humane care:

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Howdy Folks,

What if everyone took just one day to be thankful? You know, spent a day without any negative thoughts or comments. Devoted a day to noticing the beauty of God's creation, the wonder and splendor of everything from the golden rays of a spectacular sunrise, to the tiniest glistening of a single flake of frost on a dangling red leaf, and everything in between.

What if everyone spent one entire day calling friends and loved ones they haven't seen for a while? What if old friendships could be given a spark of new life? What if old friends swapped silly stories of adventures long forgotten?

What if millions of folks decided one extraordinary day to call someone they knew was shut-in and visited a few moments?

What if parents stopped long enough to hug their children and tell them they are the most important thing in the world to them, and really meant it? What if that simple gesture was the first step on a new journey?

What if for a single day everyone truly felt and understood the power of love? And shared it.

What if for just one day the most important thing in everyone's life was finding a way to be thankful, kind and thinking of others? Humans and animals.

Wouldn't that be a simply fantastic Thanksgiving Day?

Happy Thanksgiving and here's hoping you'll feel a world of love!

Gitty Up
Dutch Henry

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Howdy Folks,

It's not always okay to speak up, I really do understand that. And I practice that. Most of the time. However, there are times when choosing not to speak up leaves us with inner thoughts and internal conversations wrestling to understand.

The other day I was at a feed store and while browsing the shelves I overheard a young woman complaining about her horse turning around on the trail. Her friend promptly suggested, "Oh yea, when a horse does that you just keep him turning, around and around, let him know that it's more work to turn around than to do what you want," or words to that effect. I thought about countering that suggestion, but who am I? I'm certainly no trainer. I do alright helping folks learn how to make their horses feel better with exercises, but a trainer I'm not. So I just did my business and moved along.

But I never understood, or subscribed to that method of, "training." First that kind of turning around and around can, and often does, cause the horse to become heavy on their forehand. Which is counterproductive to opening a horse's mind, as a horse on its forehand is most likely to be in flight mode, and that's not really a thinking place. Second, causing a horse to become heavy on its forehand is exactly opposite of correct and healthy body posture and carriage. Lastly it just feels and sounds wrong.

To me that kind of approach always just felt like … "Getting even." … As if to say, "You wanna do that, I'll show you what that gets you." Different approaches for different folks, I reckon ... But to me, "teaching a horse a lesson," falls far short of, "teaching a horse to be confident."

What do I do in a case where my horse refuses, or rebels? … Depends. But it's never, ever "Get evenism." When Kessy, early in our relationship, refused to go down the trail, I dismounted and led her. In those early days I did a lot of walking, and walking for me is difficult. But you see, each little step helped her gain confidence. I'd walk a little, find a spot I could sit down and let her pick at the grass if there was any, or just take in the moment being out there together. We did this for weeks. Eventually she gained the confidence to go happily down the trail.

This confidence can then be transformed to other challenges. That's where I feel, and it's only my opinion, "getting even, or teaching them a lesson," leaves the horse wanting. Those do not build confidence. Without confidence the horse cannot truly enjoy or look forward to doing things with you. Sure she might perform, but it'll remain an effort. Not be a joy. And it's difficult to build on.

I feel, when a person expects a horse to "obey" they are not, "hearing" the horse. When you help your horse build confidence, co-operation is freely given. A horse who has been trained to "obey" will too often see your requests as just another thing they, "Must Do." A horse who has been allowed to learn by building confidence will see your requests as adventures. A side benefit will be a horse who has less separation anxiety, and will be with you on the trail, even when other horses around her are worried and anxious. It's a confidence thing.

Have a perfect day.

Gitty Up
Dutch Henry

Monday, November 19, 2012

"Ah, The Wind"

Howdy Folks,

There was no sun, but there was wind. Kessy, like many horses, is not real fond of high wind. I'd heard once that's because on windy days horses can smell farther than they can hear. I've never been sure about that old axiom, but I'm sure there are days that horses and wind could be seen as something less than compatible. I've also seen plenty of days when ol' Aeolus, try as he might, can't get a rise out of a solid horse. Yesterday started out with an adventure that brought some visitors and a bit of excitement around the barn, and of course plenty of wind. Kessy showed her steady hand during it all and I figured we could hit the trail.

Pre-ride exercises complete we tacked up, hollered for Saturday and set out for adventures among swaying trees and rattling leaves. Right out of the box we had to detour around a downed branch large enough to supply firewood for an entire winter. Speaking of firewood, did you know the origin of the word, "Windfall" is related to firewood? Yup. Back in days of old in England, people had cut down so many trees for fuel a law was enacted that only branches blown down from the wind could be gathered for fuel, hence, "Windfall," and that's why it's related to unexpected good fortune. Our windfall was more of a bother though than a stroke of unexpected good luck.

Well, we tiptoed around the debris and were soon back on track. It's always worth a chuckle to watch Saturday when we blaze a new direction. He'll hang back and wait for Kessy to show the way before he follows along.

It seemed all nature's children, deer, birds and squirrels were tucked snugly away as we saw only one Pilliated Woodpecker the entire ride. I'd even gone on a search for Cardinals in the valley near the big stream, usually a sure bet to see something there. Yesterday the only thing there were the loud groans and clanging branches of swaying trees. I sat Kessy, listening to the overhead ruckus and thought of my dear departed friend Bob Hollinger, and how he'd always warned of riding on a windy day. "I wouldn't go out today, if I was you," he'd say. "A branch could come right down on you."

It was as if Kessy'd heard Bob. She began fidgeting and snorting, even pawed the ground impatiently. Something she rarely does. I called Saturday and we headed back the way we came at her quickest running walk. I allowed her to set the pace and she sailed along, worrying and snorting but surefooted and safe as always.

We hadn't gone a quarter mile before, strewn across the trail we'd traveled just 10 minutes earlier, lay half an Oak. It was one of those big ol' Oaks that tower and branch tall and wide. The downhill half had just split away and came crashing down. I tipped my hat to ol' Bob, tiptoed Kessy around the big pile, waited for Saturday, then tuned Kessy loose. We weaved along the twists and turns of the tight trail at fast canter.

Soon we were back on the logging road out of any real danger and headed for home. Of course we had to sit a bit and wait for Saturday to catch up. His top speed is something about half as fast as Kessy's.

Wind, ratting trees and trail obstacles included, any day on the trail with a steady horse and good dog is a perfect day! … Hope you have one today, whatever your pursuits!

God Bless & Gitty Up
Dutch Henry