Why do we use mustangs in our program? What characteristics do mustangs have that mirror human characteristics?
They struggle daily with “who am I, where do I fit in?” There is a daily pecking order in the herd structure.
They are gregarious (social)…meaning relationship is absolutely essential!
They have an ability to adapt and survive and will do so if necessary.
They are perceptive to danger and fly from fear…they run to protect themselves.
Their instincts govern their behavior and often they react rather than being proactive.
Change requires relationship, effective communication, mutual understanding/respect, trust, and confidence.
When Susan adopted Arrow, a little red roan granddaughter of Cloud from the Pryor Mountains of Montana, she did not know that the filly was pregnant. A few months later, Arroyo was born. Though his father’s lineage is still uncertain, Arroyo has definitely gained some of his mother’s best traits. He is left brained, playful, and has the beautiful red roan coat! Since his birth, Arroyo has been handled and played with extensively. Little girls would use him for their grooming horse, and he practically grew up being saddled. So, when it came time to ride him as a three year old (the summer of 2013), he just considered it part of the fun. Arroyo has been working on his impulsion and is coming along nicely as a young riding horse. Our Wild Horses, Wild Women group have just adored working with him, and his playful personality and willingness to be with people are some of his best traits!
Billy The Kid
Billy the Kid, is the son of Trigger and Mae West, two Pryor Mountain mustangs rounded up in 2009. The Cloud Foundation adopted a small herd of wild horses from the round up to keep them together. The herd, known as the Freedom Family, remains wild on leased pastures in Montana. Billy the Kid was born in 2012, and was removed from the Freedom Family when he was about a year old.
Immediately, Billy warmed up to people, and he has become one of the most affectionate horses on the ranch. His willingness and left-brained attitude has made him very easy to saddle train. In the fall of 2015, when Billy was three, he began his training under saddle. From the very first ride, Billy has wanted to please; he is willing to move, willing to learn, left-brained and not really afraid, and his personality shines!
Billy is bigger than most of the Pryor horses, and his height will help with taller students and adults; his attitude though will make him
Born in 1995 in the Pryor Mountains of Southern Montana, Boomer lay in the moonlight grass with his parents Boomer Sr. and Coppertop. He led a peaceful wild life for the first two years, roaming and grazing with his wonderful parents. Then, at the age of two, Boomer was ripped away from his home and family and driven by helicopter to the corrals of Britton Springs. The scared little colt along with a bay two-year-old were adopted by a Montana rancher.
Knowing little about training wild horses, the rancher sent poor Boomer and Colorado to a trainer in the area. The two colts were sadly and harshly mistreated; and when the rancher received the horses back, Boomer and Colorado were not at all manageable. With little choice, the rancher turned the horses out to pasture for six long years. The bay and black geldings returned to their wild state, with abuse as their only impression of humanity. With little hope for a good home, Boomer and Colorado, at the age of ten, were headed to the kill buyer’s auction. Buyers will pay good money for pasture-fattened horses to sell them to slaughter and be processed for human consumption in Europe.
Luckily, Ginger Kathrens, founder of The Cloud Foundation, learned of Boomer and Colorado’s fate. In December of 2005, the two boys were brought to Front Range Equine Rescue in Colorado Springs. Jaime Johnson had heard their story and adopted Boomer in November of 2006. He was brought to Sonshine Acres and with a little time learned to trust humans. After two months of training, Jaime was riding him on trails at the Air Force Academy.
Boomer has become one of students’ favorites here at the ranch. Although slightly reserved and distant upon first meeting, Boomer soon warms up to students, and they realize that they have truly earned his trust (oh, and horse cookies do help the process along).
Bravo, the Pryor Mountain mustang son of Blue Sioux and Red Raven (Cloud’s brother), was born in 2005! After our executive director adopted him from Front Range Equine Rescue in Colorado, she brought him to live with her in Illinois. Bravo was a scared little mustang at first, and he spent two years getting used to the saddle and learning the seven games of natural horsemanship while he was in Illinois.
Bravo came back to Colorado to receive further training, and now he is a competent riding horse and a heart throb for the many young girls who enjoy learning from him. Children look into those beautiful amber eyes and fall in love; and his roan coat makes him even more unique.
In addition to helping students, Bravo also enjoys endurance rides and trail rides with his owner!
Chief is an older gelding that was once a little girl’s 4H horse. He was used for awhile as a therapy horse, but as a cranky older guy, he didn’t fit well with their program. They diagnosed him with a string halt type condition and thought he would be good for permanent retirement. After our vet looked at him and we put him back into light work, we realized that his issues were not pain related but learned behavior issues. Despite his cranky old man persona now and then, Chief is a great riding horse who loves trail rides and who gets along well with all of his herd members!
Dakota is a mustang from the Little Book Cliffs Herd Management Area in Colorado. Susan had originally adopted Dakota from the Front Range Equine Rescue and sent him to Illinois to train in the Parelli Natural Horsemanship method. While there, Dakota was adopted by another amazing woman who kept him as her personal horse for quite a few years. Eventually, she thought it would be wonderful for Dakota to join the horses at Mustang Ambassador Program. Dakota is a very well-mannered calm mustang that enjoys grooming, trail rides, and performing his fun tricks!
Denver was a 2018 rescue from a kill-pen in Oklahoma. He is a striking Palomino that was green under saddle. He has come along nicely and will be another great ambassador for Mustang Ambassador Program (MAP). He is quite the “people” mustang and will follow you everywhere. He is also quite vocal in whinnying to his stable mates if they leave the barn.
Durango is a little mustang from the Hallelujah Horse Mission of the amazing non-profit Fleet of Angels. He and 269 other herd members were seized from a failed sanctuary situation in South Dakota. The horses were neglected and malnourished. Fleet of Angels was able to successfully adopt out the horses! One of our friends had initially adopted Durango, and after some training decided his smaller stature would suit children a bit more. Durango is still in training to be able to work more with students; but he is a loveable guy who is learning quickly!
Hollywood is a mustang from the Sand Wash Basin Herd Management Area in Colorado. He was rescued from a slaughter auction by Evanescent Mustang Rescue and Sanctuary. When they contacted us about potentially adopting him, we were reluctant until we found out that he was a Colorado native! He just had to find a home here! Since his adoption, Hollywood has proven to be one of the most gentle horses that truly seeks a relationship. He is a joy to work with, and we cannot wait for his introduction to camps in 2022!
Charlie McMann has been with Mustang Ambassador Program from the very beginning. After many years of experience as a professional throughout the industry, we’re thrilled to have their expertise as our Intermediate Course Instructor.
Piper came to Sonshine Acres in the summer of 2009 as a four year old. She was originally at the ranch for training only, but her owner decided to let her live here permanently. As a grade appendix quarter horse, Piper draws attention wherever she goes because of her thoroughbred looks. She was a dream to start, with little resistance. Although slightly lazy at the beginning of her training, this sorrel beauty is a very left brained extroverted horse that is a delight to ride. Her slow jog is smooth, and cantering her across the field feels like flying! Currently, Piper is being started over fences and is working more on contact and impulsion. Because of her desire to run, Piper is used for our more advanced students.
P.K. (Preacher’s Kid) is a Pryor Mountain mustang; his father was named Reverend, hence the name! He was captured at the same time Regalo was, in the same bait trap, as a five year old stallion. Originally he was bought by a mustang adoption facility in Boulder, CO, but has come down to join our mustang family! P.K. has had serious trust issues with humans and has taken much time to desensitize to new stimulus. Before he came to us, he had a bad saddling experience and has needed time to recover. He is slowly learning to trust again, and one gentle touch can often get him out of one of his fearful moments. He is a lover and is always one of the first to approach students in the pasture; a cookie and a gentle rub on his neck and he is forever your friend!
April 15, 1999 a solid black colt was born in the wild Pryor Mountains of Montana. When Ginger Kathrens noticed the black colt on tax day, she named him IRS. IRS, in his freedom roamed the 36,000 acres of the Pryor Mountains. As a two year old, he became a bachelor stallion running wildly with all of the other bachelors; though, mostly IRS was a bit of a loner.
IRS, later named Murray by the BLM, loved the land adjacent to the Pryor Herd Management Area the most. The green lush grasses of Custer National Forest were especially tasty in the early summer. He would lie in the summer sun, basking in the air of freedom. One fall, Murray, with not a care in the world, wandered alone through his mountain wilderness. While on his walk-about, the young stallion came across a lonely black heifer who had lost her herd. The two herd mammals sought comfort in each other’s company, and would often be seen together during those autumn days.
As he grew in strength, Murray decided to seek out a mare of his very own. In the midst of his efforts, the Bureau of Land Management decided to bait trap some of the Pryor Horses. Setting out large round protein blocks, the BLM waited for the horses to take the bait. Murray along with a few others curiously approached the trap, but they were unable to avoid its fate. Murray, along with a handful of other horses, lost their freedom forever.
April 13, 2007 our eyes met for the first time. It was a blustery, snowy morning, and the snowflakes fell glistening on his radiant black coat. His eyes told me the story more than any words uttered from the mouths of those around me. When I first brought him to his new home, I cried each time I saw that sad faraway look in his eye. I desired so strongly to release him back into his mountain home, but knew that I needed to provide him with a life as close to freedom as possible. I wanted to keep his name IRS in honor of Ginger, the amazing fighter and promoter of wild horse freedom; but I also wanted to remember his Spanish heritage, dating back to the time the Spaniards first brought horses to this continent. So, I named him Isla de los Regalos Segrados (Island of the Sacred Gifts). He is mi Regalo…my gift!
Sage is the daughter of Bolder and the granddaughter of Cloud (from the Emmy-Award winning Cloud documentaries). Sage is actually featured in the third documentary called Cloud: Challenge of the Stallions. She is a beautiful grulla and is absolutely sweet! As a yearling, she was rounded up in the September round-up in 2009. She came around really quickly and was halter broke in a matter of a few weeks. Sage has been allowed to be a baby here at the ranch though, as we have allowed her to get acquainted with the herd and play! Sage is continuing her training despite her many fears.
She is being ridden regularly by one of our volunteers; hopefully soon she will
be ready to be ridden by the students in our programs as well!
the very beginning. After many years of experience as a professional throughout the industry, we’re thrilled to have their expertise as our Intermediate Course Instructor.
Standing at 16 hands high, Scarlett is our tallest mustang. She is originally from the Divide Basin Herd Management Area. We adopted her the spring of 2017 from the Wild Horse Inmate Program in Canon City, Colorado. The WHIP program rehabilitates prisoners by teaching them how to gentle and train wild mustangs. We have been very please with the training that Scarlett received, and she is now learning how to jump and do dressage. She has proven to be an incredible addition to our herd.
Blue Eye Buck is his registered name, but he has always been “Sunny” because he is the sunshine at Sonshine Acres! He is a registered paint with Two Eyed Jack bloodlines, and the only horse on the ranch with a blue eye! Trained in both English and Western, Sunny is also one of Jaime’s personal horses. Jaime and Sunny have trained together in Parelli Natural Horsemanship, and Sunny is a high level Parelli participant. Sunny plays with hunter/jumper, dressage, western/reining, and other disciplines. It is a rare but special occasion for students to use Sunny for lessons.
Tesla is a Chincoteague Pony. The Chincoteague Ponies are wild ponies that come from Asseateague Island in Maryland. The ponies are swam across the channel to Virginia where the foals are auctioned off. We were super excited to have a great friend in Maryland find her for us! In addition to being a great little jumper, Tesla is also learning about western riding.