Mustang ride down the Santa Fe Trail 2012

Leaving Bent's Fort, Colorado September 29th and arriving at the Santa Fe Plaza on October 12th 2012!

Since that time I have striven in vain to reconcile myself to the even tenor of civilized life in the United States; and have sought in its amusements and its society a substitute for those high excitements which have attached me so strongly to Prairie life. Yet I am almost ashamed to confess that scarcely a day passes without my experiencing a pang of regret that I am not now roving at large upon those western plains. Nor do I find my taste peculiar; for I have hardly known a man, who has ever become familiar with the kind of life which I have led for so many years, that has not relinquished it with regret...

...It will hardly be a matter or surprise then, when I add, that this passion for Prairie life, how paradoxical soever it may seem, will be very apt to lead me upon the plains again, to spread my bed with the mustang and the buffalo, under the broad canopy of heaven,-there to seek to maintain undisturbed my confidence in men, by fraternizing with the little prairie dogs and wild colts, and the still wilder Indians-the unconquered Sabaeans of the Great American Deserts.

-Josiah Gregg
"Commerce of the Prairies"

Horses grazing on wagon ruts'The horses of the Cimarron Sky-Dog Reserve graze along the eroded wagon ruts left by the old wagons of the Santa Fe Trail.'

2012 marks New Mexico's Centennial. In celebration of that and to honor the contribution horses have made to settling the West I am planning a ride down the Santa Fe Trail in the fall of 2012 using mostly mustang horses. Mustangs are descendants of the first 'pioneer horses,' whether they were Conquistador horses, wagon horses, military horses or Indian ponies the mustangs of today are as much of a reminder of America's history as their human counterparts. 100 years ago over 2 million wild horses roamed the American West. That number is now down to less than 30,000. There are over 40,000 captured mustangs standing in BLM holding pens, waiting for adoption. It is doubtful that most of these will ever find a permanent home though and so their future is precarious. The future of the horses still left in the wild is also very precarious. Their numbers are reduced with every BLM round-up and some herds are now down to the bare minimum (or less) to sustain a genetically viable herd in some places. The competition for the Public Land they roam increases, especially with the boom in the extractive industries such as oil, gas and uranium. Along with the horses' historical competitor, the cattle industry, these adversaries are a formidable foe. There is a real and imminent risk that wild horses will vanish from the American West and become a figment of its history and its legend along with the roaming bands of Indians that once traveled the Plains and the massive herds of buffalo.

Jack on the trainJackie, as an extra on Appaloosa' in October 2007.

The Cimarron Sky-Dog Reserve tries to adopt as many mustangs as we can but we are limited by funds and the land at our disposal. Sincewe want our horses to roam free and New Mexico is a semi-arid climate, this dream requires that we have access to a lot of land. The sanctuary we have at Watrous sits astride the old route of the Santa Fe Trail and our horses are often seen grazing in the old, eroded ruts left behind by those long ago wagon trains! We love the history of the area and that Watrous was a major stopping point on the trail and we would dearly love to bring wild horses back to the Santa Fe Trail. Please see our short youtube about the wild horses of the Santa Fe Trail and the history of the trail and the area and our hopes for our sanctuary.

One of the most famous pioneers of the Santa Fe Trail was a trader called Josiah Gregg. In 1844 he wrote a book about his experiences as a Santa Fe Trail trader called 'Commerce of the Prairies,' He has a chapter dedicated to the animals of the Prairies and in it he gives top billing to the wild horses.

By far the most noble of these, and therefore the best entitled to precedence in the brief notice I am able to present of the animals of those regions, is the mustang or wild horse of the Prairies. As he is descended from the stock introduced into America by the first Spanish colonists, he has no doubt a partial mixture of Arabian blood....

...The wild horses are generally well-formed, with trim and clan limbs; still their elegance has been much exaggerated by travellers, because they have seem them at large, abandoned to their wild and natural gaiety. Then, it is true, they appear superb indeed; but when caught and tamed, they generally dwindle down to ordinary ponies. Large droves are frequently seen upon the Prairies, sometimes of hundreds together, gambolling and curvetting within a short distance of the caravans. It is sometimes difficult to keep them from dashing among the loose stock of the traveller, which would be exceedingly dangerous; for, once together, they are hard to separate again, particularly if the number of mustangs is much the greatest. it is a singular fact, that the gentlest wagon-horse (even though quite fagged with travel), once among a drove of mustangs, will often acquire in a few hours all the intractable wildness of his untamed companions. 

jackie, Sonny and rebate training'Jackie, Sonny and Rebate training'

Our 2012 'Mustang Ride down the Santa Fe Trail' is as much a history ride as it is a celebration of New Mexico's Centennial and bringing attention to the plight of mustangs and the goals of our sanctuary. It is also a chance for me to dabble in one of my greatest passions, New Mexico's history and the Wild West! I will be doing the ride in costume and we hope that as our plans progress, there will be more folks involved and more horses and maybe even some wagons! We will be starting our ride at Old Bent's Fort in La Junta, Colorado and culminating it on the Santa Fe Plaza in October, stopping at various historical landmarks along the way as well as at our wild horse sanctuary at Watrous. We will be using at least 80% mustangs on this ride including 'Rebate', a Jicarilla mustang from New Mexico who was born at our sanctuary in April 2009, 'Rio', a Nevada mustang born in the wild, who spent 4 years in a BLM pen until we adopted him from a Correctional facility in Utah in January 2012. We will also have 'Rayado,' a Utah mustang, born in the wild and who was also adopted from the Utah prison in January. Rayado had been in the BLM pens for two and a half years. Sonny, my riding horse and best pal, although not a mustang, will also be along for the ride. Sonny participated in Cassie's (a mustang) ride along the Continental Divide in 2000 and you can follow that amazing story on the 'Cassie's Story' page on our website.

Rio and RayadoRio and Rayado

Due to the fact that this will be an ever changing story, with frequent updates, we are keeping a blog on all of our preparations. To follow the progress and the updates and eventually the ride itself, please go to our 'Mustang Ride down the Santa Fe Trail, 2012' blog site.



"The buffalo were still numerous. Sometimes we had to take pains to avoid them. The country here was so level that we could see for miles in all directions and the sun seemed to come up or go down like a great yellow disk right into or out of the earth. Sometimes we heard a noise like thunder and then a great herd of wild horses would swoop past us. Wild horses were becoming quite common. They were descendants of horses the Indians had stolen from wagon trains along the Santa Fe and Oregon trails. Each herd was led by a stallion."

Marian Russell, From her book, 'Land of Enchantment'