At about 12:30 every day, breakfast is digested and the animals are ready to take an interest in working for food. I grab some lunch and force myself to head out the door. The animals just live in the wind and snow, they don’t mind, but I am not so tough. I can lapse into feeling sorry for myself. But that’s just it… I need that Tucumcari training pod.

In my mind’s eye, the ground is dry, the wind is slowed by a windbreak surrounding the pens. It’s bright, but nothing glaring. If it’s cold, you might see the horse’s breath rising like steam. If it’s hot, it’s shady. Okay, perhaps a bit grandiose for one mustang trainer, but I won’t be alone there.

Not the Quonset hut, is it? I started thinking about the feedlot next door and the county dump on the other side of Jack Mae’s land and realized that there might be a reason for so many birds. The season of ice is not the season of flies. We won’t know until spring, but a long time ago, John bought an RV park 2 miles from a dairy. The flies filled people’s RVs and it had to be abandoned. When I mentioned flies, he shuddered.

Let’s be honest, a bare piece of land out of the farmed bottom land with a pod on it is what we really want. So when Rob Morper sent us an email about his mother’s property, we would have started drooling except for one thing: the price tag. $5,000/acre or at least $225,000. I like this property because it is raw upland, near the Interstate, and just across the ditch from the Quay County Fairgrounds. I don’t need the whole 40+ acres, 20 will do. Okay, but even if we had the money would it make sense to buy it?

Last month, I was working on a speculative theory of fundraising requiring lots of letters of support. I wanted to stack them up on the list of 200 supporters with skin in the game. I asked the USFS, the MHF, the BLM, the ASPCS, the HSUS, APNM, and any other organization with a snappy abbreviation to send me a letter. I even wrote the letters for them. They could just fluff up the pillow, and send back the letter. My next target would be my congress people. My political adviser, Don Schrieber, vetted my letter to congress, said to attach other support letters, and wished me luck. I waited for the first round of support. The USFS and the MHF came through for me. I waited hoping to hear from the BLM. The days turned into weeks. It was like being 25 and waiting for someone you thought was going to be a hot date to call… but they never do. All the stages of grief and agony are the same: Denial, anger, suffering, and ultimately acceptance.

There is a college professor of economics at Utah State whose disclaimer on his work says he does not get grants from the Koch Foundation. The disclaimer catches your attention because the paper is about the economics of the Wild Horse and Burro program and seems irrelevant (just as it does here). With no help from the Koch brothers, Paul Jakus reviewed the literature addressing the benefits and costs of the whole program. It’s great reading for a long winter night. A few facts of interest:

  • Every horse with some training in the BLM data base was adopted and on average, at a higher price, proving there is a substantial payoff to training.
  • The average gather cost is $782. Short-term holding (STH) costs around $7/day/animal, while long-term holding costs about $1.50/day/animal, which makes $2555/year for STH. The average adoption costs the BLM $2,575.

If I understand Dr. Jakus correctly, why don’t we have that letter of support from the BLM? Every animal we get out of holding is a big savings for the government. We can’t really move forward without an arrangement with the agency. Can you imagine that we all (you included) climb through the gates of hell to get the facility built and then the BLM says, “Ooops, we ran out of money. No more horses for you.” No skin off their noses. Of course, I am compelled to go down with the ship, so there I am collapsed, a gray ashen heap in a white pod on the edge of the prairie. You watch helplessly as I breathe my last. Crikey! We don’t want to go down that road!

Mustang Camp, Largo Canyon in January

John and I sit around the wood stove ruminating about the barriers to our success. We need funding, we need agency commitment. All the economic development programs help for-profit businesses, not 501(c)3 charities. Do we need to change our status? Over the years, whenever we have had problems being a non-profit, we have used my personal credentials (Dunn’s Number, Tax ID, and SAM registration) to get contracts. I have a pretty good performance record as Yr Okay Corral. Would they fund Yr Okay Corral and then Mustang Camp could return to doing equine rescue and education?

Another possibility is social impact bonding (SIB). A non-profit gets a government agency to commit to pay for impacts (like getting horses adopted). The non-profit sells bonds tied to the agencies commitment. There are a bunch of companies that specialize in bonding socially beneficial NGOs (like us). The bonds are retired as the government agencies pay for services. We could offer bonds ourselves or let one of the companies do it.

Oh, yeah. They are on furlough. Can’t get horses, can’t adopt horses, can’t call Washington. It’s got to be tough to lose their paychecks. The skin is off their noses on this one. I hope they have a parlor stove and a warm fire to ride out the winter storms. It’s the season of ice.


3 thoughts on “The Season of Ice

  1. Love your title Mustang Occupational Therapist. Have you contacted Ginger Katrines from The Cloud Foundation. She is on the BLM Advisory Board still I think. She could get you on the agenda to do a presentation at the next Advisory Board and make a formal recommendation to the BLM. I think she would be supportive of your training to place the animals in homes. She has placed a lot of the Pryor horses when BLM removes and culls the herds as they are very dear to her but prefers they run wild and free.

  2. Patricia, Thanks for sending this. Your faith in this project and the horses is heartwarming to me. Somebody has to save these wonderful animals, and I think you guys are making great strides towards realizing your dream. Thank you for your hard work, and sticking with it despite the setbacks. Like they say, ‘People don’t try to fail, they fail to try.’ You are trying, that’s the best you can do right now. Keep up the good work!

  3. I’m so glad when I see that you’ve posted something new. I don’t always understand all the financial aspects of dealing with various branches of the government, but I imagine that many of your supporters are as ignorant as I am. What I DO know is that we are all appreciative of the work you do to better the lives of these animals and I know that work comes at a heavy personal cost. Maybe your worries and uncertainty are a reflection of this time of year when we know it’s a long time until Spring.

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