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John Murray’s Mustang, Part One

Published: 12/8/2011
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Editor's Note:
A few years ago, John Murray of Sebago, Maine, adopted a young Bureau of Land Management mustang. He graciously agreed to write about his horsemanship journey for our pages. What follows is the first of several installments.

By John Murray

Why A Mustang?

When you think of the mustang horse, you probably think of the wild, wild west; cowboys and Native Americans; conquistadors and vaqueros. The image conjures up the wide open spaces with bands of horses living freely.  
So what does a wild mustang have to do with a gringo from Maine?  The two seem worlds apart. But somehow those worlds collided.
I grew up in Westbrook, Maine, in a small town suburban neighborhood almost in the shadow of the smoke stack of the nearby paper mill.  There were no farms nearby and the only horses I can remember were on the outskirts of town.  But for some reason that I still cannot explain, at an early age, I had it in the back of my mind that someday I’d like to have horses.  As I grew into an adult, things like career and family became my focus but my dream of being in the country with lots of land and some hooved friends always seemed present, but not a high priority.

I came one step closer to that dream when I purchased a home and property away from the city. The property had many acres but was heavily wooded. Several years after moving I met some people who owned horses through my wife’s workplace, a veterinary hospital. 
One of these new friends invited me to a horse clinic being hosted by a couple of John Lyons certified trainers.
This was my first experience at any horse clinic as an auditor and I made two important observations.  The first observation was that there were 12 riders in the clinic and all of them were women.  Of course there’s nothing wrong with that but I was surprised. 

Where were all the men? 
Where were the cowboys I was expecting?
Where were the big hats, big boots, spurs and lariats?  
Was my stereotypical  vision of the horse world going to be shattered in such a short period of time?

Another observation came when one friend brought a mustang named Moon.  The trailer pulled up and backed to the round pen. The horse was unloaded and suddenly there was a different feel in the air.  I quickly realized this horse was different in some way. 
Moon trotted around the pen, sniffing the air and the ground, snorting, and occasionally whinnying at the horses that he knew were there but could not see. He paid very little attention to human activity and when human interaction interfered with his priorities, things got cranked up a notch or two.   No other horse I had seen all day acted anything like that.  What was making this spirited creature behave this way? 
I knew I had to find out.

I did some research and made two very important discoveries.  My first discovery was that there was a mustang rescue in Biddeford, Maine.  I learned that Ever After Mustang Rescue acquires mustangs and some domestic horses through various sources and rehabilitates, trains, and places them in good homes. I made a call to the rescue and talked to the director, Mona Jerome, and discussed my interest in adopting a mustang. The rescue is about an hour’s drive from my home but practically in my backyard since I figured I would never see a mustang this side of the continental divide.  I made trip down there to meet Mona and find out more about what she did.  She was very helpful in guiding me through the requirements for adoption. 
At the rescue I saw first-hand many wonderful horses. Some of the horses, for one reason or another, will be there for the rest of their lives and be very well cared for.  Others were available for adoption and I considered going that route.  But something inside me wanted to get a horse that was pretty much untouched by human hands.
My second important discovery was that the government rounds up these wild mustangs in the western states and puts them up for adoption through an auction process.  At that time I was unaware of the controversy of their methods and motivation for the roundups.  Only later would I find out the harshness of the process and the inequality of the uses for our public lands.  For the time being I was only interested in the fact they were having an adoption in the town of Storrs, Connecticut on the grounds of the University of Connecticut in August; just a few short months away.
They say that opportunity knocks and it seemed like it was ringing the bell and pounding on the door.


View Reader Comments:

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12/8/2011 Steve
John, you write exceptionally well..Im right there with you wondering how this will all play out. Looking forward to the next installment..Thanks for sharing your experience
12/8/2011 patty
wow john i always wondered how u got into mustangs i will be following you from now on.. i met u on mainehorse im caratunk aka patty
12/8/2011 Mike Smith
thanks for sharing this with us John, I love Mona and our friends there, very special place, one day I will have a horse I hope
12/8/2011 Sue
Great start. So interesting how things fall into place when you have something in mind. Looking forward to the next piece.
12/9/2011 Mona
So well written, John. Thanks for sharing your journey as only you can with everyone.I know the best is yet to come!
12/9/2011 Ken
John, Very nice story!
12/9/2011 peter murray
Nice job in both raising the mustang and the really great story telling. I learned a great deal about horses...and my little brother
12/12/2011 Valerie
I just bought a 6 yr old Mustang gelding who excells at dressage. Awesome little dude. I don't think we will ever be doing Prix St. George or Grand Prix shows but he is so willing and good at this that we will go as far as we can. Tough little horses, these Mustangs are. I say little because I also have a Percheron mare. All others seem like little

"Here lies the body of my good horse, The General. For years he bore me around the circuit of my practice and all that time he never made a blunder. Would that his master could say the same." - President John Tyler's epitaph for his horse