Vance family adopts living legends

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Lynne Neveu
  • Public Affairs
A distant pounding resonated through the trio, like standing in the middle of a class of drum-beating 5-year-olds. The riders' horses stopped dead and their heads shot up with their eyes and ears intent on the hills before them. Then the group saw them.
Nearly 100 mustangs crested the nearby ridge, thundering along in a wave of bays, chestnuts, blacks and buckskins. Month-old foals stretched their legs to the limit to keep pace with their dams as the herd stallion drove the mares and young stock less than 500 feet in front of the stunned riders. The domestic mounts danced in place, eager to join the race.
Shortly after, the dust cloud settled, as did the horses. The trio continued through the Montana Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Refuge in silence, absorbing the brief encounter they had shared. It was their introduction to the untamed spirit of the American mustang.
It's the spirit and stories like this one of the mustang that intrigue many admirers to adopt one.
"Owning a mustang is having a piece of America, a piece of history," said Master Sgt. Christopher Stein, 71st Flying Training Wing legal office manager. Although mustang herds have roamed the western United States since the late 1800s, Sergeant Stein started his band of mustangs nearly four years ago.
But as intriguing as the mustangs' history is to some people, the animals' behavior and instincts are rooted in the generations that have lived off the land for centuries.
"A mustang is not appropriate as a first horse," Sergeant Stein said. "Anyone who is interested in mustang adoption should first find a gentle, older, trained horse, a veteran horse, to learn from."
Sergeant Stein and his wife, Pam, both had several years' horse experience prior to adopting their first mustang, Gracie, as a yearling, who is now 4 years old. In addition, he said they relied on the advice of a professional horse trainer.
"The bond that is created is incredible," Sergeant Stein said. "You work with the horse from the ground up, and every day is a learning experience."
One such experience occurred in Gracie's early training.
"While being trained to lead, Gracie and (Sergeant Stein) decided to do a little 'pasture skiing,'" Mrs. Stein said.
During the training session, Gracie bolted and headed for a fence at a dead run, Sergeant Stein said. He continued to hang on to the lead rope and, at the last moment, the mare veered to the left and Sergeant Stein hit the fence, breaking a finger.
"It's not 'the pony for Christmas,'" he said.
Despite the work and setbacks, the Stein family agreed having the mustangs has been a great experience.
"You can't compare taking a wild horse and making it a part of your family," Sergeant Stein said. "They have an incredible amount of power, but can be so gentle."
The Stein's varied experiences growing up with Gracie also didn't dissuade them from adding to the family. In November 2004, a mustang weanling filly and colt arrived at Rancho Stein.
The youngsters were adopted at the James Crabtree Correctional Center auction in Helena, Okla. In addition to auctions, the center offers trained wild horses as well as training service. For more information about the facility, call (800) 237-3642.
To adopt a mustang from any Bureau of Land Management facility, the adopter and their facility must meet specific criteria.
According to the BLM, the adopter must be at least 18 years old and have no prior conviction for inhumane treatment of animals or for violation of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. The adopter must also have adequate feed, water and facilities to provide humane care for the number of animals requested, and provide a home for the adopted animal in the United States until the BLM issues a certificate of title, following an inspection of the mustang and facilities one year from the date of adoption.
The facilities, whether on one's own property or at a boarding facility, must meet BLM standards as well. Adopters should provide a minimum of 400 square feet for each animal. A shelter must have at least two sides with a roof and adequate ventilation and be easily accessible to the animal.
Corral fencing must be at least 5-feet high for ungentled, unbroken, horses younger than 18 months and 6-feet high for ungentled horses older than 18 months. Acceptable fencing materials include poles, pipes or planks which are a minimum of 1.5 inches thick. Barbed wire, large-mesh-woven, stranded and electric materials are unacceptable for fencing.
Once a potential adopter has ensured he or she has an appropriate facility for a mustang, an adoption application, Form 4710-10, needs to be submitted. An application is available during adoption events or, to gain pre-approval, may be obtained by calling the BLM Moore Field Station, Moore, Okla., from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays to Fridays at (800) 237-3642.
The decision to adopt a mustang is a major commitment, but one with many rewards the Stein family said. All the time and effort given to a wild mustang is returned by the animal many times over. Invite a mustang into your family, and own a living legacy of our American heritage.