Some formerly wild mustangs will regather in open pasture next week to celebrate the legacy of horse advocate Mona Jerome and their successful transition into domestic life.
The animals were culled from protected pasture lands in America’s West as part of the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management program to keep feral horse populations under control.
The horses found shelter at Jerome’s Ever After Mustang Ranch in Biddeford. The nonprofit rescue was founded in 2002 as an education center and adoption agency for feral horses and burros. It also offers permanent shelter for unwanted and abused horses that are deemed unadoptable due to temperament or health.
The fifth annual Mustangs in Motion event Aug. 15 will be a reunion of sorts, highlighting horses’ success stories and raising awareness of other feral equines needing homes.
Jerome began traveling out West 30 years ago to work with land management officials and learn about mustangs, which she says are hardy and easy to care for in New England.
“They are used to temperatures ranging from 110 in summer to 40 below in winter,” said Jerome, who today provides shelter for 33 horses.
“The species may be horse, but the mentality is that of a wild animal,” said Jerome. “To them, we are predators to be feared. You have to earn their trust.”
Each day, Jerome and a small crew of volunteers care for the horses and their surroundings. Once the mustangs’ physical needs are met, Jerome works to integrate the horses into domestic life using a rope, harness and reassuring movements.
Many of the animals here are older and considered unadoptable, though Jerome is pleased to cite the success stories of horses whose lives have been changed by individuals who took a chance on them.
Such was the case with Thunder, a 12-year-old mustang stallion that was considered unmanageable and thus penned for most of his adult life.
Thunder’s previous caretakers left a cancerous growth untreated that consumed his left eye. When he finally came into Jerome’s care, he received needed veterinary care but then lost sight in his right eye. He was labeled unadoptable until he met Grace Smeltzer of York.
Smeltzer took Thunder in as a “temporary” companion animal for her 22-year-old horse Beau while she was awaiting clearance to adopt a younger mustang.
“The two horses became inseparable to the point that we had to remove the boards separating their stalls,” said Smeltzer of Thunder and Beau.
It seems Smeltzer also was taken with Thunder. She later phoned Jerome he’d found a permanent home.
Jerome wasn’t surprised. She said horses have an amazing therapeutic effect and she often pairs them with others for a variety of programs, including mentoring at-risk youth.
And, those projects also help the horses. One recent mustang sponsorship project, partnering women and horses has resulted in a concert on Aug. 14 featuring the music of Sarah Lee Guthrie (daughter of Arlo Guthrie), with proceeds benefitting the rescue. Jerome, 72, is now preparing to “hand the reins” of the organization on. She appears to have found a ready successor in granddaughter Lydia Boothbay, 19.
“This is in her blood too,” said Jerome of Boothbay. “She works side-by-side with me and is pursuing a degree in business from the University of Southern Maine to fine-hone how we run things.”
Deborah Sayer can be contacted at 791-6308 or at: [email protected]