The wild mustangs that roam our west desert in Tooele County are a large part of our western heritage. Their existence makes our wild and lonely deserts just a bit wilder.
To witness these magnificent, proud beasts running through the desert, with hooves stomping, and manes and tails flowing in the breeze, is a never forgotten scene.
Because they are such a large part of our county’s heritage and psyche, I thought it would be interesting for readers to get up close and personal with these animals, and if so inclined, possibly adopt one.
Each year the Bureau of Land Management, which is charged with maintaining healthy populations of wild mustangs on federal lands in the county, conducts a round up and cuts the herd so populations don’t increase beyond the carrying capacity of the range upon which they roam.
This is important, because if left unmanaged, these animals, which have no natural predators other than the seldom seen cougar, would explode in numbers. There would be shortages of feed and water, and then nature would correct the situation with a mass die off.
The U.S. Congress recognized these animals in the “Wild and Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971” as “Living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the west, which continue to contribute to the diversity of life forms within the nation and enrich the lives of the American People.”
Just like the wilderness areas set aside by Congress, such as Deseret Peak and the Cedar Mountains, the aura and mystique of the old west and untamed frontier lives on in these horses.
It is believed that the first mustangs descended from Spanish stock that escaped from early expeditions to Mexico and Florida and the populations then rapidly spread across North America.
The Comanche, Shoshoni, Nez Perce, Ute and other Indian peoples made good use of these animals and bred them to suit their needs. Through evolution and natural selection, the horses have developed traits such as strength, endurance and speed, which are well suited to the plains, mountains and deserts where they roam.
Some people describe these horses as an inferior breed due to the harsh environments in which they live and that can take a toll on them. The reality is that the wild mustangs are fine, proud, beautiful animals which can reach up to 750 lbs. and a height of 16 hands. Although sometimes described as rebellious and independent with and uncertain temperament, mustangs are versatile, hardy, willing and personable when treated and trained properly. They come in a variety of colors, such as bay, black, brown, chestnut, dun, gray, palomino, roan and white just to name a few.
Residents of Tooele County have a golden opportunity to get close to one of these wild mustangs and to watch some experts and volunteers compete with gentled mustangs at the 16th Annual Wild Horse and Burro Festival. Sponsored by the BLM, the event will be held at the Legacy Events Center at 151 S. 1100 West in Farmington, which is located approximately 20 minutes north of Salt Lake City International Airport. The Legacy Events Center is an indoor arena that comfortably seats up to 2,200 people.
The festival is free and open to the public, and takes place Friday, June 6 starting at 4 p.m. and Saturday June 7 at 9 a.m. Four adult and 10 youth trainers have been working with various mustangs for the last 60 days and will showcase the horses in a competition at noon Saturday. At the conclusion of the competition, these wonderful animals will be put up for adoption to the general public at a cost of $125 a piece. If you are in the market for a horse, there really is no better value to be found anywhere.
Saturday’s performance classes will feature events from showmanship to western pleasure and speed events. The extreme challenge trail event is always exciting, during which the crowd cheers on their favorite competitors. There will be classes available for all ages and abilities for both humans and horses. There will even be a “Burro Sorting class,” which I find particularly interesting. I have personal experience with these horses as my daughter takes riding lessons on a feisty, yet beautiful little animal named “Gum Drop.” She has gained so much confidence, maturity and compassion for other creatures through exposure to this animal.
The wild mustangs are full of personality. Once “gentled,” which is the process of taming wild animals for riding purposes, they are trusted, faithful companions which would do anything for their owners if treated properly. For me the mental health benefits of spending time around these horses is the same as taking a walk through a mountain wilderness. And at the price of “free,” the 16th Annual Wild Horse and Burro Festival can’t be beat when it comes to something the whole family can attend and enjoy.
If you have ever been curious about the wild mustangs that roam the deserts and mountains of our county, pack up the family and head to the festival this weekend. The proximity to Lagoon could make for a fun-filled day during which you can kill two birds with one stone. Who knows, you may fall in love with one of these animals and have the chance to adopt a new member to your family.
For more information on the Wild Horse and Burro Festival, contact Lisa Reid at 435-743-3128 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact Janet Tipton at 801-554-4431 or at flyingTacres@gmail.com. You can also visit the event web page at http://www.blm.gov/ut/st/en/prog/wild_horse_and_burro/utah_wild_horse__.html
This is an amazing chance to watch some talented volunteers and professional riders/trainers showcase some truly amazing creatures. Most folks at the show will allow you to pet their animals, which children certainly enjoy. These horses are a proud part of our western lifestyle and heritage, so if your weekend plans allow, take the short trip to Farmington.
Jessop is a resident of Stansbury Park and when he isn’t criss-crossing America for his job, he spends his spare time exploring Tooele County’s valleys, mountains and desert with his family.