As most of your know, I recently revamped my Chloe + Isabel boutique to benefit the cause that is closest to my heart: aiding Mustangs and helping to preserve and protect them. The boutique was renamed Baubles + Brands and every month, we will be featuring a non-profit or rescue who share the brand’s views. A portion of the proceeds from each month’s sale will be donated to the designated NP or rescue.
This month’s featured non-profit is The Medicine Horse Project, hailing from Somerset, California (they’re even from my home state which makes this even more special!). Over the past month I’ve had the pleasure of getting to talk with Executive Director of TMHP, Chris, to set this all up and get to know her and the amazing work her team does!
Of course this wouldn’t be a true Boheme Royale feature without an interview and some pictures, so here we go!
who’s this pretty gal? read below to find out!
1. A lot of our readers are new to the Mustang scene, so tell us about yourself and your work, not only with Mustangs but with the other animals you’ve helped along the way too.
My son is the one that introduced me to wild horses. When he was 9 years old he decided he wanted a horse of his own and that he wanted to adopt from the BLM. He worked doing chores to earn the $125.00 adoption fee so that he could say he did it all on his own. His quest for a mustang led him to Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue and honestly, neither of our lives have been the same since. He adopted a mustang from LWHR and I became their Vice President, Adoption Coordinator, and Wild Horse Gentling Clinician. That journey began back in 1999. I have never looked back. Over the years I have worked with hundreds of mustangs that came through the rescue, competed in the Extreme Mustang Makeover in Fort Worth, Texas in 2009 and have been an advocate for all horses with a special place in my heart for mustangs ever since.
two residents enjoying some time in the paddock
2. When did you decide you wanted to start a non-profit? Was it something that had run in you family or was it more of an evolution per say?
I have had a close relationship with Jill Starr, Founder and Executive Director of Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue since the day we met. Seeing the trouble wild horses can get into when they end up in the wrong hands, their incredible resilience and their determination to survive against all odds spoke strongly to me. Then I started teaching Wild Horse Boot Camp, a 4 day wild horse gentling workshop, I thought I was just teaching wild horse gentling techniques, but, people were walking away with life epiphany experiences. This p
lanted a seed. These horses have a powerful ability to heal. In 2008 I was certified as a Horse Specialist with EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association) and began doing some horse and healing outreach.
an image from one of the past workshops, because wild horse butts are the best butts!
Jill Starr, founded The Medicine Horse Project in 2014 and immediately asked me to take a seat on the Board of Directors. I jumped at the opportunity. We all know horses are good medicine. So to be a part of an organization with a focus on partnering rescued horses with people seeking some sort of healing, empowerment or deeper self discovery was an opportunity that I jumped at.
Last year my husband and I bought our own ranch in Northern California. We call our place Lucky Chance Ranch and it was a natural progression in our journey to open the gates to The Medicine Horse Project and move the operations and programs to our facility. LCR is located in the El Dorado National Forest. We are surrounded by sacred cedars trees, abundant wild life and the serenity of the property lended itself to be the perfect environment for horses to seek refuge, rehabilitate and get a new start at life. I am honored to be Executive Director of The Medicine Horse Project and to take the reins and expanding our programs and being a resource in our community, not only for horses in need but for people.
attack of the minis! TMHP doesn’t just aid Mustangs! over the years horses and other critters of all breeds have crossed paths with the project on this journey to forever homes! here, trouble-makers Gene Simmons (available for adoption by the way!) and miss Shannon let off some energy, which ponies are 99% made of, and sass, so much sass.
I discovered my own healing and resilience thanks to horses, I want to share that with anyone seeking the experience. I also want to give back to the horses that have given me so much over the last 20 years.
3. You recently took on three beautiful fillies in partnership with Lifesavers, how has their journey been so far and are captive-born Mustangs different from ones straight off the HMA that have been in holding for a while?
golden girls Emerald and Ireland cooling off in the shade
Ireland, Emerald and Fancy are incredible. Again, honored doesn’t even express my feelings for being asked to partner with Lifesavers for these horses. LCR has this effect on people and horses. It usually only takes a few hours, and in the quiet you begin to hear the deep breath of relief. The sigh of gratitude and relaxation set in. These three mustangs were no different. They were born at Lifesavers so the blessing is that these three beautiful souls have only known love. Coming to The Medicine Horse Project will give them the opportunity to be one of a few, rather than one of many. It will allow us to get them proficient in their basic handling skills and set them up for success in domestication. They will be incorporated into our programs and workshops and will be exposed to our participants and volunteers. Socializing is an important part of setting them up for long term success. The win win happens when those program participants and volunteers learn something about themselves through their interactions with the horses. It is powerful. One of our Women’s Wild Horse Empowerment Journey participants stated,” the Ah ha’s come unexpectedly, sometimes they are funny, sometimes they are emotional, but they are always powerful”.
Emerald, a 3-year-old captive born Mustang, showing her true wild side and kicking up some dust.
Every wild horse I have worked with has been different. Captive born, born in the wild, born in a sanctuary, the gentling process is such a personal one. I couldn’t say one is easier than another. I have gentled wild horses that have always been in captivity and were very challenging as well as horses born in the wild that were very easy. Every horse is an individual. There is no step by step recipe for the gentling process. Rather it is a conversation between two individuals. You need to be able to express your goals and desires in a language the horse understands, more importantly, you need to be able to listen to the feedback the horse is responding with. The horse will tell you what he needs from you in order to partner. Its about building rapport, communication, and mutual respect.
pretty girl Fancy Dancer, a QHxMustang filly, who is also available for adoption soon! she’s shown great prospect as a cow horse already! did you know Mustangs and Mustang crosses are ideal for grounds and ranch work? their natural resilience and sure-footed nature makes them pretty much perfect for the job!
4. What is one thing you wish the general public knew more about in regards to Mustangs and the rescues and non-profits, like the Medicine Horse Projects, that aid them?
This is a big question because there is so much. First, it is important for the general public to know they exist. Mustangs currently run wild in our 10 western states. Most on federal public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, a federal agency. in 1971 Wild Horse Annie rallied for our wild horses and The Wild Horse and Burro Act was put in place. This act, protects our country’s free roaming horses as a living part of our American heritage. They are to be treasured. The west was won on the backs of these horses ancestors. Interesting fun fact that in 1971 this single issue generated more letters to the federal government than any other issue in our country’s history other than the Vietnam war. That speaks volumes to how we the people value their existence.
I want the horse community to know, that these are incredibly versatile animals. When gentled properly, these horses can become a loyal partner. They can be ridden western or english. They can cut cattle, ride a reining pattern, jump fences or be phenomenal endurance prospects. Mustangs are easy keepers, sure footed and built to last.
staying cool and watching the fun during one of the workshops Chris holds!
The Medicine Horse Project dedicates itself to being a voice for horses that don’t have one of their own. We need to raise awareness of critical issues that can impact their freedom or the integrity of the Wild Horse and Burro Act. For example, President Trumps new proposed budget, would allow for the unrestricted sale of approximately 50,000 wild horses currently standing in government holding facilities. That unrestricted sale could most certainly mean a one way trip across our borders to a slaughter house, then shipped oversea’s to be served in a fine restaurant. That plan doesn’t seem to serve the act that was put in place to protect these animals.
We also are committed to educate the community that is interested in providing homes to displaced mustangs. We will offer education on humane gentling techniques, feed and general care. Our priority is that horse and human are set up for long term success.
The Medicine Horse Project is a completely volunteer operated organization. What does that mean? It means that donation dollars go directly to the rescue, care and rehabilitation of our horses as well as to our mutually healing programs that assist the horses on their journey in domestication.
If you are going to restrict me to one thing, like in the City Slicker Movies, the ONE THING, it is that wild horses need the public to stand up and lend them their voice. We need to be heard to guarantee their protection for many generations to come. Wild horses are in danger of complete annihilation. They need us more now than ever.
5. And last but not least, out of and HMAs you’ve visited or received horses from, or would like to visit, which has been your favorite?
I have a special place in my heart for the Twin Peaks horses. They are BIG, and have great minds. But the heard that has my soul is the Virginia City horses above Reno, Nevada. These horses are not on our public lands and are governed by the Nevada Department of Agriculture. It is about a 2 hour drive from our ranch and we visit them often. I love spending time in their world, a fly on the desert floor, just watching, learning and appreciating them. Wild horses are amazing to see in their environment. Confident, peaceful and breathtaking. I have learned so much about horsemanship from watching them communicate with each other. Wild horses are the best natural horsemanship instructors in the world, and I have been blessed to have learned from many.
*HMA – Herd Management Area, what the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and advocates call the area the wild horses live or come from, this area often features not just one, but multiple horse herds.
Visit The Medicine Horse Project on the web and “like” them on Facebook to see for yourself what they’re all about!
And don’t forget to click the image in the #MustangWarrior section of the sidebar to shop my boutique’s semi-annual sale and support TMHP! They are our featured non-profit for July and a portion of all proceeds will go towards them! Not interested in jewelry? You can always donate to through their website too!
Special thank you to Chris for being so, so awesome and providing these great interview question and image for the feature! Please do not redistribute these images without expressed permission from her!