I made it over the Mountains! Rojo is HOME!

As many of you know, I surprised myself and adopted a Prisoner Trained Mustang last week.  (If you missed that post, it is linked here.)

Many of you also know that I was being a huge baby about crossing back over the mountains with my truck and trailer, alone, to retrieve Rojo.

I had a few legitimate beefs with the journey.  Yes, it did just rain and there was snow on the passes.  Yes, my truck is older.  Yes, I’ve come to rely on Hubby when I needed scary stuff done… and I seem to have lost my ‘Eye of the Tiger’ edge around Warrior stuff.

But this time I had to buck up because no one was going to go with me.  I had no real excuses since my older truck does run well and the sun was out…  And, most embarrassingly, when I phones the prison to make arrangements to get Rojo, they knew exactly who I was since all of the other horses had been picked up already.


I felt like such a weeny-winey.

With my best confident voice, I pretended like I was totally onboard with climbing over the mountains the next day and told the prison people that I would be there.  Yessirree.  You betcha.  Rightyoo, Uh-huh.  Fo Sho.  Yup.  I’ll be there!


Me with Rojo right after the auction.


I loaded up the truck with all of the essentials (flashlight, GPS, bungie cords, wrenches, cones, flares…) the night before.

Hubby had placed a Rock Star and a container of water on the bench near the front door.  Sweet.

I was ready for anything, especially if it involved flooding or a famine.  As far as what would/could actually happen – well, that’s up to the powers that be…  I went to bed.

The next morning, I was up on time and should have left on time.  But, due to some dithering and a tweenager melt-down, I ended up leaving about 30 minutes late.  But, I figured that was OK since I had padded my hours up and back comfortably.  (I hate to drive in the dark.)

I decided to take the shortcut highway to the bigger freeway.  The shortcut highway is only one lane.  But usually no one takes it.


On this day, of course, I end up behind not one, but TWO gravel trucks who were going about 1 mph up the steep grade.

Great.  No passing and they weren’t pulling over.

To top it off, we ended up stopped at a construction zone which had no heart or remorse.  They kept us there, idling diesel, for about 20 minutes.  Arrgh.

Once we finally did start moving, the gravel trucks had to get back up to their bustling 1 mph limit.  So, we went 1/2 mph for another several miles.  Yay.

Eventually, they pulled off right at the big freeway connector and I was free!

I took this from the cab of my truck as I sat behind the gravel trucks on Hwy 20.


When all of us made the trip to Carson City last Saturday for the adoption, there was no construction.

Today, a Wednesday, there were 37 miles of construction.  Single lane.  Coned off.  Steep, scary, gnarly, edges of death and doom.

I have just one question.  WHO IN THE HECK SETS UP THE CONES?  Was this some Big Rig Indy maneuverability challenge?  I swear to rallygod, I was white-knuckled trying to stay within the cones of death.  Not to mention the line of little cars all pissy behind me.

Anyway, suffice it to say that this venture fed into all of my ‘plunging off a cliff’ and ‘losing my brakes’ fears.  But, I made it.

This may be difficult to see - it is through my truck window - miles of mustangs in pens. Kinda sad, really.


After driving my over-sized rig through the center of the tiny town, I made it to the outskirts where the prison resides (which also had construction happening all around it – no joke).

I was a bit frazzled by the 4 hour ride that should have taken 2 hours… but I did feel better that I had arrived.

Except, things were different.  This was not a ‘special event’ day.  There were no special signs nor special areas to park.   There was no friendly guard with a clipboard who was there to tell me where to go.

All that was there were lots of blue uniformed inmates and lots of wire.  Coiled Barbed wire on tall fences.


I drove onward.  Eventually I stopped because I had no idea where to go and the scenery was getting ‘iffy’.  I sat in my car and called the ‘office’ (probably a trailer somewhere on site) of the Adoption service.  They told me to park and go into the prison office.

Yikes.  Park?  Walk somewhere?  Here?  Are you sure?!

But, I did it.


I have to tell this part…  I walked into the office and a guard was spraying what looked to be cockroach killer – or Lysol.   Anyway, he noticed me but kept on spraying.

I asked if they had a bug problem.  He said no… he was spraying to get rid of the ‘inmate smell’.

Uh huh.

OK so I asked for the bathroom because I figured the office would have the best one.

It was only AFTER I had used it that I noticed this sign…

I didn't see this sign until AFTER I had used the toilet in the prison office. "Toilet Camera is for research use only".


Finally I made it back to where the Prisoner Trained Mustangs live and the other horses languish.  (Don’t forget that this prison is where hundreds of BLM captured Mustangs live out their lives…).  The program has an easy abundance of potential trainee horses right out back… The good news is that Hank (the Director of the program) can watch all the mustangs and figure who might be a good candidate for the program.

Anyway, I drove out to the back and no one was there other than prisoners.  Scary.

But, they were all doing their thing – riding and training the mustangs.  It was good to see, actually.  And, I knew that this program only takes the most honorable prisoners as trainers, so I felt some relief.  But mostly I felt like an egg on the sidewalk in the sun.

Eventually, Hank (Director of the Inmate Mustang Training Program) came out leading Rojo.  Hank looks like he just wandered off the set of Bonanza.  You really couldn’t  have cast him better.

But today, he had a sad face…  Jesus (Rojo’s inmate trainer) was ‘in the hole’.  He had broken a rule and would never be allowed back  into the program.  It was a sad day for Hank.  He said he loses several guys each training this way…

Hank with Red.


Poco Rojo (LITTLE RED) was following Hank.  He looked so small and sweet.

I petted him as I spoke with Hank.  Red was appreciative.

Hank loaded him easily, “C’mon Son, it’s OK…” and Red believed him.

Once in and tied (Hank showed me a new way to tie…), Red looked back a bit fearful and Hank said, “It’ll be OK, Boy, just go on…”.

We shut the doors and I hopped in the truck, eager to depart.

Hank told me, “You got a real good horse there.  We’d appreciate hearing how he does.”

Of course!  I told him that I was pretty good at blah blahing about my horses and that he could find me easily.  I promised to send him a link every time I posted about Red.

He seemed relieved and kindof sad.  I got the impression that every time a horse loads, Hank feels bittersweet.

Red explores the barn


I won’t bore you with the details of our return trip… only to say that it was 3 hours long and Red was sweaty but OK when we arrived home.

It took him a while to venture out of the trailer and I didn’t push him.

Eventually, he stepped out and stood there.  Rock solid, checking things out.

All of my horses called to him.  He was silent.  Red sniffed the air and listened.   He looked everywhere with precise attention to detail.

Then he calmly followed me to the barn.  After entering, we turned around and he let me close the gate.  I backed him a few times and did the usual stuff.  He responded.

He stands over me, waiting for me to give him some hay.

I poured Red some water and took off his halter.  He explored the barn.

I sat with him for the next 3 hours.  He was fine.  Settling in…

At one point, I noticed that he was picking at the loose bits of grain hay in the first stall.  So, I pulled some pieces out through the gate – just a bit – so he could pull on it.  He love that game!  OhBoy!  FunFun!  We played that until there were no more long pieces to pull.

Red playing the 'pull the hay through the gate' game.

Eventually Hubby came home and met us at the barn.  Just about then, Sam, the only horse I had in the outer barn area, came up to greet Red (she had been eating dinner previously).  We watched as they touched noses.  No drama.  One mustang to another – easy.  The mare dominated, as usual.  Red backed away and came over to the humans.  We patted him and walked to the house.

Red watches us leave on his first night.


There he was!  Bright and happy!  He had been munching on hay all night.  No worries!

I worked all of my chores around him and he took it all in.

He made it through his first night!

Funny… I offered him some grain the night before and he turned up his nose.  But, this morning, as all the other horses were pawing and making noise for their supplements, Red took an interest.

“Why do they want that stuff?”

Me:  Because it is yummy.  You have to acquire the taste… kinda like coffee or beer.

Red:  “Huh?”

Me:  Nevermind…  just try it.

Red:  “Uh….. maybe”

Me: OK.  Well, I’ll leave it here.  You can decide.  Oh, and that strong smell is garlic.  It will help with the flies.

Red (looking puzzled):  ??????

Me:  Just try it.  You’ll like it.  Trust me.

And he did.

Trying the good stuff.


Red and I spent the day hanging out.  I took him up to the arena and he knew more than most of my horses…

We walked all around the ranch.

I had been told by Hank that Red didn’t like to be caught so we worked on that – but we didn’t really need to … he was fine.

I had been told that Red fought with the other horses which is why his face had scabs.  But, he didn’t fight with anyone.

I had fear of putting him in with any of my horses until he bonded with me… but I felt badly for him.  Norma wanted to meet him and eat all the extra hay in his pen so she offered to be his buddy.

I opened the gate between them and she marched forward.  They negotiated around each other and I felt secure to leave them for the evening…

I sat with him as he ate in his new outdoor paddock. Norma is close by.


It is 7:14am and I’m just about to go out and feed.  This will be Red’s second morning here.  I expect to see Norma standing very close to her new friend.

They were this close when I left.

She likes the boys who get the most food.

Red will like Norma because of her donkeydar.

I know I am going to be a very happy girl…  He’s a keeper.

My boy.


HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth… if you like this, please pass it around!




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HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth... if you like this, please pass it around!

5 comments have been posted...

  1. Robynne Catheron

    Ditto everyone’s replies. I am so very happy and proud and excited for you both! And just a teeny tiny bit envious…:)

  2. Arliss

    Love this. I too hope that Hank and Jesus get to read this. My heart goes out to both of them. God bless Hank for the good work he is doing. It must be hard at times.

  3. Jody Brittain

    I too could not wait for this post! And many more with Red! I knew exactly how you felt about going out alone! I have mini panic attacks when I have to haul my Libby 2miles to our local arena to ride. I could not ever imagine hauling for 3-4 hrs! I am very happy to see everything turned out fine, and the biggest hurdle is over. You are so lucky to have him! And I feel bad for Jesus too!

  4. Kitty Bo

    I cried when I read this. Who could help but be excited for you?! So sorry about Jesus. So very, very sorry.

  5. sharon

    Yippee! I could hardly wait til you posted about this, CONGRATULATIONS!!!!
    What a great story, Red is beautiful and I love that pic of him munching the spread out hay inside the barn.

    As far as the bathroom…UGH. I hope Jesus gets a chance to read your blog, he made it possible by working with Red for this wonderful mustange to have one of the very best homes ever!!!!

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