the first horse collected from Mesa Verde National Park – The Journal

Bonnie Loving poses with Marvel, a horse from Mesa Verde National Park, and her three children, left to right: Toren Anderson, Ashlynn Anderson and Colton Anderson.

Courtesy of Bonnie Loving

And what his success can mean for the future of horse racing in the national park

You may have met Marvel at the Four Corners Farm Show.

He is a perlino mustang whose coat shines gold, with cool blue eyes that easily gaze at humans with confidence.

He was roaming Mesa Verde National Park.

Marvel is the first horse to be rounded up and trained from the park, after being rejected by her pack and wandering through campgrounds to fetch water.

Marvel, with Rebecca Oehl, member of the National Mustang Association of Colorado. (Courtesy of Lynda Larsen)

Courtesy of Lynda Larsen

Park staff and the National Mustang Association of Colorado have been removing and domesticating it.

They knew the person to help: Patricia Barlow-Irick, a lifelong trainer of horses, donkeys, and even zebras, whose love for horses stemmed from growing up in Durango interacting with the horses of her grandfather’s neighbors. -dad.

She drove about 600 horsepower.

NMACO approached her when talk of the Mesa Verde mustang rally began to take shape.

Horses have generally never experienced human contact.

Barlow-Irick now lives on a ranch in northern New Mexico, where Marvel trained for months after reuniting in September.

“I just played with him all winter,” she said.

He was never really afraid of people because of his experience at the campground, she said.

“He understood that people were good – people were a potential resource,” she said.

But first Marvel was held in Mesa Verde, then moved to Trail Canyon Ranch in McElmo Canyon, owned by NMACO President David Temple.

On Marvel’s first day of training, 20 people sat in a circle around Marvel’s paddock, handing him hay.

“He didn’t go see everyone. He had his favourites. But that’s pretty good for a wild horse – that he can calm down enough to be like, “Oh, I’ll move on to this one. Now this one,” Barlow-Irick said.

At the ranch, Marvel was neutered and vaccinated.

Marvel at Trail Canyon Ranch at McElmo Creek. (Courtesy of Lynda Larsen)

Courtesy of Lynda Larsen

Although Marvel initially didn’t let people touch him, “he clearly wasn’t really scared,” said NMACO CEO Lynda Larsen.

“He seems really smart, and he likes to engage, and he likes learning and doing different things,” she said.

Cortez resident Bonnie Loving saw Marvel at the Four Corners Ag Expo and asked to adopt her.

She had followed the story of the Mesa Verde mustangs and even protested when park staff failed to provide them with water in 2018 during the drought, although the park maintained it was not their responsibility. to deal with intruding animals.

“So since then I’ve wanted to get involved and try to help these guys,” she said. “And I always wanted to adopt one of them when they were put together.”

She describes Marvel as calm, easy-going, and loving.

Loving attributes this to how he was arrested.

Loving has two other mustangs, which are getting old now. They were rounded up by helicopter from Wyoming and Nevada and held at Bureau of Land Management facilities.

“There was all this stress. So they were completely different when I got them compared to Marvel,” she said. “Marvel is so calm, and I know he’s been training. But still, when they have that trauma, they hang on to it for a long time.

She is interested to see what the temperaments of the other mustangs to be rounded up in the park will be and how the rounding up process can contribute to their dispositions.

Marvel is still young – only 3 years old. When he is older, say 6 or 7 years old, Loving can go trail running with him. But that will ultimately be Marvel’s decision, she said.

“I think they’re (mustangs) the most loyal horses you can have,” Loving said, adding, “It’s hard to put into words, but it really is a one-man horse, like healing dogs.”

With that loyalty comes commitment.

“If you adopt a mustang, just plan to be that forever home for him,” she said. “Don’t plan on bouncing him just because it will hurt his spirit. You’re going to change him.

Herding Mesa Verde Horses in a Gentler Way

Marvel serves as an example for what NMACO hopes to accomplish with other horses at Mesa Verde.

The organization advocated rounding up the horses wandering there in a “non-adversarial best method of capture,” Larsen said.

Rather than chasing and retrieving the mustangs with helicopter roundups, NMACO helped capture the horses by using hay, water, and lickstones to encircle them.

NMACO volunteers periodically brought water to the horses, helping them associate humans with resources.

“The park is really good about working with us, collaborating on the capture method, and then giving us the horses,” Larsen said.

There have been debates about how horses are graded.

Although many horses in the park are born and live in the wild, they are not classified as feral by the federal government. The park is not designated as a Wild Horse Herd Management Area under the Federal Wild Horse and Free-Ranging Burros Act.

“The presence of trespassing livestock is incompatible with the park’s mission to preserve the cultural and natural resources of the park,” said an Oct. 8 news release from the park. “Furthermore, Mesa Verde State Park does not have the legal authority to authorize the use of livestock in the park under 36 Code of Federal Regulations, Subpart 2.60.”

Drier summers also pose a risk of dehydration for horses.

A spokeswoman for Mesa Verde did not respond to a request for comment.

The park has about 90 horses, and about 30 to 40 will be rounded up each year, Temple said.

“Our goal as an advocacy group is to find good homes and care for these horses who have to go through this through no fault of their own except that they were born out there in the wild,” he said. he declares.

NMACO hopes the “easy” and “non-traumatic” horse mustering method will be effective not only in other Mesa Verde horse musters, but in other areas where horses are mustered, he said.

Establishing protocols, such as how long horses are kept in paddocks and size of paddocks, could help other efforts, he said.

NMACO plans to capture the horses in packs, so they are not separated, he said.

“We have a big job ahead of us juggling and finding homes for so many horses,” he said.

“If they don’t learn to fear humans, and they’re trainable and more docile due to the way they’re captured, that can be a huge game-changer for wild horses in general,” Larsen said.

Marvel’s genetic tests showed about a quarter of Spanish ancestry, as well as Puerto Rican Paso Fino, Swiss and French Montaña blood, Larsen said, calling it “super unusual.”

A perlino is not a species, but a horse known for its cream-colored coat, pink skin, blue eyes. A perlino can often be distinguished from a cremello horse by a slight reddish tint in its mane and tail.

Marvel’s genetics came as a surprise and suggests the possibility that other horses in the park also have Spanish lineage, Barlow-Irick said.

“Once they have enough genetic analyzes of these horses, they might actually realize that these horses have been there for hundreds of years and are actually part of the landscape,” he said. she stated.

Barlow-Irick’s Career Training Horses

By teaching people how to take care of mustangs, Barlow-Irick changes the fate of horses.

“There are a lot of mustangs languishing,” she said. “Even a lot of mustangs that are adopted, people don’t do anything, and they just leave them in the backyard, and they’re scared of them.”

Patricia Barlow-Irick pictured with El Jefe, a rescue horse rescued from the Rio Grande Valley.

Courtesy of Patricia Barlow-Irick

Misconceptions about mustangs exist, she says. Some owners believe that simply chasing mustangs until they get tired is effective, she said.

But that’s not the case, and it’s “pretty common practice,” she said.

Instead, she prefers to use positive reinforcement techniques with horses — especially older ones — with rewards like food and scratches.

“Horses are creatures of habit, and whatever habit they get into, they’ll rather do that than anything else,” Barlow-Irick said. “So I just try to give them good habits.”

Mustangs are “really just scared,” Barlow-Irick said.

According to her, people should give them two things: predictability and some control over their own lives.

Barlow-Irick is dedicated to his craft.

So much so that when she saw a zebra described as “untrainable” and “dangerous” listed for sale on Craigslist, she offered to train the animal for free.

After two months, she was ready to return the zebra to its owner. But the owner was going through a divorce and could no longer house the zebra or her horses. Barlow-Irick offered to house the woman’s horses for a year in exchange for the zebra.

But zebras are not adapted to cold weather, and so the zebra sleeps inside the Barlow-Irick greenhouse.

“After how many years this has been going on, I’m sick of having a zebra in the house,” she joked.

Barlow-Irick lectures, has written books, and maintains websites about his training experiences. For more information, visit and

Barlow-Irick will help train the other mustangs out of Mesa Verde.


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