NMACO would like to acknowledge the contribution of some among us who have given unprecedented hours and support to the wild horses living in Colorado.
The National Mustang Association-Colorado (NMACO) has been instrumental in the successful management of the Spring Creek Basin Herd of the Disappointment Valley in Colorado for more than twenty years. NMACO has also played an important role in rescuing mustangs and other wild horses around the Southwest. To date, NMACO has invested more than $175,000 in the Spring Creek Basin and countless hours of volunteer time and labor.
The Spring Creek Basin herd includes bays, blacks, duns, sorrels, grays and pintos. Legend says that in the early 1900s, a Montana rancher came to Disappointment Valley with a herd of stolen horses that he raised to sell to the U.S. Cavalry and other groups. When the law began to close in on him, he gathered some of his horses and quickly left the area. A nineteenth century Colorado resident purchased a well-known race horse named Jim Douglas, and won races with Jim Douglas in several venues around the country, setting a new world record in Chicago in 1886. Since Jim Douglas was turned out to stud on the Johnson ranch, speculation has it that some of the wild horses in the Disappointment carried his genes. Local ranchers managed the remaining horses by culling undesirable horses and adding their own stock, and now the BLM manages the herd under the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971.
In 1997 Pati Temple began NMACO as the Colorado Chapter of the National Mustang Association Inc., a 501(c)(3) organization based in Utah. Their goal was to preserve and protect the wild horses through range restoration and population control, using focused contraception. She and a few other NMACO board members worked to forge a relationship with BLM so that volunteers could begin fixing fencing, installing water catchments and brining water during drought stressed years, while successfully raising enough money to buy grazing rights (AUM’S) to maintain the land for the horses. Ultimately, NMACO successfully persuaded BLM to retire the grazing leases in the herd area. With the removal of cattle, the horses did not have to continue to compete for the delicate grasses and forage in this desert environment and the range has improved dramatically. Finally, after many years of advocacy, BLM was persuaded to being a pilot program of PZP contraception darting targeted mares in order to control the population of the wild horses. NMACO member TJ Holmes became certified as an expert “darter” and helped BLM begin its PZP fertility control program to manage the herd numbers. The program has been so successful to date that no roundups have been needed since the last one in 2011.
Spring Creek Basin Sanctuary
Pati helped persuade the Serengeti foundation to purchase an adjacent ranch and create a sanctuary for the Spring Creek Basin horses who were either unadoptable or were returned from unsuccessful adoptions. To this day, the sanctuary under TJ’s care, and the herd that roams wild in Disappointment Valley, are all thriving. This success story is due to Pati’s and David’s herculean efforts and the amazing team of volunteers and partnerships who gave countless hours fencing, hauling water and monitoring this herd.
Pati sadly died of cancer in 2013. Until the day she died, caring for and preserving the wild horses was her passion. She adopted and trained several of the mustangs that she and David rode and enjoyed for many years. David is still the president of NNACO which has expanded its mission to help all wild horses in the Southwest region. Because of Pati’s tireless efforts on behalf of the horses, several of her friends applied to the USGS to formally name the prominent butte overlooking the Spring Creek Basin herd area “Temple Butte,” in honor of her dedication to the horses. This was finally formally accomplished in May of 2019, when friends and family gathered with Temple Butte in the background to commemorate and honor the dedication.
The Spring Creek Basin herd is an amazing success story of hope, tenacity, grit and grace. Visit TJ’s Blog at https://springcreekbasinmustangs.com/ to see for yourself the beautiful pictures of these magnificent animals.