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Terri Farley
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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Ghost Dancer: this mustang mare survived


First they took her freedom and family. Then, they put her in the stallion pen

I was on the range in January 2010, not far from the home land of Wovoka, the Paiute prophet whose vision began the Ghost Dance movement, when an ivory and adobe-colored Medicine Hat mare was taken from her home by a BLM helicopter round-up.
She came to be known as Ghost Dancer

I saw her transferred to a government facility called Broken Arrow -- an ironic symbol for peace -- where she was accidentally penned with young stallions.

Wild horses arrive at privately owned ranch called Broken Arrow, in Fallon, Nevada. BLM pays the ranch owner to corral hundreds of wild horses. 
The mare was injured by other traumatized mustangs

At this time, the Broken Arrow facility was open to the public. I visited the mare whenever I could and
brought her sage leaves, the scent of home. On days I couldn't go, friends checked on and photographed her (photos by Cat Kindsfather) 

The mare bonded so quickly with a black and white pinto, I wondered if they'd known each other when they both ran free. Maybe their reunion, in captivity, was a bittersweet surprise.

Eventually the Medicine Hat mare was moved to BLM's Palomino Valley facility and put up for sale. She was not eligible for adoption because she was over 10 years old. This meant she could be sold “without limitation”. That meant she could have gone to a kill-buyer, but I was fortunate enough to outbid everyone in an online auction. She was mine, but a bidder in Texas won her best friend, and the mares parted again.  

The Medicine Hat mare was captured not far from the lands of the prophet Wovoka. Inspired by the Ghost Dance religion and poem “Ghost Dance” by Sara Littlecrow-Russell, I named this resilient mare Ghost Dancer.  

The history I've read -- always iffy when it documents the lives of Indians -- says a dream showed him a circle dance which would cause the disappearance of the Whites and return the land to the way it was before their invasion, Wouldn't a wild horse, captured and ripped from her home, have the same dream?  
I freed Ghost Dancer in a 5,000 sanctuary with a young sorrel mare captured on the same day, in the same place.   
Sage and Ghost Dancer arrive at Wild Horse Sanctuary in northern California

The Medicine Hat mare wasn’t mine to name really, but we have a bond. From my first sight of her, I haven’t stopped envisioning her life from her early coltish days in the Calico Mountains to the day the helicopters came for her and took her freedom, and I am writing that story. I hope she approves.

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