New Hope Rescue
Have you ever been to the mountains of Colorado? I haven't, but I've seen spectacular photos. Such a strong
feeling of freedom in those mountain photos-- you can almost feel the wind, smell the fresh air.
That's where five year old Gunny was born-- in those wild, untamed mountains. And that's where he lived with his
herd for the first two years of his life, until the day he was caught, along with others in his herd, and brought to
the Bureau of Land Management's facilities. There, he was gelded, freeze branded and sent up for adoption.
I have no doubt that many of these wild caught horses are matched up with wonderful homes, with people who
understand them and know how to gain their trust and coax them into becoming well adjusted, trusting,
productive horses, horses that love their new lives and jobs. Unfortunately, Gunny was not one of those horses.
He was "adopted" by someone here in Virginia who had no idea what to do with a wild horse. He was badly
abused that first year in captivity. Finally, out of frustration, he was sold to someone else-- who also had no idea
what to do with an abused, even wilder horse. He was chained up and beaten. He was left chained up.
Eventually, he broke loose and fled through the woods to another farm, where he saw other horses again for the
first time in ages. The people at this farm convinced his owner to let him stay.
Gunny was treated well there, mostly because he was left alone with the other horses. However, these people
had to make a sudden move out of the state. When the day came to load all the horses on the transport trailer,
all went well-- until it was time to load Gunny. He broke loose from the trailer and took off. The people, and the
transport, had to leave... and when Gunny returned from the woods, he was once again all alone-- his herd and
his caretakers gone.
That's when we got the call to come catch this horse and remove him, as new people were moving in. A good
neighbor had managed to coax him back into one of the paddocks. We spent the next two weeks trying to make
contact with Gunny... but he was terrified, inconsolable, and totally lost. I managed to touch his nose once, but
that was as far as I got. We brought in someone who is an excellent natural horsewoman, and she was able to
touch him on his face and neck, but as soon as Gunny sensed any thought of a halter or rope he bolted. Time
was running short... and then two days before Christmas Gunny escaped from the paddock and disappeared.
Luckily, he came back later that day, but we knew we were out of time. If he took off for good, in search of other
horses, anything could happen; he could get hit on the road, he could get injured or injure someone... we had to
catch him, any way we could, and get him moved somewhere safe.
So we called in the cowboys.
Those of you know know the Haislips know what we mean. These guys are amazing! And what's more amazing is
that they were willing to come out on Christmas Eve morning and help us to help this horse. I wish I could say
that it all went smooth, but it didn't go down that way. It took almost four hours to rope Gunny... he wouldn't give
up or give in. He is wise to being roped and he knew every trick. He fought and he fought... even after he finally
had two ropes around him, even when he was tied to a couple of posts and roped a third time, even when he
was choking himself to the ground, he fought. It was one of the most horrifying and heartbreaking things I've ever
had to watch... this little horse with so much trauma in his short past, once again fighting for his life, once again
being hurt by humans. If only he could understand it was for his own good, but all he really understands is that
he wants to be free...
Gunny finally arrived here and has been turned out with the other horses. He is doing as well as can be
expected; he has bonded tightly to Sebastian and is slowly being accepted into the rest of the herd. I am leaving
him alone for now... we decided to give him a few months to just relax, be a horse, be free of pressure from
people and see how he does. I don't know what his future holds but I know we will give him every chance. I hope
he comes to trust us eventually. I named him Gunnison, after the county in Colorado where the BLM offices are
located-- Gunny for short.
Gunny out in the field
Steve Haislip on Snooky, getting ready
to go in with Gunny
Using body language to make contact
Bolting away from Steve
Roped once, and let loose to calm
down, with the rope attached.
Second rope-- and Gunny breaks free
Finally tied by the two ropes to
different posts, and exhausted from