Kalypso’s Story by Stephanie Linsley
This is the story of how Kalypso, a Sand Wash Basin Mustang who was gathered in early 2017, regained his freedom.
Kalypso was born in 2013 in the Sand Wash Basin HMA in Colorado. In winter 2016-17, he was gathered by the BLM with 42 other Mustangs. Many of these horses were adopted right away at adoption events, and those that didn’t get adopted were brought back to GEMS to be trained and adopted. We wanted to be sure that none of the Sand Wash Basin horses that were removed from their homes would end up lost in a holding facility as nothing but a number. However, 3 geldings were brought back to the BLM facility with the intent to be enrolled in a training program where they would eventually act as Border Patrol horses – an honorable career for a Mustang!
Fast forward about 5 months, and a fellow SWB advocate spotted the tag numbers of those 3 geldings on an inventory list at the Ewing, Illinois BLM holding facility and they were all marked as Sale Authority – meaning they could be purchased for $25 without the same protections as an untitled Mustang. Sale Authority horses are at a greater risk of being purchased by kill buyers or ending up in bad situations. With a couple calls to Ewing, we determined that the 3 horses were indeed the Sand Wash Basin boys – Kalypso, Little Joe, and Surma. Apparently they had never been enrolled in the training program and instead, they were put on a trailer to Ewing when a trailer load going East needed to be filled.
With the help of several generous donors, we secured transportation of the boys to be returned to GEMS where they could be trained and adopted without worry of them landing in the wrong hands yet again. On November 2, Kalypso and Little Joe arrived to GEMS. (Surma had strangles and had to recover before he could be hauled, so he came later!)
Once training began, it was clear that Little Joe was very eager to partner up with humans and would be “easy” to train, but Kalypso had some pretty deep seated fear of humans and would take longer to come around. Little Joe found a great home after a few months and went on to ride the CDT this summer. Kalypso stayed at GEMS as I wanted to give him plenty of time and opportunity to overcome his fear behaviors in order to become adoptable. There was a little success along the way, and he grew to trust me enough to be petted a bit, haltered a few times, and led a little. But along the way, he never truly let his guard down and always retained his wild spirit. It was after 6 months of investing lots of time and love in Kalypso that I decided that the best way to honor this particular horse’s spirit would be to give him back the life he lost and craved. He would be released on our 700 acre Sanctuary pasture where he could live out his days “wild”.
This was not a decision I took lightly, as I had grown rather fond of him over our time together and always believed in his abilities. But there is a careful balance to be reached when our goal is to find homes for many horses, and to find appropriate homes. I knew that regardless of how much time Kalypso received, he would always require an expert adopter. One that was well-experienced with Mustangs and had the time and resources to invest in him forever. I also knew that with the time I spent working with Kalypso, it was taking away from the time needed to invest in several other Mustangs that were eager for partnership that could happily find their forever homes. I still don’t believe that Kalypso is “untrainable”, but I do believe that his wildness burned brighter than many.
Sanctuary is not a life for every horse. Believe it or not, many if not most Mustangs learn to prefer a more domesticated life when they are treated with love, care, and understanding. Horses, as prey animals, seek safety and comfort above all else. When they learn that ample food can be delivered to them reliably, and they can conserve precious energy by hanging out in a pen, eating what is brought to them, drinking clean and fresh water, and not having to be concerned with being eaten by predators, they find that it’s much more comfortable than the wild life they had to work so hard at. With that said, horses are social animals with a need to move, so they should be kept with other horses and in pens that are large enough for them to comfortably run, buck, and play. There have been times that we release a horse to Sanctuary, thinking they will have a dramatic “movie” moment where they take off across the pasture and never look back – only to find them back at the gate to the corrals before we get there! They’re looking for their easy life!
Kalypso was different. When Kalypso was released, he trotted off the trailer, ran up the hill, stopped briefly to look back and seemingly say “thank you” for understanding him, and ran off to find the herd. He didn’t come back to the corrals. For Kalypso, his freedom was more comfortable to him than the “easy life” of domestication. Even though it took him several weeks to successfully integrate into the existing Sanctuary herd, he stayed out there determined to reclaim his wildness.
Today, Kalypso is an integral member of our Sanctuary herd. He never really got along with the other dominant geldings in the herd, so in time he collected a few mares for himself and started splitting the herd into two groups instead of one large group. This kind of behavior actually benefits the land greatly, as instead of one large group of horses traveling on the same trails and grazing the same areas, two smaller groups leave less of a footprint. What I was most surprised about though, is that once Kalypso was free again, he allowed me into his space with more ease than he had when he was in the corrals. While he will never be brought in and attempted to domesticate again, Kalypso seems to appreciate that we honored his unique self and gave him the life that was best for him.
Thank you to all who were a part of Kalypso’s journey! See Kalypso, and his herd mates, on our beautiful eastern Colorado ranch during a private driving tour!
There are many ways that YOU can help horses like Kalypso find their forever homes…
*ADOPT! If you’re looking for a new horse, consider adopting a Mustang. Mustangs come in all kinds of colors, sizes, builds, and dispositions.
*SPONSOR! If you’re unable to care for a Mustang, consider financially sponsoring one here at GEMS. This ensures that we can save more Mustangs and continue our ambassador programs long term.
*VOLUNTEER! If you’d rather give time than money, consider volunteering to help at the GEMS ranch.
*DONATE! With over $200,000 in annual operating expenses, it takes a lot to ensure that GEMS can care for nearly 200 horses each year and effectively support the Mustangs. 100% of our income goes directly to supporting the horses and we pay $0 to administrative salaries. By donating to GEMS, you can be sure that your money is well spent and is actively supporting the cause!
(Disclaimer: Kalypso was released on our private Sanctuary pasture – not on BLM land! Releasing horses on BLM land remains a federal offence!)
Photo Credit: Petra Kadrnozkova