By Eric Anderson
To this day, mustang horses run wild on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. On this next ROXOR adventure, I explored Northern Nevada and the Carson-Tahoe mountain range to search out bands of mustangs and to study their history and how they’ve survived in this wide-open space.
Known for being a part of Western American history, the wild mustang horses are still found, to this day, roaming the open plains in Nevada, Utah, and Idaho, as well as BLM lands that connect other Western States. These horses are descendants of those originally brought to the new world by the Spanish in the 1500s, and subsequently, used by the native Indian populations, Cowboys, and Pony Express riders too. What would a good Western movie be without these three key ingredients?
Technically, they're not “wild” because their ancestors were domesticated Spanish mustangs, much like feral hogs, which were also brought over by the Spanish. Similarly, these two feral species are experiencing huge population increases because they have no natural predators - the meat-eating dinosaurs are all extinct, and there are no big cats in North America large enough to pull down a horse or a hog for a meal.
Our ROXOR, the new automatic transmission 4-seater, complete with a Rockford Fosgate stereo system, and P-40 graphics, was our machine of choice to explore and find small bands of horses. The snow had fallen recently, so there was plenty of water, but it was finding the grass that was the challenge.
We locked in the hubs, threw it into 4-wheel drive, and headed out to the open plains of the rocky mountainsides, known as the Pine Nut Mountains, east of Lake Tahoe and South of Carson City, the capital of Nevada.
This is also a well-known off-roading area for riding, driving, and rock crawling. It's connected by dirt roads to the Pony Express and Emigrant Trails. They have been left here from our pioneering forefathers, caravanning to the West, in hopes of either finding gold or a fruitful new piece of land to call their own.
Our turbo diesel, four-cylinder engine, surprisingly quiet and smooth, enabled us to almost drive up close to this band of horses. Typically, each band has a name, which is representative of the alpha males’ appearance: names like Socks, Blondie, or Blackie.
In the case of these free-roaming mustangs out in the wild, the Bureau of Land Management occasionally conducts roundups, which collects some of the individuals in overpopulated herds and offers them for adoption by private individuals. There are an inadequate number of adopters, however, so many of the mustangs now live in long-term holding areas.
The federal government disagrees on protecting the natural habitat or providing a better quality of life. Part of the disagreement stems from whether these animals are considered a native species or an invasive species. Horse lovers want to leave them alone, however, the possible ensuing mass starvation and subsequent population crash, could be a horrible event for the entire herd.
One possible new solution to the overpopulation problem of these majestic animals, involves the state prisons of Nevada who have been testing the use of captured mustangs as therapy animals for prisoners. Each prisoner is assigned a wild mustang at the Carson City state prison to care for, to feed and eventually break. So, after their time together, the horse becomes a rideable and lovable animal.
There's even a Hollywood movie made here starring Bruce Dern called the Mustang on the very topic. Check it out on Netflix or Amazon prime. I'm sure you'd love to see how two wild animals, the horse and the prisoner, become emotionally dependent on one another, after enduring a gauntlet of challenges.
It was a great day of four-wheeling with the rugged ROXOR, away from the human population and just hanging out with the mustangs. If you ever get a chance to come off roading in the West, bring your long-lens camera, and hunt for a band of wild horses!