It’s Been A Year!

by Ann Ruttan

Hello friends.  This is a long overdue update on my progress as an artist, a rider, a person and most important, the owner of Reuben Morgan Wilder, the infamous black stallion of the Ochocos.  I will assume that readers of this update will know the story of how Reuben came into my life and so will proceed on from last year, November 8th, 2012 when he came into my life in an official way.

Thanks to Kate Beardsley and Laurie Adams and my wonderful husband, Marv Hautala, I adopted Reuben on November 8th, one week before my 66th birthday.  These three encouraged me, and I have been on an amazing adventure because of all of them.

In June 2012 Reuben was racing around the Ochocos being the “bad boy.”  Laurie Adams, Kate Beardsley, Marv and I, and several others were gathered in the Ochocos to count wild horses.  Slater Turner (head of the forest service) had requested that Kate capture the black stallion as he was such a danger to humans.  Several people had said they would shoot him if he attacked them again.

As we discussed the future possibilities for him, Laurie Adams said to me, “He is for you.”   I, having never owned a horse, had not considered that possibility as I knew I did not have the necessary skills.  As you all know, Reuben was captured by Kate and Laurie.  He was committed to Kate’s care while the speculation about his lineage was resolved.   In early November, DNA test results proved that he was indeed an Ochoco mustang.  Mr. Slater Turner sent a forest service crew (wonderful people) to deliver him to the BLM for processing.   Marv and Laurie and I followed Kate and the crew as they drove him to Burns for processing.  I sat in our car thinking – what have I done?  He was processed with quiet, competent kindness by the crew at the BLM corrals. I signed the adoption papers that day.

Reuben returned that day to Kate’s care and keeping.  Kate is a TIP trainer and certified by BLM to bring horses through the process of learning their first skills (being halter broken, learning to load in a trailer and learning how to pick up their feet).  Marv and I began our bi-monthly treks to Bend and then to Terrebonne.

And so began 2013.  Kate Beardsley moved to Skyhawk Ranch in December and began the long and arduous process of starting the non-profit “Mustangs to the Rescue.”   Reuben was gelded in February by the ever kind Dr. Paul from Cinder Rock Veterinary Clinic.   I was fortunate to have Laurie Adams devote hours of her time to me and Reuben and somehow we transformed a wild stallion who I couldn’t halter, to a sweet gelding who would quietly follow me around.  Kate spent a lot of time coaching me and helping Reuben gain his first necessary skills – not only the BLM TIP requirements, but also high-lining, ponying, and learning to traverse the obstacle course at Skyhawk Ranch.

In March, I called Richard Cockle, the Oregonian reporter who had written articles about wild and abandoned horses to tell him a “success” story.  He wrote an article about Reuben that became the front page story in the Oregonian.  Amazing!

Marv and I rented a home at Crooked River so I could spend time every day with Reuben. My long lost friend, Kay Limbaugh, came back into my life and recruited volunteers and donations for Mustangs to the Rescue.  I met many wonderful people and became an expert poop scooper (lots of horses-lots of poop).  The time at Skyhawk with Mustangs to the Rescue was invaluable.  Not only were there lots of horses and poop to scoop- there were lots of learning opportunities.  I watched several trainers work with horses. Their goal was to help them develop the necessary skills for their futures.  Anna, Teresa, Joy, Tracy, Bethany, Terri, and Sandy, all shared their knowledge and ideas with me. Randy Bickle trimmed Reuben’s feet and taught me where to stand while holding Reuben’s lead rope.   I was a pilgrim in a strange land, but boy, it was wonderful!

The clinician, Terry Nowaski, came to Skyhawk for a week of equine sign language and air scent training.  It was eye opening.   I went to training sessions with the T.A.M.E program that was designed to teach people how to gentle and train mustangs.  This instructive program was put on by Gayle Hunt and her group – The Central Oregon Wild Horse Coalition.   I listened to vets, the BLM director, and several trainers who shared their methods and ideas.  I learned from Lisa Murphy who came to Skyhawk Ranch and spent six weeks training volunteers.  I learned from Tracy Stout who is the gracious owner of Skyhawk Ranch who gave Mustangs to the Rescue a home as an act of generosity and concern for horses in need.

Reuben, Marv and I joined Kate at the Actha ride in the Ochocos .  Reuben was the guest speaker at the endurance ride camp fire.  Many of the riders had met him before when he charged them and made a “bad boy” appearance.  He apologized for his rude behavior and presented himself as a model citizen.

As summer came to a close we returned home to rejoin our family and meet our new grandson, Wilder Ruttan (not named after the horse – Wilder is a family name). We knew that our time in Central Oregon was over, as we were needed at home.

In the most providential way, Reuben became one of the horses that the great Dave Williams is training.  Dave is a very well known horseman whose mentor was Tom Dorrance.  He, due to most unusual circumstances, was able to take Reuben into his training stable.  In addition to being a great horseman, he is a kind and generous person who allows me to work with him every day.  I have spent two months going Monday to Friday to Dave’s place in St. Helens, and am on the learning curve of my life.

The conclusion of this report is:  I have ridden Reuben twice.  Dave has taught him many skills and works with him daily.  He rode him yesterday and I joined in – riding Dave’s mare, Freckles.  Reuben went on a ¾ mile trail ride.  Dave said he had never had such a good first trail ride in all his years of training.  Reuben was brilliant, and lead the way for me and Freckles down the road, across and field, into the woods and up an embankment and back home.  He looked very confident and calm and never a startle or hiccup.  What a day.  Dave and Reuben 2013 First RideTomorrow is November 8th. It’s been a year.  I am baking horse treats tonight so we can have a party tomorrow.

I am continuing with my Reuben paintings.  Trying to capture my beloved horse’s personality is challenging.

Each person in Reuben’s story has been necessary.  Without Laurie, Kate, and Marv, the story would never have started.  Without Dave the story wouldn’t be at this milestone.  What will happen next?  I don’t know.  I do believe that Reuben is the spokeshorse (as Laura Robson said) for all of the wild horses.  They are part of our history and culture.  The debate about feral vs. wild, etc. is not the most important point as far as I am concerned.  I believe that we can learn to treat them all well. I think that the volunteer interest in Mustangs to the Rescue, the large attendance at the T.A.M.E. training, the enormous efforts by individuals to help, the national news stories about mustangs, the documentaries about wild horses, are the starting point for a dialogue that will help us make choices necessary for their benefit, which is ultimately for our benefit.

I know this is a long report, but it has been quite a year.

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