Reuben – Our First Meeting as told by Kate Beardsley

This is the prequel to my Year of the Horse story.  It is copied here from the Facebook page of my good friend, Kate Beardsley, with her permission, of course.  Kate beautifully tells the tale of our first encounter with Reuben, his capture and more. Her words and pictures are beautiful and I thank her for everything she has done for Reuben, me and all the horses in her care.

 

In June 2011, my friend Ann and I were riding as part of the Wild Horse Inventory in the Ochocos when we were aggressively attacked by a lone young black stallion. We radioed some friends who evacuated us with a truck and trailer so we did not lead this problem horse back to our camp. We named him “Reuben Morgan Wilder” after Ann’s grandfather. Apparently, Reuben continued to be a bad boy and attacked many riders in the area over the next month. Reuben was deemed a problem, likely an “abandoned horse”, and in July 2011, the Forest Service asked me to remove him. The Law Enforcement Officer contacted me because he remembered me from work I did on the Sisters Ranger District with Trooper – the horse that got shot in the head a few years ago.  DISCLAIMER: It is a FEDERAL OFFENSE to simply go out and capture or harass a wild horse!

Reuben

6.21.12 – Unfortunately, no one reported seeing Reuben for almost a year. We figured he’d gotten himself killed. Then on the first day of the Wild Horse Inventory, 2012, two stallions attacked a group of riders. A shot was fired into the ground with no effect. The shooter became the third person to tell me that next time he’d “shoot to kill.” That evening, my group saw Reuben and a young buddy on the side of the road, very close to where we originally saw him in 2011. We reported his sighting to the Central Oregon Wild Horse Coalition within minutes. It was becoming apparent that Reuben needed to go. I called Law Enforcement to report the attack and was told to capture him and remove him from the forest. DO NOT do this on your own!

Reuben and Friend

6.22.12 – Our group decided to focus on the Inventory, but ran right into Reuben and his buddy the next morning. Knowing someone was going to get killed if nothing was done, we agreed to spend a small amount of energy attempting to quietly and safely corral Reuben in a nearby working cattle corral. Laura rode my Ochoco mustang gelding, Duncan, in a way that tempted Reuben into the corral. It might have been surreal for Laura, but it was smooth for Reuben.

In the open

Safety was our #1 concern – for us humans and for keeping Reuben quiet and safe during his extraction. It was also important for us to keep Reuben’s new little buddy, “Jack”, from being exposed too much to human activity. Our hope was that we could get Reuben removed before he had caused this young wild stallion to gain negative behaviors. We had no idea where Reuben had come from – domestic dump or wild with aberrant behavior – but it was clear that his presence was only damaging the outlook for the rest of the horses in the Ochocos. Here, Reuben stands in the corral after we closed the gate. Jack stayed nearby outside the corral.

Reuben Morgan Wilder

Not wanting Reuben to injure himself while jumping out of the working corrals (an easy thing for a wild horse), we gained permission from the Central Oregon Wild Horse Coalition to use their 6 foot tall panels for fortified containment. The Coalition maintains a supply of these approved fencing panels in case of emergent situations. Safely contained, with food and water, we left Reuben until we’d finished the wild horse inventory activities. We hadn’t planned to be catching an aggressive stallion during our wild horse count experience! (DISCLAIMER: Do NOT do this yourself! We proceeded with this capture with the permission and direction of the federal agencies. Doing so without proper permission is a federal offense!) I remain over-the-top impressed with the dozen people who pitched in and quietly and safely moved panels in and contained this stallion. My hat is off to you!

Reuben

I was a bit busy during the next process and didn’t get pictures, but with the use of the Coalition panels, we fortified this alleyway to allow safe passage to the horse trailer. The plan was good. The execution BEAUTIFUL. Again, I remain very impressed with the dozen people that helped and how we quietly and safely corralled and loaded a ‘wild’ stallion without incident. We planned for every possible scenario except one – for it to go perfectly. In an effort to keep Reuben as calm as possible, we used my gelding Duncan to lure him in the trailer. So, after a picture perfect capture, a picture perfect fortification, a picture perfect planning process and execution, Reuben followed Duncan so closely into the trailer, we were unable to extract Duncan quickly enough and Reuben got his head out the escape door before Duncan had cleared it. In an effort to avoid ANY injury, we chose to let Reuben go. Away he ran with Jack. Our hearts were crushed. We had succeeded in neither protecting the public from potential harm nor protecting Reuben from probable future harm. It was certainly anti-climatic, but I remain proud of our group and content with our plan. The whole process was filmed by a documentarian so maybe you’ll all be able to participate in the roller coaster someday. With heavy hearts and some relief, we returned to camp where some of group departed and some stayed for one more day of riding or an early Sunday morning departure.

Looking In

Monday morning, June 25th, being the only ones left in our camp, Laurie and I woke to this scene: Reuben & Jack harassing our geldings in camp. After exhausting all manner of protection for our horses, Laurie and I agreed to bait Reuben back to the working corrals. I rode my gelding, Duncan, back one mile cross country to the working corral while Laurie guarded our camp against an inquisitive Jack. It worked – Reuben followed like a loyal puppy dog and calmly walked into the corral. The relief was palpable, but we were hardly done – we were still in our pajamas and we’d been at it for hours. We had phone calls and plans to make!

Checking Out the Trailer

Monday afternoon, after a morning of phone calls, planning, permissions, and protections, and having already returned the Coalition panels, we borrowed some from nearby friends and Laurie and I, together with Susie, Gary, and Bob, fortified the alleyway in the working corral, opened the gate, and our little Reuben simply walked through the alleyway and up into the trailer. Calm and cool, Reuben was ready to go on his next big adventure. When back in cell range on our way out of the Ochocos, we called the Forest Service again (having been in contact with them every step of the way), and were told they were working hard to find 6 foot panels for us to contain the horse in once at home. That was very much appreciated! I was told somewhere early in this process that maybe my faith in the federal agencies would be “restored”. It has been. THANK YOU Slater, Steve, and Mark!

Reuben's Nose

Monday evening, the District Ranger did indeed find panels for us to use but could not get them quickly enough. We had done everything to keep Reuben calm and safe – we didn’t want him to spend the night in the trailer. My friend, Ann (the real Reuben Morgan Wilder’s grand-daughter) understood the need and fronted the $2000 for me to buy my own BLM approved type panel pen! Now that’s commitment! Thank you, Ann! So, having just purchased 11 panels at Big R in Redmond and with a wild stallion in my trailer, we needed someone to deliver the panels to my home. As luck or divine intervention would have it, veterinarian Dr Scott Weems delivered the panels and stayed on hand until Reuben was safely and quietly unloaded. Once Reuben was safely contained for the night, Laurie and I headed back to the Ochocos again – we had needed to leave our four geldings at the working corral and has left our entire camp unattended during this process.

Unloading

All good stories deserve a happy ending! When we hauled Reuben off for the new chapter in his life, his little buddy Jack (“FlapJack”, “Spatula”, “Cuchara”, “Chula”) had buddied up with this wild stallion “Marvelous” and they literally cantered over the hill together as we drove away with Reuben. This truly warmed our hearts. We hope we intervened early enough for Jack to be able to remain in the wild. Managing the wild horses in the Ochocos can be a difficult task and we hope we’ve helped the Forest Service and the horses themselves by removing Reuben. Reuben will be gentled, gelded, and re-homed when he has been properly processed by the federal agencies.

Beautiful Friend

Lots of people showed their kindness and competence during this process, but make no mistake: the true hero is the Ochoco mustang gelding Duncan. This 9 year old laid-back and intuitive horse went way beyond the call of duty during this experience. Duncan was ridden by Laura during the first corralling event. He was then used as the all-too-successful lure into the trailer. Then it was Duncan that was our sacrifice horse when the stallions came into camp Monday morning and we scrambled to keep all the other horses at a safe distance from the wild ones. It was Duncan I rode as a bait horse all the way from our camp to the working corrals once again to corral Reuben on Monday and it was Duncan that kept Reuben company until he could be safely and quietly loaded. Duncan maintained a sense of reason and purpose through it all that I’ll never be able to explain. It’s as if he knew the plan. All this from a “funky-built” captured wild horse that I have never even finished paying for. Thank you, Karen, for allowing him to be so central in my life! Duncan is AMAZING!

Duncan