A Horse’s Worth

Mustangs are deeply woven into America’s historical fabric, but the ongoing debates over public land are putting them at risk. Mustangs to the Rescue strives to elevate the public’s view of wild horses to protect the iconic breed.

Text Élise Legault

Photos Catherine Bernier

I first met Kate Beardsley following BESIDE’s very first magazine launch. Part of the editorial team and I were in Bend, Oregon to distribute the debut issue. There, we met with shop owners who supported Mustangs to the Rescue (MTTR), an organization that rehabilitated horses in dire need.

We reached out to Beardsley who, having founded the organization, has been praised as a local hero, and within 24 hours we were at her ranch, cameras and microphones in hand, surrounded by a herd of horses. The video and photographs shared in this article were captured that one cold afternoon.

I caught up with Kate this past October. In the two years since our visit, a lot has changed for MTTR, for better and for worse: their operations have grown, it has moved into a more suitable facility, and Donald Trump is well into his Presidency.

Beardsley has dedicated her life to all things equine. For decades, she trained horses and their riders to achieve peak performance. As the years passed, however, this business didn’t quite sit well with her values.

The feeling was unshakeable. And so, in 2010, Kate acquired eight unwanted mustangs, put them to work on her pack string for the spring, and found them permanent homes in the fall. In 2012, Mustangs to the Rescue was incorporated–her mission was official. Today, she lives on the premises and tends to 50 sheltered horses, a feat made possible thanks to local support and her volunteer crew members.

Horses find themselves in several predicaments from which they require rescuing. Some stories are heartbreaking, for instance, a sick owner who can no longer ensure the animal’s basic needs or can no longer afford the cost of the upkeep. Other stories tackle a much broader issue: kill buying.

This is why Kate puts rescued horses to good use. “An animal with training is an animal with a future,” she explains. Through rehabilitation, she builds their self-confidence, their trust, and their skills. The approach takes time, but the success stories make it worthwhile. From the hundreds of adoptable horses Kate has trained, some have gone on to become excellent backcountry packers, others are specialized in search and rescue or scent detection to help find missing persons. Kate no longer trains for financial gain, she trains to give horses a purpose.

Although Kate rescues all breeds, she admittedly has a soft spot for mustangs.

In 1971, the U.S. Congress passed the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act to protect and preserve these iconic animals. The Act has been disputed ever since, and under the Trump presidency, wild horses have become wild cards.

In the wake of the Trump Administration calling for the drastic reduction of the Bears Ears and Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monuments, many are left grappling with the question of what to do next. As our call comes to an end, she ponders, “How do you keep sacred things sacred?” For Kate and her legion of volunteers, the answer may reside in creating value, one horse at a time.

Elise Legault is a producer, writer, and radio host who is driven by a desire totell stories that explore, explain, and examine what is at the heart of human nature. She is also the creator of BESIDE’s very first podcasts.

 

Catherine Bernier is a writer, photographer, and creative strategist from Gaspésie, Québec, who never travels too far from the ocean and wilderness, be it in South America or the Arctic. On the weekends, she and her partner often head to Nova Scotia to surf and work on their cabin.

 

 

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