“Congress finds and declares that wild free-roaming horses . . . are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West, [and] that they contribute to the diversity of the life forms within the nation and enrich the lives of the American people.” — Public Law 92-195
Meghan Kavanah of Sperryville and Ronda Gregorio of Huntly are now the proud owners of two mustangs — Viggo, named after “Hidalgo” star Viggo Mortensen, a film about a mustang; and Landay, which refers to a form of verse appropriated by Afghan women to express themselves. An expression of freedom, landays are anonymous oral verses, and thus belong to no one — a perfect fit for mustangs, who are, by definition, ownerless beasts.
“For the past few years I’ve dreamed of owning a wild horse,” Ronda says. “I heard there was a mustang adoption. I asked my best friend to come along — just to look.” It was Meghan who first noticed Viggo, and Ronda recounts that she knew within five minutes he was the one.
She was immediately drawn to his powerful and compact conformation, sweet lines and kind eye. She spoke poignantly of earning Viggo’s trust, and is enjoying every step of the training process. “It is hard to not have expectations during training but that is my goal,” she says, “to train at his speed not mine. Several weeks ago, he wouldn’t even let me touch him.”
“I think I’m at a point in my life where I am able to make decisions that are less selfish,” she continued. “I’m asking what he needs, rather than what I need. Everything he gives me is so much more rewarding because he is making the choices and setting the pace. The first day I touched his shoulder — that was huge. He made that decision, not me. I felt so lucky!”
Last week, I watched Ronda ride Viggo bareback in the ring, proving how far the two have already come. (A video of the adoption process is available on YouTube.)
Landay, Meghan tells me, is a five-year-old mare who “moves and looks much like an Andalusian.” Meghan’s goal is to change some of the perceptions around mustangs, “to build awareness of the breed, to become an ambassador. These horses have great bloodlines, heralding from Spanish Barb, Janet and Andalusian.” The latter breed is currently in vogue in dressage circles. “I think a lot of folks don’t realize that these mustangs can become great dressage horses.”
Landay is truly wild, Meghan says, as she was not from a managed herd. Whereas Viggo lived on thousands of acres of government-sanctioned land, Landay was totally free. Neither one, however, was ever touched by human hands. These horses are rounded up for adoption — to control herd size — by helicopter, the ladies tell me. Sometimes, so-called “Judas horses” lead them into stalls and corrals.
According to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which manages the U.S. mustang population, the horses are allowed to run free on 34 million acres of public land. Most mustangs are found out west, in Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Wyoming, Utah, Oregon, California, Arizona, North Dakota and New Mexico. For more information on the adoption of wild mustangs, visit blm.gov/adoptahorse/.
Both women are experienced, gifted riders. Meghan enjoys sponsorship and spends winters training horses in Florida and shows at Wellington; she also owns a number of horses stabled both in Rappahannock and Middleburg. Meanwhile, in addition to training horses, Ronda is noted for her professional photography (see samples at gregoriophotography.com).
Good luck to both of you in realizing your dreams and equine passion.