Wild mustang guides Huntly woman on unexpected book, film journey

‘He’s so beyond magical I wanted to share him with the world’

Ronda Ann Gregorio of Huntly knew within five minutes he was the one. She was immediately drawn to his powerful and compact conformation, sweet lines and kind eye.

Viggo is a wild mustang she adopted 5 years ago and gentled. Long a symbol of freedom, the mustang conjures up images of the untamed West, of John Wayne, Roy Rogers, Clint Eastwood and Viggo Mortensen, the acclaimed Danish American actor who starred in the biographical Hidalgo, a western film based on the legend of an American distance rider who raced his Mustang in 1891 against Bedouins riding pure blooded Arabians. Ronda’s equine is Viggo’s namesake.

Mustangs are horses defined as wild beasts having no master, never having been touched by human hands; horses with extraordinary blood lines, Spanish Barbs, Andalusians, Arabians.

Ronda’s love for this beautiful creature inspired her and she tells, “He’s so beyond magical I wanted to share him with the world.” And so the Wild Mustang Book Project was born.

Renowned Rappahannock photographer Ronda Gregorio’s “Wildheart” mustang project is taking her across the country. Courtesy of Ronda Gregoriov
Courtesy of Ronda Gregorio
Courtesy of Ronda Gregorio

Conservation ecologist Amy Venclik, familiar with Ronda’s project (Wildheart@themustangbookproject), writes of the upcoming book: “An up and coming hardcover by acclaimed Virginia photographer and horsewoman Ronda Gregorio featuring the stories, photographs, and ideologies of brilliant equestrians from around North America that have discovered the untapped potential of America’s Mustangs in the performance horse industry.”

Ronda shares of her new journey: “My experience with him and the profound trust we have in one another, sparked an interest in learning about other people’s journeys with mustangs, as my personal experience was so life-changing. The more I explored these stories, the more I realized that mustangs all over North America were having an overwhelming impact on their humans’ lives. These partnerships were rising above and they together were achieving the unthinkable!

“From world champions of western dressage to North American trick riding champions to winning the coveted Tevis Cup — every story, every person, every mustang I have met and continue to meet along the way, overwhelms me with joy, excitement, and absolute admiration.”

Her photo shoots with mustang owners around the country turned quickly into video shorts where a question was posed: “Can you describe a mustang in one word?” and the adjectives poured out: pure, thoughtful, special, spirited, heart. Ronda’s adventure is about how she can reach people, have them take mustangs seriously, as the mustang carries an unfortunate stigma, known as untrainable, wild, “a train wreck.”

Part of the problem, Ronda relays, is that adopting a mustang is a fairly inexpensive investment. She adopted Viggo for $125. So often, folks will adopt them, amateurs attracted by the price, unknowing of the training involved, not realizing that mustangs are not “amateur friendly.”

Professionals then inherit what they refer to as a mustang “train wreck” and so the stigma persists. Her magnificent Viggo brought Ronda in recent days to New York, where she returned home arms filled with honors — prestigious awards from the Equus Film Festival, where 500 film entries were considered.

Her short had gone viral, and the founder of Equus invited Ronda to compete and she won the top prize in two categories: Best Equestrian Photo Journalist and Best Festival Choice Official Artist.

Ronda rejoices, yet her job is not done. Her mission is to complete her book, to provide her targeted audience with an “ah ha!” moment so that they, too, will begin sharing their own passions of the wild mustang. Ronda is so clear that these magnificent beasts possess a powerful being, an aura, in a way you don’t hear about domestic horses.

Ronda Gregoria poses with her wild mustang Viggo and her other four-legged friends at her home in Huntly. Courtesy of Ronda Gregorio

She tells: “It’s a huge project beyond me, to finish shooting, I’m going all over the country starting in January to complete this book, and folks have been so generous, putting me up, and though I’m spending thousands of my own dollars, the journey is worth it.

“It’s the most worthwhile thing I’ve ever worked on in my life. My husband Sean is so supportive of the project and of the extensive travel. ‘Baby go do it,’ he says.

“Viggo is a horse of a lifetime. He’s a healer. He saved me. How do you repay something so selfless? When something is that powerful you need to share it.”

This is the short that won Ronda two first place awards: https://www.facebook.com/TheMustangBookProject/videos/262679134406710/

Chris Green
About Chris Green 159 Articles
Chris Green (formerly Chris Doxzen) is an an executive recruiter by profession who enjoys exploring and writing about all things Rappahannock. Friends and neighbors with potential stories for her Sperryville column should email her at chrisdoxzen@gmail.com.