Thursday, January 31, 2013

Summer Brennan Wins Contest With Amado's Story

My friends Summer and Amado are featured in the Chatham Courier!  I am so happy that their fantastic story is getting out and that they are raising awareness for horses.  Amado is a GREAT ambassador for wild mustangs!!  ~Declan

Summer Brennan wins contest with Amado’s story

But his story really starts in the wild
Posted: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 11:00 am
Summer and Amado at Little Brook Farm

OLD CHATHAM — It’s like the old joke about the farmer who wins the lottery. “What’ll you do with the winnings?” they asked him. “Well, I guess I’ll just keep on farming until it all runs out,” he said.
So it may seem for Lynn Cross and her daughter, Summer Brennan, of Little Brook Farm in Old Chatham. But they have entwined their fate with that of a particular horse and it has worked out to their mutual benefit.

It has been about nine months since the wild mustang, Amado, came to live with Brennan and Cross and all the friends who regularly volunteer at the farm. The story of how he became the pampered ambassador for mustangs and the humane treatment of animals generally has been told in exquisite detail on the farm’s Facebook page, where the horse has 21,000 fans, as well as at the Equine Affair exhibition in Massachusetts last year, where he was very popular. Now, his story is on Photobucket. Brennan submitted it for a contest and won the $25,000 first prize.
Amado is a 5-year-old mustang gelding whose road to stardom began on the arid high plains of Northern California, where he ran with an estimated 1,300 other horses on land that the Bureau of Land Management says can only sustain 451 horses in the best of times. He was part of a helicopter roundup conducted on Oct. 29, 2011 at the High Rock Complex, then shipped to a long-term holding facility in Nebraska.
On May 4, 2012, he was shipped to Lorton, Va., as one of 27 mustangs chosen for the Extreme Mustang Makeover Competition to be held Aug. 9-12, an event that the Mustang Heritage Foundation sponsors in an attempt to find adoptable homes for horses unlikely to be placed without training.
Trainers applied to enter the contest and horses were selected for them by lottery. Twenty-five trainers had 90 days to train their wild mustang, then compete against each other for prize money. The northeastern edition of the competition was held at Dream Park in Gloucester County, New Jersey. Following the competition, the horses were auctioned off to the highest bidder.
Brennan did not win the mustang makeover competition. She didn’t even place. But her horse was by far the highest valued, as buyers bid for his purchase, not just because of his striking markings, but also, Brennan surmises, because he hadn’t had the life trained out of him. With the help of many friends who donated money, she won the bid and brought Amado home. All of this is told in the award-winning Photobucket story.
“Friends told me that I shouldn’t publicize this because people would say, ‘Oh, they have all this money so we don’t need to help them.’ But the only reason I did the contest was that the farm needed money,” she said. “Donations are down. Winter is always difficult, we don’t have the riding camps and lessons we have during the summer. And the general economic decline has an effect; because of budget cuts, the schools have cut out their field trips. Winter is a real down time for us.”
Little Brook Farm is a unique place that functions with the help of the good friends who show up without paycheck or prompting to clean stalls, feed animals, maintain fences and buildings.
“But there are many days during the winter when it’s just my mom and me,” said Brennan.
In the warmer days of the year, there are lessons and day-campers and visitors, but the winter offers scant opportunity for income. Added to the economic stress of winter maintenance is the fact that expenses are up.
“We take care of about 70 horses, here and in the seven other locations. This is the same number of horses we had last year, but because of the drought in the Midwest and grain being used for ethanol production rather than feed, our grain costs have risen by $10,000,” she said.
They needed money, so when the Photobucket contest was brought to her attention, Brennan decided to enter. The photo sharing website was launching a new feature consisting of a virtual scrapbook in which photos, short videos and text boxes are put on pages to make a story. Brennan felt that she had a story in Amado.
She had eight months’ worth of pictures and videos documenting the training, competition and eventual acquisition of her wild mustang. It’s a real story with a lot of drama and uncertain outcome, so there is no small measure of gratification when it ends well. Four-thousand seven hundred people entered the contest. Likes and comments helped with the selection and Brennan campaigned.
“Yeah, I entered to win,” she said. She lobbied her Facebook friends and got comments. “The main thing is how well it’s done, but also how well it’s networked.”
The winner was announced on Dec. 14 and a $25,000 check arrived in the mail Jan. 8. The prize money will be spent for feed for the horses and other maintenance projects around the farm.
“I know it seems like a lot of money to people, but with a farm like this, it goes quickly,” she said.
You can view their story at
Brennan, who holds a degree in Equine Business Management from Cazenovia College, has big ambitions for the farm. She would like to be able to build an indoor arena, so that riding lessons could be offered all year. She could set up her own horse training business.
Amado, center, just after having been rounded up.  Photo by Laura Leigh of Wild Horse Education

Plight of the wild mustang
The story of Amado is set against the backdrop of the new American West, where historical redolence has become a desiccated skeleton and sanguine old values are now vastly more complicated by the environmental impact of the human animal. As the wilderness becomes delineated by increasingly constricting borders, ecosystem balance is harder to maintain. The plight of herds of wild mustangs is just one example.
It is the task of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management to maintain the health of the flora and fauna of the nation’s public lands. The relevant component of that responsibility is established in the Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971: “Be it enacted … that Congress finds and declares that wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; that they contribute to the diversity of the life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people; and that these horses and burros are fast disappearing from the American scene. It is the policy of Congress that wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death; and to accomplish this they are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands.”
A noble and worthy aspiration, but its flaws were soon evident, as the animals began to overpopulate the designated public lands. Modifications to the bill had to be made.
Section 2 states, in summary, that as a result of environmental impact studies conducted in the later 1970s, “…an overpopulation exists in a given area of the public lands and … action is necessary to remove excess animals from the range so as to achieve appropriate management levels.”
Sub-headings stipulate that “old, sick or lame animals be destroyed in the most humane manner possible”; that the “excess wild free-roaming horses and burros … be humanely captured and removed for private maintenance and care for which he determines an adoption demand exists by qualified individuals” and that “not more than four animals may be adopted per year by any individual” unless they are deemed capable of humanely caring for them.
This is to help prevent the mass accumulation of horses for slaughter, a practice which, though technically legal in the United States, is not currently done. In 2006, Congress eliminated funding for horse meat inspectors, making the slaughter all but illegal, but funding was restored in 2011, although state bans are in place in California, Illinois, Mississippi, Oklahoma, New Jersey and Texas.
The justification commonly given for restoration of the funding is that there is an increase in neglected and abandoned horses in a bad economy. Advocates for the ban strongly dispute this rationale, maintaining that money is the real reason. Prior to 2006, the horse meat industry was valued at $65 million per year. Horse meat is eaten in Mexico, Asia and parts of Europe.
The shipping of horses for slaughter from the United States to Canada and Mexico has continually increased. By the end of 2010, 138,000 horses were being sent annually to Mexico and Canada for slaughter. The Bureau of Land Management maintains that it screens buyers carefully and the wild mustangs it rounds up never go to slaughter, but this is also in dispute.
Last September, it was reported that a Colorado livestock hauler, Tom Davis, had purchased 1,700 animals from the BLM since 2009. While he does sign the contract saying that they will not be slaughtered and there is no direct evidence that he has done so, there is no accounting for all of the animals he has purchased from the BLM. Furthermore, he does buy wild horses for slaughter from Indian reservations, where the same restrictions do not apply.
On Sept. 19, 2011, Congress presented the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act of 2011, of which Congressman Chris Gibson (NY-19th District) co-sponsored. This act amends the Horse Protection Act to “prohibit the shipping, transporting, moving, delivering, receiving, possessing, purchasing, selling of horses and other equines to be slaughtered for human consumption.”
It was referred back to committee, which essentially killed it.
The final subsection of Section 2 of the Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 states that if the adoption demands for these excess horses doesn’t exist, they are “to be destroyed in the most humane and cost efficient manner possible.”
In a few more paragraphs, the act allows for a study of environment and population by the National Academy of Sciences, stipulations for estrayment from public land finally and more controversially, “the Secretary may use or contract for the use of helicopters or, for the purpose of transporting captured animals, motor vehicles.”
Amado was rounded up in such a fashion. His capture was documented by Laura Leigh, an activist whose website,, shows the sometimes tragic result of BLM round-up methods and continues to be a burr under the Bureau’s saddle.
The story of the human-equine interaction in the United States is such that people would be hard pressed to identify themselves, their histories and make-up without their equine context. The problem of how to manage the land and animals will not be easily solved.
Brennan, Amado and Little Brook Farm stand as beautiful examples of how thoughtful and harmonious paths can be found. As Brennan contemplates her next project, she keeps in mind her goal of creating an indoor arena.
There is a new program offered by the Mustang Heritage Foundation to further encourage the adoption of some of the 42,000 horses that are currently in Bureau of Land Management holding corrals and pastures. Called Mustang Million, it is another competition, to be held in Fort Worth, Texas, with three sub-categories of competition and many more horses.
Asked if she would participate, she said she is “aggressively considering it.” She has mentioned it on her Facebook page and has gotten over 40 comments so far.

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