Photographing the wild Onaqui Mustangs in Utah was the adventure of a lifetime. When I was making plans to travel out west for my friend's wedding, I wanted to stop in Park City, Utah, to visit my brother and his girlfriend who had recently moved across the country. While searching for photo tours near Park City, I stumbled upon Wild Horse Photo Safaris. I had a brief phone call with Jen Rogers, the owner and guide and we instantly clicked. Before the tour, I learned that Utah stands as a key refuge for these wild mustangs in the United States, hosting 17 unique wild populations comprising slightly less than 3,600 horses, marking it as one of their final bastions.
Jen Rogers, met me near Tooele, about an hour away from Park City. At 7:30am, we set out on our journey in Jen's 4x4 that began with a dusty drive into the remote desert landscape, a place where these wild horses call home. We drove for about an hour in the range, and there was not a sign of the herd. We ran into another guy who was also searching for the wild herd. He had been looking for hours without any luck. We kept driving, and suddenly Jen stopped the car to look through her binoculars. She found the wild mustangs in the distance on a mountain ridge.
We drove for another mile up a steep rocky hill, parked, and then set out on foot. The hike was about a mile, and as we came over the ridge, we were surrounded by about one hundred and fifty wild horses.
The wild beauty and powerful presence of these animals captivated me. Jen knew every wild horse by name and their dynamic within the herd. It was a reminder of the importance of preserving their natural habitat and way of life. We sat with the herd for about three hours, changing our positions every hour. The horses were not startled by us, and it was like they recognized Jen.
Jen explained how the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is in charge of keeping the horses safe, but they also conduct roundups to control the herds. Many of these wild horses are torn away from their little families. The horses are then taken to a government holding facility and put up for auction. In the best-case scenario, these wild horses end up in a sanctuary, but that is not the case for most. Most wild horses end up with abusive owners who did not know what they were getting themselves into when purchasing a wild horse or are sent to kill pens for slaughter. Jen started a foundation, Red Bird Trust, that works to keep the Onaqui mustangs wild, and they also work to save wild horses from kill pens if the BLM conducts a roundup. These wild mustangs should be federally protected like the bald eagle but instead they are victims of government round ups.
Spending the morning with these horses was eye-opening on many different levels. A lifelong equestrian, my experiences have always been with domesticated horses and on horseback. It was a beautiful experience to see horses in their natural habitat and to experience them from the ground. To see them interact with one another was very special and an experience that I will never forget. Wild mustangs roaming free in their natural habitat evokes a sense of freedom and this experience reminded me of the importance of wildlife conservation.
10% of the proceeds from this collection go back to Red Bird Trust and their efforts to save America's Wild Mustangs. Shop the collection!