WORLAND, Wyo. — Just over 13 months ago, the efforts of a Bureau of Land Management employee, veterinary technicians and one family helped rescue a newborn mustang foal. Today, that foal is a healthy, thriving, 1-year-old painted mustang and a welcome part of the Butler family in Worland.
“Stony the mustang pony” as he was dubbed by Worland veterinarian Steve Tharp, was rescued from the BLM Fifteenmile Herd Management Area (HMA) in June 2016. The BLM received a call about a young foal that was not doing well.
BLM engine equipment operator Clay Rideout responded to the call, took some time to observe the colt and made sure there were no other horses in the area to make sure he was truly abandoned.
“The person did the right thing by calling the office,” BLM Wind River/Bighorn District Public Affairs Officer Sarah Beckwith said in an interview last year. She said the BLM can make sure the horse is abandoned first, before picking it up and then taking it where it can get the care it needs.
The horse was then brought to Tharp’s Veterinary Service where care was turned over to his technicians Victoria Martin, Erin Larson, Emma Corn and Echo Study. Tharp estimated that Stony was a day or two old when he was rescued.
Regardless of how Stony ended up abandoned, he never had his first taste of mother’s milk, and suffered a failure of passive transfer by not getting the needed colostrum with that first milking.
Along with feeding Stony regularly, his immediate care also included a blood transfusion from one of Larson’s horses.
ENTER THE BUTLERS
As he gained strength his future was already set because Ryon Butler was already taken with the young colt.
Butler said he came into Tharp’s office the day after Stony had arrived. He was bringing in a horse who was still losing his young teeth and needed Tharp to look at one of the teeth. He was introduced to Stony.
“Before lunch I had already come back a couple of times to help bottle feed him. My train of thought just started working,” Butler said.
Butler said he had a mare, Alaska, who had a filly in January and the filly was about ready to be weaned. He thought he could get the mare to accept Stony and thus Stony would get the needed mother’s milk, provided the BLM agreed.
What prompted him to move forward with the idea? “Not that I’m a fan of paints, but he is eye-catching,” Butler said.
He added, “Growing up on a farm, I’ve been around plenty of animals and babies and I kind of felt bad for him. I knew the Honor Farm would take great care of him. I knew there would be plenty of people that would be able to take care of him around the clock and no one person would be just overly exhausted.” (According to the BLM, “The BLM and the Honor Farm have worked cooperatively since 1988 to train and adopt wild horses gathered primarily from Wyoming’s public lands.”)
He added, “Even with all that much attention, nothing replaces a mom. He needs a mom.”
Butler said animals that are hand-fed compared to those fed through the mother may see a delay in growth or stunted growth.
“I thought he deserves a chance. Not that I’m trying to make a person out of him but no one deserves to be abandoned by their mother. He’s a tough little bugger. I can’t believe he went through all that and survived,” he said.
Butler added that he also realized he had the opportunity, an opportunity that ordinarily wouldn’t be available since most foals aren’t born in early January. It was perfect timing that the filly could be weaned off at the time Stony needed some mother’s milk.
He talked to his neighbor who worked for the BLM about the process of adopting Stony. He said she must have made calls during the weekend because before 8 a.m. on Monday, June 6, 2016, he was told the process was in place for Stony to go home with the Butlers and eventually be adopted.
“It took a little bit of work. Having already had kids, I thought this could be tough, bottle feeding around the clock, especially with an individual that doesn’t live next door to me in the bedroom. Even with that, trying to get mom (Alaska) to take him it still took about five days,” Butler said.
He said he had to supervise every feeding and had to blindfold the mother the first five days. After day five, he said Alaska was waiting at the fence for Stony. “I turned them out in the pasture and we never looked back. She stayed with him even when he would run off and go exploring,” Butler said.
Butler said another reason he decided to adopt Stony was that his neighbor has adopted some wild mustangs from the BLM and said they make good trail and mountain horses.
The adoption process has gone smooth. Stony was first placed in what the BLM considered foster care with the Butlers to ensure viability and survivability. Butler said the paperwork is complete for the final adoption and he is just waiting for the official documentation to arrive in the mail.
He said he has never adopted a mustang from the BLM before. He said the local BLM employees have been great to work with through his first adoption.
UNCERTAINTY OF LIFE
While things are working out well for Stony, Butler admitted that life is uncertain. He said the filly who had been born in January, and who essentially made it possible for Stony to survive and come live with the Butlers, died at about 18 months old. He said he doesn’t know how she died, he just found her in the pasture one day.
Butler said the filly also helped teach him and his children life lessons. He said the filly was to be his daughter’s horse since his daughter, Jaden, 8, was also born in January.
“It taught us a lesson about learning to let go,” Butler said, noting he was looking forward to working with the horse with his daughter.
At first, he said, he was angry, thinking time was wasted, but now he realizes he needs to be thankful for the time you have and with what you have.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR STONY?
Butler said the mustang’s public persona remains “Stony” but the family has renamed him Cocoa because his son, Beaux 4, and Jaden, said he looked like a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows with brown and white coloring.
He said as a young horse he has just started working with Cocoa. He had his first “mani, pedi day,” as his wife Jill posted on Facebook when they worked on trimming his hooves. He has also had him get used to a “picket line” where he ties one foot to a line for grazing while trail riding.
He said when Cocoa is mature enough he will likely use him for trail and mountain riding. Cocoa is one of four horses the Butlers own, along with a burro. Having horses, he says, provides the opportunity to “take camping to a whole new level of fun,” by being able to go farther into the forest.
As for other future plans, Butler noted a Thermopolis resident has expressed interest in a children’s book about “Stony.”
He also would like Stony aka Cocoa to help promote the BLM’s wild horse and burro adoption program.
“The mustangs have a hard road ahead of them with the rules and regulations that the BLM is required to use in how to handle the mustangs. There’s so many varying opinions from the public on how that should be done to,” Butler said.
He added that there are a lot of horses out there that the BLM has to do something with but the BLM is constrained by rules, restrictions and sometimes logistics “and the poor horses are caught in the middle.”
“Not that I think I’m the answer to fix all the problems by any means, but if nothing else if he could be a little bit of motivation to kind of help people think that choosing a mustang for their horse is maybe a little bit better idea, that would be a good step in the right direction. There are so many out there that need a place to go.”
Information from: Northern Wyoming Daily News, http://www.wyodaily.com