Kiowa/Lander – A Mustang Story

Kiowa (previously named Lander) is our new mounted archery horse. I also have plans to do some limited distance miles on him and see how he does.

His story, however, was quite interesting.
Kiowa was born wild on federal lands in the Jackson Mountain HMA in 2006. He also had the misfortune of being born just a year before a bad drought in 2007 that got some negative media attention of horses dying of thirst and resulted in a rather large emergency gather of nearly 900 horses in the fall of 2007. Conditions apparently were so bad that at least 185 of the 900 horses died shortly after the roundup. The conditions and roundup were the feature of an article in Quarter Horse News in January 2008. Luckily Kiowa managed to survive not only the drought conditions, but the gather and the weeks immediately following the gather. There were so many yearlings gathered that year that a “Nevada yearling Challenge” contest was created. About 100 lucky yearlings found homes through the program. ( Kiowa was not one of them.
Kiowa did have a few things going against him for being adopted. He was on the short side. Fully grown, he’s only 14.1 hands. He also had the misfortune of being born “just a bay”. Bays, sorrels, and chestnuts have the hardest time being adopted. He was also out of a ho-hum HMA. He didn’t come from the flashy Kiger herds that Disney made famous or the Pryor Mountain Herd made famous by Cloud. Indeed, even the BLM description of the Jackson Mountans HMA in Nevada describes it basically as just a bunch of escaped ranch horses. In the BLM’s last internet adoption that I followed, most of the horses got a bid. A full third of horses out of Fallon, Nevada failed to get adopted. All of which were bay, chestnut or sorrel.

He did have a few things going for him though. Although bay, he does have a lot of chrome. He is also a gelding. (Mares being harder by far to place). He also was young. (Older horses have a much harder time of getting adopted.
He made it through 2008 and according to what I could find, made his way to the Canon City holding facility around March of 2009. He managed to get picked up for the Wild Horse Inmate Program and was halter broke there. He was even featured in an article in the Denver Post on an adoption event. ( ) If you follow the link, Kiowa is the one on the far left with the big white blaze on his Roman nose and white socks. It’s at the WHIP program where he appears to have gotten the name of Lander, named after the county in Nevada, which probably helped his adoption chances as well as a horse named Lander would probably have been more likely to get adopted than a horse named “#1375”.


Despite being featured in the Denver Post article, it would be another 6 months before he was adopted in March 2010. Somehow through all of that he managed to not become a “3 strikes” mustang and sold outright or sent to long term holding.
As it turns out, he was adopted by people that Rich Scott knew and he went to Rich Scott for 90 days training. After a time he ended up being sold to the husband of Bonnie Jorgensen, one of the members of our mounted archery group, High Plains Mounted Archers. His plan was to use him as a mountain hunting horse and he was renamed to Kiowa. In the summer of 2017 however, his owner passed away unexpectedly, leaving his widow with a lot of horses to try and find homes for. Which is how he ended up with us.

As we have a lot of horses ourselves, and Jen has quite a few “project” horses, the agreement was that any new horse we got had to be ridable by me. I am not the best equestrian by any stretch of the imagination, so that basically left really well broke horses. We ended up going out to see him, to find out that he really had only been ridden maybe twice since 2015. This didn’t help my nerves on trying to get on and ride him. Normally Jen would always take the first ride, she’s a really good equestrian and has started quite a few colts herself, including our first two horses. However, she had broken her arm in April so it came down to me. It turned out I was worried for nothing. He was a perfect gentleman.


Since coming to us, he’s been a mounted archery pony for three separate people. When Jen wanted to start shooting again, knowing that a fall could re-break her arm, I put her on Kiowa. My second ride off-property on him was to do an intro ride at Colorado Hightail Endurance Ride in Greenland. Originally thinking it was going to be a relatively flat 8 mile loop, it turned out to be a 12+ mile ride, with a few rocky stretches, and he carried me through it while barefoot without complaint.

Some of the generalizations I’ve heard about mustangs definitely apply to Kiowa. His feet are as hard as a rock, as our barefoot trimmer, Philip Himanka, constantly reminds me amidst grunts while trimming his feet. He gets fat on air. He definitely knows to take care of himself and I do not have a worry about him eating or drinking while on a ride. And though he is tolerant of others, he still bonds pretty heavily with one person.
I still love my Arab and saddlebred. I do, however, wish I had given other mustangs a chance, too. He’s a good horse.

Kiowa managed to survive a bad drought that killed some horses on the range, being ripped from his home in the wild, some pretty rough conditions that claimed 1 in 5 horses that were rounded up with him. He went through the WHIP program, some formal training, and some informal training. He made it through several owners and yet still has a good disposition. He reminds me that even after going through hardship, we can make it out the other side and still manage to have a positive outlook.


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