Saving the Onaqui Pt. 11

Red Bird’s band July 2021 before the roundup. Red Bird is laying on the left, Dreamcatcher is laying on the right and Teton is standing directly above Dreamcatcher.

The Reunion

These last 9 months have been filled with so many emotions it’s simply impossible to start to try to recap them all. Since March 2nd when the roundup of over 400 Onaqui wild horses was announced it’s been all hands on deck trying first to stop the roundup and then trying to find appropriate homes for the 300 mustangs awaiting adoption at our local Delta short term holding facility.

Ever since the corrals opened to the public back in September I’ve been spending time every week with all the horses in the pens taking photos, documenting, hand feeding and petting those who learned to enjoy the attention. It’s been so hard to keep the horses a secret that I intended to personally adopt but there was zero question that it was the right decision all the way around. I’ll forever be grateful for the little team of wild horse angels who helped to keep them safe amid the swirling mess of social media platforms.

I’m guessing that many people reading this will remember the story of little Dreamcatcher who was inadvertently separated from his mother Marley and sister Little Star during the roundup process and they were returned to the range while he was sent to the pens at around 4 months old. I’ve had countless good samaritans reach out over the months asking for an update and wanting to make sure that the little colt was okay. My answers were always brief and vague and simply asked for patience while the story played out.

Finally the day has come when I can share that little Dreamcatcher will be coming home with me to live out the rest of his life with my pretty little Swasey mustang rescue Cheyenne Grace and he will once again be reunited with his band brother Teton who was best friends with Red Bird and Little Star – the Three Amigos who were never separated in the wild and who did everything possible to care for little Dreamcatcher from the time he was born to the day of the roundup.

Teton also has a forever home with me and taking him was never something I gave as much as a second thought.

The band was split up with the majority being returned to the wild, but Stetson, Ariat and Moon Dancer, the three remaining of the family in the pens have also all been adopted into wonderful forever homes that are very fitting for their individual needs. The relief is immense.

Below are short little stories about both Dreamcatcher and Teton to tell a little more of their background in the wild and I am overjoyed to be able to share updates about their lives moving forward for a long, long time to come.

For those who have become familiar with Red Birds Trust, you will know that our 501(c)(3) nonprofit is not a sanctuary and thus these horses are not “sanctuary” horses, but rather my personal horses which I was able to adopt using all the tip money I’d been saving from my wonderful clients who I took out for photo tours on the range. So for all of you with such generous hearts I want to say a sincerely THANK YOU, because every one of you has now helped in your own way to help me to finally bring these boys home.


Dreamcatcher grooming Redbird while he sleeps as Moon Dancer looks on June 2021

Dreamcatcher was just that – an almost ethereal little curious, loving, patient and kind little colt that was absolutely loved and adored by the yearlings in his band.  He was born at the end of March 2021.  Red Bird took the role as Dreamcatcher’s lead care taker since his dam Marley had her hands full with now two babies – Little Star and Dreamcatcher.  Red Bird would groom him, stand guard over him while he slept and so very gently teach him the beginning lessons of how to stand and play.

Even as a wee one, Dreamcatcher had such a kind, curious nature about him and a quiet confidence which allowed him to carefully expand his horizons further away from his mom than most to meet new horse friends and cautiously assess new humans that may show up.  While careful, he was never unreasonable about his level of caution and took on new experiences with relative ease and calmness.

Red Bird, Teton and Little Star watch over Dreamcatcher as he sleeps – April 2021

We’ll never know what must have gone through his mind during the July 2021 roundup where at only a little over 4 months of age he was chased by a helicopter with the rest of his band, loaded into a stock trailer and then inadvertently separated from his mom, sister and all the other horses he knew.  How this precious little soul slipped through the cracks will never be known, but the second that the Onaqui release happened and Marley and Little Star appeared back on the range without Dreamcatcher alarm bells began sounding far and wide.

Although it was deemed unsafe by the BLM to return him to his mother and sister in the wild after 6 weeks separation in the holding pens, he has finally been reunited with one of the three amigos – Teton – who helped to guide him to being the wonderful little perfect horse he is today.

There was initially some confusion as to Dreamcatchers true identity as a north foal named Quinn looked nearly identical (which by a crazy twist of fate was also orphaned in the roundup and who I’d watched being born on the range earlier that spring). Fortunately I had documented several scars on him right before the roundup (one very noticeable on his left shoulder as well as a tiny one on his forehead) so once we were allowed into the pens the little fella took not time at all to push his way to the front of the other boys to make himself known.

For everyone who has been lucky enough to meet him in person, little Dreamcatcher brings nothing but joy to anyone who’s fortunate enough to be in his presence. He’s an absolute perfect little creation and I will always be grateful to be his caretaker.

Red Bird taking care of a very young Dreamcatcher May 2021
Dreamcatcher trying to get Red Bird to play May 2021
Red Bird and Dreamcatcher April 2021
Dreamcatcher and his mother Marley in June 2021
Dreamcatcher (left) and best friend Clover (right) April 2021
Dreamcatcher and Clover April 2021
Dreamcatcher resting by the watering hole July 2021
Dreamcatcher playing with buddy Maui July 2021
Dreamcatcher following Red Birds lead and watching over the valley June 2021
Dreamcatcher sleeping under the watchful eyes of Ariat, Stetson and Marley in July 2021
Dreamcatcher and Teton July 2021


Teton July 2021

Teton was born in the spring of 2020 into a band lead by the lovely grey band stallion known as Goliath.  Teton, Red Bird and Little Star were the three yearling amigos of the Onaqui world and were never more than a few feet apart.  Little Star was born to mare Marley a tad later that spring, and Red Bird was the last to be born in early fall to a striking grey mare called Misty.

The three amigos were always such a joy to be around!  They were constantly trying to test boundaries with Little Star in the lead and Teton as her trusted backup.  And never to be left behind came Red Bird bringing up the tail end of the trio trying to be as brave as his two besties.   All three babies entered their gangly, fluffy teenage stage as winter began to envelop the west.  As spring brought with it warming temperatures and melting snow the babies began to shed their thick winter coats.

Red Bird trying to get Teton to play May 2021

Months quickly passed and spring turned to summer all the while the three amigos grew and grew.  And as luck would have it Marley had become pregnant by a handsome, brawny roan stallion somewhere along the way and she gave birth to a little baby bay colt who would become known as Dreamcatcher far and wide.  The three amigos doted and fawned over the newest addition and while Red Bird stood guard while Dreamcatcher lay soundly sleeping under the summer sun Teton began exploring further from home finding friends in nearby bands to practice his sparing, tussling and grooming.

Teton has turned into just that – a mountain sized gelding but despite his size he never lost his sweetness or gentle heart.  There was absolutely zero question when the news of his capture and transfer to the Delta facility became known that he would be adopted and brought home to join Jen’s expanding fur family and stay safe in the West Utah desert where he’d been born and raised a short distance away. His calm, assured demeanor will be an absolutely perfect fit for Cheyenne Grace and her little side of spunk and he’ll be the best role model big brother Dreamcatcher could ask for.

Teton June 2021
Teton and Dreamcatcher July 2021
Teton, Dreamcatcher, Red Bird and their band July 2021 days before the roundup
Teton in the Delta, Utah holding facility
Dreamcatcher in the Delta Utah facility

7 Comments on “Saving the Onaqui Pt. 11

  1. love that story thank you for sharing. After the heartbreaking story of redbird its a relief. I hope that the other onaqui horses come out ok. I was lucky to visit early June for a few days. Will you be keeping tract of the others.


  2. I am very happy 😃 For you I have tears running my face. As I said there is a god.


  3. Thank you for sharing Jen. We were traveling this summer and made a quick stop after the round up to see the remaining Onaqui on our way home to Arizona. I’m so happy for your new fur babies.


  4. Bless you, Jen. Your service to our wild Mustangs has been a true gift to the world. Thank you for your tireless documentation in beautiful photography and words. Teton and Dreamcatcher are very lucky indeed.
    Karma will take care of the humans who traumatize these bands of majestic souls.
    For now, we can celebrate you and your loving care for Teton and Dreamcatcher.


  5. Thank you for sharing their story. They now have the best of both worlds and will experience so much love and peace I can’t imagine the horror they went through being taken off of the home. Everyone if you have an opportunity to visit the wild horses on the open range, you will come away changed.


  6. You have done such an incredible work, Ms. Jen! Thank you for being there for our Onaqui horses and for loving them so much. You are more appreciated than you will ever know. May God bless you abundantly for all that you have done!
    -Erin Phillips


  7. Pingback: Saving the Onaqui Pt – 12 Dreamcatcher’s 1st Birthday | Wild Horse Photo Safaris

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