THE LITTLE MUSTANG MARE noticed a soft whomp, whomp, whomp sound, coming from somewhere off in the distance. She twitched her ears back and forth trying to locate the sound while she kept her top lip wiggling back and forth, sifting through the sandy soil, searching for something edible. The spring rains had been sparse and the summer thunderstorms had been stingy when it came to providing any water. By this time in the fall there was little to eat on the high plains.
The dun colored mare with black legs and a thick and tangled black mane and tail was very thin, but not as thin as the mares that had foals at their sides. Her little colt, her pride and joy, had been killed by a pack of coyotes a few months earlier. She still suffered with grief, a grief that tore at her heart every day. The tears on her flesh from the coyotes’ teeth had healed, but not the wounds on the heart from her failure to protect her son. Perhaps they never would.
The whomp, whomp, whomp sound continued to get louder, causing the mare to lift her head and seek out the alpha mare. The lead mare was standing tall and alert, her neck arched and her head up. Her ears were pricked sharply forward as she stared toward the direction that the sun sets, though it was far from that time of day.
A strange shape appeared in the sky, looking something like an enormous insect. As the odd creature grew larger, the sound it made grew louder. The horses were gripped with fear. The whomp, whomp sound that echoed off the northern cliffs changed to a chopping sound and the insect turned into a flying monster heading straight toward them. All of the mares and foals panicked and began to scatter. But the strong herd instinct within each horse took over and drew them back together as a magnet attracts metal. They were soon running together, side-by-side or nose to tail, with the alpha mare in the lead.
The monster flew over their heads and past the herd. Once in front, it spun around in the air so that it was facing them. This caused the wild horses to change course and go back in the direction they had come. Suddenly, from out of the arroyo that cut into the prairie on the west, four humans on horses appeared. They split into two pairs and ran toward the oncoming mustangs. With the monster insect behind them, the alpha mare dashed straight ahead, between the two sets of riders. The dun mare stayed right beside her left flank, running stride for stride with her, as though connected shoulder to hip. They dashed down into the arroyo. Some of the humans on horseback blocked the ravine to the right so the entire herd turned south.
The mares were already winded and sweating profusely from both exertion and anxiety. Regardless, they kept running. Clouds of dust flew up behind them, scattered quickly by the whirling, noisy monster pushing them onward. The chop, chop, chop sound above them easily drowned out the pounding of the mustangs’ hooves, their snorts and whinnies as well as the shouts of the humans as they drove the mustangs forward.
At the end of the arroyo, several portable metal fence panels had been set up creating a large pen. Once the little herd of mustangs got to the end of the arroyo, the alpha mare entered the portable corral and stopped. Her followers did as well. She looked frantically from side to side, searching in vain for an escape route. As the last wild horse entered the enclosure, two panels were quickly brought together by a human on the ground, closing off the opening. The horses were trapped.
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