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ZHAKI, The Wild Mustang Stallion



 Zhaki was captured by the BLM in 2006. He was adopted out 3 times by the BLM and returned as untrainable. I was unable to take him home at the auction when we first met. As I walked through the corrals after the auction, Zhaki was huddled in the back of his corral. He had wide eyes and was trembling with fear in the midst of all the commotion. One of the BLM managers approached me as I looked in awe at the gorgeous little stallion quietly approaching me. He started to tell me what a wonderful horse this little man was. They told me how they had captured him a year earlier when he was only two. They had herded him into a corral of six foot panels with the rest of the herd. When they started to load the horses into trailers he turned and fled toward the fence. He launched himself into the air and cleared the fence to regain his freedom. They allowed him that freedom and did not chase him. The next year he was captured again and began his life in captivity.

 When we first went to pick him up, we were told by the BLM that he was really a difficult case. He was extremely angry with people in general. He had been adopted by three differant people and returned to BLM holding facility in Salt Lake City, UT. By any reasonable person he would have been considered dangerous. Of course, I am not a reasonable person, and the impossible only appears to me as a new goal.

As I stood outside his enclosure at the holding facility, I thought about all the young men and women that have gone to war for the United States and come home to face the after effects of war. They are sometimes angry, often they feel forgotten. They have issues with trust, they have learned to be alert in the face of potential danger. Much like a wild horse that has been rounded up and removed from his safe environment, they become cynical and see danger in places the rest of us would never see. When in a war situation they become callous and tough. They learn to never trust anyone. That could mean your life in a combat setting. The "military family", or comrades at arms, are the only ones that they can trust. These are the fellow soldiers that stand by their sides and fight for them, and with them shoulder to shoulder. Anyone outside of this particular circle could be a potential enemy. It is very hard for many of us to relate to the isolation they feel when they come home. If they are not around other military personnel, they have a difficult time sharing the things that they experienced that changed them while away from friends and family. It is not uncommon for a Veteran to feel as though no one understands what they have been through. They do not feel that they can discuss these experiences with the civilian people in their lives. They do not want to burden anyone else with the horrors that they witnessed that have made it so difficult to reintegrate into life in the civilian world.

Zhaki portrayed this feeling to me as if it oozed out of his pores. This little wild eyed mustang stallion took a stance as if to say, "I don't trust you, but can you take me away from here. My distrust of you is only outweighed by my yearning to be free again." Although it is illegal to turn an adopted Mustang free, Zhaki lives happily at Tranquil Valley on many acres and has a band of mares that he watches over just as he would in the wild. He assists Veterans with their road to recovery, and they seem to understand one another during that process. They can see in him the leadership qualities he possesses. They can also see that he has learned to trust mankind. It just took the right circle of people to give him the support that he needed to get beyond his fear.

As this Veterans day approaches, I would like to encourage each of you to take a few minutes to reflect on what America's Veterans have given up for your freedom. Think about the sacrifices that have been made throughout our countries history to lock in those freedom's for you. If it is in your ability please take a few hours to spend with a Veteran and say thank you. Maybe you can volunteer with a local Veterans organization, take a family trip to the VA hospital to visit someone in recovery, or just walk up to the next person you see in uniform and say thank you.

Our nations Veterans that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan make up only 1percent of our population, as the other 99percent let us help them to get the support and respect that they deserve.