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When Dreams Come True.

June 5, 2012

Five mustangs later, Ericka Schelstraete-Savage of Florida no longer goes to the grocery store when she’s hungry. We’ve all been there, stalking the aisles for one item we needed, then coming home with plastic sacks full of special somethings to ease our sudden hunger. Unlike groceries, Ericka’s mustangs have found a permanent home. Her adventures as she sought the perfect horse began nearly 30 years ago when she saw a BLM promotion for a wild horse adoption event. She dreamed that one day she would have one of those amazing wild horses eating out of her hand. One day in June, 2009 her childhood dreams came true.

In the heart and soul of little girls, there is a place where horses live forever. For me, it was a spotted pony who dappled my soul and lit up my heart with imaginary adventures as I traveled the pathways from grade school to adulthood on a hand-me-down green Schwinn.  With knobby tires and coaster brakes she was mostly a compliant steed, those times when the fat tires weren’t aimed at potholes and ruts as I traveled the road to higher learning on my sometimes-bucking bicycle. We lived in the outskirts of the city, and horses were only allowed in one’s imagination.

There is a place inside all of us, a place where dreams of horses live.

We are from a generation who remembers the spirit of Wild Horse Annie, and in whose lifetime legislation was passed to protect our nation’s heritage of wild horses, those nearly-mythical creatures who paint our western prairies with rich bay, sandy dun, coppery chestnut, sorrel, and roan colors. Three decades ago a little girl named Ericka made her very first promise to herself. One day she would touch one of these magnificent horses. One day there would be one who turned to look at her, and who followed her into the future together.  On that day in June, 2009 in a place far removed from the wind-blown and dusty miles of her Nevada herd territory, a frightened bay mare turned at Ericka’s voice.

The first touch is a moment every mustang remembers.

It’s been a few more years since that day in the crowded BLM adoption pens, when a quiet moment of understanding and hope passed between woman and wild horse. She named the mare  “Ellie,” and with the keeping of a childhood promise Ericka began the journey to a relationship she had only dreamed of.

Trust takes time, always worth the effort

As a young girl she didn’t dream of the tears and fears that would need to be met head-on with courage, patience and perseverance. Their time together at first was a challenge for both, but through it all Ericka believed that the goal was worth the effort, even though there were times when Ellie was truly the wild horse from the Nevada desert. Step by gentle step, the two learned together to trust, give, and respect, every day cherishing tiny victories, another glimmer of understanding, another moment shared which brought the two together. This was what Ericka had dreamed of, this was why she had promised, those many years ago to hold out her hand in friendship. From the very first shared breath between the wild mare and woman, a relationship came to life and a dream had come true.

Ericka Schelstraete-Savage lives in Florida with her husband David, Ellie and 4 more adopted mustangs; Oso, Andy, Journey, and her most recent love, Arturo the Kiger mustang.

Journey, Andy, Ellie, and Oso


They share their home with two rescue bulldogs, a blind dog named Smoky and a pair of kitties.

Ericka has dedicated hours of her free time learning all that she can about the mustang’s unique nutritional needs and has devoted her life to understanding the whole horse. She has learned how to trim feet and has compiled volumes of research on each of their beloved mustangs and the individual herd management areas where they were born.

Journey’s draft-size feet require effort

Perhaps the most intricate story is that of Journey, a 16.2 hand black draft-cross mustang whose BLM brand proves he is over the age of 20. While his history is by no means complete or without mystery, his future, like the other mustangs in their care, is secure with Ericka and David.

For Ericka, the power and magic of the mustang began 30 years ago with a picture from her childhood, randomly observed and without preamble. She believed for years that she could bring her dreams to life, and when that moment came, it was a lonely mustang mare who made it happen.

When Dreams Come True.

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  1. Jennifer permalink

    What an uplifting story! It gives me hope that someday, I will be one of those lucky people who not only are able to own a horse, but are also able to share a very special bond with a very special type of horse – the mustang.

  2. Ann Souders permalink


  3. tlrobertshsnt permalink

    beautifully written it 🙂

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