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Romancing the Mustang reveals the Beauty inside the Beast.

July 19, 2012

There’s a certain romance about wild horses, kind of an arrogant elegance carried by a mustang so easily and with such strength; it’s something we all yearn to feel in our own selves. It’s a quality apart from the ordinary.  For those who have touched this romance in real time, it becomes an addiction not easily overcome.  It’s impossible to gentle the wind, to steer it in directions self-ordained and maybe, just maybe send it on a path of predictable purpose, but to gentle a wild romance and still keep the ripple of the wild wind? Ahhh. Now there comes the romance of a lifetime.

For all the mustangs in the west, in all the herds across all the states the wild horses of Twin Peaks, Nevada may be the Valentine of them all.  A massive herd management range has supported a natural selection process, resulting in a type of mustang that has come to be easily recognized by those who study such things. Genetic markers have indicated that the Twin Peaks mustangs can be traced back to the “Old Spanish” lines, and are the only herds sharing this same genetic marker with the Kiger mustangs of Oregon.

None of this mattered to Laura Trotter of New Mexico. All she knew is that she had convinced her boyfriend, Matthew Jaramillo to adopt a mustang for the 2011 Supreme Extreme Mustang Makeover. On the day of pick up, Matthew named their mustang “El Feo.”  While Laura fell instantly in love with the wild horse, Matthew couldn’t believe how ugly he looked with his long coat and mud-caked legs. In Spanish, “Feo” means “ugly.”

In spite of Matthews’ practiced horseman’s eye, he couldn’t get over the weathered coat, short thick cannon bones and heavy head of the mustang they had seen only during the televised Supreme adoption event. Like virtually every other newcomer to the mustang world, Matthew soon learned that inside this mustang, in spite of his rough outward appearance there was a beauty he had never before experienced.  Over the weeks of training, Matthew began to see Feo’s brilliance shine through. Like all mustangs, every piece of him had a purpose. Perfectly proportioned to carry a herd sire’s weight through any challenge, the balance and symmetry of Feo’s build showed Matthew over and over again the true beauty of a horse.

The Sabino stallion, “El Feo” Hector Amezcua photo, August 13, 2010 

El Feo, first day home with Laura and Matthew 

Just three days after the arrival of El Feo, Matthew surprised Laura on her birthday with a yearling quarter horse filly. Laura quickly dubbed them “Beauty and the Beast.” 

Matthew and Feo practicing for the Supreme competition

Matthew and Feo practicing in Fort Worth, September 2011

Just a few hours after this portion of the competition, Feo became ill and was unable to compete.

Feo is now the favorite choice for Matthew when he needs a sturdy hand to help manage the cattle on the ranch he oversees. The Sabino gelding participates daily in doctoring sick or injured stock, branding, and any other ranch chores that need to be done from horseback.

Laura and Feo, February 2012

When he’s not helping with ranch duties, Feo and Laura spend hours exploring the national forest land surrounding the Rociada Valley in all seasons. His courage and heart have carried them through many adventures together.

Laura and Feo, springtime in the mountains, March 2012

Laura and Feo, through an aspen grove, March 2012

Laura and Feo at Kiowa National Grasslands, May 2012

The trust and respect of a mustang, if accepted with grace and humility is a gift like no other. With time, patience, and an effort to understand who these horses are, you will experience a romance quite unlike any you’ve ever known. For Laura and Matthew, one horse changed their lives and for that they will forever stand on behalf of the mustang, defending their strength, resiliency, and pure heart.  The paradox of an old Spanish name given to a horse carrying old Spanish lines is that “El Feo,” the ugly horse from Twin Peaks, Nevada has brought a new definition of beauty to the lives of two people, and their world has been forever changed.

Nina and Feo, “Beauty and the Beast.”

For more information on the Twin Peaks mustangs, please visit:

For information on how to adopt a mustang of your own, and to view adoptable, gentled mustangs in the Mustang Heritage Foundation’s TIP program, please visit:

all photographs courtesy of Laura Trotter, unless otherwise noted

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  1. Magnificent!

  2. Laura Scott permalink

    Best story yet Sandy! We were priveleged to meet and know this couple at the Supreme. They embody exactly the true motivation, passion and abilities of the people who get involved with the Supreme and our amazing mustangs.

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