Back in the day, Pony Express riders had a lot to contend with. While the weather was always an issue, riders had to worry about the health of their horses and their own general well-being, not to mention outlaws, understandably irritated indigenous peoples, plus a whole host of wildlife they might run across.
Among that wildlife could include feral horses or what is more commonly known in the West as wild mustangs, aka the offspring of escaped equines from Spanish explorers and early settlers. While they look magnificent, hurdling across the plains, kicking up dust, and exhibiting all the signs of the freedom we covet so dearly, these majestic creatures can also become a dangerous threat.
Modern-Day Pony Express
One modern-day rider of the Express found that out the hard way while taking part in the annual event that sees participants embark on the original 2,000-mile trail between Sacramento, California, and St. Joseph, Missouri. His name is Will Grant, and he’s written a book about his experiences back in 2019 when he ran into some wild stallions in Simpson Springs, Utah, where he worried they would take the life of his own two horses.
Four hundred wild horses, known as the Onaqui herd, summer in the valley, and as Grant explains it, one enduring trait of wild horses has been their aptitude to harass domestic horses. It’s clear from his writings that he was aware he could come across this challenge on his journey and notes that he’d likely encounter them in western Utah as well as the range between the Rocky Mountains and Sierra Nevadas.
Wild Stallions of the Old West
But, as he wrote, “I hadn’t anticipated the acute threat they would pose to my horses. I might as well have been camped on the African savanna with lions and leopards. The mustangs felt just as dangerous.”
In the book, entitled, The Last Ride of the Pony Express: My 2,000-Mile Horseback Journey Into the Old West, Grant notes:
“Wild stallions will kill a domestic gelding, a castrated horse, in the same way that wolves will kill a domestic dog. Chicken Fry and Badger (his horses), therefore, were vulnerable. Mares may be absorbed into a harem, but geldings are a threat. And since domestic geldings rarely mature with the sparring and fighting that establishes social hierarchy within a wild herd, Chicken Fry and Badger would likely not last long.”
Cowboy Life & Good Reads
That’s a lot to worry about when you’re just trying to deliver mail. If you’re interested in horse tales and think that you might find the rest of his journey as fascinating as it sounds, curious persons can learn more about what’s been described as a “spellbinding” story by visiting Bookshop.org.