Shakira’s journey to love:

a wild mustang's transformation
Mary DeBonis

Shakira and Rosita run through the rolling pastures of Mustang Valley Sanctuary, their wild manes and tails flowing in the wind. They are the epitome of grace, beauty, and devoted companionship, but their lives weren’t always so carefree.

Shakira’s story begins when she was still a foal. She was rounded up from her herd in the southwest and taken from her mother. A freeze brand on her coat marked her as a wild horse being cared for by a rancher paid by the Bureau of Land Management. However, instead of receiving proper care, Shakira ended up in a kill pen, facing an uncertain future.

Mary DeBonis, the founder of Mustang Valley, has seen it too many times. The Adoption Incentive Program started by the federal government’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in 2019 has led to a spate of mustang “adoptions” that are really no such thing. Instead, adopted mustangs like Shakira and Rosita are sent to a kill pen while offending ranchers pocket the $1000 incentive. Mary rescued Shakira from the kill pen in 2020. She still had her baby teeth.

When Shakira arrived at the sprawling sanctuary in scenic upstate New York, Mary and her team began the gentling process aimed at helping Shakira get used to human presence and touch. This process may involve groundwork exercises, such as leading and lunging the horse, as well as gentle handling and grooming.

The ultimate goal is to help the mustang transition from its natural wild state to one that is safer and more reliable for riders. Over time, Shakira learned basic commands and behaviors, and slowly but surely, she learned to trust Mary and the team.

She also learned what it means to be a part of a herd. Today, Shakira is fiercely protective of her new equine family, especially her little friend Rosita. Shakira is a testament to the incredible spirit of these amazing animals and a shining example of the transformative power of gentle love and nurturing.


Join the Fight to Save Mustangs: Donate Today!

Shakira’s story is one of many at Mustang Valley Sanctuary, where Mary and her team are dedicated to rescuing and gentling wild mustangs. Your support can help save more mustangs like Shakira from the fate of a kill pen. By donating to Mustang Valley Sanctuary, you can help provide a safe and loving home for these magnificent creatures, giving them a chance to heal and thrive just like Shakira has.

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