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Woman to discuss her work with wild horses in Carbondale presentation

Stina Sieg
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Ginger Kathrens special to the Post Independent
ALL |

CARBONDALE, Colorado ” Sometimes being ignored is the highest compliment.

Or at least it is when you’re filming nature, explained Ginger Kathrens.

For the last 13 years, she’s been shooting movies and writing books about the wild horses of Montana. She has been a strong advocate for the animals throughout the West and has made one of them, Cloud, a star. She’s even adopted one, Trace, after he was trapped by the Bureau of Land Management. There’s no doubt that she loves these horses. Yet, when they see her, she doesn’t hear any whinnies of affection or excited stomps. They just walk on by.



“They don’t care about me,” she said. “They just want their family and their freedom.”

That, she feels, is a beautiful thing. It’s their untamed spirit that’s so breathtaking, after all.



Yet, when Kathrens was first commissioned to film them, she thought the show would be no great shakes. Already an Emmy award-winning director, she was working with Marty Stouffer’s animal documentary program “Wild America.” She’d been mainly writing for the show when Stouffer decided that she might just be the perfect person to direct an episode dedicated to the horses ” and she still doesn’t know why. Sure, she was already a horse lover, but when it came to the wild variety, she had absolutely no clue.

At first, she imagined she’d direct some generic, perhaps history-oriented tale about the animal’s role in America.

“I was certainly in for a surprise,” she said, with a little laugh.

In 1994, she took a road trip from her home in Colorado Springs up to Montana, about 100 miles east of Yellowstone National Park. There, she and her sister were confronted with 40,000 acres of vast beauty. After getting some advice from a local preacher, Kathrens ventured into all that openness and almost immediately came across a wild horse eating snow. As it turned out, that was Raven. As she was hit by the power of his elegant presence, she started to realize that maybe this wasn’t just a half-hour show she was making. The striking stallion and his family would end up being the centerpiece of so much of Kathrens’ work.

The next year, she came back. While she was focused on filming something else, a tiny foal wandered out of the trees and in front of her camera. That was Cloud, Raven’s son. She’s been filming him ever since.

“I knew right about then something special was happening,” she said. “But it took years along the way to say, ‘Wow. There’s something more than luck happening here.'”

In fact, it seemed that every time she showed up with her camera, Raven, Cloud and company would be there. She doesn’t think of herself as someone who believes heavily in fate and destiny and such, she explained. But she can’t deny there’s been some form of magic going on here.

In her words, “I just started down this pathway, and that’s just the path that was maybe selected for me.”

After “Wild America,” Kathrens found herself at WNET, a public television station out of New York City. She was pitching another idea to the very serious, highly regarded show “Nature.” To her surprise, however, Cloud’s story is what the higher-ups at the station were delighted by. She’d always seen it as something aimed at children, but they didn’t. They told her, point blank, they wanted her to direct a movie, and they even wanted her to narrate it. A book was also part of the deal.

Kathrens was stunned in the loveliest of ways.

Part of her talk on Friday will tell the stories about everything that came before and after that ” the books, the movies, the worldwide acclaim. Another aspect, though, will be a political one. As the founder of the Cloud Foundation, Kathrens is incredibly focused on saving these elegant, wild animals. Though herds like Cloud’s have lived in same area for hundreds of years, the BLM has painted them as parasites on public land. Systematically, they’ve trapped and thinned the herds. Currently, they have more than 30,000 horses in captivity, and now the agency claims that it’s getting hard to feed the animals. Even Cloud’s herd has been targeted for thinning.

All this breaks Kathrens’ heart.

“You would think that we would preserve, in viable numbers, the most famous herd of wild horses in the world,” she said. “And yet, it has become brain surgery.”

She understands that not everyone gets the kind of relationship she has with these animals. Over the years, she’s got to understand Cloud and see him for the proud, arrogant, magnificent stallion he is. But even without the close-up view, she feels everyone should be able to feel empathy with these beings.

“They symbolize so much of our American spirit and the desire to live in freedom with our families,” she said.

And if we can’t save creatures like those, she asks, what can we save?


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