In 1994, Emmy-award winning filmmaker Ginger Kathrens embarked on a scouting trip with her sister to northern Wyoming, where she researched wild horse behavior for a documentary project.
With limited horse experience, Kathrens expected to see the wild creatures grazing in fields all day long, but was surprised to find out about their elusive nature.
â€œAll we saw were butts and dust,â€ Kathrens said.
It was at the base of a red butte at dawn, while the sun peeked through the Pryor Mountains, that she first saw him â€” a strong black stallion she named Raven.
â€œHe ran away, but it was certainly a mystical experience,â€ Kathrens said. â€œIn that moment, something happened to me. I fell in love with that horse.â€
She ended up finding Raven and his family, eventually gaining their trust and meeting a young white colt in the herd she named Cloud, a horse she has followed and documented over the past 16 years.
â€œThey really opened their world to me in time,â€ Kathrens said. â€œI never thought that I was going to do a film about one wild horse, but thatâ€™s what started to happen.â€
About 135 CSU students, Fort Collins residents and members of the agricultural community packed into a small lecture hall yesterday evening to hear Kathrens tell her and Cloudâ€™s story through her public television series, â€œCloud: Wild Stallion of the Rockies.â€
Kathrensâ€™ filmmaking career led her to Africa, Asia, Europe, Central America and South America before she began her focus on wild horses and their behavior.
â€œIt took a long time to merge what I did with what I really loved,â€ Kathrens said.
But in time, she found her true calling â€” researching, filming and educating people about the nature of horses.
â€œWe have everything to learn from the wild horse and their society,â€ Kathrens said. â€œI hope that I can inform others about my journey and my discoveries. I think there will be something they can learn from that.â€
A cause that is dear to Kathrensâ€™ heart is the preservation of wild horses on public lands. The Cloud Foundation, a non-profit organization of which Kathrens is the founder and executive director of, aims to prevent the extinction of Cloudâ€™s herd through education and public involvement.
â€œWe used to have 2-to-3 million horses in the wild,â€ Kathrens said. â€œNow we have fewer than 20,000.â€
The Mountain Riders Horse Club, which sponsored Kathrensâ€™ presentation, found her story both compelling and important to the agricultural community.
â€œSheâ€™s got nice thoughts, sheâ€™s very knowledgeable and she has a story to tell,â€ said Chuck Peterson, the Equine Teaching and Research Center facility manager. â€œThe wild horse is an emotionally charged interest and she does a great job of telling it.â€
Katy Lippolis, a sophomore equine science major and member of the Mountain Riders Horse Club, attended the presentation to learn more about horse issues and behavior.
â€œIâ€™ve heard so many great things about her,â€ Lippolis said. â€œIâ€™m glad that I came. Being a horse lover, itâ€™s cool to see where they came from and their history.â€
As for Kathrens, after her 16 years of wild horse research, she continues to grow and learn from her experiences in the field.
â€œUnlike some people, I can just sit for hours watching wildlife,â€ Kathrens said. â€œI really enjoy those quiet calming moments when Iâ€™m just waiting for something to happen.â€
City Council Beat Reporter Erin Udell can be reached at email@example.com.