But Liesl was adopted and placed on center stage at the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center in Lovell, where friends and visitors now cherish her.
Liesl, a motherless yearling at the time, was in sad shape. She was skinny and scarred as a result of abuse from other horses. She is functionally blind, the assumption being from a sharp hoof to the head.
Liesl wasn’t exactly a wild horse adoption poster child, but she is winsome, just the same.
“I fell in love with her,” said Lori Graham, former director of the center, who now volunteers monitoring the mustangs on the mountain. She also attends to the needs of Liesl and another horse, Kaibab. The center also adopted 2-1/2-year-old Kaibab following the summer roundup.
Liesl — pronounced Ly-sal, a German word meaning God’s promise — gets plenty to eat and drink now. She has filled out. Her now invisible ribs are cushioned by her russet coat growing thick in preparation for winter.
“She’s doing great now,” Graham said. “Liesl is doing wonderful and with proper nutrition has gained considerable weight, and her scars are almost invisible.”
Liesl demonstrates a touch of wariness when a visitor arrives, but it quickly fades. Both Kaibab and Liesl are downright charming — perfect PR agents.
“They love the attention. They love treats. Liesl and her mate, Kaibab, are now ambassadors for the center,” Graham said.
On the south side of the center before the turnoff on Road 12, the equines are eye-catching in their corral.
People see the horses and pay a visit, including youngsters on school field trips en route to the horse range or with only enough time to visit the mustangs at the center.
“It was good for them, because otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to see any (wild horses),” said Aubry Jolley, director at the center.
One little girl from New Mexico was smitten by Kaibab. She insisted on calling him Little Gray. “Kaibab let her kiss him on the nose,” Graham said. “It was so cute.”
Like two dogs jealous for their master’s attention, Kaibab and Liesl vie for Graham and Jolley’s strokes and ear scratches at the center’s paddock.
Liesl is easy to halter, but Kaibab is still a little halter shy.
To adopt and earn a mustang’s trust necessitates time and patience.
“It’s a great thing to do,” said Graham, who also has two wild horses at home.
The mustangs’ new home is about as comfortable as a corral can get. A sturdy opened-faced shed protects them from the elements. Money for the corral and shed was raised by the center’s board and locals.
Kaibab and Liesl like their shelter, which was built by Graham’s husband, Jimmy.
Thirty-four adult wild horses and four foals were gathered from the Pryor range last summer and later adopted at the bureau’s Britton Springs facility north of Lovell in September.
Rather than employing helicopters to drive the animals to pens, the bureau used low key bait traps. There were approximately 175 adult wild horses prior to the gather. The bureau wanted to thin the herd to the appropriate management level of 90 to 120 horses.
All the captured horses were adopted and went to good homes.
“The foals went with their mommies,” Graham said.
“I will say that we continue to be very pleased in how the gather went this past summer as we review the efforts the BLM and our partners invested in making it a success,” said Kristen Lenhardt, bureau public affairs specialist in Billings. “For those who adopted in September, we hope they will enjoy having these horses be a part of their home.”
Bullied by other horses, rail thin and with eyes filmy and unfocused, betraying her blindness, Liesl likely was miserable in the Pryors.
“She wouldn’t have lasted much longer out on the range,” Jolley said.
She may not be running free on the range, but there is plenty of sustenance and attention at the center.
“She’s got a good life now,” Graham said. “No doubt about it.”