In the summer of 2022, podcaster and Winthrop resident Ashley Ahearn participated in a writing residency with the Roundhouse Foundation in Sisters, Oregon. Although she wasn’t involved in a big writing project at the time, a wild mustang she had adopted earlier that year — Boo — gave form and purpose to her residency, the result of which is an illustrated children’s book about a relationship between a wild horse and a little girl.
A year later, that book is now in print, self-published by Ashley and the illustrator she worked with, artist Catie Michel. According to the Kickstarter Ashley and Catie have underway, “‘The Little Black Mustang’ is a timeless tale of a young wild horse who roams the sagebrush country with his family until, one day, he is captured and brought into the world of humans. He struggles — as so many wild horses do — to adapt to life in captivity, but then, a little girl brings him home with her. Together, they find a new kind of freedom, built on trust, respect and love.
“The Little Black Mustang” is intended to “raise awareness about the more than 50,000 wild horses who are currently being held in government facilities, waiting to be adopted into loving homes,” Ashley and Catie say. “We hope it will inspire young people to learn about the sagebrush ecosystem through Catie’s incredible illustrations, and to fall in love with wild horses, as we have.”
Ashley adopted Boo from the Oregon Wild Horse Corral, which is a government corral created to manage the growing population of wild horses and burros roaming free on the range. Animals are brought in from the range, given medical inspections and, if needed, treatment, and are prepared for adoption.
“The Little Black Mustang” will launch on Oct. 25 in conjunction with Ashley’s new eight-part podcast series for National Public Radio about wild horses, called “Mustang.” But Methow Valley residents and visitors can get a sneak preview a few weeks early, on Thursday (Oct. 5) at 5 p.m., at The Confluence: Art in Twisp, a nice complement to the current exhibit, “Equus,” which is all about human fascination with horses. The talk at The Confluence is free and open to the public.
The goal of the Kickstarter campaign is to help Ashley and Catie cover printing and shipping costs of the first edition of the book. Different levels of contribution come with different rewards, from illustrated greeting cards to art prints to signed copies of the book.