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Daily Inspiration: Meet Jen Rogers

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jen Rogers.

Hi Jen, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I spent the last 14 years as a professional photographer in Maui, Hawaii. I originally heard about the Onaqui wild horses several years ago while on a trip to Wyoming and finally made the commitment to come to Utah for a 10-day vacation specifically dedicated to sunrise to sunset days on the range to photograph them. It was pretty much love at first sight and before I knew it I was back in Utah a month later to look for a new home and to see the Onaqui again. In a crazy whirlwind of events, I somehow managed to move myself and my dogs from the islands to Tooele in less than 6 weeks to start over from scratch and build a new life with the wild horses front and center.

I knew that the Federal Government was removing thousands of wild horses from public lands across the West each year. This year alone 22,000 wild horses and burros are slated to be rounded up. So I thought that I could use my photography background to capture the intimate lives and bonds of the Onaqui wild horses and share them with the public to raise awareness of their plight. At the same time, I also decided to create a business to take people out to the range on photo safaris to document and learn all about them.

My big picture goal was that someday when these Onaqui horses were faced with another roundup the more people who had met and learned about them, the more people who would be able to advocate for keeping them wild and free.

So without knowing a soul and no ties to the area, I jumped in feet first with starting a completely new business on nothing more than a really strong feeling it was the right thing to do.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
It’s been absolutely amazing to have the opportunity to work with people who quickly fall in love with our Onaqui horses and go home wanting to know what they can do to help them. That’s been the heartwarming and rewarding part of this whole experience. Unfortunately 4 months after moving to Utah, the Bureau of Land Management announced they would be permanently removed over 300 of the 475 horses on the Onaqui range. Only 18 months after removing 240 others. That’s a huge change in biodiversity and social structure for these horses in a very short time!

Within a month of this news, I founded a 501(c)(3) non-profit called Red Birds Trust and teamed up with other local wild horse advocates to help preserve and protect the lives, health and welfare of these horses both on the range and after adoption. We are not a sanctuary, but a specific resource to help established sanctuaries and private adopters with after-care and adoption placement. We worked with local news outlets, spoke at the State Capital and helped advocates reach out to State and Federal Representatives in an effort to stop the roundup.

The nonprofit was named after a small colt on the range which I called Red Bird due to the red tinge around his nose and ears and his cautious flighty nature. He developed a tumor in his jaw in February of 2021. I wanted more than anything to save him from euthanasia if he was rounded up, but unfortunately, the worst happened and little Red Bird was euthanized in September of 2021 while in the BLM facility. So now the nonprofit carries on in his name.

Countless hearts were broken when all our efforts fell on deaf ears. Sixty percent of the horses were captured using a helicopter and taken to a small holding facility to be auctioned off.

It’s been an unbelievably busy, stressful and emotional 14 months since. I personally adopted 3 mustangs and my nonprofit Red Birds Trust has spent 10 months communicating with adopters and wild horse sanctuaries in an effort to see that every horse removed from the range was placed in a home or sanctuary.

The massive change in herd structure has given a lot to discuss with my tour guests when we go to the range and hopefully helps them to understand the value of the horses’ social structure and herd dynamics and why it’s so important to try to allow that to remain intact.

I was very naïve jumping into the advocacy side of things and it’s been emotionally challenging to say the least. Even though all 300 Onaqui were adopted in December, I am still getting calls regularly about horses who went to their new adopter’s home but aren’t working out so now they have to be saved all over again. Sanctuaries are flooded with requests so continuing to have to place the same horses repeatedly is not a good situation for the horses who’ve already been through so much in such a short time and it’s becoming harder and harder to find new resources who can help.

At this point, I’ve only been here technically for a year and a half so it’s been one heck of a ride to say the least.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
At this point in my career, my primary focus is on equine photography whether it be wild or domestic. My main goal is to capture not only the true spirit of the animal, but to do it in an artistic way. A way that allows viewers who weren’t there at that moment to feel like they were.

People protect what they love, so the more my stories and my art can allow for the spreading of love and awareness for these horses hopefully the more protection they’ll have.

Never in my wildest imagination did I imagine I’d become a mom to 3 wild mustangs a year after such a major life change but they completely stole my heart and make the efforts all worthwhile and the work to help the ones still in the wild to stay in the wild all that more personal.

What sort of changes are you expecting over the next 5-10 years?
Ideally, I hope to see a healthy growth of the Onaqui herd population that allows for all of those who already love them to enjoy their success and which allows many more who have yet to come to visit the area to meet these iconic relics of the West a chance to learn all about them. I’m very much looking forward to continuing to develop the other side of my business which provides fine art pieces for homes and offices which capture the spirit of America’s Wild West and the mustangs who live there and allows their stories to live on indefinitely.

I am also very excited to continue to develop the outreach efforts of my nonprofit so that Red Birds Trust can be a staple in the Utah Wild Horse community. We have a wonderful team of volunteer board members who are committed to providing long-term help wherever needed and continuing to make the range a safer place for the Onaqui to roam freely with our bi-annual range cleanups. In less than a year we’ve been able to remove more than 10 miles of dangerous barbed wire fencing and are looking forward to removing much more.

Pricing:

  • 4 hour private tour for 2 people $379
  • 4 hour private tour for 3 people $599
  • 8 hour private tour for 2 people $745
  • 8 hour private tour for 3 people $995
  • Sunrise to Sunset tour for 2 people $1295

Contact Info:


Image Credits
Jen Rogers

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