Riding into the sunset
August 8, 2009
Partners since 2002, BLM Ranger Stan Zuber and his horse Koal are retiring together this month.
Zuber turns 57 this month and, under BLM policy, that means he must retire from the bureau’s law enforcement team. He said Koal will go home with him.
“We’re a team,” said Zuber at Friday’s ceremony retiring his mount. “It’s been quite an adventure.”
Koal was captured in the Buffalo Hills near Gerlach. Because of his excellent conformation, he was transferred to the Nevada Department of Corrections wild horse gentling program in Carson City.
Zuber was paired up with him during that training. He said Koal was the first saddle-trained wild horse to be trained for law enforcement. The team has conducted more than 200 mounted patrols of BLM lands in Nevada. Since Koal has an agreeable temperament, he and Zuber were also popular ambassador at local school programs, 4-H fairs and other events.
At the ceremony, Zuber removed the animal’s bridle, saddle and blanket as well as the symbolic horseshoe representing his retirement from the BLM Mounted Patrol.
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The horseshoe was put on just days ago for the ceremony. Since he spent his first three years in the wild, Koal has “very tough feet” and never needed shoes.
Zuber said most of their patrol duty was in the Carson area urban interface, but they’ve also done work in the Ely and Winnemucca areas as well as Spanish Springs.
“We can get into areas vehicles can’t get into,” he said.
Most of the work involved looking for off-road vehicles in places they don’t belong, and helping people who have had accidents or needed help.
Desna Young, the district’s planning and environmental coordinator, said that on one occasion, in a white-out blizzard, it was Koal’s wild instincts that enabled him to back-track to safety.
Over the years, Zuber said, the backcountry has gotten a lot more crowded.
“We’ve got more people and when you start getting more people, they need more attention,” he said.
Tim Bryant, who runs the prison horse gentling program with Hank Curry, said they have trained nearly 600 horses since the program started in 2000. Koal, named for his nearly black color, was one of the first program horses they trained. They have since trained horses for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police as well as numerous horses for other programs.
Zuber said fortunately his family home on Prison Hill is zoned for horses.
“We’re working on the backyard,” he said.