How the West Was One
Hundreds of teenagers. A herd of mustangs. One man with a vision. In the foothills of the Rocky Mountains rides a cavalry that just might change the world.
Take, for example, the horses. Every couple of months, he steers the Westernaires' red Chevy pickup south to Cañon City, past the barbed-wire fences of the state penitentiary, and down a dirt road lined with cottonwood trees. There, in a pasture rimmed by tall fences made of weathered wood, a herd grazes. The once-wild horses are adopted from Bureau of Land Management roundups and gentled by prisoners through the Wild Horse Inmate Program. From these, Keller builds his cavalry.
Keller likes mustangs. The wild horses come in odd shapes and any color of the spectrum. They tend to be small, stout, and tough, with the occasional ragged ear or scrappy tail. But Keller's horses don't have to be pretty; they just have to be strong. He looks for big chests and hearty girths, which mean good lungs, vital for performing drills at high velocity. He looks for large nostrils, to bring the air into those lungs. Sturdy legs. Sure feet. And with the physical requirements, there is a certain something else he looks for. With each visit, Keller watches the inmates put their mounts through their paces. He watches the horse's head; he wants the animal to be collected, to keep its head down. He doesn't like horses that lead with their heads up. It means they're trying to control the rider. It's a sign they won't follow the rules.
Once these horses make it to Fort Westernaire, they'll enter a world of horse-crazy girls, a softer place but one that will still require the horses to submit. They'll keep their heads down as they endure inexperienced riders and excessive love from a hive of uniformed kids.
Each Saturday morning hundreds of kids show up at Fort Westernaire dressed in matching uniforms, divided into rank by colored bandanas: tan for the beginners, blue for intermediates, red for the most advanced. Lined up along the rail, girls talk to their horses about boys. They talk to each other about horses. During the chatter, they sweep brushes over the horses' every square inch, inspecting them like a crew of teenage veterinarians.