Preserving an American icon

Published 12:29 pm Thursday, October 8, 2015

The dreams and aspirations of volunteer Jamie Dodson and Rickie Allen of RMA Enterprises have flourished into a mutually beneficial partnership that can be seen on Route 20 where more than 60 mustangs and other horses gallop on 251 acres of rolling terrain.

Once headed for slaughter, unloved, unwanted and uncared for, these animals now have a safe home in Buckingham County where they’ll not only be healed and socially rehabilitated but they’ll also be used to heal others — namely humans.

Legacy Mustang Preservation (LMP) has set up shop on property owned by Allen with a motto of people helping mustangs and mustangs helping people.

Two horses engage in a cooperative healing social interaction as they groom one another.

Two horses engage in a cooperative healing social interaction as they groom one another.

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Dodson, a horse trainer, along with her husband, Craig, a special education teacher, recently moved the volunteer-operated LMP from Louisa to Route 20. Once she and her husband began rescuing a few horses here and there, their dream took on a life of its own.

Founded in 2013, LMP is on a mission to provide a nurturing environment for the American Mustang and promote the understanding, appreciation and adoption of this distinctly-American breed. According to its website, LMP accepts mustangs that come from either Bureau of Land Management holding facilities or those that have had unsuccessful adoption experiences.

“What we were realizing in the process is that we were getting the best part of the entire process,” Dodson said of initially adopting unwanted horses. “We grew, not only healing, but it just made you so aware. It was the coolest part of the entire journey.”

It’s a journey that both Dodson and Allen want so see others experience. “We’re turning all of the farms into sanctuaries for these horses,” Allen said, referencing about 750 acres dedicated to the horses across three of his farms, including the Route 20 preserve.

The vast majority of mustangs and other horses LMP cares for come from out west, said Dodson. “What we’re seeing out west is people are coming up and loading up 30 horses and taking them across the border for slaughter,” she said.

“We have everything from the horse that was getting ready to be actually on the trailer shipped to slaughter … We have ones that were just brought in and people thought they had to be heavy-handed with them,” she explained.

The property on Route 20, which includes many acres of open space, forests and several ponds, is ideal for the horses, according to Dodson.

“They’re a national icon; they’re a national symbol, [the] spirit of the west. Our entire country was built on the backs of horses,” she said.

“It’s a great idea,” Allen said. “I like it. It just has so many advantages for this area and this county.”

Instead of bringing the horses to the east coast, rehabilitating them and sending them back out west, Dodson and LMP wanted to do something different.

“So, sanctuary is the biggest thing we can offer them,” Dodson said.

Regarding the horses’ social interaction, Dodson said, “It’s so important that they have a social network and that is actually what heals them. The human can only do so much. When they’re taken out and isolated, it’s very stressful.”

The mustang preservation on Allen’s land began as a three-month trial, he said. “We’re putting together a partnership to provide land, water and hay for the horses, and they do their thing with the people with horses,” Allen said, noting the long-term extension of the time period.

“We have to make the hay, and this has got to be a business,” Allen said of their partnership. “This is headed to be a business of pasture-boarding horses, and it’s going to work for them, with them, in partnership on what they’re trying to do.”

LMP wants to eventually have over 200 horses on the property, Dodson said, which takes time, hard work and lots of donations.

“We don’t expect that, and we don’t ever want that,” she said of RMA allowing the use of the property for free. She said the nonprofit is working toward paying RMA about $100 per month per horse.

“We have to have a volume to make it work,” Allen said.

Looking down the road, Dodson wants to expand the therapeutic arm of the operation to facìlitate the healing of people by the mustangs.

What Allen and LMP have done is setting an example for the entire world for the horse population, Dodson said.

An event to introduce LMP to the community is planned for Saturday, Oct 17 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the sanctuary at 15585 S. Constitution Rte. According to Dodson, the event will include music, food, hay ride tours, a car show and more activities. Admission is free.

The rain date for the event is Oct. 24. For more information on the preserve, to donate or sponsor a mustang or to volunteer, contact Dodson at (540) 661-9990 or visit