Wild mus­tang guides Huntly woman on un­ex­pected book, film jour­ney

‘He’s so be­yond mag­i­cal I wanted to share him with the world’

Rappahannock News - - FRONT PAGE - By Chris Green Spe­cial to the Rappahannock News

Ronda Ann Gre­go­rio of Huntly knew within five min­utes he was the one. She was im­me­di­ately drawn to his pow­er­ful and com­pact con­for­ma­tion, sweet lines and kind eye.

Viggo is a wild mus­tang she adopted 5 years ago and gen­tled. Long a sym­bol of free­dom, the mus­tang con­jures up im­ages of the un­tamed West, of John Wayne, Roy Rogers, Clint East­wood and Viggo Mortensen, the ac­claimed Dan­ish Amer­i­can ac­tor who starred in the bi­o­graph­i­cal Hi­dalgo, a west­ern film based on the leg­end of an Amer­i­can dis­tance rider who raced his Mus­tang in 1891 against Be­douins rid­ing pure blooded Ara­bi­ans. Ronda’s equine

is Viggo’s name­sake.

Mus­tangs are horses de­fined as wild beasts hav­ing no mas­ter, never hav­ing been touched by hu­man hands; horses with ex­tra­or­di­nary blood lines, Span­ish Barbs, An­dalu­sians, Ara­bi­ans.

Ronda’s love for this beau­ti­ful crea­ture in­spired her and she tells, “He’s so be­yond mag­i­cal I wanted to share him with the world.” And so the Wild Mus­tang Book Project was born.

Con­ser­va­tion ecol­o­gist Amy Ven­clik, fa­mil­iar with Ronda’s project (Wild­[email protected] the mus­tang book project ), writes of the up­com­ing book: “An up and com­ing hard­cover by ac­claimed Vir­ginia pho­tog­ra­pher and horse­woman Ronda Gre­go­rio fea­tur­ing the sto­ries, pho­to­graphs, and ide­olo­gies of bril­liant eques­tri­ans from around North Amer­ica that have dis­cov­ered the un­tapped po­ten­tial of Amer­ica’s Mus­tangs in the per­for­mance horse in­dus­try.”

Ronda shares of her new jour­ney: “My ex­pe­ri­ence with him and the pro­found trust we have in one an­other, sparked an in­ter­est in learn­ing about other peo­ple’s jour­neys with mus­tangs, as my per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence was so life-chang­ing. The more I ex­plored these sto­ries, the more I re­al­ized that mus­tangs all over North Amer­ica were hav­ing an over­whelm­ing im­pact on their hu­mans’ lives. These part­ner­ships were ris­ing above and they to­gether were achiev­ing the un­think­able!

“From world cham­pi­ons of west­ern dres­sage to North Amer­i­can trick rid­ing cham­pi­ons to win­ning the cov­eted Te­vis Cup — ev­ery story, ev­ery per­son, ev­ery mus­tang I have met and con­tinue to meet along the way, over­whelms me with joy, ex­cite­ment, and ab­so­lute ad­mi­ra­tion.”

Her photo shoots with mus­tang own­ers around the coun­try turned quickly into video shorts where a ques­tion was posed: “Can you de­scribe a mus­tang in one word?” and the ad­jec­tives poured out: pure, thought­ful, spe­cial, spir­ited, heart. Ronda’s ad­ven­ture is about how she can reach peo­ple, have them take mus­tangs se­ri­ously, as the mus­tang car­ries an un­for­tu­nate stigma, known as un­train­able, wild, “a train wreck.”

Part of the prob­lem, Ronda re­lays, is that adopt­ing a mus­tang is a fairly in­ex­pen­sive in­vest­ment. She adopted Viggo for $125. So of­ten, folks will adopt them, am­a­teurs at­tracted by the price, un­know­ing of the train­ing in­volved, not re­al­iz­ing that mus­tangs are not “am­a­teur friendly.”

Pro­fes­sion­als then in­herit what they re­fer to as a mus­tang “train wreck” and so the stigma per­sists. Her mag­nif­i­cent Viggo brought Ronda in re­cent days to New York, where she re­turned home arms filled with honors — pres­ti­gious awards from the Equus Film Fes­ti­val, where 500 film en­tries were con­sid­ered.

Her short had gone vi­ral, and the founder of Equus in­vited Ronda to com­pete and she won the top prize in two cat­e­gories: Best Eques­trian Photo Jour­nal­ist and Best Fes­ti­val Choice Of­fi­cial Artist.

Ronda re­joices, yet her job is not done. Her mis­sion is to com­plete her book, to pro­vide her tar­geted au­di­ence with an “ah ha!” mo­ment so that they, too, will be­gin shar­ing their own pas­sions of the wild mus­tang. Ronda is so clear that these mag­nif­i­cent beasts pos­sess a pow­er­ful be­ing, an aura, in a way you don’t hear about do­mes­tic horses.

She tells: “It’s a huge project be­yond me, to fin­ish shoot­ing, I’m go­ing all over the coun­try start­ing in Jan­uary to com­plete this book, and folks have been so gen­er­ous, putting me up, and though I’m spend­ing thou­sands of my own dol­lars, the jour­ney is worth it.

“It’s the most worth­while thing I’ve ever worked on in my life. My hus­band Sean is so sup­port­ive of the project and of the ex­ten­sive travel. ‘Baby go do it,’ he says.

“Viggo is a horse of a life­time. He’s a healer. He saved me. How do you re­pay some­thing so self­less? When some­thing is that pow­er­ful you need to share it.”

This is the short that won Ronda two first place awards: https://www.face­book.com/ TheMus­tangBookPro­ject/ videos/262679134406710/

COUR­TESY PHOTO

Ronda Gre­go­ria poses with her wild mus­tang Viggo and her other four-legged friends at her home in Huntly.

COUR­TESY OF RONDA GRE­GO­RIO

Renowned Rappahannock pho­tog­ra­pher Ronda Gre­go­rio’s “Wild­heart” mus­tang project is tak­ing her across the coun­try.

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