Veronica Moore, a collaborator on the book “Peabody Gets Adopted,” accepted the award for best children’s book illustrations on behalf of the other book collaborators and Mustang Camp in Blanco, New Mexico, where she is a board member.
The Equus film festival was held Dec. 1-4 at the Rancho Murieta Inn in Sacramento, California. The Winnie book awards were announced Dec. 4.
Volunteer animal trainers from around the globe created a children’s book about a baby burro who finds a home. The book features illustrations by French artist Aline Grindatto, photographs by English photographer Jasna Furlan and story by Mustang Camp’s director, Patricia Irick, and volunteers Moore of New York City and Christine Ng of New Mexico.
The book was inspired by a real donkey foal at Mustang Camp named Peabody, and Moore said the book came about after she and the other volunteers wanted to find a way to help the horses and burros find their forever homes when they volunteered at the camp in 2017.
“It was the summer of donkeys,” Moore laughed. “There were three baby donkeys that summer of 2017, and we were just having a ball, and we thought they were the cutest things ever. And so yeah, we just thought, well, we're just having a blast. Let's just make a story. And Aline (Grindatto) is such a good artist, and her illustrations are beautiful. You know, it's just a simple thing about, you know, how do we get these guys adopted and events that happened at Mustang Camp?”
The book is based on the true story of Peabody, an anxious donkey who finds his place in the world with the help of his best friend, strict mother and a friendly zebra. It features photos and watercolors of the actual Mustang Camp animals.
“We all fell in love with the baby burros – the story virtually wrote itself,” Irick said. “We all contributed to the book, which was finished after everyone had returned home, despite the distances among us. This story helps young readers understand animal adoption.”
Moore went to Mustang Camp expecting to work exclusively with horses, but ended up falling for a different animal.
“Along comes donkeys and they just steal your heart. It's the craziest thing,” Moore said. “They’re so smart. And they process differently. They've got that seven-second delay like, 'Is it worth it? Should I trust this person?' They teach you patience. They make you a better trainer. Learning how to train with positive reinforcement changed my life. In everything, how I see things, how I view the world … and it's such an amazing way to train animals.”
“Peabody Gets Adopted” is available through the Mustang Camp website, www.MustangCamp.org, and Amazon. Proceeds support equine rescue and training at Mustang Camp.
The Mustang Camp recently made headlines for its work with the feral horses of Mesa Verde National Park.
In September, 19 horses were rounded up using a low-stress, bait-and-trap capture method.
Ownership transferred to the National Mustang Association Colorado Chapter, which will oversee the adoption process.
The band of 14 mares, a stallion and four males were transported to the Mustang Camp in Blanco, New Mexico, to be tamed by horse trainer Patricia Barlow-Irick.
Moore found out about Mustang Camp’s program while living in New York and decided to apply, never thinking she’d be chosen to fly out to Southwest Colorado to help tame wild horses and burros. She said the experience taught her so much and gave her an appreciation for the Four Corners area as well as the mustangs that live there.
“There's so many things that stick out to me. You know, it was like so stunningly beautiful out there. It was just like waking up and being on a movie set almost. Just the natural beauty was gorgeous,” Moore said.
Eight mares and four geldings (castrated males) will be ready for adoption within the next two weeks, said Becky Leonard, ambassador of the Mesa Verde Horse Adoption Project.
Those who are interested in applying to be part of Mustang Camp’s training program can apply online at https://www.workaway.info/en/host/8557982744dd.
Reporter Jim Mimiaga of The Journal contributed to this article.