There is no such thing as a coincidence. I believe everything happens for a reason, and life brings us together in mysterious ways. Last fall I attended the 2018 Equus Film Festival in New York City to represent my bestselling book, Confessions of a Timid Rider which was up for an award. On Saturday morning, I participated in the panel on adventure rides, which was incredibly fun. Not only did I learn about rides other than The Gobi Desert Cup, which I represented, but also get to talk about my own life-altering experience!
After the panel ended, I spoke to several audience members, one of whom was Jamie Baldanza who was very curious about my travels in Mongolia. She and I immediately clicked! Sometimes you just do, you know? I learned about Jamie’s love of the American Mustang and her pending docuseries, which is such an inspiration.
I am a big believer in uplifting and supporting others, but especially women in the equine industry! So I asked Jamie to do a little interview with me for my book project. I hope you enjoy and she inspires you to follow your passion.
Hi Jamie, what is your experience with horses?
As far as I could remember my love of horses was as strong as the necessity to breathe. As a little girl, I would spend hours drawing and perfecting every muscle in the horse without ever touching one. Finally, at the age of 10, my mom agreed to let me fly out to Colorado to spend the summer with my aunt and volunteer on a working horse ranch. There, I learned all aspects of the horse, furthering my passion and extreme drive to be constantly surrounded by these beautiful souls. However, when I turned 18, I was encouraged to use my artistic talents to go to an art school in NYC. I remained in NYC for 12 years in the advertising world as an Art Director for major advertising agencies.
Horses were never far from my mind and I would sneak out to city stables to ride. I fell into wild horses by accident. As horse slaughter became a bigger issue in the US and I did research, I would always end up down some rabbit hole about America’s wild horses.
The rest is history, my love and passion for wild horses became my life’s calling. From that moment I have been actively photographing, advocating, & documenting wild horses. I’m currently working on a docu-series called “Taking Back The West,” TBTW’s goal is to expose the viewer to the remaining untamed, unfettered Wild West through the eyes of an American icon, the wild horse. We will film 10 different herds in 10 different US Western States. “Taking Back The West” also looks to raise awareness for the forty-five thousand wild horses currently in federal holding pens, desperately in need of adoptive homes. Their struggles unveiled to not only captivate the viewer but to promote change in a situation in critical need of attention.
I’ve also adopted two wild horses & a burro. Here is where my journey began as an actual horsewoman. I always knew how to ride, but not until I adopted mustangs I learned how to build a relationship with a horse.
What do you do?
What is your business name?
This Mustang Life
When did you begin your business?
Why did you begin your business or pursue your passion?
To be honest, I was tired of feeling helpless on the sidelines when it came to the awareness of wild horses. Being on the east coast, I’m not dealing with it on a day to day business or not around people who are fighting for them. So I wanted to do something that could truly brighten their future and help bring awareness to greater America. My talent is telling the story visually so that is how “TBTW” started.
What is unique about you or your brand?
I think the thing that really gets people is here I am a girl from New Jersey who fell in love with the wild west. Even though I still live in NJ, I’m continually trying to bring awareness to the wild horse plight. For my stance I do lean heavily to the side of “wild horses should stay wild”. HOWEVER, I do understand that management, science, and a balance between all stakeholders is very much needed. I want to hear from all the sides (scientists, government, ranchers for and against wild horses, advocacy groups, locals) and I’m open to all opinions. What really is the meat for me is, “What is the truth?” I’ll ask one question and I’ll get 10 different answers…. and it sucks, and I’m frustrated, and I feel like there are a lot of people who feel the same way. I’m not afraid to tell people “I don’t know, but I can try and find out.”
What challenges have you faced in life or business?
So far it has been all challenges. Wild horses will be an ongoing issue for a very long time. Once one fire is put out, another one pops up. The biggest challenge for me is that people are so against working together. Everything is a pissing match, and guess what nothing gets done and the horses lose. I truly feel if anything positive comes out of my venture it will show that positive awareness and collaborating is crucial into saving America’s wild horses.
What keeps you motivated or inspired?
I want to quit, a lot. My stomach is always in knots and there’s someone always yelling at me on social media. Once something good happens, the next day something bad happens. Sometimes I feel like the wild horse issue will never get solved. People and the government have been at it for years. But then when I’m out there with the horses and photographing them, my love digs deep within me and keeps me going. It’s not just about the horses in the wild to stay wild, but the horses who have already been captured and need to find homes. Those faces behind those bars deserve people to fight for them.
Who has influenced you and why?
So many people have paved the way for me to do what I am doing. There are countless people out there fighting the fight. Ginger Kathrens has been a huge influence. Her commitment to documenting wild horses over the last 30 years shows that people truly want to know the story of the wild horse. Other names for many different reasons who have had an effect on me are Deb Lee Carson, Clare Staples & Steve Winters (not a horse person but a photographer for big cats in the wild).
How could your story benefit others?
I paid my dues. I did the career thing (which I did love) for 15 years. I hustled, grew, became successful. But through all of that my love for horses kept gnawing at me. So I quit. I decided to choose happiness and passion for money and success. Granted I have a very supporting husband :). There’s something to be said about doing something you love. Your outlook on life just becomes different. You wake up with a smile, and your heart feels whole. I wish that for everyone. I wish that when that person is ready to take a leap of faith to just go for it. It’s scary but worth it.
Are you working on anything currently?
Taking Back The West – Docuseries which will be released 07 01 2019.
What would you say to someone starting on a new adventure or business?
What advice would you give? Don’t expect it to happen overnight. Too many people expect instant gratification. Enjoy the process and know when it is your time things will happen.
I hope you enjoyed getting to know Jamie a little more and support her efforts to share the story of the wild Mustang. By the way, remember how I said Jamie was curious about Mongolia? Well, she will find out for herself. Jamie has joined the Gobi Desert Cup family this year to film our short film/ documentary! We are very excited to show her our event and our Mongolia in August.
Please visit Jamie:
Featured photo courtesy © Jessica Sanders.