IN A BOLD MOVE TO CREATE A PERMANENT SANCTUARY FOR WILD HORSES IN THE NEVADA DESERT, MADELEINE PICKENS OPENS A LUXURY, 900 SQUARE MILE, SAFARI–STYLE ECO-RESORT THAT DELIVERS AN EXTRAORDINARY EXPERIENCE OF THE ONCE–WILD WEST.
These American Mustangs don’t run for long however; they’re no longer in fear of Bureau of Land Management helicopter wranglers, or worse, the bullets of a frustrated rancher. When the strawberry roan with the black dreadlocks stops and turns, it’s the click of a camera that reaches his pricked ears, not the hammer of a cocking gun his ancestors might have heard. And he’s got one woman to thank for that.
Eco-tourism safaris and their luxury camps have been widely developed and embraced in many regions–most notably Africa—but have been slow to develop in the United States. Yet combining a sanctuary for wild-roaming, indigenous animals with exceptional hospitality, upscale accommodations, and cultural and ecologically focused education has become an undeniably viable, if indulgent, form of conservation.
Enter Madeleine Pickens, philanthropist, horsewoman and animal rescue advocate. In 2008, after learning of the BLMs possible plan to euthanize or sell up to 30,000 feral horses to slaughterhouses overseas, Pickens announced her plans to develop a mustang sanctuary. And, unlike many good intentioned environmentalists, she had the experience, business acumen and resources to do it.
The glamorous Pickens also had a first hand understanding of both equine husbandry and high-end travel. When married to Allen Paulsen, founder and owner of Gulfstream Aerospace (maker of the namesake private jets) she became a highly successful owner, trainer and breeder of world-class show jumping and racing horses, including the 17-plus-hand Rock Hard Ten and world-champion, Cigar.
It was over a decade later, however, with second husband (and billionaire) T. Boone Pickens, that her devotion turned to the plight of America’s wild mustangs.
On June 15, 2014, Madeleine’s not-for-profit mustang welfare organization Saving America’s Mustangs, opened the revolutionary Mustang Monument Eco-Resort. On 900 square miles of rugged Nevada wild lands turned mustang sanctuary, thrilled guests are treated to horse-drawn and off-road vehicle safaris to view the 600 wild horses she has saved so far.
The focus is on the horses, of course, but also the heritage, history, and culture of the American West. A commitment to the sustainability of the project is paramount, and the resort utilizes environmentally friendly practices and policies. Aprés-mustang activities include horseback riding, roping lessons, archery, hiking, and Native American crafts such as beading and moccasin making.
After the day’s adventures, guests retreat to hand-painted and sumptuously appointed teepees (each with a private en-suite bathroom). Teepee appointments include fine linens, hardwood floors, hand-made, Native American rugs, and twenty-four hour butler service. In-teepee spa services such as massage, are also available.
A “360 degree luxury experience,” the resort’s cuisine incorporates Native American flavors blended with “modern western flair,” and, in the evening, guests can relax and gaze at starlit skies while being serenaded by cowboy balladeers. Madeleine Picken’s has truly created a heaven on earth for horse lovers—and horses.