Gilbert Jones founded the Southwest Spanish Mustang Association (SSMA) in 1977 and served as the president until 1998. He is known as one of the original Spanish Mustang Preservationist. He was born in 1906 in Indian Territory, but moved around from Texas to New Mexico before finally coming back to Oklahoma. Here is an excerpt about that move from the SSMA website "In 1958, we moved to Finley, Oklahoma, leaving the loco, alkali, snow banks, poison water and the five year drought behind, bringing what few mustang mares I had, Ute, my only stallion; one Spanish jack and jennet; a few saddle and work mules; furniture and wagons. I bought Medicine Springs, ten miles back in the Kiamichi Mountains with one and a half million acres of Big Timber Company open range to graze by permits. I have always run my stock on open range as I don't like to be fenced in. I talked to several very old men, including Indians, the first six months I was there. Several of these men had at one time run several hundred Choctaw ponies, using native stallions, and I found out at one time that there were hundreds of wild Choctaws here. But when the tick eradication program was imposed here, every wild pony was shot, except a very few they couldn't kill. So it was about the same old story as in all places I had lived before. The mustang or Choctaw pony was on its way out; the only difference was that southeast Oklahoma still had real big open range and the country was more backward, allowing the native horses to remain in certain areas until the 1960s."
Gilbert built a house near the old spring well which was built in 1929 by Haywood Akard who also built a 15 room hotel on the site. He imagined a resort that never materialized and the hotel was eventually torn down after the devastating tornado that hit Antlers, Oklahoma on April 12, 1945. The wood was used to help rebuild the city after the terrifying storm. It was at the Medicine Springs Ranch on Blackjack Mountain that Gilbert Jones served as the guardian of the horses until his death in 2000. He held many "play days" up on that mountain, where members of the SSMA, their families and friends could spend a few days doing what they love, riding their horses. Gilbert Jones passed down his horses, the presidency of the SSMA and his legacy to Bryant Rickman who promised to watch over the horses and keep them running free on Blackjack Mountain. Gilbert said "everybody thinks I'm an old fogey sitting up here on this mountain and that I don't know what's going on but I know what goes on up there on the mountain, I know where my horses are and what stallions run with them". He could name every horse and tell you exactly where they came from, which horses they run with and where they were. His accuracy proved true when Dr. Phil Sponenberg from the Livestock Conservancy began DNA testing them. Bryant Rickman is also blessed with this gift of horse knowledge and carries an entire history and encyclopedia of them in his brain. Bryant and his wife Darlene continue to uphold his promise to Gilbert Jones, even after the timber companies changed their policies and canceled all the grazing leases on the mountain. Bryant, his family and friends spent the next three years capturing and relocating all the horses. Without enough land to support the horses, the feed bills kept getting higher and higher, while the catching and transporting became more and more difficult. These were very dark times for the Rickman's, but they managed to suffer through it with some help from people who came to know and love these special "Spirit Horses of Medicine Springs". However; you can read all about Gilbert Jones and Bryant Rickman's important preservation work with critically endangered heritage horses on these other websites: the Rickman Spanish Mustangs at www.rickmanspanishmustangs.com and the SSMA at www.southwestspanishmustangassociation.com