Tuesday, May 18, 2010

FALLON UPDATES - The Life of Sorro

 It was the Sunday tour on May 16, 2010, and 300 new babies were evident. 

     Spring at Broken Arrow holding facility in Fallon, Nevada, where nearly all the wild horses of the Calico Mountain complex are living in pens, is evident as these beautiful horses deliver their babies and mother them so protectively in their unnaturally crowded environments. 
   There are "Kodak moments" everywhere you look.  It is hard to take a bad photograph with all these picturesque babies and stunning horses.  While the Broken Arrow owners have tried to meet challenges and make adjustments, and BLM has criticized me for not giving them enough credit, I speak for and from the horses' perspective.  
                           ©Photography by Elyse Gardner
Infant plays with mom's tag string. 
                          ©Photography by Craig Downer
Sorro's mother may be dry, but she is diligent and 
very concerned.  She paced up and down the fence
 line protectively following her emaciated, dehydrated baby.
                      ©Photography by Craig Downer

Sorro's mom watching anxiously as her baby paces up and down the fenceline.
                           ©Photography by Craig Downer
(Sorro's story is told below.)
I am constantly assured by BLM of their, and Broken Arrow's, efforts to care for these horses, and I applaud every act on behalf of these animals who've asked for nothing more than to be left free.  We can see the horses are amply fed, yet I have repeatedly seen, and other public observers/horsepeople also report, moldy hay.  This last Sunday a horse was seen tossing a piece of hay he had picked up to eat.  We went to see it because it was such a pronounced, unusual gesture by the horses. What a commentary.  It was moldy. 
                      ©Photograph by Elyse Gardner
Now, I would venture to say that the predominant portion of the hay is good, but there should be a zero tolerance for moldy hay as feed for Mustangs with highly sensitive digestive systems which are completely adapted to the grasses and plants of the Nevada Mountains.  
   Most of the horses are adjusting, but many are having or developing injuries because of the nature of this confinement, i.e., kicks, bites, abscesses from feeders, etc.
   Every Sunday, the once a week we are permitted to tour the facility and check on these horses whom we've grown to know and love, we find injured horses that need attention.  Last week we found a large oozing, bloody abscess on a horse that had obviously needed attention.  
     In the last two weeks we found a very badly wounded sorrel with an infected wound from a kick (featured on my blog); he is in a sick pen now being given pain relief and being monitored and cared for. It is a serious wound and the prognosis is questionable.  
                    ©Photography by Craig Downer
Injured sorrel recuperating.
(Above):  Follow-up on badly injured sorrel (on left) with right rear leg wound barely able to walk.
   (Below):  Legacy, the colt who had such a hard time following his castration, is up and around, eating hay.
                   ©Photography by Craig Downer
      We found, to our relief, that the orphaned foal I'd documented the previous week had been taken in by mom (Cream Pie) as shown in my Tribute to Mustang Mothers slideshow.  This week we were told the vet had determined that he and three orphaned babies who had been adopted by generous mares were taken from those mares in order to be hand nursed.   
           How I wish little Sorro could have been among them.  We spotted Sorro in the last pen we were seeing at around 2:15 p.m.  Our guide has been very accomodating, staying longer than the BLM-planned time of only two hours, an impossibly short amount of time in which to see over 2,000 horses.  We are grateful for his generous spirit with his time (although BLM's once-a-week tour, taking our public horses and making them inaccessible in a private facility, is inappropriate on its face) and grateful that he immediately called for the vet, who was on his way as we were leaving.  Meet Sorro.
(Please double-click inside the viewing box to be able to view the whole clip.)
    What I find deeply troubling about this is this baby didn't get into this condition overnight.  Why is it that we public are the ones to find this baby and generate the call for help for him?  I'm told by BLM that he was seen nursing on his momma, a diligent, beautiful mare whose milk had all but dried up.  It doesn't dry up overnight; this baby was having a problem for at least several days.  And it must be noted that generally, mares don't dry up if a foal is nursing them
    As I stated earlier, I'm assured repeatedly that these horses are cared for, so why does it seem that it is the public observers that continually need to bring so many overlooked injuries, illnesses, or orphaned foals to the attention of the BLM? 
   When the vet, Dr. Sanford, arrived shortly after our departure around 2:25 p.m., this baby could no longer stand on his own.  They got him up on his feet and then decided this little one was too dehydrated and far gone and would not make it.  Dr. Sanford euthanized him.  Was an autopsy done?   
    In the last several weeks, I've seen a baby each week with no mother, inexplicably orphaned, i.e., perhaps mom rejected them; maybe they got separated somehow although BLM insists they are put in the pens in mother/foal pairs. These foals were dependent upon the grace of another mare to take them in. The vet has since removed some and sent them out for individualized care, deeming they would be better off with a private source of nutrition than sharing a mare with another foal.  In one case, one mare had taken in two additional foals as her own, nursing a total of three.  
     I am saddened for these mothers who have opened their bodies and hearts to these foster babies only to have them removed -- yet another loss.  Nevertheless, the vet is wise to consider the mare's health as well as all the foals, and it is unlikely one mare can sustain two, let alone three, foals.
      All of this to say:  It is good for the horses that we are continuing to go see the horses and call attention to those whose need for help has been overlooked. 
      That's all for now.  It's been tremendous having new public observers coming every weekend to see these horses, with the tours filled up to the limit of 10 people.  
For the horses and their humble burro friends,
Elyse Gardner
Humane Observer


  1. Elyse, I don't think anyone, even the BLM, could ask for a more balanced report than this. I have always thought you were taking the right track - speaking for the HORSES. The BLM is more than capable of speaking for itself.

    You were right to ask why it's the observers - who are only around briefly once a week - who call attention to horses needing help. By that time, it's often too late. I must say that, to the BLM docs, it's almost always too late.

    Thank you for your reports to those of us who don't have a chance of actually getting out there to see for ourselves.

    Until next report...

  2. Are we sure the orphaned foals did end up with foster care? How can we be sure of this? Did the vet document it? I'd like to hear where they went. And so glad to hear that one orphan ended up with a surrogate. I have been so worried about that little foal for 2 weeks now.

  3. PS, It is obvious that 2 hours is not adequate to view the horses. I believe we need to get them to expand this to all day Sunday. Or open up another couple days in the week. There are 1900 horses, 300 foals and one vet. Also, need to open it up to more than 10 taxpaying Americans each week. These arbitrary rules need to be changed by the people footing the bill for the care of these horses. US! Enough is enough. Arbitrary rules can be changed.

  4. Elyse, great job in keeping track of the events here. If they are inadequately staffed, then extra observers should be a relief to them. Thanks for looking out for the horses!

  5. The role of the Humane Observer is not about balance. It is about getting the truth out. Thanks, Elyse for continuing to report the truth.