Saturday, December 18, 2010


           Warm season's greetings to all.  It is a special, vulnerable time of year.  Joyful for many, filled with bittersweet memories for many, very lonely for others. My heart remains with the wild horses and burros while they try to winter together and have their lives turned upside-down with these violent helicopter removals.  As always, I speak from the horses' point of view:  Being chased by a helicopter is a violent removal.    
           First I want to bring you just a couple of sweet photos.  These are two of my Calico girls rescued and living at DreamCatchers Wild Horse and Burro Sanctuary.    They are adjusted and dealing with the snow right now.  Because they are five closely-knit girls with a smart, self-confident alpha mare, they immediately took their position as the top ranking band.  Here I am with Gypsy, the 2 1/2 year-old girl from the Warm Springs HMA, on only day two of their lives here.  We had connected at Palomino Valley, and when no one was bidding on these girls, "just bays," I knew what I had to do.
                   ©9/2/10 Elyse Gardner
  Gypsy her second day with me at DreamCatchers. 
     You see this green barn?  It is huge.  Barbara leaves it open for the horses to go in in the bad weather.  The Calico girls are the first to scramble in.  Even though they are the most used to bad winters of all the DreamCatchers residents (having grown up in Nevada) they dearly love to stay dry.  At first, Dahlia stayed fearfully outside, but even that very timid girl finally went inside with her little band.  
             ©9/2/10 Elyse Gardner       
           Two of our wild Calico girls their second day at Sanctuary.  Gypsy let me put a fly mask on. 
her to protect her irritated eyes.  Her younger sister, Gemini:  "Hey, What IS that thing?  Are you IN there?  You okay?" 
           Gypsy was amazing.  She was interested, curious, and actually liked the mask.  It gave her irritated eyes some relief.  
          The percentage of horses as fortunate as these is pitifully low.  Sanctuaries are full, and BLM is on a tear rounding up more and more horses. It is incomprehensible when you use their own math and realize how few wild horses are actually still out there.
          Our thanks and prayers go to our eyes in the field right now, Laura Leigh.  I am laid up, very frustrating to be sidelined with a compromised right leg right now, knee and nerve issues following my recent accident and subsequent surgery, and want to express my relief and gratitude that Laura is bringing these images to us.  It is impossible to describe how physically, financially, and emotionally challenging this work is, more-so than anything else I've ever done.
           It's winter weather, cold; so cold some days the helicopter can't fly due to weather.  Laura's traveled several thousand miles in the last couple of months in the course of following these roundups.
Here is some of what's she has documented.


For more, you can visit her blog at
To see additional information and photographs from the field, you can also visit
        Why we go to roundups and to BLM holding facilities; why we do what we do:

          Following through with Laura's articulate talk, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of access to our wild horsese and burros in the BLM holding facilities.  Here is one practical reason why:
          The Indian Lakes Weekly Updates indicates 17 deaths in the last two months, 7 from broken necks/spinal injuries, 5 in the chute.  (Click on the link to see the updates.) This facility is "private," closed to the public, and this state of affairs is unacceptable. 

          This is a very high death rate from these sorts of accidents.  Some study is warranted.  I have numerous questions.  If BLM cares at all for these animals, some study needs to be made and changes implemented to stop these injuries and deaths instead of chalking up a certain measure of suffering as par for the course.  Some visibility is in order.

           In a spirit of what is best for the horses, I would like to know  if BLM is willing to do a serious study and make some modifications as we identify the cause of these fatalities.  
          I acknowledge that if these wild horses are to remain off the range, they need to be identified so we can track them through the system.  Confining them to do this becomes a necessity.  When the confinement is causing so many deaths, study and modifications are long overdue. 
               ©3/9/2010 Elyse Gardner
            ©3/9/2010 Craig Downer
                ©3/9/2010 Craig Downer
              There are too many of these broken necks happening at trap sites and in holding.  If we look at the daily updates for the various ongoing roundups, we see with regularity horses dying of broken necks.    
         It is high time for serious changes to be implemented.  If roundups must happen, then BLM needs to take responsibility for the welfare and safety of these individuals.  These are very frightened individuals; they are not mean or vicious or vindictive.  We need to help them through this alien, terrifying process.  
         This is nothing new.  What is new is that we are documenting all of it and telling the BLM it's time for a change.  BLM may accept broken necks and lame horses as par for the course in helicopter roundups; the American public thinks this agency that is the legal advocate for these horses can and must do better.  And for sure we have a right to see whatever it is that our government is doing with this national treasure, our wild horses and burros.  
              Below are photos from February 2010 at Broken Arrow.  None of the horses in holding facilities across our country have any overhead shelter.  No longer free to find a tree or a gully to break the wind, rain, and snow, the horses and burros are now naked to whatever the weather throws their way.  As I've stated numerous times before, horses can deal with cold, but if they are soaking wet, it is miserable, and I've seen them shiver badly where staying dry they'd be fine.  They can and do get very sick when subjected to the elements in this manner.  The stallions at Return to Freedom have overhead protection, and they love it.  
                   ©2010 Elyse Gardner

                  ©2010 Elyse Gardner

          The BLM shut the public out of the new Broken Arrow holding facility in Fallon, Nevada, in June of this year.  I had watched it fill up with its first horses, from the Calico roundup last January.  BLM was responsive to the public's intense interest and arranged for weekly tours of the facility, but then decided to shut it down just before the Calico internet adoption.  This was a terrific loss to the horses a well as to us all who had grown connected to these horses.
         Aside from the loss, these are America's horses, and I see nothing in the law that says they are to be managed off the range out of public sight.  If private parties want to contract to hold public horses, then accommodation needs to be made for the public to visit.
         I have no idea what is taking place in this facility now. I want to go back and find some horses, see some old friends if they are still there, as well.
         I hope you will seek out the links on the home/front page of this blog to see how you can help rather than sit and feel helpless and bad for the horses and burros.  The American Wild Horse Preservation is a great mailing list to be on; they send out action alerts letting us know where well-timed phone calls and letters will be heard and counted.
          I'm repeating some things in this post.  They bear repeating.  They will bear repeating until changes are implemented.
          Well, this was going to be a short little post, update from the field.  The problem is there is just so much going on.
          More next time.  Many projects to finish.  Meanwhile, please have a safe, spirit-of-the-season kind of Christmas if I don't check in before then.
         Acting as one voice, we have tremendous influence.  It is how HSUS and ASPCA all have the clout they have; their huge, responsive memberships.
         If every one of us who cares will actually take a small action, we will make a difference.
Doing my best to be part of the solution,
For the wild horses and their sturdy little burro friends, captive and free,
Elyse Gardner

Saturday, December 4, 2010


v       In the days, weeks, and months after the Calico roundup, I followed carefully two mares belonging to the iconic black stallion Freedom, seeing them at Broken Arrow every week until BLM closed the doors.
©1/2/10 by Craig Downer
Freedom making his escape, having just cleared a 6-foot fence
 and crashed through a 3-strand barbed wire fence...
                   ©5/2/10  Elyse Gardner  
Dahlia, Freedom's lovely, frightened three-year-old mare at Broken Arrow, four months 
(to the day)  following her capture.  
          We rescued them with the help of a precious sister wild horse lover and the stalwart Barbara Clarke, who took them in at DreamCatchers Sanctuary where they are living once again almost as wild horses.  I say "almost" because they don't live with stallions here.  There are stallions; Barbara doesn't geld, but the stallions live on several hundred acres fenced well away from the mares since DreamCatchers does not want to contribute more homeless mustangs into the mix.    
        Dahlia, Freedom's lovely young mare, lost everything, as the wild horses do, when she was rounded up. This is her introduction; I am working on the video and will tell you her story, as much as I know.  She had a foal; he was taken from her immediately.  
          I made a commitment to those mares that I would do all I could to see that they would never be separated or subjected to brutality, and thanks to these amazing women, that commitment is kept.  Well, nearly kept.  Dahlia is a particularly wild, frightened girl who clings to River, the older mare.  When first I met her, she could barely stand to be looked at from 25 feet away.  
              ©6/10/10 Elyse Gardner
It took us four months to find this timid soul among the 1,900-odd horses at Broken Arrow.  These girls were so spooked, they hid way in the back of the pens.  Here she is in her usual position -- taking refuge behind River. 

Dahlia and River, her surrogate mother.  I thought River was pregnant.  
BLM said no, she's just an older mare, and they look that way...
       One of Freedom's mares, River, had a bonus.  BLM thought she was just mature and round (she's 17, and according to them, "they just look like that sometimes after they've had numerous foals).  But alas, she surprised everyone, and right after we had safely adopted her -- she was bought and paid for but not yet picked up -- she gave birth to Freedom's little girl.  I was thrilled. I wasn't bargaining for another horse, but this little filly was royalty; what can I say? -- a legacy, a heritage, a precious family's story to tell, all the sweeter because it continued.  
      Meet Moonbeam, Freedom's daughter.
                    ©8/30/10 by Elyse Gardner
Freedom's little girl here is all of two weeks old, born at Palomino Valley around August 15.  BLM did not note the exact day of her birth, but it was right around 8/15.   
                      ©8/30/10 by Elyse Gardner
                      ©8/30/10 by Elyse Gardner

Arrival at DreamCatchers, Moonbeam is all of two weeks old. 
         I returned to see the Calico girls, as we call them, on September 24.  We had also adopted three other fillies from Calico.  They are quite the close-knit group, and all loved and protected little Moonbeam.  
          By November 4, when the photo below was taken, Moonbeam had turned completely black except for her blindingly white moonbeam sock on her right rear, and her star and snip.   
                  ©11/4/10 Elyse Gardner
 Left to right:  Dahlia, Gemini, Ladybug, Moonbeam (turned all black!), River, Gypsy.
 Gypsy, the alpha mare from the Warm Springs area, looks like she is with foal. 
       ©9/24/10 Elyse Gardner
      The Process of Turning Black:  Stepping back a few weeks to 9/24, what is happening to this baby?  Oh my; she's turning black like her famous daddy.  Full of black paint splotches...  
                   ©9/24/10 Elyse Gardner
                     ©9/24/10 Elyse Gardner   Sleepy Moonbeam turning black....
     Here is a brief sort of chronicle of this little one.  It's amazing to watch her transformation to becoming her father's and mother's daughter in looks as well as fact.  I'm loving the medium of video more and more...
For Moonbeam...
           On Sunday, November 21, 2010, a mountain lion killed a foal at DreamCatchers.  There is no easy way to say this, no easy way to hear it.  The foal was Moonbeam.  My heart is broken, and my knee injury makes me vulnerable, and it hurts all over.  But she got to live without pens.  My Calico girls were taking shelter up in the trees and boulders from the inclement weather, and being a very patient predator, the lionness waited for her opportunity.
            Barbara has moved the horses, and we will seek to raise funds to put up anti-predator fencing, which involves including some hot (electric) lines within the fence structure.
            River called for her baby for three days.  She was there; she knew what happened, but she continued to call in hopes...  
            The girls have settled down.  Gypsy is probably carrying a foal.  She would have conceived just before being rounded up in early January.
                       ©9/24/10 Elyse Gardner  
Gypsy... She's definitely our alpha girl.
                         ©9/24/10 Elyse Gardner  
              Gypsy had irritated eyes and allowed me to slip a fly mask 
on her, very calmly, her second day here.  
             So I have been very busy editing film, and wiping my eyes.  The reality is that wild horses do have predators, and the predation isn't just in animal form.  Barbara has lost five other foals to pneumonia this year, probably largely due to the very sudden shift in the weather.  The horses were putting on their winter coats, and it got very warm.  Then within a week, it was snowing and sub-zero temperatures. Five babies, older than Moonbeam, who was three months old, got very sick and died within two days even though Barbara got them in and began treating them.
               I do not believe in predator control, and neither does DreamCatcher's Barbara Clarke.  I miss this regal little girl.  I hope, and I do believe, that Freedom recovered from his wounds and lives on with a new family.
               What terrifies me is a BLM willing to rope and hogtie a horse such as this.  It has to be an odd sort of competition they feel with these beautiful animals that simply want to be free.
              After all, the contractors are paid for the horses who come in.  Period.  They were paid for Freedom.  If the horse escapes, they still get paid for having brought that horse in.  They were paid for that 23-year-old stallion who was hogtied; they didn't need to go get him a second time.  If a horse has the guts and physical ability to escape in this way, he has everything we want in a wild horse on the range; let him be.
                ©Barbara Clarke, November 2010
 River with Moonbeam:  August 15, 2010 (?) - November 21, 2010
                  ©11/4/10 Elyse Gardner 
            I have been moved in putting together the story of this family.
           The video of the Freedom Family's Story had taken a back seat to all the urgent things we've seen over these months -- the helicopter pushing Banner; the foals; Atticus; the crash into the crossbars during processing.  I was savoring having a happy story in my back pocket to bring out for you.
         And then I got the word from Barbara that a mountain lion had come closer to her house than ever before and killed a foal...
         And so it is time to tell her story.   As my dear contributing friend for their adoption said to me, Moonbeam shone for a season, and for a reason.
         So compiling all I have from their entire journey with us, starting January 2nd,  I hope to have that finished this week.  I just know I have this gift, this wild horse family story, which is a microcosm of THE wild horse family story, so we will learn of it together.
         Next time, in Part II, never before seen footage of Dahlia, Freedom's young, three-year-old mare, longing to follow her stallion over the fence.
©1/2/10  Elyse Gardner and Bob Bauer
Dahlia runs up to the fence in the adjoining pen as she helplessly 
watches her world forever changed as Freedom, her stallion, escapes. 
For Moonbeam, for Mouse, for Freedom, Dahlia, and River, for the wild horses, captive and free, and their humble burro friends,
To be continued,
Elyse Gardner

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Greetings from the Getting Well Chair...

      Well, I seem to have missed wishing you all a happy Thanksgiving as I learn how disabling pain can be.    As you can see, I have a big fat right knee bandage. I had arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus, damage I sustained thanks to the drunk driver who rear-ended me and Laura Leigh as we were heading for Nevada in preparation for the Tuscarora roundup in July, totaling my Rav4.  It took two cortisone shots to get me through the Twin Peaks roundup...  My doctor treated me like an elite athlete -- my heartfelt thanks to him -- because he knew how important it was for me to finish documenting that roundup.
        Anyway, that's all history now. I'm planning/hoping to be back at work with the horses in January, by God's grace and good physical therapy.
      Blog has been quiet; I'm sorry about that.  Here's why:  When I'm not saying, "Ow ow ow ow ow," I've been prepping a lot of film for different people in support of the horses and burros. It has seemed very important to meet these requests, but my own work keeping you updated has suffered, and that bothers me.
      However, we have all been kept well informed of the difficulties of the horses by others who have been diligent to appear, cameras ready, at the roundups.  Here is footage, courtesy of Laura Leigh, of the horses' experience as they were removed from their homes at the Silver King roundup in Nevada.  The  Silver King roundup was tragicll told.
               Once again BLM and its contractors demonstrate a chilling lack of compassion toward our wild horses, exemplified by their leaving these animals trapped -- frightened, fighting, thirsty -- in this space, and leaving stallions with mares like this, is unconscionable.  There is no justification for this.  It is entirely avoidable suffering.  These contractors, paid by the horse, should lose their fee for each horse having an avoidable injury caused in this circumstance.  In fact, they should be fined additionally for inflicting this needless suffering.  If they lack the compassion gene and are not motivated by empathy, then a little financial incentive is in order.  Congress has the ability to do this.  BLM has the ability to include this in its contracts with the roundup contractors, but BLM is complicit in all of it.  I do not single out the contractor because the buck, very simply, stops with BLM.
              Our cameras keep capturing scenes like this at every roundup.  BLM wants me to talk about the good things it does.  Okay: It would be a good thing to see these contractors penalized for this.  It would be a good thing to see BLM stand up like it's supposed to and ADVOCATE for these horses for a change.
              Instead, they are supporting the Summit of the Horse, and top BLM executives -- like Bob Abbey; it doesn't get any more "top" than he -- and Dean Bolstad are headlined as key speakers for this blatantly, unabashedly pro-slaughter rally put on by the slaughter proponents, scheduled to take place in Las Vegas in early January 2011.   
               Madeleine Pickens wrote an articulate letter to Bob Abbey which I encourage all to read.  She is right on point.
            It was a dream of mine after the Pryor Mountain roundup of September 2009, that the horses would never again be subjected in silent anonymity to roundups with only their captors present, with no cameras, no one there as a witness on their behalf.  Thanks to so many people, that dream is almost a reality.  People are showing up with cameras and Congress, and the world, are now seeing that wild horses and burros are not starving, as BLM has told the public for years, as though BLM were doing them a favor by removing them from their homes.
       Congress and the American taxpayer are now firsthand witnesses to the real fear, suffering, and cruelty the horses all face as a result of these roundups despite BLM's attempts to whitewash its callous behaviors through the handpicking of "humane observers," most of whom are vocal horse slaughter proponents.
       The Bureau of Land Management continues to try and perpetrate the myth that roundups are gentle and humane.  Likewise, the new report by BLM's handpicked "Independent Designated Observers" tries to cast roundups in a positive light despite mounds of evidence -- even their own evidence -- to the contrary.  For example, they note that in the Stinking Water roundup:
...a 23 year old stallion jumped out of the pen and escaped the trap site.  About 1/2 mile from trap (sic), he was subsequently roped and his legs were tied while in a recumbent position, and eventually was transported in a two-compartment stock horse trailer back to the Burns Corrals.
        "Eventually transported"?  Good night, how long did this older, proud and free stallion have to lay there hogtied in the heat?  What was so important that they couldn't allow this magnificent animal who managed to jump out of the pen, like Freedom did, to remain free?  Didn't he earn that?  Imagine chasing down and hogtying Freedom:  it's the same thing.
         And the "Independent Designated Observers" even found it necessary to make this their first recommendation (gee, I wonder why...):
 If at all possible, horses should not be roped or tied down in a recumbent position for long periods of time, especially coinciding with exhaustive or overheated conditions.  Strict criteria should be established to determine the initiation and purpose of this practice.
 (i.e., what is so darn important?!)
If necessary to implement these procedures, these horses should be identified, marked, and/or confined separately from the others in the gather and observed for any injuries or metabolic conditions for the next 48 hours.  This could be achieved by moving these animals to designated, smaller holding corrals.
         It sounds as though these observers couldn't track this stallion, who disappeared into the system, and they realize how wrong this is.
       They nevertheless call the handling "gentle"?
       The truth is, it would seem that wild horses are still victimized by a segment of the population a la The Misfits.
        Many things in this report are very troubling because of the misrepresentations made, such as horses merely "trotting" or cantering into the trap.  I have footage of, time after time,  horses running into the trap.  \  We all know that.   Perhaps the writers would like to explain?  And minimal roundup experience, I would add.
       I"m working on three different videos and situations for you, tying into Part 2 of Foals and Roundups.
      There are so many horse stories that need to be told, which brings me to what I've been trying to avoid. . .
       I've recently suffered a loss that knocked me to my injured knees.  I was going to wait to tell you about when the story is complete -- I'm working on the entire video -- but I feel I want to tell you now, and I will.  But this story deserves its own post, which will come right on the heels of this one.
       So for now, pressing on for the wild horses, captive and free, and their stalwart burro friends,
      Elyse Gardner

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

PART 2 of FOALS AND ROUNDUPS IS ON THE WAY... but in the meantime...

 ©11/5/10 Elyse Gardner
Shelter-building project went great.  My thanks to the hardworking people who gave their time, talents, and treasure to benefit some fortunate, cold horses in northernmost California winters.  These horses really needed this shelter because they have no trees or topography to find protection.  Horses can do well in freezing temperatures if they can stay dry.  A soaked, freezing horse is going to suffer and may get very sick.
       Thank you for your patience.  I had hoped to get the Part 2 of the Foals and Roundups, How Do They Fare? post up long before this.   I have, however, received a telephone call from Contractor Sue Cattoor and wanted to go back and review some of her concerns.
       In doing so, I discovered another foal's story and have been researching that and preparing another video.  I will be sharing his story, which needs to be told, as well as Sue's concerns with you in my next post.
       In the meantime, life continues and I'm also recovering from a very painful knee surgery necessitated by injuries I sustained courtesy of the drunk driver who rear-ended me on the freeway, totaling my Rav4 on the way to the Tuscarora roundup.  
       I don't like "excuses"; I just want you all to know the long gap on this blog reflects a lot of meticulous work being done, of which the horses and you will be the recipients.
                      ©2010 Cat Kindsfather
Laura Leigh at the last hearing
        TOMORROW, 16 November 2010, an important First Amendment issue will be addressed as the Court hears a case involving the public's First Amendment right to have its free press, and public observers, view and report on the wild horses and burros, our national treasures who live on our public land, and BLM's handling of them as BLM rounds them up or does whatever they purport to do with these animals so intrinsic to our nation's history.
        We, the public, have a hard time getting in to see the things I report on this blog.  For example, in a roundup of several weeks, often BLM will allow only several "viewing days."  This is intrinsically wrong.  Wild Horse and Burro Program Director Don Glenn acknowledged that the public has a right to view any and all wild horse gathers.
         Nevertheless, the fact remains that Twin Peaks was exceptional in its seven-day-a-week access, afforded by the California BLM, nd even then on many days we were positioned so we couldn't see the horses coming, or we couldn't see the trap site. That is particularly frustrating and disappointing when you've gone to the trouble and expense to get out to these wild places only to be stuck in a crevice unable to see all but a tiny bit.  I sure hate to sound like a chronic complainer, and I acknowledge and appreciate the efforts made by the California BLM staff to provide the manpower and escorts, etc.   But when my viewfinder can't see horses or trap pens, we have a problem, regardless of how much effort everybody makes.  And I must be careful not to fall all over myself thanking BLM for doing the job it is supposed to do.  I believe it is our right to see our wild horses and roundups as Director Glenn affirmed.
        Also to be heard by the Court: Laura Leigh's allegation of BLM's contempt of the Court's Order affirming public access, acknowledging Ms. Leigh as a worthy advocate, credible journalist, and granting access for the public, notably Ms. Leigh and observers, to view and document the Tuscarora roundup.
         Below:  Scenes from observers' attempts to view the Tuscarora roundup.
             ©7/17/10 Elyse Gardner
Good looking cows standing around in water (they were really very cute)
             ©7/17/10 Elyse Gardner
Tuscarora HMA
               ©7/17/10 Elyse Gardner
Laura Leigh tries to comprehend some mixed messages, surprised at being rebuffed at the Tuscarora roundup after the Court's positive ruling the day before
        In other words, it's about 1st AMENDMENT:  Access Americans should have to view their government's activities on our public lands, in this case it's with our public horses using our public dollars, as well as the right of the press to go out and obtain this information for the American public.
        ACCESS TO PUBLIC LAND, PUBLIC HORSES and BURROS, AND OUR GOVERNMENT'S ACTIVITIES USING OUR PUBLIC DOLLARS.  This includes reasonable access to long-term and short-term holding facilities housing our wild horses and burros paid for with our taxpayer dollars.
        As it stands now, I am not even given the brand numbers of wild horses shipped to long-term holding.  I cannot even track where they go from short-term holding, i.e., where they go from the Litchfield Holding Facility, for example.  I was told today I had to FOIA that information (request it under a Freedom of Information Act request).  A helpful California BLM employee had to check with the National BLM representative, who stated I have to FOIA that information.  What a waste of paper and tax dollars.  
       No, once our wild horses are captured, if they are not adopted they are whisked away, never again to be seen by the public.  I will not accept this, and I hope you won't, either.
                           ©2010 Cat Kindsfather

Animator, artist, journalist, wild horse advocate Laura Leigh
                        ©2010 Cat Kindsfather
         This clever video below was sent to me today, and it so beautifully depicts the issues, I simply have to share it.  I roared, actually.  I was there...
         It is a little crude for my taste; nonetheless, I can handle it... it deserves posting.  The creator remains unnamed. I don't know who created it, but they have a pretty great wit and grasp of the issues.
         I wish Laura Leigh Godspeed and the best, because a win in Court is truly more protection for our wild horses.  The public needs to be involved and stay involved.  A win in Court on these important issues ensures my right to be there for these animals, and yours, too.  It ensures that when you take time to come out to see them, whether just grazing free, or during a roundup, you will be permitted to do so.  Unfortunately, Director Don Glenn's commitment wasn't strong enough; we need a Court ruling.
        Next time I'll have Part 2:  Foals and Roundups:  How Do They Fare?
For the wild horses, captive and free, and their humble, amazing burro friends,
Elyse Gardner

Saturday, October 30, 2010


        UPDATED POST:  11/2/10
 ©9/18/2010 Elyse Gardner
You can see the six-day-old mule foal in the back next to Mom with the blaze
          BEFORE PROCEEDING, please let me ask you:
        The material I document on behalf of the horses touches many people deep in the core.  The pain and outrage thousands feel on behalf of the horses is leaking out -- bursting out --  in very raw language and violent emotion in the "Comments" section of this blog.  
           I earnestly ask that everyone put on their adult, civilized, proud-citizen-of-this-still-amazing- country hat, and put on civility even if you don't feel it. I so appreciate your comments but any violent or threatening comments are counterproductive. 
         Please channel this energy by writing directly to your Congressional Representatives and Senators, as well as to our President.  Send them the link to this blog:  Tell THEM TO DO SOMETHING.  EXPRESS YOURSELF IN THE VOTING BOOTH on November 2nd. Work with me to cut off the incessant roundups through budget restrictions to make the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro program spend our taxpayer dollars for the horse (e.g., more toward on-the-range management as intended by the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act), not against them. (You can learn more here from the Cloud Foundation).
          I have made an effort to NOT audit the comments on this blog, but I feel I will need to in order to stop what are turning into counterproductive remarks. I earnestly thank you for taking the time to comment, for expressing your love for the horses and support for my work and that of others documenting these roundups.  You all rock; just try to do it in a more civilized manner. Gratefully, Elyse

(As always, click on the photographs to enlarge them.
 Click on the video to watch it; click twice to watch it in Youtube if you have trouble viewing it.  

             ©2010 Elyse Gardner

This baby in the Litchfield Corrals during  California's Twin Peaks roundup was separated from his family.  He had been without his mother -- and without food -- for at least 6 hours when I filmed this, and possibly as long as 36 hours.  I was not sure when he had arrived.  He was clearly distressed.  Watch the film below.  
              ©2010 Elyse Gardner
 This little black filly stuck like glue to her friend, hobbling around the pen on her painful feet. You can see her holding up her sore leg here.  They were in a pen with adult mares but seemed to take no comfort from them:  they wanted their parents.  He continued to call for them.  She just quietly endured and followed very closely by his young side, a true little wild stallion and filly.

        A month later (after the above video was filmed), the roundup was continuing.  I bring you the stills for now.  We film their stories and share them so that their struggles in their young lives will not be in vain -- will not be meaningless or without purpose.  
              ©9/18/2010 Elyse Gardner            
                  This baby I've called Little Red Warrior was roped and  brought in on 9/18/10,  the same day as the tiny, six-day-old mule foal was driven in (who was also lame and could barely walk the following day). 
         The thing I so dislike about the name I've given this baby, "Little Red Warrior," is that in all likelihood he was not a warrior at all; he was a baby, a young wild horse simply terrified and fighting for his life right here.  He saw the pen they wanted to put him in, and he was desperate to stay out of it.  It was evident to me, as it so often is, that this horse thought he would die if he went in that pen.  Whether it is a pen, a trailer, or a chute, whichever one it is, they aren't given a chance to understand any of this.  They are frightened and fighting for their lives, and often, with regularity, they actually lose their lives in this process.   But here, despite the stacked odds, with not one other wild horse present, adult or otherwise, he fought. 
        ©9/18/2010 Elyse Gardner   
        According to the Vet Report of 9/18/10, a foal brought in this afternoon was euthanized the following day, as referenced and filmed briefly in the video clip above. (I was being hurried and was not permitted to stay and film more of that injured foal in the pen.)   Might this baby be he?  He fought so hard, it is likely he was injured in this process.  The foal in the vet report suffered a serious degloving injury (big fold of skin removed like a glove) to left rear leg, and other cuts, followed by weakness, dehydration, and heart failure.            
        The shocking thing about that is even in that poor condition, the decision was made to transport this baby, at least a three to five-hour trip, to Fallon, Nevada's closed holding pens at Broken Arrow for further treatment.  What kind of medicine is this?  He could barely walk; forcing a seriously injured, weakened foal to endure such a trip would likely have killed him if he hadn't been euthanized before transport.  Why on earth not leave him at Litchfield, a mere hour from the temporary holding pen?   Where is this caring I keep hearing BLM and the contractors speak of?  Where?
          BELOW:  This youngster I call Dignity came from a long way off,  enveloped by a wrangler close on each side.  That's Dave Cattoor on the buttermilk.  While taping, I soon realized the foal was staggering slightly, and they were keeping very close to him, making sure he stayed on his feet.  When he tried to rest for a moment, I saw Mr. Cattoor's right hand jerking upwards, yanking on the rope. I soon realized they had a rope around his neck and a rope strung between them, going under Dignity's tail, rubbing against his anus.  (This is an old cowboy method of moving them forward.)  They wanted him to keep moving, keep moving.  He was not in good shape.  Nevertheless, Dignity kicked out at the wrangler to his right at one point, "Quit crowding me."  
©9/16/10 Elyse Gardner     "Dignity" trying to rest for a moment as he walks tremulously toward the pen.
                      ©9/16/10 Elyse Gardner    
           Imagine the trauma of running for miles struggling to keep up only to finally lose your family, watching them disappear from view, finding yourself alone, without any adults, for the first time in your life.  
          I'm not trying to be dramatic but to capture the truth of this experience:  the burning lungs, dry throat, the terrible dust from the churning hooves of all the adult horses in front of you;  the shooting pains in your feet, the final horrible moments when you give up and stop running because you haven't any more left... 
       Such is the experience of every foal you see roped and escorted by a wrangler.  No, a helicopter chase does not seem in any way humane for the babies.  
            For the foals, it's always a struggle:  As much as I dislike generalizations, my experience is revealing that whether we are at the Twin Peaks roundup in northern California, the Calico roundup in the wide open mountains of Nevada, or the Pryor Mountain roundup of Cloud's famous herd, the foals' experience is pretty much the same. 
       In the lives and film of these foals, they tell the story of their similarly disenfranchised cousins all over the wild horse and burro Herd Management Areas who are being rounded up.  
     THE VIDEO of Dignity:  I decided to step it up and get the video up for you.   
            Looking at the Twin Peaks vet reports -- and you might want to save these reports before they are removed by BLM -- one can see the numerous instances and yet casual manner in which footsore or lame foals are addressed.  It is an expected result of the helicopter chase. (To get to the Vet Reports, click on the link above, and then scroll down the page to the bottom right.  You will see a list of dates.  Those are the vet reports according to date.  
           Watching these little ones struggling to keep up with mature horses mile after mile -- and yes, I have seen it mile after mile -- I know that our Congressmen and Senators would insist on a change if they really dared to watch this process.
           I have more, but that is enough for anyone to have to take in in one article.  I have Sorro, and the Pryor Mountain foals...  and Hope, whose feet were literally run off (called hoof slough), and he was euthanized in tremendous pain.  
        Check back in the next week for Little Red Warrior's story.

        Please encourage your friends and colleagues to learn more and take action by getting on the mailing lists and responding to alerts from them.  My aim is not so much to convert those who do not care (although I try to help people see the amazing individuals the horses and burros are); my aim is to motivate those who do care to take action.  You can help the horses by subscribing to these mailing lists and responding to alerts and things as they arise:
Thank you.   
             Please send this blog post to your elected representatives.  They need to know what is happening.
For the wild horses, captive and free, and their humble, hardy burro friends,
Elyse Gardner

Friday, October 22, 2010


(Still the same blog with a new look.  Welcome.) 
                 (Don't forget to click on the photographs to enlarge them; they nearly come alive. -- EG.)                 
   ©5/7/10 Elyse Gardner              
Twin Peaks horses in their living room. 
 On May 7 I went with five other people to see the range and the horses.  I found a lush, spacious expanse perfect for the wild horses and burros.  That they thought so, too, was evident in their well muscled beauty and shining coats, and general contentment and solidarity that radiated everywhere they went in their family groups.  These were fulfilled horses. You just felt great looking at them -- and frightened, knowing what was coming.  
                      ©5/7/10 Elyse Gardner       

Twin Peaks horses where they belong.  The rightness and serenity of these horses on the ranges cannot be described.  They are at peace, their society rich and tender,  fierce and strong; loyalty, friendship, and family bonds evident in all their interactions.  We are the aliens here.  
       I have thoroughly enjoyed perusing my photo library and finding these opening photographs for you although it's taken me on a two-hour detour from my task at hand.  But this stroll down recent memory lane has again reinforced the absolute rightness -- no, the utter, overarching need -- for these unique, irreplaceable animals, the wild and free horses and burros, to remain wild and free on their home ranges in genuine, solid numbers.
         C.S. Lewis said it is more important that Heaven should exist than that any of us should get there (The Essential C.S. Lewis, by Clive Staples Lewis, edited by Lyle W. Dorsett).   In the same way, it is more important for Americans to know our wild horses and burros remain an intrinsic, wild part of our west than it is for the average American to get out and see them:   The wild horses are there, the wild horses are happy and safe, and all is well with the world.
         The 1971 Congress understood this very well when they drafted the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act.  They used the words "intrinsic," and "enrich," and "fast disappearing."  And what the Bureau of Land Management is now doing is tampering with a very sensitive core of our society.  Will they get it? -- that these animals are tied to us and we to them, and it is not just a numbers game?           
          I have a sense of urgency for the sake of the mountains as well as the horses and burros, for the sake of all that is right, to protect them and to see that they get to stay in their homes in the healthy, full numbers that they deserve and need, not this frightening skeleton crew straggling on the mountains that the Bureau of Land Management is leaving.
                ©5/7/2010 Elyse Gardner    (Click on the photo...)
This lovely, fair sorrel mare was keeping a not-very-concerned eye on us as we enjoyed these horses.   A newer young horsewoman with us was thrilled in learning about reading horse body language so we wouldn't drive them away.  And yes, it is thrilling to be able to simply "hear" what they tell us, if we just stop and listen.  The horses teach us how to respect each other's space, take the time to read the messages others are giving us:  Her head comes up and she looks at me:  You are getting too close; I don't feel safe.  If you want to be with me, you need to stop pressing in, or I'll flee. We stopped and stepped back a pace or two when she did this.  She went back to grazing.  Ah, yes, they teach me all the time if I listen... 
            ©5/7/2010 Elyse Gardner  
Here she is with her whole family -- stallion and son -- who are watchful but accepting of our presence, a very sweet time.  We were only about 50 feet away.  Around 6 p.m., sun is going down.  Wonderful time. 
A fellow advocate said she saw them in the pens; they were rounded up
          I cannot explain it; I only know it is so, that the heart and soul of America is still tied in a rudimentary way to our wild horses, yes, and their humble burro friends,  and we are committed to their well-being.  Am I being heard, somebody?  And I am here to do everything I know to see that we are not sold a lie, that we are not told by a conflict-of-interest-driven Bureau of Land Management that all is well with our wild horses while they proceed to decimate wild horse and burro populations, forcing them off and stealing their ranges to make way for special interests, including but not limited to natural gas, foreign investing, gold mining, and not last and certainly not least, livestock interests, and benignly calling it "multiple use." (See Debbie Coffey's article, The BLM's Multiple (R)USE Mandate.)  
                  ©7/19/10 Elyse Gardner     
Vulnerable wild horses. I took this from the helicopter in the
flyover Laura Leigh and I made with George Knapp on July 19, 2010.  
From the helicopter the horses are so vulnerable.  Just look at them.  A helicopter is a tremendous power.  It is far too easy to abuse these animals with a helicopter.  We must get protections in place, parameters around helicopter use and wild horses and burros -- or any animal, for that matter. We stayed up very high.  
          The horses lose everything in the process, freedom and family, and suffer tremendous fear as well as physical strain and hardship.  It is a marathon of fear, and often of pain.  And I think the only thing worse than being abused is to have one's abuser and witnesses not even recognize the suffering inflicted. "No, that didn't hurt.  You're fine.  You'll get over it."  And that is what we have here.
         I have frequently heard BLM and roundup contractors talk about how humane helicopter roundups are for horses.  They could be if done correctly.  However, what we see here is hardly humane.
         Let's watch some footage that the BLM itself has provided to roundup contractor Rick Harmon, who owns Cayuse, Inc.,  for the purpose of his promotional video.  This film is in the public domain and was made with taxpayer dollars.
           BLM makes promotional videos all the time, which is perfectly fine.  Let's see what BLM and Mr. Harmon are promoting.  These films were taken during the Twin Peaks roundup of 2007.

              And you will see below, these practices are not contractor-specific, that is, these are two different contractors using helicopters physically to physically goad horses, and it is certainly not a thing of the past.  Although it is under different circumstances, the roundup contractor in Twin Peaks also pushed a horse, just a yearling.  You may have seen the still photographs I took of this young horse I've named Banner.  Here is the video.  I apologize for all my noise in this video, but I don't want to tamper with the soundtrack.  This really got to me.  It was a long month...

        The use of the helicopter in this manner is wrong.  The most chilling part of this may be the fact that BLM and the contractors don't even recognize the wrongness of it. Their ability to have compassion has shriveled.   There was no justification and no need to push that mare with the helicopter.  
        If this is what the public is seeing, what kinds of atrocities are happening about which we never learn?  Does this not qualify as criminally abusive to animals?  Doing something wrong for years will never make it right.  It is definitely time for a mounted video camera with timestamps.
        My hope with Banner is that as his story is shown, Banner will represent a pivotal turning point,  be a "banner" horse, a portend for what is to come, a recognition and incentive for BLM to examine its ways and change OR to have its wrist thoroughly slapped and for the President to recognize the need for change in his Department of the Interior,  and Congressional and Senatorial representatives to look at this and demand some boundaries to protect these innocents from the inherent violence of a roundup to every extent possible.
        1)  The American public wants to see these horses protected, and we are requesting a freeze; we are asking that roundups halt and a Congressional investigation of BLM practices be initiated.  We very much want to see the National Academy of Sciences complete their study of the remaining wild horse and burro populations before they are decimated and  before any further discussion of roundups ensues.
        1)  The pilot to approach wild horses and burros at no closer than 100 feet.  No exceptions.  Violations should be fined a minimum $500 each occurrence and/or prosecuted as allowable under animal cruelty statutes.
        2)   Barring a moratorium, a mounted live-feed video camera on the helicopter, transmitting at all times the helicopter is airborne, with the BLM representative and representative from the public witnessing the transmission.  
        3)   GPS coordinates to be obtained from the trapsite and made available to BLM and the public;
        4)    GPS coordinates to  be noted and made available to the public of where the wild horses and/or burros are located when the pilot began the drive toward the trap pen;
        5)   Videotape to be dated and time-stamped.
        6)   That the pilot be held to a speed limit to the best of his ability, of no more than 10 mph for horses and 7 mph for burros. (Note:  I have seen these figures before in BLM documents, but BLM never actually holds the contractors to it because they never ask for the data, according to two BLM sources.)
       These amazing animals so beautifully equipped to live in the most sparse, rigorous landscapes of the high desert, have no means to protect themselves from the likes of flying glass monsters used like a whip.  This is wrong, and it needs to stop.  I have all but given up hope that the Bureau of Land Management will police itself or its agents.  All they consistently appear to do is try to marginalize the suffering of the horses and burros, and I am so sick of it I cannot tell you. But many of you are sick of it, too, and I don't need to tell you.
         ©9/17/10 Elyse Gardner
Youngster struggles to keep us, falling behind.  No need for helicopter's pressure like this.
       BLM, go ahead and surprise me.  I would love to be wrong about you.
       But we have now seen for many years that the Bureau of Land Management will not stop unless it is stopped, and that needs to come from the President or from Congress.
                 ©9/17/10  Elyse Gardner
Pregnant mare racing as fast as she can.  There is no need for this level of helicopter pressure.
            What do I mean by "marginalize the suffering"?   One example that comes to mind is Legacy's story (click on the purple link to view my video).  Legacy was an approximately eight-month-old colt who had a poor reaction to his castration and did not want to stand up (click on the link to see another short video of Legacy) even when two unfamiliar humans approached closer than he was comfortable with.  When he did stand, he staggered a little and could barely walk from the pain and obvious swelling.  While observing this, a BLM official told me he wasn't in excruciating pain; he was "just a little stiff."  I videotaped this episode, and after reviewing it, Dr. Eric Davis, the HSUS vet, stated he would have treated this colt with bute; further, he is recommending that gelded horses be given banamine.  As of this writing my understanding is BLM is doing no such thing.
             This is by no means unusual, and BLM's credibility in my view has been compromised because of it.  
             We believe a moratorium is called for because of the low numbers of wild horses and burros especially in relation to the ongoing, untouched populations of livestock in the very limited wild horse and burro Herd Management Areas.  Without exception, the livestock vastly outnumber these wild horses and burros, yet the horses are being removed.
        Please speak up for the wild horses and burros.  The White House line is 202/456-1111.  Ask them to log your call.  Stop destroying our last big herds.  Stop the trauma and assault on these animals now.  Look at the abusive practices and rein in your BLM, Mr. President.  Helicopters prodding horses are not okay.  
       A friend wrote me and sent this out among many.  His straightforward way touched me deeply as he spoke for me and for thousands more Americans who love our horses:
Is this the best we can do for these horses, low cross bars they hit their heads on and kill them. Tying saddle horses next to a pen of a wild horse family and expecting nothing to take place, running the  hoofs off of young horses. Not padding the panels or the gates to prevent injury. Forcing a Mare to stand over her dead stallion. I mean really, this is the best we can do. I'm not saying stop the gathers but if we must do it, then don't you think we could do it with a little more respect than this. This saddens me. It's that simple (caring doesn't cost money).
         Please encourage your friends and colleagues to learn more and take action by getting on the mailing lists and responding to alerts from them.  My aim is not so much to convert those who do not care (although I try to help people see the amazing individuals the horses and burros are); my aim is to motivate those who do care to take action.  You can help the horses by subscribing to these mailing lists and responding to alerts and things as they arise:
Thank you.  Please send this blog post to your elected representatives.  They need to know what is happening.
For the wild horses, captive and free, and their humble, hardy burro friends,
Elyse Gardner

     ©5/7/10  Elyse Gardner          As the day winds down...
Stallion and mare at Twin Peaks as it was... and the day winds down, 6 pm.  
Were they rounded up?  If so, they are separated forever.
To make a tax deductible donation to my field work, please go to DreamCatcher Wild Horse and Burro Sanctuary.   Click the "Donate" button, and as you go through the process, you will have the option to earmark your donation as you wish.  
             You will see, "Add Special instructions to recipient."  There you can insert, "For field work," or, "for Humane Observer," or, "1/2 for Sanctuary and 1/2 for field work" (whatever you wish) and it will go where you specify.  
             Or mail checks to:
PO Box 9
Ravendale CA 96123
Make a note as to your intentions in the "memo" section as indicated above.
Thank you so much.