Saturday, January 16, 2010


©Photography by Elyse GardnerA life turned upside-down...

1/16/10: Saturday: WARM SPRINGS TRAP SITE, Roundup of Summit Lake Paiute Indian Reservation Horses. Simultaneous use of two helicopters.

©Photography by Elyse Gardner 1/16/10 (All photos by Elyse unless otherwise stated.)

SATURDAY, 1/16/10: Today we are heading to the Warm Springs Trap Site. As usual, observers meet the BLM staff at 8 a.m. in Gerlach, Nevada, at Bruno's restaurant, where we have a short introductory briefing before embarking in a caravan out to the trap site. There are 13 people ready to go observe, 3 of whom were turned away by BLM since public observers are now limited to 10, and those three had not called the BLM Winnemucca office to reserve a spot in advance. At least one of the three had driven all the way from Montana. I was proud of the grace with which she accepted this profoundly disappointing news after making a real effort to be included. Reiterating: The BLM is limiting observers to 10 people on "Public Viewing Days" (Monday, Wednesday, Saturday).

The public observers include wildlife ecologist Craig Downer, Deniz Bolbol from In Defense of Animals, Pat Cuviello, Sally Summers of Nevada Horse Power, Laura Leigh from Horseback Magazine, German TV Chief Correspondent Ulrich Oppold and his cameraman Mario, author Terri Farley, and Nona from Concord, California. From BLM, we are escorted by Winnemucca Manager Gene Seidlitz, Public Information person Heather Emmons, PI Heather of Idaho, PI Liza Reid of Utah, as well as several armed security officers. Gene reminds us that security is present because of threats BLM has received against the roundup, which BLM is taking seriously.

After brief introductions, Gene Seidlitz stated that the horses to be removed today would be from the Summit Lake Paiute Indian Reservation. He states that the Summit Lake Paiute Indians have requested that BLM zero out all the horses on their reservation. What a disillusioning reality this is for me.

We proceed painfully slowly in our four-wheel-drive vehicles 1.5 hours out to the trap site. (When escorted out, leaving the trap site later in the day, we note among ourselves that our ride back out is virtually twice as fast.) As is always the case, we have to pull over on the way to make room for the two huge truck/trailers taking the captive horses away to the new Fallon holding facility.

©Photography by Elyse Gardner
When we arrive at around 10:10 a.m., we are immediately directed to park in a specific area and warned not to leave our vehicles since the helicopters are bringing in horses. BLM personnel and rangers are, however, out of their vehicles but are quick to tell us not to lean out of windows or doors, making photography challenging.

My view of these helicopter-driven horses is largely obstructed by other vehicles. Security people lose no opportunity to tell us to stay within our vehicles and would not allow us to move forward in between bands of incoming horses by even 10 feet to clear our view. We are feeling frustrated, marginalized. Gene Seidlitz states as soon as this wave of horses comes in, we will get settled and have much better access.

©Photography by Elyse Gardner

However, three more waves come in before the horses or we get a break.

From the back seat of the truck and over Deniz's shoulder (who is videotaping out the window), I see band after band of beautiful frightened horses about to lose their freedom, running straight toward us (but a good distance away) with the glass nightmare driving them closely now, unrelenting, veering off only after these horses have been trapped in the initial capture pen.

Sharing that moment with you, here they come: The first photograph in this blog (above), and the photo to the right record what my trusty camera and I saw over Deniz's shoulder.

We were not permitted to move our vehicle or debark because that group was immediately followed by another. Wave after wave: four times we watched as the Judas horse again and again leads them, trusting, into captivity.

We are finally able to park and get situated out in the midst of a large expanse where we could see all the horses coming from a long way off. I am dismayed to see two helicopters as I watch the horses nearly 200 degrees around:

A small band of about 6 running horses driven by helicopter to my right, then another band of about 8 who are just running, then around to my left here comes another band of about 12 driven by a second helicopter. The first, right-most helicopter directs the horses, driving them where it will, then veers away, expertly and sickeningly passing its band of fleeing horses off to helicopter #2, who now has charge of this huge herd. These animals don't have a chance. The expanse of the area covered is too big for me to photograph both helicopters simultaneously.

©Photography by Elyse Gardner
This goes on several times. There is a German television reporter with us, filming the "opportunity of a lifetime." He is saddened by what he sees. I am glad he is there with his cameraman and hope he reports a balanced story. He interviewed me, Craig Downer, and a few others, including one of the Cattoor's young wranglers.

A single horse is trotting off high up, in the opposite direction from all the running chaos going on in the large expanse in front of me. I'm told he broke off from one of the bands. He trotted off, calling out just a couple of times to the other horses. I notice this horse stumble a couple of times but seems otherwise sound. The captured, penned horses respond and call back. It is such a plaintive sound, such a desperate situation. All of us out there look at each other with tears in our eyes. What a heartbreak. He proceeds up over the mountain out of sight. His world has been turned upside down.

©Video by Elyse Gardner

(And see photo at top of this blog entry.)

Romanticized rumors of this being the wild black stallion Freedom sprang up, but Craig Downer and I have carefully viewed photographs, and with certainty, we know this to be a different horse. This in no way lessens the gravity and poignancy of this lost soul's plight.

I will also take this opportunity to say that Gene Seidlitz today assured me (1/20/10) that no horse resembling Freedom has been recaptured; that he hopes and believes Freedom is well and thriving and will inform me if any such horse is believed to be rounded up ("gathered" is BLM's preferred, benign-sounding term).

While he would not commit to re-releasing Freedom if he falls again into the Cattoors' net, he has taken note of my comments, which I'll share at another time, and will consider them. The decision would be his.

I mention this because although a BLM public information person told George Knapp on Friday, 1/15/10, that Freedom had been recaptured, no evidence of that has been given. I am tracing down those rumors, and Gene Seidlitz assures me he is, as well.

Freedom's capture and escape were in an entirely different capture/Herd Management Area, I'm told, ("HMA") 20 miles or so away with a fence separating it from the present HMA capture site; and that they are finished rounding up from where Freedom was taken. Be assured I will continue to ask direct questions about this horse who has so won our hearts with his desperate, beautiful determination to remain free.

And now, meet Calico Stallion.

© Photography by Elyse Gardner

© Photography by Elyse Gardner: The Stallion Pen, Warms Springs Trap Site

© Photography by Elyse Gardner
Notice his beautiful white tomahawk blaze, and the cinnamon heart on his right flank. Isn't he magnificent?

Is he not a true Indian pony belonging free on his range? What genetics we are losing as he is forever removed from his posterity, losing his legacy, losing his freedom. These genes, Calico Stallion's legacy, cannot be replaced. By now he is probably in a pen at the Fallon holding facility.

More to come. I will post this now. I must go prepare to leave Nevada for a few days and attend, hopefully, a rally in Sacramento, CA, tomorrow (Thursday, 1/21/10) and drive through a storm to get there from here (Nevada). Wish I could just keep writing! I am doing my best to keep you updated and will try to do better.

In the midst of all this sorrow and loss, I determine to endeavor to give grace (unearned favor) to all. Those with whom we disagree need it more than others! This is very hard sometimes. May I be tough, but nice.

Pray for the horses and for us. Thank you for reading this and sticking it out.
For the wild horses and their humble burro friends,
Elyse Gardner


  1. So sad I hope they can go back home and be free!

  2. an excellent collage of pix; I thank you; good they stopped the round ups; I know the reporting by you; Craig Downer; Ginger Kathyrns; Laurie; et al; had a lot to do with the closing of the Calico Mountain Round-up! The horses are healthy when they arrive @ Pens!
    ps Did this Curly Horse find a rescue yet? I read on another forum; "Any Curly Wild Mustang has a forever home @ a rescue: have email on file; will repost email address to curly rescue
    comment: could you imagine how many generations and centuries of natural selective breeding this Horse has in her ancestry?

    to be able to be so big and healthy; and have such a muscular great looking physiques?

    and to take these genetics from the wild is sad

  3. this stallion in the above picture is being sold to the highest bidder on July 14 on the BLM internet adoption

  4. We have found a safe place where this stallion and his dear bay friend, standing next to him, can live in peace and relative freedom. They came in together and take great comfort in each other's company; they are best friends. I am hoping I will not have to bid against people in order to give him this peaceful life. We will be paying to purchase and transport these horses. If you want to help, please write to Your help and support in this way will be greatly treasured and used for their benefit.

    On behalf of the horses, thank you. -- Elyse

    These horses have lost everything else, and we need to make sure they can stay together.