Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tuesday, January 26, 2010: FALLON Holding Pens

Going to Fallon

©Photography by Elyse Gardner 1/7/10

On January 26, 2010, I visited again the Fallon holding facility.  Here I want to share with you photos I've taken over the course of several visits, which help tell the Fallon story. 

Above is one of the huge trailers -- which can carry 33 to 36 adult horses, I'm told -- the Cattoors use to bring captured horses from the trap sites on the four-hour trip to Fallon.  The horses usually spend the night at the temporary holding pens at the trap site and then are loaded onto these trailers early the next morning and brought to Fallon.

©Photography by Elyse Gardner  1/7/10

©Photography by Elyse Gardner  "Where are we?"

Horses Captured the Previous Day Arriving at Fallon after 4-hour trailer trip

Let's move on to Freedom.  With all the talk of his potential capture and the different stories flying around, we needed to assess whether Freedom was in captivity at Fallon.

Now let me say that Craig Downer and I spent four hours at the Fallon holding facility on Tuesday, 1/26/10.  We did two guided tours.  (Fallon has to be by appointment because it is a privately-owned facility.  They have two 2-hour tours, one from 10:00 to noon, and one from 1:00 to 3:00 pm. )  At first they did not want to let our little group of four go on both tours, but we finally got that worked out.  

Craig and I each brought binoculars and meticulously combed through the stallions' pens, scrutinizing every black horse.  We are well acquainted with the courageous Freedom and after examining every black stallion on the premises, we are both satisfied that Freedom is, thankfully, not at Fallon.  We understand it is possible to imagine all kinds of mischief that BLM or the contractors could do or have done, but we honestly believe they are just too busy catching other horses and really don't care that much about this issue.  Unless they go back to capturing horses at Black Rock East (Paiute Meadows Ranch), we believe Freedom to be free in his home.  

I managed to track all the rumors to their sources and personally spoke with the BLM person whom George Knapp called his "solid" source.  I did not find the story to be solid.  You decide.

She heard some boastful-type talk which she repeated to George Knapp but never saw any evidence of truth to it.  Call me a dreamer, but I do not sense a conspiracy here.  She invited us to go scrutinize the horses in Fallon and see if he was there, which is what we did.  I hope one day we will see Freedom in the wild.  If I am close enough, I will recognize him.  Until that day comes,  I will not conjure up definitive evidence I do not have one way or the other.  With all the facts we have at hand, and all the rumor-tracking we've done, both Craig Downer and I believe he still maintains the freedom and liberty he so dearly paid for. 

Look at these beautiful stallions below.  They are bewildered and unhappy, but thin and starving they most definitely are not. 

©photography by Elyse Gardner

If you want  BLM's daily updates of the roundup and of Fallon injuries and fatalities,  you can go to BLM.gov and click on the Calico gather, and then click on "daily updates." 

The death toll of the wild horses at Fallon continues to rise.  No one is including the dead foals in the official counts.  But the roundups stress these horses terribly.  One thing we have heard almost nothing about:  15 to 20 mares at Fallon have miscarried/spontaneously aborted.  We saw this mare standing and laying down, standing up, then down, and staying down.

                                       ©photography by Elyse Gardner

Follow-up has revealed that she had spontaneously aborted in the morning and was now, at 2:30 pm, passing the afterbirth.  I pressed manager John Neill, asking how much attention she would receive, if any, and he committed to looking after her.  My followup today indicated that the and owner Troy Adams got her into the chute and "cleaned her out," and he said she is "fine" today.   I wonder what she would say.  But I am relieved she is alive.  

If we had not been out there to see this with our own eyes and ask the questions, I believe this never would have been brought out.  I am more convinced than ever that It is vitally important to have an actual, personal, human presence continually showing up at all the holding facilities and the roundups, cameras in hand.  It is my absolute privilege to be there on behalf of the horses and to share this information with you.

Thank you in Boise, Idaho, for going to the holding pens.  If any of you live near the Litchfield, California facilities, can you go out there?

The roundup has killed this mare.  This was her last living day.  The vet came and ended her life after we left.

©photography by Elyse Gardner

©photography by Elyse Gardner

While BLM likes to say the depleted range did that to her, I cannot help but wonder what the many-mile roundup did to her, depleting her already slim body of resources, wearing down, stressing and weakening tired legs and muscles.  Winter, after all, is a challenge the horses know how to face.  Helicopters and plastic bag whips are another thing entirely.

She was unable to stand up after repeatedly struggling to do so.  Whatever strength she had that got her to the trap site depleted her small reserves.  Shortly after our departure, the vet arrived and her life was ended.  Thanks to the helicopter, any horse that was gathering his or her reserves to make it through the winter depleted them all and came into a huge deficit after that marathon run to escape the helicopter, losing a huge part of their chance to survive, terrifically stressed by being driven 4 to 14 miles.  Whether trotting, loping or galloping, adrenalin and fear floods their systems for the entire way.  I am so tired of hearing, "The range did it to them.  They were in poor condition because of the range, so they died."

Most of these horses are beautiful, healthy horses.  Meet a "curly" mare.  Amazing; even her mane and tail are kinky curly.

                               ©Photography by Elyse Gardner

Some are sleek, some are skinny. These are wild horses, and some of them are going to get pretty lean in the winter, as many animals do.  They garner their reserves, and they get through.  Some older or ill ones do not get through, and that is the nature of their lives.  

Go on record with your senators as strongly opposing these massive roundups.  BLM is strenuously campaigning on Capitol Hill, pushing Ken Salazar's insidious plan to move the horses east into some kind of sterile horse zoos of nonreproducing herds.  Our horses are being taken off the range in record numbers.  They are stacked up in holding.  

I will be attending the roundup on Saturday, January 30, and plan to get updates to you soon.

For the wild horses and their humble burro friends,
Elyse Gardner


  1. Thank you SO much for what you are doing. Take care of yourself too.

  2. Elyse, I sure do wish I was closer and could help be an extra set of eyes. Thank you for all you do, and be careful out there!
    My heart is breaking for what some of these horses are going thru....

  3. Is this Fallon feedlot just for BLM horses? I'm asking because there is a slaughter-bound feedlot in Fallon, also, but I believe it is on privately owned land... And, yes, thank you for doing what YOU DO!!!

  4. Elyse:
    Thank you for all the hard work you do. This is the most gut wrenching thing I've ever sat on the sidelines watching. And your right in the middle of it every day.

    I am so angry that they killed another mare. I know I wrote the BLM that this round up was a horrible thing to do. And I pointed out that winter is the dumbest time of year--that the energy the horses need to survive is at a low anyway. Would it surprise anyone to know I haven't heard a word back???

  5. The BLM is supposed to contact people in the International Curly Horse Association about finding homes for those Curlies. I just alerted them on their forum, so someone might be asking you some questions about the other horses...Curlies can range from what you see to horses that just have curls in their ears...

  6. The heads of the Curly Mustang Association have been notified as well. At least the end of the story for the Curlies in the pens will be happy...relatively.

  7. Ok I have to weigh in. I love horses. I do not want to see them starve to death. The mare pictured here as the poster child for BLM cruelty was well on her way to starving to death. More cruel to let the numbers become so great the range is over grazed? Or to try to round them up and humanely destroy those beyond help? If you want to help, quite whining and sniveling and go buy some land and try to figure out how to house the WILD horses and to feed them and to keep them from reproducing beyond your land's capability to support them. There have been horses in holding facilities for YEARS 20 years ago my research showed they cost each taxpayer $8 per day per horse. What is the cost now to keep them alive? The bleeding hearts have managed to get killing sales stopped in the US so the horses are transported and those who are not are turned loose on BLM range - ever ask how many BLM roundups find horses wearing halters? - or in downtown in Idaho cities because their owners can no longer feed them, no one wants them because the horses can no longer be marketed via sale barn because they may end up in a killer sale and so they are allowed to STARVE to death in domesticity so I guess this makes sense to someone to let BLM FERAL (there is no such thing as a WILD horse in the US - look it up)horses starve to death also.
    Christina in WY

  8. Elyse, I couldn't find an e-mail here to reach you by, but I was wondering if you have any photographs of a Mustang I have that was rounded up in this batch. He was rounded up January 8th (he's from Black Rock West part of the calico complex). He is a pretty unique color. I have photos if you send me an e-mail @ madeleine@westernclinics.com

  9. I forgot to mention that I noticed you had blogged about paying special attention to the stallion pen and thats where he would have been. Thats what made me think you may have some photos!