Friday, February 26, 2010


                  LIGHTNING of the Calico Mountains
                                           ©2009 Photography by Craig Downer
                   Here is the powerful, charismatic Lightning, who stood watching the two-leggers, confident but alert and protective as he observed the men in his world. 
                      ©2010 Photography by Elyse Gardner

            In October 2009, this extraordinary stallion captivated Craig Downer, who was out on a bittersweet trip  visiting the wild horses in the Calico mountains.  Craig named him "Lightning" both for the distinctive markings he bears and for his energy and magnetism.  Lightning pranced, cavorted, and sparred with a visiting Mahogany stallion.

            The immense roundup in the five contiguous Herd Management Areas comprising the "Calico Complex" was scheduled to start in two months, with a goal of denuding the mountains of 2700 out of her supposedly 3095 horses.  Like many of us who love these horses, wildlife ecologist Craig Downer wanted to see them living free in the mountains as intended.  
            Of all the bands and stallions Craig captured on film (the best way to capture a wild horse!), Lightning stood out from the rest. He was extraordinarily beautiful, this king of his mountain:  fit, with bold white lightning spears adorning, sizzling on his lovely form.  
             Lightning's majesty and aliveness depict a palpable example of equine power and grace.  Being such a compelling presence, this exemplary stallion was featured in a moving YouTube slideshow by Laura Leigh, using Craig Downer's photographs, with a stirring song by Lacy J. Dalton.  It is embedded below, toward the end of this post, courtesy of Laura Leigh.
                         ©2010 Photography by Elyse Gardner

          The six-week roundup took its wicked toll, stripping the sparse, wild Nevada mountains of the equine beauties who animated them while enriching the soil and the spirits of all fortunate enough to witness their peaceable presence.  
          In our disturbing visits to Fallon we had nevertheless been relieved:  we had not seen Lightning at the Fallon holding facility.  Then on Sunday, February 21, 2010, the first official Sunday tour, we were in front of the stallion pens.  Only a few minutes earlier people had been talking with Craig about Lightning.
          To my dismay, I heard Craig quietly say, "Oh, there's Lightning.  There he is." My heart sank.  "Craig has got to be wrong," I thought.  The horse had similar markings, but he looked so big... so different.  
           But there is no mistake.  Lightning has been run off his mountain.
                          ©2010 Photography by Elyse Gardner

                I figured out what was different, what was missing:  his purpose.  The mountains.  We -- humanity -- have deprived him of his purpose.  We have stolen his reason for living.  And only we -- humanity -- can restore it.
               The wild horse's power in free movement and his obvious familial bonds are thrilling and display his completeness in his element, fulfilling his reason for being.   Their perfection and presence is riveting; their right to be wild is compelling and ever so obvious when we see wild horses in the wild.   They are fulfilling their purpose, meeting multiple needs -- theirs, ours, the environment's -- in being wild.  It is so missing, palpably absent, when they are the holding pens. 
              That thrill of seeing a wild horse, the excitement and deep satisfaction of watching a band in the wild -- that thrill is gone, replaced with a sense of wrongness, when we look at wild horses in pens.  That feeling of happy wonder we get watching the fabulous "Cloud" movies (see end of post to learn how to view Cloud's movies) , is utterly absent; it is so blatantly missing when they are the holding pens. Seeing Cloud in the Britton Springs holding facility, and seeing Conquistador there with tags around his neck, waiting for "adoption" -- like that noble stallion would want to be adopted by the likes of us! -- is one of the most deeply sad things I've ever seen.  What a relief that they are free today.
             To the casual city dweller looking at the holding pens at Fallon, what's the big deal?  What's to see?  It's just a bunch of horses crammed into a pen.  Wild, eh? "Looks like any other horse to me."
            The world is deprived of a fulfillment, of something spectacular.  We grieve the loss deep in our souls.  Creation itself is offended.  Imagine using the Grand Canyon as a waste dump. Or the oceans as a waste dump...oops, now we're hitting close to home. 
       The very sight of wild horses in the wild invigorates. 
                               ©Photography by Elyse Gardner
              Indeed, wild horses in the wild are a gift, a fulfillment, the sight of which acts as a balm and restores our souls.  The loving wag of a welcoming dog's tail, the purr of a devoted cat, the sight and assured presence of wild horses in the wild are treasures without which we humans would be bereft.  Art in motion, God's 6-dimensional, living, breathing, exquisite art.  And we are changed by beholding this beauty, breathless at the wonder of it.  
             Like ballet dancer Rudolf Nuryev driving a bus;  like lions in cages.  Like Yo Yo Ma with no cello, no music; Stravinsky sans violin; Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash with no guitar; Diana Krall with no blues or piano (she was MADE to sing the blues).  When we see anyone, be it person or animal or plant, fulfilling its intended purpose, there is a deeply edifying satisfaction we feel in our very souls.  
             Ken Salazar, and the BLM party line, think they can take the wild horse from his home and family and he will still retain his magic.  But they will have removed him from his purpose.  Moving them to pastures and creating entirely nonreproducing herds destroys their social structure and removes them from their purpose.  I've heard them at Advisory Board meetings discuss ideas about gelding the stallions and returning them to the "wild":  well, the only wild thing about that is that we would even give that a second thought.  Wild horses are all about stallions forming and protecting family bands.
            Is there nothing sacred?  I suppose there are those who will mock me for that statement, but running this majestic stallion off the mountain -- depriving the mountain of this horse and his family; taking his family from him and him from his family -- has got to be one of the ugliest examples of man's arrogance and coarseness.  It's akin to catching and clipping the wings of our great iconic American eagle and putting him in a cage.  
                                ©Photography by Elyse Gardner
             Craig was so quiet about it.  We all were.  Somehow you picture a scene like this as being so much more outwardly dramatic.  But I've learned to be still, to take it in, to put it on my camera, and then to take action, baby.  Get in the solution.  
               I quietly grieved afresh the magnitude of BLM's colossal sweep, vacuuming up these healing, reseeding animals who break through ice so they and other, smaller animals can drink, paw through snow so they and other species can eat, consume dead, dry grasses, greatly reducing fire danger.  
              The grief multiplied as time went on.  I've noticed that about this work I do:  it hurts more, not less, fueling my determination to work diligently and purposefully for the sake of Lightning and his extended family of horses and burros.   We can do this together.  
                                       ©2009 Photography by Craig Downer
 ©2009 Photography by Craig Downer

                               ©2009 Photography by Elyse Gardner

(About the video below:  Since BLM only allowed observation of the roundup three days a week, I was not there to see or film when Lightning and his family went through this ordeal.  But this was his herd area, and he very well could have, and probably did, run the course you see here.  The still photos at the conclusion include photos from a couple of  the Calico HMAs, not only this running herd.  --EG)
Video by Elyse Gardner
                                ©2010 Photography by Elyse Gardner

             Two stallions died on Saturday, February 27.  Why?  Where?  Horses continue to die almost daily at Fallon.   Many are still not adjusting to the feed.  I continue to respond to all action alerts and call upon my senators to tell them I am opposed to Secretary Salazar's plan and asking them not to fund it.  I hope you will do likewise and give Lightning and his band a voice.

  *   To view the "Cloud" films, here's the PBS link:      
The first one is Cloud, Wild Stallion of the Rockies; 2) Cloud's Legacy: The Wild Stallion Returns; and 3) Cloud, Challenge of the Stallions
        Give yourself a treat -- and you can invite family and friends if you like; there are no terrible scary things -- and watch these amazing horses.  Ginger Kathrens has woven together hundreds of hours of topnotch film, and narrates these extraordinary documentaries on this famous herd. 
         DVDs of these Emmy-winning series, which have extra material on them -- can be ordered directly from The Cloud Foundation.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


The captive Calico complex horses are looking at some new experiences. Freeze branding, tagging, innoculations, worming, has begun in earnest. The new, state-of-the-art system of 7-foot-high walls of curving steel corridors narrowing into a one-horse-wide alley ending in the squeeze chute is now being used.

                                ©2/13/10  Photography by Elyse Gardner 

As you can see, the "catwalk" goes along the entire length of the 7-foot metal walls, which are solid.  From the top, we/BLM workers look down from above onto the horses.

                              ©2/21/10  Photography by Elyse Gardner

                              ©2/21/10  Photography by Elyse Gardner

The alleyways narrow so the approach to the squeeze chute is one-horse wide.

                              ©2/21/10  Photography by Elyse Gardner

©2010 Photography by Elyse Gardner

As you can see, the chute is beginning its tip-over in this demonstration.  Ultimately, it tips over to lay completely horizontally so the horses' hooves may be accessed.  The whine of the hydraulics is very loud and disturbing.  Dean Bolstad was gracious and accommodating in demonstrating the equipment and answering questions.

Since I have no current photographs of the chute in action, I'll post here a few photographs I took in the Pryor Mountains when Cloud's herd was being processed.  The Fallon facility is new and the walls of the alleyways are solid, but the hydraulic chute is identical.

Here you can see from above, a wrangler is holding a rope tightly around Ichalay's throat.   I have no idea if this practice will be followed in Fallon, which is one of many reasons we would sincerely like to be there to give you updated, accurate information.  By way of explanation, the practice you see below followed two incidents where horses actually escaped from the squeeze chute through that little window where you see the men shaving Ichalay's neck in preparation for the freeze brand.  The escape was a very painful, dangerous struggle for the horses.

You can view my videotape of this escape below.  Click on the bottom right corner of the video to play full screen.  To reduce the size again, hit "Escape."

By using the rope seen below, the staff was taking preventative measures to be certain there were no repeat performances.

I would like to know if BLM believes this to be necessary and see if this tight rope around the throat is to be employed in Fallon.

©2009 Photography by Elyse Gardner

So despite all assurances of new facilities, we recognize that it is a stressful and risky time for the horses.

Ichalay's neck has been shaved in preparation for the freeze brand, being applied below in the following photograph. 

©2009 Photography by Elyse Gardner 

 ©2009 Photography by Elyse Gardner  

I watched many horses being freeze-branded and could discern no involuntary movements or indications of pain although her flaring nostrils give me pause.  However, I believe that to be stress from the entire constellation of events and the sheer proximity of the man.  If anyone wants to enlighten me further, please feel free to post comments.  Thank you.

Speaking of comments:  Many of us have made known to the Bureau of Land Management that we, the American public, want to see this process.  Many of you have called and written letters to the BLM requesting that Craig Downer and I be allowed to watch and photograph as your proxies. BLM officials have staunchly refused to allow anyone behind the closed doors of the Fallon holding facility during processing, keeping the horses out of sight of any camera or pair of eyes other than the BLM employees.  BLM officials have stated concerns about injuries to people resulting from distractions due to public presence.  They've also stated that observers "make my staff nervous."

These are reasons why two designated humane advocate observers would be a good answer.  Given specific places to remain, they could quietly observe and photograph the process.  Prior to all this public scrutiny, I am told that BLM used to allow people to view this part of the wild horses' handling.

Regardless of what our opinions are, and clearly we disagree with BLM and feel we have not only an obligation but a right to be present, it is my sincere hope that all making their feelings known to BLM would be courteous and adult about expressing themselves.  It is good practice for us all.

That being said, I am pressing for some public access.

Below are photographs taken on tours given by Dean Bolstad, Deputy Division Chief of the Wild Horse and Burro Program, on February 13, and Sunday, February 21.  The weather took quite a turn, as you can see:  the snow accompanied us on 2/21.

                              ©Photography by Elyse Gardner 2/13/10

                                ©Photography by Elyse Gardner 2/21/10

Dean is holding the side of the chute open so we may see its padded interior.  This chute is well padded except for the area immediately above the horse's head, which has a series of metal bars.  I find this unfortunate.  I understand the need for light, and perhaps some accessibility, but we can count on the fact that some horses will go uP.  Fundamentally, a horse can only move in six directions:  forward, backward, left, right, up, down, and combinations of these basics.  If forward/backward, left/right are no longer possible -- which is what happens when a horse is confined in the squeeze chute, "up" is sure to occur.  "Down"puts a horse in a vulnerable position and so is generally avoided at all costs.

I have come to recognize, look for, and love many of the Calico complex horses who now spend their days at the Fallon holding facility.  It is very difficult to describe the heaviness and sorrow I feel at the thought of the doors closing except that so many of you already share this sense of loss.  We've watched these horses from the time they roamed free and were then driven into traps, pressured onto trailers and hauled off to these newly erected, sterile pens "for their own good."

Although it is hardly what I call having "access," Fallon is continuing to conduct public tours on Sundays, by appointment, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

And to our sorrow, yes, Lightening, the stallion photographed by Craig Downer in the Calico mountains, we saw in Fallon. Photos to come.  I will be posting more very soon.  Right now, I have a date with a horse.  :)

For the wild horses and their humble burro friends,

Sunday, February 21, 2010

21 FEBRUARY 2010- First Sunday tour of Fallon

The photos below were taken last Saturday on the final regular Saturday tour of Fallon.  Today I will be going out on the first Sunday tour and will be updating my blog accordingly.  Last Saturday Dean Bolstad gave us a tour of the squeeze chute and alleyways the horses will be processed through as they are freeze-branded, innoculated, and given whatever medical attention is deemed appropriate.  I will be posting more on that soon.

As you may know, it's been a busy week of travel, but I will be updating with photos soon.

Below are two buddies, young stallions looking for something to do. They were interested and intelligent and clearly had a strong bond.

                                  Photography by Elyse Gardner  2/13/10

Foaling is beginning at Fallon, and here are some new addition we saw on Saturday, 2/13.

                                Photography by Craig Downer 2/13/10

I have some concerns about Tomahawk, who had developed red, bloodshot eyes as of last week.  I will follow up with him today.  

                                  Photography by Elyse Gardner   2/13/10

The blow-up below shows only his right eye, but both eyes were quite red.

             Photography by Elyse Gardner  2/13/10

There was a tragic death at the facility as a helicopter hovered over the pens last week, causing unspeakable panic.   A healthy stallion was found dead next to a damaged corral panel as a result of a broken neck.  I cannot fathom the cruelty, or maybe ignorance, of the people involved in this terrible scenario.  

These horses have already been so traumatized by helicopters, what a monumentally terrible thing for someone to have done. This information was on BLM's "Daily Updates" from their website.  I will ask for more details today, including what steps, if any, the facility is taking for security.

To be continued...

Friday, February 19, 2010

Las Vegas Protests for Wild Horses and Burros

I've been eager to update my blog, but it's been challenging and I have failed to do so on the road.  Please accept my sincere apologies!  Since the last posting I've been to Las Vegas for meetings, interviews, and a television talk show.  My trip culminated when I spoke and joined many others to make a stand in Las Vegas for the wild horses and burros during President Obama's visit west. Photos and more details on the protests here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010



  • CAPTIVE CALICO HORSES face branding, gelding behind closed doors

                                ©Photography by Elyse Gardner

Manager John Neill conducts a tour in front of a stallion pen as Tomahawk and fellow stallions prepare to say goodbye to their genetic legacies, facing gelding in the next couple of weeks.  

Our Nevada Calico complex horses may be out of their range but they are not out of our focus.  

                                ©Photography by Elyse Gardner

First let me thank all who read this blog, which I will endeavor to keep updated, and all who share your thoughts with me and with each other via your comments. 

Quick update.  Fallon's last "public" tour will be this Saturday, February 13.  This is deeply troubling to many.  Horses continue to lose their foals, horses continue to suffer from their abrupt change in diet.  We want to continue to be able to visit, stay abreast of developments, and report back to you.

We are especially concerned about the horses left overnight without water after their grueling roundup on January 31.  How are they faring?  We want to continue to monitor them.  

They have installed the squeeze chute and will probably start branding and gelding the horses next week, and I would very much like to be there to document this process.  The horses will be moved through narrow alleyways ultimately into the "squeeze" chute, which is padded around the sides.  This is where freeze-branding and shots are administered and generally where medical attention is given. 

©Photograph by Craig Downer
Frightened horses facing the squeeze chute at temporary holding near trap site.  

This is a time of increased risk of injury for the horses since they tend to resist this process.  At least two humane observers have offered to be present, and in the spirit of transparency, I am hopeful that BLM will agree to allow us in.  

I have made a formal request, and Craig Downer has offered to be present, as well.  There is some footage of this process from the Pryor Mountain roundup which may be seen if you go to, click on Blogs, and go to the Humane Observer blog.  

The system at Fallon is more sophisticated than the one shown on that blog at Britton Springs in Montana, but it is the identical, noisy hydraulic chute.  What makes it more "sophisticated' is the high-sided, curving alleyway leading into the chute area, which I am hopeful will help the horses stay reasonably calm as they approach the chute.  I would like to see how effective this arrangement  is.  We all want the horses to have a safe, quiet experience.   

That is what a humane observer does:  observe and document with an eye toward the horse's perspective.  

At this point, I have been denied access.  As of now, no members of the public are allowed in the holding facilities when they are processing horses.  

Also, we do not want the doors to close out the public at Fallon.  I believe it might be helpful to let BLM know we want continued access to monitor the horses.  These are America's horses.  Sequestering them away creates a loss for Americans and is contrary to Congress's finding that they enrich the lives of the American people.  
  • We want to be able to see the "processing" of the horses. 
  • We also want continued tours throughout, with no break.
The "local" BLM person is John Neill, manager of Palomino holding facility and overseeing manager of Fallon.  His office is at the Palomino holding facility:  775/475-2222.  Email:

Don Glenn, Director of Wild Horse & Burro Program in Washington :  202.912-7260, email:

Ed Roberson, Asso. Director of Dept of Renewable Resources (Don Glenn's boss): 202/208-4896, email:

These are all the right people to call with your polite requests.  More photos and info later.  

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

Saturday, February 6, 2010





                                ©Photography by Elyse Gardner              FROM HERE...
"Sure is a gorgeous day.  Where is everybody?"

                                ©Photography by Elyse Gardner                       ...TO HERE

Fallon stallions, soon to be gelded.


                                 ©Photography by Elyse Gardner

The Calico roundup is over.  The bells toll for the casualties, at least 59 and counting, from the gruesome culling of 1,922 native horses from their homes in the stark, beautiful mountains of Nevada that I've grown to love in my weeks here.  In that figure I do not differentiate between the late-term, spontaneously aborted foals who never had a chance to breathe on their own and the other horses who died or were killed or legitimately euthanized.  If a pregnant woman is in a car accident and spontaneously aborts, a wrongful death case can be filed for the loss of that infant's life...  

I will not go on and on about this, but I at least want to say that the deaths are only the tip of the iceburg.  Imagine the suffering and injuries we hear nothing about.  I want to acknowledge the loss and injuries to those quietly trying to heal in these strange pens and wondering what exactly their purpose is anymore.  

Used to be to protect and keep the family together, to find the food, get to the water, go visit that lovely mare who's ready for me now; protect the youngsters, be alert for young whippersnapper bachelors sniff'n around, check out who's been to the stud pile and deposit my calling card, check today's paper by way of sniffing the wind for visitors (ah, I smell the coyotes not far...), go to the watering hole, greet that band stallion over there, stand on alert when two-leggers get out of those noisy wheeled things to stare at us, run and spar and play, snake the band away...   

But here, what's our purpose here? 

Suddenly, the roundup is over.  Gene Seidlitz assures me that horses are still there.  They are "confident" that 600 horses remain, but they don't know where, exactly...  They don't have a number for the horses that remain in each of the five Herd Management Areas ("HMAs") that comprise the "Calico Complex" although they had specific numbers they wanted to remove from each area.  

They don't have specific numbers for those that remain.  They stopped very suddenly.  It was admittedly by BLM a first-come, first-serve roundup.  They saw horses, they took them.  Until they got to their idea of AML ("appropriate management level"),  it was indiscriminate horse-taking.   Colors, personalities, genetics, scoop it all up.  They were to start administering PZP (a contraceptive drug given to mares -- more on this another time) to mares they would release once they reached their target of 2500 to 2700 horses.  

It never got to that.  The very sudden cessation of this roundup is alarming to me.  And I am convinced it never got to that because I believe suddenly, the roundup contractor simply could find no more horses.  Oops, better quit. The BLM believes the horses migrate great distances and that the horses are probably in California.  They did round up a horse with a California mark, probably a mare that has a brand indicating she was captured, PZP'd and released in California.  BLM Nevada will begin doing coordinated fly-overs and horse management in conjunction with BLM California.  Gene Seidlitz tells me in a couple of months they will do some flyovers to assess where the horses are...  

We are looking now at a monstrous roundup in the Ely District of Nevada.  670,000 acres now housing only 600 horses.   BLM says the Appropriate Management Level is only -- get ready -- 100 horses.  That's about 7,000 acres per horse.  I will be following that closely and endeavor to show up for the horses wherever man threatens to take them.  We cannot allow the in-the-dark removal of our nation's mustangs any longer.  If BLM is going to take them, it needs to be in front of a camera, in front of our eyes.  Accountability is key.

I am in California for a few moments to regroup and take care of some personal business. Thank you to all who came to my impromptu talk on Thursday night, making it a great success.  I cannot tell you how much your dear faces, hugs, and commitment to our horses refresh my spirit.  

Stay tuned.  I will continue to update these blogs and post pictures as well as update you as I learn of developments.  

I will say that a four-wheel drive vehicle is something I don't have.  We were scrambling for rides every day we went out on the roundups because a four-wheel drive was required, and it will be the same in the future...  Someone suggested that I put that need out here, so here it is...  

I hope you will read the article linked to my blog at the top right when you first arrive.  Ivanpah to have no adverse impact on the burros because... they are zeroing out the burros!  What a concept.  

To be continued...

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

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Special Event: Thursday 2/4

How Can We End The Inhumane Roundups of America’s Wild Horses?
A Presentation by Elyse Gardner, Humane Observer 
Please join Elyse for an informative evening
Thursday February 4th, 2010 from 7-9 PM
in the Excalibur Room at Roundtable Pizza
1520 E Washington Street, Petaluma CA 94954 ~ (707) 762-1861

For more information or carpooling call 707-695-6388
photo: Kurt Golgart

Monday, February 1, 2010

Calico Roundup 1 February 2010: Granite Range Says Farewell to Many Horses


                                ©Photography by Elyse Gardner
                     Above is the trap site.  We are looking at -- trying to, anyway-- the newly captured horses being loaded onto trailers to be taken to the temporary holding area.  

                                  ©Photography by Elyse Gardner
Here is the temporary holding area from our new, distant vantage point behind the yellow tape, I'm estimating 60 to 75 yards away.  Below is the closest I can get via my zoom lens.

                                  ©Photography by Elyse Gardner
Maximum zoom

Above you see what were some very thirsty horses.  We had over an hour of waiting at this temporary holding area, a lot of time to watch these horses who, curiously, remained in these temporary holding pens.  They had been captured yesterday.   

But the huge truck/trailers had been loaded with the horses captured yesterday and had left for Fallon, as usual, before we arrived. We passed them, as always, on the drive in. Why were these horses still here? 

©Photographs by Elyse Gardner

So these approximately 30 horses were left.  Sue Cattoor informed us that they were the last group from yesterday to be rounded up.  These horses had spent Sunday night at the trap site in the trap pens and had -- shortly before we arrived -- just gotten to this temporary holding area where we were seeing them Monday morning. There is no water at the trap pens.

©Photography by Elyse Gardner    THE TRAP PENS
As I hope you can see, the trap pens are narrow, small pens just intended for the initial trapping of the horses and shaped to facilitate the separating of the wild horses back into their individual family bands.  (A "band" consists of one stallion and his mares with their youngsters, and maybe some young stallions up three years old if they've not yet been kicked out by the reigning stallion.)   A band can be one stallion and one mare, or up to one stallion and 10 or more mares, indicating a happy and powerful stallion.  

When two or more bands are driven in together, they need to be separated immediately because the stallions will fight to protect their mares from another stallion.  When stallions are together without mares, however, they generally get along fine after what can sometimes be a debate about who's in charge. 

These pens also have little areas to separate out the foals from the adult horses.  They are designed to trap, separate, and load the wild horses into the trailers and are not at all intended as overnight accommodations.

Sue Cattoor informed us that yesterday, the weather had turned very mild, and by the afternoon when these horses had been driven in, the ground was so soft and muddy, all the trucks got stuck and could not haul the horses away from the trap site.  She said these horses were fed, spent the night at the trap, and in the morning if the ground hadn't hardened up enough, they were going to release them. But the ground was hard in the morning, so they were brought here where we were looking at them.  I asked if they were given water.  She said no, no water.  But they were given hay.  
The horses having the conversation in the video below are stallions.  The mares are in the foreground pen.  Foals are out of sight, but they are in a pen way off to the left, separated from the mares and stallions by at least one empty pen.   

An investigator from Last Chance for Animals was there observing.  He asked about this.  Sue Cattoor assured him that a study shows horses can go 24 hours without food or water without showing negative effects.  
               Consider:  These horses had last had a drink sometime before hearing the ominous drone of two helicopters that were about to take them for the run of their lives.  Their adrenalin starts pumping, and they start to try to lose the helicopter(s).  For miles.  The day they were rounded up was not a public observation day.  Even if it were, we have no idea how far these horses start out from the trap.  So assume they tried to outpace the helicopter(s) for anywhere from 3 to 10 miles.  
Then consider that they are very thirsty, breathing hard.  (We don't know how hard they're breathing because we are never permitted close enough to document this; in the Pryor Mountains after an 11-mile or more run, it was 135 respirations per minute a full 35 minutes after they were caught; normal is 8 to 20 respirations per minute.) 
Stressed, thirsty, and exhausted, then they are fed hay, a completely new and far richer food than any they have encountered since the summer.  Consider that at the Fallon holding facility, horses continue to be "found dead" several times a week, and the most common cause is attributed by the vet to "failure to adjust to dietary change."
So these wild horses have just been given a real prescription for colic, or "failure to adjust to dietary change."  
Imagine the sled dogs at the Iditarod, or even your own dog(s), running for one to two hours, then given no water for the next 16 to 18 hours but given alien food.  
Why is it all right to do this to horses?  If it were any other animal, groups would be shouting "animal cruelty,"  "criminal neglect."  And so it is.  We will endeavor to follow these horses as they now live in Fallon and hope they make a smooth adjustment after what surely was a very unpleasant start to their captivity.  Unfortunately, there are no identification tags or marks on them to make them easily identifiable.  But we do have plenty of photographs and video of these individuals, so we will be following up.

Relocation of the trap site to Granite Range today.  

BLM has restricted public observation viewing access even further at the temporary holding areas and at the actual trap site (see above). These restrictions were initiated by the contractors.  There is yellow "caution" tape strung in a perimeter 50 yards or more away from the temporary holding pens, making it impossible for me -- or anyone -- to see the horses in any kind of real detail without binoculars or to take reasonably detailed documentary photographs.  

I will not for now address precipatory events, only just to say that our continued, unabated interest and presence seem to have resulted in decreased access. Up to this point, Winnemucca on-site BLM staff -- Gene Seidlitz and Lisa Ross -- had at our request from time to time asked the contractor to allow us closer access. They have now been told all negotiations for closer access are to cease.

We climbed hard in deep snow to find a way to see the horses coming in.  The topography of the sites selected for us by the contractor the last two times have only allowed us to see the horses being pressured into the traps in the last 100 yards or so.  We were able to hike about 20 minutes in the snow, up the side of a tall hill (mountain!), so I was able to shoot this film.  BLM staff and public observers all got a real workout getting up there.  

Following in deep footsteps...
                          ©Photography by Elyse Gardner

    ©Photography by Elyse Gardner  

Two helicopters were working these horses, who were pretty spent by the time my camera and I picked them up.  If you watch carefully, you can see where they turn right, heading toward the camera, and enter a pretty solidly white area, lifting their feet higher as they lawnmower through this deeper snow.  We had a long climb to get up to our vantage point for this film, and a lot of the snow we had to traverse was knee deep.  From my personal experience walking through it, that is real exercise and pretty tiring.  

It took about 1.5 hours or more for the helicopter to bring the horses in to this point.  Not knowing how fast they were moving, it's hard to know how far they came.  As you can see, the helicopter was hanging back initially, but the horses were still moving very fast. 

Then the foal caught my eye, toward the very back of the long string of 50-plus horses. This little one is so tired, he's working his little tail like a pump to just keep going, valiantly keeping up with the adult horses.  I can feel his staunch determination to run until he simply cannot, run no matter what, just run, just stay with them, stay with them, stay with them.

Video by Elyse Gardner

These horses were gorgeous and healthy.  Again and again, I see how they know how to live in their habitat.  These horses are not even close to starving.  They are well muscled and beautiful.  I am not close enough to document respirations and detailed sweat patterns or easily see leg or other injuries, but I can certainly see muscles and basic conformation.  

BLM website tells us a horse was kicked in the eye in the trailer on the way from the trap to the temporary holding area; she was then euthanized at the holding area.  Mystery solved: We were delayed getting back to the temporary holding area -- BLM staff told us we were going back there but then BLM drove us past the entrance and pulled to the side of the road and waited five to ten minutes before bringing us in.  No one explained why.  I didn't know about this until I read it on the website. 
I wonder if this is the transparency BLM and President Obama keep talking about, if after-the-fact, spoon-fed information constitutes the President's definition of transparency.  

I will continue to do what I can to be your eyes and ears and heart on site.  I hope we can work together  with BLM to truly protect and preserve our wild horses   i n    t h e     w i l d.

For the wild horses in the wild with their humble burro friends,
Elyse Gardner