Sunday, July 25, 2010


                  ©Photographs by Elyse Gardner
I watched the wild horses in Nevada fight for their freedom today.  Breathtaking, heartstopping, eyewatering, inspiring, gutwrenching; amazing, determined, smart, exhausted, frightened, spent, intelligent, watchful, all describe my emotions as well as the ones who inspired them:  the truly magnificent animals with heart like nothing and no one else, the American mustang.
 ©Photographs by Elyse Gardner
We had seen this stallion, Lightfoot, and his small family band coming from the other side of the draw.

  A good number of minutes went by as we herd the drone of the helicopters (two were used).  It was getting really warm out.  Then here he came, by himself, running for all he was worth, leading the helicopter away from his family -- and successfully leading his family away from the trapsite, which they had by this time overrun by a long shot.  I didn't know whether to cheer or to cry since I realize they will just have to run that much longer.  I cheered, and then I cried. 
               ©Photographs by Elyse Gardner
               ©Photographs by Elyse Gardner

Here came the rest of Lightfoot's family.  Notice they are running toward the helicopter.  They do not want to go back they way the helicopter is pressing.
     In the meantime, many horses were scrambling.  The pilot had his hands full as these horses evaded the trap time and again.  This struggle is not something I like to see; it stresses the horses and exposes them to injury and death, but it displays their fear of captivity and passion for freedom.
             Drenched with sweat, these horses had been running hard for 30 minutes.  Even when the helicopter hangs back in an attempt to slow the horses down when they are still far from the trap site, we could clearly see the horses galloping from the start in an attempt to evade the helicopter before they went out of view behind a hill.  
      Here the horses are reorienting and breathing before taking off once again... These horses try so hard and run so hard and fast, one of the foals gets separated from the band. 
      How many get separated who cannot keep up on the range, where no eyes can see?


These horses stop at the trap, recognizing danger.  They decided to take off, away from the trap.  Already sweaty and spent, they nevertheless ran so hard a foal couldn't keep up...       


Our hearts virtually stopped when we saw this lone infant being driven and led by helicopter.  This baby was terrified.  Her ears were straight up forward, and her tail ultimately came straight up.  She didn't know whom to trust, what to do.  

She froze; she ran.

The sound of the helicopter drowned out any call by her mother, already in the trap pen.

No infant should have to contend with this. July is not the time for helicopter roundups.

Terrified, hesitant baby.

I have to say I've never been so happy to see a Judas horse.  Will it work?
When this baby was first brought over, the Judas horse was still in the pen from the last group.  Now he is in position and ready to lead this baby into the trap.  


The redemption of his kind, this Judas horse leads this lost and terrified baby into the trap where mom is waiting.

Remember Lightfoot?  He has been leading his exhausted band all over the hills.  Defeated, glistening with sweat, spent, they are still running from the helicopter now after baby is brought in.  

Exhausted Lightfoot and his band are chased in under heavy pressure.  When observing, it's evident how tired the wild horses are in comparison to the fresh Judas horse.

     What a terrific waste.  What a vast amount of unnecessary suffering these gentle, peaceable animals have just experienced.  These mares will all be PZP treated, and these horses, after this terrible, monumental effort, will be released.  A lifetime of building family is torn apart in one morning, and it's anybody's guess how much havoc will ensue when these horses try to piece their lives back together.  There are better ways, and knowledgeable horsepeople made many suggestions in Denver at the BLM-initiated "workshop" about how to effectively manage and protect the wild horses with the horses' welfare in mind.
     Dr. Cassandra Nunez and Karen Sussman, President of ISPMB (International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros), each emphasized maintaining the family bands intact when dealing with these horses.  The havoc is immeasurable. The ramifications are many.
     In the Pryor Mountains, the Bureau of Land Management gathered, PZP treated, and released the horses marked for release, and maintained them in their bands; it can be done.
    I urge the BLM to think outside their box and follow through; take advantage of the advocate base that  is willing and ready to work alongside you to make it better for the horses.
    George Knapp has a tremendous article this week.  I hope you'll read it; he is very funny as well as very sharp.  Here is the link to George's article.
   Summer is not the time for roundups. If you would like more information, visit for more information.  We can also call President Obama and let him know:  202/456-1111.  
I remain,
For the wild  horses, captive and free, and their humble burro friends,
Elyse Gardner
    Important Update:
    In view of misinformation of which I've learned,  I am updating this post as follows:

                '©7/24/10 Photo by Elyse Gardner
FICTION This baby was driven for hours alone by this helicopter in the heat.
TRUTH:      This baby was separated from her band near the trap site because she couldn't keep up with the rapid manuevering during her family's race to evade being pushed into the trap. Within 10 minutes, she was guided into the trap site by the helicopter and reunited with her family. 
     Although she was running from the helicopter with her family for nearly an hour -- a horrible, grim marathon of fear, an unnecessary situation that never should have happened --  she was with her family up until the last 10 minutes.  

     I'm making this post because it has come to my attention that some misinformation and dramatic false allegations are being spread about the story behind these touching photographs.
Judas horse leads baby into trap.  In this instance, this is a very good thing.  
             And as I stated in my original post, never was I so happy to see a well-trained Judas horse.  That horse took off right on cue, and this baby recognized the only thing in that terrifying environment she would dare to trust, and she followed that horse in to ultimately be reunited with her family.
            CONTEXT:   The evidence is clear that this roundup at this time of year is wrong and should not be occurring.  This gather is a separate issue from any emergency -- there is no emergency declared by BLM or anyone else in the area of this gather.  Young foals are present in abundance with their soft hooves at this time near peak foaling season.  Foals die, their lives at risk, from roundups like this.  The heat is sweltering.  Mares heavy with foal are at risk of spontaneously aborting from the strain and trauma.
             That being said, I want to be very clear that whatever else may occur elsewhere at other times, these photos depict a baby being carefully lead and the helicopter being used skillfully under the circumstances. But they are horrible circumstances, and this baby couldn't have been more terrified.
             (UPDATED POST:   In fact, I feel nauseated re-reading the last sentence of this post as I remember the absolute fear of that baby.  Her ears and tail were straight up from fear; it's a wonder she didn't collapse, separated from her family, all alone with the helicopter/glass monster, skillfully handled or not.  It is something that should never be repeated, but BLM and the contractors will do it again tomorrow.  I am sorry, Little One, for trying to make it all right.  IT IS NOT ALL RIGHT.  And I feel literally ill as I recall the monumental effort of those horses running across the vast expanse in the growing heat as the day wears on, Lightfoot overrunning the trap area with his family and disappearing another 10 minutes, helicopter droning on in hot pursuit.)  
              I have never seen horses struggle so hard as I did, this day, and this baby's parents were among those most determined to remain free.   
              Advocates are accused -- myself included --  of misrepresenting the facts.  I cherish the truth and do my best to always state it.  If people are misreading or taking information from me out of context, that only hurts the horses by hurting our credibility.
              Let's please be extra careful to keep things within context.  If you have questions, I will do my best to find answers.
              I love the ardent loyalty we have to the horses.  Let's be careful to constructively channel that drive.  The truth is often disturbing enough; we need not expand or embellish.
 For the horses and their humble burro friends,
Elyse Gardner

Thursday, July 22, 2010


      HERE IS THE LINK to see the whole report on line:


I-Team: Horse Herds Pulled from Range, Despite Safety Concerns

POSTED: JUL 21, 2010 5:29 PMUPDATED: JUL 21, 2010 11:00 PM
Laura Leigh and Elyse Gardner overflying the Rock Creek and Little Humboldt HMAs

    I want to express my continued appreciation for George Knapp and Matt Adams, who have for years covered so thoroughly the issues facing the wild horses.  He has given countless numbers of these beleaguered animals a voice.   He continues to tell their story with an edifying depth of understanding and grasp of the issues.  And as we've seen, he knows how to wing it.    :)
    The I-Net adoptions of the Calico horses continue.  There are wonderful horses on line.  The older horses will be safe.  There are many beautiful, inquisitive, eager young horses needing good homes.  If you can provide one, take a look at these amazing horses. Just please; if you take one, protect it for life, or make sure it will be safe.    
     At this time the roundups are continuing, and I am on my way to document what I can.  I remain,
For the wild horses, captive and free, and their humble burro friends,
Elyse Gardner

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


updated wEDNESDAY, JULY 21, 2010

I-Team: More Horses Die in Gather, Public Not Allowed to Observe

POSTED: JUL 20, 2010 4:18 PM

      Blog's been quiet; I've been traveling, busy trying to view the Owyhee gather as well as stay abreast of the internet "adoption."  George Knapp covers things really well, as usual; the link to the story is just underneath the photo.  I hope you'll watch it, and tell your co-workers, friends, family, etc.  Let it be a dialog opener, and keep a cool head in this hot summer.   And then consider making a quick, polite phone call to our President asking him to call a halt to the roundups, a moratorium until a real, independant study can be made, and certainly stopping them from continuing in the dusty, debilitating summer heat.  1-202/456-1111 is the White House number.
      Roundup of Rock Creek HMA was scheduled to start Wednesday, July 21. Dead middle of hot summer, foals just learning that they are horses...  Thinking of watching these individuals running for their lives, filled with adrenalized fear in the hot sun, mile upon mile, is unimaginable.  Thinking of the stallions trying to bring up the rear to protect their families... of course they haven't a chance.
     They did not move the trap site off the private property, so it stands to reason that every day the horses were running from further and further away.  I have heard the phrase "government subsidized animal abuse.
     The "Tuscarora Gather Updates" page for Tuesday,  July 20, states: 

The Oywhee HMA immediate emergency rescue gather ended today.  The contractor relocating gather operations to the Squaw Valley area within the Rock Creek and Little Humboldt HMAs.  Two animals were euthanized due to pre-existing water starvation/dehydration related complications. 
     What two animals?  How old?  Male, or female?  BLM keeps the information as impersonal and minimal as possible.  These were individuals, and we would like to know about them.
     As far as the water emergency, or lack thereof, please note in Dr. Kane's 7/11/10 report (the onsite vet), available on line, in the Summary/Conclusions section, that:
The history of this area is that water holes being used recently are drying up and horses were blocked from accessing a singular access point to a river that has historically been a watering point during dry conditions. ... (emphasis added)
What a tremendously weighty statement couched quietly in a vet report.  The implications are staggering, aren't they.   

     "Observation Days" scheduled for Rock Creek are this Friday and Saturday July 23 and 24.  One needs to be on BLM;s list: the number to register is 1866/468-7826.
     As I've always maintained, the concept of BLM-appointed "Observation Days" does not fulfill what I believe is the public's right to observe and know how our horses are being cared for by our government with our tax dollars, and I bristle at the concept.  Tossing the public a crumb, a controlled peek, is not "transparency" in any sense.
     "Observation Days" do not measure up to Wild Horse and Burro Program Director Don Glenn's unequivocal commitment to the public in December 2009 at the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board meeting that gathers are open to the public, who he asserted would be accommodated at any gather at any time, as seen here:

     The White House phone number is 202/456-1111.  Our President had a decent record concerning animals as a senator.  Where did that conscience go?  Big business talks loudly; perhaps it's being drowned.  The Secretary of the Interior appears to be turning the seas and the lands over to special interests, making a mess of this country, and decimating our wild horses.  They are America's beloved wild horses, not sacrificial lambs.
     Tonight (Wednesday p.m.), George Knapp will report on what he learned and saw for himself and asks the key question: "Is the BLM telling the truth?"
I remain,
For the horses and their humble burro friends,

Thursday, July 15, 2010


I'm keeping this at the "top" of the blog for now, but new posts will continue.  Thank you for the concern of so very many being voiced to us on behalf of the Calico wild horses, especially the desire of everyone to protect the  older horses.  Tremendous...  
©Photo by Elyse Gardner
 Laura visiting with Calico geldings up for adoption.  This was taken July 13.

This past winter wild horses were gathered from the Calico Complex in Nevada. This roundup was one of the deadliest in recent BLM history.
The horses in this roundup have been some of the most comprehensively documented from roundup through adoption event. Many of these horses that were virtually unknown have now become dear to the public that knows some of their stories and names.
Elyse Gardner and Laura Leigh are attempting to facilitate placement of many of these beautiful horses.
Return to Freedom and Dream Catchers have stepped up to give many of these horses a safe haven where they can be as free as we can help them remain. Several people have come forward that can take in a couple and train them toward adoptive homes in a foster situation.
If you are interested in helping with this effort and desire more information please contact:

Tax receipts will be given from the 501 that accepts horses we are able to pull.

This list is subject to change as bidding progresses. It is our intention to sanctuary or home as many of these horses as possible. If you are bidding on a horse, or know someone that is, please let us know so we do not bump heads in bidding.
Please let your “fellow bidders” know the horses we are working on to avoid the same confusion.
If you see a horse drop from our list it is because it has found a private bidder. You may see horses added to the list (priority to sale authority) as space opens up.

Again, to be perfectly clear: The Sale authority Stallions are the core group list that will not change. Please do NOT bid on those horses and discourage anyone else from doing so. We have found a sanctuary situation for them so they can be as free as we can provide for them….
The core mares are also horses we are committed to providing that manufactured freedom to….
PLEASE know that all the sale authority horses are on our list as well. We will add them as safe places for them to land come forward and solidify.

Sale Authority Stallions – These are the Stallions we are committed to.

Priority Mares

Mares (Fillies)

Other people bidding on these horses (these horses have homes to go to)

more to come...  
Must run.
I remain
For the horses, captive and free, and their humble burro friends,

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


©2009 Photo by Elyse Gardner
       THE TUSCARORA GATHER has proved to be the nightmare we feared for these peaceable, gentle families.
      BLM claims to be saving the horses it is driving to death in the heat.  "Look how badly I beat you up.  Gee, you must have been in bad shape."  What insidious, skewed logic.
      As of this writing on Tuesday night we have 12 horses dead from the first day of a roundup.  Completely predictable, completely avoidable, but BLM holds its own counsel and has doggedly proceeded with this destruction in the face of all reason, compassion, or prudence. We celebrate the lives of these horses and mourn their loss and the loss of heir families:
      A 2-month-old colt, a 4-month old colt,  a 5-month-old colt,
      A 2-year-old colt, two 3-year-old stud colts, two 4-year-old studs, a 5-year-old mare, two 6-year-old mares, an 8-year-old mare.
       This suffering and loss of life happened out of sight of the public who care about these horses because BLM has locked up observation.  Leigh vs. Salazar is challenging this lockdown in court.   This will be heard on Thursday, July 15, 2010, at 2:30 p.m.  God save our country and our right to free speech.  Help us to keep our government accountable to its citizens.
        I want to be there the first day of roundups.  What do these horses look like when they arrive in the traps?  Could it be that BLM doesn't want cameras to see sweaty, gasping horses?
      It really galls me that we are barred from seeing any part of the roundup.  It's bad enough during "viewing days," often all we can see is the last few hundred yards, giving rise to questions about what takes place in the miles before that point.
     When a government entity gets to write its own ticket by completely barring public access to events of great public concern and scrutiny, handpicking the few choice members of society who can watch, we have a real problem and challenge to our rights under the First Amendment.  I am thrilled to see Laura Leigh and Attorney Gordon Cowan take this to the Court.  I have long felt a burning outrage at this.  I am an American, and I feel it as a true violation of my rights as an American to witness my public servants' handling of this prized animal.  There is a deep injustice in the banning of public observers, and its core is the violation of my precious First Amendment Rights, the very basis of my American heritage.  Thank you so much, Laura and Gordon, for articulating this for me, for us.
      The First Amendment is what allows me to be truly free; it is what I count on to hold my government from running out of control.  BLM must not be permitted to continue to deprive me as a journalist or individual of these rights.
     In the quiet of the Owyhee range, 228 peaceable wild horses. Beating loud helicopter monster.  Loud bird monster.  Run!  New vulnerable babies to protect.  Fear.   Rough, rocky ground, mile upon mile.  So hot, so thirsty.  Adrenalin, hearts and lungs pumping pumping pumping.  Eyes white, wide, burning chest, burning lungs, keep breathing; keep pumping the legs.  The foals can only think of one thing:  just keep up with mom and dad.  Run.  Can't swallow, chest burns, but run!  Feet are so painful, so painful, but run!  Run!  Every step hurts... Zigzag,  follow, run...
      The stallion gives his all to protect his family:  Stay in the back, position myself between the glass monster bird thing and my family.  No, better run up ahead to lead them...  burning chest, pumping pumping, run up ahead of everybody to lead them to safety...  but the monster is too close; better drop back, protect family from the monster...
       Eight long miles of this.  As I quoted in an earlier blog, the Twin Peaks EA states (page 28)
The BLM has considered postponing the gather until September and October 2010 to allow for cooler temperatures, and less risk to the horses from heat stress. However, this timing would place the gather in the middle of the mule deer hunting season. 
The entire section:
2.2.7 Alternative: Gather in the Fall of 2010
Past experiences with helicopter gathers during this prime hunting season have shown a significant conflict between the two activities. Hunters complained that the nuisance and noise from personnel and machines dramatically reduced the quality of their hunting experience. The BLM will implement stipulations to reduce heat stress to the horses and burros during the proposed gather, as discussed in Section 2.1.1. For these reasons, this alternative was dropped from detailed analysis. (Emphasis added.)  (Section 2.1.1. states they can keep the horses cool and dry by asking them to walk or trot.  Personally, I think it would be more reasonable to get a giant fan. -- Elyse)
In other words, to accommodate the mule deer hunt, they are proceeding to do the gather early (in August) and risk the heat stress as well as grave injury to the young foals and pregnant mares -- much like the Tuscarora massacre -- rather than wait till September. 
The horses and burros would be gathered at a slow pace, with animals moving at a walk or slow trot. The animals would be gathered into capture sites constructed of portable panels, and kept at these sites for up to one hour, before being transported to temporary holding facilities (see Map 1). Up to 100 animals at a time would be kept at a capture site for a short duration.
     Well, in Tuscarora, that was about as successful as de-sliming okra, i.e., it can't be done.    Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting the results to be different,
     BLM and its contractors should have easily known these deaths and injuries were an obvious, probable consequence of helicoptor "gathering" these horses in this manner at this time, especially since they claim to have observed a shortage of water for the horses.   (I have trouble using the term "gather"; such a benign-sounding term for the suffering these people have just inflicted on these horses.)
      Are there projects diverting water there, or is it all available to the wild horses?  And what are the cows drinking?
      And who shoulders the responsibility for proceeding under highly questionable circumstances?
      I've heard a good suggestion.  We need to give incentives.  As in any good training, make the right things easy, the wrong things hard:  The roundup contractors are paid per horse, generally. 
    Is the BLM willing to assess a fine of $5,000 each to the contractors for every dead horse, and $5,000 each for every lamed horse?  
             Are BLM and its contractors ignorant, or callous?   Pick one -- no, on second thought,  I say both.  Either way, if you are the one in charge of a living treasure, neither is acceptable.
     BLM has displayed, once again, its chilling lack of compassion in nearly every aspect of its "management" of the sensitive wild animals it is charged with defending and protecting
        228 horses rounded up in the first hours the helicopters took to the air.  192 of those horses ran eight miles. Eight miles is a long way.  Mustangs are in good shape,  but they're not in the habit of sprinting eight miles a day.  They walk, graze, stand around and doze, race, fight, play.   But a forced, sustained eight-mile run to escape a predator in the hottest part of summer is an infliction of cruelty.
        And these deaths are only the tip of the iceberg.  How many are suffering miserably who will survive it, but be permanently injured?  Or at the very least, experience great suffering and trauma?
        Loss of freedom, loss of family, loss of trust, loss of friends, loss of hope...  We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg.
        Today (Thursday, July 15) at 2:00 p.m., a hearing in Leigh vs. Salazar will determine if these summer roundups will proceed.
      Pray for a suspension of the summer roundups. 
I remain, 
For the wild horses, captive and free, and their humble burro friends,

Friday, July 9, 2010


Last Friday's Indian Lakes Updates were posted as follows:
Indian Lakes Weekly Update (June 26 thru July 2)
Nearly all horses have gained weight and regained their health.  Nursing mares and yearlings are on a high nutrition diet while all other horses in adequate body condition are on a maintenance diet.  A few of the 2010 foals are noted with minimal levels of upper respiratory disease.  They are being monitored and treated as necessary (see previous attached Upper Respiratory Veterinary Report).  Gelding of the five years and older stallions continued this week.  Dr. Eric Davis from the Humane Society of the United States visited the facility on Thursday, July 1, to observe the castration process.  One death occurred this week: 15 yr old gelding (1442) was found dead.  Death reason unknown.  No necropsy was performed.  Mares are still foaling, but births are fewer and intermittent.  No miscarriages occurred.
Facility Death: 1, Cumulative Death total: 102
Dr. Eric Davis is the head veterinarian for the HSUS (Humane Society of the United States).  He previously visited Broken Arrow on two occasions.  His previous reports were based on what he saw and was told by BLM staff during those brief visits.  He got another peek this last week.

I spoke with Dr. Davis, and he was emailed information, including photographs and links to videos, earlier last week before this visit to Broken Arrow.  BLM had announced a month earlier their invitation to Dr. Davis to view their castration procedure.  BLM has been unwilling to allow anyone else to view these horses except U.C. Davis, but I've not heard whether the vet from U.C. Davis followed through.
Having an outside veterinarian view their procedures is always a good idea, but public concern for the Calico horses hasn't been only with the castration procedure itself; concern is also high regarding BLM's post-gelding policy of no-pain-management for horses experiencing complications and acute pain (such as evidenced by Legacy).    

The wild horses at Broken Arrow are grappling with many other serious issues, and I sent Dr. Davis information so he would have these things in mind as he spent time at Broken Arrow. Spot-checking a facility like Broken Arrow will not reveal a history of most ongoing issues unless it is volunteered, and his previous reports simply did not address many of these things.
       Here are things I've raised with Dr. Davis. We are looking forward to his report.
©Photograph by Elyse Gardner

           I asked him to revisit BLM's pain management policy for newly castrated horses since BLM's policy does not provide for any medical pain interventions. I provided links to my videos of Legacy laying down and Legacy standing up in obvious pain. In his previous report, Dr. Davis had apparently been misinformed since his report stated:
When these complications [re castration] occur they are treated with analgesics and antibiotics, as would be the case in any veterinary practice. The outcomes described were as good or better than published results.”   [Emphasis added.]
(In our conversation, Dr. Davis confirmed to me that were he present with a horse presenting as Legacy did, he would have brought Legacy in for exam and intervention, and he has suggested to BLM the use of Banamine post castration. He will discuss this more in his report.)

      2)  SICK FOALS
          Making use of the hospital pens to quarantine sick foals with their mothers instead of leaving them in the general population such as those pictured below.

©Photos by Cat Kindsfeather


      Upper respiratory illness is an acknowledged issue and a known contagion.  Dr. Sanford's necropsy of one dead foal revealed pneumonia.  Foals around eight weeks old lose their maternally transmitted immunities, and they are more likely to get sick.
      Why not put them with their mothers into the sick pens so staff doesn't disrupt the rest of the horses in order to examine and to medicate them?
      An important related concern is every time people enter the pens, all the horses are at risk of injury.  Several horses have died from neck and spinal injuries due to colliding with pens and troughs during sorting.  Additionally, the crowded pens necessarily create more stress.
     Have foals'  nasal discharge been swabbed and tested?  What do they reveal?
     Is leaving these sick foals in the general population acceptable by HSUS standards?

        a)  Does BLM have any numbers re foal deaths?  Will they begin to chart the foals?
                                                           ©Photo by Craig Downer
Sorro, emaciated foal euthanized by Dr. Sanford.  (Click on link to see video.) 
       Many are convinced Sorro could have been stolen by his "mother" Wishful, this beautiful but dry Kiger/buckskin mare, and that he starved to death.  Or was she just dry?  Or did Sorro have nursing problems? Did simple lack of oversight allow Sorro to starve? We will never know.  Apparently no close exam was done.
     Has Dr. Davis requested a vet report?  What, if any examination was done?
     Is this level of oversight acceptable by HSUS standards?

©Photo by Elyse Gardner
This orphaned foal, pointed out by advocates and adopted as a 
second foal by the generous mare Cream Pie, went at least 11 days
 before BLM transferred him to Shirley Allen.
    ©Photo by Cat Kindsfather
19 days following Sorro's death, "Wishful," believed by BLM to be Sorro's mother (see above), was a foal-less mare left for weeks in this nursery pen, seen here stealing another foal.  The baby was re-united with her actual mother (the mare here with the  placenta still hanging) with the help of Broken Arrow and BLM staff after public observers pointed her situation out.

©Photo by Elyse Gardner

Another foal-less mare in a nursery attempting to steal a foal. The foal's mother is kicking the wanna-be mom.


          (a)  Accounting of foals and their mothers: births, deaths, orphaned, sick, etc.
     Current BLM policy is that foals are not documented at all until they are tagged and/or branded.  Therefore, BLM does not report or account to anyone the numbers of births, deaths, illnesses, euthanizations, baby thefts, etc.  How many "Sorros" were there?  Is this acceptable by HSUS standards?
          (b) Broken Arrow's contract requires a once-daily walk-through of these pens containing over 2,000 horses.
          (c) Dr. Sanford is the only vet for Broken Arrow and Palomino Valley holding facilities.
          Is the current level of oversight acceptable by HSUS standards?

          The horses have no windbreaks or overhead protection.
©Photographs by Elyse Gardner         Sunburned mare


Only two pens contain hills that have any topography at all.   The rest are like the ones depicted below.
©Photographs by Elyse Gardner  

Nevada's summer temperatures are often between 90F to 100F-plus degrees, and winter is often well below freezing with the icy Pogonip ("White Death") fog. BLM adoption requirements specify that two-sided shelters must be provided for horses by adopters, yet none is provided at this holding facility except in hospital pens.
      Is this acceptable by HSUS standards?

     We are now getting reports of horses found dead post castration.  Has HSUS reviewed necropsy reports?
     As in last week's "Indian Lakes Weekly Update (June 26 thru July 2)," often no necropsy is performed when the announcement is made that a horse was found dead.
     Since recently these are deaths that closely follow castration, would HSUS recommend necropsy to determine cause?
   In any event, the public would also like to know what is happening to the horses. Over 100 horses have died, and while deaths will occur in any population, these numbers are generally agreed to be excessive.
     What would HSUS recommend in terms of necropsy and criteria for performing same?

©Photos by Laura Leigh

      Regarding the foal whose sloughed hooves required his euthaniziation:  Dr. Davis was provided with information and available vet reports with no intake dates and indicating that bute was given to this foal  once every five days.
       By HSUS standards, is this an acceptable standard of care under these circumstances?
       In view of the imminent roundups at this time of year, where numerous foals younger than the "Calico colt" and sloughed-hoof foals face multi-mile marathon runs on rocky terrain, the horses and public are looking to HSUS for some recommendation and relief.
       Are these planned roundups at this time of year acceptable by HSUS standards?
       The public is wondering what HSUS thinks of BLM's practice of handpicking to whom it will be accountable.  We would like to see greater public access to our horses.
        In the meantime, thank you to Dr. Davis for what we hope was a thorough, penetrating visit to Broken Arrow.
I remain
For the wild horses, captive and free, and their humble burro friends,
Elyse Gardner

Monday, July 5, 2010

AHIGA Inspires Us to Remember Independence on this Proud American Holiday

Greetings on this American Independence holiday, 4th of July weekend.  
          Look over the struggle for freedom, trace your present-day strength to its source;
         You'll find that man's pathway to glory is strewn with the bones of a horse.   -Anonymous
I've been on a road trip, returning to California from the Denver BLM meetings, driving through Sheldon Wildlife Refuge and other HMAs (herd management areas), and I will soon share with you some of the beauties I met there.   
   First, though, I must acknowledge Ahiga.  Meet the majestic, peaceable and solid Ahiga, the bay stallion on the left.  (To enjoy a larger photograph, just click on the photos.) 
Ahiga, Tag No. 1844 (on left),  is seen here with his good friend, E'lami.   

     Ahiga was never gelded.  While we were sitting with BLM in Denver, he crashed and died fighting the confines of the chute, struggling for his freedom.  BLM "Indian Lakes Weekly Updates" from the week of June 14:
Gelding of the five years and older stallions took place this week.  During gelding, one stallion was noted with two cryptorchid testicles and was euthanized (#1475), one stallion suffered a spinal injury while in the chute and died on his own (#1844) and one gelding was found dead in the pen (#1699). 
 I am so sorry, Ahiga.
I know it sounds dramatic; it is dramatic.  Even when BLM is as understated as possible, and often they are, the horses are so very afraid and resistant.  Thank you to BLM for amending your "updates" and including the tag numbers of these horses, which should always be included.   BLM's attempts at depersonalizing these horses will fail, and people just become frustrated and more distrustful if that were possible.  We would ask that you please provide the ages of these horses in addition to the tag numbers.
Ahiga and E'lami.

Ahiga is Navajo for "He Fights."  
       E'lami had a friend, and then his friend never came back from the chute.  
       But Ahiga wasn't a bully; he wasn't an instigator.  He was a mature stallion who was scared literally to death.   He accidentally killed himself using all his strength to escape what was the most terrifying thing of all for him.  Imagine someone  using every ounce of strength they have to break through a door and, God forbid, fatally breaking bones in the process.  
     I need to vent a little here. "Died on his own."  BLM had nothing to do with it?  Artificially low AMLs (Appropriate Management Levels), carte blanche for cattle, had nothing to do with it?  Number 1844, Ahiga, went and killed himself.  No real range data to justify calling 1,922 predominantly sleek and healthy wild horses "excess" had nothing to do with it?    
     At least five stallions have died in just three weeks, very likely more.  We don't know because BLM has not updated their "weekly updates" now, either.  They shut the doors to Fallon just in time; neither my camera nor yours can be present to see the mayhem that would ensue when they started gelding these older stallions.
    Then they changed their "daily updates" to "weekly updates"; no public observers are there to contradict or observe anything BLM doesn't want seen.   They are supposed to update on Fridays, but adding insult to injury, we are left to wonder what happened this week.
     BLM gets carte blanche.  "Carte blanche" means "white paper."  It means you get to write your own rules.  Whatever you want; you name the terms.  BLM GETS CARTE BLANCHE at our wild horses.  Does that sit okay with you?
    Here's what carte blanche looked like last summer.

They are starting Owyhee in another week.
According to the Bureau of Land Management, they are starting roundups in the furnace of the summer because they want to accommodate the hunters, i.e., sport killing is more important than the safety of the wild horses.
It isn't enough that the horses are being run by helicopter, driven off their homes in fear and at risk, and losing freedom and family, but it has to be done when convenient for hunters.
Roundups are going to get very ugly.  I've been to Twin Peaks twice recently, and the hard, large pieces of rocks and pebbles cannot be described.  The wear and tear on the horses' feet will be phenomenal, especially the soft feet of the foals. 

The Twin Peaks EA states (page 28)
The BLM has considered postponing the gather until September and October 2010 to allow for cooler temperatures, and less risk to the horses from heat stress. However, this timing would place the gather in the middle of the mule deer hunting season.
The entire section:
2.2.7 Alternative: Gather in the Fall of 2010

The Twin Peaks gather is scheduled for August and September 2010 due to several logistical and environmental constraints. These include coordination with the National BLM Gather Schedule, availability of gather contractor, condition of roads in the HMA, and health concerns of both adult animals and foals. The BLM has considered postponing the gather until September and October 2010 to allow for cooler temperatures, and less risk to the horses from heat stress. However, this timing would place the gather in the middle of the mule deer hunting season. Due to the high competiveness for deer tags in the California Department of Fish and Game X5B hunting zone (resulting from higher numbers of applicants relative to the   number of tags awarded), and the quality of mule deer in the area, hunters highly value a tag to hunt within the Twin Peaks HMA, and may wait several years to obtain a tag.

Past experiences with helicopter gathers during this prime hunting season have shown a significant conflict between the two activities. Hunters complained that the nuisance and noise from personnel and machines dramatically reduced the quality of their hunting experience. The BLM will implement stipulations to reduce heat stress to the horses and burros during the proposed gather, as discussed in Section 2.1.1. For these reasons, this alternative was dropped from detailed analysis. (Emphasis added.)
I am going to research Section 2.1.1.  and will amend shortly.
     Okay.  I believe the pertinent part of this section below is what BLM is hanging their hat on.  They are saying they can keep the horses cool and dry by asking them to walk or trot.
     Personally, I think it would be more reasonable to get a giant fan.

The horses and burros would be gathered at a slow pace, with animals moving at a walk or slow trot. The animals would be gathered into capture sites constructed of portable panels, and kept at these sites for up to one hour, before being transported to temporary holding facilities (see Map 1). Up to 100 animals at a time would be kept at a capture site for a short duration.
Here's my challenge.  BLM and contractors Cattoor are asserting they can round up horses at a slow, gentle pace.  They say they can keep the horses from running.  Prove it.  Mount a real-time video camera on every single helicopter every time, with a video feed to the trap site where I or another public observer can monitor it.  No turning it off.  Take us with you in this way.  And then let me get close enough  to document their condition when the horses come in.  Let me stand with your vet.  This is a highly reasonable, do-able proposal.  Are we on?

Sheldon WIldlife area.

This kind of work that I do gives me a different view, and when I see these animals now I experience grief because BLM has stamped "excess" across most of them, meaning the helicopters are gearing up to take them away from their homes while the cows and sheep, bless their messy little hearts, are at "home on the range." These little donkeys are pretty special.
To help our wild horses, we get great information from The Cloud Foundation   In Defense of Animals ( has a great web site also where we can fill up on information and/or action for or be contacted by emails when different strategies are going on for you to see.
Time to go now.  More soon.
Please let your voices be heard by the White House.
Elyse Gardner
Humane Advocate Observer

Injured wild, young stallion I haven't seen since late February/early March before the chute system was finished and before the horses were identified with tags and brands. He appeared to have a broken leg.  He disappeared.