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


  1. This is blatant animal abuse. I am tired of our tax dollars being spent to exterminate OUR wild horses. I deal with the emotional and physical scars left by BLM on our sanctuary's rescued mustangs on a daily basis. This must stop! Catherine Ritlaw,

  2. Please contact your local congress person and let them know about these things & your outrage. THese are the PEOPLE'S WILD HORSES; not the BLM'S, not Sec. Salazar...not even the politicians. THey belong to the PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES and To GOD alone. THey are part of our Western heritage, a NAtional Treasure and they are being slaughtered and abused by our government! They embody such strength, courage, hardiness, adapatability, stamina, and life. They remind me so much of our American Bald Eagles. How Noble and Magnificent! Truly, they remind me of the first AMerican settlers...

    Please demand changes and tell your politicians what you want. End these practices and put the RIGHT people in office and working for the BLM-FOR the People's WIld Mustangs. Preserve their lives and genetics. End the exterminaition of America's horses! Policy MUST CHANGE! Remember our Politicians work FOR YOU!

  3. Thank you, Elyse, for your observations & your strength. I don't know how you are able to do it. I don't know that I could.
    Thank you.

  4. Harry Reid says call him.... if he gets lots calls he will speak out, if not he won't bombard his office with calls... this should never happen to innocent horses SENATOR HARRY REID 202-224-3542

  5. I just read your update and I can only imagine how the story could be misconstrued. Just knowing these little foals are been stressed like this, run in the sweltering heat when they are still so fragile, is very upsetting. I am sure that is why they would rather not have public present. They are tired of bad PR and negative responses.
    I am pleased to see you updated the facts, and gave credit where it is due, highlighting the truths. I hope that baby will be ok.

    I read your blog yesterday. I wish I could be there with all of you, documenting, But also glad that I am not. Its so heartbreaking to see more horses and babies suffering, dying and loosing family and home. Secondly, we are robbed of the joy to observe them peacefully existing in the wild. Seeing mustangs in the wild, is one of the best free treasures my eyes have ever witnessed and my soul has devoured. Its such a wonderful feeling to spot a herd grazing or running, you feel blissfully touched by the earth and her wild blessings. Here in Nevada, we should be looking to eco-tourism, and preserving our wild herds for the world and our future generations to see, the living legends of the wild west!
    Thanks Elyse..... Blessings

  6. Glad to read that this foal was not run all by himself and it was only the last few minutes. However, this foal was run for over an hour by helicopter. This is horrifying in itself.

  7. OUR horses, OUR money, OUR land. it must stop, this is insane cruelty fueled by greed and profit over anything else, i am sickened to tears!

  8. Why the name Lightfoot?

  9. Isn't it against the law to fly aircraft like this so low to the desert landscape?

    The blades act like a giant dust blower and destroy the small wildlife nesting along the plants on the surface!
    Each round-up must destroy hundreds of acres!! on land that to this day still shows damage from covered wagon crossing over 100 years ago!


  11. I wonder if we can focus on the misinformation spread by the BLM and their lack of credibility and not worry about the advocates so much. I would say rumors are somewhat inevitable when the public and press are banned from documenting round ups. The BLM chose to ignore our first amendment rights.

  12. Elyse-

    You are as kind and honest as you are eloquent. Thank you for being the eyes for those of us who refuse (at this time) to spend money in the states promoting this abuse.

    BLM = Bad Lying Morons

  13. Hello; the photos of the "confused foal; not knowing which way to run; not knowing where his Mother is...Folks...this is no humane roundup; this is terrifying for these Mustangs

    The BLM makes themselves "look foolish and stupid by rounding up tiny bands of Mustangs;
    and then saying; this way we save rangelands

    save rangeland ? for what you stupid morons?

    save the rangelands with no wildlife on them?


  14. Elyse - thank you, and Laura Leigh, for the courage you both showed facing BLM officials as well as Elko County Sheriff Deputies to bring this to the public's view. People need to know that we are paying their salaries, we the people own that "public land," and they refuse to listen to any of us - the pompous attitudes, lies, and coverups are finally surfacing and the grassroots movement to stop them is gaining speed. It's time the American people (and around the world) are shown what these magnificent creatures are going through and dying from - and our tax dollars are paying for this cruel insanity! It has to be stopped - and you have thrown the doors open for the rest of us to see and walk through. Thank you for letting us see with our eyes what their bodies are suffering. Blessed Be!

  15. I curse all BLM people in this helicopters to die on cancer and belong to the 20 % which pains not can be allayd with morphium.

    This is hollocust for Horses.

  16. This is the horriblest thing, whatever you can do with animals.

    BLM die on cancer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!