Friday, August 6, 2010


     The internet "adoption" of the Calico complex horses has concluded. These few horses we've come to know and love have landed safe, a teeny teeny drop in a huge bucket. Keeping wild horses free on the range is best. Finding good homes for all horses who have been taken from the wild is the goal, and many good people in and out of BLM are working hard to rehome these disenfranchised animals.  ("Disenfranchised':  to deprive someone of a legal right or privilege, especially the right to vote.)  Let us consider the horses' experience.
These horses forever left their stark, beautiful mountain homes in January and February of this year,  helicopter-driven off their land in a final frightful run that left them without freedom, without family, without home, without purpose.  Most escaped with their lives intact. Many have succombed -- 111 as of this date -- having animated and contributed their beauty, elegance, and grace to a world which in large measure did not have the eyes to see them nor the will to maintain their space for them.
                      ©Photo by Craig Downer   (CLICK ON PHOTOS TO ENLARGE THEM)
Lightning (with Dusk and his two mares) accepting Bob Bauer in his living room. 
 Craig and Bob visited these horses in October 2009, two months 
prior to the start of the infamous, deadly Calico roundup.  
      I find the photo of Lightning observing Bob, above, touching and deeply troubling.  Lightning has demonstrated why he is a successful, high-ranking band stallion, revealing his acumen and intelligence. He has discerned correctly and accepted these two kind human males into his world, finding no present threat.  He has not signaled his band, or those of the other stallions, to flee, nor has he charged to chase Bob and Craig away.  He has extended a welcome by accepting these humans into his world, who endeavor to keep a respectful 50-foot distance.  The way we humans returned his courtesy by helicopter invitation has proved him wrong and leaves me ashamed of my species. 
     Here's what Bob just wrote me:
            Hi Elyse,
Yes I remember this, although I didn't know Craig was taking a photo of it. It was very beautiful... Lightning and his band were very accommodating. I went back out to some of these areas in early June, Black Rock West, The Calico Mountains, Warm Springs and the east side of Granite Range, I think. All empty. Elyse, I can't describe the ache inside and sadness at seeing nothing out there, as I tell people, nothing but the sound of the wind. Take care. Robert 
©Photo by Craig Downer
Lightning (on the right) with two other bands:
Top, Left to Right: Lightning's son Baltic and his blue roan mare;
Bottom,  L-R:  Two sorrel mares, and their bay stallion, Dusk
      Independent to captive.   Every one of the 1,922 wild horses who were driven off these mountains went from being self-directed, independent individuals who took care of themselves and made their own decisions about every aspect of their lives.  Most were in excellent condition even in the dead of winter (January and early February); they knew very well how to live in these stark mountains and took excellent care of themselves.  Within the well-ordered structure of horse society, they chose their own paths, made their own decisions about what, when, and with whom to eat, when and where to drink, when and where to sleep, with whom to socialize and play.  They were free, self-directed, independent individuals.
                ©Photos by Elyse Gardner
        In one day they went from being free, autonomous creatures to being captives deprived of all but the most basic choices.  Everything now is dictated to them: told what trailer to step in, what pen to go in. They are spray painted, prodded, pierced, pushed, drugged, castrated.  They are killed for "deformities" even when they have survived years on the range, overcoming these challenges.  Their famlies are removed immediately.   They do not understand why these things are occurring, which brings me back into today...---
             The internet "adoption" event of these horses, is done. Seven of the above stallions are going to Return to Freedom.  A number of the mares are going to DreamCatchers.  Craig Downer and an experienced horseperson have rescued Lightning and will be providing a home for him and attempting to reunite him with family from his original band. All of the older horses (10 and older) were sold/adopted/rehomed.  None will go to kill buyers.  Return to Freedom is undertaking to reunite stallions, where possible, with their family bands.  For more information, go to their link
          Return to Freedom will do updates on the stallions,  and I'll tell you more later after the mares are settled at DreamCatchers.  Click on these links to donate to DreamCatchers and to donate to Return to Freedom.  At the appropriate screen, just put a note, "Calico Horses." Donations to these wonderful organizations are always appreciated, especially now as they undertake to care for these animals for the rest of their natural lives.
        To be more proactive and give a voice to a horse, the major effective thing I do is get on key mailing lists and receive guidance from trusted organizations who keep the public apprised of opportunities to comment, and I take action in this small but incredibly powerful way. They make it simple and efficient to do so, and they do not give or sell my personal information.
       For example, I am on the mailing lists of The Cloud Foundation,; In Defense of Animals at IDAUSA.ORG; and the coalition Wild Horse Preservation, at This is not an exclusive list; there are many other good sources. For what it's worth, I personally know the people involved and trust these organizations.
       Please realize that only about 82 out of 1,811 horses from Calico were offered on this internet adoption.  There are 36,000 horses in long term holding.  Boggles the mind.
     And (UPDATED INFO)  Wednesday, August 11,  BLM plans to start the roundup and permanent removal of 1800 more horses and 210 burros, planning to leave only 448 horses on 798,000 acres, and only 72 burros, removing 210 burros. 
      I am preparing to go and document this upcoming Twin Peaks roundup. I will do my best to bring you with me. If you can make arrangements, please plan on attending. It will take five to six weeks, and they have daily escorts to the trap sites. Basically, meet every morning at 6 a.m. sharp at the Litchfield holding facility corrals, and BLM will be escorting people to the trap site. Be sure to check the previous day to confirm if the helicopter will be flying. I'm told they will be posting something daily. Look for "Twin Peaks" gather information.

         Here is what just happened during BLM's Tuscarora roundup.  Only after the photo below of the dead mare at the rocks became public did the Bureau of Land Management acknowledge the tragic death of this mare and her foal.  You can see the flesh wound(s) down to the bone on her front legs, especially the front left. 
      In order to explain the (top) photograph of her dead body at the rocks, BLM made her photo public, taken moments before euthanizing her.  
   Photo by Katie Fite

Injured mare trapped on a cliff moments before she was shot by 
BLM contractor.  Her foal, who had broken her leg on boulders 
while being herded down a steep cliff, was shot as well.
           Now I understand why BLM risked contempt charges to keep us away from the roundup activities.  I think the terminology would be "being given a runaround." I felt something very bad had happened, and here I see that it had.  
        The roundup contractor talks about finding 28 horses stranded on a rocky area where the helicopter was "guiding" the horses.   The hint at "28 stranded" horses is something to which we need to pay close attention.   I would like to see photos of that and of the condition of those horses.   Hear me:  I believe these present photos are just the tip of the iceberg.  Here is what the Tuscarora Wild Horse Gather states:

Two additional wild horses (a mare and foal) that were not being gathered were also found on the range during reconnaissance activities and were humanely euthanized because of life-threatening injuries.  The contractor found the two animals while rescuing a group of approximately 28 wild horses stranded on a steep cliff as he guided the horses down the steep mountain.
The BLM did not report these two deaths as part of its daily mortality log, because that log documents mortalities for wild horses that are gathered. BLM Nevada is modifying its reporting methods to better document all wild horse deaths that occur or are found during gather operations. 
         Are we to believe that the helicopter pilot just happened upon 28 stranded wild horses that this pilot was heroically trying to rescue from a steep cliff?  If you want to help horses stranded on a steep cliff, you sure as heck don't approach them with a helicopter. 
       How did these horses get stranded?  They aren't beached whales.  The horses would likely have become stranded in response to a stimulus, such as running from the helicopter whether the helicopter was just "doing reconnaissance" or intending to round them up.  
       The helicopter sometimes attempts things it shouldn't.  If you're supposed to round up horses and they are up in dangerously high places, or in otherwise dangerous places, go find some other horses.  Do not threaten the lives and limbs of these animals just because they are in front of you.  
       But I digress:  there is every appearance that BLM was trying to avoid ever disclosing the lives and deaths of these animals, and that is not all right.  
        Here is the clincher:  To say the deaths of this mortally wounded mare and foal are unrelated to the gather is to stretch the truth beyond all credulity, and I hold BLM utterly in contempt for such cheap manipulation.   I am loathe to speak in such terms, but I am angry; I am outraged; we are not idiots, and I believe BLM is to be absolutely distrusted because it continues to peddle such nonsense.  The test is this:  had your contractors not been assaulting the peace with their helicopters, would this mare and foal, and these 28 horses, have been in the situation in which you found them?

          And you feign concern with this disingenuous statement:
BLM Nevada is modifying its reporting methods to better document all wild horse deaths that occur or are found during gather operations. 
i.e., we know it sounds bad, so let's just say we know we should include these horses but the system didn't allow for it, so we will work on the system.
        And it's all a bunch of hooey because you made up your system to find a way to not have to report all horse injuries and deaths. You are unbelievable, and even I cannot believe anything you say. That's sad, because I've been known to be trusting and gullible, and if I don't trust you at all, you are really in bad shape. 
       Where is Congress? Are you really going to put up with this in-your-face, disingenuous poppycock? Congress, look at your Department of Interior.   Look at your BLM.   Save America's integrity: revamp the BLM.
     To my legislators:  BLM is in your face, Congress.   How can you hold your heads up and allow this agency to continue with business as usual? They are like the rebellious teenager that is now brashly leaving his beer on the table at night, daring you to do something about it.  
       Similar risk at Twin Peaks:   I have been to the Twin Peaks HMA.  The footing is anything but level.  It is rocky, full of hard, sharp lava rock.  It abounds with steep, rocky areas.  We saw few, if any, "trails."  We also saw few horses, only 74 in an entire day in which we covered several hundred miles.
                       ©Photos by Elyse Gardner
                                 ©5/7/10 Photo by Elyse Gardner
Non-Wild Horse Annie cattle guards exist throughout this HMA; that is, they are not reinforced with rebar, posing a risk to fleeing horses whose hooves and legs would go through.  Horses who get stuck in cattle guards usually break legs and require immediate help or euthanization.  The alternative is a slow death or death from predators.  Cattle guard accidents are not as rare as BLM likes to say.  Craig Downer documented the remains of a horse in a cattle guard in the Calico Mountain HMA, seen below.  Responsible pre-roundup preparations would suggest reinforcing cattle guards as was done in Wild Horse Annie's time, to take precautions to protect frightened, fleeing animals from this possibility.
                       ©Photo by Craig Downer  taken in a revisit to the Calico Complex post-roundup
Terri Farley is holding the broken leg of this horse at a cattle guard 
in the Calico Herd Managment Area, whose skeleton was only months
 old and whose death coincided closely with the timing of the Calico roundup.
              ©5/7/10 Photo by Elyse Gardner

Steep, rocky terrain characterizes much of the Twin Peaks HMA.
                       ©5/7/10 Photo by Elyse Gardner 

                ©5/7/10 Photo by Elyse Gardner
             ©5/7/10 Photo by Elyse Gardner 
An example of some of the very rocky footing, excellent to keep
 hooves naturally trimmed; hard on feet when run on for miles, 
brutal for baby feet whose hooves have not yet hardened.
             ©5/7/10 Photo by Elyse Gardner

BLM's definition of wild horse overpopulation.
  (Sorry; I couldn't resist...)

Any "trails" we encountered were a brief but welcome relief similar to this, 
only about 30 feet long, before they disappeared into the rocky ground
 again.  Most of the area was uneven and without obvious
 trails. I'm in pretty good shape, and I was surprised at how arduous
 just walking along this  lovely area was, considering that it wasn't terribly steep.  
More typical rocky ground.  This was early May, and grass was growing 
abundantly.  The range was in excellent, lush condition.  
                          ©5/7/10 Photo by Elyse Gardner
There was no food or water shortage evident, as 
ecologist Craig Downer also noted.

                        ©5/7/10 Photo by Elyse Gardner
               ©5/7/10 Photo by Elyse Gardner
Where will these horses be, whose photo I took on May 7, on September 7? 
     My request to BLM:   I am asking BLM for access to fulfill what the public has asked of me:  that I document the condition of the wild horses within five minutes of their arrival at the trap site by videotaping them from within 20 feet of their pens, uninterrupted for three to five minutes (depending on the number of horses) and taking stills, as well.  I then request to be given the same access 20 to 30 minutes later to document recovery rate in a rudimentary way. 
     I am in the process of replacing my vehicle, which was totaled by a drunk driver on July 9, so I can get up to the Twin Peaks roundup. While on the way to try to document the Tuscarora roundup, Laura Leigh and I and her dog were rear-ended by a drunk young man on the freeway. We are grateful to be alive, albeit bruised and bumped. Thank you all for your concern.
        I hope you will add your name to lists as suggested above.  The American public, and wild horse lovers from all around the world, are being heard. The more people weigh in, the louder our voices.  Join with us in calling for a moratorium on all roundups pending a Congressional investigation of the Bureau of Land Management's Wild Horse and Burro program. 
     Additionally, we are calling for mounted video cameras for any gather-related helicopter with uninterrupted live feed to officials and public observers any time it takes to the air. 
      We will never know how many tragedies have already taken place.  Let's help stop this now.
       Here is one more look at Lightning and friends filmed by Bob Bauer the day of the photograph above.  (If you have trouble viewing properly, click inside the viewing box; it will take you to the Youtube)

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


  1. Elyse before they start rounding up horses they better take a LONG LOOK at the condition of the horses and think about bringing in WATER.

    Heavens above here we go again. It really hurts to see an animal treated this way.

    I'm on my way to see Cloud! I'll see him on Monday--I can hardly wait! To think that just a year ago I saw my first picture of him and now look. I've done some major traveling for this one. I am safe. No worries.

    I'll tell Cloud and all the others that you say HI! And that all the horse warriors wish
    their best always and say hi too!

    I didn't know you had been in a wreck. Goc I hope your okay. They are so scary. To be so far from home and on your own. Been there. I hope your healing well.


  2. ""Additionally, we are calling for mounted video cameras for any gather-related helicopter with uninterrupted live feed to officials and public observers any time it takes to the air. """"

    Thank you!!! This is NOT hard for the BLM to do!

  3. Sick to my stomach after seeing the picture of the mare. I don't know if it is from anger or sadness that her beautiful life came to an end so abruptly and in so much pain after watching her foal being murdered.

  4. I'm at a loss for words, as I always am looking at these things. Overpopulation, right. They're in the way of the Ruby pipeline and the open pit mines, don't ya know?

    Like you, Elyse, my patience and benefit of the doubt are USED UP. There is NO doubt, and I can be quite blunt when I and my beloved horses been betrayed like this.

    Take care. We won't give up, never.

  5. These pictures would make nice billboards on the sides of horse trailers parading through washington. Lets plan a wild horse day on the mall and get all the local horse lovers to bring their trailers and we can put messages on them. There are a lot of things we could in a da long event. If we publicize it well we will get great turnout.

  6. What did you have for a goverment, which led such animalcruelity happen?

    We think the recent president is no animal lover!

  7. What happened to the mare and her foal is a criminal act! The United States on her way to the dark Ages.

    I always thought this would be a free and loyal country. I was wrong!

  8. Cruelty to animals will fall back on those who give permission to do so!!!!!!!!

  9. Shut the BLM Helicopters up from sky!

  10. How can this go on and go on against the will of the American People and 54 goverment members ? How ist this possible? I dont understand this. And this terrible woman sue cattor. We dont understand this.

  11. I adopted a Calico baby in June 2010, a yearling then from Granite. Such a sad fellow, thin and sick, battered and full of worms. Today he's gorgeous and full of life at about 18 months. I imagine this is how he'd look if he'd been left in the wild. I would that he'd never been captured but am glad that I can give him a good life. Never have I met a creature so loyal. He has a blog of his own Maybe it will help

  12. Wow what incredible footage. I have a calico mountain mustang who was collected in Jan 2010 and am trying to find any info about him. Are you familiar with the band there?