Tuesday, September 21, 2010


      The Twin Peaks roundup has ended.  The daily assault on this peaceful, spectacular habitat so perfect for wild horses and burros on our public lands has finally ceased.   (Click on photos to enlarge them if you wish.)
"Where is everybody?"  One of the fortunate remaining horses in
California'a Twin Peaks Herd Management Area
     As the helicopter dust settles, 1,639 wild horses and 160 wild burros find themselves in large, crowded pens, their freedom a memory, their families gone.   It will take years to begin to restore the equine diversity that's been lost to these mountains.  For the public who loved to visit the familiar equine residents at Painter's Flat and other known haunts of the mustangs, restoration is unlikely; these people's loss is profound.  These places are quiet, and their longtime inhabitants are gone.  It's like the death of a loved one.
This baby suffered lameness and a very bad cut to his left hind leg.  Video in preparation.
      On Sunday, September 19, a foal was euthanized.  Wondering if it could have been this foal. (It wasn't.  But I do have the story of the euthanized foal and a video in the "UPDATE," below.-EG)
      Yet when I was rushed through on Saturday -- given seven minutes (arrived at 4:53 pm, and they close promplty at 5 pm) , and threatened by security that I wouldn't even be allowed the seven minutes to see the horses --- I was told the horses were all fine, minor problems.  The contractor overrode the security officer and took me for a brief tour for the remaining seven minutes.
      I was given no indication of injuries serious enough to require euthanization the following day.  Perhaps it was a surprise to people.  The limping, bandaged foal I saw was characterized as just having had a deep cut from a rock.  But that young foal was clearly footsore. Still too many questions, seems like too much subterfuge.
      Here is the story of the euthanized foal, which I found in my video documentation.   It's frustrating, like constantly trying to clear away a fog.
  UPDATE:  Euthanized foal's story
     Here is the story of that euthanized baby which I found ] going through my videos and records.
        I would like to thank California's BLM Eagle Lake Field Office for working hard to provide daily public access to trap sites.  After driving almost two hours one way virtually each day, often the trap sites were inadequate because of the minimal visibility.  Sometimes this was a necessity due to the topography; other times it seemed a ruse.  The trap sites and observation points were chosen by the contractor.  Sometimes BLM personnel were able to negotiate better viewing for the public.  The observation post at Heller's Ranch at Buffalo Meadows was excellent, and I appreciate my BLM escort's efforts in negotiating that with the contractor.
     In any event, this daily observation required manifold personnel, security, and detailed planning.  California has set an example, understanding the principle that these are America's horses, that BLM holds a public trust, and that we the public have a right to view their handling -- to include their roundup contractor's handling -- of our treasured resource, the wild horses and burros.  I attended this roundup on most days and met BLM employees from many states who came to help out.  Many were helpful and accommodating.  Some were downright rude and obstructive.  
      Notwithstanding California's better efforts, in the final analysis, were we able to see and document the horses?  Only sometimes.  
      On Saturday, 9/17, there was a mare and foal left out, and wranglers were dispatched to go get them.  The two wranglers came back walking the foal on a rope.  I never learned what became of the mare.  I am asking right now since I was not told on the scene. 
      Another thing we are not told, and that I am requesting, are the GPS coordinates of the trap site and the GPS coordinates where the pilot picks up the horses or burros he is bringing in, as well as the time he begins the drive to the trap.  I was told BLM has never gotten that information.  However, in the contract for the Twin Peaks roundup, 10 miles from the trap site is the stated maximum distance the animals shall travel, yet apparently BLM has never verified this distance.  (And 10 miles easily becomes 13 to 20 miles since the animals zig-zag.)  How is it that this important contractual number has never been verified by the BLM?  -- And I am going by what I have been told by BLM staff.  
       It took two hours one day to bring in horses, from when the pilot took off.  And the pilot knew where to find them; he was not out looking for them.  He came back after one hour to refuel. Maybe he ate lunch.  Maybe he went to see his girlfriend?  Horses travel 8 to 10 miles an hour at a slow trot. Need I say more?  Is it any wonder the soft little feet of foals get lame?  
    I formally request that we be given the GPS coordinates of each trap site, the GPS coordinates where each band begins its course to the trap, and the time of same

       The long yearling filly (over 12 months but not quite two years old) featured in this video was observed in early September laying unmoving when the rest of the full pen swooshed to the back as observers walked by.  Concerned, I asked our BLM escort to investigate.  She thought she was just sleeping.  She walked all the way into the pen, and the filly didn't rouse until she was two feet away, when she struggled to her feet and hobbled off to join her fellows.  I was incensed when our escort suggested she was just "stiff" from sleeping, and I secured her agreement to notify the vet. 
       This video was filmed the following day, after the vet removed the horse from the general population pen and placed her in this pen for observation. 

         Litchfield holding facility in California filled up quickly, so the Bureau of Land Management is sending our California horses to Broken Arrow holding facility/feedlot in Fallon, Nevada.  Broken Arrow is where we visited the Calico horses until BLM closed it off from the public in June, claiming that since it is a privately-owned facility contracted with the BLM to house our public wild horses, BLM did not have to open it to the public, and stating that they only did so as a sort of favor, to accommodate the public interest in the Calico horses.
     Well, there is now major public interest in the Twin Peaks horses.
     Moreover, most of these horses have merely been glimpsed running into the trap.  Some we have seen loaded onto trailers, and I have observed injuries.  Then away they go to this closed, private facility, and no member of the public will ever see them again except for the few hand-picked ones offered for adoption.  This is simply unacceptable.  I also believe it to be contrary to the law.
     I am hoping BLM will make arrangements and agree to open the doors to these facilities in a reasonable fashion rather than force Americans to sue this institution yet again to exercise rights Congress intended us to have.   I am hoping for a dialogue with BLM on this subject soon.  As a former litigation secretary and court reporter, I truly seek to avoid litigation (hate it), but what a great tool we as Americans have.  
                   ©9/14/10 Elyse Gardner
Stallion pen at Litchfield holding facility in California

        The trouble with housing our wild horses and burros in private, inaccessible facilities is that these are, after, America's horses, which a unanimous 1971 Congress found "enriched the lives of the American people.""
       Well, BLM has seen to it that these horses and burros can no longer enrich anyone's lives except the roundup contractors and other private contractors -- i.e., ranchers with long-term holding contracts -- who make/take a lot of our tax dollars to their bank accounts for warehousing America's wild horses permanently out of sight from the American people.  How enriching is that?

     I have over a thousand photos plus and hours of videos I am preparing.  Here for now is a small piece of my last day on this roundup.
            ©9/18/10 Elyse Gardner
Babies often struggle at the back of the band to keep up
                    ©9/18/10 Elyse Gardner
The lead horse turns to face the helicopter, desperate to avoid the awaiting pen.
The helicopter wants to make certain nobody has thoughts of escape, but riding
 the back of this young horse is just plain wrong.  I wonder if this horse's hearing
has been impacted.  The noise is truly deafening.  How do you test the hearing
 of a wild horse?  Answer:  You don't.

 ©9/18/10 Elyse Gardner    
This baby mule is barely a week old, if that.

                ©9/18/10 Elyse Gardner

                   ©9/18/10 Elyse Gardner
   ©9/18/10 Elyse Gardner
Tiny, days-old mule foal struggled to keep up and finally spun out and remained
 stunned and still, frozen in the jute.  I watched with horror as the helicopter
 descended to push him back into the trap funnel.  The noise is deafening.  
            ©9/18/10 Elyse Gardner
This little mule has to be no more than a week old.  
      This tiny baby will need to be monitored.  Little hooves are not hard enough to withstand marathon runs, and babies often suffer terrible problems with lameness and hoof slough from roundups.
      I am eager to introduce to you the amazing little burro if you don't already know them.  The way they "round up" tells us a lot about their nature and intelligence.  They are amazing animals.
Our tax dollars at work.
       I saw some old-fashioned roping of burros and a few wild horses, mostly yearlings and young foals.  While it is terrible for the animals, I was relieved that the riding and roping were well executed, and I saw no animals yanked to the ground that I could observe. They are skilled wranglers.  One walking this tiny baby in couldn't resist petting it.
     However, one young adult stallion who was hiding was chased off the hills by the helicopter, away from the trap and observers.  I was mystified until I saw the wrangler on horseback far away, lying in wait.  He shot off after the mustang, who was running for all he was worth from the helicopter.  The wrangler gave chase and they all disappeared behind a large hill as the wrangler started swinging his rope.  Five to seven minutes later the roped, tired mustang.  They brought the trailer to pick him up rather than try to force him the long distance to the trap pen.  I needed 50X digital zoom to see any of this.  I never got to see this horse or his neck where the rope would be.  I think about these things...  I know professional wranglers pride themselves on controlling an animal and situation without injuring her. 
      Sometimes the wranglers hobbled the burros (tied their legs together so they can’t walk) and brought the trailer over to pick them up.  They can stand and take a step or two, but they often fall down.  It was very hot out.  I am concerned about the length of time an animal is tied up waiting for the trailer.  One I saw waited 15 minutes.  Seemed to take forever.  This practice isn't a big deal to the wranglers and can be thought of as saving the burros the frustration of being forced along on a rope into the trap pen.  I think for a flight animal, especially, as equines are, this must be a terrifying situation.  
      I want to point out that the wranglers and contractors really don't feel they are doing anything wrong.  Removing these animals is going to be traumatic for them no matter what.  Saying hateful things or attacking these people for this way of life is counterproductive.  
       That being said, one thing that really concerned me was the six hours, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the burros were in the trap pen on a hot day with no water, after having run hard and long, over an hour, to evade capture.  While burros can go all day with one drink, the circumstances of having run so hard and long, fighting the helicopter harder than horses do, made this long waterless stretch particularly problematic.  
©2010 Elyse Gardner
After a long run and desperate running escape attempts, six hours in this pen...
©2010 Elyse Gardner
...from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. before being trailered to temp holding and water
      A jenny (female burro) died in the trailer on Sunday, September 12, on 45-minute trip to the Bull Flat temporary holding site, where the horses and burros were kept overnight before sending them to Broken Arrow.  Yet when I asked at Bull Flat if there were any injuries, I was told oh, no, the burros are fine, that they seldom get injuries.  I guess I need to be specific:  “Were there any injuries or deaths.”  Observers are never told at the time these serious things happen.  
     The burros run as hard and fast as they can, for as long as it takes to catch them.  They make breaks to escape despite the odds of six wranglers on horses waiting to chase them.  I can see where they can run themselves to death.  I will be showing you video and photos of these stalwart little creatures.  I cannot load any more photos from where I am right now, but you will see.
     There is nothing kind about peeling these freedom-loving animals off their homes.  We continue to press BLM to do a turnaround to give a fair proportion of the vast public land resources on the Herd Management Areas to the land's primarily-designated inhabitants, the wild horses and burros.  This decimation of our wild ones has simply got to stop.  BLM keeps saying there are 36,000 wild horses remaining even though they're taking 12,000 this year and plan to remove 11,000 next year.  What's wrong with this picture?
     Speaking of pictures,  I like to provide abundant photos with descriptive narrative in my posts, but I am unable to load photos due to weak signal strength.  Will add photos when I can.
Trying to avoid TMI, but there is so much to convey.
      I remain,
      For the wild horses, captive and free, and their humble, courageous, amazing, freedom-loving burro friends,
Elyse Gardner

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


  This palomino stallion, waiting with other stallions slotted for release,  kept
looking over at the mares, sporadically calling out hopefully, looking
 for his family.  Unlike Atticus, he got no answer.   His dejection was palpable. 

Twin Peaks continues, and I am scurrying to edit video and overcome low signal strength to keep this blog current.  I am working simultaneously on a couple of videos (not a good idea) of the various trap sites where I've watched many of the 1,376 Twin Peaks horses lose their freedom.  Only 58 horses have been released so far.
Awaiting their fate at Bull Flat temporary holding:  Will these mares selected
 and waiting for release be released as planned?  Or will they become another  longterm holding statistic?
BLM was going to be releasing horses it deemed characteristic of the area as it finished rounding up in a specific area and was ready to move to the next trap site.  However, the decision now is they are going to wait on any other releases until they finish this roundup just in case they don't round up as many horses as they plan.   The stallions set aside for release are big, dominant stallions currently crammed into a small pen at the temporary holding facility constructed for this gather.
The stallions slotted for release, waiting listlessly for days in this cramped pen, looking for their mares. 
The longer these horses wait, the less chance they have of being released.  These horses should be released now back into their home areas to maintain a consistent presence.
"We are so ready..."

Many people believe BLM overestimated their "take," so if BLM waits till the end of the roundup, the chances for any release diminish, frankly, because they will feel a need to keep every horse they have.  So these strong, selected horses will end up in captivity through the numbers game.  For the horses, the longer they stay in holding, the greater the effect captivity has on them and the more depressed they become.   The disenfranchisement and diminishment pile up for the wild horses, and it's lose-lose all the way.

I challenge BLM:  if you are attempting to leave strong, representative horses on these ranges, then do it, or all your talk about a plan is meaningless.  Your plans are as reliable as the wind.  Releasing these horses now is a plus for them and for future generations.  It's bad enough you've decimated their family groups; at least let these go to maintain a consistent presence and begin to restore some lives, BLM.  

If you have questions or comments about this, you can click on this link to email the Eagle Lake Office or call the Eagle Lake Field Manager, Ken Collum,  at (530) 257-0456.  

Here is video of the horses captured during today's roundup, Wednesday, September 8, 2010.  Click inside the view box a second time if it doesn't play properly.   That will take you to play it in Youtube.  When it's finished, come back and see the rest of this blog post.   

I want to take this opportunity to comment on the New York Times video and article that came out yesterday, which addresses some behaviors long felt by the public and never acknowledged by BLM or its contractors.

The Twin Peaks roundup continues, and the public is invited each day -- invited to see a very tightly controlled, censored roundup scenario.  As I’ve said before, these roundups and BLM’s policies are as transparent as mud.  

To my President, in whom I have hoped and still hope:   I do not believe you were thinking of mud when you committed to your country that transparency would be the hallmark of your administration.  It was a bold statement that we loved.  Do you have the boldness to follow it through, sir, and to deal with this insult to your administration?  

The situation has created itself, and your country waits while your Department of Interior makes a mockery of your statement.  This wild horse and burro program needs your swift intervention.  Ken Salazar is making you look very bad, Mr. President, between the oil spill and the round'em up mentality cutting down this nation's great icon, a symbol and beloved animal by whom Americans are truly inspired and want to rally.  We feel like real Americans one step from the old west, connected to our great nation's history, when we look at our wild horses.   I admire loyalty, but is your loyalty to your people and your word, or to a bend-the-rules rancher who stated that wild horses have no place on public land?  I apologize for my boldness, sir, but really:  Whom do you serve, Mr. Obama?

©Photos by Elyse Gardner
"Observation" at Painter's Flat trap site on September 3, 2010.  With
60 magnification, I can just about see something...
At a couple of viewing areas, I couldn’t see the capture pens at all, like the one below.  The tree on the left is blocking the view of the capture pen.   
©Photos by Elyse Gardner
Observation at Horn Ranch trap site on September 1, 2010. Pen is in the trees.

At other viewing areas, the water truck was parked in a way that obstructed our view of the capture pen so observers cannot see the agitated horses slamming around in the pen after their capture or how afraid they are when being crammed hurriedly into trailers to be taken to the temporary holding site where you saw Atticus and where horses now wait for their planned release on hold. 

During the Calico roundup, I was there almost every public viewing day, and kudos to the contractor and BLM:  I never saw a horse injured or euthanized despite the fact that there were seven on-site deaths/"euthanizations."  I had to read about it the next day in the “Gather Updates.”  

Reading about these things after the fact, we would realize why our vigilant “escorts” suddenly pulled the observer caravan over to the side of the road for no apparent reason instead of going directly back to temporary holding.  Why, it turns out they were shooting a horse that they decided had a deformity even though he or she had lived to that point and survived the roundup.  Or they were euthanizing a horse that had been kicked in the trailer and lost an eye.  
The point:  we were out there to observe and document, but we were never told at the time these really serious things were happening to the horses. The Bureau of Land Management is complicit in this policy, make no mistake.  Dave Cattoor and BLM have demonstrated their remarkable ability to veil the truth right before the public's eyes.  

Mr. President:  Please take heed.  This is your BLM, and it is out of control, and the public knows it.  The question is, will you do something about it?
Senators, Congressmen:  Are you going to continue funding this abuse? 
As inadvertently admitted in this New York Times article and online video by Clare Major and Jesse McKinley, entitled, "They Shoot Horses, Don't They,” Dave Cattoor instructs one of his wranglers:

D.Cattoor:   If something happens, we’re going to correct it quickly –

Wrangler:   Okay.
D.Cattoor:  -- just like we talked about.  If it’s a broken leg, we’re going to put it down.
Wrangler:  Okay.
D.Cattoor:  Slide it on the trailer, same thing, and go to town with it. 
Wrangler:  Okay.
D.Cattoor:  We’re not going to give them that one shot they want.  
Wrangler:  Okay.  You got it."  
Excellent reporting; a big thank you to Clare Major and Jesse McKinley for concretely penetrating the facade of transparency.  
I understand why Mr. Cattoor doesn’t want us to photograph or videotape what he does.  The cries of these horses calling out to each other as they are separated forever, the injuries, the injustice of it, enrages the public. The injustice of the cows and sheep and natural gas and special interests squeezing the wild horses off their own legal herd management areas is enraging the public.  

This roundup earnestly needs to stop right now.  We've lost 60 percent of California's wild horse areas since 1971.  The National Academy of Science study to start in January 2011 certainly will not have a cohesive population of wild horses representative of true wild horse society to study, certainly not in Twin Peaks, which would have been one of the best places to get an in-depth study of these animals and their contributions and/or impacts to the land.  

We are pushed to ask for a moratorium on these roundups; it is the only answer right now, and even Congress is on board with this.  

Finally, I hear BLM is upset about my blog and feels I am creating a problem.  Who is creating a problem?  

I am revealing the truth of what is actually happening to our wild horses in the hands of the Bureau of Land Management and its contracting agents, be they Cattoor Roundup Contractors, or Troy Adams at Broken Arrow holding facilityand the lack of oversight, at Broken Arrow and at other BLM facilities, of foals who get orphaned or injured in the overcrowded pens and do not get noticed for days at a time;
or the BLM's no-pain-management policy post gelding, despite the HSUS vet's recommendations to the contrary, or anyone else.  

So BLM's railing about my blog, which I am diligent to keep factual and help people understand events as seen and felt from the horses' perspective, this is what is known as “stoning the messenger."
I remain,
For the wild horses, captive and free, and their humble burro friends,
Elyse Gardner