Friday, October 22, 2010


(Still the same blog with a new look.  Welcome.) 
                 (Don't forget to click on the photographs to enlarge them; they nearly come alive. -- EG.)                 
   ©5/7/10 Elyse Gardner              
Twin Peaks horses in their living room. 
 On May 7 I went with five other people to see the range and the horses.  I found a lush, spacious expanse perfect for the wild horses and burros.  That they thought so, too, was evident in their well muscled beauty and shining coats, and general contentment and solidarity that radiated everywhere they went in their family groups.  These were fulfilled horses. You just felt great looking at them -- and frightened, knowing what was coming.  
                      ©5/7/10 Elyse Gardner       

Twin Peaks horses where they belong.  The rightness and serenity of these horses on the ranges cannot be described.  They are at peace, their society rich and tender,  fierce and strong; loyalty, friendship, and family bonds evident in all their interactions.  We are the aliens here.  
       I have thoroughly enjoyed perusing my photo library and finding these opening photographs for you although it's taken me on a two-hour detour from my task at hand.  But this stroll down recent memory lane has again reinforced the absolute rightness -- no, the utter, overarching need -- for these unique, irreplaceable animals, the wild and free horses and burros, to remain wild and free on their home ranges in genuine, solid numbers.
         C.S. Lewis said it is more important that Heaven should exist than that any of us should get there (The Essential C.S. Lewis, by Clive Staples Lewis, edited by Lyle W. Dorsett).   In the same way, it is more important for Americans to know our wild horses and burros remain an intrinsic, wild part of our west than it is for the average American to get out and see them:   The wild horses are there, the wild horses are happy and safe, and all is well with the world.
         The 1971 Congress understood this very well when they drafted the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act.  They used the words "intrinsic," and "enrich," and "fast disappearing."  And what the Bureau of Land Management is now doing is tampering with a very sensitive core of our society.  Will they get it? -- that these animals are tied to us and we to them, and it is not just a numbers game?           
          I have a sense of urgency for the sake of the mountains as well as the horses and burros, for the sake of all that is right, to protect them and to see that they get to stay in their homes in the healthy, full numbers that they deserve and need, not this frightening skeleton crew straggling on the mountains that the Bureau of Land Management is leaving.
                ©5/7/2010 Elyse Gardner    (Click on the photo...)
This lovely, fair sorrel mare was keeping a not-very-concerned eye on us as we enjoyed these horses.   A newer young horsewoman with us was thrilled in learning about reading horse body language so we wouldn't drive them away.  And yes, it is thrilling to be able to simply "hear" what they tell us, if we just stop and listen.  The horses teach us how to respect each other's space, take the time to read the messages others are giving us:  Her head comes up and she looks at me:  You are getting too close; I don't feel safe.  If you want to be with me, you need to stop pressing in, or I'll flee. We stopped and stepped back a pace or two when she did this.  She went back to grazing.  Ah, yes, they teach me all the time if I listen... 
            ©5/7/2010 Elyse Gardner  
Here she is with her whole family -- stallion and son -- who are watchful but accepting of our presence, a very sweet time.  We were only about 50 feet away.  Around 6 p.m., sun is going down.  Wonderful time. 
A fellow advocate said she saw them in the pens; they were rounded up
          I cannot explain it; I only know it is so, that the heart and soul of America is still tied in a rudimentary way to our wild horses, yes, and their humble burro friends,  and we are committed to their well-being.  Am I being heard, somebody?  And I am here to do everything I know to see that we are not sold a lie, that we are not told by a conflict-of-interest-driven Bureau of Land Management that all is well with our wild horses while they proceed to decimate wild horse and burro populations, forcing them off and stealing their ranges to make way for special interests, including but not limited to natural gas, foreign investing, gold mining, and not last and certainly not least, livestock interests, and benignly calling it "multiple use." (See Debbie Coffey's article, The BLM's Multiple (R)USE Mandate.)  
                  ©7/19/10 Elyse Gardner     
Vulnerable wild horses. I took this from the helicopter in the
flyover Laura Leigh and I made with George Knapp on July 19, 2010.  
From the helicopter the horses are so vulnerable.  Just look at them.  A helicopter is a tremendous power.  It is far too easy to abuse these animals with a helicopter.  We must get protections in place, parameters around helicopter use and wild horses and burros -- or any animal, for that matter. We stayed up very high.  
          The horses lose everything in the process, freedom and family, and suffer tremendous fear as well as physical strain and hardship.  It is a marathon of fear, and often of pain.  And I think the only thing worse than being abused is to have one's abuser and witnesses not even recognize the suffering inflicted. "No, that didn't hurt.  You're fine.  You'll get over it."  And that is what we have here.
         I have frequently heard BLM and roundup contractors talk about how humane helicopter roundups are for horses.  They could be if done correctly.  However, what we see here is hardly humane.
         Let's watch some footage that the BLM itself has provided to roundup contractor Rick Harmon, who owns Cayuse, Inc.,  for the purpose of his promotional video.  This film is in the public domain and was made with taxpayer dollars.
           BLM makes promotional videos all the time, which is perfectly fine.  Let's see what BLM and Mr. Harmon are promoting.  These films were taken during the Twin Peaks roundup of 2007.

              And you will see below, these practices are not contractor-specific, that is, these are two different contractors using helicopters physically to physically goad horses, and it is certainly not a thing of the past.  Although it is under different circumstances, the roundup contractor in Twin Peaks also pushed a horse, just a yearling.  You may have seen the still photographs I took of this young horse I've named Banner.  Here is the video.  I apologize for all my noise in this video, but I don't want to tamper with the soundtrack.  This really got to me.  It was a long month...

        The use of the helicopter in this manner is wrong.  The most chilling part of this may be the fact that BLM and the contractors don't even recognize the wrongness of it. Their ability to have compassion has shriveled.   There was no justification and no need to push that mare with the helicopter.  
        If this is what the public is seeing, what kinds of atrocities are happening about which we never learn?  Does this not qualify as criminally abusive to animals?  Doing something wrong for years will never make it right.  It is definitely time for a mounted video camera with timestamps.
        My hope with Banner is that as his story is shown, Banner will represent a pivotal turning point,  be a "banner" horse, a portend for what is to come, a recognition and incentive for BLM to examine its ways and change OR to have its wrist thoroughly slapped and for the President to recognize the need for change in his Department of the Interior,  and Congressional and Senatorial representatives to look at this and demand some boundaries to protect these innocents from the inherent violence of a roundup to every extent possible.
        1)  The American public wants to see these horses protected, and we are requesting a freeze; we are asking that roundups halt and a Congressional investigation of BLM practices be initiated.  We very much want to see the National Academy of Sciences complete their study of the remaining wild horse and burro populations before they are decimated and  before any further discussion of roundups ensues.
        1)  The pilot to approach wild horses and burros at no closer than 100 feet.  No exceptions.  Violations should be fined a minimum $500 each occurrence and/or prosecuted as allowable under animal cruelty statutes.
        2)   Barring a moratorium, a mounted live-feed video camera on the helicopter, transmitting at all times the helicopter is airborne, with the BLM representative and representative from the public witnessing the transmission.  
        3)   GPS coordinates to be obtained from the trapsite and made available to BLM and the public;
        4)    GPS coordinates to  be noted and made available to the public of where the wild horses and/or burros are located when the pilot began the drive toward the trap pen;
        5)   Videotape to be dated and time-stamped.
        6)   That the pilot be held to a speed limit to the best of his ability, of no more than 10 mph for horses and 7 mph for burros. (Note:  I have seen these figures before in BLM documents, but BLM never actually holds the contractors to it because they never ask for the data, according to two BLM sources.)
       These amazing animals so beautifully equipped to live in the most sparse, rigorous landscapes of the high desert, have no means to protect themselves from the likes of flying glass monsters used like a whip.  This is wrong, and it needs to stop.  I have all but given up hope that the Bureau of Land Management will police itself or its agents.  All they consistently appear to do is try to marginalize the suffering of the horses and burros, and I am so sick of it I cannot tell you. But many of you are sick of it, too, and I don't need to tell you.
         ©9/17/10 Elyse Gardner
Youngster struggles to keep us, falling behind.  No need for helicopter's pressure like this.
       BLM, go ahead and surprise me.  I would love to be wrong about you.
       But we have now seen for many years that the Bureau of Land Management will not stop unless it is stopped, and that needs to come from the President or from Congress.
                 ©9/17/10  Elyse Gardner
Pregnant mare racing as fast as she can.  There is no need for this level of helicopter pressure.
            What do I mean by "marginalize the suffering"?   One example that comes to mind is Legacy's story (click on the purple link to view my video).  Legacy was an approximately eight-month-old colt who had a poor reaction to his castration and did not want to stand up (click on the link to see another short video of Legacy) even when two unfamiliar humans approached closer than he was comfortable with.  When he did stand, he staggered a little and could barely walk from the pain and obvious swelling.  While observing this, a BLM official told me he wasn't in excruciating pain; he was "just a little stiff."  I videotaped this episode, and after reviewing it, Dr. Eric Davis, the HSUS vet, stated he would have treated this colt with bute; further, he is recommending that gelded horses be given banamine.  As of this writing my understanding is BLM is doing no such thing.
             This is by no means unusual, and BLM's credibility in my view has been compromised because of it.  
             We believe a moratorium is called for because of the low numbers of wild horses and burros especially in relation to the ongoing, untouched populations of livestock in the very limited wild horse and burro Herd Management Areas.  Without exception, the livestock vastly outnumber these wild horses and burros, yet the horses are being removed.
        Please speak up for the wild horses and burros.  The White House line is 202/456-1111.  Ask them to log your call.  Stop destroying our last big herds.  Stop the trauma and assault on these animals now.  Look at the abusive practices and rein in your BLM, Mr. President.  Helicopters prodding horses are not okay.  
       A friend wrote me and sent this out among many.  His straightforward way touched me deeply as he spoke for me and for thousands more Americans who love our horses:
Is this the best we can do for these horses, low cross bars they hit their heads on and kill them. Tying saddle horses next to a pen of a wild horse family and expecting nothing to take place, running the  hoofs off of young horses. Not padding the panels or the gates to prevent injury. Forcing a Mare to stand over her dead stallion. I mean really, this is the best we can do. I'm not saying stop the gathers but if we must do it, then don't you think we could do it with a little more respect than this. This saddens me. It's that simple (caring doesn't cost money).
         Please encourage your friends and colleagues to learn more and take action by getting on the mailing lists and responding to alerts from them.  My aim is not so much to convert those who do not care (although I try to help people see the amazing individuals the horses and burros are); my aim is to motivate those who do care to take action.  You can help the horses by subscribing to these mailing lists and responding to alerts and things as they arise:
Thank you.  Please send this blog post to your elected representatives.  They need to know what is happening.
For the wild horses, captive and free, and their humble, hardy burro friends,
Elyse Gardner

     ©5/7/10  Elyse Gardner          As the day winds down...
Stallion and mare at Twin Peaks as it was... and the day winds down, 6 pm.  
Were they rounded up?  If so, they are separated forever.
To make a tax deductible donation to my field work, please go to DreamCatcher Wild Horse and Burro Sanctuary.   Click the "Donate" button, and as you go through the process, you will have the option to earmark your donation as you wish.  
             You will see, "Add Special instructions to recipient."  There you can insert, "For field work," or, "for Humane Observer," or, "1/2 for Sanctuary and 1/2 for field work" (whatever you wish) and it will go where you specify.  
             Or mail checks to:
PO Box 9
Ravendale CA 96123
Make a note as to your intentions in the "memo" section as indicated above.
Thank you so much.


  1. I'm to the point I can't take much more of the BLM's BS. I'm to the point where I want to shoot these helicopters out of the air. All the phone calls, postcards, letters, petitions, etc. are not helping - our elected officials are not listening. Responses from the BLM and/or the DOI lead you to their website and nowhere else. Shelley Berkley and Dina Titus are the only two that have stood up for our horses and their not being heard either. I'm at wits end as to how "we the people" can save our wild horses. I truly believe that the DOI, BLM and Forest Service are out to decimate ALL OF AMERICA'S ICONS OF THE WEST - wild horses, wolves and Yellowstone bison and sadly they are getting away with it.

  2. Wonderful post, Elyse. As usual. I'm sending it to my elected "representatives" in DC. Must keep trying.

  3. If a youngster cannot keep up-----THE PILOT IS GOING TOO FAST! SLOW DOWN you creeps!

  4. Who is the contractor of the pilot harrassing and terrorizing the yearling? We need to demand they stop this.

  5. OMWord...I'm sick. What my poor gal must have gone through just to be "adopted"!! The first time! We only know a small portion of her story... With you Elyse...thanks for opening my eyes.

  6. I cried along with you.. I have a Twin Peaks mare and she is so very special to me. Watching the video, I see so much of her as a youngster in this colt. It troubles me that they are allowed to be so rough and cruel during the roundups. There is no way a baby should be pushed that hard, nor horses who are already struggling to keep up.

  7. Before each wild horse round up public comments are requested, yet thousands of wild horses are haphazardly rounded up on our public lands. Many wild horses and burros are still sent to slaughterhoused in Canada and Mexico.
    After wild horse roundups result in numerous deaths, an uprising of public discontent prompts rallies and protest. Yet shortly after these rallies, more roundups continue.
    Over the years, petitions have been signed by thousands of people including several children who all ask the U.S. Government to stop the roundups. Yet more roundups take place.
    It is time for a new approach: identify source company that is directly behind BLM wild horse roundups, organize a mass boycott of that source's products and by doing so..wring their necks.
    Horse advocates have acted bravely and admirably for decades. Yet cries for positive change in the wild horse and burros program go unanswered by the Obama administration.
    There is no respect for the fact that we pay for public lands with our hard earned tax dollars.
    It is time for a revolution.

  8. I,m not a Pilot, or anything, but, just to clear something here, I did have friends with pleasure helicopters, and they ARE NOT ALLOWED to fly so low at this level, i think, due to an accident, he will be blamed for that...if anything happens.How Cruel, how sad, how dicusting, can this man get? I honor the women, filming this,, my deepest concerns. Just Unbelievable!!