Saturday, December 18, 2010


           Warm season's greetings to all.  It is a special, vulnerable time of year.  Joyful for many, filled with bittersweet memories for many, very lonely for others. My heart remains with the wild horses and burros while they try to winter together and have their lives turned upside-down with these violent helicopter removals.  As always, I speak from the horses' point of view:  Being chased by a helicopter is a violent removal.    
           First I want to bring you just a couple of sweet photos.  These are two of my Calico girls rescued and living at DreamCatchers Wild Horse and Burro Sanctuary.    They are adjusted and dealing with the snow right now.  Because they are five closely-knit girls with a smart, self-confident alpha mare, they immediately took their position as the top ranking band.  Here I am with Gypsy, the 2 1/2 year-old girl from the Warm Springs HMA, on only day two of their lives here.  We had connected at Palomino Valley, and when no one was bidding on these girls, "just bays," I knew what I had to do.
                   ©9/2/10 Elyse Gardner
  Gypsy her second day with me at DreamCatchers. 
     You see this green barn?  It is huge.  Barbara leaves it open for the horses to go in in the bad weather.  The Calico girls are the first to scramble in.  Even though they are the most used to bad winters of all the DreamCatchers residents (having grown up in Nevada) they dearly love to stay dry.  At first, Dahlia stayed fearfully outside, but even that very timid girl finally went inside with her little band.  
             ©9/2/10 Elyse Gardner       
           Two of our wild Calico girls their second day at Sanctuary.  Gypsy let me put a fly mask on. 
her to protect her irritated eyes.  Her younger sister, Gemini:  "Hey, What IS that thing?  Are you IN there?  You okay?" 
           Gypsy was amazing.  She was interested, curious, and actually liked the mask.  It gave her irritated eyes some relief.  
          The percentage of horses as fortunate as these is pitifully low.  Sanctuaries are full, and BLM is on a tear rounding up more and more horses. It is incomprehensible when you use their own math and realize how few wild horses are actually still out there.
          Our thanks and prayers go to our eyes in the field right now, Laura Leigh.  I am laid up, very frustrating to be sidelined with a compromised right leg right now, knee and nerve issues following my recent accident and subsequent surgery, and want to express my relief and gratitude that Laura is bringing these images to us.  It is impossible to describe how physically, financially, and emotionally challenging this work is, more-so than anything else I've ever done.
           It's winter weather, cold; so cold some days the helicopter can't fly due to weather.  Laura's traveled several thousand miles in the last couple of months in the course of following these roundups.
Here is some of what's she has documented.


For more, you can visit her blog at
To see additional information and photographs from the field, you can also visit
        Why we go to roundups and to BLM holding facilities; why we do what we do:

          Following through with Laura's articulate talk, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of access to our wild horsese and burros in the BLM holding facilities.  Here is one practical reason why:
          The Indian Lakes Weekly Updates indicates 17 deaths in the last two months, 7 from broken necks/spinal injuries, 5 in the chute.  (Click on the link to see the updates.) This facility is "private," closed to the public, and this state of affairs is unacceptable. 

          This is a very high death rate from these sorts of accidents.  Some study is warranted.  I have numerous questions.  If BLM cares at all for these animals, some study needs to be made and changes implemented to stop these injuries and deaths instead of chalking up a certain measure of suffering as par for the course.  Some visibility is in order.

           In a spirit of what is best for the horses, I would like to know  if BLM is willing to do a serious study and make some modifications as we identify the cause of these fatalities.  
          I acknowledge that if these wild horses are to remain off the range, they need to be identified so we can track them through the system.  Confining them to do this becomes a necessity.  When the confinement is causing so many deaths, study and modifications are long overdue. 
               ©3/9/2010 Elyse Gardner
            ©3/9/2010 Craig Downer
                ©3/9/2010 Craig Downer
              There are too many of these broken necks happening at trap sites and in holding.  If we look at the daily updates for the various ongoing roundups, we see with regularity horses dying of broken necks.    
         It is high time for serious changes to be implemented.  If roundups must happen, then BLM needs to take responsibility for the welfare and safety of these individuals.  These are very frightened individuals; they are not mean or vicious or vindictive.  We need to help them through this alien, terrifying process.  
         This is nothing new.  What is new is that we are documenting all of it and telling the BLM it's time for a change.  BLM may accept broken necks and lame horses as par for the course in helicopter roundups; the American public thinks this agency that is the legal advocate for these horses can and must do better.  And for sure we have a right to see whatever it is that our government is doing with this national treasure, our wild horses and burros.  
              Below are photos from February 2010 at Broken Arrow.  None of the horses in holding facilities across our country have any overhead shelter.  No longer free to find a tree or a gully to break the wind, rain, and snow, the horses and burros are now naked to whatever the weather throws their way.  As I've stated numerous times before, horses can deal with cold, but if they are soaking wet, it is miserable, and I've seen them shiver badly where staying dry they'd be fine.  They can and do get very sick when subjected to the elements in this manner.  The stallions at Return to Freedom have overhead protection, and they love it.  
                   ©2010 Elyse Gardner

                  ©2010 Elyse Gardner

          The BLM shut the public out of the new Broken Arrow holding facility in Fallon, Nevada, in June of this year.  I had watched it fill up with its first horses, from the Calico roundup last January.  BLM was responsive to the public's intense interest and arranged for weekly tours of the facility, but then decided to shut it down just before the Calico internet adoption.  This was a terrific loss to the horses a well as to us all who had grown connected to these horses.
         Aside from the loss, these are America's horses, and I see nothing in the law that says they are to be managed off the range out of public sight.  If private parties want to contract to hold public horses, then accommodation needs to be made for the public to visit.
         I have no idea what is taking place in this facility now. I want to go back and find some horses, see some old friends if they are still there, as well.
         I hope you will seek out the links on the home/front page of this blog to see how you can help rather than sit and feel helpless and bad for the horses and burros.  The American Wild Horse Preservation is a great mailing list to be on; they send out action alerts letting us know where well-timed phone calls and letters will be heard and counted.
          I'm repeating some things in this post.  They bear repeating.  They will bear repeating until changes are implemented.
          Well, this was going to be a short little post, update from the field.  The problem is there is just so much going on.
          More next time.  Many projects to finish.  Meanwhile, please have a safe, spirit-of-the-season kind of Christmas if I don't check in before then.
         Acting as one voice, we have tremendous influence.  It is how HSUS and ASPCA all have the clout they have; their huge, responsive memberships.
         If every one of us who cares will actually take a small action, we will make a difference.
Doing my best to be part of the solution,
For the wild horses and their sturdy little burro friends, captive and free,
Elyse Gardner


  1. This is a terrific documentation of the injustice and cruelty with which the wild horses are being treated. Ho deplorable that only one wild horse per over a thousand acres of legal herd management area remains. This is unnecessary and is overkill on the part of our public servants. There is a better way, but it involves sacrifice of old ways and the adoption of new ways of relating to the Rest of Life here on Planet Earth. I am proposing Reserve Design for naturally self stabilizing populations. This will work but not without caring and effort. It is one of my New Year's resolutions.

  2. Thank you for the update, Elyse. Of course I agree that these deaths cannot be considered "par for the course." I think the major reason for the broken necks is the excess pressure they put on already stressed out horses. We've seen that over and over, with Blue Moon being the most graphic.

    You are having nerve issues in your knee? Please take care of it, because nerve damage is very slow to heal, and sometimes it never goes away completely. I know it must be almost impossible to stay away from the horses, but try to think about the long run. The horses need you.


    Suzanne, Indy and Ami

  3. Thank you for this post. What can we do to address the lack of shelter from the elements; cold snow, rain and wind in the winter and sweltering temperatures and relentless sun in the summer months. It seems to me that withhold this most basic need that is so easily rectified, borders on deliberate cruelty. There must be something we can do. For all the holding facilities.
    Happy Holidays to you and may the New Year bring a miraculous change of heart to those in charge of our wild horses.