Saturday, December 24, 2011


            Laura Leigh and I light candles in front of the Gerlach Eight, a little eight-horse herd/band (seen behind us) beloved by the town of Gerlach, Nevada, joining the nationwide Candlelight Vigil commemorating the 40th anniversary of President Nixon's signing the 1971 Wild Horse and Burro Act into law. 
           These horses lived just outside of Gerlach, a town in the Calico Herd Management Area which is presently undergoing yet a second massive roundup of wild horses in less than two years.  BLM rounded up this iconic little band two days after these photos were taken.  
           §1331 (first paragraph) of the 1971 Act:
                      Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
            That Congress finds and declares that wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; that they contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people; and that these horses and burros are fast disappearing from the American scene. It is the policy of Congress that wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death; and to accomplish this they are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands.   
(Section 1 of what has come to be commonly known as the historic 1971 Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act, which I will often refer to as The Act or the 1971 Act.)

Pryor Mountain wild horses:  Montana's last wild horse herd of under 160 horses, and BLM wants to round up more of them this year. 
                   NOTE:  In 1971, when The Act was passed, wild horses were found on approximately 53 million acres in the west.  Today that is down to approximately 26 million acres which BLM designates Herd Management Areas ("HMAs").  
             I'm back in the stark, beautiful Calico Herd Management Area of Nevada to share the Watch of another massive wild horse roundup by the Bureau of Land Management less than two years after the last massive and deadly Calico roundup.

             Here is a rare glimpse I was able to put together from the Twin Peaks roundup of 2010 of some of what goes on "behind the scenes" with the helicopter and the horses in the mountains during the hours before they reach the trap pen:
Here is the only time I was ever permitted close enough to document the respiration rate of  wild horses 35 minutes after a 10.8-mile (as the crow flies) helicopter chase:
                I would like to hear from some veterinarians concerning what we see here.  You can email me at  
            In January/February 2010, I witnessed the BLM peel 1,922 wild horses from their historic mountain homes, families, and freedom.  In the weeks following that ugly roundup in the dead of winter, over 100 mares spontaneously aborted, and we had a total of over 140 deaths during and after the helicopter chase.  
           Perhaps you recall Freedom, the black stallion who escaped from temporary holding at the trap site by jumping a six-foot fence and breaking through a barbed wire fence as they were "sorting" horses 10 minutes after capture.  Here are some of the stunning horses from Calico whose loss of freedom also means the end of  their genetic contribution to future generations.  Taking a quick trip down memory lane...
                              Tomahawk and Redman captured 1/16/10
                    Commander  (left) and General (right), captured 1/16/10, inseparable friends, both over 20 years old
                            Lightning and son, captured January 2010
           BLM is now looking to chase all 1300 horses they believe to be on the mountain into their capture pens, and,
         They say they plan to release up to 350 horses so as to permanently remove 950. 85 to 115 will be PZP treated mares, with a two-year infertility drug. 
          BLM has selected an "Appropriate Management Level" for what they've now expanded into a "Tri-State Complex" of nearly 600,000 acres:  572 to 952 wild horses and only 39-65 wild burros.  Sigh. 
           These are absurdly low figures on this large HMA, with wild horses vastly outnumbered by cattle even though cattle have 160 million acres of public land on which to graze. 
          The part I find particularly egregious, discredits BLM, and confirms to me that BLM has a callous disregard for these animals is this:  
          BLM plans to round up all the horses up first, breaking up every band as they come in, then release handpicked horses, a direct assault on the very core of the wild horse social structure because done in this way 
this plan will systematically, unnecessarily, decimate every single family band, creating social chaos.  Wild horses live in close-knit bands a stallion has spent his life building.  He wins and loses mares over time.  For the government agency tasked with this animal's protection and care to destroy this, by design, is the height of -- what? Pick one: Callousness, or ignorance? 
           Neither is acceptable, especially when BLM proved, in the Pryor Mountain wild horse roundup of 2009, it can round up wild horses and maintain the integrity of each family band through all phases of the process — meaning each band had its own pen; horses to be removed were removed, and then each band was released as a unit, with at least several minutes in between releases.  
           So BLM's current SOP (standard operating procedure) doesn't even begin to meet the Act's charge that: 
§1333(a)  ...All management activities shall be at the minimal feasible level ... 
            BLM is implementing untested, radical methods whose effects on the wild horse and burro populations are unknown, in its determination to minimize wild horses and burros on the western public lands, without waiting for the results of a two-year National Academy of Sciences study that is just getting under way to assess the Wild Horse and Burro Program and BLM's methods (more on the study in a future edition). 
            One wonders:  what on earth is the frantic hurry?  Or what in earth, as in uranium, gold, silver, natural gas?  Geothermal projects? — two of which are on track for the Calico complex soon... 
            These unvetted methods have drawn lawsuits from wild horse and burro advocacy groups, joined by Western Watersheds, which is not traditionally a "wild horse advocacy" group. 
      Specifically, BLM is gambling with wild horse and burro futures because in efforts to slow or stop population growth: 
                  A) BLM is planning to geld 200 studs and return these castrated horses/geldings to the range and manage them as a "nonreproducing herd."  This will significantly alter wild horse social structure in some unknown way. There are no geldings in the natural order of wild horse social structure.  There are no studies of wild horse HMAs, nor bands, nor herds, nor groups, nor anything,  where this has been done that anyone has produced.
                       This has not been studied at all, yet BLM is planning this approach in nearly all its plans for the various Herd Management Areas across the west.   

                      BREAKING NEWS:  As of this writing and only after The Cloud Foundation, Western Watersheds Project, and others filed suit to stop BLM from carrying out this massive gelding release in the Pancake complex, BLM has backed down and removed this "alternative" from their plan in that HMA.  This gelding strategy, however, remains a key component in BLM's management plans, and wild horse advocates are required to sue the BLM in each individual HMA (Herd Management Area)  to stop its implementation to protect the integrity of the wild horse herd structure.  This was the second HMA where suit was filed and BLM backed down and abandoned the plan for the moment. 
                       BLM was also going to zero out — remove all wild horses from — the Jake's Wash region of the Pancake complex, as if 26 million acres down from 53 million wasn't low enough.  Thanks to the lawsuit, they have let go of this plan.   
                  B)  Again, despite the absence of any study of consequences to the horses or the environment, BLM continues to skew the gender ratios, i.e., returning 60 percent stallions and 40 percent mares to the wild, in virtually all the Herd Management Areas where it is rounding up and releasing horses.
                        They also skew the sex ratio in CTR ("Catch, Treat, Release") roundups after PZP is administered to mares, an infertility drug.  The PZP in use is a two-year infertility drug called  PZP-22. 
                        It's not rocket science to deduce that skewed gender ratios -- decreasing the number of mares available to already competitive studs -- alters the herd dynamic, but how much?  Can we get at least a five-year study first, please?
                 And PZP-22 does not alter a mare's hormones, so she continues to go into heat and be vigorously pursued by studs monthly.  (PZP creates a virtually impenetrable surface to the ovum thereby preventing sperm from fertilizing it.) 
                I am incredulous at how irresponsible it is of BLM to foist these radical practices on these simple yet highly sophisticated, social animals with no studies.   My trust in my government has plummeted since I've learned of these practices.  We can't click "undo," either,  once it's done.   
  Beautiful stud captured recently in current roundup.
Back on the grueling roundup schedule
                 Up at 3:30 a.m. to be on the road by 4:30 a.m.,  drive to Gerlach to meet at BLM's Black Rock Station at 7 a.m. ...
... then drive across the surreal Playa, the salt flats, our speeding tires filling the air with toxic alkali dust...
... then bouncing through miles into the mountains on accordian/waffled, jarring gravel roads that shake my sleepy brain almost awake to finally arrive, signaled to park on the side of the dirt “road” by my pleasant BLM ranger-escort, familiar from last Calico roundup, who now feels more like a distant cousin I’ve run into at the funeral of a mutual relative.  It’s nearly 9:00 a.m.
           Stepping out of the car, I feel we are trespassers in the middle of the silent majesty of the wild horses’ mountain home, particularly in view of what BLM is there to do.  Some members of the silent peace patrol, the majestic guardians of the mountains — the unsuspecting wild horses — are now taking their last mouthfuls of precious free-roaming forage.  I steel myself to stay focused, prepare my gear for the hike to the designated observation place.
            By the way, the little Gerlach band of wild horses BLM rounded up tell a different version of the events than BLM; it wasn't as pretty as BLM first led us to believe, i.e., "No problem; they went right in.  Piece of cake." 
            But this is more than enough for now.  It is Christmas, and I have another message to write to give you all, so I'm going to stop here.  
             I've been away from the computer with my mustang filly these few months, learning from her about mustangs in a whole new dimension, and I am profoundly moved by these individuals, more so than ever.  I've also been dealing with some medical issues and mustang matters  (not life threatening, just hampered my work) issues.  Soon I will share what the Gerlach horses told me directly, and they can tell you themselves. 
             I am glad for what little I am able to do, though, for these animals for whom we must never stop standing up.  They are very special, indeed. 


Merry Christmas, everyone.
       What is Christmas? In honor of this significant holiday, on behalf of the wild horses, I want to step outside the box...
Pryor Mountains bachelor band
        Whether one adheres to a Christian faith or not, the Christmas story is one which teaches that God took the initiative and reached out to offer forgiveness to his creation which is ensconced in corruption and self-centeredness and where God was largely ignored or rejected.   And the story states that at great personal, sacrificial cost, God offered forgiveness to many who didn't even know or acknowledge they'd done anything wrong.
         So Christmas is really a model of humble forgiveness, of a wronged party being willing to take the initiative to mend fences with the offending party.  Hmm.
         The Christian faith teaches that man is the only part of creation that requires forgiveness, but the entire creation is affected by man's relationship with his creator.  We also get a wonderful model of forgiveness in the animals, who are generally very forgiving, some more than others, willing so often to forgive and trust us again, and again....and again.
        The premise is that man needs forgiveness.
         I need forgiveness.   I can guarantee I will sooner or later either do or say something that will require someone's forgiveness; or someone will harm me, real or imagined, and I will hopefully become willing to forgive them.  And there is nothing sweeter than to hear my friend say, "No worries, I forgive you," and not keep beating me up with my wrong.  Likewise, offering the gift of forgiveness feels so very good to the one offering, surprisingly.  But sometimes we really have to wrestle to become willing to forgive.
         So the great gift and meaning of Christmas, as I understand it, is all about the amazing issue of forgiveness.  The free, yet costly gift.  It means I give up my right to remind you of your wrongs.  It means I give up my right to discuss them with others.  It means we move forward.
         We all need forgiveness, don't we?
         And is there someone, or a group of someones, who needs your forgiveness?
        So often we judge one another and write each other off, and that's it:  that person is a  "bigmouth"; "she is a tale-teller, a gossip"; "cheat," a "liar"; "Jake cheated me.  He borrowed money and never even called to apologize for not paying it back."  And we tell all kinds of people...more wrong done.
         It's always going to be something because this is a corrupt world with imperfect people.  It helped me to learn that "Forgive"is a banking term, means a debt has been canceled and you no longer owe the bank, for instance, anything.  You expect nothing of one another anymore.   They expect nothing from you; you expect nothing from them.  It goes both ways.  Doesn't mean you love the person or institution or would do business with them again; it's just an ability to accept things as is, right now, and fluidly move on, not bringing up the old debt which has been canceled.
       QUESTION:  Is it possible you might be committing a greater wrong than was done against you by your rancor and self-righteous judgement against someone who has perhaps wronged you, and for talking about it and keeping it going?
        I want to challenge all of us reading this to venture to give the precious, priceless gift of forgiveness in this last week of 2011 so that we all might start 2011 moving forward for the horses, for a better world.  Or at least begin to wrestle with the issue if you are unwilling at this time.  After all, holding on to resentment is like drinking poison and expecting it to affect someone else.  Forgiveness makes room for new growth, for all kinds of good things.
       Are we willing to bury old hatchets for the sake of seeing what new good thing can grow in place of all this bitter baggage we may be dragging along?  Doesn't mean we have to have a hug fest, but leaving room for a power greater than ourselves, whom I call God, to restore, and to do new things.
       Just some things to think about... thanks for bearing with my diversion from my usual blog, but it is all related.  There is also a new blog post up just before this one, containing three new videos (one revisited one, actually).  I hope you will take the time to peruse it.
  And now about the horses:

          I came upon this thought provoking passage the other day in the Old Testament book of Zechariah, an Old Testament prophet, in the first chapter.
            7  Upon the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, which is the month of Shebat, in the second year of the reign of Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo, the prophet. Zechariah said,
            8  I saw in the night [vision] and behold, a [a]Man riding upon a red horse, and He stood among the myrtle trees that were in a low valley or bottom, and behind Him there were horses, red, bay or flame-colored, and white.
           9  Then said I, O my lord, what are these? And the [b]angel who talked with me said, I will show you what these are.

          10  And the Man who stood among the myrtle trees answered and said, These are they whom the Lord has sent to walk to and fro through the earth and patrol it.
          11  And they answered [c]the Angel of the Lord Who stood among the myrtle trees and said, We have walked to and fro through the earth [patrolling it] and behold, all the earth sits at rest [in peaceful security].

         Now, I don't want to make a new religion out of this passage, but I will simply say, hmmm.  It is fitting, is it not?  Whether symbolism or God has created and commissioned the horses as watchers of the earth, those who patrol and report back, these great, magnificent, peaceable creatures are like the canaries in the mines, whom the miners used to assess the conditions in the mine by lowering a canary into the mine shaft before humans descended.  If the lowered canary got sick or died, the workers knew it was toxic. 
        The Creator can come alongside and see, How are my horses?  What do they perceive?  How are they being treated?

     Pryor Mountain bachelor boys
   Because if God ordained that horses patrol and go to and fro and report, he wants the report from their eyes, and their perspective matters to God.  Hmmm.  Something to think about...  I don't claim to understand this passage or God's entire intent.  But the passage really bears some consideration.   I do understand that whatever it means in its fullness, these animals are unique and wonderfully special and deserving of our best, of far better than the lot mankind has dealt/is dealing so many of them, and in the new year, I will be working on their behalf.  I can't begin to describe what they give me.
        Just some thoughts.  Merry Christmas.

Friday, September 9, 2011



         I was very moved by these communications I received from a couple of the generous-hearted/handed people who fostered a three of the starving Twin Peaks horses in Michigan  — and I know it sounds dramatic, but these horses really were starving; I do not say that lightly.  I wanted to simply share these with you...
        And as you read, know that they are leaving today for California. Coggins tests were done (a required blood test in order for horses to cross state lines), the horses were all brought to one location, and their trek home will be starting very soon.  Thanks to you...

L to R:  Onyx and Cortez

Hello Elyse...

I was forwarded an e-mail that contained the link to a blog about the Michigan Mustangs that are leaving this week back to California. My name is Joy Aten, and having done mainly TB racehorse rescue for years, I was thrust out of my comfort zone when I was needed to help with the Mustangs. It was truly heart breaking...yet be in their presence, if only for a short time. I shared my heart and my home with Black Onyx and Cortez from June 22 to September 2. I quickly discovered how unique these wild and glorious creatures were, and decided to keep a journal of the "boys". I copied and pasted some of it for you below. Thank you so very much for your loving care and concern, and for doing what you can to let others know of this story of tragedy and triumph. I pray for the return of the other Michigan Mustangs to California soon.

Joy Aten
Hudsonville, Michigan

L to R: Cortez and Onyx,  recovering together at Joy's
         Their first few weeks with me, Onyx was very timid, always keeping Cortez between himself and me. At the end of their stay, Onyx would place himself closer to me. While I cleaned in their paddock and lean-to (which they would both stand in after about 3-4 weeks…Cortez tried it before Onyx, and at first, would only put his front feet in),  they would both come and stand close to me as long as I didn’t face them directly. Onyx would be 12-18 inches from me, with Cortez on the other side of him. I could move about cleaning up manure/hay, and they would just quietly stand there. I never touched them the entire stay, but I am sure they would not have allowed it if I had tried. There were times that I asked them to move away, as I needed to clean up where they were standing. Once Onyx kicked out at me with both hinds as I must have bustled about too fast to suit him. But if I just clucked, they would slowly move away.
         Ten weeks have past since the day they stepped cautiously out of the trailer and into my heart. Physically they have blossomed...their former dull, near-black coats now glisten in deep shades of rich, chocolate brown. I'm amazed at how they shine, given the fact that not one time has a brush touched their compact bodies. The bony prominences are gone, and the neglect they once endured is no longer evident. Yet all is not well with them. My own horses were in close proximity (not over a fence, but in range where they could easily see each other), but Onyx and Cortez never paid any attention to them…it was almost as if they weren’t even there. It was odd, especially because my horses would daily come to the corner of their own paddock to get as close as possible, straining to see what Onyx and Cortez were up to. But the two were indifferent and uninterested...there was never any playing or running for the sheer joy of it...nothing.

          I have cried many tears for them, watching them in an enclosure where they didn't belong and in an environment they could never thrive in. An entire year has past since their lives were stolen from them, yet the troubled and unsettled look remains in their is unlike anything I have ever seen. But at last, they are going home. I will miss them - I will hold them close forever - I will never stop telling their story.

          My deepest thanks to Joy for (1) making her home and world a haven for these lost, starving animals who don't know their place anymore in the world (thank you, DreamCatcher that will soon change); and, (2) sharing her observations, insights, and heart. 
            Here are Duke and Cortez in June 2011.  We can see how bony Duke's croup (bony prominence/final third of his back approaching the tail) and pelvis are becoming, and how his withers (hump where a horse's neck joins his back) protrudes; and how very thin Cortez already is. 

          And now here are some unsolicited, very much appreciated comments from Linda Jackman, who fostered Duke for the last two months. . .

         Thought I'd share these photos of Duke, taken just minutes before he was loaded yesterday.  Isn't he just the most handsome boy ever?

         Just food for thought.... If anyone is hitting the "kill" pen on Friday mornings at Shipshewana and they run across a BLM mustang in the kill pen, we will take it in, for that matter any horse that needs saving..... I am feeling very needy today.... I just miss Duke so much, it's amazing even tho we only had him a short few months, what a impact he had on my life and he taught me a thing or two as well...
           As of 9 a.m. this morning, September 9, 2011, they are on their way home... 

           Thank you, Joy, Linda and John, all the foster guardians; Jodi Louth and the Michigan Horse Welfare Coalition, who has been amazing, for everything you are doing for the horses.  God bless you each in all you do.
For the wild horses all, captive and free, and their humble burro friends,
all those who were, and those yet to be,
           Elyse Gardner

Wild Mustangs in Michigan Head Home to California
September 9, 2011 – For Immediate Release
Contact: Jodi Louth, MHWC – 734-476-2552; 
                Barbara Clarke, DreamCatcher --  530-260-0377

The Michigan Horse Welfare Coalition (MHWC) announces the shipment of nine wild mustangs from a location in west Michigan to the DreamCatcher Wild Horse and Burro Sanctuary in California at approximately 9:00 am this moring, Friday, September 9th, 2011.  The shipment of eight adult mustangs and one foal is expected to arrive at the northeastern California sanctuary approximately 48 hours after departure.   
The eight adult mustangs were part of an original shipment of 29 mustangs to Allegan County, Michigan in February of 2011. The mustangs were purchased by Wendi Bierling for approximately $20 each from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) after being captured during a roundup in California in August of 2010. 
               In May of 2011, Bierling contacted the MHWC Hay Bank for assistance in feeding the horses, but her application was denied after it was discovered during a mandatory site visit by MHWC volunteers that many of the horses in Bierling’s care were allegedly being grossly neglected, violating Michigan’s anti-cruelty statute. It was also discovered that Bierling allegedly intended to breed the mustangs, which is against MHWC’s policy for hay assistance
The MHWC contacted Allegan County Animal Control, which prompted an investigation and subsequent charge recommendation that Allegan County Prosecutor Fred Anderson refused to pursue. Approximately 16 of the mustangs remain under Bierling’s care and control despite numerous offers from the public to rehome the horses.
                “It was a bittersweet moment, watching the mustangs pull away in the truck this morning. We’re so happy for the nine that are going, but sad for the ones being left behind,” says Jodi Louth, Hay Bank Coordinator for the MHWC.  “All 29 mustangs and their foals should have been on the truck to California today.”
                   Barbara Clarke, wild horse expert and director of the 2,000-acre DreamCatcher Wild Horse and Burro Sanctuary in Ravendale, California, contacted the MHWC after hearing about the plight of the mustangs and offered them a permanent home as soon as the horses were healthy enough again to travel.
                   “We are only twenty miles from the Twin Peaks Horse Management Area where these horses were thriving prior to the BLM rounding them up,” says Clarke.  “We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to bring the horses back home where they belong and in an environment they are familiar with.  After all they have been through they deserve their freedom back.
                      View public facebook photo album of today’s events here (higher quality photos  available upon request).  The MHWC grants permission for any media use of photos.
View two short YouTube videos of horses leaving here:
The Michigan Horse Welfare Coalition is committed to enhancing the lives of all equines in Michigan through education and assistance to the owners, and when necessary, the prosecution of persons who commit acts of cruelty against equines contrary to existing laws.

Monday, September 5, 2011


(My earnest gratitude to Jodi Louth of the Michigan Horse Welfare Coalition and other committed California advocates for making their photos available to us.)  


MEET Keeley the day after her capture from the lush Twin Peaks, California wild horse range.  Notice (above right photo) the nicely rounded hip, the little heart-shaped indent in the middle of her spine (just to the right of her left eye) illustrating how filled out she was, how the muscle and flesh thoroughly cover and pad her spine.  This is a healthy horse "in good flesh."

Keeley managing to sustain her new foal,  Firehawk, 4 months later in Michigan, where she was allowed to starve along with most of the 28 other horses bought by Wendi Bierling.  Seriously underweight, her spine is clearly visible here and we can count individual ribs.  Her skeleton is evident and there is no curve or roundedness remaining anywhere.   This was the typical look of most of the horses left in Wendi Bierling's care.

FINALLY, an update on the Twin Peaks horses stranded in Michigan.  Of the original 29 horses who were sold to a woman in Michigan — claiming to have homes for them but who ended up abysmally neglected and starving —  eight horses and a new foal will next week be heading to west their forever home at for DreamCatcher Wild Horse and Burro sanctuary.   
         While the Allegan County Sheriff recommended prosecution of Wendi Bierling for her failure to care for or obtain veterinary care for these animals, the Prosecutor failed to act, and Ms. Bierling retained control of most of these animals.  She still has a chance to do the right thing by facilitating the return of the remaining horses in her control.  
           Two of the original 29 lost their lives in Michigan (see my earlier blog at Updated: Twin Peaks Horses Stranded and Starving in Michgan...) 
           Barbara Clarke, Director of the northern California, 2,000-acre wild horse and burro sanctuary, has worked hard and is committed to restoring the lives of the remaining horses by getting them home — or as close to home as possible.  DreamCatcher is only 20 miles from these horses' wild habitat which they were chased from by helicopter in August of 2010.  I defer to Barbara; let's hear it with her own words in this UPDATE she publicized on August 30:
Aug 30, 2011
Twin Peaks Horses Set to Come Home
Despite a plethora of obstacles determined to prevent the return of the Twin Peaks horses to California, we now have 3 geldings, 4 mares and one mare/foal pair set to head west.  If...we can raise the rest of the transport money.  And in these tough economic times this is going to be no small feat. 
So we are going to sweeten the deal by offering a Catherine Scott photo of the Twin Peaks horses to any donor giving at least $100 and for donations of at least $1000 a VIP tour of DreamCatcher, participation in our 2012 spring release of the horses onto summer grazing, and two night stay at the resort in Eagle Lake (donated) which is only 20min away.
We have been able to reduce the transport costs from $18,500 to $10,500 and we have already paid a nonrefundable $1000 deposit.  The final quote was given to us by Bob Hubbard Equine Transportation and includes a large and comfortable van which they are going to retrofit for the mustangs.  Hubbard is scheduled to pickup the horses in Michigan September 9 and they will arrive at DreamCatcher approximately 2 and a half days later.  Once here they will be immediately released into a large pasture area where they can run. roll and enjoy some freedom amongst the sights and smells they are familiar with.  They will be back HOME.
Those wishing to help us bring these horses back home may donate:
  • On-line by going to our web site and click on the donate button
  • By mail:  DreamCatcher, PO Box 9, Ravendale CA 96123 or
  • Call the office for a credit card donation 530-260-0148 
        Remember, this is a time sensitive situation since horses are scheduled to be picked up September 9th in Michigan.
The horses who are returning to California are listed below and you can see some photos on this link
# 1765 Keeley - red spot appy mare with appy colt
# 1994 no name - buckskin mare - dun colt not coming
# 1981 Jewel - sorrel mare
# 1755 no name - drk grey mare w/black mane - colt not coming
#  2006 chocolate brown pinto mare w/white spot on left side
# 1598 Duke - light dun buckskin gelding
# 1557 Onyx - black gelding star & cropped ear
# 1523 Cortez - black gelding w/4 white socks
While we were not able to get possession of the rest of the horses at this time, we - along with the Michigan Horse Welfare Coalition - will be monitoring the situation and will come to the aide of any of the horses that may need us in the future.  We will not give up until we know all of the Twin Peaks horses are safe and happy.
Thank You For Caring
Left:    Jewel at her worst, and getting ready to foal.  Her foal didn't survive
Right:  Gaining weight and strength, ready to make the trip.  Hang in there, Jewel, you are almost home.  
     AS OF September 1, 2011, generous, caring people have taken action, and the $10,500 has more than been reached.  We cannot thank you enough!  
         If you still would like to be a part of restoring these horses and providing for their ongoing maintenance — the most expensive part of owning a horse — the invitation to give still stands, and so do the Thank-You Gifts as stated above, i.e.,  the tour of DreamCatcher Wild Horse and Burro Sanctuary, participation in the summer pasture release, and the Catherine Scott photo of the Twin Peaks horses to those who give as indicated above.   
         Additional donations will be used to purchase extra hay, put up new fencing for the new arrivals, and, best of all, some put aside for another future group of Twin Peaks horses stranded in Michigan to return home.  There are already stirrings in that direction, and we are committed to bringing each and every one back we can.  
         You can view the list of returning horses along with some photos at the Where the Wild Horses Are blog. 
          To my readers:  It's great to "see" you again!  This blog has been "silent" since July, but I have continued engaged for the wild horses as well as more personally involved with them than ever.  I have departed from California and am currently in Colorado in a remote area with inconceivably slow internet where it is difficult to even load photographs on this blog and nearly impossible to watch Youtube videos.
           But I am here with my mustang filly which BLM shipped all the way from Nevada to Nebraska back in May 2010 despite my being actively engaged in adopting her; that is another story I will share with you and Congress at another time.  
           Please do check in periodically as I will be updating and posting.   And the links at the front of this blog are vital in helping us continue to take action on behalf of the wild horses, who need us more than ever as BLM contemplates creating "nonreproducing herds" using permanent infertility methods (i.e., releasing large populations of geldings and/or spayed mares, a dangerous and costly procedure), which of course make these horses no longer wild populations, and thus BLM would be in violation of the law they are charged to carry out, i.e., managing wild horses in the wild with "minimum feasible" (the legal language) interference.  
For the wild horses, captive and free, and their humble burro friends,
all who were and those yet to be,
Elyse Gardner, Humane Advocate Observer

Friday, July 1, 2011


Majestic, muscled wild horses just four months ago, these intelligent, formerly self-reliant animals are treated like inanimate trash by Michigan Prosecutor Fred Anderson

as he forces them to remain in the control of the person who starved them.
Photo by Jonathan Gruenke/Gazette
 Meet Romeo the day of his capture in September 2010/BLM photo in public domain
Romeo on 6/8/11 after 4 months with Wendy Bierling, 
and under Sheriff's Dept. monitoring for 2 1/2 weeks. 
Has he been wearing this drag line for four months? 
These horses should be under the conservatorship of the Michigan Horse 
Welfare Coalition's experienced horsepeople, not the Allegan Sheriff's Department.
               (Romeo's ID is courtesy of Where the Wild Horses Are   (visit for well documented before-and-after photos of other Twin Peaks horses in Michigan hell. — Can you tell I'm not okay with this?)
Conrad Burns, R-Montana
               If you are new to this blog, please visit my previous blog post at this link for the background on these Twin Peaks horses.

               BLM's policy of selling *sale authority horses en masse very cheap, thanks to the Burns Amendment of 2005, is the proximate cause  (legalese for "primary cause") for these abused horses' situation.  So although these Twin Peaks/ Michigan horses have riveted our attention, we can rest agitated that this goes on all the time, and worse.  
               Even some good people in the BLM were griefstricken when this law was passed because they understood that it makes it easy for profiteers to purchase these horses for any number of unwholesome purposes and that many horses would certainly be doomed to hellish ends because of it.  Senator Conrad Burns, a Montana rancher and anti-wild horse legislator, slipped his "rider" in late at night when our legislature was trying to conclude its business to go on break, and no one even realized it was attached to a bill that everyone already knew was going to pass.  It was slick, below-the-belt political maneuvering, but legal.  And the horses, as is historically always the case, are the ones who pay the price.
                 BTW:  Former Montana Senator Burns received substantial contributions from admitted felon and former super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff.  Burns received $137,000 in campaign contributions and PAC contributions from Abramoff, his lobbying firm and his Indian clients from 2000 to 2002. These donors contributed 42 percent of the total money received by Burns’ soft-money political action committee over the period. [Washington Post, 3/1/2005] He may still be indicted for taking bribes from convicted Republican lobbyist Jack Abramhof.
(Source:  PublicCitizen "Hall of Shame")

*SALE AUTHORITY horse:  a horse age 10 or older; or, a younger horse who's been offered at three "adoption" events, including online, but has not been "adopted."

               I do know, however, that Wendi Bierling was frustrated in November 2010 because sale authority horses or not, BLM was requiring her to meet certain specifications, and she felt they were giving her a hard time.   Way to go, BLM.  Ms. Bierling contacted the advocate community looking for support in getting her load of sale authority horses from BLM. Personally, I was not comfortable with her or her plan and did not respond.  Several  BLM officials have told me they were uncomfortable with it at the time, and a top ranking official feels what she has done is "despicable" because "she let things go too long before asking for help."
               I encourage readers who are disturbed at Prosecutor Anderson's inaction to express your feelings to Allegan Prosecutor Fred Anderson, Allegan Sheriff's Dept. Lt. Baker, Animal Control, and to the Fox News team who covered this story at:,,,,
Commander, proud, seasoned 25-year-old band stallion 
safe at Return to Freedom
Michigan Horse Welfare Coalition: No Celebrating for Michigan Mustangs this Holiday Weekend
For Immediate Release
June 30, 2011 – The Michigan Horse Welfare Coalition (MHWC) wishes to express extreme disappointment with the decision by the Allegan County Prosecutor’s office today not to pursue any animal cruelty charges in the case of 25 wild Mustangs owned by Wendy Bierling in Allegan. The prosecuting attorney’s decision comes despite investigating officer Sgt. Kuhn’s recommendation of 16 counts of animal cruelty.

During a May 22nd visit to Bierling’s farm, MHWC representatives witnessed what they felt to be a clear-cut case of animal neglect under the definition of Michigan’s anti-cruelty statute, and contacted Allegan County law enforcement to express their concern for the horses’ welfare. MCL 750.50 requires that animals receive adequate care, defined as “sufficient food, water, shelter, sanitary conditions, exercise and veterinary medical attention in order to maintain an animal in a state good health.”  The statute further defines “neglect” as failure to “sufficiently and properly care for an animal to the extent that the animal’s health is jeopardized.”

The visit from MHWC representatives was a standard site inspection upon receiving Bierling’s application for assistance through the coalition’s Hay Bank. The request was for hay to feed 25 of the original 29 wild Mustangs shipped to Bierling in February of 2011 from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which had rounded up the horses in California the previous August. All of the Mustangs shipped to Bierling were over the age of eleven.  

After assisting with the removal of a horse that was later assessed a body condition score of one  – the lowest score a horse can have and still be alive -- the MHWC confirmed with  Bierling’s own veterinarian that Bierling had never requested his own assessment or treatment of that horse. 

The MHWC provide investigators with an abundance of evidence showing what they felt to be neglect, including photos, veterinarian reports, and multiple eyewitness reports – all showing that Bierling was allegedly not feeding the horses or providing veterinary care. 

“Whether the horses came off the truck sick or not, that was over four months ago.  The bottom line is, these horses weren’t getting enough to eat.  Any horse will starve if they do not have food, and sick horses will continue to decline without veterinary care.  That’s why these provisions are mandated by law.  But what good are laws if they’re not enforced?” says Jodi Louth, MHWC Hay Bank Coordinator. 

“By failing to address what appears to be a clear case of animal neglect, Allegan County is essentially condoning such neglect and even encouraging it to continue. There is absolutely nothing to prevent Wendi Bierling from receiving another shipment of 29 mustangs, and we just hope that Allegan County officials are prepared to deal with it when that happens,” continues Louth.

Jill Fritz, MHWC secretary, adds: “The neglect of any animal, including horses, is explicitly prohibited under Michigan's animal cruelty statute. Financial hardship or lack of knowledge about proper horse care is not an excuse to ignore the law.” She continued, “Michiganders care about animals and want those who neglect or abuse them to be held accountable. The Michigan Horse Welfare Coalition hopes that the Allegan County will join other county prosecuting attorneys who are aggressively pursuing charges against those who harm animals in our state.”

The MHWC and its Hay Bank were founded in January 2010 and has since helped to feed over 101 horses throughout Michigan.  

For more information, please visit  
High quality photos of the Mustangs available upon request.  
269/673-0280  Prosecuting Attorney Fred Anderson
5859 W. Saginaw Hwy, #273, LansingMI 48917  (517) 321-368

Response of Humane Observer Elyse Gardner to Michigan's failure to protect these horses
        ANNOUNCMENT THAT HE IS NOT FILING CHARGES           mailed to:,,,,,

To Prosecutor Fred Anderson and Other Respected Members of Our Public Trust,

I am profoundly disappointed in your handling of this matter involving Wendi Bierling and her obvious alleged criminal neglect of our Twin Peaks wild horses. It is difficult to comprehend the fear you all seem to have of taking action. The public trust suffers nearly as much as the horses when public officials see such egregious harm done and do nothing. This is very bad for public morale in these difficult times and results in young and old alike having no respect for the law, and, indeed, why should we? Michigan law requires the appropriate care, feed, housing, veterinary care, and general humane maintenance of animals, and the fact that Ms. Bierling never consulted her vet for a Hennecke Score 1 horse who was perfectly sound upon arrival tells us she was not providing anything close to this legal standard.

I believe your inaction may actually constitute actionable offenses under Michigan statute since you know more abuse is about to continue and turn a blind eye. Your failure to act will now cause direct suffering to at least 6 of these animals since Ms. Bierling plans to sell them to a Florida man, thereby subjecting them to an arduously long trip reliable sources say they are not yet ready to endure, only to arrive in a state known to have a penchant for horseflesh, illegal in the U.S. but practiced in Florida nonetheless.

I address also the blatant untruths told by the Prosecutor in his recent announcement stating Michigan authorities will continue to monitor these horses. I know Mr. Anderson has knowledge of Ms. Bierling's plans to sell these horses out of state on Saturday, July 2, yet he announced to the press that authorities will continue to monitor the horses. Really? I presume he meant for the next 48 hours. He has not returned either of my two calls although I informed him I was writing an article and would be glad to hear his perspective.

I hope the immorality of your inaction, as well as the illegality of it, strikes at your hearts, and perhaps in a fit of conscience, patriotism, compassion, and respect for the oaths of office you have taken will result in action that will protect these animals, and you will reconsider your decision promptly, and take action which will prevent the transfer of these animals beyond the protective reach of anyone who truly cares for them.

Very truly yours,

Elyse Gardner
Humane Advocate Observer 
Twin Peaks stallion with affectionate, playful son wanting attention
I received a copy of this terrific letter written by an advocate in Colorado and felt it should be included here because being a native of Switzerland, which has tremendous animal protection laws in place, she suggests positive measures Allegan, Michigan, and all of the United States can and should take to prevent recurrences of this nightmare for these depleted Twin Peaks wild horses. Here it is:

To Prosecutor Fred Anderson and Other Members of Our Public Trust
RE: Wendi Bierling / severely neglected horses in Michigan
I amongst thousands of others across the nation are extremely dismayed at the inaction of Michigan Prosecutor Fred Anderson. Please read on.

         Since the way a DA works is to prosecute only cases they can easily win with the least expenditure of funds -  in other words at election time, the DA must show a high number of convictions - one would think this case clearly calls for your duty to act, lucidly reflecting severe neglect, un-American and not tolerated by anyone with a conscience.

         This case could set the precedent to improve the much needed animal welfare laws in your area. It is very regretful that it always takes an animal to suffer extremely before any laws are changed. And the wheel of bureaucracy often is obscuring a simple outline of strict and applicable standards to protect animals from neglect and abuse, which is appalling.  Animals deserve to fall under the governance of strict protection laws, specially in a modern society such as America. Yet, the lack of protection pertaining to such laws is a pity. I often wonder why this country is so behind when it comes to protecting the innocent and helpless. Where I grew up, in Switzerland, they have now some of the best animal protection laws in the world, a very thorough 160–page animal protection law.  It governs everything from how much space owners must give their gerbils, to the water temperature for frogs.  It outlines that social animals such as pigs and birds must have companions and that horses and cows get regular exercise.  It even requires guardians of dogs to take a training course on how to care for their pets.  And of course the law also forbids cruelty and abuse. What that reflects is a high standards of education on animals, so people know more on the ownership and needs of said animals. 

           Animal abuse is a serious problem and recent occurrences have highlighted the need for examining this issue more closely to determine new strategies for preventing abuse and handling abuse cases. For this reason, your county ought to establish an Anti-Animal Abuse Task Force comprised of city officials, Animal Control, animal volunteer groups and the public to devise methods to better prevent and prosecute animal abuse, such as the case of Wendi Bierling. The Task Force could convene on a monthly basis and is responsible for making recommendations to the Mayor about ways to prevent the mistreatment of animals, and eradicate animal abuse altogether. Members could also be charged with developing additional recommendations regarding:

           • Legislation that will protect animals and prosecute abusers,
            The training of law enforcement officials on how to handle animal cruelty cases humanely and to ensure how to acquire the best evidence to prosecute animal abusers,
           • Methods of increasing awareness of animal cruelty laws, 
           • Necessary steps to foster improved response to incidents of animal cruelty
           • Methods of improving training for Animal Control Officers for their protection as well as the animals.

           You could be optimistic that the efforts of this Task Force will help improve the tools available to law enforcement and prosecutors for handling these types of cases.  I ask that you consider the case of Bierling to be severe enough for you to act now - before history repeats itself again.
Monika Courtney,
Evergreen, CO

Thank you for speaking out for these horses.