Wednesday, June 29, 2011


 Medicine Hat Mustang from Twin Peaks Trapped in Michigan Needs to Come Home
ABOVE and LEFT PHOTOS: TWIN PEAKS MEDICINE HAT:  This horse is over 10 years old and in (CORRECTION) his prime.  He is cut up from the roundup — either from the chute, loading into the trailer, or during the trailer ride itself.  These two photos were taken a day after he was driven in by helicopter.

He has multiple cuts and bruises, but look at his graceful curves and lines, his elegant beauty and self carriage.  You can feel the life in him, and his robust vigor and health are evident.

BELOW:  Can you believe this is the same horse 10 months later?  This horse I call White Magic Mist is now languishing in a Michigan pen and facing possible shipping to Florida.  Note the protruding hipbone.
So this is White Magic Mist 10 months later.  Let's bring (CORRECTION) him  home.
           29 "sale authority" Twin Peaks wild horses began their serious decline in health February 2011 as they arrived in Michigan, shipped by BLM to Wendi Bierling who has a "Sale Authority Mustang" Group at Unbridled Spirit Ranch.  Apparently they started out with a 28-hour trailer ride with no food or water during that time.  Ms. Bierling states she had adopters who fell through.  I don't think she intended harm, but however it happened, she wasn't able to care for them adequately. 
More Twin Peaks Horses from Unbridled Spirit Ranch in Michigan
photo by Jodi Louth Michigan Horse Welfare Coalition
photo by Jodi Louth Michigan Horse Welfare Coalition
photo by Jodi Louth Michigan Horse Welfare Coalition
            These horses have been in the news because they deteriorated so badly that by the time Wendi Bierling asked for help, body scores of 1 and 2 were seen among a number of formerly stunning horses Ms. Bierling saw on my and others' blogs.
            One mare escaped from where she was housed and was shot by a police officer as she was running along a freeway, her mustang legs having carried her brilliantly through the roundup only to lay slain on a Michigan road.
            Before anyone criticizes the officer, I have to say that at that point, that was probably the kindest thing the officer could have done.  The point is:  Things should never have come to that. 
            The other mare, who had recently foaled, was cast in her stall.  In an incompetent attempt to help her, this mare's neck was broken when people used a rope around her neck and tried to pull her out enough to get her legs underneath her.  She was then apparently shot to euthanize  her.  ("Cast" means while laying down, either from rolling or resting, an animal is unable to get her legs back underneath herself to rise because one or more of her legs are either under a fence or too close to a wall so she can't flip over.) This mare left an orphan foal behind.  I do not know if this mare was being fostered or in Ms. Bierling's care.
           However, in a fellow advocate's thorough, well-documented blog, Where the Wild Horses Are, more details on these horses are provided by someone who has diligently followed them and has documentation of them before and after landing in Wendi Bierling's care or lack thereof.  Please be sure to come back (or stay) to the end of this post, however, for timely information and vitally  needed action for the best chance TO GET THESE HORSES HOME.
           After law enforcement had begun its investigation, arrangements were being made to foster the horses elsewhere until they were well enough to travel.  Authorities seemed ready to work with us, but it has all fallen apart since the Prosecutor's Office isn't taking action.  Unfortunately, it has come to this:  charges will have to be filed if these horses are to be protected.  Most people agree that bringing them home, to the country they know and the feed they are accustomed to, would be the horses' first choice and best for them. 
            I will tell you how we can help these horses.  Below is a video of them in their current circumstances so you can see they really are ready to come home to permanent sanctuary in California, and you can help that happen — and no, this isn't a pitch for money although any sanctuary can always use donations. 

(Correction: It's Lieutenant Baker, not Sgt. Kuhn.)
             ALTHOUGH in a telephone conversation Lieutenant Baker confirmed to me that he has recommended that charges be filed, and this case now sits in the hands of the Allegan Prosecutor Fred Anderson, there is in fact more Lieutenant Baker can do though he is reluctant to do so. THE PROSECUTOR SHOULD BE TAKING ACTION AT THIS POINT.  However, Lt. Baker:
  • now knows the evidence in this investigation is about to be forever lost to Michigan and sent to Florida since I informed him on Wednesday, June 29, of Ms. Bierling's pending sale of these horses; and,
  • has been made to understand that these horses are as yet in no condition to travel such a distance (long trailer rides are hard on horses). 
Therefore, it is not a far leap to state that additional charges of abuse could and should be filed were Ms. Bierling to effect such a sale at this time.
             Importantly, Lt. Baker appears to have a duty to seize these animals and arrest and/or charge Ms. Bierling without warrant, as MCL 750.53, states since he has knowledge of an action she is about to take that would likely be a continuance of alleged criminal neglect and abuse, i.e., subjecting them to such a trip in their current debilitated condition.
             Michigan Law requires him to act, and if he does not, he himself may well be guilty of a misdemeanor.
             MCL 750.52 Duty to Enforce Provision - This statute provides that it is the duty of the officials involved in animal cruelty investigations to arrest and prosecute those committing the offenses where there is knowledge or reasonable notice of the acts.  The failure or neglect by an officer involved to do so may result in a  misdemeanor.
             MCL 750.53 Search and Seizure Provision - This statute provides that a person violating any of the animal cruelty statutes may be arrested without warrant, similar to the arrest of those found disturbing the peace.  Further, the official making the arrest has a duty to seize the animals involved and place them in the custody of the juridiction.
          I personally heard (CORRECTION) Lieutenant Baker to be very concerned about these animals, but perhaps he needs to be encouraged to step out while Attorney Anderson sits on his hands.  The Sheriff doesn't always have to wait for the Prosecutor.  We all know when law enforcment sees laws being broken and wrongs being done, they act, and let the attorneys figure it out in Court.  I believe these horses' plight and possible dismal future, what with the abundant illegal slaughter known in Florida,  and the law require Lt. Baker to act unilaterally in this case and force Attorney Anderson's sat-upon hand into action.
           Lt. Baker's number, if you have questions for him, is 269/673-0500 Ext. 122537.  He is recommending charges be filed and is waiting for the District Attorney to act.  This man seems a friend to the horses, so let's just help him do what's right and address him with the utmost respect.  He has already done a lot for them by pressing for charges. 
             Unfortunately, this is all necessary because Ms. Bierling is not communicating, not returning my calls or Jodi Louth's from the Michigan Horse Welfare Coalition, and her telephone appears to be off the hook.  I had hoped she would work directly with us to get these horses back home since right now since she claims to care about them, and she is still, ominously, the legal owner and can sell the horses, a number of whom are still in her custody and care although we were told they would be fostered out (and some are).

             This baby didn't make it.  Jewel, his mother, was emaciated and fostered out for care. 
 Photo by Jodi Louth
             He was apparently rejected by Jewel, who was so skeletal when the baby was born, she probably instinctively knew she didn't have enough in her to sustain a baby and survive herself.  The foal wasn't found until he had already gone without nursing for a full 24 hours.  Again, you can read more details of his story on Where the Wild Horses Are.  
              DreamCatcher Wild Horse and Burro Sanctuary has offered to bring these displaced horses home and give them permanent sanctuary with River and Dahlia and the other Calico girls, and the other fortunate horses and burros there.  The Michigan Horse Welfare Coalition is working with us and has been a good liaison to Michigan law enforcement to help bring these girls home.
             Allegan County Prosecutor Fred Anderson is dragging his feet, and as a result these horses may be sold by Ms. Bierling.  A reliable source has informed me that Ms. Bierling has plans to sell a number of horses to a man coming from Florida on Saturday, July 2, to take "a bunch" back with him, and others dispersed elsewhere, two to North Carolina, and a number in Florida for breeding.
         269/673-0280  Prosecuting Attorney Fred Anderson
             It's time for us to press the Allegan County District Attorney Prosecutor Anderson to take action.  We can only leave messages between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern time.  
         He is the head Prosecutor in Allegan County; the buck stops with him.  
         What we are asking for now:
          1) That he immediately follow through on Lt. Baker's recommendations and file charges, thereby authorizing the Sheriff's Office to put a freeze on any transfers of ownership or any movement of these horses and stop any out-of-state transport of these horses until a determination is reached.  
                 Ms. Bierling is still the legal owner of these horses, and since she has stopped communicating and is about to remove the horses from anyone's sight by the sale to a Florida man, this needs to happen immediately. 
             2) To assign Michigan Horse Welfare Coalition (MHWC) as overseeing conservator of all the subject horses to protect them, and to remove all the remaining Twin Peaks horses from Ms. Bierling's custody, including White Magic Mist.
              Lt. Baker assured me the Sheriff's Office is monitoring the horses; we would prefer to see the MHWC doing the monitoring. 
                 3) That he facilitate the return of the Twin Peaks wild horses to DreamCatcher in northern California, at virtually no expense to Allegan County.  Since DreamCatcher has offered to put up a care bond to defray Allegan County's costs — since they seem so concerned about the costs — Prosecutor Anderson has no excuse not to act. 
              Here is a convenient copy-and-paste email chain to the Allegan Sheriff, Animal Control, Prosecutor, and Fox News, who covered the story.     Please send a polite short letter (or long if you wish) email to these people/organizations and let them know you want theses horses protected from sale outside Michigan at this time, that charges need to be filed, and that DreamCatchers and the advocate community stand ready to help.  
Photo by Jonathan Gruenke,,,,

             So, simple message:  immediately file charges to stop the transport of these horses;  help them come home.
              DREAMCATCHER stands ready to transport these older horses home and give them a life virtually free from pens, on land 20 miles from their home.  They need to come home.  
Thank you for taking action. 
For all the wild horses, captive and free, and their humble burro friends, 
Those who were, and those yet to be,
Elyse Gardner

Here is a partial list of stories and links about these horses as things were unfolding.  Please pray for a good outcome for these innocents and add your small part of action.  Action, however small, feels good.  Thank you again.  

Saturday, June 18, 2011


  •  MUSTANGS FACE THEIR FIRST "NON-REPRODUCING HERDS" AS THIS YEAR WE CELEBRATE THE 40TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE PASSAGE OF THE WILD FREE-ROAMING HORSE AND BURRO ACT OF 1971 BY A UNANIMOUS CONGRESS.  I can think of better ways to celebrate.    Can you imagine?  Those people (Congress) were serious about protecting these animals.  And so are we.  
           BLM WYOMING WAS JUST ITCHING to create the first nonreproducing herds, a concept I first saw in a FOIA'd (obtained by citizens through the Freedom Of  Information Act)  BLM document from October 2008.
           Dr. Pat Haight of the Conquistador Equine Rescue and Advocacy Program (CERAP) had uncovered, via this document, a chilling plan by BLM to kill many thousands of healthy horses in holding and call it "euthanasia," as well as the internal notes taken by Lili Thomas, the "Implementation Team" leader, of the multiple conference calls the "team" had which ultimately led to the document.  I find Lili Thomas's "Implementation Team Conference Call" notes to be the most telling (click on the link to view the document).   
             It is an internal BLM document entitled,  Alternative Management Optionsand we are now seeing more and more of the disturbing "options" carried out by the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service.  Please click on this link to see BLM's Final Solution for the Wild Horses and BurrosAttorney Laura Allen's analysis of this very troubling document.  You can see Dr. Haight's helpful summary of this document, also, for an overview of its contents.
             I notice John Neill was to, among other things, "talk with Nevada on how they can justify zeroing out a herd, but are able to maintain a nonreproductive herd."  He will also determine "what this will buy the program, how many horses would be on these areas and how does this help?"
           Congress needs to read these documents.  
              I do not like making extremist-sounding statements, but speaking truthfully, it seems these agencies charged to protect and manage wild horses and burros will do nearly anything rather than allowing the wild, free-roaming horses and burros to remain wild and free roaming as the — guess what — Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971 mandated.

           Specifically, in the years following that 2008 document, we have been seeing:
Cattoor pilot heavily pressures straggling, very pregnant mare who 
couldn't keep up and fell behind her band.  Her yearling son stayed with her.
  • practices of increasingly large helicopter roundups of increasing numbers of wild horses;
  • increased use of still-experimental infertility drugs; 
  • intentional sex skewing of the herds — with no scientific study as to consequences —  so that the ratio of stallions to mares is 60% stallions to 40% mares; 
  • increasing Catch/Treat/Release roundups which sound good on the surface but which actually decimate every band rounded up since BLM breaks up each band, making no effort to keep the bands intact, a simple process that would greatly help ease roundup stress, reduce injuries, and be the humane thing to do;
  • and now the plan to create totally experimental nonreproducing herds with no research to rely on,
all purportedly to "maintain a thriving ecological balance" for "multiple use" purposes.
          However, when we see a mining interest "multiple user" toxifying far more groundwater in the Herd Management Areas in one month than 10,000 wild horses could drink in a year; and we realize thousands of cattle and sheep, outnumbering wild horses and burros by five to one in the Herd Management Areas, are devouring over half the vegetation, then the light dawns and the BLM mantra of removing these animals "to maintain a thriving ecological balance" and "multiple use" rings hollow, and BLM loses virtually all credibility.
           These constant roundups, skewing gender ratios, creating public lands zoos with sterile wild horse herds, are all practices antithetical to the nature of the wild horses.  With no prior research, the Wyoming plan to create nonreproducing herds turns the entire HMAs into giant Petri dish experiments whose repercussions are likely to impact individual horses as well as the band and herd severely.  
            When I saw Wyoming BLM's decision to proceed with creating the two sterile, nonreproducing herds, which meant introducing the dangerous, ill-advised practice of sterilizing wild mares through hysterectomy or ovariectomy, I recalled three things:
           1)   A conversation I had in September 2010 with Paul Steblein, Director of the Sheldon-Hart National Wildlife Refuge, wherein I learned about their sickening experimental hysterectomies through the anus on wild horses in that beautiful refuge, a practice I've not heard used or even mentioned anywhere else; (remember, they are not under BLM jurisdiction);
           2)  Dr. Al Kane's March 10 "Research Update" presentation to the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board wherein he spoke of the various infertility experiments taking place and planned.
           3)  The FOIA'd internal BLM document, Alternative Management Options and Lili Thomas's "Implementation Team Conference Call" notes of the meetings which were the basis for it.
           IN TERMS OF HYSTERECTOMY, intrinsic to BLM's goal of nonreproducing herds, here is a video I put together from Dr. Kane's March 10 presentation to the Advisory Board.

               In a response to the myriad calls and letters pouring in to BLM officials by people objecting to its decision for nonreproducing herds, BLM Wyoming announced it is reconsidering these planned "nonreproducing herds," and they have temporarily withdrawn the "nonreproducing herd" plan.  Congratulations to BLM Wyoming for their responsiveness.
              However, Wyoming has the same language and is still considering the "nonreproducing herd" plan as a viable option for the Great Divide Basin HMA.  Comments are due on this on Monday,    June 20.  It is vital that we voice our consternation about this plan.
            The "nonreproducing herd" concept is so unnatural, so contrary to the core of who wild horses are, it is virtually certain to be illegal since it flies in the face of the spirit of the 1971 Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act which states:
...they are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands.
            Yet they are treated as unnatural, made to be incidental, their family-life-centered society considered expendable and irrelevant to the life of the mountains where they live.  No, I think BLM had best prepare to scrap the nonreproducing herd idea.  It tortures wild horse society beyond recognizability, creating Salazoos on public land, which is clearly not why Congress took the time to craft the 1971 Act.
           FINALLY, as I mention in the video, Sheldon-Hart Wildlife Refuge Director Paul Steblein told me Fish and Wildlife Service did experimental hysterectomies through the anus on (CORRECTION) 30 wild mares, something I have never before heard of.  When Dr. Kane refers to the Sheldon study, he talks about colpotomy (or culpotomy) and states it's an approach through the vagina.  So which is it they are planning to study?  Which are they planning to do?  
             Paul Steblein said they had a 10 percent death rate which was reduced after they had "perfected" the procedure.
             He said they released the mares quickly, usually within two days, to avoid exposing the horses to illnesses which often occur when horses are kept in large groups. This early release precludes the followup which prudent veterinary care — and certainly which any study worth its salt — would seem to require.  I understand dealing with wild populations presents challenges, but two days?
             I note that according to the FOIA'd notes obtained by Dr. Pat Haight re the 2008 BLM internal meetings,  Dr. Sanford, the vet at Broken Arrow for the Calico horses, spayed about 12 mares in the early 90s, and there was a 30-day to six-week recovery period.
             I am researching to learn which approach the research team plans is studying/plans to study and plans to use.  This is over the top...   Thus far, I know we have the following concerns:
             Failure to adequately track the horses to learn of the efficacy of the practice isn't acceptable;
             Failure to administer post-surgery antibiotics endangers the lives of every horse.
             BLM is smart to call for a re-think on its Wyoming plans.  They were about to step in it up to their hips.
                             Twin Peaks Mare and Yearling (Same family as above)

              Dr. Kane referred throughout his presentation to the "hysterectomy"; nevertheless, I do not believe he means"hysterectomy" since that literally means removal of the uterus.  He appears to be describing ovariectomy, removal of the ovaries. 
             Notice Dr. Kane's presentation is entitled, Study of Feasibility of Spaying Mares (emphasis added)?  Now, this presentation was March 10, 2011, only three months ago.  
            How did they leap from the beginning stages of research, a study with "only short-term post operative monitoring," to full, on-the-range implementation of these experimental procedures in two HMAs in Wyoming? 
              Only short term post operative monitoring was glossed over.  This means in the Sheldon and other studies, they haven't followed the mares and don't know how they fared. 
              Please note that no provision has been made to examine population growth in these studies.  They haven't progressed beyond the procedure itself.  Chairwoman Robin Lohnes made a point of this, as well, saying basically, "isn't population growth the issue here?"
              I also note the last item, that as of then (March 10, 2011), there was no determination yet of how, when, or where the studies would be done.  
              Dr. Kane glossed over the troubling overhead text which stated:
BLM has reviewed proposal to test safety of spaying WH mares... to examine safety during early, mid, late gestation. 
             First, how are they proposing to "examine the safety" during gestation? Remove the ovaries of mares in various stages of pregnancy and see what happens?  See if they abort?    Imagine removing a woman's ovaries while she is carrying a child.
             Will they provide post operative pain medication for these horses?
             What horses will they experiment on?  How will they be selected?  What is the aftercare they will be given?  Will they be kept with other horses?
             Who will perform the procedures?
             Where will these procedures be done?
             What procedure will be used?  
             Are they considering doing the through-the-anus procedure Paul Steblein described to me?
             Are we in fact talking ovariectomy?  Either way, these are pregnant wild mares we are talking about stressing.  I will be looking into the details.
Beautiful Twin Peaks family in idyllic HMA, but where are all the other horses?  Very few remain on this California HMA full of cattle and sheep.
             People sometimes suggest, "Why don't they just geld all the stallions, or geld most of them to effect population control?"  People are tempted down this road because gelding is so common and accepted, but this approach reminds me of someone who lost their keys in an unlit parking lot but searches for them under the streetlight on the corner because they could see better.  Sure, it's easier, but it doesn't come close to getting the job done.
               Gelding the stallions to decrease population growth yet maintain a healthy, viable, self-sustaining wild horse population on public lands is a fallacy.  
               In terms of "population control," the first and most obvious problem with this is all this accomplishes is severely depleting the gene pool, setting up what was a healthy wild horse herd to become rapidly inbred and inviable.  You've got fewer studs spreading their seed around.  Studs will find mares in estrus.  Some "gelded studs" (an oxymoron; what do you call "band stallions" who are no longer stallions?) will fight them off to protect mares, but behaviorally we can't assume they will continue to behave as they do in their wild, free roaming ungelded populations Congress meant to protect. — which brings me to the heart of the matter:
              GELDING STALLIONS AND PUTTING THEM BACK ON THE RANGE, THEY ARE NO LONGER "WILD HORSES." "NONREPRODUCING HERDS" ARE NO LONGER WILD HORSES.   As I wrote in my comments to Wyoming BLM objecting to the Great Divide Basin Herd Roundup:
                       Additionally, your Alternative D, a "nonreproducing herd," should be removed from all consideration, as well as any thought of gelding large segments of the male population and returning them to the range, or surgically altering mares. This creates a zoo on the public lands. It is grossly invasive of the nature and physiology of these wild, highly social animals and in no comprehensible way meets the "minimal feasible level" of management required by law since they will no longer be "wild horses" in any recognizable sense.
                       When any reasonable person stops to consider, we recognize that when people go to see wild horses, we are inspired and greatly moved by their family relationships: By the activity of the stallions in winning and protecting their mares, by the devoted attention mares give to their young, and by the stallions' participation in raising their offspring. 
                        While the grace and beauty of wild horses in the wild is moving, it is these familial relationships combined with their beauty that sets them apart from all other western wildlife species, and what BLM is proposing is utterly beyond any acceptable management practice.
                        Adding to that the fact that no one knows what effects these practices will have on individuals or bands or herds, Alternative D — non-reproducing herds — in any aspect should be immediately taken off the table entirely, yet BLM proposes to impose these completely alien conditions on entire wild horse populations.
                These approaches are neanderthal and display a mind boggling lack of finesse and respect for the scientific process, for the nature of wild horse society, and for the law since BLM is thumbing its nose at Congress's mandate to protect their wild, free roaming populations.
Halcyon, daughter of Red Raven and Blue Sioux (background) nurses her four-day-old daughter 
                To be continued...
For the wild horses remaining wild and free roaming with their humble burro friends,
Elyse Gardner