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