Wednesday, June 20, 2012


         Below are the fragile, soft feet of a one-day-old mustang foal born in captivity.  Look how thin the hoof wall is, barely twice the thickness of my thumbnail. 
                  BELOW:  And the sole of this foot (the inner, flat part of the hoof), which is almost rock-hard in adult horses to withstand covering all kinds of terrain, in this youngster's foot is rubbery and pliable, similar to a large pencil eraser, and it gets worn down in the rough terrain in a like manner.  
        BELOW:  The same one-day-old foal's soft hind feet, with their paper-like hoof walls and rubbery soft sole.  His Maker equipped him well, but not to withstand running from a helicopter over miles of rocky ground in the first six weeks of his life.  
         HOW DID IT COME TO THIS, where BLM is violating its own protocols to remove many horses before their scheduled roundup several weeks away, risking the lives of the very young?   — who, by the way, are not being seen in the trap, I'm told.  So where are they?  
         BLM FOR THE LAST FOUR YEARS has not reduced livestock grazing in this Jackson Mountain HMA as good range stewardship called for.  Thus, they have denuded the range; and let's please not forget that horses are outnumbered by cows and sheep in this area, which  is one of the few remaining legal areas designated for the wild horses and burros.  
         Additionally, there are serious drought conditions BLM has been monitoring in this area, and BLM began hauling water weeks ago.
         But once again, it's the wild horses and burros, who are by law supposed to be considered an integral ("essential, central, core") part of the natural system of the public lands, are instead being driven off their homes in this illegal way because of BLM's own mismanagement.  And BLM boasts that the livestock permittees have voluntarily reduced their grazing.  That's great for the permittees, but it is BLM's responsibility to manage the grazing, not rely on the permittees' goodwill, which we, by the way, very much appreciate.   
           I say "illegal" for two reasons:  1)  BLM's own rules prohibit roundups during foaling season; 2)  Per the 1971 Act, the HMA should be managed principally, not necessarilyl exclusively, for its resident wild horses and burros.  
          What galls the worst is many of us agree that for the horses' safety and survival, many do need to be moved, and we have tried to work with BLM to obtain protections for the horses in the process.  A number of wild horse advocates have been in discussions with BLM head personnel in Winnemucca to discuss how to do it safely, myself included. 
           We urged that water trapping be used, or bait trapping.  That was refused.
           So we entered discussions to try to obtain some safety for the horses now facing a helicopter roundup in the peak of foaling season.  
           BLM initially made the right noises about engaging more "humane" protocols — for exampl"monitoring" for "extreme temperatures," etc.   However, once again they have steadfastly refused to commit to actual conditions, e.g., stop flying when the temperature hits 85 F.  It is obscene, people, and I don't use that word casually.    
           On and on it goes.  Advocate Laura Leigh, who has been observing the roundup, lost hope in BLM as she saw foals being badly compromised and the helicopter continuing to fly despite soaring temperatures, and has filed suit to try and stop this. When Laura says to me, "Today I saw the worst run at the trap I've ever seen," I know things have got to be really serious. 
            I am now working with DreamCatcher Wild Horse and Burro Sanctuary.  I see these infants' feet, their fragility.  Sigh.

            To get a perspective on the physical toll roundups take on horses, now let's take a look at some adult mustang feet on the same day they were rounded up.  

                 These photos were all taken by me in the Temporary Holding pens the contractors set up for the horses after removing them from the trap pen itself.  These are photos of Freedom and his band after they were rounded up in the first Calico Complex roundup I documented in January/February of 2010.   
               Observe how very short each hoof is.  These horses' feet have been worn way down by this exertion, a long run on rocky terrain.  I cannot fathom subjecting baby horses, whose hooves are not even hard, to this. 
          BELOW:  More feet of horses in Freedom's band minutes after they were rounded up:
 See closeup below:
And by the way, we don't get access this close to Temporary Holding pens anymore.  This last year, 2012, it has been my experience that BLM will escort us to a trap site but then won't let us get close enough to identify individual horses well enough to know which horse to follow up on if there is a problem with a horse. If we are even allowed to visit Temporary Holding, we are kept at least 50 feet away from the horses and have a hard time seeing anything identifiable.   So BLM is giving us, the public, "access" without actually allowing us to see much; i.e., fulfilling the letter of the law without fulfilling the spirit and intent of the law.  
               Wild horses' feet, which vets and farriers agree are the healthiest hooves in the horse world, stay clean and trim because the natural rocky terrain keeps them filed.  

             But when you take these animals and chase them long distances no living predator could sustain, their feet and hooves take something of a beating, as you can see above.  This is why the BLM  regulations forbid rounding up horses or burros within six weeks of acknowledged foaling season:  the foals' feet cannot possibly sustain it, and heavily pregnant mares suffer and miscarry.  Some people have seen mares heavy with foal actually delivering their foals as they are running.  We don't ever want to see that again.

                 This blog wouldn't be complete without remembering Hope, the Calico foal who we saw straggling and struggling as he was chased into the trap during the 2010 Calico roundup, who lost his life because his feet were literally run off.  
                  HUMANE OBSERVER VIEWER RATING GUIDE:  S (Sad but nothing graphic or gruesome, no blood.)
               I am disgusted by the failure of BLM to put genuine numbers on the table, to make real commitments on boundaries to ensure the safety of these animals, and drop its continued "gray area" discretionary words like "monitor for extreme temperatures."
              That sounds just like, "I need to eat less." "I have to cut down on my spending."  Those are easy words to say.   But the hoof meets the road, so to speak, with a specific commitment:  "I am letting go of sugar";  "I will only have one Starbucks coffee per day."  Let's get down to it, shall we?
              BLM continues to promise to simply cut down on abuses,  promising what it refuses to actually deliver.  They never come up with a policy to which they can be held regarding the welfare of the wild horses and burros, preferring to leave critical, life-and-death decisions to the contractors and/or BLM people on the ground in each individual roundup.  As much as Gene Seidlitz talked a good game, I see no changes.  Whoever is responsible, the horses are run with no distance limits to be held to, no temperature limits to be held to.
              It is time to define "extreme."  It is time to define these vague terms.  It's time to define specific action that is to be taken when the mercury gets to a certain level.  It's time for the courts and congress to rein in this renegade agency before they really do wipe out our stellar legacy, the wild horses and burros.
               You can follow the lawsuit that's been filed by going to Wild Horse Education.  Please tell your friends and family about our nation's wild horses.  Only by more people speaking up can we save them.  I'll do my best to keep you posted.  I apologize for this blog's long silence.  I've been moving, but I have stayed involved.  I hope you will, too.


  1. There are over 4000 cattle on this HMA, why aren't they being removed. Laura stated northern part of HMA wasn't as "drought" stricken. Horses should be released there and cows removed. This is the horses legal domain and there are no excess horses.

  2. It is so hard to believe that any sane human being could inflict this kind of suffering on any living creature. Thank you for continuing to share this information and we all need to make an effort to keep it in the public eye.

  3. This needs to be sent to Congress and every where possible.

  4. Thank, you, Barbara, yes, please send this around. Looking at the foal's little, tender feet was overwhelming. Being in the presence of these little ones and thinking of them being chased by a taxpayer-subsidized helicopter, and struggling to stay with mom, is just too much. Please share this blog and its information. A picture is worth many millions of words.

    1. How could you do this these house brought us where we are today I HOPE you sleep good

  5. I sent it to Congressman Grijalva also.

  6. Not only to Congress but if everyone would send this to their local paper and media. This issue needs to be publicized. Here in the east, no one has a clue!

  7. All conversations/letters/comments to BLM need to end with this:
    "What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say."
    -Ralph Waldo Emerson

  8. The range does NOT get into this bad shape overnight and the BLM’s only answer has been to remove horses. This is a prime example of BLM’s politically driven (not scientifically based) MIS-management of YOUR public lands.

    Heavily grazed land is not evidence that Wild Horses are the cause – and the photo captions (see BLM environmental assessment) even admit that the area shown is annually and HEAVILY grazed by livestock. To take it a step further, it shows (PURPOSELY?) that the livestock grazed the forage far below health and the Wild Horses, which rely on this area for winter grazing were left with a devastated range to try to survive on. The photos that were supplied only prove the fact that this portion of the range was highly over grazed by livestock last year and because of that it had a difficult time rejuvenating for the winter usage of the wild horses. In other words these photos show bad range management of livestock and absolutely no proof that Wild Horses over grazed this area.

    ONLY 4.5% – 7.5% percent of usage [AUMS] are designated for Wild Horses verses 92.5% – 95.5% range usage for livestock on the Jackson HMA. IMO this HMA range land over-grazing by livestock and starvation of the wild horses was purposely planned by “the agency” to rid the HMA of the legally designated wild horses.

  9. Thank you Elyse. It is always the same. BLM's rigid, dishonest representation is reflected in the dialogue with JoLynn Worley of BLM in past week's emails to me. The scheme is just getting so old - and I am grateful to Judge Mc'Kibben for the partial ban on helicopter, I wish he would ban them all together, as they are continuously cruel and carried out in the same BLM tradition: havoc, scattering herds daily and complete ignorance to the horses all together. Yes it is indeed a drought, but help could be administered in other ways, if it was just wanted by those who so hastily do it their way again. Keep up the work and pressure, for the mustangs' sake. Thank you all.

  10. They probably ignored the requests for bait trapping and used the helicopters because it is what The Cloud Foundation has suggested in the past. If you don't believe me, read the HMAP for the Pryor herd. Here is comment 51 from a TCF board member. Look it up if you don't believe it here. Some is irrelevant, but note the "helicopter gathers only" "do not recommend the use of bait trapping" and anti-PZP control also.

    Comment 51: TCF ET. AL. recommends that the BLM assist in the funding of a mountain lion research project, does not recommend the creation of satellite herds, recommend that“population control” be limited to periodic helicopter gathers only when the wild horses pose a threat to themselves and their environment, we do not recommend the use of bait
    trapping, any wild horses removed during a gather be offered at the base of the mountain through competitive bid, do not support the use of PZP, recommend no fences, using tax dollars for improvements, ban off road vehicle-use, license ATV use, BLM set up self pay stations, speed limits be implemented, no main roads be close, conduct minimal road improvement, have more volunteers. The Cloud Foundation, Makindra Silverman

  11. slim down the cattle population let the horses had the range it was theirs first... these cattle ranchers think they own the land someone should start taking cattle and doing what they do to the horses that deserve the land more than the cattle...leave the horses alone...these cattle ranchers are just hungry money idiots who dont care about nothing but money...if i ever met one in person i would spit in their face and call them animal killers...

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  13. It is very sad how these beautiful horses all end up going to to slaughter! I am a strongly believe that karma will happen , to each and everyone involved.