A Request in Good Faith

Several Advocates have made requests toward the release of the Calico Complex horses.

Gene Seidlitz of the Winnemucca district is the man with final authority.


RT’s blog has Craig Downers letter. Here is mine.

Write him… cc anyone you think might care.

Wild Horse and Burro Division
Bureau of Land Management
Winnemucca, NV

Dear Sir:

At this time I would like to officially request that the disposition of horses currently held at the BLM facility named the Broken Arrow in Fallon, NV be postponed until such time as the range data collected confirms inventory left within the complex. No data has been collected or supplied to the public to confirm populations within the Complex since the gather took place. As the gather was called off early due to insufficient numbers to complete the contract, any other action would be premature.

As the survey is to begin shortly within the Complex the delay would pose minimal inconvenience.

With the Tri-state Mega Complex still in the planning stages, with an announced mission of managing wild populations across the landscape, this seems like an opportunity to create public confidence in such a statement.

If data comes back from the two week survey that would support the return of horses to the range we also have a unique opportunity to further the mission stated. Some of the horses gathered this past winter had been gathered previously in California. These horses now have blood draws and observation time at this holding facility, as well as the information collected in California. Including these horses in the potential release would give an opportunity to further the database on migratory patterns within the Complex.

If the mission statement is actually to reflect practices within the complex this request is made in good faith and with reasonable expectation.

Thank you.
Laura Leigh
Project Manager Herd Watch

Yearlings in Holding

True Update

Saw True today.

He has still not been seen by the vet. I have been told the vet will be there tomorrow.

This is a pictire of the largest wound, taken today.

True's largest wound 5/23

His dad is taking good care of him and keeping the other horses away from him.

If this injury occurred to a horse in your care would you call a vet? Waiting six days for a vet to examine a horse with wounds on three legs? Or to examine Commander still tender on that front?

5/23 5 days after injury

My emotions are actually getting the better of me at this moment so I will update about True boy again tomorrow.

True's leg 5/23

The pen holding the stallions is less than 25% the size of the pen they were held in at the Broken Arrow. Today hay was placed in feeders along one edge of the pen. Empty feeders were on the other side. This created a dynamic where all the stallions needed to line up in close proximity to each other. We witnessed biting and aggressive behavior we did not see at the Broken Arrow among this group. Placing hay into the other feeders would allow for more spacing between these horses and lessen the likelihood that we will see a serious injury occur.

Seems like a “no brainer,” doesn’t it?

Bite inflicted at feeder 5/23

I got news about the IDA suit being dismissed on standing. Standing is a tricky thing and rather interesting when it comes to filing a suit against the government. The points raised by the suit have not been discounted… but the points and plaintiffs didn’t match. I know we will hear more about this soon. The issue of long term warehousing is valid… but not in that format. This was not a defeat… the field was never joined.

Lightning looks great…

Lightning 5/23

If you can make the advisory board meeting in Denver… please come.

Cat Kindsfather inspired

Cat sent me a wonderful photo of old General yesterday.

Why am I here? (drawing)

General (drawing by Laura)

It was the inspiration for a short article that attempts to begin to explain the current adoption process and introduce the sale authority concept.

I have a bunch to say on both those subjects but I’m out of time for today with much to accomplish.

I will write more later!

Here is the article:



Many of you have written to me asking about General.

I have not written another chapter in “General’s Saga” and I apologize. Many tasks at hand but it is a story I want to share.

I am going to be a bit self-indulgent in responding to inquiries about General and just “talk.”

I love that old horse. From the moment I saw him that day he was captured he spoke to my soul. He has a presence that others have observed since that  day.

Elyse Gardner calls me every time she leaves the Broken Arrow to let me know that she has seen him. Elyse is rather fond of him, too. She gave me this video to share (General is at the beginning and the guy with the star next to him is Commander. True is at the end of the video). She has more footage of General from last Sunday and will send when she can.

I left the voices in. This piece lets you feel what it’s like to walk the facility. So many horses to view and so many questions to ask and never enough time.

General looks good, so does Commander. General slipped his tag off. I know his number and referenced some of the horses by number in correspondence with John Neill at the facility. John responded by using General’s name and said “we know you are watching out for him.” John told me that currently there are no plans to geld any of the older horses.

True is not with dad and seems a bit lost right now. He has a very sweet disposition and really seemed to need his father. Every picture I saw had him right behind dad. I wish I could put him back with the only family he had left…

True has not been gelded yet and I have a call in to see how they are doing.

I will be able to go see them again very soon. I get a lump in my throat when I think about it.

In my heart I just wish I could see General back out on the range…

20 years of survival as a wild stallion… and now?

Thanks for letting me talk about him….

Gelding at Calico

This is just a quick post about the uproar beginning to occur about the gelding taking place at Calico of stallions under 4.  (BLM update page here)

Young Stud (holding area)

My inbox is beginning to receive a flood of mail. So I decided to post a response on the blog.

In order to actually understand this process the language within the lawsuits must be looked at. I have stated several times that terminology and definition will become increasingly important.

It is my understanding that the IDA (In Defense of Animals) suit deals with the issue of long-term holding.

An adoption event would not be in contradiction to any issue that deals with older horses heading to long-term holding.

Calico horses 4 and under are heading to an adoption event in July (rescheduled from May 15&16) regardless of the outcome of the suit.
In an email today from William Spriggs, Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney PC, he confirmed my understanding.

I am not privy to the specifics of the “no geld” conversation.

Something else to think about…

If the suit wins on long-term holding? The next step is not necessarily freedom.

IDA will need to first argue that long term holding violates current law. Then they will have to argue that returning the horses is not a violation of law. Then they will have to prove that it can be done and dispute the arguments from BLM that it was a necessary action to remove them (horses). So even if they win on long term as illegal, they may not win on the second part of the argument.

Language (specific, concise) is going to become very important.


I have re-edited the piece “Calico Complex In Retrospect” for viewing on the web.I was approached to provide video for a group pressing DVD’s for DC. They ran a test group and went only with my footage. I felt that the project I had begun was important because it told a more complete story of Calico.

I researched distribution and each option was expensive. This would slow down getting the images to the public in a manner that was timely. These horses need our attention now more than ever. So I created a public viewing option (click on Theatre)  here at a site devoted to the project.

A CD is still available and the edit is a bit different for anyone wishing to have a hard copy of the project. They are available on my website here.

Not sure if you want popcorn… but the piece is up for viewing.

In Retrospect

Calico Retrospect

As I prepare to head off to DC to join other advocates to raise our voice for the wild horses and burros I am putting the finishing touches on many projects. The one I am most proud of is a new video of the Calico Complex gather. The pride stems not only from the piece itself, but from the process of creating the piece.

This effort came together very quickly. It required fast communication and a real cooperative effort from many people. The process truly speaks of the effort that is needed to be that voice for our horses and burros. This is an effort made by “just people.” People that devote their time and resources to stand for something they believe in.

In that space personal differences become meaningless… self transcends into a collective space of “voice.”

The complete DVD will have a short film and history of the gather as well as personal statements by those that contributed to the piece. Distribution information will be available within the next 24 hours.

Once more I want to remind you that even if you can’t make the trip to DC set the 25th of March aside and contact your local media, set up a table with brochures, wear a ribbon, a t-shirt… start a conversation… for our wild horses and burros.

Lightening and a man named Downer

Once upon a time I left my world to head off to follow the wild horses. I went straight to an area many refer to as “where the horse turns.” That phrase is used to compare the area to the drama contained in soap operas. Not only because of the concentration of horses that inhabit the area, but because of the political climate. This climate encompasses not only the government, but the advocates as well.

Let’s just say the term is an understatement.

When I first became involved with this issue, some time ago, it was difficult to find cohesive action among the advocate groups. This issue is so large that communication was often splintered into selective focus out of necessity. Gaining information in a timely manner proved to be a challenge, with a few exceptions. One of those exceptions was a man named Craig Downer.

Where's Craig?

From the moment of our initial contact involving the horses at Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, Downer sent me volumes to sift through. He said take what you need and “run” with it. He gave no direction, advise, nor gossip.

Before I ever met Downer I heard things about him that ranged from “He’s a man of God,” to “If you expect him to have your back you better have your butterfly net handy. He can fly off into the stratosphere!”

I finally met Downer face-to-face at the Society for Range Management conference in Reno. Soft spoken and shy, he was a perfect caricature of the “absent minded professor.” He said to me, “Laura, we have the truth on our side.  Keep speaking it and we will win.”

He spoke with a conviction so pure it was like that of a child. It made me painfully aware of my own cynicism. He had a way of being that we all held in some distant memory that has been buried by the constraints “life” has imposed on us. That ability to believe that “truth, justice and the American way,” meant the things you thought they did when you were first taught the “pledge of allegiance” in school was alive and well in Mr.Downer.

His words galvanized me with a new purpose. Not only did we need to win this for the horses, but for Downer, and to fan that flame of belief deep inside of all of us.

Craig Downer

Since then Downer and I have shared information, collaborated on a few projects and gone to see the horses still free.

While Craig was in court trying to protect the horses at the Calico Complex from the threat of the BLM round up, I made a slideshow from some of his photos. It was my way of supporting his effort. It was my “prayer.”

One of the horses in the video is a magnificent stallion Craig named Lightening. Lightening is the palomino with the lightening bolt marking.

After the slideshow was posted on You Tube I received several e-mails that commented directly on the beauty of that stallion. The slideshow did not show any starving horses living on a degraded range as the BLM claimed. It shows healthy, thriving horses free on their range to be what they are.

Recently I received a phone call from Elyse Gardner. She was calling to soften a blow. She wanted to let me know that she was writing on her blog that Lightening had been seen again, in his holding cell at Fallon. We shared our grief and mourned his loss of freedom. She has written her account of the day she and Downer found Lightening again on her blog.

I was grateful for the call.

Downer said to me, “Laura, we have the truth on our side.  Keep speaking it and we will win.”

I will try to keep my cynicism in check.

Lightening by Elyse Gardner, 2010

General’s Saga continued

General’s Saga Part 2

His story

She had no answers for him. She could not tell him why he was there.

Yet he knew she had heard him.

She turned to leave. He sighed. She had her freedom.

He joined the other stallions that were milling around the pen. The younger ones were attempting to gain position in the ranks and needed to be reminded that this was not the time or place. The older ones were lost in their fatigue. Many, like him, listened to the confused calls from their family members through the metal bars.

Foals at the Holding Area

View the rest of General’s Saga Here.

Calico Complex Video Essay

I apologize for the camera shake. I borrowed a camera I had never used before.

It was cold and my nose kept running.

This video is long. If you are already depressed about the actions, or lack thereof, by the current Obama administrations Bureau of Land Management, please don’t watch this.

Just the few hours that we as a group have been allowed to observe this gather we have seen so much. It boggles the mind what may have occurred when this agency was allowed to operate without witness.

Horses continue to die from the gather. The stress of the actual gather, the stress of confinement and diet change. The stress now of processing. This was a massive gather done at a very vulnerable time of year.

Now these symbols of American freedom, those that survive, face adoption, sale authority, and long term warehousing.

Note: at about 4 minutes into this video is the video of the  foal harassed by helicopter in a longer form than previously shown.

My heart aches.

Edited to add:

Yes, this video is available in HDV. The quality is “dumbed down” to cut down on render and upload time. If you need clips to send  to local media e-mail me the time code and I can burn a disc.

KEEP CALLING the White House Hotline and your local Senators! Don’t forget local media. Get the word out!


General’s Saga (Part I)

Yesterday I went to the Bureau of Land Management’s website to check the gather activity update. The list does not identify specific animals in inventory from the recent Calico Complex Herd Management Area gather, but it does list injuries and deaths. The BLM does not define individuals in inventory. They use the word to describe the entire lot. This definition makes little sense to me. (Example: A retail store orders six dresses for spring, and then they track the lot but not each piece. This would create a database that has little use).

That’s another piece, for another day.

Reviewing the BLM update my thoughts returned to an amazing horse I have met. I worried about his “status.” (His picture is the one in my header). I will share his story with you. This is Part I.

Calico Complex

General’s Saga (part I)

Today began much like any other. The sun rose from the east over the mountain, shades of yellow and red. The red meant that weather might be moving in so today he would lead his family to a sheltered place as he guided them to food and water.

He is a stallion of what man calls the Calico Complex. The Calico Complex is an area where the Bureau of Land Management combined Herd Management Areas to create a complex. The complex consists of over half a million acres. But what the stallion did not know was that this agency, tasked with the welfare of wild horses and burros for the American public, had decided that only 800 horses could remain free.

From over the ridge he began to hear an ominous sound. It increased in volume as his heartbeat increased in rhythm to match the sound. His job was to keep his family safe. The sound grew louder and louder until it’s source appeared racing through the sky. The strange object, a metallic predator, was headed directly at his family!

He cried out, “Run!”

Threat from above

The band thundered over the frozen rocky terrain. Up mountainsides and through the valleys that once provided protection to the band. Yet nothing they did could stop the relentless pursuit of this predator.

They ran and ran. They ran and ran until he could feel the sweat pour down his muscled neck. They ran and ran until his lungs began to burn from the cold air. They ran and ran until he knew his children were struggling to keep up.

Struggling Calico Foal

But the family needed to continue above all else. So he called to them “Run!”

Racing through the gully he had led his family through in an attempt to gain shelter from the threat from above, he stumbled. But he could not stop. He saw the valley open up and he increased his pace.

As he fled across the frozen valley floor another horse appeared before his band, an unfamiliar horse. But this horse was running too. Perhaps this newcomer knew the way to safety so he followed the sorrel down the corridor.

Driven into trap

Then the threat increased! Coming in from behind were screaming two-legs waving long poles! His heart thumped as he again increased his pace.

He had to pull up fast to stop from crashing into a metal gate! His family collided with each other in fear. Circling hard to address the new threat from the rear he found himself facing another set of metal bars. He could not get to his mares and foals! He could hear their cries and he answered, but he could not protect them!

In an instant he was crowded into a small area with other stallions. His colt from two springs ago appeared at his side as the screaming two-legs waved their sticks and forced them all up into a metal box.

Immediately separated and loaded

The metal box was crowded. The floor was cold under his feet. A loud bang and the light from the back of the box was gone. A hard jolt and they were moving! He was not running anymore but he was moving! The others swayed and struggled to remain standing as the box bumped up and down and continued to move forward. He knew if he fell he would not be able to regain his feet on the cold slick surface, so he fought to remain upright. The air rushing in began to freeze the sweat that moments ago poured down his neck as he raced over the rocky ground with his family… his family!

He let out a loud cry!

The box jolted once more and came to a stop. The opening at the back flew open and screaming two-legs started poking and waving their sticks through the box. The stallions rushed toward the only way out.

Down a narrow chute they went into another area enclosed by metal bars. More loud two-legs pushed some into another enclosed space. And then the two-legs stopped yelling.

The predator from above was gone. The two-legs were no longer chasing them or screaming. His family was no longer there. He had failed them.

Calico Stallions in holding pen

Calico Stallions (after gather)

He could feel the soreness begin in his body. His lungs hurt. His legs and feet throbbed.

He wandered the edges of the enclosure. There was no way out. He did not understand.


More two legs arrived. These two-legs were not screaming. One of them came very close.

He asked her, “Why?”


Part II coming soon.