“Special” Treatment

Reprint from Horseback magazine

I have spent literally thousands of hours on the road trying to document the hands-on care of America’s National Treasure, the wild horse by the agency tasked by Congress to manage these beings “humanely.”

My travels have included documenting wild horses on the range, at roundups and holding facilities.

I do this work because I am passionate about the subject. These animals speak to my soul. The convoluted process that has them literally trapped both fascinates and disgusts me.

When I am at roundups, or facilities that house our horses, I may express my opinions but I am never “out-of-line.” I obey rules, no matter how ridiculous.

At the Silver King roundup I was “grabbed” hard by a beautiful Albino stallion. His gaze was riveting. When he shipped we followed him from Pioche, Nevada all the way to Gunnison Prison in Utah.

As I inquired about his adoption, to go to sanctuary with some of the others, I exchanged emails with a woman I met once.

Dona Bastian runs the BLM facility at Gunnison.

In the course of her emails to me she told me I had to make sure to tell them when I was coming to pick up the stallion. She informed me that they needed to notify SWAT.

I’m not kidding.

Here is the email:

I need a application for adoption and also payment before the animals are
picked up. Do you have an approved adoption application? I know you said
you was working on it with John Neil. Also, the pickup is by appointment
only. We have to have a clearance, and also SWAT notified in advance.
Let me know!
~* Dona *~

Dona A. Bastian
Wildhorse & Burro Specialist
Gunnison Prison Facility Manager
Utah State Office

To view entire article go to:


Silver King 2010


26 thoughts on ““Special” Treatment

  1. Darcy says:

    WTF…SWAT?? Is she out of her mind, can we report her as they don’t have SWAT come out for everyone who adopts.

    • Laura Leigh says:

      No they don’t.
      And no one else received an email like this.

      I follow every rule and do not deserve this type of intimidation.

    • Linda Horn says:

      Laura , I didn’t know SWAT was “the weed police” until I read the comment on HorseBack. Had visions of a riot squad pouring out of a huge black van and surrounding you. I’d say LOL for my lack of information, but this isn’t a laughing matter. It’s clearly discrimination. What is the Adoption Program all about – getting horses to good homes or playing politics?

      • Linda Horn says:

        Rhetorical question!

      • Anna says:

        “weed police ? oh i don’t think so…The Dea are “the weed police…the SWAT stands for:

        “Special Weapons Armed Tactical Unit…and yes “they do carry big guns

        ya see what I have known for months and I guess most people don’t read the blm websites for info like i do





        ps I have been arrested for weed; not once but 2x
        and believe me that was the DEA not the SWAT…
        trust me on this one; weed police my goodness ! lol

      • Elizabeth LaRoche says:

        Or not using good grammar. . . oh well I guess the only real freedom left is that of speaking/writing bad grammar so I won’t knock it amy more. Just another sign of the times. I’m going back into my hole now. . saw a shadow..of things to come. . . not good either….I love you for your sincerity and focus of the better future for these lovely creatures.

  2. sandra longley says:

    I just want to say that Silver King is a Cremola not an albino, and that the BLM needs to be “swatted” back as this is beyond ridiculous..they have mad it very difficult to adopt these horses..snatching them away to prisons instead of having local holding where horses can be viewed and adopted on site..Grey Beard, my stallion was shipped to Canon City from Adobe Town..I have to arrange transportation for him back from Colo..I am in Oregon….they only ship horses east to satellite facilities not back west..because we have plenty of horses out here I was told..LOL and they only know of 1 person who will haul wild horses and maybe not a stallion..so degree of difficulty is 110%.. I am hoping like hell I have stopped the process of getting him gelded and an accident does not occur as there are many stallions from adobe there and many greys..will hold my breath..Did you get silver king adopted as a stallion?

    • Laura Leigh says:

      I asked that Silver King stay in Nevada.
      After a conference call with John Neill and Alan Shepard they made the decision to ship him to Gunnison.

      He is still a stallion.

      His skin is pink… he’s so beautiful.

      I was so afraid for him. We know the Cattoors and BLM think all light colored horses are blind or flawed. I thought he might just disappear…

      This whole thing is so damn frustrating and scary when you sit out there and watch these people. The callousness… Listening to Debbie Collins and Patti talk about remodeling their homes with their manicured hands and hair salon dye jobs… Guess for money some can really turn a blind eye.

      The gymnastics they go through to try to make all of their behavior “ok.”

      None of this is “ok.”

      If your objective is to adopt horses why on earth would you intimidate someone that helps facilitate placement?

      • morganlvr says:

        Sure makes one wonder, Laura.

      • Anna says:

        because the BLM sees “you as the enemy; because you go around taking pix of BLM abuse; just like the BLM sees me as the enemy for saying “BLM shoots mares! (and foals; blm shot Hope the foal with “gun)

        (BLM shot 4o preganant mares in a corral in 2010; that was at Calico

        all together 115 mustangs dies most were shot

        guess maybe I am next ! (swat at gunnison; however

        totheblm Your big guns don’t scare me big brother!
        why? because you might end up in jail yourselves !

        if yous don’t quit the “shooting of innocent Stangs! @

    • savewildhorses says:

      Sandra, see if Blue Sky in Oregon can help you with transport for Grey Beard.

      • Linda Horn says:

        Speaking of Blue Sky, they have pix up on the two mustangs saved from the feedlot.

      • Linda Horn says:

        Maybe Jim Clapp might be able to provide some ideas on transport, especially of stallion. I don’t know much about him except I’ve read. Evidently, he was a BLM Wild Horse trapper at the beginning of the program, then began rescuing Mustangs because he didn’t approve of what was going on.

        This is from the Hooved Animal Rescue and Protection Society (is Ginger K. still on their Advisory Board?). Mentions Jim Clapp’s role in the Mustang stallion Elko Dann’s rescue.

        WARNING: There is one VERY disturbing photo/description of a dead mustang fenced off from water in the photo gallery. Tough to see, but a REALITY. But the fabulous photos of Elko Dann are also a reality. What a performer and WHAT A BEAUTY!


        • Linda Horn says:

          An American Service Horse Rescue (Jim Clapp/Co-founder) “Idea” is part of the Pepsi Refresh contest – seeking funds for rescued U.S. Service horses and mules disguarded by our government as “unsaleable” or “unadoptable”.

          When I read this I was TOTALLY PISSED! I somehow thought the government would act responsibly and provide proper retirement facilities for these animals.

          His idea is currently #51 for $25k in The Planet category. You have to sign up to vote and sign in daily so they can count the “hits”. I vote for this and 9 other Animal Charities EVERY day.

          This is a direct link to his page:

          BTW, if I’m wrong about the U.S. providing care/retirement for these “veterans”, will someone (including anyone from the government) PLEASE correct me. I don’t want to be “spreading rumors”. There’s enough of that already.

  3. Anna says:

    to put an Albino or a Cremola in the gunnison state prison with no shelter from the sun and no shade

    is ANIMAL ABUSE ! call out the swat team on the BLM for

    over animal abuse !

  4. Anna says:

    You’ll be relieved to know they weren’t targeting you. BLM posted the rules regarding SWAT security at Gunnison prison back in July.



    Viewing Opportunities and Restrictions at the Gunnison Wild Horse Training Facility
    Print Page
    Viewing of animals is by appointment only, weekly on Tuesdays 10 am – 2 pm. This is necessary for security and availability of SWAT Team Security that is always on-site when visitors enter the site.

    The BLM had this protocol set up long ago; very very foolish on the part of the BLM and state gov. of utah

    to go about “threatening potential adopters this way isnt’ it? imo

    ps the prison has a SWAT team avaib. for ANY VISITORS !
    regardless of the reason; they do this to “scare us !

    Guns don’t scare me ! guns are just rock throwing machines

  5. Anna says:

    to all: please do not reply to ANY of my posts; I am “gone !
    Anne White usa

  6. Linda Horn says:

    Googled “SWAT Prisons” and found it’s SOP at federal and state facilities. I was confused by a comment I read in the “HorseBack” article. SOP is SOP, and will just have to be dealt with.

    Laura, we all know that you’ll be professional and courteous, as you always are. Best of luck going forward.

    • Laura Leigh says:

      Even BLM employees always say I am professional and very likeable.

      I am there for the horses and to get what I am able to see to you all. That is the purpose, simply stated.

      Guaranteed by my First Amendment… they haven’t “repealed” it, yet.

    • Morgan Griffith says:

      This is indeed SOP but there is no reasonable purpose to state that in an email to someone except to bully. Just simply stating an appointment is necessary would have been enough. The internal security processes at the prison did not have to be thrown out there. This just discourages adoptions or contact with the prison on behalf of the horses, which is the purpose behind Dona’s chosen method of communicating.

  7. LOUIE COCROFT says:

    Laura, that is EXACTLY the reason you are being singled out–just like they do the lead horse. You are a threat to them and they are hoping to discourage you if they can. They have tried to sabotage you in other ways and that didn’t work, either. They ought to know better than to mess with a Warrior with Flaming Red Hair.

  8. Lenore says:

    There’s a reason for the armed guards and SWAT: BLM knows what they’re doing is wrong in the eyes of many people. While Laura is a very “mild-mannered reporter,” there may be others just biding their time. In general, the horse advocates who attend the roundups are a very peaceful group, reporters and wildlife biologists, who have never caused any disturbance that I’m aware of. If there is any mention of violence on one of the horse advocate websites, the person is immediately reprimanded and the post removed. But there is nothing which can be done to make BLM employees safe. They are vulnerable, as are their families and some of the high profile people who have backed them up – like the sheriff in Elko. JMHO.

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