Lately I have been getting emails from people new to this issue. Often what I write is a “quick update” from the field and those posts can raise “interest,” but often leave questions.
First: Who are you? (not in the esoteric sense)
I am the founder of Wild Horse Education. The purpose of the organization is to document areas of wild horse management on public land with a primary focus on the “hands-on” care from range through “ultimate disposition.” By sharing that information with the public and other organizations information utilized can be current and appropriate to raise the needed dialogue, in any venue.
I am also currently Vice President of Wild Horse Freedom Federation. That organization was formed with the primary function of condensing existing Litigation efforts. But looking forward the organization’s goal is to increase communication toward effective action whenever required to protect America’s horses.
Both organizations are relatively new. Yet they create vital links in the advocacy chain.
Second: Why do you do what you do?
My love of horses goes back to early childhood. Some of my “perfect” memories involve the smell of horse breath and the fragrance of “stable” on my skin.
As an adult I met an old mustang in the kill pen at a packing plant when I went to pull another horse. I asked if I could buy him (offering more than three times the market rate, cash) and was refused. A load was going out and they had to “make weight.” I have never forgotten his eyes. He was freeze marked, born “wild and free” and had served man well into his twenties. How did that happen?
Life threw me a curve ball and the open road beckoned.
I headed to learn all I could. An “open book” waiting to be written.
I had my research. But I am a “hands on” learner. The education has been extensive and often convoluted. The areas of “basic truth” hard to uncover in the “justification” processes of man.
The real removal of any doubt I had about the programs of management being “flawed” were removed in one moment.
During the Calico roundup of 2009-2010 I visited the now off-limits facility called Broken Arrow in Fallon Nevada (now called “Indian Lakes” by BLM).
There I looked into the eyes of a dying colt. He lay on the ground in the hospital pen of an unfinished facility slowly reaching the almost 2000 horse mark. The hospital pen had no wind break, no chute to treat horses and no daily medical care.
I asked if I could find a veterinary hospital to take him to. I would adopt him and assume all expenses. That youngster was dying before my eyes… but I was refused.
I was given a song and dance about foals not being released to outside entities (not the truth).
I then said I would wait to adopt him and expected updates on his prognosis. I received answers to my calls and emails saying he was “fine” and “up and eating.” Claims I found very hard to believe. When you have seen death once it is a familiar presence.
I named him “Hope Springs Eternal.”
One day when I called to check on him and ask, yet again, that the vet report on his treatment be sent. The reply I got went like this: “He was put down Saturday or Sunday, the vet report’s online.”
That was it. No explanation as how a colt that “was doing just fine” was euthanized. The vet report was not online.
It took several calls and emails to get the vet report. It had no intake date, identification marks of the colt or treatment dates.The colt had been given horsie ibuprofen every five days for pain. His hooves had begun to slough (fall off) and the roundup was cited as “likely cause.” The report claimed his feet had been bandaged on the days I was told “just fine.” The report could have been on any of the young horses I had seen in that facility, any one of them.
I had been in constant communication about the welfare of that colt and was never told he was in trouble. I was given no opportunity to help, where the possibility had existed.
All I continued to receive was a convoluted justification process.
When I shared the information about the colt I received much, much more (restrictions on access and information)… and that has ultimately lead to the current litigation on First Amendment rights violations.
In that moment I had no doubt left. If at the heart of the program the welfare of the horse is not paramount it is broken.
This type of attitude is pervasive in every area of this program.
From management on the range, a lack of humane handling protocol, closed door facilities, FOIA’s unanswered, long-term holding shipping records kept secret…
From that day forward it is “what I have become.” Documenting the death of that colt and the convoluted justification process drew attention to this broken program. Documenting every face I can that is removed from that range and lands in the grips of a program that sees them as “inventory” makes them “more than a number.”
Recently the documentation of the pilot that struck an exhausted horse has gained the attention of a Federal Judge.
Through my camera lens it is my hope that they all become “living beings” in the eyes of those that create policy. That policy can someday begin to reflect that the program exists to manage a “thriving” population of the “living symbol of the pioneer spirit” and not the bottom line to the pockets of special interests that exploit America’s public land.
That is who I am and why I do what I do…
Yes, I have gone to a roundup and hit an armed roadblock while I had a concussion from a car accident. Yes, I have slept in more than one truck stop and use public showers. Yes, I often eat only peanut butter on tortillas and lots of coffee for days. Do I regret it? Not a moment.
In my heart I still have “Hope.”
donations to http://wildhorseeducation.org help keep me on the road