Jul 4, 2012



I had just turned on the television and as I scrolled through the mindless choices that will shut off with the timer long after I have fallen asleep, I noticed the Documentary Channel was playing “Wild Horses and Renegades”.  The synopsis says it is about the plight of the wild horses and the deterioration of federal lands.  It was only on a few minutes before it went to the commercial but it had left me with the images of helicopter round-ups, horses falling, stallions fighting when penned together; all quite disturbing to watch.  A snippet from Willy Nelson mentioned how the wild horses represent freedom.  That wasn’t the feeling I was left with. 


Before reading any further, please note I am not blogging about this subject to get into a political debate because frankly, I don’t know enough about it to argue an opinion one way or another.  I am just reflecting how I felt after watching some of this program. 


wild horses photo from internet


I know what my pastures look like, especially now in draught conditions and I see the sparse forage on the BLN land and I’m pretty sure these horses would rather have their head in a round bale than fighting for sagebrush.  Not quite as picturesque but if I opened my pasture gates and told my horses to run wild, I am pretty sure if there wasn’t grass to eat along the roadsides, they would meander back to the round bale.  Granted, they are domestic horses and I’m probably not comparing apples to apples, but can’t help but think food is food. 


wild horses pioneer woman


The wild horses that are probably the happiest are those that are cared for by ranches such as those chronicled on The Pioneer Woman blog.  All mares, beautiful pasture and regular feeding in the winter.  There are no farriers or worming or vet care.  There is no reproduction; the colts are weaned and separated from the mares.  They live as wild horses and will die wild horses.  But well cared for wild horses. 


And yes, we as taxpayers are covering the cost of their care.  It is what it is.


I think Madeleine Pickens had a pretty good plan; offering to take custody of the horses and move them to private land.  If land and money would hold up, along with a gelding program, it might be a viable option.


electric horseman


Recently I watched the 1979 movie The Electric Horseman with Robert Redford who played an trophy buckle winning cowboy paid to endorse a Wheaties type cereal.  A broken down hustler and drunk, he didn’t mesh well in the corporate world.  When paired with the multi-million dollar race horse, Rising Star, who was equipped in lights and drugged to perform in Vegas, he sobered up.  He was appalled at how the horse was being used; saw himself being used that same way and he had a plan.  He would steal the horse and set it free.  Remember how he saddled him up and said something to like “by God I have seen you run” and took off into the desert with the police in hot pursuit.  Then later pulling Riding Stars shoes and turning him lose with a wild horse herd.  I remember watching that movie and thinking he was such a hero for “saving” Rising Star. 


Fast forward three decades and I know today that a pampered thoroughbred didn’t have a chance in hell of survival in the wilderness among a wild horse herd.   He would die of starvation or colic, if he wasn’t killed first by the herd stallion or lamed by a protective mare.  Ol’ Sonny wasn’t doing Rising Star any favors.  But it made for a good movie. 


wh mtn


Watching these horses run across the foothills of the mountains provides a beautiful picture.  Stallions, mares and their babies – all part of the herd - free.  But is it humane?  One would argue its no different from deer or elk fending for themselves.  But yet horses pull at our heartstrings. 


I don’t know what the answer is.  I don’t like the round-ups but without thinning the herd or at a minimum, sterilization, they will continue to multiply.  Is there enough BLM land to continue to house a growing population of wild horses?  Is there enough food on this land to feed them?  I see the problems continuing to escalate.  The low $25-$125 adoption fees are not necessarily enticing the best horse people to purchase the mustangs and I mean no disrespect to those who are good horseman and have been successful.  I am just thinking about what people usually look for when shopping for a horse and most in my circle; middle aged women looking for a nice trail horse,  would not go to a holding facility for a mustang.  I don’t mean to be a snob about it, but when I can pick up a papered quarter horse yearling at a sale for the same price, I would pick the quarter horse every time.  (And yes, I have and she was bred to the hilt and pretty, too.  Wish I would have kept her.) 


wh holding fac


I do know a few people who have had success with their mustangs.  Paint Girl is just starting her mustang, Chance, and there is nothing wrong with that filly.  Chance is one of the lucky ones who has an owner who pardon the pun, took “a chance” and I bet it will turn out very successful. 


I would imagine that more remain in the holding facilities than are actually adopted, but I don’t know that for sure.   




My little blog doesn’t offer a solution.  Just ponderings and thoughts.  I started writing this a few days ago and it seemed fitting to finish it up and post today as we celebrate our freedom. 


wh kelsey


Happy Independence Day.  Thank you to those serving, in the past and future, especially my niece, Kelsey, for our freedom. 






  1. Wow you have done some pondering. Good article.

  2. Agreed - nice post and much pondering! I've been pondering about the same things for a while now and even wondered into some mustang groups on FB, and haven't really come a whole lot closer to any answers than when I first met the lady who adopted mustangs and bred and raised some, when I was in college. Only thing I have figured out, or at least believe I have, is that there gets to be a lot of emotion involved and that there seems to be people with no experience with horses who demand that things be a certain way just because it makes them 'feel' better even if, in reality, it's not the best for the horses.

  3. Got me to thinking about it!....

  4. I just wish there were enough people out there to give these wonderful horses a chance!! They are excellent trail horses and a lot of them compete right along with domesticated horses. I have found the mustang to be extremely loyal, very trusting, they bond like you wouldn't believe with their "person", so loving and super, super smart!! If I could I would adopt a lot more. I just don't have the space to do it. I know I can't save them all, nor can any of my mustang friends, but every little bit we do helps!!
    And there is a lot of emotion involved, I belong to numerous mustang groups on facebook and you will see all sides of the mustang issue being debated. I wish I had more time to get into this, but I got to get back to packing for my trip!!
    Thank you for bringing up this issue. It is very important!!

  5. It's a hard situation for the mustangs. I'm not going to really get into it but the BLM is IMO a basically corrupt arm of the government who would like nothing better to get rid of all the horses. They are also doing many things illegally and against the wild mustang protection act that Nixon put into law.

    There's a lot going on under the surface by the cattle lobbyists who have the money and use the land to graze too. Then there are the dishonest who will take them for slaughter money etc. The way they are rounded up and crowded into holding pens is inhumane. I've seen many foals run to death, some shear their hooves off so they can't walk anymore and die. Pregnant mares run to death too. They don't really care and there are many court battles trying to protect the mustangs.

    If anyone is really interested in reading up and educating themselves there's a great blog: Suzanne's Golden Days on Google that keeps everyone up to date on what's going on and I'm sure there are many more. That's it I could go on for hours.

  6. I've met quite a number of mustangs out on trail rides recently, all with that telltale gibberish-style neck brand (I know it means something, just can't tell what). I always ask their story. And I'm always impressed because those horses are never the ones who are causing havoc on the ride! lol It's always some "well-bred" critter, it seems..

    But I digress......

    We humans have a little difficulty mentally grappling with the gap between allowing a wild animal to be truly wild, and getting involved to assure that nature never gets too rough with them. We can't stand how nature really works, when it comes right down to it. Humane? That's a word that really is only appropriate in how humans handle or interact with animals, not the nature-animal connection. Nature is NOT real humane, by human standards. But the way nature makes sure the species continues is through periodic die-offs (starvation, disease, predators, etc.) to keep numbers down so they continue to have enough food for a remnant to survive. As long as humans interfere (with the best of intentions, of course) there will be out-of-proportion over-population of wild horses that will create a disastrous situation for even MORE of them. As it is right now, birth control is about the only thing I can think of that will help the current situation. Or preserves, like the one you've talked about, where no breeding goes on, but the animals are allowed to live free. But do they do vet care or hoof care? If so those are not exactly wild horses anymore, they are just someone's herd.

    Nature is cruel, that's for sure. But no more so for wild horses than deer or elk, or any other wild creature. If we want wild horse herds to exist, then we need to learn to grit our teeth and let nature do her job. Or else round 'em all up and domesticate them-----and you know how fast a lot of those will 'be no more'.

    It's a tough situation for them all around.

  7. Good thoughts in this post. Thanks for sharing. I agree it is a complex topic, and I agree with your thoughts on it. Thanks.

  8. Fascinating post and comments! Thank you.


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