Sally, Slow That Mustang Down (Editorial)


Whoa Sally. Are you trying to create science based range management or are wild horses simply a bargaining chip?

At Wild Horse Education (WHE) we deal with many aspects of public land management. Wild horses and burros in the US do not exist in a vacuum, they exist in a complex landscape of politics that has run land management policy with very little consideration for the range itself. It is often difficult to get politicians, agency figureheads and the public to engage in a conversation that contains much common sense at the core.

We created this letter to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell in an informal format in an attempt to educate the public, not as an actual letter to send. There are very serious issues that are going unaddressed. Writing the letter using the appropriate formal tone and citations would leave the vast majority of the public without complete comprehension. People that already understand the issues may simply be entertained. The letter is not meant with any disrespect, it is meant to educate.

We were inspired to write this letter after listening to Wilson Pickett.

Mustang Sally,

I think you better slow your mustang down. Wild horses can be hard to understand. People have preconceived notions that they are too difficult to handle, but that is not the truth. With a kind hand and a willingness to listen, wild horses can be the best partners and a truly wonderful experience. You just need to let go of the rumors and the bad rap they have been given. You also need to let go of the whip, or the horse will throw you. The same goes for managing them on the range.

When you first jumped in the saddle on March 7 of 2013, four senators questioned the wild horse program, saying the BLM has consistently failed to meet management goals. You said you were “not familiar with the specifics” of the BLM’s horse budget and  looked forward to working on “effective and ecologically sustainable policies.” You were waiting for the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to give you the training manual for your mustangs.

The NAS handed you that manual in June of 2013. Everyone expected you to send down the directives, and the funds, to “do it right.” The 400 page, 1.5 million dollar manual that the tax payer funded, was placed right in your hands. You seem to have forgotten that you need to have people on the ground mucking the stalls or the manure piles up. You need to pay the people shoveling.

Instead of hiring a good trainer you just let that horse sit in the barn and turn rank. Dust off that manual and read the whole thing. Looking at one chapter in the book won’t remove all the parasites, bad habits and give you a clue how to handle your horse. You will end up getting bucked off, bit and maybe run over.

You need to slow down Sally.

All you want to do is ride around Sally, ride, Sally, ride. 

Now we know that a bunch of folks pushed the Greater Sage Grouse issues onto your table, many holding a fork and a knife. We know that all the parties had promises of impressive guest lists and paid photographers. We know you made some fancy friends, we saw the photos. We know that a lot of those fancy friends don’t really know much about wild horses and are telling you the same old stories, stories that very expensive training manual from the NAS says will hurt  your horse.

We now see that you are giving a ton of money and favors to the people from those fancy sage grouse parties. We hope you read the manuals on that puffed prairie chicken and are trying to make more places for them to strut. We hope you are not making more places they can get tromped.

But while you were riding around, and riding around,  those fancy friends keep kicking your horse. Do you care?

All those party favors keep treating the horses like they do not matter much. Eight lines that treat horses the way they always have been in your expensive party planner won’t change anything.

You need to get on those muck boots, wash off the mascara, and get back to the barn.


A person that paid for the NAS review and a Wilson Pickett fan.



To sum this up in very basic words there are NO mandates that have been created from the NAS report. That means there are none that have translated into gaining the data required to integrate wild horses (appropriately) into any conversation that creates science based management, westside, to protect sage grouse habitat. The old paradigm, without any revision, is simply inserted.

In order to gain the data required to engage even a pretense of a science based wild horse and burro program, funding needs to get to the field level fast. The $11 million allocated  to  sterilization research,  that the general public finds offensive and is likely illegal, appears to be the only thought given to any of the points in the NAS study. That $11 million should have been divided proportionately to states according to current wild horse population levels, to immediately hire staff. That staff should have been sent to gather information so that we could actually have a conversation based on facts to integrate wild horses into the sage grouse plans, appropriately and sustainably.

The NAS review came first, sage grouse second. But like always wild horses, possibly the most explosive media feast the BLM manages, was set aside. Was it intentional? Was the controversy that the sage grouse created so intense that someone actually sat back and said we will need a diversion or a card we can play? The facts make this a very valid question.

WHE will publish an extensive piece that takes you through all the new regulations and the multimillion dollar new land use planning process. Some of it shows real promise to protect the range (without it everything dies). But horses are simply integrated using terminology  that reflects invalid equations.

We must require the equation to utilize validated variables. It can be done, it just takes work. Will we ever see a willingness to actually fund the work and then get it done?


To support the work of WHE go HERE.

Links on past articles about the NAS review:

NAS and a bit of context https://wildhorseeducation.org/2016/04/06/nas-report-a-bit-of-context/

A Reality Check, Fertility Control, AML, NAS https://wildhorseeducation.org/2016/03/28/a-reality-check-before-everyone-loses-fertility-control-nas-aml-and-away-we-go/

June 5, 2013 The NAS Review, A First look (you can download the report at this link) https://wildhorseeducation.org/2013/06/05/nas-report-a-first-look/


Categories: Lead, Wild Horse Education