NOTE from Leigh: Today is an important memory for our country, for wild horses and for me personally. I wanted to spend this morning writing a relevant and engaging piece. I have been on the phone all morning. I am trying to catch up on all the questions and requests for guidance that hit my inbox and voicemail. So the piece I had hoped to write took a back seat to conversations where people are not asking “Where do I click and send?” but instead are asking “How can I become an effective advocate?” My favorite conversation.
WHE will be doing an online course that covers policy, protocol, challenges and opportunities, etc. We will begin the creation of a website soon.
So join me in a “memory” that honors a horse.
“This one isn’t just any old horse. There’s a nobility in his eye, a regal serenity about him. Does he not personify all that men try to be and never can be? I tell you, my friend, there’s divinity in a horse, and specially in a horse like this. God got it right the day he created them. And to find a horse like this in the middle of this filthy abomination of a war, is for me like finding a butterfly on a dung heap. We don’t belong in the same universe as a creature like this.” ― Michael Morpurgo, War Horse
I grew up in a family that has a history of law enforcement officers, military personnel and firefighters. Members of my family watched the skyline change on 9/11 as they frantically searched for loved ones. That attack was personal.
For years after I would sit on the range on many “9/11’s” and document helicopter roundups of our wild horses by our federal government. It was personal.
On 9/11/2013 I sat and documented the beginning of the “final salute” our country gave to the most well documented US Cavalry horses in history, the horses of the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). I sat at ground zero in a sea of betrayal that spanned every single side of the fence.
The Sheldon mustangs are what drew me deep into the wild horse issue. My grandfather served in the US Cavalry in WWI with a horse from Sheldon.
“You put his mask on him first because he can carry you out, you can’t carry him.” Words burned into the heart of a child by her grandfather who never used many words.
He said, “Do you know we eat our soldiers?” I thought he was pulling my leg, and being the brat I was, I used one of those “bad words” to tell him so. “We thanked our horses by leaving them behind. They were butchered and eaten. We left our soldiers behind.” As a horse crazy kid I felt sick. As a kid raised in a household of military and law enforcement minded men, I felt horrified.
As an adult I learned about what we were doing to our horses. I came to see it for myself. I learned we were still betraying our military horses, we were butchering them with surgical experiments and still sending them to slaughter.
Sheldon became a place of refuge for me. I would literally hide there and sit with those horses year after year as I ran the race to document and fight for humane treatment for all our wild ones (you can read HERE). Year after year I learned things about Sheldon and the people involved that I wish I could forget, but I never will. The lengths that people will go to forward a corrupt agenda never fails to amaze me.
On 9/11/2013 a band of Sheldon mustangs was driven into the trap. I documented as I always did. Really sick and undergoing treatment for breast cancer, it was not easy. My heart was breaking and my stamina to resist the physical and emotional pain was low.
I did not know that one (two) of those horses would stay in my life.
On 9/12/2013 a big red mare gave birth (they said the baby was there the next day and said she was born on 9/12). This changed the “contractor” that the horse would go to. Sheldon essentially paid people to take the horses, did little follow up, and the US taxpayer paid for slaughter buyers to make more money off the sale of Sheldon’s to slaughter. Instead of going to one of the “direct” contractors, the mare was now slated to go to the “mare and foal” contractor. The age of this foal made transport unsafe to go the distance. A long story short, (that includes attempts at blackmail to keep me quiet) the mare and foal were given to me as a gift by someone that knew what was happening, adopted the mare and foal and tried to help heal my broken heart.
The big red mare and her foal are still with me. They were here when I came back from documenting the last Sheldon’s removed from the range in 2014. They were here with me when we saw nothing had changed and 90% of the last of them went to slaughter. I wrote this story for Memorial Day a few years back about the two horses. I don’t want to rewrite the same story. https://wildhorseeducation.org/2014/05/24/in-loving-memory/
I sit here today with the big mare and her daughter, that is a full hand taller than her mom. Everything that was done to their herd, everything, is now on the table for all of our wild horses. I watch as the same type of storm that engulfed the Sheldon move into the bigger picture. I contemplate how to address the issues today, when we have many of the same faces spewing the same nonsense about what they know and what they are.
In Rosie’s eyes I see the eyes of the tens of thousands of wild horses I have seen removed from our public land. In her eyes I see every court case I fought, I see every mile I have travelled. In her eyes I see every horse free on the range. In her eyes I see every horse in holding. In her eyes I see the horses at the packing plant awaiting death. In Rosie’s eyes I see it all.
There is so much on my plate. I know today I can’t solve all the problems and address all the issues no matter how long this article is.
Today I am just going to sit here and tell her how grateful I am that she is still alive. I am grateful that for today, I am still alive.
Tomorrow we will go back to the fight.
Other posts about Sheldon
Sheldon, Revisiting an American Tragedy https://wildhorseeducation.org/2015/09/28/sheldon-revisiting-an-american-tragedy-part-1/
Post archive for Sheldon
Categories: Wild Horse Education