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Not Just A Number

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I’m not just a number

At Wild Horse Education (WHE) our inbox receives all kinds of questions about wild horses. We can count on getting at least a hand full of requests every week to read a freeze mark or people asking if we have pictures of their mustang being captured or information on where their horse is from. (info on BLM freeze brands here:  https://wildhorseeducation.org/blm-freezemark/)

People that have never been to a roundup don’t understand how hard it is to get clear shots of wild horses during capture. The public is not always afforded access to capture or clear handling at temporary holding. We do our best to negotiate viewing and have bought longer lenses. We also take a lot of pictures each day and then enlarge them to get details. To search for your adopted mustang is not always possible. Sometimes it will be easy to find your horse because we don’t have to enlarge each image, but sometimes even with hours of searching, we can not locate your horse. Often the date you are given as “capture” is actually the date the horse was shipped or simply not accurate at all. But we try.

We know your mustang is “not just an inventory number.” That statement is one of those statements that makes our hearts ache. This journey has been filled with individuals on the range that have become nothing but a number.

The story of the foal we named “Hope” was one such story. Captured and brought to the then unfinished holding facility in Fallon, Broken Arrow, his hooves literally began to fall off from the bruising and swelling. His “vet report” had no intake date, no physical identifiers and no pen number. He was not the only foal to die in that roundup from hoof slough. The vet report said he was given bute every 4 or 5 days, he died after about 14. He didn’t even have an “inventory number.” He had no name, number or freeze mark. It was the birth of the advocacy that became this organization.

People that read our website have asked for information on how to adopt horses.

Last year there was a woman that wanted three horses. Those horses were at Broken Arrow. It took months of emails and calls to finally get those horses released to sanctuary. The horses, that sat in holding with no promotion, and predominantly out of public view, are now at SkyDog Sanctuary. What should have been easy, was not.

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“Wild” is a language never forgotten. 

A reader recently sent us a story from a BLM internet adoption about a colt captured at Owyhee this past winter. A woman wanted to adopt him and made a request. She was told he would be offered on the internet, in a couple of weeks, and she had to wait. They could have adopted that horse to her, pulled another Owyhee colt and given another horse a chance at finding a home. If it was color needed in the adoption event Owyhee had plenty of that to offer and another youngster of color could have been pulled out.

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Family on range, numbers in holding

Instead the woman bid on the tri color paint, 6 weeks after her request to adopt. The horse coliced and died right before bidding ended. To the woman that would have taken him six weeks before he died, that horse was more than a number.

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The colt the woman wanted was behind this brave little one on February 23, 2017. He never made it out of the facility.

“I was up at PVC doing an interview on February 23. I stood with the young horses that had been pulled for the internet adoption from Owyhee, they were up in the front pen. It’s always a bit rough to stand with the ones I knew from the range, was there during capture. I stopped to wish them well. I didn’t stay long. I had finished my interview, chaperoned, and then it was BLM’s turn. There had been jokes and analogies during the interview drawing the parallel to being an advocate and being a wild horse. Owyhee was a rough one for a lot of reasons and those parallels everyone was joking about were not a joke for me. The roundup had ended only about eleven weeks earlier and both the horses and myself were still a bit wary. With all I have seen holding facilities it makes my heart really heavy. I wish I had taken more pictures. At least that pretty paint had someone else that knew him as more than a number. It was my wish for them all. I just wish he got to go to a new home.”

There are still beautiful horses from Owyhee in holding that need new homes.

Some adoptions do not carry a cloud of obstruction. WHE has assisted at multiple trap site adoptions where advocates, BLM and the public have worked together to find new homes.

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A mare that was known to have been a domestic turned lose into Sand Wash was given a freeze mark by BLM Colorado and allowed to be adopted. In Nevada she would have gone to the state and then sale auction, not even worth the “number.”

Recently WHE photographed an event in Colorado for some of the Sand Wash Basin horses removed late last year. The event was a cooperative one between Sand Wash Basin Advocate Team (SWAT), Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary (GEMS) and the BLM.

“I could see the tightrope clearly that people walked, I know this inside and out, but they all did it with a grace that should serve as an example. People that come from different places and love those horses, or simply hold a responsibility to them, worked side by side to create an environment where the public felt welcome and the horses themselves were very much ‘more than a number.’ I hope that program can grow and receives all the support it can from everyone, no matter the small differences. ‘More than a number,’ was as healing for me as it was successful in finding good landing places for the horses.”

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Advocates from range through holding and BLM did their best to find homes for horses that had names, not just numbers. photo:Laura Leigh, 2017 click image to go to SWAT FB page

There is currently an internet adoption that features many wild horses. Some are available for adoption and some are sale authority. If you don’t know the difference between adoption and sale we have an article here: https://wildhorseeducation.org/three-strikes-adoption-and-sale-authority/

You can view the online gallery here:  https://www.blm.gov/adoptahorse/onlinegallery.php

Some gorgeous youngsters from the Cedar Mountain roundup can be found at Delta.

Three that have had some handling can be found under the tab for Mantle Ranch.

Canon City offers adoption and sale. Horses from all over are available; Piceance/East Douglas, Humbolt NV, Divide Basin WY, etc.

Ewing IL, PVC and Fallon (Broken Arrow) in NV are offering all sale authority horses.

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Image taken of horses in Broken Arrow (Fallon). “7726” was one “number” shy of her band mate that ended up sold to kill buyer Tom Davis. Just a number.

The “sale authority” label is yet one more stigma in the wild horse world. It implies a “not good enough for compliance checks” and somehow the horse is “unadoptable.”

Many of these horses carry the “just a number” in a way that other wild horses don’t. They had the unfortunate circumstance to be “born in a holding facility” that didn’t feel it important enough to note who the colt was born to. These become horses that have no connection to the land that bred them, no history, no story except “just a number.” Many of these you can look at the date born, and the facility born in, compare it to the intake that facility had from the range at the time and make a reasonable deduction as to where mom came from. We can do better than that and we have been told the practice will stop soon. We see that practice predominantly in Nevada.

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Mares taken into Broken Arrow (BLM now just calls it Fallon) from Fish Creek after action by county to stop fertility control and data program. The pregnant mares, whose foals may be in the “sale eligible” secton on the internet adoption, never went home. Click image to read about a visit to the facility.

If we look at the horses you can see “born in a facility” that likely came from places like Fish Creek. How many of those babies were born to the mares that were heavily pregnant during capture and sent to the facility with a promise to be returned, with their foals,  after Eureka county et al stopped the release on the range? How many of them were the mares denied their return even as the return was being discussed by BLM with others?

Many of the other horses available at those facilities were captured as babies and have spent 2 or more years sitting in a facility. The vast majority of these “unadoptable” numbers were captured in 2012, as babies. But today they are a 5 year old unadoptable wild horse…. on an internet adoption. If they get bought, there is no follow up at all.

Video of 2012 captures that include Owyhee, Stone Cabin, Wassuk and more.

No follow up, where does that leave the horse?

In fall of 2012 a story broke in ProPublica. More than 1700 wild horse had gone to one kill buyer, Tom Davis. https://wildhorseeducation.org/slaughter-investigation/

When we look at the big picture we need to connect it to the small one.

The colt that had a home weeks before the internet adoption, that died the day bidding closed, could have been adopted. Another horse could have taken his place. That horse is still in the facility. Will we see him listed as “sale eligible” in 3 years (as a 5 year old) or will we never see him as he is “just a number?”

Will he end  up on a truck belonging to someone like Tom Davis? That day may be closer than anyone thinks in this political climate.

Our wild horses are not just a number. They are the only animal in our nation with an entire law to protect them as symbols of freedom, symbols of history and beloved by the American public. Can management and adoptions please begin to reflect that? The event in CO for the Sand Wash horses should be reflected program wide. People that want to adopt horses should be given help, not hinderance.

BLM should have a special interface for the public that helps them identify their horse, the horses story and offer the photos from capture. BLM has a photographer at the trap.

EVERY SINGLE WILD HORSE, on the range or in holding, is so much more than “just a number.”

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If you have adopted a wild horse, and even if you have not, take our challenge to raise awareness #4WildThings https://wildhorseeducation.org/4wildthings-challenge/

To help keep us on road, writing and fighting you can donate here: https://wildhorseeducation.org/ways-to-support-the-work-of-whe/

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Categories: Lead, Wild Horse Education