Wild Horse Education

Guest Feature: A Visit With Broken

Guest feature by Elyse Gardner Walsh. Elyse visited the Broken Arrow facility on the last tour. Elyse was there in 2009 when wild horse advocacy itself began a “new generation”. A lot has happened since those days and a lot has stayed the same. She sent us her piece today and we share it with you.


I can’t help wondering if these 2000 horses and 150-ish burros will be the first to die if Congress proceeds to approve the budget as it presently stands today, November 8, 2017… 

On Friday, Oct 27, I traveled to Fallon, Nevada, to see nearly 2,000 wild horses and around 150 elegant little burros who live in a facility closed to the public called both “Indian Lakes” and “Broken Arrow.” To my recollection, it was called “Broken Arrow” by most everyone when it opened back in 2009, and most wild horse advocates familiar with it continue to use that title.

            Although the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) tries to downplay it, Broken Arrow is a hidden, “secret” holding facility.  It opens to the public only one or two days per year when they conduct one of these rolling tours and let people glimpse the wild horses and burros warehoused there as we are carted along, only after litigation. A “rolling tour”: Visitors sit on hay bales in an open trailer pulled along by a tractor, jouncing along at about 5 miles per hour, with a few stops and tour guide tidbits of info about the horses in the pens we pause by.  BLM’s John Neill was our tour guide.

I can’t wrap my mind around this; I cannot stop thinking, as I look at all these innocent, hidden horses who’ve already lost so much:  Do people know that Congress is poised to green-light the killing of 67,000 healthy wild horses, mustangs and burros already captured and living in “short-term” facilities like Broken Arrow and Palomino Valley Center, and in long-term pastures in Kansas and Oklahoma? 

The tour was well managed. At the risk of sounding cynical, I have to say this was a very sanitized tour, more so than the sanitized tours that can before it. I did not see one scratch, not one injury, not one crooked tag, not one limping horse, not one long hoof, not one emaciated horse (I did see a number of overweight horses).  Having toured this facility weekly the first half of 2010, I know this isn’t normal.  This large a number of horses living in close quarters anywhere is going to have issues no matter how good or ample is the food, water, and occasional medical intervention. I did not see what they are feeding these horses. Normally horses are fed right before the tour and we have  even documented grain hay being fed to overweight horses, not grass, at previous tours.

Although the spit and polish created an artificial sort of feel, on behalf of the horses, thank you, John Neill and Troy Adams and BLM, for the polish and the shine, and the well-manicured feet.  I am glad to see our wild horses well cared for — for isn’t that the point? — even if you just “cleaned house for the company.”  I do wonder what injured or ill horses were displaced, or worse, and for how long, in order for BLM to present us with the perfectly run facility.  That said, my “thank you” is sincere. 

In June 2010, BLM locked the gates to the Indian Lakes facility.  They had one tour in October 2012 during a court battle, and then nothing until October 2014.  BLM re-opened the doors to Broken Arrow for the twice-yearly tours only after Wild Horse Education’s successful litigation against them challenged their policy of  highly restricting access (of the public)  to mustangs both in holding facilities and at roundups.   Nobody ever says, “Yup, she beat us in court, so we have changed [this] around.” But those are the facts, and those two tours are significant and hard-won, micromanaged or not. Laura said to me, “Hey, if having a tour got all those feet done, something we have never seen before, it was worth it.”

This video below is how we visited the horses at Broken Arrow in 2010. The fillies in this video were adopted and the ones that were not went into a private sanctuary. Interaction simply helps find horses homes. Shortly after this video the doors closed to Broken Arrow, reopened once after litigation went to the Ninth circuit court in 2012 and then closed again, only to reopen after another round of litigation went back to the Ninth circuit. 

There are many things I could talk about concerning these horses, but pressing in on my mind:

Will I be one of the last “outside” people to see these horses? With the impending debate in Congress  will my photos be all that remains of these animals?

I mounted my video camera on its tripod, pointed it toward the penned horses and the occasional burro to our left (most of the time), and just let the video run. Then I picked up my Canon SLR camera and started shooting, wanting to acknowledge them, memorialize them.

Thoughts of a Congressional death warrant for virtually all these horses and their burro kin filled me with dread as I bounced along peering through my camera lens into face after face:  What is going to happen to you? My husband obligingly held me steady from the lurching of the trailer as I focused on capturing the images of these displaced beauties. A woman is talking about adopting this one or that one. Good, I think, Maybe that one will survive. Like my beautiful mustang girl, Anaya, who I will love and protect all my life, some of these animals may land well, but it has to be soon.

But how many won’t have anyone to care about them?  Will they be shot?  How will they go about killing all these animals?  How could it possibly be humane?  It cannot be. They will be terrified. I know it is up to all of us to be a voice for them.

Even if they don’t go to slaughter — and Congress’s Appropriations bill states they will not be sold or processed commercially, meaning they will not be sold to slaughter —  they are in for a terrible end.  I will only say this and no more:  Unless a firing squad shoots all of them in exactly the right place in the head, simultaneously, it is going to be horrible horrible horrible.  Once fear has entered in, “humane” is lost.  Horses are very smart beings. We just can’t let it happen, dear people. 

Because these horses at Broken Arrow/Indian Lakes live “off the radar,” in a news blackout from the public – they don’t even publish Facility Reports on the horses that come to them during a roundup anymore; they just disappear – I fear that these very horses may well be the first to die if the vote passes the budget.

Please finish this article and you will come to a simple action you can easily take that will tell this Congress that what you want and do not want.  They really do want our calls.  But even if they didn’t, call anyway!

Please watch my video at the bottom of this piece,  Broken Arrow, Broken Heart (aka Indian Lakes).  There is nothing gruesome in it, just lots of beautiful horses; you might see one you’ve been looking for!  If you see a horse or burro, or two, and want to buy or adopt that animal(s), do a screen capture, or call me and I will do it for you (415)235-7533. Then just send it to John Neill at JNeill@blm.gov, and get the ball rolling to give that animal a home.  If you own land and can take horses, if you know how to relate to them kindly, take some horses!  Please consider taking a pair that are obviously bonded. 

Wild horses are wild animals, but they do become amazing and wonderful trained horses.  

One little horse really stood out to me, a solid little trooper.  As our noisy trailer full of people bumped and squeaked toward his pen, his young friends all darted off in traditional horsey fashion: one spooks, they all spook, mostly.

Not this boy.  He stood there, looked around, ate a little hay.  He thinks for himself. He saw his peers leave yet chose not to follow.  And his ear movement says attentive, not frightened.  He simply decided he wasn’t in imminent danger, so he stayed put while everyone else followed whoever spooked first.


Steady Eddie

This little guy is different.  I like him. He is a trooper.  I find myself thinking of him as Steady Eddie. He was born in the Antelope Complex in Nevada, estimated to be four months old at capture (in September/October).  He is a lovely light sorrel, with what looks to be a dun dilution gene (can you see the faint but definite stripe down the center of his back?) and white hind socks, with a lovely centered white blaze.

He’s about six months old and branded/tagged 5573 (the tag displays the last four numbers of a mustang’s 8-digit freezebrand). He is not yet weaned, but that will come soon, and then he will be ready for adoption. That’s good; that helps. If you take a young foal home, hopefully you have a good uncle or auntie type adult horse to continue to teach the young one some manners. This is much easier done with the aid of another adult horse.

I only saw him twice for a few moments each time (our observation hay wagon passed his pen twice), but his behavior demonstrated a steadiness of spirit I treasure in a horse.  My mustang mare would love to take him under her wings, I’m sure.   I have him pictured here, and he is also in my video clip about this tour.

Steady Eddie is in a nursery pen (mare/foal pen), Pen 53, and he’s wearing tag no. 5573.  Anyone ready to offer a forever home to this little one? 

Please help our nation’s horses.  The time to speak up is now; it is here.  Laura Leigh/Wild Horse Education has made it simple with her article, A Personal Plea. Please take this action NOW.  Congress was supposed to vote on “the President’s budget” weeks ago, and the language opening the way to execute our wild horses is in that budget.  We cannot count on more delays.

And if you can actually take a horse or two – ideally with his or her friend (there is nothing sadder than one horse alone in a field), and/or have a friend or two that can take a horse or two, wow.  Please give it some consideration.

Thank you for caring and for following through.  Caring is great, but action is better.  Thank you for whatever time you are willing to give our cherished wild horses and burros today.

After the tours of facilities it is always hard to edit photos and video after spending time with our horses in the wild. I pulled out my guitar to help me remember how this should be, not simply what all of this has become.

Categories: Wild Horse Education