Wild Horse Education

#OldMan; a #wildhorse on #publiclands

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Old Man medicine hat in central Nevada fighting to keep the mares he stole from a much younger stallion.

For the 4th of July we celebrate (and worry) about the old ones of the herd. Practice a bit of kindness instead of blowing something up this Fourth of July. We think our country needs that more than another explosion.

Watching an old stallion take on the younger studs is an unforgettable experience.  Often by appearances these “old men” look outmatched; the fight to keep a mare can take more out of an old body and in spring they can look gaunt. But the lessons learned over years of “the battle of the fittest for natures right to breed” has taught these old stallions many lessons. Sometimes, like in the case of this “Old Man,” you stand there as your camera shutter clicks and root for him to have one more chance to pass on his amazing genes to the next generation. You stand in amazement as his skill of moving his mares out of danger of being stolen to just the right spot before he turns to face the relentless challenger; attack, parry, spin and then land a blow that can be heard across a valley floor. The younger male stunned. Was the lesson learned? If not the Old Man is ready to teach it one more time…. ~ Laura Leigh

Most of the wild horses documented by us at Wild Horse Education are the “nowhere” wild ones. The wild horses that see a human and high tail it over a ridge or stand at no closer than a quarter mile. We have seen so many of our “Old Man” wild horses lose the battle in the natural world, but most often lose the battle with man as they are captured and disappear into the black hole of federal holding facilities never to be seen again.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) roundup schedule that will close out the 2018 fiscal year with a low note, a very low note. The last operation of the fiscal year will move a spaying experiment forward that the vast majority of American’s has dubbed “barbaric,” “logic that borders on insanity” and a “huge waste of tax payer funds to satisfy political agenda.”

The fiscal year 2018 has shown the insanity of any assertion of “management” in full-color. The budget called for killing wild horses by the tens of thousands to simply sweep decades of ineptness aside, it was defeated. The agency continues to prioritize the most devastating use of public land grazing, domestic livestock, and scapegoat a fractional use, wild horses. Areas where our ranges have been battered to dust (fact; a century of cloven hooves has created devastation that will hurt wild horses scraping by to survive) are ignored when the agency has funding for a removal they prioritize political aims (see Triple B in February in an area that could sustain wild horses hit by both a helicopter removing horses and mountain lions being killed to satisfy livestock and then an “emergency” removal a few month later using funds not budgeted for normal “management”).

Now when funding is finally released for the remainder of the fiscal year through October 15 (after a year like no other in Appropriations debate) the agency does not target the worst of the worst, they target the areas of the most extreme public interest; the areas where groups work hard to try to increase and implement temporary fertility control. Then precious funding, a lot of it, is committed to an experimental procedure that has no scientific baseline for field use (we have no data on the herds to justify a permanent close of a single genetic doorway) and herds that have not corrected the extreme data flaws as outlined by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

What do we have? Yahoo management based on a lazy copy/paste mentality, cowboy myth and politics. If you do not comprehend the smoke and mirrors of government speak you really do not have to, BLM gave you a gift. During the debates for funding in 2017 Congress asked BLM for a report on the program. In 2018 BLM handed them a 25 page “wish list,” not a substantive report. Yes, Ryan Zinke’s Department of Interior handed Congress one of the most data devoid pieces of nonsense that was supposed to explain perhaps the area of the most intense public interest on public lands, wild horses. Shame on them. Did an intern copy and paste from an Environmental Assessment and then add a wish list from Protect the Harvest? It sure looks that way. However nothing in recent memory underscores how the BLM “manages” wild horses like the effort put into that document; essentially zero.

However nothing in recent memory underscores how the BLM “manages” wild horses like the effort put into that document; essentially zero.


“Old Man” of Onaqui, photo Sandy Sharkey

#OldManFanClub #OldMan

Sandy Sharkey, a photographer of wild horses posted on facebook (and made a plea to us to share): The wild white stallion in this image is affectionately known as ‘Old Man’. He is estimated to be close to 30 years old, and has lived his entire life wild and free in Utah’s Great Basin Desert, in the shadow of the Onaqui Mountains. I traveled over 2,200 miles to see him, and spent an incredible day observing this magnificent stallion~ who has never lost his fighting spirit. But this fall, Old Man and the rest of the Onaqui herd will face the fight of their lives. The US gov’t is planning a drastic roundup of these iconic wild horses~ but it’s not too late to stop it. Comments about the roundup are being accepted until July 12th- PLEASE add your voice to help keep wild horses where they belong. In the WILD. Please click here: https://on.doi.gov/2lPaV0F


Old Man of Onaqui, photo Sandy Sharkey

This plea is for the wild horses at Onaqui, perhaps the most photographed wild horses in our nation. The area is easy to get to and on a Sunday the wild ones look at each other and say “Yup, another one of those two legs here to look at us through that weird long thing they put on their face, smile.” Some of the most beautiful photos that have roused a public interest come from Onaqui and the people that have fallen in love with those horses.

Sandy’s plea was the inspiration for this article. A simple hashtag, a simple plea, a real emotion with nothing behind it except the desire to help… and a feeling many share, helplessness.

Comments to help Onaqui? They need to include the impact to the people that photograph and love this herd. That impact will have no “mitigation.” Failure to move a program full steam and instead walk on political eggshells? Our comment will include a note to Utah State lead Gus Warr… the group, Wild Horses of America, needs to be given more freedom to move faster in their efforts to dart and stop being held back in the “game of control.”

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Pine Nuts, Silver King, Onaqui, Red Desert, Sulpher…. all of these areas of extreme public interest will be hit before October in the game of “sage grouse, check a box” to continue the massive financial opportunities in what has become nothing more than a political tool. Sage Grouse management plans are not about sage grouse, they are about finding ways to use tax payer funds to continue exploitative uses of land, nothing more. Wild horses are the first “box to check” to make sure the game can continue.


Beautiful “Old Man” trapped and released back into Sulpher is now at risk of losing his freedom forever.

You can still comment on many of these plans. However please note that before you ever comment on documents where the ink has not even dried, BLM has already committed funding to “get ‘er done.”

Your voice has been restricted and minimized in process, not just on these “EAs.” The better part of 2017 saw Resource Advisory Boards (RACs) closed down. Momentum on any public opposition to legislative landslide that hit full force was limited to things like “letters to the editor,” not an avenue to submit public record into official process. Freedom of Information Act offices have delayed, or not responded at all, to substantive requests.

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“Old Man” released after capture onto a range that was not his home, without his family, by BLM in Feb 2018

Many operations deemed “appropriate” by BLM have only removed all the younger horses, under 6, saying “better for adoption. Yet BLM will continue this concept beyond a single event without looking at the science, the data, that points to a very real danger of creating a genetic void and an aging population.


Populations in areas like Reveille (that have an extremely low AML while a livestock permit continues to operate on historic, year round, use as the range suffers) continue to age after a decade of “copy/paste” and remove the “under 6.”

What you can do:

Call your Congressional representative and urge them to deny funding (beyond feeding and caring for captive wild horses) for the BLM wild horse program until Zinke and his staff create a real report on the BLM wild horse and burro program.

Deny all funding for any removal except in emergencies. Deny all funding for experimental procedures that waste tax payer funding.

Ask your representative to demand a full report from Zinke. 

Fin you rep here: http://govtrack.us

Help the horses at Onaqui by reading the EA and sending comments :  https://www.blm.gov/press-release/blm-seeks-public-comment-environmental-analysis-proposed-population-control-wild

Yu can send comments on the spay experiment as well. Information can be found: https://wildhorseeducation.org/2018/06/29/blm-moves-forward-with-spay-paperwork/

There are many areas, including sage grouse with comments due soon. As time allows we will publish some of what we are sending so you can use them as a template. If you look how BLM responds to the cut and paste or form letter that copies the same comment? They respond as if it is one comment. Pressure your legislator, know who they are and what they stand for…. and vote in November. That is the single most important thing you can do to make lasting change for our wild ones.

In the meantime? Join the social media campaign and use that hashtag #OldManFanClub, or just #OldMan, to show support for people like Sandy trying to protect the wild ones they have come to love. If you have photos of an #OldMan of #publiclands? Spread them far and wide. Many Americans have no idea the danger our wild ones and wild places are in.

For the Forth of July…. we salute the Old ones of the herd.

Be safe. Be aware that fireworks can scare human and furred and feathered alike. Practice a bit of kindness instead of blowing something up this Fourth of July. We think our country needs that more than another explosion.


We have  been offered a match to contributions up to $5,000 to kick off the “war chest funds” through July 6. All contributions matched. 


Categories: Wild Horse Education