Wild Horse Education

Gratitude; a reflection on the journey of advocacy (volunteer journal entry)

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Owyhee wild horses at Palomino Valley Center

Below is an editorial from Marie Milliman, Wild Horse Education volunteer. This piece is a reflection presented on this holiday when our thoughts turn to family and friends. Marie reflects on her “mustang journey” from adopter to advocate.

At Wild Horse Education we know advocacy can be physically and emotionally taxing, but we are grateful for this fight. We are grateful for your support.

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At our board meeting in April I sat in a valley of 200 wild horses, hundreds of miles from a town, at sunset. The contrast sitting with the wild ones at PVC was stark.

Thanks – giving: a time to give thanks, a time to be grateful, and a time to reflect. (Marie Milliman)

I give thanks for our revered symbols of the West that still exist on our Public Lands. I give thanks for the humans that have found it in their hearts to adopt “the one”, or two, or more that have committed to the honor of becoming a guardian for those that have lost their freedom. I give thanks for all of those that have effectively created lasting change for Wild Horses perpetuity and safety.

As our thoughts turn to our friends and family, I give thanks to the supporters of “those” that are creating the change, a gratitude that is not exclusive to dollars, but of time, encouragement, friendship and love. A kinship that can only be understood by those that share a passion for our Wild Horses and Wild Places.

“To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.” ~ Mark Twain

Personal Reflections

A reflection of my personal journey, including the Owyhee Roundup that was published in the most recent WHE Emagazine was titled Full Circle.

I recently had the opportunity to view the captured Owyhee horses in holding at the National Wild Horse and Burro Center at Palomino Valley.

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A tiny wreath of tail hair from my adopted BLM mustangs; one from Owyhee where I left this on the range at the recent roundup.

I stand corrected. This circle was not complete until I directly witnessed the final last leg of their journey into the holding/adoption system of the BLM. I will continue sharing my experience, where I left off with the last portion of my article;

Ground Zer0: Standing here in the Little Owyhee HMA, I dearly hold in my hands a commemoration wreath, comprised of Grace and Hallelujah’s tail hairs. This is to symbolize their unity as a herd in my pasture, and to return a “piece” of Grace to her homelands. I am grateful to share this experience with my friend and ally Laura Leigh. As I position the wreath on a sagebrush branch I can feel the completion of this circle, but it is difficult to fully release my hand. I imagine Grace as a foal living free with her herd, I say a prayer for the “euthanized” horses. I envision the branches of the sagebrush to represent all HMA’s, and the existing horses on them as well as their herd mates that have been captured and removed. I tried to walk away but, I could not. I returned to hold onto this symbol, why is it so hard to let go? I conclude that it is the many daunting circles that await their completion, and the rugged path that lies ahead to continue to speak their truth.

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In my mind I contrast my beautiful Owyhee wild horse Grace, born free on the range with her family, to this newborn Owyhee laying in the dirt at Palomino Valley.

The  only previous time that I was at a holding facility was at the Ridgecrest Regional Wild Horse and Burro Corrals as a naïve, but enthusiastic adopter. I was treated very well by the staff at the holding facility as an adopter.

I now see the horses in holding with more educated eyes, a suspicious mind, and a bruised heart.

This journey intensifies as it progresses. The depth and width of emotions compound with each experience and the knowledge of the threats that our wild ones experience and face to survive. For they have no voice, that is why we must speak for them, and our actions must be borne from a genuine heart and an honest voice. The honor of speaking for them is ever daunting and scarcely rewarding. Until the time that they are treated with equity, respect, and managed with science, the rewards will be few.

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My first visit to a BLM facility to adopt my horse. It was such a completely different experience. The way I was treated and the eyes I see through have changed.

With the best of intentions, I asked the facility manager some questions with the hopes to possibly help to promote the adoptions. Q – Where are the Owyhee horses, stallions, mares, babies located? A – they are mixed in with other horses now. Q – Where will they be transferred to? A – The stallions are not prepped for adoption yet. Q – How complete is their preparation? A – they are neither vaccinated, tagged, freeze branded, nor gelded. (Now let’s think about this answer. How can they possibly be mixed in with other non-branded horses from other roundups and be accurately identified by their HMA of origin and/or inventory?) Q – Where will the mares be shipped? A – the “older” ones will be shipped to long term holding. Q – Where will the “younger” mares be shipped to? A – Mustang Heritage Events, Carson Prison Program, and Nationally? Q – will the mares with babies be shipped? A – no. Well, that was quite the informative discussion (yes, sarcasm).

I guess I’ll just go find some unbranded stallions and figure they are Owyhee horses? If you have a pen unbranded and “mixed up” there is no way to accurately freezemark them.

I have no idea why whose simple questions met with such flippancy. I had never been to the facility before and asked for a map. I was not told where to find one and “it wont help you anyway.” Eventually I found one in a folder in a foyer.

Photos taken by WHE have led to literally hundreds of adoptions. Why treat advocates so badly?

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Youngsters now separated from their families. Will someone like the me I used to be come and adopt them? With all my heart I say a prayer for them.

The despair of observing the horses in holding with my “updated” viewpoint filled me with even more sorrow. At the roundups we have a purpose; to monitor their humane handling. With a purpose comes a sense of accomplishment which for me serves as an emotional shield from the reality of the “process”.

Here, I am at the mercy of feeling helpless. This is where their current status of captivity has culminated. It’s not my circle, it’s theirs. However, their circle doesn’t have to end this way.

I urge you to adopt, an experience of a lifetime. Your investment in the privilege to become a guardian for a wild heartbeat of the West, will be reciprocated exponentially, this I can guarantee.

I urge you to learn more about wild horses on the range. Wild horses are caught in a complex system of land management that often resembles an “invitation only party” and is run “pay per view” style. As wild horse advocates we are often left at a locked door.

I am grateful for the opportunity to be in this fight. I am grateful for the work of Laura Leigh and Wild Horse Education. I am grateful for the honor of sharing this road with those that are compelled to fight the good fight.

We, at Wild Horse Education, are grateful for you.


Help us build a strong frontline to fight for them and their habitat. Through Dec 4 2019 Wild Horse Education has a generous matching donor! You can double your contribution today. 



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