Wild Horse Education

Removing the Symbol of Freedom (as the nation celebrates July 4th)

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New baby and family running from the helicopter

Editorial: Laura Leigh, founder of Wild Horse Education

As our nation celebrates Independence Day, the fourth of July, we are removing our symbol of freedom from the range.

It should come as no surprise; I have sat on the range documenting roundups on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, New Years Day, 9/11 and many 4th of Julys. The relentlessness of the “remove machine” can be difficult to understand at first, until you come to know, intimately, those that actually run our public lands. Our public lands are run by private industry that is cut throat in the quest for profit. Those that sit behind desks tasked with management of the public commons, that have taken an oath to serve the public good, are merely lackeys of industry.

The things I have seen are beyond cruel. The damage to our land, that has accelerated beyond imagining, can make you ill. The illegal use of the land that goes unpunished? is so hard to stomach as a public relations person sits there and repeats the memo “we need to remove wild horses because they are causing damage.” All this while you know that mining has been approved or expanded, livestock projects approved or stocking levels increased and/or trespass livestock have been rampant in the area with barely a slap on the wrist.

video from July 3: our new volunteers are out at their first roundup. This was created just to show the speed of the chase yesterday. (you can see the roundup reports from Range Creek HERE.) 

Then the chopper flies. A relentless pursuit in biting cold and sweltering heat; the target number more important than any attempt to stop injury. It was absurd that I had to take my government to court because there was no humane handling policy. It is absurd that we will probably have to go back to court to enforce it.

As the budget debate runs full steam toward releasing an additional $21 million just to infuse the remove machine through October, a “heads up” came that shenanigans are happening in the Unified White House Agenda (a process for regulation and deregulation) to bring the “kill the pretty horses” back to the table.(HERE)

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Same band, the baby gives everything to keep up.

William Perry Pendley, an anti-public lands lawyer that has brought losing litigation against wild horses, is nominated for a permanent position helming the BLM. Pendley has absurdly called wild horses the greatest threat to our western landscape.

I have been busy this week fighting the budget, sending a report on Pendley and now the “clarification” for BLMs tools in the toolbox (open sales to slaughter and killing “unadoptable” horses in holding facilities). I have deep gratitude for the volunteers that have stepped up to help with our field work. WHE has teams out checking water in multiple HMAs, a team in training to help dart (should we ever get those agreements finalized) and a team at the roundup happening today.

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A small roundup in an area where I know observation was not going to be a fight, they read the law, would be a good first roundup for new volunteers. This is not one of those “over a thousand wild horses targeted where each day you will fight to just see anything at all” and the roundup is run like a brutal “zero out.” (NV has a bad reputation and has big roundups on tap later this year; this operation is in Utah where you know you will see something at least.)

Something they reported yesterday stayed with me all night, the story of a tiny foal. Yes, July is foaling season. Roundups by chopper should not be happening in July.

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A tiny foal gave all it had to keep up with family. The family had been picked up by the chopper not far, about 10 minutes for the run to the trap mouth (often those runs are 30 minutes or more). The family came in fast, the baby eventually fell. The foal got up and was brought into the trap.

July is foaling season. I remembered every foal I have ever seen that was injured, orphaned or died. I thought about the ones left on the range. I could not sleep.

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I’m up and working today, fighting the threat coming from the “kill the pretty horses” faction again. I’ve put that pre-work for the next leg against abuse on my schedule for this afternoon.

Our nation has a serious “priority problem.” Our wild places and wild things have a value far beyond gold or another overseas shipment of hamburger (public lands ranching only produces about 3% of beef, a lot of it going overseas).

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Our nation, with so many pressing financial needs, has prioritized funding for rounding up wild horses, to the point of collapsing the system, and is making moves to kill the wild horses in holding. Who are we? What have we become?

Stay safe. Don’t start a fire. May all of your loved ones and furry friends survive any onslaught of inconsiderate neighbors and their fireworks tonight. 

Our team is back at the roundup. I’m back at the keyboard.

Happy 4th?

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BLM…  July is foaling season.


You can take action to help protect our wild horses that remain free! BLM is mandated to manage, they are not mandated to remove. Help us push this machine toward range management HERE. 


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Categories: Wild Horse Education