Wild Horse Education

Photographs and Memories (2020)

There are 21 days until 2021.

In 2020 we have written many articles, fought legal battles and worked hard to educate Congress about the wild horse and burro (program) on the range and the deficits in management that keep the program broken and our wild ones at risk. Our teams have worked very hard on many levels.

Our documentation is a key piece of all we do. Part of that work involves the photojournalism, the pictures, the public has come to rely on us to provide; the illustration of “what happens.”

Earlier this year our founder wrote a journal style piece from the road. Leigh wrote: “Each image I take has a visceral history behind it; a reality of smell, taste, touch that carries a knowledge of the actual fight to save that range, that herd, that horse from being hit by a helicopter.”

As 2020 draws to a close we asked WHE team members to choose some photos that represent the experience of 2020.

21 images, that represent memories of 2020, as we countdown to 2021.

Marie Milliman: The release at Red Desert happened after days of documenting the helicopters, traps and all that happens to our wild ones. The pictures taken at the release were the kind you could spend days editing and publishing. But it was just one day, one moment in time. You document and report and then move fast to the next day and the next. The emotions attached to each moment must quickly be set aside, fade to black and white… but it stays with you a lifetime. (release at Red Desert)

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Elyse Gardener Walsh: These are not “beautiful horse photographs,” and they may be entirely passed over by people scrolling online social media scans.  But, to me, they are powerful, and they characterize what is happening to our wild horses and my commitment to speak for them.

These horses with tiny babies were run up and down and around these vast mountains with virtually no rests built in.  I had to listen to boasting about the skill of their new pilots like the tailors boasted of the Emperor’s new clothes, i.e., there wasn’t much if any finesse or skill being displayed.  This was hardly my first roundup, and virtually every “drive” (wild horses finally being driven by helicopter into trap pen) ended up with wranglers needing to go rope foals who simply could not endure, could not keep up.  The wranglers needed to go retrieve the foals to reunite them with mom.
Some covering the roundup reported this as, wranglers needing to retrieve a “few stray foals.”  This statement has bothered me since the day I read it.  The pain and trauma leading up to foals separated from their bands can hardly be expressed and certainly cannot be overstated.
Sometimes it is the experience that can not be presented in a “great photo” that adheres in your heart and mind. (Shawave, 2020)

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Laura Leigh: These images from the Shawave roundup speak to me on more than one level. The agency ran wild horses in thick smoke coming in from far away wild fires. The air quality index was extremely dangerous and the thick dust on the ground was kicked into the air. We were kept far from the trap and only had glimpses of horses and chopper. It felt the same as trying to address policy and programs. Almost everything is hidden as you catch glimpses of failures to care about the mandates of law; the status quo in 2020.  (Shawave roundup)

Marie Milliman: The work is hard. But I am so fortunate to be able to experience our wild ones in the wild places they live. Our wild ones share their home with so many amazing beings. Our public lands, and the living treasures that call them home, are all worth our attention, respect and awe.

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Laura Leigh: “Move ’em in, move ’em out.” Numbers on some spreadsheet on range; numbers on some spreadsheet in holding inventory. These newly captive wild horses, just arriving at holding, are individuals doing their best to maintain complex social relationships they had in their homes. It is true that horses are highly adaptable beings; it is what makes them thrive in harsh environments on the range. But they are social beings and survival depends on those bonds, bonds not respected by a system that sees them as numbers only. What we put them through, and how they are so minimized all along the way, always sticks with me. All of these individuals were placed in extreme danger of hitting that slaughter pipeline as the sales program, and “cash payout adopter incentives,” was pushed hard in 2020 and BLM touted it as a “success.” (Advisory Board Comments)

Elyse Gardner Walsh: I was so happy this mom and her new baby remained free in the Blue Wing Complex after the roundup. But BLM went back to the area and removed over 200 more. Each time you feel there is something left, that you have a personal connection with, BLM goes and takes it away without creating any plans to preserve these treasures. Every single year. (Blue Wing)

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Laura Leigh: At the eagle roundup it was biting cold. I stood at the holding corral as BLM prepared to ship captive wild horses just as dawn broke. The warm golden light of the sun rising, directly behind the pens, created such a contrast in the images: the warmth of the color of light glinting off the frozen panels and backlighting the breath of each captive. The contradiction of a program bathed in “for their own good” that reveals a contradicting reality. (Eagle roundup 2020, 24 wild horses died onsite)

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Marie Milliman: At the Swasey round this year I documented many things, including mares crashing into panels and breaking necks (one with blood gushing out of her nose). At the time we published our reports, we kept the most gruesome to our archives and focused on the last moments of life. But what stuck with me the most about Swasey were the wild ones that could not even get a drink as BLM prioritized rapid captures over the basics of life. We pushed back and eased that suffering, even if it was only for a few. Each life matters. That is why I continue our work. (Big Battles, Little Battles. It All Matters)

Laura Leigh: New life at Ochoco. Seeing new babies is always a thrill. In 2020 I catalogued so many on the range listing band structure, gps, etc. But each new life is not just a number in our catalogue. Each individual is part of a family that needs us to fight for them in the twisted world of greed that wants to take their home and family. This baby is now at risk as the plan for the Ochoco is finalized: to remove the population down to 12-57 wild horses as livestock and hunters run the show. Area after area that story is the same. (Ochoco)

Marie Milliman: Spending time with the wild ones is such a treasured memory. These bachelors in Stone Cabin were so much fun! After documenting the roundup over at Reveille for days, these boys helped heal my soul. Stone Cabin means so much to me and I carry many memories in my heart and mind forever. (Reveille)


Out of tens of thousands of images our team members chose the 21 above to tell a story of 2020; 21 images until 2021. The images we take at roundups are only part of the story. The photographs and memories our team carries are essential to the fight, yet they also represent a piece of each person that walks this journey.

As the countdown to 2021 continues we will publish more highlights and lowlights of 2020. We will add features covering documenting and researching “water wars” that left many wild horses suffering or dead, to legal actions that led to change.

End of year posts:

Public Top Ten, your top ten articles on WHE. 

Gratitude Week: the Escapes

Stay safe. Covid is exploding in wild horse country. If you travel, please take precautions to keep yourself, and the communities you travel through, safe. Medical facilities in many western communities are small and the large hospitals in the nearest towns, that could be hundreds of miles away, are in overflow.

2020 marked the beginning of a new decade and exposed so much.

Stay strong. Together we fight on.


Help us stay in the fight. 

If you are shopping online you can help Wild Horse Education by choosing us as your charity of choice on IGive or Amazonsmile.com 


What you can do today to help in the fight.

Please take action to demand Congress defund any roundups where the BLM has failed to create open and transparent management planning.  Click HERE.

Call the Senate switchboard and ask for your rep. Demand that all actions against wild horses and burros halt until William Perry Pendley leaves the BLM. His tenure was ruled illegal and BLM is still moving an agenda forward for Pendley’s former law clients.  All actions Pendley had a hand in must face scrutiny by a Senate committee. Switchboard (202) 224-3121



Categories: Wild Horse Education