Wild Horse Education

My First Roundup (WHE Team Volunteer)

At the core of Wild Horse Education (WHE) lies a small group of dedicated individuals. The name of our org was chosen partly because the acronym spoken sounds like “we.” Some of our volunteers work in the background. Some take a more public role and step into the grueling work of our Roundup Observation or CAWP Teams.

As team members begin to observe roundups one of the assignments is to journal. Writing a journal type piece, as opposed to a simple roundup report, allows us to get to know each team member and share their voices with you.

Meet Colette.


My first wild horse roundup started with a phone call to tell me about the so-called “emergency” to round up thousands of horses from the Antelope Complex in Nevada on August 1.  The Bureau of Land Management’s News Release of this was July 29.

I hadn’t planned on going, but WHE has a committed team of volunteers, who stretch their own limits, and with my help the month-long roundup would be covered without any gaps.  When and where?  Wendover, Nevada, ASAP.

Why cover roundups?  It is important for people to be out there.  It is a layer of oversight that is indispensable and consequential.  The public is the guardian of our wild horses and burros.  We are there to document, document, document the operation to expose things that will need to be addressed through litigation and in a courtroom.  Our presence puts pressure on the operation to follow the humane handling policy.  Every moment at every roundup by its nature is serious.  It is not a one-day experience and not a photo op.

Fortunately, the public has access to view roundups, thanks to the work of Wild Horse Education and their First Amendment precedent-setting case.  It paved the way and is still the only organization in history to litigate against abuse at roundups and win.  The Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy (CAWP) was included into contracts and subcontracts.  It took litigation by WHE to create CAWP; will it take legal action to get them to take this seriously?” WHE.

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At the viewing location the helicopter(s) is flying.  In an immense landscape the action is out of sight and earshot, except for a pattern of dust created by the band of horses.

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Bands run hard from distant hills and chased with unrelenting pressure toward the wings and a corral-like trap.  Bands make fearful and frantic fast turns.  As bands are driven closer to the wings, metal stakes covered with material in shape of a funnel, the action intensifies and risks escalate for horses.  One cannot deflect seeing so many foals running these distances and then being trampled, seriously injured and some succumb and die.  This is in concerning air quality.

In the trap they try to jump over the corral or crash through it and move like popcorn.  The sounds captured horses make remain inside one’s self.

All phases of the operation is terrifying for horses.  Even a moment that could be an emotional respite for me, watching a horse evade capture, is tainted by its family is gone.

Horses endure cumulative stressful events — chased, trapped; loaded onto trucks and unloaded at temporary holding corral that is a noisy, busy working gravel pit site and pad for the helicopters.  They have lost their homeland and family then loaded onto trucks again and travel for hours to a holding facility.

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The contractor, awarded the roundup contract and paid by taxpayers, appears to call the shots and gives limits to what we, the taxpayers, can view of the roundup operation and what we cannot, and the Bureau falls in line.  Bureau employees are in gov’t-issued vehicles.  Road options for traveling to the viewing spot depends on whether Bureau’s intent is to respect public’s vehicles or to discourage attendance.  Observation site can have limited visibility to action — rarely closer than a half mile and may be miles.

Circling back to the Bureau’s News Release, it gives vague and unverified reasons for the “emergency” roundup.  I requested specifics and data, but it could not be provided.

I believe in WHE.  What the roundup experience brought home to me is seeing the depth of their work bottom to top.  From the ground up they have fought and won impossible battles and laid the groundwork for wild horses and burros to be handled humanely and not abused.  I have worked with this small organization on multiple projects. I have watched their commitment and focus from mental fortitude to camera lens. 

We need this piece of advocacy not just to expose and litigate, enforce and fortify humane handling policy, but public oversight is good.  I understand the value of their insightful advocacy and litigation to keep our wild herds in the wild and to keep the wild places they depend on to survive.

In order to keep this critical piece of the work of WHE going, my pledge is to match contributions to $3,000. through Oct 15.  

WHE has launched the next round of volunteers into the field. Our team is working to expand our field team and legal front as roundups accelerate.

Together, we can continue to be a true “boots-on-the-ground” presence and take that experience to the table and the courts.


Categories: Wild Horse Education