Wild Horse Education

Surprise (release and some history)

Showing all the signs of the physiological and psychological trauma of a roundup, 13 studs were released back into the High Rock HMA.

Note: 13 studs this size in one stock trailer is another overloaded trailer like the one we have seen before at this operation. The tailhead injuries attest to this constant issue at roundups. Use more trailers and take more time, you are paid enough to do it right. (see overloading as part of the daily report on Oct 8 HERE)

A small release took place at High Rock yesterday before trap moved into the next HMA, Fox Hog. We will post the video and images from Fox Hog in a different piece later today. Our team is back on-site.

We have been the only public observers at this operation since it began.

LLeigh, journal of private thoughts made public

For the agency a roundup is about politics and numbers; satisfy the big money lobbyists that run Congress and keep local profiteers happy. The numbers (with no scientific basis) drive a machine that keeps a free-roaming species locked behind boundaries (with no scientific basis) competing in a limited budgetary framework. Keep the status quo running and do not rock the boat.

High Rock HMA after capture. Was this the older white stud with the tail head injury at the release? we do not know.

Often for the public, the roundup schedule translates into an overwhelming series of roundups somewhere in various states in the West. The frustration level has reached a fever pitch after decades of failures by the government to do anything to rectify “status quo,” as the errors of the past compound, transparency is a word game, and they see branded mustangs in kill-pens week-after-week.

High Rock. The release of 13 studs took place at the trap where hundreds were captured.

The public becomes more easily manipulated by big money industry and their public relations machines trying to privatize the Wild Horse and Burro program. A world run by the chaos of social media, that runs on “pay-to-play” and algorithms, has become a real danger to the future of the wild.

This map is just CA. If I overlaid the BLM map you would see how Calico, Flanigan, Dogskins and Granite fit in this puzzle of the corner of Nevada. USFS Devils Garden sits to the West of the Surprise Complex completely in the sate of California.

I have been traveling through this area longer than I can remember. So much personal history lies in an interconnected landscape that federal agencies, and the public, see as distinct places.

The blood of the “war horse” flows in his veins.

Sheldon is included in the California map after the “Tri-state” agreement was made. That agreement was penned to do “collective monitoring and management” pushed by the fight to protect any wild horse that wandered over man-made boundaries from meeting the horrific end of America’s best known “war horse” herds, the Sheldon. Any horse that wanders into Sheldon is now (supposed to) have the protections afforded by the Act. The Sheldon were captured (first by horseback contractors and then by helicopter) and people were paid to take them. A few of the early removals saw some land in sanctuaries built by the roundup contractors, but then year-after-year after that they were shipped by the truckloads directly to backyard rodeos and slaughter. It took years of litigation just to get the most notorious of kill-buyers removed from the roster and the “Tri-state” agreement in place. It will take years of work to ensure that the agreement is not ignored.

How do you get that work done when the big corporate giants join livestock to sell fertility control and try to get funding to create a new contract system for darting over everything else… even to the extent of “trash talking” the massive First Amendment battle for access and the humane handling fight? Yes, there is even an effort to privatize “observation” through on-site cameras and deny on-site observation (note: If you are not on-site, you have no standing in court to litigate abuse. We fought in court for the right for ALL to be on-site, not just us. I actually refused red-carpet access and fought for all of advocacy to be there. We will never give up that right that took 6 years in court to win. It is not an “either/or” situation.)

Do I even type those words and hit publish? The backlash from my “own side” has been, frankly, hell. I tried to warn the public in 2016 about the agreement and the sell-out of the fight. The consequence was dirtier than anything that could come from Wall Street.

Do you hear the theme from “War Horse?” I do.

That is what is on my mind as I sit watching the release trying to run a video camera and take stills after being told last minute to “move back” (then climbing rocks still healing from a surgery and rapidly trying to get tripod legs out).

I see a fragment of the magnificence of the wild horses that occupy this corner of our public domain leave a stock trailer. Battered and bashed I can still see that heart and soul continue to survive all that man has done to them, again.

My heart aches. My mind races. My soul is raw.

This is a “fertility control” operation run under the BLM 2020 plan that was driven by the “Path Forward.” This is not a roundup done under a well-crafted management plan to preserve a herd, this is politics.

What does the public see in the video? I do not know anymore. I jump on social media and see chaos and marketing and… what does the future hold for these magnificent beings that carry the weight of it all?

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Over a million road miles have burned in my soul the interconnectedness of everything; the good, bad and ugly. The physical landscape and the human landscape of politics and marketing.

All I know for sure is that our wild ones are still out there and they desperately need the weight of all of the chaos and greed lifted from their backs. They need the land protected if they are to survive. They need protection from gimmicks, greed and the push to gain funding through privatization.  They need protection from abuse on and off range and during capture.

They need the agency to actually craft a plan to protect and preserve them.

They need vigilance from an educated and active advocacy that recognizes this fight is a lifelong commitment. There is no single magic wand to fix it all. Just like the wolves, sage grouse, polar bear, whale… those that speak for them must be ready to speak forever.

I am tired from juggling teams, legal actions, being in field, etc. But the fuel to take that next step always lies in the eyes of the wild horse.

Did I say too much? Probably. Heading to bed and back at it in the morning.

P.S. The horse that falls out of the trailer injures himself. But he got up and, no matter how much it hurt, after all he endured, he moved on to face the battles of tomorrow.

So can advocacy. So can we. So must I.


After the release trap moved into Fox Hog and the agency captured 86 wild horses. We will post the regular update shortly. Our teams are juggling a lot of work from field to courts. We will update you as fast as we can… we have to get the work done first.

You can view the daily reports from the Surprise Complex HERE.

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Categories: Wild Horse Education