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Medicine Hat

As we put together our year-in-review we have found the most popular set of photos WHE has published in 2021 are the pictures of the Redhead, a medicine hat bachelor from the Pancake Herd Management Area (HMA). This may be the most popular set of photos on our site of all time!

Old Man in his summer flash.

Red is the son of the sooty “Old Man” of Pancake, another medicine hat who also has amazing blue eyes. Old Man is well into his twenties and won a mare back in early 2021.

The special color pattern referenced as medicine hat (less often as “war bonnet”) was prized in Native American tribes and said to carry magic. Legends say that Medicine Hat horses had the magical ability to protect their riders from injury and death in battle. It was also said the medicine hat could warn their rider of danger. Other tribes would try to steal these horses in hopes of getting their good luck as it was said the luck would travel with. the horse. If a medicine hat had one or two blue eyes, it was said the magic was strong. For these reasons, medicine hats were prized and closely guarded.

Old Man, the classic medicine hat of native lore in his winter coat.

The Pancake HMA has the largest concentration of the rare medicine hat we have ever seen! This HMA has medicine hats, overo paints, amazing roans, bays, sorrels, blacks and even a small Damale curly representation.

This HMA complex consists of nearly 900,000 acres and has a contiguous border with the Monte Cristo Wild Horse Territory (WHT) managed by Forest Service.

Early last year BLM approved a “gather and population growth suppression” plan that will decimate this herd and surrounding areas. BLM never actually went in and determined how many wild horses this land could sustain when the 1971 Act passed. An absurdly low token number was set and the area carved up for mining and livestock instead. BLM is still carving up Pancake, fast. The BLM “remove and experiment with layers of fertility control” plan covers an area of 1.1 million acres.

BLM never created a management plan, a Herd Management Area Plan (HMAP). They never designated critical habitat, migratory patters, rare genetics worth preserving, water for population distribution. They just gave away the habitat and are still giving away the habitat and adding miles and miles of fencing.

Below: Red in his sleek summer coat with his bachelor buddies

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WHE filed litigation to protect this herd that means so very much to us and has brought so many of you a glimpse into the wild beauty of their world. The case is still active. We fully expect BLM to try to put this herd on that roundup schedule as fast as they can to satisfy the big mining they have approved and to keep the livestock (both sheep and cows) out on that range.

We have a big fight ahead in 2022 to save this herd; one of the last large herds that has not been hit hard with removal and a long list of poorly planned and compounded population growth suppression vaccines and sterilization.

Below: Old Man fighting off a much younger (and bigger) stallion to capture a mare. Old Man has only ever been documented with one or two mares, his family bands are small and he keeps them on the move.

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Maybe these medicine hats and their magic can help bring to light the damage being caused to our wild places by industry and the fact that we are losing our real wild, wild horses forever? 

This herd is truly a genetic masterpiece written by nature. 

Red in his winter coat

As we look back on 2021, and look ahead to 2022, this herd stands out. The amazing treasure that these wild horses represent, a genetic treasure trove,  is fast disappearing and standing on the edge of destruction.

2021, the Anniversary of the Act to protect our wild ones that were fast-disappearing was never taken to heart by the agency tasked with the law. The law stated they are to be managed “integral to the system of public lands,” a system of interlocking management plans. Yet, no actual planning was done for the horse, but was done for everything else to the detriment of the horse.

In 2022, we will stand our ground at Pancake. We cannot lose this treasure.

More on Pancake: Pancake, Why We Fight So Hard


You can see some of what WHE has done in 2021 HERE and more info on our end-of-year matching contributions CLICK HERE.

The “Public Top Ten” posts from WHE in 2021. 

Ways to support WHE

Video Below: Much of the footage in this video is from Pancake. The area at the end, where we talk about the mine? We were right. The elk, deer and sage grouse have moved out of that sector. Now the BLM has their sites set on getting rid of the wild horses in the area for the mines and livestock.


Critical end-of-year fundraising is needed to keep our work running into 2022 for our wild ones. 

You can help us continue our innovative work and double your impact today. WHE has been offered a match, up to $5,000. through New Years Day. 

Categories: Lead