Wild Horse Education

Release (Goodbye 2021)

As the year 2021 comes to a close, we turn our eyes to the road ahead.

At some roundups there is release of a small number of the captured wild horses that are treated with fertility control.

These releases are so bittersweet; the trauma of the roundup is evident, yet the wild ones head quickly home and begin to try to regroup and survive. Their survival depends on the band (family) and integration into the herd (extended family). Often only fragments of the herd exist after these operations that push herds down to absurdly low numbers and cause everlasting harm to the herd and individuals. In the video above is one of the small releases back to the Surprise Complex; 21 wild horses lost their lives at Surprise. (more HERE).

As our teams worked on broader issues like legal actions, legislators and pending planning processes within the agency, we were very busy trying to do what we could in the moment at every roundup.

At Surprise, our team worked on gaining better access to document and issues involving handling that included the use of electric shot prods to try to get wild horses up into a cattle chute (not one designed for horses) that had low-level overhead bars and into a modified double-decker trailer (cattle trailer). It seems the contractor cut a few corners when purchasing equipment and that equipment, even though BLM approves it, is causing undue stress and creating a dangerous situation. (At other roundups this year, another contractor BLM seems to like  operating without any overhead padding on bars. Our legal action against the closed door facility does note that public oversight is actually the only oversight that matters; BLM oversight is selective and dishonest. This is also part of our CAWP review initiative: Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy (CAWP) is the first-ever humane-handling policy WHE spearheaded and is working on fortifying it.)

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At Surprise, BLM was putting down many wild ones simply because they were older. WHE got them to agree that if a wild one could trailer safely to holding it should not be put down and there was a sanctuary that wanted to take in many of these oldies.

Each roundup involves broad issues (livestock, mining, faulty AML, no HMAPs) and in-the-moment work to discover, document and address safety issues as fast as we can. (Herd Management Area Plans (HMAPs) are critical and required, yet BLM has been able to avoid doing them. We are working to hold BLM accountable and do them. That would be a game-changer for wild horses and public lands. They know it; WHE knows it.)

So many of the things that happened in 2021, including the lives lost, can never be undone.

Each wild horse released, each HMA not yet hit by the “Path Backwards,” each wild one not captured, need us all to regroup and be ready for the intensity of 2022. In meetings that are taking place under the new sage grouse review wild horses are already the first thing industry and BLM can agree on: acceleration of the 2020 BLM Plan (Path Forward, Ten Years to AML) is at the top of the list. 

During the release at Little Owyhee the journey just to observe our wild horses being released back to public lands was fraught with convoluted reasoning and obstruction.

In order to fully address anything, to be an effective advocate, you need information. The BLM is notorious for hiding even the things (like a release) that many members of the public see as a positive sign. The things they do that are absolutely no acceptable they hide under massive layers of bureaucracy like wrapping fragile china in bubblewrap.

In 2022, an effective advocacy needs to make transparency one of the top priorities of the year. In order to create real change, the fight to gain information must accelerate faster than the agency’s push to achieve Ten Years to AML in 3 years. The public’s need-to-know has never been greater. (In 2021, this plan had the first year of being nearly fully-funded.)

Take inspiration from the wild horses that step off those trailers during a release. They have lost so much, experienced so much chaos and many suffer injuries. But, they head back out and survive. With an active and educated advocacy, we can fight for a future where they can thrive. 

Together we must face 2022 armed with facts and integrated planning, not gimmicks, and push back the curtain on a program with so many dirty secrets. 

May 2022 bring wisdom, strength and the fortitude we need to stay the course for the wild.

Happy New Year.


You can see some of the work of WHE from 2021 in our year-end fundraiser HERE. 

Critical end-of-year fundraising is needed to keep our work running into 2022 for our wild ones. Funding raised this time of year allows us to determine which of our projects can remain active at the beginning of the new year.

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 Year’s Day.

Categories: Wild Horse Education