Wild Horse Education

Pictures of 2022 (volunteers perspective, Marie)

Mane Jewel: While viewing and enlarging photos, the bit of “range” that this horse carried in its mane while being trucked off of its homeland galvanized the metaphor in my memory forever.

A Look back in photographs at 2022, Marie Milliman (WHE volunteer)

WHE photograph primarily out of the necessity to document our Mustangs and Burros, wildlife, and the habitat that they miraculously survive in with a purpose. Our priority is to get clear enough shots for documentation: create data sets for the ever-changing landscape, setting a baseline for taking action in planning and litigation. The secondary bonus can be some interesting, quality shots.

Wildlife shots are treasured, whether it be a chipmunk, flock of geese, or an eagle. As we were driving to the trap site I shot this out of the passenger window. We are typically not at liberty to “hold up the operation” to stop to take photos. It’s not a very clear “on the fly” photo, but I value it and wanted to share.

The photographs and videos can and do “serve a specific purpose.” I certainly have an appreciation for the emotional and purposeful use of the photos that multiply by the hundreds of thousands while I follow my rewarding journey as a WHE volunteer and CAWP team member.

Below: The babies, be still my heart. Their cherubic confused state while separated from their mothers that are packed in the back of a trailer hits the 101 mark on a “pitiful” scale in my heart of 1-100. Both photos reveal a worn/rusty trailer with multiple ropes trailing in the wind to me this is the epitome of their discriminatory removal from their homeland and families; in color and black and white.

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Looking back and reviewing photos weeks or months later is a luxury. Looking back to choose a few moments to represent the memories that stand out is a chance to sit and review.

When we do the work we move so fast from one task to another.  As diehard photojournalist’s that try to cover an entire event, WHE do not “come home” with SD cards full of unreviewed pictures to luxuriously review and edit later to publish weeks or months from the event. It’s essential to analyze the events of the day, on the same day, organize the data collected and move on. Especially while documenting a roundup; hard daily deadlines come with roundups. Long days and lack of sleep cannot be a deterrent; if WHE cannot identify the “faults” of the day and communicate them to a BLM representative, the result could possibly be an avoidable tragedy in the following days. We also have a responsibility to the public that cannot be onsite. We are your eyes and ears providing you comprehensive daily reporting of what is happening, when it happens.

Below: The Triple B mare release was not without ambivalence. The older mares show their stress of the GonaCon hormonal process and being shipped hours from home, sitting in a holding facility and being shipped hours back to the range.  They carry the marks on their bodies to prove it. Raw spots and missing hair around their tail bones from transport, evidence of the freeze brands with their heightened withers due to their age as they were “chosen” to be released. While I am grateful they were released, releases have become a bittersweet “event.”

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It is so hard to choose a photo to represent a day or event.  Almost impossible to pick a few that represent the year. I acknowledge and apologize to each horse that is cropped or left out out and tell them, they will not be forgotten. It is tempting to want to publish each and every one of the thousands of roundup pictures taken daily and the hundreds taken on each range run.

Sunset after Triple B mare release.

In this piece I have chosen a few of my  impactful memories from 2022 that will last my lifetime… The emotions behind the lens can be “in the moment”, or at times while reviewing the pictures and enlarging them, when they hit my soul with a visceral reaction that are indelibly imprinted in my mind.

Here is a black and white photo to emphasize this sweet donkey’s heart scar on her shoulder. The subject of heart scars from documenting the range and roundups could be an entire volume by itself.

The beautiful mule deer family were on the side of the road on my way back from holding at Calico. They were across the road and not far from a hay field, they are certainly of a “healthy” weight. I love taking pictures of all the wild things we see.

This hunk of a bachelor was flying solo on the range. He was quite the poser! Once he figured he’d had enough admiration for the day he joined a herd of cows, the only other animals on this side of the barbed wire.

While watching the Pancake roundup last winter my heart broke a thousand times. WHE has spent a lot of time with these horses and even held some of our meetings and training days out here. I was given a treat watching two that had escaped the chase play… a reminder that life finds a way to shine even in the most horrific circumstances.

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Time on the range can be incredibly gut-wrenching and extraordinarily beautiful, sometimes within the same hour.

Both moments speak of the privilege of being an advocate.

It is an honor to share this journey with  the remarkable team of volunteers that advocate effectively for our Wilds at WHE.

I wish you a Happy Holiday season complete with the “things” that make your heart sing like mine sings in the wide-open valleys that our Wilds and the Wildlife occupy.

Help keep us in the field and in the fight.

Categories: Wild Horse Education