Wild Horse Education

Antelope Complex 2023 (Holding)

This is the kind of photo BLM does not like us to take. But we have a right to take it. You have a right to see it. It is also the only time during processing that we can actually see them clearly when we are placed in a low spot.

This operation has many moving parts with two helicopter crews in two locations. This operation also includes 2 sets of sorting corrals (temporary holding) in the same location that will each ship to Broken Arrow (off-limits to the public) for processing (branding, gelding, vaccines, etc.).

We felt the holding corrals deserve a spotlight as this massive summer roundup of about 3,107 wild horses begins.

Often mislabelled “short-term holding” by media or members of the public, these corrals serve as a temporary fixture on the range to sort wild horses or burros for shipment to “short-term holding.” Short-term holding corrals are the processing facilities where wild horses are branded, gelded, vaccinated, etc. and were initially designed to hold animals for a few months. In reality, short term processing facilities have been known to house a captive wild horse for over 3 years. Over the last few years BLM has been increasing the number of these facilities that are awarded contracts to operate off-limits to the public eye. The Broken Arrow facility on Indian Lakes Rd in Fallon, NV (where Antelope wild horses are being sent) is one such facility.

Our observer spent a moment with a wild herd on the way to trap yesterday (there appeared to be others heading to the trap, so there would be public). She ended up spending the day at temporary holding. 

Trailer arriving at the temporary corrals

The first two trailers from the south trap set just over the rise from temporary arrived at 7:20 and 7:30.

Documenting a trailer as the light moves through it as it goes down a road can give you some indication of any injury, stocking numbers and body condition (did they come in wet, injured or are thin?).

A bunch of “hubbub” ensued with a relatively new (a couple years) BLM employee after our observer who sat in a location she had at prior roundups and after checking in with the ranger, documented trailers coming in. Our observer was placed in an area where the very least amount of activity could be documented (and no cell service). “The COR approved spot” (a phrase repeated) was surrounded by (strategically) placed objects that blocked even a clear view of the road trailers came down.

This is the kind of photo BLM does not like us to take.

Edited to add: The photo at the top of the page (republished above) is getting a lot of attention. Heck, in pro-slaughter Facebook groups even a BLM public affairs person joined in denigration of our organization and perpetuation of rumors and lies. ALL because we took that photo during sorting and published it. Seriously, that is why. This type of image causes more backlash from proslaughter hate-groups (and BLM) than any other we could take. 

HOWEVER, we want to remind everyone that if placed in a low spot with obstructed visibility, the only time we can see a horse clearly is when it goes up. Our observer had placed herself a bit higher, where she could see things like body condition. She was moved. 

If access is limited, as an observer you document how it may have changed from previous years. In other words, if something was allowed before (without incident) it cannot be taken away because someone got upset by the photos you took or the lawsuit you have. (It should be noted that all of the BLM personnel working as some type of COR, are dealing with a legal action from WHE in one form or another… except one. It should also be noted that each district faces far more legal challenges from livestock permittees each year than from wild horse advocates.)

In the video below we show you a bit of the obstacle and a bit of progress.

At 9:10, after a short (and pleasant) conversation with the Incident Commander (IC), to his credit, part of the problem was resolved. He then took a video from the location to document the change (we assume). When he went back to the corrals, the white trailer was moved as well.

Note: The acronyms IC, CR, AAR, are all part of the communication system BLM adopted over a decade ago for wild horse roundups that was recently touted as “something new” during the advisory board meeting. (Learn more HERE)

Why? Why block access to allow the public to assess how wild horses are handled? This is a federal operation involving public resources (wild horses) paid for by tax-dollars and overseen by federal employees, public servants. The courts have held time and again that any restriction must be narrowly tailored and not because they just don’t want you there or don’t like you.

No matter what your view is on wild horses in the West, you should agree that access to observe the actions of the federal government is important. Deny that right in one circumstance on an issue you may not care about much… and you erode a founding principal of our nation for all.

WILD horses are captured in a helicopter chase, funneled through corrals in close proximity to humans that take away the foals. Then, they are loaded onto a trailer (never being on one) and driven on bumpy dusty dirt roads and/or highways. Then, they are loaded into an alley where they hear other horses calling to distressed family members where, eventually, they are led into a chute as a solitary being…. a herd animal alone. 

If you know anything at all about horses, or any herd animal, think about that stress just for a minute. It is a testament to the nature of the horse that more don’t die of capture stress and why they made such amazing work mates throughout human history.

When documenting sorting at temporary, we are looking for rate of speed (are they rushing), handling aides (an electric prod?), are they crowding horses, etc. If a horse gets caught in panels or is crowded and rises up, how is it handled? If a horse falls in the alley, can it get up? How is the corral set up? Are bars padded according to regulations? (A humane policy did not always exist. The one we have today came about only after our intensive litigation. The big things like “don’t hit or fly unreasonably close” to a wild horse are better known portions of a policy that also includes things like padding on overhead bars. Believe it or not, even things like padding on overhead bars had to be fought for.)

You never know when you may see violations of policy. In the past they were routine. Today, you may see it at one operation frequently or rarely at another. (Many of you have seen us document the use of electric prods simply to speed up loading in the districts involved in this operation in the past).

When there is a member of the public onsite (that reports incidents to the public and is not onsite for other purposes) the number of infractions decreases. This is reason enough to get out and observe. 

Observing temporary holding activities is equal to observing a helicopter drive in assessing safety and compliance (or noncompliance) with the law.

Observing throughout the day is very different from the tour at the end of the day. Recently there seems to be a few advocates that have joined in with BLM calling what WHE does as “rude” as we document holding before a tour. Not sure how they come to that conclusion. Should you wait during a helicopter drive until you are told you can photograph “only this part” and not the others? Is the new solicitation for agreements behind that? We don’t know.

Right before you take an official tour all sorting has been completed and time has elapsed. All waters are filled, hay is put out, dust control is done and any injury or death that occurs has been addressed. 

At Antelope South a mare broke her neck in a collision with a panel at trap. Many of you have asked what happens to the body? At trap she would be loaded onto a stock trailer and, at Antelope, buried at holding (you can see the CAT in the background in video above). At some roundups the local policy for disposal is to leave them on the range, some bury (like at Antelope) and others have to take them to the dump or render. It all depends on local law.

A tour at holding is a fast “walk around.” At most operations you are lucky if you get 15-20 seconds to see a pen. The average time at each pen is generally around 12 seconds to do your full assessment. If you take longer then that, you are made to feel as if you are “disrupting” and a “bother.” Yesterday was one of those tours.

We get it, BLM has been working all day, needs to get paperwork done and be ready for the evening briefing because holding has already been set for the night and they want to go… but we also have been out all day, have a lot of work ahead. Part of the roundup operation of a public resource (wild horses) on public land, paid for with public dollars, by people whose salaries are paid for by the public… is public observation. Is it really that much of an inconvenience to give the public 30 seconds at half a dozen pens?

WHE is onsite to perform a critical and professional service for our wild ones. We report to the public as much as we possibly can through images, video and the written word. We add explanations of terminology and include related action items. We have also used documentation to take to court to push the creation of, and improvement of, policy.

We also do annual reviews of BLMs CAWP program and write recommendations. (You can see the 2022, 3-part report here)

Our observer in the field just reported in that observation today (day 2) at holding and the tour of corrals was given with professional courtesy and efficient answers (unlike yesterday). We will have todays report up as soon as we get the images/video and reports logged and loaded. 

Just as every horse rescued matters, how every wild horse or burro is treated during capture matters.  As we fight to keep them on the range, receive a fair share of resources and equity in the planning process, we continue our work to stop abuse. 

2023 summer roundups

Antelope North Daily Public Reports

Antelope South Daily Public Reports 

Reveille Daily Public Reports 

Thank you for keeping us in the fight!

If you are shopping online you can help Wild Horse Education by choosing us as your charity of choice on IGive


Categories: Wild Horse Education