Wild Horse Education

Detour (Carter Reservoir)

While at the Surprise roundup we visited one of the most unique herds in the American West. Although rarely talked about, the Carter Reservoir mustangs carry ancient Spanish-Iberian lineage and display that genetic coding in their unique primitive coloration. The primitive coat patterns  allow them to blend into their home range easily. Often when we take people on the range to see these beauties we will stop and say we will stay here a bit and take photos. Our passengers will ask if we will be waiting for the horses to arrive… and we say “they are right on that hillside.” An astonished and amazed “Oh, they are so beautiful! I didn’t see them!” usually follows.

The story has it that Carter horses, a few from Sulpher and a handful of duns in Oregon are the foundation used to create the Kiger herd many of you are familiar with.

BLM only set aside 23,468 acres for the Carter horses and set the Appropriate Management Level (AML), the number BLM says can be on the range is only 25-35. Anyone that knows anything about genetics, knows that number is simply not “appropriate” to protect this incredibly unique herd.

Just like most stocking numbers set for wild horses in the West, the number is not set by “how many the land could sustain,” it was set by what would be tolerated after the cows and sheep went out. The Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 stopped free-grazing (the practice of simply driving cows across the landscape) and created a fee-based system for those that had homesteaded property associated with public lands. The fees were not market rate, even back then. They continue to be astonishingly paltry.

As other regulations were put into play, resentments rose. By the time the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act passed in 1971, the Sagebrush Rebellion was in full swing. It seems as if wild horses and burros have carried all that resentment on their backs since those days and federal agencies have been more than happy to placate that resentment with removals of horses.

Livestock use is extensive in this area and has been a powerful political player in land use planning for decades.

As fiscal year 2023 draws to a close, our team is at roundups. 

The fall/winter schedule cannot be set until BLM receives funding from the 2024 Appropriations bill.

Calico, scheduled to begin Oct 1, will run into any government shutdown. Even though the roundup contract is paid for under the 2023 Appropriations bill, BLM employee salaries are not paid. We will update you as we know more.

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We just wanted to share this amazing detour into Carter with you. All of our herds carry a unique history tied to land and lineage. The Carter carry an incredible story and should be a bucket list journey for wild horse lovers.

This beautiful herd is truly an American treasure.

Our wild ones should live free on the range with the families they hold dear. Our wild ones should also live without abuse. WHE carries ongoing litigation to force BLM into open public process to create an enforceable welfare standard for our treasured wild ones. 

Thank you for keeping us in the fight!


2023 Summer roundup reports


Antelope Complex (north and south)

Black Mountain, Hardtrigger, Sands Basin

Devils Garden (USFS)


Categories: Wild Horse Education