Death of the Paint Mare at Conger

WHE is publishing these images because another wild horse organization has released a slideshow. We are dealing with issues of bad internet and urgent projects. But we want to get these to you in context before context gets lost. We are calling the paint mare “Rhiannon” and the filly “Epona.” The stallion is simply “Unforgettable.” (At WHE we don’t often name wild horses but our readers wanted these to be remembered).

The first day a young wild horse hit a panel that had “squared up” as was captured. He broke his neck and died.

The issues were recognized and engaged immediately, without any need to address them through any confrontational channel. Yet our sadness is a valid component to our current work that addresses multiple facets of the wild horse and burro program, not just roundups. We appreciate the effort but we really need to get ahead of basic aspects and address the more complex issues.

The next day.

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Band of 3 brought in way too fast and chaotic.

The helicopters were moving two separate groups of wild horses, a family band of 3 and a larger group. The contractor had been using two “Judas” horses to lead the bands in during this operation, we saw them take out one.

The band of three was moved far too fast to the trap. We did not observe any release of a Judas horse and instead we saw the chopper put extreme pressure on the three to get them into the trap. It was obvious that there was going to be disaster before it hit. Remember traps are preferably set so horses can not see them until they are inside the trap. If a panel is set so it “squares” the entrance to the trap it literally create a flat “wall” and not a curve, like running a freight train into a brick wall. We have seen this before, not just at Conger, and much more care needs to be made if helicopters are to be used for any operation including any emergency like fire.

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Many people forget that a lead me and stallion have a specific place when faced with threat. He is between the immediate threat and the family. It is why we often see a band stallion at he rear during a drive into the trap and when they are in the trap the stallion moves forward. As they passed through the trees the pursuing objects (both human and in the air) became the immediate threat. The panel seemed like an object you could run through. The pursuit was was hot and the pressure on these horses hard.

These horses were driven literally into the panel and full speed. Both the mare and the stallion collided with it. She hit it low thinking she could break through and he hit it higher. Her head went through the bars and the force of the rest of her body moving forward, as her head did not, fatally wounded her. His head bounced back and he was visibly stunned. She never rose again.

The incident was tragic. But operations did not cease. We believe someone on the ground made the call to run in the second band. We also believe that the contractor (himself) was not present or in communication as we believe he was being interviewed by media present. We saw a chopper land and an individual get out. Then media headed down the hill).

Both mare and stallion collide with the panel. Baby collides with mare. We could have had three deaths. The pressure on the horses was far too intense.

Both mare and stallion collide with the panel and mares head goes through. If the panel had give she would have knocked it down with her body. Baby collides with mare. We could have had three deaths. The pressure on the horses was far too intense.

The next group was driven into the trap, before removing the dead horse. The Judas was released for the second group to guide them into the trap. The Judas actually hesitates before entering the trap itself. The horses were then flagged toward the series of pens they would head into to be loaded. They were driven around the pen, and over the mare, several times. The stallion and foal looking on from behind the gate.

Stallion and foal looking back through gate.

Stallion and foal looking back through gate.

We were told that there was no communication between pilots and the second pilot was unaware that a group came in and that there had been “an accident” and a body in the trap. We find that very hard to believe but if it is the truth, it is unacceptable that there is no communication.

Judas being released with the second group

Judas being released with the second group

The second group was run over the dead mare as they tried to move them through the gate.

The second group was run over the dead mare as they tried to move them through the gate. You can see the stallion that had been moved into the third staging area looking under the neck of another horse back at the mare on the ground.

We discussed these incidents with Utah State lead Gus Warr. He is creating a request for an amendment to CAWP, Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy, to address them. We are also preparing to address concerns in a review process with BLM. We thank them for addressing this immediately without any need to create more stress and add to a contentious environment. We do believe that this was a tragedy of errors that can be avoided. We are thankful that this will be immediately addressed and saddened that is has to be.
WHE Works, Humane Care

Please read the post on the “bigger picture here” if you were forwarded this link and are seeing it out of context. We have seen that a “group” is sharing a youtube that does not have context, sad music and images of this incident. We feel that context in advocacy is key to effective advocacy. Without context all you have is drama that stirs drama, not appropriate action. The video with an article that provides some context, would be appropriate. We are upset too, don’t misunderstand. If something happens describe the incident and offer how you engaged process.

For us the most difficult part to watch was at holding. WHE has the largest documentation library of wild horse removals since 2009 in the world. Larger than the federal government and ten times larger than other organizations. We are motivated to create change and are the only org to take these issues into court and beyond. We now have a policy, the first in history. The policy needs work but it exists. 40 years of screaming and drama did not create change, appropriate action through complete understanding of the system and actual data, do.

However our work is motivated by a soul deep love for our wild horses and wild places. Watching the foal offloading at temporary and the calls between the stallion and his little filly are haunting. The look in his face when he sees her, how he tries to touch her and the lack of recognition that he was even standing there are gut wrenching. The look in his face will forever be burned in our heart.

We can do better and we must. Help us to continue to be there and move this program out of ignorance, greed and fiction.

Stallion sees his filly and approaches

Stallion sees his filly and approaches

“This moment will haunt me forever,” Laura Leigh

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