A Surprise stallion with “Strength and Honor” (gladiator motto)

Submitted by Marie Milliman, WHE volunteer


Why ask why? Because that’s how we learn; to get an accurate, straightforward answer is the obvious goal, do WHE always get an answer, no? Do we get a factual answer to the first question, maybe? Do we get a clear enough answer to formulate the next question to have a better understanding, or provide input, maybe? See how this goes? Ring around the complete answer, attempting to gain more knowledge of the multiple layers within context to progress how we can best benefit the Wilds.


Why was/is the Surprise and Calico Complex roundup”s conducted without a “confirmed census flight, or site-specific analysis of data for management”,  two years after a significant gather that included treated mares with PZP 22, and a release in 2021? Why would BLM conduct a roundup in 2023, if they could have just diminished this herd to low, or below AML in 2021?  Why do the “data” and numbers of horses compiled not match? Why was the contractor given approval to “mix and match” the captured horses in the trailers which designate their originating HMA in multiple shipments per day? Why would the BLM use its financial resources to successively wipe out the Surprise and Calico complex’s wild horses when there are other herds that actually need help?


Why were three solo horses pursued at the Surprise roundup on September 26, 2023, at the 4th trap location in the Fox Hog HMA? Three in one day? All 3 solo pursuits were unnecessary. Why did the COR at the trap approve 3 rigorous/exhausting pursuits to capture 3 horses? Peer pressure? Politics? Disregard for the horse’s safety and health? Did we miss the memo that this is a zero out, or just that these herds will require no additional “work” to “manage” them for 10-15 years if they do genetically survive?

Power dominates the “story” that is portrayed by “victors” i.e.: profit-driven interests, the authorities within the DOI, and a percentage of the media with their centuries-long intimidation tactics, politically and historically.

SPARTACUS, an inspiration for the essence of the wild stallions in the Surprise Complex

Run 4 on September 26th, 2023, a stallion now bequeathed with the name Spartacus. WHE has chosen to share his truth without prejudice, or ulterior motives.

Approach/drive: He portrayed what we covet and appreciate in our Wilds, intelligence/grit/strength, and honor for his family.  He attempted to guide his band to evade the wings of the trap, and paused in a draw to wait for them, but the chopper came back for him instead. He was constantly moving, constantly thinking, constantly reacting to the Chopper and his family’s every move. Even when the overwhelming power of the chopper bore down on him, he put himself between his family and the chopper, then charged it. He is a verifiable guardian of his herd and a scrappy fighter. He is a Mustang.

The wings of the trap: Entering the jute of the wings eerily resembled a gladiator entering the Hypogeum (gladiator’s subterranean passages to the amphitheater). He followed the Judas horses as if they could be trusted, but they were traitors. In the wild, the horses bear themselves with honest, forthright truths, traitors are foreign to them.

Trapped: He is obviously a contender to aim to jump the trap, his freedom has vanished, briefly. Like the warrior that he is, he did not surrender to the height of the pipe panels, nor the tarps primarily placed on the “observers” side to obscure the view, nor the adversaries that lurked on the perimeter with their flags. It took an entire 1 minute and 18 seconds from the time that he entered the trap, to his notorious jump.

Escape: Even when the odds of his freedom appeared to be imminent, he became hung up by a rear leg on the top of the pipe panel, yet he did not surrender. To him, the wranglers waving their flags were no more a deterrent than a nat. (this is a true point of contention, as NO horse would reverse their gears, it exposes the wranglers to potential injuries, and could exacerbate the horses’ potential injuries. I’m gonna add in another WHY? right here) Also noted was the stack of pipe panels laid near the end of the trap loading pen, what could go wrong with an escaped horse at the time of capture, or during loading? WHY?

Pursuit/roped after capture/escape:

Reminder from CAWP:

  1. Roping
  2. The roping of any WH&B must be approved prior to the procedure by the Lead COR/COR/PI. (major).Was it approved?
  3. The roping of any WH&B must be documented by the Lead COR/COR/PI along with the circumstances. WH&Bs may be roped under circumstances which include but are not limited to the following: reunite a mare or jenny and her dependent foal; capture nuisance, injured or sick WH&Bs or those that require euthanasia; environmental reasons such as deep snow or traps that cannot be set up due to location or environmentally sensitive designation; and public and animal safety or legal mandates for removal. (major)Was it documented?
  4. Ropers should dally the rope to their saddle horn such that animals can be brought to a stop as slowly as possible and must not tie the rope hard and fast to the saddle so as to intentionally jerk animals off their feet. (major)Why did he fall?
  5. Animals captured by roping must be evaluated by the on-site/on-call veterinarian within four hours after capture, marked for identification at the trap site, and be reevaluated periodically as deemed necessary by the on-site/on-call veterinarian. (major)WHE saw no marking on him for identification purposes when we viewed him at Litchfield ORC. Was he evaluated by a veterinarian? Was he reevaluated?

He seemed near the end of his reserves by the time that the 3 rope horses forced him into the wings of the trap. He dug deeper and still tried to escape/evade going into the trap moving side to side, backward and only going forward to make an escape as he was “sandwiched” between 2 rope horses.  A Judas horse-ridden bareback joined in. At this point a chopper, 3 rope horses, and one of the Judas horses ridden bareback is what was required to get this Spartacus back into the trap.

Recaptured/loaded: The ropes were his chains to culminate his second, and final entrance into the trap.   His final and ultimate fate was sealed.

When WHE viewed him at the Litchfield ORC, he had been placed in the “off HMA” pen which may be interpreted as no release for this gladiator. The direction of travel in his approach to the trap by the chopper would indicate that he was located within either the Fox Hog, or High Rock HMA.

WHE is inquiring about the potential for his release and ultimate freedom. However, because of the way he was tagged in arrival at the facility, he is not likely to be released.

Free him of the ropes, pipe panels, feed bunks, and forever separated from his family and homeland. May this noble stallion be rightfully awarded his freedom after his valiant fight and live out the rest of his life in the wild.

What does his future hold?

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