The Extinction of Wild Horses

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As far back as the 1980’s I can recall making the drive down Satus pass. I am certain I was born horse crazy. There was something magical about seeing them running wild. Songs have been written about them, writers lamenting about living the life of such freedom.

We romanticize it, like most things from the past.But, in truth, there is no such thing in today world. The wild horses are already extinct. In there shadow are feral animals, left to the mercy of land owners both private or public.

I know, people will hate that I have ruined their Black Beauty Tale. Who doesn’t want to believe that these magnificent creatures roam free, in the land of milk and honey? It’s the vision we all have. Strong shinning coats, manes blowing in the breeze, under a shade tree and with stream flowing icy blue behind them. The Hollywood version of the truth.

But, they do not. They are restricted by fence lines and limited watering holes. They are a “caught species” unable to self manage. Trapped between those who are blamed and the ones who blame. One side defending itself while the other hurdles stones, and the cry of the horses go unnoticed in the background.

I am enough of a pessimist, that I can easily find fault on both sides of the fence. I completely understand that not all government employees, paid to “deal” with this social issue are bad, nor do I believe all not for profits, are bad, though I have met some doozies on both sides… I have met some that are heroes and sheroes, too…. I have met some ranchers, as well, that while being vilified, love and care deeply, about  earnestly managing the herds that roam public ground.

While the two sides fight, the horse, whom I believe God has left in our charge, face horrible consequences.I will never understand, how some will opt to allowing horses to starve and dehydrate to their death – as long as it is out of range of the photo-op – instead of allowing it to be compassionately put down…. It boggles my mind. And, hurts my heart. Their headlines read “Pro-Slaughter Advocates” , labeling others in a fatal attempt to sensationalize a truly sad, sad state of affairs.

In a perfect world, human intervention wouldn’t be needed. But, let’s be honest, we don’t live in a perfect world. The horses that roam feral here in the US, need us to help them, that we all agree on. To those like me, that should be enough to get everyone to the table. Sadly, it isn’t. Instead we opt for over population, beaten down paddocks, drought and disease to settle in why we “humans” right fight through the issue. This isn’t a BLM issue, or a Non-Profit issue, or a Rancher’s issue, it is a “public” issue.

My desperate prayer is that “we” find a way  to come together and find solutions that are in the horses (as a whole) best interest and for herd management  to take place. That we find away to manage all stock in a way that honors the animals in our care and keeping.

I recently heard a BLM rep say, “We are not a horse management organization, we are a land management agency.” I could not agree more. Managing the land for all the animals that need to graze there needs to be their top priority. I would think that, if that was the goal, it would put everyone on the same page.

We have a responsibility to the horse…. Not to collect money off of them, but rather to insure that these feral animals be taken care, reduced to a manageable and healthy sized herd. Personally I would love that every dollar made off the sale of one of these animals would be put back directly into the land and herd it came from. Taking the finger-pointing away from everyone and putting the dollars back where they are needed most. If the BLM needs water from ranchers let them pay for it with the monies earned.

I am grateful that the ranchers I know, don’t want the horses eradicated. But, they do want the herds that are in the care and keeping of the government agencies to live by the same “good practices” that the government has set for farmers and for ranchers. And that seems reasonable to me. How can we have a government enforce laws that they them-self do now keep?

Sadly, resources aren’t always renewable, even out on the plains,  when they are over grazed, by whatever animal is feeding from it. This is a law of economy that all of us should understand.. As my grandpa use to say, “without a miracle, you cannot get water from a rock.”

While we run to grab the camera when we see deer and fawn grazing in our back yard, few of us feel the same when a herd of horses and their colts do the same. So to call them wild…. is just .. well “wild.”

We have a problem in the US with Feral horses, one that we should ALL care about. I wonder how long it would really take to solve this issue if we could all just stop with our own agendas and spend just a little more time putting our four-legged friends first.

We owe a lot to these creatures. They have helped us tame the wild west. They have hauled us and our things, pulled wagons and carts and buggies, they have helped up win ribbons and money. Given us purpose and listened to our troubles, fears and caught our tears.

But when they need us the most.. where are we?

The answers to their plight will take some re-structuring and re-thinking of the things we think we know. It will require us to sit down with our enemies. It will call for some hard decision, and working a  long side of some that we would rather not. It will require us to stop pointing fingers and perhaps even pick up a pen. It will certainly need us to stop romanticizing a by-gone era, take off our rose-colored glasses and see some reality. It will certain need us to stop name calling, and require us to not just say “we are for the horses” but to actual be so.

In my 40 plus year love affair with the wild horses in my state, I have learned that not all who wear a black hat – are bad guys, and equally all those wearing the white hats are here to save the day. I have learned to love and value those quiet heroes who know that they cannot save them all, but sure can save some. I have learned that it is often necessary to compassionately put one down (horse that is) , rather to see it suffer any more.

I know the distaste some have for the thought of harvesting horses – as it wasn’t to long ago, I too could not even comprehend it. “Save the horse” was my battle cry. I loved the fantasy world where all my dreams were safe and running free. Today, I see things differently. I have heard the horses crying… screaming really, out of pain, suffering, starving, dehydrated.

While we want to blame the rancher for this despicable place we find ourselves – and the worse place we find the Nations horses, the truth is.. it is we, the public, who are to blame. We have tied the hands of those who are in power to make the hard decisions. We have spit in the face of ranchers whose, day after day, commitment is to the livestock and land, while we judge and buy our meat neatly wrapped and sterile.

We talk about the ranchers brutality in thinning the herds, while willingly sip our wine with our medium rare.

The rancher is not the enemy – few of us could do what they are called to do. The hours are grueling, the challenges unyielding, and the pay, up to mother natures discretion. Nor can we blame the not for profits.. no matter what there intentions are. We created a vacuum in which they can thrive. For had we been doing our job as a great nation of people, there would be little need for such things…..  Just as I know some amazing ranchers, I am also blessed to know some amazing people doing amazing work to educated the public about this – the devastation is so great that even they cannot be expected to do all that needs doing –

My suggestion is to stop writing blind checks – and strap on a pair of boots, and work gloves and find an organization isn’t afraid to get your boots and theirs dirty. And as I see it, even government isn’t to blame – we (the public, the tax payer) cannot leave them with a mess and no paths to get the ugly work done.

So what do we do? it is something I am asking myself today.

1). We can remember that the BLM works for us and not take a blind eye when we see something going sideways.

2) We can do our due diligence when giving money to ANY organization, ask to come and spend time with them to make sure they are doing what they say.

3. we can use our own talents, time and resources in practical ways (like writing our congressman, attend meetings and get educated in the matters.

4) Lend for voice as an advocate – and stop worrying about which side of the issue likes you – in my humble option – if you are like me – neither side will 100%.. the closer I am to the middle – the closer I am to horse in my mind.

5). See who is making a difference and asking how you can support them.

6). Be a bridge – a safe place where both sides can begin an honest dialogue.

7) Stop making the other side wrong – no good will ever come out of it.

8). Educate for influences

9). Stop spending valuable time and energy pointing your finger… truth always filters up.

10). Ask yourself what can I do.

We don’t live in a fantasy world any more. Instead as I pull off to the side of the road and watch the animals who need our care and keeping – I notice their scars and my mind races as to how they got them. I see their matted manes, and bony butts and wonder who I can call and how I can help and….. to be honest.. I cry.

Sadly, we have already lived through the taming of the west and sadder still, the extinction of the wild horse. Now, all that is left to do is ask ourselves how can we manage those that are feral?

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