Saturday, October 9, 2010

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Wild Horses: The Cremello Colts Come Home

Unfortunately when I am talking about "home" I don't mean back to the range that they grew up in - the McCullough Peaks Herd Area in Wyoming. They were removed forever from that home in October of last year in a BLM helicopter roundup. They will never see that home or their families again. But they are now in their new home with me in Colorado. It has been a long journey for the two three year old First they were transported to the Rock Springs holding facility, then sent to Steve Mantle's Ranch in Wheatland. They were not adopted at the April adoption in Powell, WY so they were sent back to Steve's ranch. I adopted them in April, and Rich Scott picked them up in May and brought them to his place for a few months of gentling and training.

I watched Rich work with them slowly, patiently, gaining their trust, and observed how things I don't normally think of as scary for a horse could startle them - like moving a hand abruptly toward them. He did a wonderful job working with them, and has made having them her at home possible for me.

Rich got them to a point where they could be caught, haltered, led and trimmed and trailered, which was what I needed, and then a month ago he brought them to my home near Lyons, CO.

They were so calm when they unloaded from the trailer - and investigated their new corral. They immediately figured out the automatic waterer and went into their shed. It has taken a little longer to get used to me.

I was so excited the first day when we turned them loose into my big pasture - I expected them to run off thundering up the hill - but they stuck fairly close to the corral.

Rich has continued to come out and work with me to improve my skills in approaching and handling them.

It has also been interesting seeing the differences in personality of the two colts. Claro, the one with one blue eye and one dark eye, is the boss. he herds Cremosso around. He is the one who investigates things first, and has been a bit easier to work with. Cremosso, who has two green eyes lets Claro boss him around, and has been more guarded.

I was thrilled the first time Claro approached me and let me stroke and pet him without a halter when they were in the field. Cremosso hasn't let me do that yet, but he is thinking about it - I can tell. They both spend alot of their time near the house, and always watch me when I am outside. I love seeing them out there, together, calm and content in their new home with a huge pasture to roam in. It reminds me of why I have been working to help keep the last of our wild horses free. They are worth it.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Wild Horses: Delivering Public Comments to the BLM on Adobe Town

On Monday, I had the honor of delivering to the BLM in Rock Springs 3516 comments from people all over the country on the Adobe Town and Salt Wells Creek roundup.
This is the herd, Adobe Town, that I have followed for 7 years and wrote about in my book, Wild Hoofbeats: America's Vanishing Wild Horses.

How did this come about? This is a good question. For the first time, the BLM refused to accept comments from the public on a proposed roundup EXCEPT by mail or hand delivery. No emailed or faxed comments were allowed - the thinking on the part of the BLM was to prevent being "bombarded" by "frivolous" comments. Comments by the way, that are from the public that pays their salaries. The letters were from supporters of the Wild Horse Preservation Campaign and its coalition partner, In Defense of Animals. Both organizations decided that they wanted to do something and allow the public to have their say about the upcoming roundup of 2000 wild horses and the removal of almost 1600 from their 1.5 million acres home in the Red Desert.
When they contacted me, I told them I would be glad to help, and deliver the letters to the Rock Springs BLM office on the last date comments were to be accepted, August 16.

On my way, I spent a couple of days with the wild horses of Adobe Town, perhaps my last opportunity to see most of them again in the wild before the roundup.

As I headed out to the horse range on Saturday afternoon, I saw a rainbow over the horses range. I took this as a sign that our efforts might meet with a favorable outcome for these wonderful horses.

The first group I saw was the grey stallion, mare, grey two year old and this year's palomino colt - and that new colt had grown! He had darkened up too, and the band was more skittish than on my last visit, but I was very happy to see them again.

Many horses in the area I visited 3 weeks before had moved out of the area, and I also enjoyed meeting some new horses. My favorite encounter was with a grey stallion with bitten off ears who actually drove his mare right toward me so he could get a good look at me!

Just after dawn, I found a large group with primarily greys on a hillside of sage - still enjoying their morning nap, but now awake once they spotted me, and moved off, with a mare with an amazing dreadlock in front.

One band had beautiful colors, and they kept edging closer and closer to check me out. Their stallion ran in front of one of the many thousands of oil pumping stations dotting the area.

Last, a young bachelor who had been kicked out of his band came between me and the band he did not want to give up. The separation of the young colts from their band is a natural one - how much harder and more traumatic will it be for thousands of these horses to be ripped from the only homes and families they have ever known?

I have to hope that we have made enough of a difference through our comments to stop this unnecessary and cruel roundup which is scheduled to begin October 1. Thank you to everyone who participated in commenting to stop this roundup.

Wild Horses: Delivering Public Comments to the BLM on Adobe TownSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The search for wild horses in Adobe Town and Salt Wells Creek

I've just returned from a 5 day odyssey - the search for the wild horses in the Salt Wells Creek and Adobe Town Herd Management Areas, home of the largest remaining wild horse herd in Wyoming. Armed with a stack of maps of the area, my binoculars, cameras, and my new reinforced tires and navigation system on my vehicle, I set out to find the 1900 no scratch that now 2500 wild horses that the BLM declares inhabit this area. The land has a rough and beautiful terrain, with grassy meadows, soaring buttes, craggy rock formations, and the red clay on many of the roads.

It is easy to feel dwarfed by the 1.5 million acres of this area. I was going on my knowledge of where horses had been in the past, advice from BLM staff, and others who had seen horses in order to find the horses. In Salt Wells, there are many signs, but in parts of Adobe Town not a single one to be found. I began in Salt Wells Creek, the larger of the two areas, closer to Rock Springs.

The first day I found about 75 horses around a power plant that had several pools of water the horses were using. The horses would water, then move out, leaving room for the next band to come in. The bands were quite large, some 10 - 15, and this is typical in an area that has not been recently rounded up, where the horses have room to spread out and move. They were skittish, and many ran as they saw my vehicle, but I was captivated by a band with two foals, mares, youngsters and a wise old grey stallion. The foals were clay colored, which will soon get lighter and lighter until they are grey like their father.

As I got out of my car, they started getting closer. Then closer. A beautiful dappled grey mare was the boldest, leading her band. At one point, the stallion became a little concerned and walked in front of his mares, but then he started enjoying the game, moving closer and closer. Finally, another band stallion behind his band gave a loud snort, and they moved off.

I drove on further into Salt Wells that day and the next, but did not find any more horses. From my observations, horses like to use roads, and so when there are horses around in an area, there are droppings and stud piles of the stallions marking their territory. Most of the roads I travelled were bare of horse manure, and all the eye could see were cattle, and in some area, oil rigs. I stopped at every high vantage point and overlook to glass. One afternoon, when I should have known better, big black clouds moved in rapidly, and luckily I was on a paved road when a hail storm hit, with rain and hail falling so rapidly that I could not see and pulled to the side. The roads were so wet after that I went back to my motel for the evening, not willing to chance getting stuck in the mud.

I went to Adobe Town the next day, to an area that had held horses in May, but now only old stud piles were on the roads, which were stunningly quiet and empty. Except for more cattle.

The next day I went to the area I know best outside of Baggs, where 7 years ago the valley was full of horses. I did not encounter a single horse. The fences for the cattle area had been reinforced, and there were more cattle. The next day, I went to an area of Adobe Town that I had never travelled in before, and went in circles for an hour trying to find the right road, but at the top of a hill, I spotted horses! They ran when they saw my vehicle approach and I was stunned to see a pinto in the band.

The horses in both areas are predominantly greys, with some roans, sorrels, blacks, very few palominos and buckskins, but this was a very rare pinto. As I drove over the hill, I saw MORE horses. I was so excited to see more than one band - here were two bands grazing. I drove on, and saw band after band in about a 20 mile area in a beautiful valley edged by stark rock outcroppings.

I tried to go up a jeep trail to another area, and was stopped by a huge washout on the road and an impossibly narrow steep hill. There was a huge band in the dry riverbed, watching another band starting to approach. The gorgeous sorrel stallion with flaxen mane and tail moved off over the ridge.

I headed back to this area in the evening, and found a band with two older stallions, a mare and a yearling. They were completely unconcerned with my presence.

As I drove up to an old oil drilling site, I stopped and watched a band of horses move near a waterhole, with cattle all around. As I watched, behind me another band came up, and they were as surprised to see me as I was to see them! The stallion, a handsome young grey, trotted up to me, to get a good look, then passed me, then circled back to his band. I was thrilled by the attention.

I drove on, and at the end of my time there, I enjoyed the sight of an older grey stallion, his grey mare and black yearling, with a very pale palomino colt. They circled me to get a good look, and they were so beautiful as they ran.

The overriding feeling that I was left with from being with the horses was a profound sense of peace, and gratitude for being allowed to share in their world. They are content, healthy, and oblivious to what awaits them in October. The BLM plans to round up this herd and remove most of them.

Here is a slideshow set to music of the horses in this area from my book Wild Hoofbeats: America's Vanishing Wild Horses:

On this journey, I covered over 350 miles on roads through the two area, and I observed less than 300 horses total. I have heard from other adventurers travelling through this area who have spent more time and seen far less horses, having travelled even further. In my opinion, there are not many more than 1000 horses here. Of course, I did not go to every part of both areas reachable by vehicle - that might take 2 weeks, and many areas are completely inaccessible with a vehicle. But is my driving survey any less accurate than aerial surveys perfomed with funding of the Cattle Growers Association that use modeling to estimate numbers? The BLM estimates of numbers of wild horses in the two areas have swung wildly anywhere between 300 and 3000 with no rhyme or reason over the past 10 years. You can read C. R. McDonald's "The Wild Horses of Wyoming, AdobeTown/Salt Wells - A Tale of Tallies" which spans the intricacies of the BLM's convoluted estimation process:

My concern is that this overestimation is deliberate, allowing the BLM to remove not just a portion of the herd, but to decimate it as they did at the Calico roundup.

As I headed home, just outside Laramie on I-80 I spotted a billboard that says "Wamsutter: Home to BP's largest onshore oilfield." Wamsutter is just above Adobe Town. I am sure there is more at work here than simply the cattle rancher's desire to have all the land in these two areas for their cattle.
The Environmental assessment is posted here:

Comments are due by August 16 and MUST be submitted in writing only, no email or fax.
Please comment to the BLM to help save these horses. They deserve to remain free.
Please use the comment form and email by Friday and I will be hand deliveringt them to the BLM office in Rock Springs on Monday August 16:

Here is a wonderful article by George Knapp that really says it all about the jeaopardy our wild horses face - "They Execute Horses Don't They?":
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