Chased by helicopters long distances, separated from families, segregated by sex, by age, forced into trailers and transported long distances. A steel gate crashes. Freedom lost. A number branded on the neck – another on the hip of older horses – horses with no hope of any future except incarceration.
As I walked through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) short-term holding facility in Rock Springs,Wyoming and listened to the guide proudly describe procedures for handling captured horses I broke out in a sweat despite the cold biting wind that blew that day. I felt sick to my stomach. I felt transported to the Nazi concentration camps my family visited in Europe when I was just a child.
The guide described how horses are individually forced down a narrow steel chute for “processing.” The air vibrated with lingering terrorized energy of all the horses forced through the now empty, cold steel chutes; their destination a narrow box where, restrained, they’re branded, then given shots and other procedures. I closed my eyes and screams of horses shattered my ears, though the chutes were not in use that day.
Few people realize the strong family ties in bands of horses. A stallion must prove himself and fight for his mares, who choose whether or not to breed with him. The stallion watches over and protects his band, but the lead mare makes decisions that impact the band’s safety as well. Foals are protected by all the band members, their cherished off spring. But the BLM roundups destroy all family units.
After being terrorized and stampeded, driven into captivity by a low flying helicopter, the horses are further antagonized by being separated from their families. Stallions, competitive by nature are put into small holding pens. Fights break out; injuries occur. Young foals are run long distances over rough terrain until hooves separate from leg bones – or until they collapse in exhaustion. Pregnant mares miscarry, their new foals die.
This is the Bureau of Land Management’s solution to what they call over-population. Systematically they complete ruthless roundups wiping out entire herds in some areas, reducing most other herds to levels that are no longer genetically viable.
The unanimously passed Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 (Public Law 92-195) states That Congress finds and declares that wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the west… It is the policy of Congress that wild-free roaming hoses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment or death…
As I look through the steel bars of their prisons I see beautiful horses who deserve a life of freedom, who deserve to run free with their families on lands granted to them by law. I think of my own words: Your only crime is freedom, your only fault is love, your only blemish beauty, this land built with your sweet blood. My heart breaks and I wonder what has happened to justice.