Losing the Beautiful Horses of Salt Wells Creek by Carol J. Walker
Just after dawn we arrived at Bitter Creek Road, way down Highway 430 in Salt Wells Creek, Wyoming. I was dreading this day when the helicopters would be taking most of the wild horses in this area, within sight of Kinney Rim.
We saw a small family right by the road as we were driving in, and it was sad to see how unafraid the horses were when we got out of our cars to photograph them.
We drove down the road to a gas pad with a view of the run into the trap and I set up my tripod and camera and lens and waited for the helicopters. This was the closest we had been to the trap. When we saw a line of horses in the distance, I watched as they got closer and I realized it was a huge group of horses. As they came closer, it hit me. This beautiful little family I had spent time with last week with an older Cremello mare, older grey stallion and beautiful palomino yearling were leading the way to the trap. I had hoped that they would be among the lucky ones, and I despaired because those two older horses would not have a chance of being adopted especially if the stallion was sent to Axtell, Utah and the mare possibly sent to Bruneau, Idaho. The BLM does not allow public visitation and adoption at their private facilities.
After this group came in soon afterward, an even larger group approached. Then I saw a Cremello stallion and a Palomino stallion touched noses then reared up, clearly unhappy to have their families close together. I thought that they had much bigger problems, like the helicopter chasing them.
After their group went in, with a notable exception – a fiery sorrel who got away – we had another huge group come in, and even at a distance I could tell there were many stunning pintos, especially black and white pintos running in. I was sad to see a beautiful pinto mare that I had seen hovering protectively over her foal two days before. Seeing these beauties running was amazing yet very depressing.
It was not until I went through my photos that I realized that a small foal had become separated from his family well before the big group went into the trap. I saw the foal all alone after the helicopter had moved away, and heard his mother calling to him. She was in the trap, and he was all alone, and clearly confused as the helicopter stayed near him to keep him there. Soon a rider ran down the hill and chased the foal until he was able to rope him so that he could bring the foal in. After he roped the foal, he stayed with him, did not drag him but instead the Judas horse was led out to give him company so he would feel more secure going into the trap. I hoped that he would be reunited with his mother at the temporary holding facility – surely he was too young to be weaned.
All of these horses were healthy looking and very beautiful, with no good reason on earth for them to lose their freedom and their families forever.