It is very likely that this will have been the last tour of wild horses in Long Term Holding facilities, or “Off Range Pastures” as the BLM are now calling it. If the provisions in the 2018 Trump Budget which allow the killing of wild horses in holding and on the range, by this time next year there may be no horses at this or the other facilities – they may all be dead.
I am returning to the Hughes Ranch for the second time. My first visit was in 2005, after the roundup in Adobe Town in August of that year. I went to the Rock Springs Corrals looking for an older red roan stallion who had captured my heart in my visits to Adobe Town. He was going to be released back to Adobe Town, given his age (22) but at the last minute, the BLM decided to take older horses to Long Term Holding. I could not find him at Rock Springs, and was told he had been shipped to the Hughes Ranch. I called John Hughes and asked if I could come and see the horses, and he agreed, so I flew to Tulsa and rented a car to drive to Bartlesville. Although I looked at many horses in many pens and pastures, I was not able to find him. But I have never forgotten him. I hope he did live out his life there.
Today, I am in one of two huge buses filled with people eager to see the horses. Debbie Collins, Wild Horse and Burro Outreach Specialist for the BLM is on my bus, and she starts a promotional video on the bus that we listen to as we drive to see the horses. She tells us that we will make three stops to the see the horses, picking up Robert Hughes at the first stop, then on to a second area with horses, and to see a “Virtual Reality” tour on the new Mustang Heritage Foundation trailer, then on to a third location near the house where she says the horses are so gentle they come right up to you. There are over 1400 horses here at the ranch, almost all geldings.
At our first stop, there is a group of about 16o geldings close together. Robert Hughes tells us he is rotating the pastures and that the horses will be moved to another pasture to let this one rest in another day or so.
I have to emphasize that these are all geldings. There are no families here, and what we see in no way resembles what you would see if you were visiting wild horses on the range with their families. These are stallions that have been gelded, they are all unrelated, and they stay together for company.
This group luckily does not move away very quickly, because it takes a long time for everyone to get off the buses. The horses are curious, and not afraid, and they move around.
After about 15 minutes we get back onto the buses and move to our next location. We pass a group of horses and are told we will have plenty of time to see them, we are going to the “Virtual Reality” experience in the Mustang Heritage Foundation trailer which is supposedly 90 second 4 people at a time. I am skeptical that this will move quickly, and sure enough an hour later we are still there. Apparently there was a problem with the headsets. So I get off the bus before it leaves again so I can see this group of horses at least for a couple of minutes. The whole group runs off into the trees, but I have a feeling they might be back so I lag behind and soon the whole group comes running out toward me.
Something to remember as you look at the images of these horses is that every single one of them had a family before they were rounded up. each of these horses has a story, and a life, and a personality and they are not just numbers on a spreadsheet. They are not just expenses to the BLM. They are living, breathing sentient animals, and they deserve to be treated with respect. They should have been allowed to live out their lives with their families in their homes. But now they are here, and I do not want to see them shot and buried, or shipped off to slaughter. They either need to be allowed to live out their lives here, or be returned to the 22 million acres that was taken away from wild horses over the last 36 years.
Soon I notice the horses are running away because Debbie Collins is behind me, yelling for me and others to go back to the bus – we have to leave.
We never did get to those horses that were so easy to approach. All the time was taken up by the propaganda on the “Virtual Reality.” It wasn’t really about the horses. Records indicate that the BLM has given 1.5 million dollars a year to the Mustang Heritage Foundation since at least 2013. This fancy trailer I am sure cost quite a lot. It is ironic that the BLM says that if it has to reduce its budget by 9 million dollars this year, it has to kill the horses in holding, reduce roundups, and eliminate the use of birth control.
Right now Congress is on August Recess. This is a really crucial time for our wild horses. Please call your Representatives and Senators and tell them that you do not support the mass killing of our wild horses and that you do not support horse slaughterhouses in the United States. You can find their phone numbers here: http://www.house.gov/represent
To find out more about the Red Roan Stallion’s story, you can find it in Wild Hoofbeats: America’s Vanishing Wild Horses, available here: http://www.wildhoofbeats.com/products/whb-book