A New Beginning for Older Wild Horses from Adobe Town
In September and October of 2014, 1263 wild horses were removed from Great Divide Basin, Salt Wells Creek and Adobe Town Herd Management Areas by the BLM. This was done due to a lawsuit and pressure and influence exerted by the Rock Springs Grazing Association, a very small but powerful association whose goal is to eradicate wild horses from both private and public lands in Wyoming. Although in the 80s an agreement was reached between the BLM, wild horse advocates and the Rock Springs Grazing Association for how many wild horses would be allowed in the vast checkerboard of private and public lands in the Red Desert of Wyoming, the grazing association contended that the BLM was not keeping the numbers of wild horses in check, so their solution was to pressure the BLM to remove all of them, not only from private lands but also from public lands on 2 million acres, and they forced the BLM to manage the public lands in the Checkerboard Area in one block, as though they were part of private lands, even though this is illegal. The court denied the advocates fighting to represent the wild horses a Temporary Restraining Order and Emergency Injunction to stop the roundup, so currently the wild horses removed are in short term holding facilities: about 600 are at Rock Springs, Wyoming, about 500 in Canon City, Colorado and about 100 youngsters are at Axtell, Utah.
The wild horses are the victims in this outrageous land grab struggle. Even though there were fewer than the Appropriate Management Level in each of these Herd Management Areas at the time of the roundup, with no opportunity for public comment the horses were removed, and now only 89 wild horses remain in Great Divide Basin, 29 in Salt Wells Creek and approximately 515 in Adobe Town.
I attended as many days of the roundup as I could. It was a very different experience than any roundup I had been to before in Wyoming because they were trying to capture every single horse in the Checkerboard Areas. This resulted in many more deaths than usual – a total of 14, and also resulted in the capture of many more older horses than usual. They spent hours driving single bands over and over again to the trap, when the older stallions knew what was happening and valiantly tried to evade capture.
The lawsuit that we advocates brought against the BLM continues, but the horses have been captured and removed already, and wait for their fate. A small percentage of horses that were captured have been adopted, and this is where my story begins.
One day while I was staying in Rock Springs waiting for the BLM to continue the roundup, I drove into Adobe Town. This area is extremely remote, over 30 miles from the highway on dirt roads. You can drive for many miles and not see a single horse on the roads I traveled, mainly because most of them in this area had already been rounded up. But as I approached Pine Butte and Sand Butte near Eversole Ranch, as I headed up a hill I saw several groups of wild horses peacefully grazing. It is common in some herd areas for family bands that know each other to stay close together at times. It is a wonderful opportunity to study the behavior and family interaction of the horses. I was amazed to see many Appaloosas in these families. I had never seen an Appaloosa in the wild before and the different and varied coat patterns were striking. I first observed a stallion whose coat looked like snow had fallen all over it. He proudly lifted his head and stood his ground as I approached. He had a striking black and white pinto mare with dramatic markings and a small foal. Then I observed a large family with a stunning sorrel stallion, and they were very curious about me, running by and then running toward me to get a closer look. Then I turned and saw an older stallion with bronze highlights glinting off his coat, and an Appaloosa “blanket” over his rump. Despite an enlarged knee, he trotted by with a float in his gait, proudly protecting his family and investigating a new person is his territory. I was enchanted by his pride and by his beautiful family, which included a gorgeous Appaloosa mare whose coat also looked like snow had fallen, and a protective sorrel pinto mare, and two sorrel mares. They moved past me and up onto a ridge, and the stallion paused to look back at me.
I walked back to my car and pulled out my map. My heart sank as I traced the pattern of the Checkerboard over the area that I was in. These horses did not stand a chance. Their freedom was going to be measured in days, not weeks, not years as it should have been.
After seeing the last days of the roundup, I made plans to go to Canon City to see the wild horses that had been removed. Although the BLM referred to all of the wild horses that were removed in this area as being from Salt Wells Creek, many were from Adobe Town. I was determined to find some of the horses I had seen that day. I also called Manda Kalimian, of the Cana Project, formerly Seraphim 12, http://www.seraphim12foundation.org/ and I told her about these horses, and asked if there was any way she could take some of the older horses. Manda immediately said she would work on it, and we corresponded by phone and email about where these wild horses could find a new home. I knew that Manda with her great love for horses and concern about the wild horses and their fate would manage to make something work, and I started to feel hope amidst the great despair I had been feeling these last few months.
When I arrived at the corrals at the BLM Canon City facility, the first horses I saw was the bronze Appy stallion, who I named Bronze Warrior. He was peacefully munching hay and quietly observing near the other older stallions in his pen. I was so glad to have found him! In the same pen I also saw the amazing Appaloosa stallion I named Snowfall with the pinto mare, and then was able to find her as well. She was aged at 20 years old, and Bronze warrior at 22 years old, the oldest stallion that had been rounded up.
I found the striking pinto stallion that had been rounded up on the last day of the roundup in Adobe Town at Eversole Ranch when none of the public was there to witness, so that the BLM took close up photos of the horses coming in:
I sent Manda the photos, and this fueled the fire for both of us to find a home for these horses. I also emailed Kathi Fine at Rock Springs to see if I could find some of the mares in Bronze Warrior’s family so that at least two families could be reunited. The stallions have all been gelded at this point, but at least they can be with their mares again.
In the meantime, Manda called me with the wonderful news that she had just gotten off the phone with Susan Watt of the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary in South Dakota http://www.wildmustangs.com/ and that Susan was very excited about taking the older horses. She was also enthused about being able to reunite at the sanctuary not one, but two families who had been ripped apart during the roundup. This was such welcome news. I had first met Susan two years ago when I went to interview her and see and tour the sanctuary, and I knew that she would take amazing care of these horses. The Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary is an amazing place, and will be perfect for older horses to live out their lives in peace, and as free as possible.
We developed a plan. Kathi Fine at Rock Springs told me that she had at least two of the mares we were looking for, but since they were short handed none of the wild horses rounded up in the fall would be available for adoption or sale until February. So we decided to take the four in Canon City to the Black Hills Sanctuary this week and to take a second load from Rock Springs to the Sanctuary in February when the horses were ready to go.
I will be sending updates and photographs of the horses’ arrival this week at the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, with the reunion of Snowfall and Diamond Girl who have been separated since the roundup. Next month I will be documenting the reunion of Bronze Warrior and his family.
There are still many wild horses needing good homes at Canon City – to see photos and more information go here: