Wild Horses and Barbed Wire Fences Do Not Mix – Checkerboard Roundup Day 8
by Carol J. Walker
This morning we headed to the Bar X Road in Great Divide Basin for another day of watching helicopters chase wild horses into traps, then force them into trailers, then separating each horse from his or her family.
Yes, it is a very grim process. And the BLM has made it harder and harder for members of the public to observe this process. So placing members of the public who wish to observe this process as far away from the trap that the horses run into as possible is the logical solution for them. In this location, we were told to go on public land which was behind a barbed wire fence that separated us from the area the horses were being driven into. Even using the longest lens Canon makes, the horses looked like ants. The helicopter took the horses around a ridge so that we could not see them at all then just before the trap wings, drove the horses into the trap with a lot of dust. We had pretty much given up on being able to get usable images let alone be able to identify any horses. I was especially curious to see if any of the wild horses I had seen at the end of the day yesterday who were still free.
Suddenly a group a black horses with markings similar enough on their faces to mark them as family came trotting down the two track toward us, but behind the barbed wire fence. I asked the BLM staff with us to stand quiet so they would not frighten the horses away and we watched them get closer and closer. The horses were not particularly concerned about us, but really wanted to get away from the helicopter. Suddenly, a grulla stallion, mare and foal come running by, helicopter in persuit overhead. They finally run up the hill, while the black horses kept coming down the hill, getting closer to us. As the helicopter flies overhead they turn away from the fence.
But then two black horses come down the hill and the first one jumps the fence and the one behind tries to clear the fence as well but hits it hard and breaks the top barbed wire. It happens so suddenly that I am shocked, stop shooting as I normally do when there is a wreck – I am stunned and horrified. The horses pick themselves up and run off as fast as they can, and I really hope they are both all right and not injured. Suddenly another group of horses in a line are coming down the two track close to the fence, the helicopter in pursuit, and they are eyeing the fence. Oh no!!!!! This would be bad. The black stallion the lead starts to jump over, his chest hits the tight barbed wire and he stops, pulls his leg out and the other horses pull back as well, because the helicopter has finally moved away, releasing the pressure.
This is an incredibly upsetting thing to watch. I would much rather have had the horses stay further away and have not had this happen. Horses and barbed wire do not mix, especially wild horses running in terror from a helicopter. Driving horses using a helicopter is NEVER humane, but running them into barbed wire fences is especially brutal and inhumane.
There is no excuse for this. The barbed wire should have flags on it so the horses can see it and be discouraged from trying to jump or run into it. We were told there were flags – do you see any? I don’t. I shudder to think about what would have happened had the whole group tried to go over. No doubt a horrendous wreck.
Immediately after this happened, I hear the radio our public information people who were escorting us were wearing saying we needed to get down, then saying we needed to move way back from where we had been standing. We were already 1 1/2 miles from the trap, now we would be two miles from the trap, and we were told it was “for our safety.” No, it was because they were very upset that this happened right in front of us.
The horses now appear as grains of sand approaching the trap. The only horses we really catch a glimpse of are those we glimpse in the trailers driving to the temporary corrals. Finally they are finished for the day, and we are told we can wait to go see the horses in temporary holding. Just as several days before we wait for over 2 hours, and I wonder if they have euthanized more horses, which was the reason for the two and a half hour wait before.
When we came up to the pens, we saw a dark colored young stallion on the wrong side of the fence, eating hay. He had wandered in and was enjoying the company of the horses in pens and the hay as well. He moved around while were were there and seemed to pose for us, giving us some much needed comic relief! I was told the mares had been sent to the Rock Springs corrals already so they could wait for their coggins results and could be sent to the Bruno facility in Idaho, a facility that allows no public viewing and no adoptions, like a black hole for these horses to fall into, just like the Axtell facility in Utah which 700 wild horses will be sent to. All of the roundups I have observed in these areas since 2005 have sent half the horses to Rock Springs and half to Canon City. Both their facilities allow public access and adoption. This is just wrong, and it is tragic for these horses.
I asked about the horse with all the blood on its head in the trailer. Apparently it was a stallion, and it had a head wound that the vet examined and sprayed with antibacterial spray, and had said was minor. However, 3 horses had indeed been euthanized, and we were told they had “preexisting conditions.” that brings the death total so far to 7.
We walked and saw the stallions, the foals and again our shadow the young stallion, then headed out. 95 horses lost their freedom and families, 76 adults and 19 foals.
Listen to our Wild Horse and Burro Radio Show Sunday October 1 when I talk to our host Debbie Coffey about the Checkerboard Roundup – information here:
Carol Walker (Dir. of Field Documentation for Wild Horse Freedom Federation) with updates on BLM’s roundups of wild horses & foals in the Checkerboard area of Wyoming (Sunday, 10/1/17 on Wild Horse & Burro Radio)