In the last month, I have visited and photographed the horses of Sand Wash Basin on two trips. I had the wonderful experience of having Nancy Roberts go with me on one day on each trip, and she is the advocate who has spent the most time out in the herd area with the horses, observing and photographing and keeping track of them, so she had some wonderful stories to share with me about the horses.
Unfortunately I saw sheep, hundreds of them, on the eastern part of the horse range, and even got to watch as the herders had to use a horse (a mustang) to tow out sheep that had gotten stuck in the mud at a waterhole.
This herd was rounded up in 2008 by the BLM using the contractor Cook, and I was there – it was horrific with horses being rammed into panels and a mare being trampled. Here is the link to the You Tube slideshow I did on this roundup: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsIvjEbRebU b
Since then, HSUS has been conducting a 4 year birth control study on the herd.
The last time I had been out to see the horses was in October last year, and I stayed on the western portion of the range, where most of the horses were. I found out that shortly after I left, sheep were turned out in that part of the range (the fall and winter forage area for the horses) and left there until April. This has had disastrous consequences for the range. There were some areas that were so barren that all were left were dirt and rocks.
This winter has been one of the driest on record for Colorado with almost no moisture, and now many of the summer waterholes are drying up. The BLM has said that they will haul water for the horses if needed, but I am concerned because the BLM has been talking about “emergency roundups” that may be necessary this summer. My question is where are they going to put the horses that are removed, given that the holding facilities are all at or near capacity?
This herd is the largest remaining herd in Colorado, and is one of the easiest herds to visit. The horses are used to people being around, so they are easier to observe and photograph than many other herds in Colorado and Wyoming.
I had a wonderful morning in May at a waterhole with a well in the northern part of the horse range. Many bands came down to water at the same time that morning, so there was a lot of activity, especially from the bachelor stallions.
I will go back to visit again this summer, and I hope that the BLM will indeed haul water to the horses if necessary during this drought, and refrain from removing these beautiful horses from their home.
If you want to learn more about the Sand Wash Basin Herd, you can visit their Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sand-Wash-Basin-Wild-Horses/101181969939406