Review by ForeWord Reviews
America’s Vanishing Wild Horses
Painted Hills Publishing
Softcover $29.95 (160pp)
Horses are seldom seen as wild creatures, only as domestic companions to be bridled and saddled
for our own use. The natural life of this majestic animal holds a fascination for equine lovers
who desire to see horses thrive in their native habitat rather than conform to human needs in a
corral. A comfortable, even posh, enclosure in a climate-controlled environment with a
veterinarian-approved diet cannot compare to the elation a stallion experiences when running
freely across open terrain. Horses bond with one another, establishing a riveting society with
rules and standards that include displays of affection, territorial boundaries, and competition. The
gestures of a mare tending to her foal in an open, fertile landscape, or the expression of a stallion
staring in stoic outrage behind a chain-link fence communicate the presence of free, intelligent,
and emotional creatures.
Few have observed what award-winning photographer Carol Walker has captured in Wild
Hoofbeats: America’s Vanishing Wild Horses. In a striking presentation, Walker chronicles the
day-to-day activities of a herd in Adobe Town, Wyoming, until a routine roundup reduces its
population. At the Hughes Ranch in Oklahoma and the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
facility in Rock Springs, Wyoming, Walker focuses her camera on the defeated faces of those
confined in holding corrals.
The roundups are a BLM ritual, aimed at managing wild herd populations by relocating the
horses. However, as Walker points out, animals are often removed from areas that are not yet
approaching overpopulation status; in fact, all wild horses have been removed from 102 of the
original 303 designated areas for wild horses.
Not only are the roundups unnecessary, they are dangerous. During these herd-control
procedures, the horses are subjected to tremendous stress. Stallions are castrated, and some do
not survive their painful ordeal. Equine families with offspring are chased at high speed with
helicopters for as many as fifteen grueling miles. Even though care is taken not to separate
lactating mares from their foals, wet mares are frequently extracted anyway. Then dependent
foals must be bottle-fed on foster ranches, and bonded families are split apart.
Rather than preserving and protecting what remains of America’s wild hoofbeats, current policy,
according to Walker, is cruel and irresponsible, overly-responsive to cattle ranching interests,
and not supportive of protecting genetically-viable herds.
Carol Walker is a gifted photographer with several decades of experience. Her passion for
capturing wildlife on film began when she was a child, and after formal training, she’s traveled
throughout the world with her camera, immersing herself in nature and portraiture work,
including commercial work for the equine industry. Today she has dedicated herself to
photographing wild horses along with educating concerned citizens about their plight on public
lands in the West. She’s pursued herds in Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado, learning about
these precious animals by observation.
In this book, Walker introduces particular horses and herds with text and photographs, and
follows some individual horses through the roundup and subsequent relocation. She has also
done her policy homework, explaining the BLM current and proposed policies, and including the
perspectives of other government and university studies.
A part of our natural heritage, these living, breathing, roaming landmarks deserve better
treatment than the “politics” of current land management allow. Wild Hoofbeats is a profound
and beautiful tribute to the wild heartbeats that infuse the American West with vitality.
(December 2008) Julia Ann Charpentier
Review Date: May 2010
“This lovely coffee table book illustrates the plight of wild horse herds throughout Western America and focusing on the Southwestern corner of Wyoming. There is excellent material for everyone interested in the subject. First are the gorgeous pictures which portray the wide variety of wild horses. Although there are the expected telephoto pictures, what is far more impressive are the close-up shots, This author/photographer is an extraordinarily brave lady. She actually got out and walked amongst the herds, sitting down on the ground in front of them, even when concerned herd stallions came charging up to a stop five feet in front of her. They could have easily trampled her to death. She has to have nerves of steel and a sense of equine knowledge and trust far greater than many
This is further illustrated by her straight forward language she uses to tell the plight of these horses as cattlemen and sheepherders attempt to run the wild animals off the range. Ms Walker explains in detail the day to day lives within the herds, how each is protected by a herd stallion who has to take on all challengers to his breeding rights. She also explains the roles played by various horses within the herds and how nature cuts back the possibility of too much inbreeding. She fairly portrays the various parties involved in the issue of wild equines and their various agendas. The combination of beautiful pictures and cogent writing makes this coffee table book a fascinating read. We rated it four hearts.
Apogee Photo Magazine
September Photo Book Reviews: By Elizabeth Powis
One of the largest wild horse herds in the United States, and the largest in the state of Wyoming, is the subject of Carol Walker’s book. She spends four years documenting the lives of seven bands (families) before they were eventually rounded up and removed from the area. Walker has a passion for the future of these wild horses that are decreasing in numbers in the US. She uses amazing photographs and her own experiences to tell their story. Walker talks about the land mismanagement and suggestions for future protection from large wild horse removals, which continue to threaten an already declining population. We are encouraged, as US citizens, to stand up and make a difference for these true symbols of the American west heritage and for the sake of the animals themselves. These creatures should have the right to roam free with their families without being disturbed.
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