On Friday, I headed to the Bureau of Land Management wild horse corrals in Rock Springs, Wyoming for a wild horse adoption event. It was 8 am and the temperature was 18 degrees. I knew it was an adoption like none I had ever attended when I saw dozens of trucks and trailers lined up by the side of the road. A huge group of people crowded together in front of the gate, waiting for the gates to open at 9 am, all wearing masks. I had attended adoptions here and at Canon City in Colorado following the Checkerboard roundups in 2014 and 2017. This was very different. Why were there so many people? It looked more like a sale at a department store than a wild horse adoption.
My primary goal when I planned to go that day was to photograph as many of the over 600 wild horses at the corrals that had been captured and removed from their homes and families forever in October and November of 2020. Just like at those previous year’s adoption, I wanted to get the word out about these horses in hopes that they would get a good home, and I was especially focused on the older horses, often the ones no one wants. I was told by staff at Canon City that my efforts and those of other photographers who posted photographs of the horses really aided in many more horses being adopted. I was eager to do this again. A week before I had spoken with adoption coordinator Monica in Cheyenne about the event. When I asked her would we be able to see all the horses at the facility I was very surprised to hear her say probably not, because of COVID and that I would need to speak to the facility manager Jake the day of the event. This did not make sense to me since everyone would be wearing masks and it was a huge outdoor facility. I immediately called Jake and left a message on his voicemail requesting that I be allowed to see and photograph all the horses at the facility. He never called me back.
When the gate opened, the huge group of people surged forward to head to the three tables to fill out paperwork to adopt a horse and to get their $1000 incentive set up. There were individuals, TIP trainers, (trainer incentive program) and TIP trainers with Storefronts that allow them to take up to 20 horses. I was the only person who headed to see the 89 1-5 year old wild horses in the pens that were being offered on Friday and Saturday for the adoption. This was extremely odd. First of all, the only way that people would have known which horse they wanted and their individual tag number to fill out on the required form is if they had visited the private Facebook page to see those photos and get those numbers. The photos of the horses were not on the BLM website. There was no mention of the private Facebook group in the Press Release about the adoption or on the BLM website. Also, at the previous events I attended, every horse in the facility was available to be adopted or sold if over 10, with the usual exceptions of health issues or mares with newborn foals. But the mares had not foaled yet. And I was not allowed to see them.
I asked several staff members if I could go see the over 500 wild horses that were not being offered for adoption that day. I ended up with three different excuses for saying no:
None of these were the COVID excuse. So at this point I am the only person looking at the horses – the big mob was all at the tables. There were at least 5 – 7 staff and volunteers wandering around watching me, following me, and checking on me. One of them could have been spared to walk me over there – and they would be able to keep an eye on me. And we would not have scared the horses. I can only assume that the Boss that said no was Jake the facility manager, but it could have been from higher up in the BLM hierarchy. I was then told I could schedule an appointment to see the horses on a Thursday or Friday in the future after the adoption and those appointments were filling up fast. I said I lived over 5 1/2 hours away, and I am here right now.
I walked around photographing the horses I could see. There were fillies, colts, and then there were pens marked not in the adoption which contained males not yet gelded, males gelded too recently to be allowed to take home immediately, and a pen of very nervous cryptorchids which are male horses who have one or two testicles that had not descended so they would not have a simple gelding procedure but would have to have a much more dangerous surgical procedure that does frequently end in death for wild horses in holding facilities, especially if those surgeries are done by veterinary students.
The last two pens that I was allowed to walk by were a pen with horses set aside for a BLM staff member, and then a lone gorgeously marked pinto that no one seemed to know why he was alone in that pen. It was very hard for me seeing horses that I knew, that I had last seen with their families in the Red Desert who are now in these pens.
Later some few people walked by to look at the horses – some of whom were frustrated because someone else had taken the horse they wanted, and they were having a hard time seeing the tag numbers on the horses. The flashy colored horses were snapped up right away. If people adopted a horse they had to load and take it immediately that afternoon. There was no casual watching the horses move, spending time watching them, going back and forth to make a decision. It felt really wrong, and I was really concerned for the horses that were adopted. The big difference at this adoption was the Adoption Incentive Program, which began in May 2019. In this program, anyone who is approved to adopt a wild horse can get $1000 per horse from the BLM. That means an individual who takes 4 horses will get $4000 and a couple could get $8000. They get $500 after two months, and then the other $500 would be given within two months after they received the title to the horse after 1 year.
When the adoption program was originally set up, it cost $125 to adopt a horse, and the adopter only received the title after 1 year. That is what I paid for my mustangs. The idea behind this was to discourage people from adopting to sell them at auction to make money because the cost to feed and house the horse would make it less likely for the adopted to be able to make money on the sale. Now that deterrent was removed. Hundreds of wild horses are being dumped, sold at auction to kill buyers as soon as those adopters had gotten their money. This is a transparent method to empty the corrals of wild horses that are so expensive to house and keep – over 50,000 of them in 2019 when the program began. There are simply not enough sanctuaries to take all these doomed horses. And the idea of seeing the Red Desert horses that I have known and loved over the past 5 years of spending time with them in all the seasons possibly ending up at slaughter sickens and grieves me. Adoption is not a solution, it is a last resort. We always hope that they go to good people but a “forever home” is not a given. Wild horses belong in the wild, in their homes, with their families. They are not “saddle horses in waiting.” They are uniquely equipped to survive in the poorest of lands, which is where they have been pushed to and they do not just survive – they thrive. They bring me and many many people all over this country and all over the world great inspiration and joy just being themselves. They are are valuable in and of themselves, unique, sensitive, sentient beings who deserve to live their lives free. They belong to all of us in America. They are not interchangeable like potatoe chips, they are not commodities, they are not nuisances nor are they pests. It is a great gift to be able to spend time with them, one I am thankful for every day.
The Bureau of Land Management needs to stop rounding up wild horses. They need to stop filling the corrals. They need to manage these horses on our public lands. They need to remove the Incentive program. They need to allow the public access to the horses that are currently in holding facilities. If they stop filling the corrals they will not need to employ extreme measures to empty them.
In 2018 the BLM removed 1442 wild horses from the over 700,000 acre Red Desert Complex. 25 were released, 10 died during the roundup. The BLM only stopped because the holding facilities were full. In 2020 Cattoor Livestock came back and they rounded up 1970 more horses. They released 197 and 10 were killed. Since the roundup 24 more have died in the Rock Springs corrals and the corrals at Canon City where over 1200 of the horses are being held, a facility closed to the public. At the time these horses were rounded up, the BLM posted on the website devoted to the roundup: “the corrals receiving the horses from the gathers will not be taking requests from the public to hold specific horses.” The vast majority of these horses I will never see again. They are irreplaceable, and I will never forget them.
Here is a video I recorded the day before the adoption, from the overlook area at the Corrals: https://www.instagram.com/p/CLabUnth6co/
How devastating for these families of horses and also for you who have come to deeply love, respect and advocate for these horses! This govt has crossed every line of corruption and deception possible, at taxpayers expense. We know the game, the whys and the players and it’s a bloodstain that will forever haunt this Country. My heart breaks for many reasons on many levels and my disgust equals my heartbreak. Thank you for always being a voice for these magnificent Mustangs!
These round ups are WRONG on every aspect, these poor horses will end up @ slaughters, that should not be allowed to happen to our AMERICAN ICONS, you people in BLM should be ashamed of yourselves, how can you sleep @ night with the blood on your hands???
Well said, Carol. Thank you for being there. It is a difficult & terrible thing what is being done to our wild horses. The BLM holds all the cards and almost seem to delight in doing everything they can to make things more difficult for advocates such as yourself. It doesn’t matter if the horses suffer for it, but then, I guess they are in the business of causing horses to suffer, aren’t they?
Thank you Carol Walker for all you do for our wild horses and keeping us informed on the pure corruption of our tyrannical system we live under . Sending you good energy from Gardnerville Nv
My heart aches and I feel sickened to my very core after reading your blog. The level of depravity and corruption in regards to the wild horses is abhorrent. I cry for them and for you after the years of effort you have put in to saving them and telling their story.
Thanks so much for everything you have done.
This shows how corrupt BLM is and needs to be exposed and reported to legislators who will try to help stop the extinction of our wild horses. There is no follow up on adoptions as far as I know , at least there was not when I adopted one of my wild horse mares. I did get a vet to sign a paper so I could get the title that said she was in good heath just by looking at her. Others were saved from slaughter. BLM and USFS are destroying a national treasure as wild horses are a distinct breed and they belong to all Americans.
If you mention what is being done to just anybody you will be surprised they do not know what is happening. Just try it at the grocery or anyplace. The pet food aisle is a good place to just casually say something.
Rock Springs Wyo Q & A. FB page posts pictures of the horses with the tag # ans little description. The photographer is Vonnie Reinbold not sure that’s the right spelling. She seems to be given access. I think she just wants to get these horses adopted. I watched from afar and had a so much anxiety when I saw people taking so many at once. I just know so many of these wonderful animals will end up in the kill pens. The SAFE Act needs to get passed. I’m heartsick about this, I can’t even imagine how you must feel. These are your friends. I’m in Canada and our country has disgusting slaughter plants that kill horses. So many are American horses. We are fighting so hard to have them shut down. It is through this fight that I became familiar with the mustangs. Americans have an absolute treasure in these animals. I just want to see everyone there stand up for them and understand what a gift they are. My dream now is to travel and see these beautiful animals for myself, in the wild. So many people I know want to join me.
This is so wrong. I am sorry for the loss and helplessness you feel. We know those trailers are for the money incentive. My heart aches along with yours❤
We must stop this horrific act of removing these wild free animals from their homelands. Is their a petition that we can sign to send in order to stop this practice. It’s more likely these people are their to adopt just for the money or to sell for slaughter. They only have we the people to protect them.
The best way to make an impact is to contact your Senators and Representatives. They have the say over how the BLM’s budget is spent.
I am reading your report here in Ireland, and I am sad and sickened at seeing this happening to those beautiful, wild horses.
Especially when there is proven on the range management, in the form of PZP. Good work reporting on it.
Carol, I don’t know how you do it but I’m so thankful that you do. I have 2 rescued mustangs, both failed BLM adoptions, both from Wyoming. They are my life, my wonder and I love them dearly.
Your photos certainly seem to disprove the ‘concerns’ over wild horses starving on depleted public range lands. The horses look quite robust, and that land supports ~3 million cattle with seemingly little concern about the impact of overgrazing. Personally I support darting the horses to reduce reproduction. I know some animal rights people don’t like it but I think it’s preferable to these round ups, and I know it’s used in zoos for population control.
Is it the $1k incentive that is causing these buying surges? On the other side of the story; there are sooo many mustangs being dumped at kill pens. The rescues are doing their best to save them. I have pulled 3 myself. It just seems $ is driving this and the horses are paying the price.
Yes. I have heard from many rescues and sanctuaries that since the incentive program started there are many more mustangs being sent to auction. This must stop.
Thank you Carol Walker for your endless love, support of these beautiful animals. What the BLM is doing to these horses is unforgivable they do not belong in a holding facility they belong on the land owned by the American Taxpayer this Government or previous Governments have no right in removing these horses from land that belongs to them. This is blood money. To all who are employed in this agency – how can you sleep at night knowing the harm you have imposed on innocent animals?
These pictures make me so sad. I wish BLM would stop these terrible practices. There has to be a way to make sure that these wonderful wild horses are not sent to slaughter.
Thank you Carol for being strong and being there for the horses. It’s just disgusting the way our precious wild ones are treated. They should be respected, not treated like a piece of trash. It doesn’t matter how hard all of us advocates try, the BLM will find a way to turn our good deeds into hard work done for nothing.
However, as we all love these precious horses, we cannot, and I will not abandon them. We must keep pushing and working to try and stop the BLM’s method of “management”. We at SWAT are worried about the Sand Wash Basin horses. I feel like in the not to near future we will see a large gather in the Basin. So very sad.
Again Carol, thank you for all you do.
Carol, may I suggest that you contact Deb Haaland, the nominee for Secretary of Interior, who will have influence with BLM. Perhaps a staff member can schedule a Zoom meeting with you to review these issues. I forwarded your blog to her Twitter ID but I am not sure how her Twitter account is monitored. Here is her contact information: https://haaland.house.gov/contact
Thank you for all your hard work. Best to you.
Some of these horses are already posted on FB for a profit. Litteraly being flipped in less than a week of adopting.
That is horrible.
Please let me know who/what page.
I don’t know what to say Carol except that my heart just breaks and this is just wrong, so so wrong. You’ve been boots on the ground so often and I thank you, although I can’t imagine what you go through. One day this will stop.
Wonderful writeup on this…my heart breaks for these babies…if anyone drives around the West they can see there is plenty of room for all of them…no need for these roundups…I hope we can make some progress on the situation…
I am absolutely sickened by what the BLM is doing to these beautiful animals. They are greedy heartless B******s. Thank you for all your hard work for these beautiful creatures. I hope you can take a video recording of everything that happened to Washington. Perhaps go over their heads so someone actually sees what they are doing. Its shameful and too many of these beautiful horses are dying because of the greed of the Bureau of Land Management. Not to be confused with Black Lives Matter and yes it has happened more than once. Good luck Carol and God Bless you for all your hard work.
Carol – dont know if this will come to your attention BUT the USDA Forest Service has posted info on Heber herd. They seem to be using the information – numbers wise from 2017! And this “plan” is dated a year ago .
You are subscribed to Heber Wild Horse Territory Plan for USDA Forest Service. This information has recently been updated, and is now available.
Opportunity to Comment on the Heber Wild Horse Territory Management Plan Draft EA and Draft Territory Management Plan
The Forest Service has prepared a draft environmental assessment (EA) for the Heber Wild Horse Territory Management Plan Project. Proposed actions are analyzed in the EA and have been incorporated into a Draft Territory Management Plan (TMP) also available for your review. The TMP also includes specifics for implementing the proposed action including standard operating procedures and an annual operating plan.
We are initiating an official 30-day public comment period to solicit your input on the draft EA and TMP. This solicitation serves as the last designated opportunity for public comment on this project.
The Draft EA, Draft TMP and supporting documents are available on the website at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=18916
How to submit Comments
Written comments will be accepted for 30 calendar days following publication of the legal notice in the White Mountain Independent (Show Low, AZ). We expect to publish the legal notice on March 23, 2021. Your comments should clearly articulate your concerns and contentions and provide supporting rationale. We will not consider or address comments that are outside the scope of this project or that are not substantive.
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/s/ Anthony Madrid
Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests
Carol have you taken your stories and information directly to the President? Are you going to put the story and information on other networks? I am behind you 100% concerning the inhumanity of the wild horses. What is happening to the horses is what happens to anything that gets in the way of greed and money.