The plight of wild horses, part two



 By Sharon St Joan


To read part one first, click here.


Are wild horses native?


While it is generally assumed that wild horses are descended from the horses that the Spanish conquistadors left behind in the Sixteenth Century, there is considerable evidence that the native wild horses of the west may never have died out at all and may always have been present on this land.


Craig Downer in his remarkable book The Wild Horse Conspiracy details twenty separate examples of fossilized remains of wild horses scientifically dated to between 700 years before the present to 7,000 years before the present. All these fossils appear on this continent during the thousands of years during which wild horses were believed to have been absent from the Americas.


Craig Downer also gives a fascinating account of the ways in which the presence of wild horses benefits the land. Contrary to the picture that is often presented, they consume coarser, drier vegetation, which allows many kinds of grasses and other vegetation to thrive, creating greater biodiversity and a healthier eco-system.


Whether they have always lived here, without interruption, may be debated, but two things are not open to debate: No one disputes the fact that all horses originated in the Americas. North and South America are the only homeland of the horse – all the horses on earth trace their ancestry back to the Americas. Whether they were here, then gone for a time – just a blip on the geological time scale, of a few thousand years – or whether they never left at all and have always been right here, the indisputable fact remains that they have no other home. This is their original native land. They are American wild horses.


Secondly, native or not, there is no excuse for the inhumane and brutal treatment to which wild horses are being subjected.


All animals should be treated humanely.


2parttwoID 99529976 © Lynnbellphoto : dreamstime_xs_99529976


We are not talking here about private land, but about both state and public land. Do we want the wild horses whose native home is our western wild lands to be sacrificed to business and industry? We must leave the wild lands and the wild animals that live there free to live and be wild. The world of nature is not something to be used up as fast as possible. If we do that, in the end we will all be left with nothing, only a ruined wasteland. Instead, let us open our eyes. Let us value and be grateful for the God-given blessing of being able to live in a land of immense beauty among innocent, majestic animals.


Who would not be moved by the soaring beauty of wild horses running in joy, their manes flying in the wind?


Wild horses, like all sentient beings, have a soul and a spirit. We need to drop our human concerns for a moment of silence and listen to the voices of the wild – to the soul of wild America.


Our fellow beings on the earth are our brothers and sisters; we are all interconnected; we are all children of the earth.


Can we stand by idly while those around us destroy the natural world – failing to speak up for it, or to protect it, or to value its beauty and its sacred essence?


Wild horses cannot speak up for themselves. It is up to us to take the time and show the willingness and the courage to speak up behalf of these innocent wild beings. Then, whatever the outcome, we will have done our best.




BLM press release requesting comments before May 20, 20:


BLM oil and gas leasing proposal for the San Rafael Swell – Scroll down to the San Rafael Desert Master Leasing Plan:


The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros act of 1971


Salt Lake Tribune on BLM’s plan for wild horses:


House of Representatives and BLM proposal:


YouTube video about wild horses:


Craig C. Downer’s book, The Wild Horse Conspiracy, is available on Amazon.



Photo credits, part two:


First photo:

ID 22302503 © Matthew Ragen /, in the Ochoc mountains of Central Oregon.


Second photo:

ID 99529976 © Lynnbellphoto /, the Ute Reservation


3 thoughts on “The plight of wild horses, part two

  1. While I agree wholeheartedly that wild horse (tame horses, and all animals) should be treated as humanely as possible, there are many fallacies with your vision of “wild horses running in joy, their manes flying in the wind.”

    1.What do wild horse fossil remains have to do with today’s herds of wild horses roaming open range? We know prehistoric horses existed long before man evolved to stand on 2 feet. If you check the DNA of the herds on the range today, you will find elements of the Spanish horses, as well as elements cavalry horses that escaped or were let loose out of lack of necessity, and of western livestock that escaped ranchers or that ranchers simply dumped (like kittens on a country road) when economic disaster struck home and they could not pay to feed their horses. And yes, I’ll bet you could find a trace of those old prehistoric remains, as well. Just as you can find traces of ape DNA in humans. So what?
    2. Wild horses do indeed eek out a living on grasses that domesticated horses would starve on. But that is after they have eaten the available native forbs. The high deserts and sagelands that these horses roam receives very little moisture making for a fragile ecosystem, where native high-forage-value plants lose the ability to compete with unpalatable, undesirable, or nonnative species. Those undesirable species, like dreaded cheatgrass and skeleton weed then take over a landscape and escalate the chance of massive wildland fires. (Have you seen horse skeletons after a wild fire rips through the high desert? Not pretty manes in the wind, let me tell you.)
    3. Oil and gas drilling, much as I f-ing hate it, is not in competition with wild horse populations. Horses can graze around drilling rigs just as they graze around power lines and far-flung ranches. (Multi-purpose public lands)
    3. The 1971 Wild Horse & Burro Act was, as is so often the case, an altruistic attempt to protect wild horses. But its end result has created havoc across the west. Truly free and wild roaming horses would have natural predators, just as bunnies do, just as mice, elk, deer, pronghorn do. In a natural environment the predator/prey ratio fluctuates thereby exerting natural population controls at both ends. This is not happening with wild horses. With the exception of a few areas, horses no longer fear mountain lions or wolf packs. Their numbers aren’t controlled by Fish & Wildlife, as are the other grazers. Even the cattle ranchers (with exceptions like the Bundy crooks) must comply with grazing regulations. But horses keep multiplying with no natural population controls, except starvation.

    There is no logical reason that horses shouldn’t be managed in the same way that other wild creatures are. When we see over population of people in poor countries, we wonder why they don’t use birth control. Religion and financial access are usually to blame. Equine birth control is an expensive proposition, but for those who want to protect the wild horse herds, it makes no sense not to try it. That is a far better alternative than stockpiling thousands of animals in holding pens.

    And selling horse meat? Well…to be honest, why not? You look into a cow’s eye and tell me that animal has less right to live than a horse? Americans are squeamish about eating the protein of certain animals, because they have lost touch with the natural patterns of life and death, earth to earth, and the chain of life. Horse meat is a delicacy in many countries, as is dog meat. If I were hungry enough I’d eat the cat that sleeps peacefully on her mat beside me. And, my friend, if you and I were stuck on Donner Pass with nothing to eat and I died first, you’d be welcome to graze on my flesh. Ashes to ashes, the circle of life. One dies so another may live.


  2. Thank you, Rangewriter, for taking the time to write and express your views. I’m sure you are right about many things. However, we have basic philosophical differences on a number of issues.

    I agree with you that preferring one species over another, for example, caring more about the suffering of horses than that of cows, makes no sense. There’s something not quite right in the views of people who protest the slaughter of horses for meat, but who consume beef. I’m a vegan, so I don’t eat any animals.

    I’m not saying though that one has to be a vegan in order to care about the plight of wild horses. The ways in which wild horses are treated are very cruel, as I’ve mentioned above. Cows are also treated with great cruelty, but that doesn’t make it right.

    I would recommend that you read The Wild Horse Conspiracy by Craig Downer, who has studied wild horses for over forty years. He is an expert and provides many facts about them.

    Thank you again for writing.


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