A comment on a discussion of wild horses…

ID 16446842 © Tamara Didenko | Dreamstime.com

By Sharon St Joan

More about the question of wild horses…

I feel that what is sometimes missing in our views of the wild in general – is a spiritual awareness – or simply an awareness of the beauty and majesty of the wild – whether this is a wild horse – or for that matter a feral cat. Whether it is a butterfly or a pigeon on a city street.

Whether the animal is “wild” or “feral” or “tame” or “domestic” – or whatever category we, with our human brains, wish to put it into. Every animal has worth and dignity. They are all innocent. No animal is mean or vicious. Animals can be afraid, but only humans possess the capacity to be vicious.

We are so quick, as humans, to make judgements about who should live and who should die.  We sometimes set ourselves up as chief judge and executioner. A little more humility might not be amiss.

It always sounds a little bit wrong to me when we as humans talk, just a bit condescendingly, about the harm that this animal does or that animal does. Surely, no animal does more harm to the earth and to all beings than we do as humans.

Clearly there are times and places where invasive species have to be controlled and eliminated insofar as possible – or else they gobble up the wild, native species until there is nothing left. That’s just a fact.

But I am not among those who feel that we should kill or harm every single animal that we decide doesn’t belong in the world of nature. We live in the world as it is – it is a constantly changing world, nature itself is constantly changing. If there is a really, truly destructive invasive species – surely it is us.

Nearly every wild creature I’ve ever seen has an intrinsic beauty and nobility (there are one or two exceptions, but those are faults in myself, not in the animal). They are all sentient beings, and this goes for the trees, and the plants, as well – at least, as I see it. Deciding, from our lofty, human perspective, that junipers should not grow where they grow because they didn’t used to grow there does not make sense to me, nor does chopping them up in a machine, which feels like a desecration of the earth itself.

When we take a wild creature out of the wild whether it’s a bird being confined to a cage or a wild horse being separated from his family and his life in the wild to be “adopted” or confined in a holding pen, that also seems like an act of cruelty.

Some of these questions are difficult because there are many facts and many consequences involved, and many different, legitimate perspectives.

But surely, whatever action we may feel is needed or not needed, retaining a sense of kindness and compassion, as well as admiration and reverence for the beauty of wild creatures cannot be out of place.

This isn’t a criticism of anyone, just a call not to forget a certain reverence and respect for the beauty of the wild.

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 / Dreamstime.com, in the Ochoc mountains of Central Oregon.


Second photo:

ID 99529976 © Lynnbellphoto / Dreamstime.com, the Ute Reservation


The plight of wild horses, part one



By Sharon St Joan


Utah’s wild horses 


The word “gather” sounds like such a gentle word, like gathering wildflowers on a spring day. But for wild horses, as in the “Muddy Creek Wild Horse Gather Plan EA,” it’s meaning is anything but gentle. It hides a brutal reality – being herded by helicopter, then being sent off to holding pens where they are likely to spend the rest of their lives in captivity. In the blink of an eye, lost to each of these horses is their freedom, their family, and their wild way of life. This is like taking a bird from the sky and keeping it in a cage.


The Muddy Creek Herd Management Area in Emery County, Utah – 283,000 acres of public and state land – lies in the San Rafael Swell –- a juniper/pinion area of spectacular rock formations.  The “Gather” Plan, proposed by the BLM for the San Rafael Swell would remove “excess” horses and also carry out fertility “treatments” (another of those euphemistic words) to prevent the remaining wild horses from breeding. These “treatments” are intrusive, have to be repeated every year, and are harmful to the lives and the social order of the horses and their relationships to each other. Some horses will be removed and put up for “adoption.” We’ll come back to “adoption” in a moment.


Utah wild horse land to be used for oil and gas?


On the BLM website, one can also find the San Rafael Desert Master Leasing Plan, a proposal for oil and gas leasing on 525,000 acres of public land in the San Rafael Desert – this is the San Rafael Swell –  where the wild horses live.


One might ask, if there is not enough land to support the horses – indeed, so little land that some of the horses have to be removed from the wild and those remaining prevented from having offspring – then how can there be enough land for oil and gas development? Apparently, there is a lot of land for oil and gas, but not enough for the wild horses.


As is the case all over the west, there is fierce competition for the use of state and public land between wild horses and business interests, whether they be oil, gas, or other mining or ranching interests.


The San Rafael Swell is also an increasingly popular tourist area. But the tourists, like the horses, seem to be left standing out in the cold.


How to comment – comments due on May 20, 2018


Please find the link below, at the end of part two, to read the BLM press release calling for comments on the Muddy Creek Wild Horse Gather.


The BLM is requesting comments before May 20, 2018, on the Muddy Creek Wild Horse Gather Plan EA. You may send your comment to blm_ut_pr_whb@blm.gov




A threat to the survival of American wild horses


There is another serious threat to the survival of wild horses.  In April, the BLM submitted a proposal that the number of wild horses running free should be severely curbed to 27,000 wild horses in total, and that the surplus, as well as the tens of thousands who are already being kept permanently in holding pens, should be sent to slaughter. Most Americans are horrified by the concept of slaughtering horses; this is against the will of the American public.


The House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee has since passed the 2019 spending bill on to the full Committee, without authorizing the slaughter of horses; however, this does not mean that the horses are out of danger – further changes may be made, and provisions may be slipped in which would result in the slaughter of horses and increased horse roundups to deprive horses of their freedom. Every year there is re-newed pressure to allow the slaughter of wild horses and/or to drive them off the land.


You may send your comment about this to your representatives in Congress.


The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros act of 1971


The Act, passed by Congress in 1971, begins with these words:

“Congress finds and declares that wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; that they contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people; and that these horses and burros are fast disappearing from the American scene. It is the policy of Congress that wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death; and to accomplish this they are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands.”

Nearly fifty years later – sadly, this Act, with such noble intentions, has been contravened and undermined at every turn over the decades since its passing. Many of the Herd Management Areas set aside for wild horses have been shrunken, disappeared altogether, or taken over by cattle grazing. Horses, meant to be protected by law, have been systematically deprived of access to water, of their land, their freedom, and even their lives.



Adoption and excess wild horses


There is a popular fiction that most captured wild horses are “adopted” by the public – another of those words that obscures reality. Only a small percentage of these displaced animals are ever, in fact, adopted.


A lucky few may be adopted and well-treated by a kind owner, but even for these few, domestication will never replace their wild days, spent with their own families, racing in the wind up the hillsides and through the streams of the open country where they were born. That way of life will be forever lost to them. Around 45,000 rounded-up wild horses are now being confined permanently in holding pens across the west.


What is an “excess” wild horse?  Horses now occupy less than half the land they were allotted by the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971.  Many herds have been zeroed out entirely, and others have been greatly diminished. Yet the march towards eliminating them entirely continues.


The Daily Pitch Fork gives 2014 statistics, quoting BLM sources: There were 56,000 wild horses on BLM and US Forest Service land – and 2.1 million cattle. In other words, on the 250 million acres where grazing is allowed, 97% is used by cattle and 3% is used by wild horses. Yet cattle are a commercial business interest that can be grazed on private land; they are not native wildlife.


 Continued in part two – click here.


 Photo Credits, part one:


First photo:

John Harwood, Wikipedia, Creative Commons Attribution, 2.0 Generic, wild horses at Chinley. AZ.


Second photo:

BLM, public domain, Wikipedia, Wild stallion Lazarus and part of his band in West Warm Springs HMA, OR.


Third photo:

 Jaime Jackson, Wikipedia, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, wild horses in Utah.