by Carol Walker, Director of Field Documentation, Wild Horse Freedom Federation
Editor’s Note: “We were first made aware of this awful story during Carol Walker’s visit to Wild Horse and Burro Radio last Wednesday night; it hit me so hard I performed unprofessionally as a co-host and just went silent with rage…and it was noticeable. Carol has taken the time to begin documenting the events both in photographs and her written words but this is, once again, a clear cut case of BLM mismanagement that ultimately results in the loss of life of our wild horses and burros and in this case, babies.
Rock Springs is understaffed and the cost is not in dollars and cents but instead the loss of any sort of quality of life for the captured horses and the death of foals. The BLM can spend countless thousands of dollars transporting PR officials across the U.S. to spout propaganda to the public at roundups yet they can’t manage their own organizational capability issues by sending more personnel to Rock Springs to help out during this emergency that THEY created by ripping wild horse families from their rightful lands? Incompetency runs rampant in the BLM. Stay with us at Carol’s WildHoofBeats and here at SFTHH for additional updates.” ~ R.T.
I arrived in Rock Springs on Sunday so that I could go on Monday to the first day that the public would be allowed to enter the BLM Short Term Holding Facility to view the wild horses that were rounded up in September and October of 2014 from the Great Divide Basin, Salt Wells Creek and Adobe Town Herd Management Areas. I was on a mission – get the tag number of the third mare in Bronze Warrior’s family, Sabrina, and look for another appy stallion and his mares in hopes of taking them as well to the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary. We were hoping that we could take the horses on Wednesday or Thursday to beat an incoming storm, which would not be good for travel with a horse trailer, but were told that the facility and the horses would not be ready to go until Friday. I was concerned because not only did we need good weather and roads to go from Rock Springs, WY to Hot Springs, SD, our wonderful hauler Merle Blankenship also had to be able to get here with his trailer from southern Colorado. I watched the weather reports anxiously.
I was able to get the last mare’s tag number quickly since she never left the other two mares, whose markings were very distinct, and had been a real boon in identifying Bronze Warrior’s family members. I noticed that all the mares in the corrals were very skittish and moved away when people were near the pens. The pens in front with the geldings were much bigger and less crowded than the pens containing the mares, and in all the mare pens it was hard to get a good view of all of them. I was told two babies had been born overnight, which slowed feeding all the horses down since the staff had to be careful to work around the babies. They said they were planning to move the mares with the newborn foals over to a separate mare-foal pen with lots of room and more shelter but they had to be careful doing it.
I was able to spot one of the new foals right up against the fence, and was concerned about all the other mares right around it. I saw the other foal as I was leaving through a maze of mare’s legs, and I hoped they would be able to move the mothers and their new foals soon. Luckily there were only a few visitors this morning to the corrals.
I took photographs of as many horses as I could so that I could post the photographs online and get the word out about the upcoming adoption in hopes that as many of the horses here as possible could find good homes and leave the corrals forever.
The geldings had only been castrated a few weeks before, so some of them were still rather fiesty and I found so many of them to be just incredibly beautiful. The mares were lovely as well, and I was alarmed to see how many of them appeared to be extremely pregnant, and ready to give birth. This was not good for a couple of reasons – first, the conditions were so crowded that the foals could be easily hurt. Second, once the mare foals, a potential adopter could not take the pair for at least 4 months when the foal could be freeze branded, or in 6 months if they just want the mare or just want the foal, since the potential adopters would have to wait until the foal was weaned.
It was unfortunate for the horses that it had taken the Rock Springs Corrals so long to prepare the horses in its care for viewing and adoption. I was told that they were extremely understaffed and had lost some employees, and so while Canon City had gotten their almost 500 horses that had come in from the roundup ready to be viewed and adopted by early November, Rock Springs had taken until the very end of February, the beginning of foaling season. Even during the week of the adoption event, the people responsible for working with the public on the adoptions were having to spend 3 hours each day feeding the horses.
The weanlings were a challenge to photograph because the bottle fed filly the BLM named Cover Girl kept trying to get in front and get petted. The boys were easier to photograph as they were curious but not as demanding of attention. It is always the weanlings and yearlings that have the best chance to be adopted, as it is usually much easier to gentle and train them than the older horses.
I looked for the beautiful varnish appaloosa gelding that I had seen in the wild with his mare and yearling colt in the fall, but could not find him or the mare and colt. I had not seen him in Canon City either, so I became cautiously hopeful that he is among the very few who evaded capture at the roundup.
I was also looking for Snowfall and Diamond Girl’s weanling who had a very distinctive marking on his face, but he was not here. I wondered if he had been one of the 100 youngsters sen to the Axtell, Utah Burro facility since at the end of the roundup Rock Springs and Canon City were bursting at the seams. I also figured that Bronze Warrior’s yearling filly that I could not find was also there. I had been told by the BLM that these youngsters would be sent to adoptions all over the country.
I came back the next day and photographed the horses again. They had only been able to take one of the mares and foals out of the crowded mare pen, one mare and foal pair was still in there, and so they were preventing people from coming close to the mare pens. So I did not get as many photographs of the mares. Then later that day I spent time putting together the photographs and posting them online so that people could see them. Here is the information and the links – most of these horses are still there and still available:
On Thursday I heard from Manda Kalimian who adopted the horses and placed them at the Sanctuary that Kathi Fine had called her and told her that one of our mares had foaled, and they found the foal at the mare’s side this morning. I rushed over to the corrals to see if I might get a glimpse of them, and also find out which mare had foaled – I was thinking it was probably Gwendolyn, the tall and beautiful mare with the distinctive white half circle around the top of her tail. She had looked big since I had seen her in the fall.
When I arrived, Kathi took me out briefly so that I could get some photographs of the new mother and foal. It was indeed Gwendolyn, and a proud, careful and protective mother she was. She kept the other mares away by pinning her ears and moving the foal away, and Kathi told me she had been nursing.
Her older daughter Flurry stayed near them, but only as close as Gwendolyn allowed. She also ran her muzzle gently along the foal’s neck and back. The foal was bright eyed and seemed healthy, and as far as I could tell, she was a filly, and no one who worked at the corral had checked, so I named her Xena the warrior princess – a fitting name for Bronze Warrior’s foal. We did not stay long because the mares were moving around and neither of us wanted to see the foal hurt. She told me they would move the two of them to the mare and foal pen later that day. I was not concerned about Gwendolyn taking care of her foal – she was 16 years old, this was not her first foal, and she looked like she was doing her best to protect her.
While it is always wonderful to see a new foal, the timing was not the best. If Gwendolyn had just been able to wait a few days, she could have had her new foal at the sanctuary. But of course she did not know that, and the babies have their own timing. As it was, we were going to leave her and the foal at the corrals until the foal would be able to make the trip safely. Manda made sure to let Kathi know that we wanted both mare and foal, and would be reuniting them later with the other mares and Bronze Warrior at the Black Hills Sanctuary.
When I arrived the next morning, Friday, the day we were scheduled to take the horses, I immediately looked for our horses. I had been told they were going to be putting them together in a pen to get them ready to go and sure enough I saw the 4 other mares, and they were in the process of bringing the gelding up to join them. I looked into the mare and foal pen, and immediately saw that something was wrong. There was Gwendolyn, with the two other mares and their foals but she was alone and looked very distressed. She was sweaty and the other mares kept kicking her and keeping her away from their foals. She was running around and I could not see little Xena anywhere. I asked what had happened to the foal. I was told that the mare had rejected her, and so they took her to the vet to be bottle fed, and would end up fostering her. I was very confused because given what I had seen the day before it made no sense that Gwendolyn would have rejected Xena.
But I decided that we needed to get Gwendolyn out of there and with her family members and take her to the sanctuary as well. Kathi called Manda to make sure this was ok, and then got all the necessary paperwork from the vet and brand inspector so we could take her as well. I knew she would feel better if she could be with her daughter Flurry and the other mare. Then I was told by one of the staff at the corral what had really happened. Apparently they had not been able to get Gwendolyn and her baby over to the mare and foal pen yet and one of the other mares in the corral grabbed Xena. After that Gwendolyn would no longer nurse the foal, even after they moved both of them to the new pen. The baby must have been injured, and Gwendolyn knew it would not make it. That was why they took it to the vet.
Finally they moved Gwendolyn into the pen with the other horses we were taking, and they moved up and down nervously, not knowing what was going to happen. Merle moved his trailer around to the entrance of the chute that led to their pen and got the doors secured so that the horses would go smoothly into the trailer.
Finally I saw heads moving toward the trailer, and after a couple of tries finally they moved into the trailer, and as the doors were secured, the horses moved around a lot, making a huge racket, we knew they would settle down once we were moving, because they would have to work on finding their balance, so we drove away immediately.
Sadly, two days ago Manda and I learned that Xena had died, and Manda was told it was because the baby had not gotten enough Colostrum.
I will writing about the arrival of the horses at the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary in my next post.
Related Posts in this Story:
Manda Kalimian’s Cana Project:
The Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, where you can visit the 10 Adobe Appys:
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