Horse News

Horseback Mag Exclusive: Wild Horse Roundup – What I saw

by R.T. Fitch in Horseback Magazine

Author and activist R.T. Fitch and his wife Terry spent six days on Montana’s Pryor Mountain during the BLM roundup of the wild horses there. The following is his take on what transpired.

BLM running down wild horses from Cloud's herd - Photo by Terry Fitch

BLM running down wild horses from Cloud's herd - Photo by Terry Fitch

MAGNOLIA, TX (Horseback) – Cloud, the world’s most famous wild horse thanks to filmmaker Ginger Kathrens, was released from the Bureau of Land Management’s Montana holding pens at the base of Pryor Mountain on September 09, 2009.  Cloud’s family was partially destroyed as a unit by the BLM leaving him with only half of his band’s population. All of the mares were chemically sterilized for the next two years with PZP-22, an anti-fertility drug used by the BLM, which is still considered experimental in the wild. With these tactics, there is little hope that Cloud’s bloodline will be able to survive genetically.

Now that Cloud has been released, independent observers have verified that he, and what is left of his band, has returned to their lush pastures in the upper altitudes of the Pryor Mountains.  Cloud and most of the other adult horses, however, are now footsore and lame after a helicopter driven stampede down 5,000 feet of rocky trails instituted by the BLM.

Video of the injured animals has spread across the Internet like a California wildfire.

As if the BLM’s ill-conceived and grossly mismanaged round-up was not enough of a travesty, in its own right, the techniques they used cause extreme risk to the safety and welfare of the wild horses.  Chasing horses down a rocky mountainside in 95 plus degree heat belies common sense.

At the onset of the roundup, a press day was held for the media. The temperatures reached into the upper 90’s so, by noon, the BLM decided to pull the plug on the day’s operations. They stated that it was just “too hot” to push the horses. Once the media’s cameras disappeared, however, things soon began to change. The following day the temperatures also reached into the upper 90’s, but the agency continued to push bands of wild horses down the mountainside until 4:00 p.m.

On September 8, a band was pushed so far and so hard that one of the mares became “tied-up.” The BLM ushered the remaining independent observers away from the observation bluff, at 5:00 p.m., so that they could not witness the exhausted horses being driven into the pen.  Earlier that same day, they also pressed a distant band so long and so hard that a foal and her mother could not keep up and were left behind and abandoned.

That night, several foals were lame and footsore in the BLM holding facility.  Of those two bands driven to exhaustion, only one horse was slated for removal; so, what was the point?

Why torture these animals for no reason other than to pump the mares full of PZP so as to ensure that there will be NO babies for the next 2-3 years, if not longer?  These are questions that demand an answer from Washington in hearings before Congress.

On September 11, the BLM banned Humane Observer Elyse Gardener from checking on the status of the remaining 57 horses being held in captivity at their Britton Springs holding facility.  That group of 57 includes older horses that should have never been removed from the herd since they bear the knowledge and the herd’s store of information on water and winter food locations and are virtually un-adoptable at their advanced ages.

Those captives also include Conquistador and his band ripped out of the Custer National Forest, never to return to their native home. Initially, this was to be a selective removal not a “total” remove operation. Without previously agreed access granted to our observer, there is no way that we can verify the health, safety, and welfare of these horses or even if they are still present and accounted for. What would be the BLM’s “Mustangate” motives for this last breach of trust and honesty?  What could they be hiding and why do they think that they can continue to operate with total immunity from the laws and the wishes of the American people?

These are valid questions that should be asked of your congressman, Bob Abbey, the director of the BLM, Secretary of the Interior Department Ken Salazar, and the president himself.

Just ask – why?

Bookmark and Share

2 replies »

  1. Thank you for being a witness and recording this travesty. Our “public lands” are really just tax payer financed land for local ranchers and such to use for their own ends… the BLM is a nitemare and their history is a thing of shame.


  2. Thanks for documenting this tragic journey. I had a chance to visit one of the UT herds this summer. It effected me so profoundly, that I based a series of paintings on it for an up coming exhibit, “Among the Mustangs”. They are a true symbol of the American spirit.


Care to make a comment?

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.