Horse News

Cloud and Others Remain Lame, Clearly Injured After Stampede

Many Lame After More Than a Fortnight

by Steven Long, editor of Horseback Magazine

Cloud and his diminished family after release  (Photo by Terry Fitch)

Cloud and his diminished family after release (Photo by Terry Fitch)

HOUSTON – Tonight a yellow Mustang with the unlikely name of Cloud limps in a meadow on top of Montana’s Pryor Mountain, 18 days after he was released injured from a hasty Bureau of Land Management “gather.”

Fifty-seven friends and relatives of the stallion were sold Saturday, never to return to the only home they have ever known, including the 19-year-old stallion, Conquistador. The Pryor Mountain Horses, recognized as a separate breed by the authoritative Horse Breeds Standard Guide, were taken by the BLM over Labor Day week. Most were stampeded 5,000 feet down the mountain from their meadow home to holding pens where some of the mares were made infertile before returning to the mountain.

Many of the horses remain injured 20 days after the stampede down the rocky mountainside, according to documentary filmmaker Ginger Kathrens. She returned to the mountain to observe their condition immediately after the auction. What she found was disturbing.

“We don’t know what happened to Cloud,” she said. “We really looked closely at his fetlock on the right front leg. He seemed to be licking that from time to time, but we obviously couldn’t get close enough, but through binoculars we could see that it was either clotted, or there was mud there, or maybe he had been cut, we really don’t know but he’s off on his right front still.”

“Cloud was run down on Labor Day the seventh, as were other Mountain Horses and they did that on Tuesday the eighth when the were really hurting them – that’s when we saw the limping foals, the horse that colicked, and the “tied up” horse (they ran us out before we could see her), they also left a foal and it’s mother, alone, without the herd because they could not keep up,” said author R.T. Fitch, an eyewitness who spent six days on the mountain during the gather.

“He’s lame,” Kathrens said of Cloud. “It’s not so pronounced you can see it at the walk, but when he walks briskly he is definitely off on his right side.

Other horses are showing signs of lameness as well, Kathrens said. If the horses were in private hands 20 days after an injury, they would likely have already been under the care of a veterinarian. However, the agency that captured them doesn’t consider sore feet an injury.

“The black mare, Pococeno, from Cloud’s band who is the mother of Boulder, has got what looks like a stifle injury,” she said. “It’s really stiff on her back right, and then Cloud’s four year old daughter is really lame in her left hip. That could be from the shot, I don’t remember her being lame right away.”

“Jasmine, Cloud’s youngest daughter is still lame,” she said.

Kathrens challenges the BLM definition of lameness in horses.

“When you walk with a limp, you’re lame regardless if whether that is a pulled muscle or feet that or sore, lameness is lameness,” she said. “Not calling it an injury is humorous. “I guess it also wasn’t an injury when Cloud’s daughter Rain colicked and Grumpy, another mare, tied up, or when the smallest baby couldn’t walk, I guess that’s not an injury, huh?”

Conquistador was sold for $2,500, bought by The Cloud Foundation which was determined to return the aging horse to the wild. But activists were stunned to find themselves in a bidding war for the horse, Kathrens said.

“It was a person from Colorado from a rescue, would you believe,” said the Emmy Award winning documentarian. “He said he wanted a ‘notable’ stallion for his sanctuary.”

But Conquistador will remain in Montana in the Pryor Mountain area. The stallion was one of 57 horses sold at the auction. He was captured on U.S. Forest Service land and trailered down the mountain and was not part of the stampedes.

“He’s much happier as we speak,” she said. “He’s back with Cavalita, his black mare.”

Members of Conquistador’s family won’t return to the wild with him.

“His’s three offspring were auctioned off,” Kathrens said. “But he and his mare are back in the foothills of the Pryor Mountains together. “He’s in the neighborhood, and boy it’s a beautiful neighborhood.”

Currently the horse and his mares are in large paddocks on the property and will be released on the 3,000 acre wilderness pasture after an acclimation period in about two to three weeks.

“We were also able to adopt the four-year-old blue roan bachelor stallion Floyd who had been badly abused in the corrals.

Kathrens had high praise for residents of Billings who came to the auction to help out. “It was a pretty stressful day because we were really working hard with the help of these wonderful people, mainly Laura Pibonka, Mike Temple who is former deputy director of the BLM nationally, and Trish Kirby who’s been watching this herd ofer 20 years. With their help we were able to negotiate for a property that was fabulously beautiful.”

Kathrens challenges news reports that have claimed that Texas billionaires Boone and Madelaine Pickens adopted a Mustang at the sale.

Kathrens said that by keeping many of the horses in the Pryor Mountain area with luck advocates will be able to protect the genetic viability of the world famous wild herd despite BLM’s reduction of its size below the level of viability.

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21 replies »

  1. If a private person did this to animals I would expect humane society intervention. A government office, BLM, should be held accountable for the injuries. In the wild these injuries could cost the horse the ultimate price. Luckily there are people watching over them, other than the BLM, who obviously hold themselves above this.


    • Kerrie, I would like for you to know something about as to why the ASPCA and the Humane Societies have not done anything to help prevent cruelty to wild horses and burros during and after roundups..
      They were told to shut up by the same people (The Government)which gives them their grant money to stay in operation. Plain and simple!

      Since my last email exchange with President Ed Sayres of the ASPCA in 2005, they suddenly came to the forefront of the wild horse issue by donating hay and water to those horses in draught plagued areas. Hooray for the ASPCA! It took a kick to their solar plexus to get their attention. Now if you go to there national headquarters website,you will see that they are involved just enough to keep people from saying they are doing nothing. Other than that? They are doing nothing to dissuade abuse to wild horses..

      Anyway,The Humane Society was is no better! They too avoided numerous emails and to this day have not shown any concern regarding the wild horse plight.

      I firmly believe that us wild horse advocates need organizations such as the ASPCA and the Humane Society to step up and show their faces rallies and roundups.But they would rather hide behind a few hay bails and not upset the grain wagon so to speak so that they can get their grant money at the end of the fiscal year.

      So Kerrie,you’re right on! If it were you or I or anyone else that did to the horses what they did.We would be in jail.

      As for the BLM?

      They can do what they want,when they want and how how they want. Not because they are above law. But because they feel that they are the law!


  2. The BLM really shows their ignorance of horses and their care by saying a horse that’s footsore doesn’t constitute lameness. That statement is just plain stupid. I watch Gingers’ film about Cloud and it really haunts me that we Americans have allowed this to happen at all. I’ve been writing and calling my Reps. in TX. and all of ’em in other states too! This is a National problem that needs to be resolved quickly before these horses become known only to us in our history books!! BLM has handled this whole thing badly. They have no rights to remove these horses! They say they’re supporting some 33,000 in holding facilities? Where are they? Some answers are needed here!! Thank you R.T., Steve, Ginger and all who are doing their best to keep these herds of wild horses safe!!

    Will Pass Along!!
    lj (jock4hire)


  3. From a personal perspective, being that Terry and I were there, I can’t begin to tell you how much this hurts. I do not recall, ever, feeling so helpless as to see this cruel and uncalled for “gather” proceed. We called everyone and no one pulled the plug. Ginger looked to all of us for help, to call our contacts and I really, really felt like I failed her and the horses.

    Somehow, I believe that this is a feeling that I may never shake…it lingers on as a deep sadness and pain.

    I will never forget watching those little foals, in the dust trying to keep up running their little legs off in front of that helicopter, never!

    Liked by 1 person

    • RT,My brother in arms!! Here is a little peace of mind for the mental anguish that you are going through.

      Remember! If you were not there my friend the horses would have been treated alot worse, and the end result of that particular round up that week would have yielded a lot more somber ending . No doubt in my mind about that RT..Your prensence was enough to stop a major catastrophe among the Pryors that day.

      So my friend and compatriot.. Dont feel remorse for what you couldn’t do! Rejoice in what you did do and what you prevented.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Oh I so know what you’re talkin’ about R.T., when you say you feel like you’ve failed the horses!! When Jim and I visited the slaughter plant in Kaufman, I was absolutely sick about not being able to stop what was going on just a few yds. away. I’ve got no idea what it is inside of people that make them believe, what they do to horses is in any way justifiable. Or even acceptable to the masses. And why is it the masses have no say at all? Even when our votes are by far the majority? Why bother voting at all? That’s what is so confusing for me.

      I’m sorry for the pain you feel right now, and while I’d not been present on Pryor Mt. I do share that pain also. You’ve failed nobody at all here, or on Pryor Mt. R.T., and I hope you can believe me! Doing all that you could do, was more than any of us could’ve asked of you.

      The feelings of helplessness that you have, I can so relate with, intimately! Yes, this experience will surely leave a deep wound on your heart, and feels like you’ve just been kicked in the stomach, I know! Wish I could tell you I had somequick fix for that. Unfortunately I do not. What I know is, in time, the memories will fade, and the pain will lessen. But you’ll never forget the images you’d seen though, and maybe it’s best you don’t forget! Not very comforting I realize,… but it is what it is.

      I’m so sorry that you, or anyone at all has ever had to witness these horrors! The BLM is responsible for all of this mess, and should be held accountable. They should be tried for Crimes against Humanity!! No question! Every one of our Gov’t officials should be ashamed for all they’ve allowed done to these horses, wild and domestic.

      Keep up your good work, and have faith in knowing things can get better, and they will too, as we all hope!

      “You don’t have to stand tall in this life, but by God, sometimes you do have to stand up!” You’ve done that R.T., and I for one thank you from the bottom of my heart!

      Save America’s Horses!
      lj (jock4hire)


    • R.T., While I cannot imagine what you feel I hope time helps heal you and does help you recognize the good that came from your sheer presense, and we all thank you for putting yourself, and all the others that were there, on the line. But you must remember YOU DID NOT FAIL – the SYSTEM FAILED. Mustang Jack has already said it best.


  4. With the response that I have gotten back from my Montana congressional representatives, I am petrified for all of the American mustangs. Talk about non-caring and uneducated about their plight. I will do whatever it takes to get these “leaders” voted out of office. We need to clean house people!


    • Sandy, wouldn’t Cloud be much more lame than he is with an injury as serious as a ruptured extensor? I admit I’ve never actually seen this type of injury. Would there be swelling in the area?

      I’m still going for a sole bruise, something I’m all TOO familiar with. Those can be very painful and long lasting even if they never abscess.

      He could also have a scrape or cut on his pastern/fetlock. We all know how painful even a scratch in this area can be and how loooong it takes to heal. He could have both, of course.

      He wasn’t lame when he was first turned loose was he? So, did this happen on the way back up? He had to be exhausted and could have taken a wrong step. Or did this just take some time to become evident?

      Sure wish we had some answers! I am very worried, what with winter coming and all…


  5. I will throw my two cents in as to what I believe has happened to Cloud lower leg.

    By the way that it sounds that he is walking and has not healed yet,it could possibly be that Cloud ruptured the extensor tendon located right above the ankle joint.

    Sometimes with this type of injury vascular stasis will occur which in turn can cause abscesses to form. Abscesses will sometimes break through the surface of the skin causing an infection which will exacerbate the injury and prolong healing.Depending on the severity of the rupture,this type of injury can heal, but the extremity will become less flexible and chronic laminitis will be the likely prognosis.The deep flexor tendon will also be affected along with the superficial flexor tendon because of the initial loss of flexibility of the joint. The leg will eventually become rigid and likely arthritic.

    Injuries of this type for some wild horse are not uncommon though because of the type of terrain they live in and the fighting that goes on when establishing hierarchy.

    An injury of this type for domestic horses would be devastating and the horse would probably have to be euthanized. A wild horse could live with this type of injury but it’s natural gate will be hindered and a limp will be permanent.

    As for Clouds injury, he should be watched as close as possible in case he should go down from infection due to the abscess or any deep cuts that occurred during his ordeal.
    I am presuming there is a plan of action in case this does occur.

    Best case scenario for Cloud is he will probably be fine but unfortunately he will more than likely walk with a limp for the rest of his life.


  6. rt, is there still even a glimmer of a chance that any of these horses can be returned to their native homeland? there had been some talk a few weeks back of a legal case that would be decided in december…..& if passed, the horses *could* be returned legally to the pryor mtns whence they came. is this case still in motion??? even a hope?
    also, there has been a lot of speculation regarding adopted horses being gelded. do you know if this was done?
    & rt, don’t feel as if you failed ginger or the horses; you did everything you possibly could. you made quite a stand & you fought like hell for all of them & they know that! & you will go on fighting for them, & they know that, too. it was our government who failed these horses.


    • Jo Bunny, I would like to believe that the ultimate plan would be to release, down the road, the Forest Horses back into the wild. NOW, the BLM didn’t get ALL the horses out of the forest, a number evaded them. And yet another glimmer of hope is that over 50 horses were not brutalized by the BLM so there are some mares, out there, that aren’t pumped full of PZP…so maybe, just maybe they can hang on.

      But these lameness issues, as I confessed to Mrs. Church earlier, make my blood both boil and freeze at the same time. I am beyond furious at this ill-conceived, rushed and mismanaged round-up…it was joke without anything being funny about it. And on the other hand the injuries just terrify me, what a tremendous and cruel waste to so much beauty and ALL of it could have been prevented…while the BLM spent $3,000 a horse, of your money, just to terrorize the for no real reason other than spite and ego. I am seething!!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thats the way – stay mad not sad. We are all seething and correctly so.

        I read, after a Google, a press release critizing horse advocates for costing the American Tax payor $7000 for the two days the injunction was being sought. They obvioulsy asked the wrong question –

        The correct question should have been: Why was the taxpayer paying anything for this whole nonesence?


  7. Jo Bunny,Id like to comment on your inquiry if I may regarding your post

    “Is there still even a glimmer of a chance that any of these horses can be returned to their native homeland”?

    Great question!I for one am waiting for the answer to that with baited breath!

    I believe the case that you are referring to is the proposed bill H.R.1018 which is linked to other bills such as H.Res.653 and S 1579(aka)The ROAM ACT! – to amend the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act to improve the management and long-term health of wild free-roaming horses and burros, and for other purposes; such as returning viable wild horses too or near their origin of capture at the discretion of the BLM and other management acting agencies.

    H.R.1018 has been passed in the House. The bill now goes on to be voted on in the Senate. Keep in mind that debate may be taking place on a companion bill(ROAM ACT)in the Senate, rather than on this particular bill.

    I will let RT speak for himself. But in my opinion there is a chance that the Free Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act will be restored by way of H.R. 1018 being passed in the Senate,however, it will allow horses to be return to their respective ecosystems at the discretion of the BLM. And whenever the BLM has discretion over the horses it surely means a tangled web of deceit and deception. Count on there being catch 22’s all over that bill when it’s passed!


  8. mj, thanks for that! i had thought that there was actually some sort of legal case, most likely at the federal level, that was separate from the various bills lingering in congress. i guess i had read that wrong. thanks for clearing it up. & thank you, too, for putting in your two cents worth above (& in previous posts). it’s nice to have a medical/physiological/anatomical perspective of what is happening to these animals going through all of this!
    out of curiosity, is cloud’s injury similar to what flint (aka blue moon) suffered a few years back in a round up? i remember reading that as a young foal, he was rounded up & suffered some sort of hoof injury….abcess above the hoof wall, i think i read……any idea how has HIS injury healed after all these years?


    • Jo bunny, Youre welcome and thank you for allowing me to interject a notion..Being I interjected an equine medical opinion.. I would like to take this opportunity to go on record to say; I am not a practicing verterinarian and I based my opinion about Cloud’s injury on my own personal experience with wild and domestic horses.

      Regarding flints hoof injury..I vaguely remember the type of injury that caused the abcess. I believe that Flints was caused by a stone that pierced the hoof wall next to the frog which in turn it got infected. Hence the abcess occured.To the best of my recollection I believe that Flint recovered from his injury and was doing fine the last time I heard. I haven’t heard anything since..


  9. RT, I sat here in New Jersey worried sick for Cloud and his herd, and the only thing I kept saying to myself…RT, Terry and others are there, they will be ok. I’d hate to think how it would of went if no one was there to witness this crime. I think it will take some more time for these horses to recoup from their ordeal. They are used to their own pace and being forced the way they were is animal abuse. You did not fail anyone including yourself, you did what you could do, and I thank you for being there.


  10. I sent my letter in as soon as I heard about this. I am very sad that people use their control over things that should not be up to them to deciede. There is enough room in this world for every living creature to have a place of home. Like another comenter stated if a everyday person had abused their animal they would be pulling time. This is purposless killing and everyone should be outraged over something so in-humane and for what? What is so wrong with them having their place in this world? Any one involved with allowing something like this to happen has a evil soul and should ask himself what it mean’s in the Bible when is says a Eye for a Eye ,their will come a day when they have to answer for their deliberate actions. I feel so bad for the things you and Terry have seen In your quest to save horses and have a Voice for them you both are remarkable people and you have done great things in your mission I do believe God has a purpose for people and you and Terry are honestly working your purpose. You have opened up so many people’s eyes by the links you will go to make things better and put a end to crulty that others cause. I’m just sorry for the pain it must bring by the things you’ve seen. Please know you are making a difference and it goes beyond the horses it has to do with humanity. Sincerely, a loyal follower, Lori Barnes


  11. Can anyone tell me how Cloud is doing as of October 17, 2010? I just saw the third installment of the series and it was awesome. Was any of the horses in Cloud’s band auctioned off at last years auction?


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