Original Story by SFTHH Investigative Reporter Lisa LeBlanc
A tall, charcoal maned gray stallion living in Twin Peaks has, through no intentional actions on his part, accrued a small fan base.
He is stunning, though years of defending his family and his territory have left his black skin visibly scarred, a common testament to a fiercely protective nature. First observed during a ‘mixer’, a Wild Equine version of speed dating, he pawed the ground, trotting, snorting, kicking up dust in a frank display of masculinity. Middle age and hard living has begun to moderately effect his body, leaving him angular, in contrast to the inherent roundness of a younger, untested stallion. Still, he exudes a powerful appeal in his direct gaze and commanding stance, an assurance that he is more than capable of taking care of what is his. And in his small realm, he is undisputed Lord over all he surveys. In Wild Horse society, little credence is given to perceived perfection; he wooed and won many mares. His mares chose him for his competence as protector and provider, for his experience on the range and likely, for the hardiness & vigor sure to be handed down to his offspring.
They lived in an area near Skedaddle/Shinn Ranch. Through changes made by unseen hands, they came to occupy a fenced allotment. In that mysterious manner of horses, he had, over time, become a familiar sight, respected, anticipated, even loved by those humans who had come to recognize him. Dubbed BraveHeart by an admirer (not to be confused with Silver King’s Braveheart), he and his family, their environment and resources, were observed and studied, season to season, by a researcher writing a thesis toward her Masters degree. Her hope is her studies will result in a more equitable division of resources for Wild Horses and management that will involve the application of scientific principals to Horse Management Areas rather than outdated policies and management practices. She became a familiar face at field offices and the holding facility, a logical progression in authoring a well-written thesis.
But more subtly, the researcher was developing a heart-felt attachment to BraveHeart.
The announcement of the Final Environmental Assessment for Twin Peaks came as a disappointment but not a surprise, particularly in a year where roundups could be characterized best as a firestorm. As BraveHeart’s admirers came to terms with the inability to halt the roundup through Public comments submitted against the Environmental Assessment or through legal means, the researcher decided to observe a portion of the roundup, perhaps as a final chapter to her research. During observation of the roundup, she carried with her a folder containing her thesis notes – and a picture of BraveHeart, which she freely shared with anyone interested. As if Fate had worked some serendipitous tragedy, the researcher watched as BraveHeat and his family were among the ‘removed’ during the first days of the roundup. He was seen near the mouth of the trap, calling his mares and children to him; in the ensuing panic, half his family disappeared into the trap. Rather than leave them unguarded to the Unknown, BraveHeart followed after. Later, the researcher watched him in a holding pen with his Alpha mare, trying to stem the fear and aggression by diversion.
Because he had become an integral part of her research, she couldn’t allow BraveHeart to fade off into uncertainty. She decided later, when the roundups had concluded, to proceed with his acquisition, to keep him in Northern California where he had been born and provide him with some semblance of a life close to all he had ever known. A plan was laid, a home acquired and so began the initial process.
The first major disappointment occurred when it was announced the Twin Peaks stallions had been gelded, though that did not negate the fact – he was still valued, still wanted. Early November began a series of e-mails and phone calls, expressing interest and for information on application for acquisition under Sale Authority. Photographs were sent, phone messages left unreturned, assurances blithely made by BLM staff. An outbreak of strangles was running through the facility; It would probably best to wait until it was under control. Perhaps in January? Snow, the holidays, more assurances, now fallen flat.
Dissatisfied with the inaction and lack of verifiable information, a desperate five hour drive in early January to the holding facility to ascertain BraveHeart’s whereabouts, costly in terms of time and fuel. The researcher looked over as many as a thousand horses in the general population and in special pens for those slated for ‘sanctuary’, to no avail. Finally, an accidental conversation with a friendly employee revealed – BraveHeart, shipped out with countless others, to the anonymity of the Midwest’s Long Term Pastures – at the beginning of December. Given the vastness of Long Term Pastures, the likelihood he’ll be found or returned is remote. Whether by accident, oversight, contempt or simply an unwillingness to go beyond the status quo, This One Stallion, so important to a few, may be lost in the system forever.
Given the heightened pace of removals and the large numbers, it’s probable this loss is not an isolated incident. BraveHeart, in the scientific context, should not have been considered ‘excess’; as a captive, he has not been offered for adoption once, let alone the requisite three times, nor is he of an age or appearance that would label him ‘unadoptable’. It may well be, for the majority of those captured from Twin Peaks, there will be no ‘adoption event’; it was simply more expedient to send them off, to disappear them into the black hole of the Midwest Pastures than to allow the interested Public an opportunity to acquire horses touted as ” highly sought after for their size, conformation, dispositions & unique colors “.
Who will be held accountable for BraveHeart? While This One Stallion alone may have meant nothing to those who held the reins, for those who knew him – prepared him sanctuary near the home he had always known, to share his history and secure his future, to atone in small measure for the vicarious actions of others by providing This One Stallion a second life of purpose and peace – he is and will remain important to them.
Perhaps, when future issues of the Wild Horse and Burro Program arise – when facts and figures are gathered, drafted into important documents and given voice, again blaming Wild Equines for their indiscretion and the Public for non-involvement, it might be prudent to remember – who failed This One Stallion and those who fought for him and lost.