Horse News

FAA Probes Private Plane at Wild Horse Roundup

Story by Dale Rodebaugh  of the Durango Herald

Plane Buzzed Horses in Holding Pens

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating why a private plane was flying low over the corrals where wild horses were being rounded up Sept. 16 in the Spring Creek Basin in San Miguel County, Colorado.

A Cessna 182D circled the gather site from afar at first, but flew ever closer as bands of mustangs were herded into the corrals.

On one occasion, the plane passed directly over and close to the helicopter conducting the roundup.

The helicopter pilot landed his craft as a precaution at least two times when the Cessna entered the area. The gather for the day was called off early.

Mike Fergus, a spokesman for the Northwest Mountain Region of the FAA in Renton, Wash., confirmed Friday that an investigation of the incident is under way.

“We can’t say anything while the case is open,” Fergus said.

The result of the probe could be two days, two weeks or two months away, Fergus said.

It’s unclear who was flying the plane the day of the roundup.

The Cessna was identified by its tail number N8881X as belonging to Don Colcord of Nucla.

Colcord owns the plane, but it was loaned out the day in question, said a woman who answered the telephone at the Colcord residence.

No one from the Bureau of Land Management, which conducted the mustang roundup that ended Sunday, can comment, Shannon Borders, a BLM spokeswoman, said Thursday.

Fifty-three mustangs were corralled.

Twenty-five horses will be offered for adoption Saturday at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds. The remainder will be sent to the BLM long-term holding facility near Cañon City, Borders said.

49 replies »

    • Because it was only 1 horse?

      Because advocates asked and not the BLM?

      Actually, several advocates on hand said that one of those plane passes over the holding area was really, really low…so low that from their vantage point they were looking down at the wings. Hearsay, I might add but another perspective.


    • i phoned faa and complained about pilot josh hellyer. they said blm owns the land and horses and can do what they see fit. they get those complaints all the time. imagine the insolence! that was shortly before judge howard mckibben’s order.


      • The BLM doesn’t “own” a thing. The land belongs to the American public and the horses belong to the land. I think they are a bit confused.


      • The BLM does own these horses. We do. The BLM is supposed to protect them and care for them for us.

        It is getting clearer and clearer that these guys don’t want to manage wild horses, but they don’t want to give up the federal dollars they get for doing so either.

        I reread the FOIA document of the BLM’s internal memo after I read Louis’s post a few days ago, and a few comments jumped out at me. The BLM is their own words slightly paraphrased, “How many healthy horses can we euthanize (kill) at the gather sight without getting NEPA involved?” Not too many apparently.

        I think this explains why they run mares and babies during foaling season for miles in the heat or across frozen tundra. Forty mares aborted foals during Calico. Is that a pretty good way to kill horses during a gather without getting NEPA involved or not? What about running the hooves off babies and injurring their still soft connective tissue, so they are no longer healthy and need to be destroyed? Now this explains perfectly why the BLM is conducting during July and February.


    • Because the BLM thinks they own that land and anything and everything in and on it. They are so-called government officials so lie a lot of government people, get away with doing things. But to call an investigation on the plane? I see patly why they did. One, flying too low. Two apparently getting too close to the chopper where the chopper pilot didn’t think he wanted toplay chicken so landed and THAT is why they stopped for they day. They can’t get on a horse and go riding to do a round up because they would prefer to stand around, eat donuts and get fat and who cares what happens to those poor horses. I DO NOT agre to scaring those wild horses who were already terrified enough but I cheer the Cessna pilot for having the gonads to manage to get that helpicopter to lane which DID make them decide to stop for the day. Barb, with you and Laura 2000%.
      Laura, wish you were here this past Monday. My town is making me remove my therapy mini. You would have knocked them on their hineys girl. You keep up the good work and know we are behind you. God Bless. 🙂


  1. While I’m not against the action of having aircraft in the areas of stampedes I am against any flying by anyone which would truly put anyone in jeopardy. This includes the copters used by the contractors. I am disgusted that the BLM asks for an investigation and immediately gets one while advocates get the statement that the contractors can pretty much do whatever they want including playing a game of pool with our horses and burros.


  2. The greased palms of our agency. The ones who scream the loudest gets the result. or how about the double standard. either way this agency is arrogant and seems to get the attention of other agency’s when there is a problem but when they cause the problem no one among that agency has the balls to say stop! My guess is they are going to try to hang this guy out to dry while Sun -J poor pilot claims hard ship and keeps on doing the same abuse, stomp on 1st amendment right’s and so forth.


  3. My rub comes with operating outside of the law. If we are going to stand up in court and demand that the BLM abides by the law we must, at the very least, do the same. I am going on public record in saying that I hope this incident was not driven by alleged advocates as it was outside of FAA regulations.

    Flying over at 1,000 feet and not swooping down on the holding pens would have been fine, but this does not bode well for our efforts if it was done by an advocate. It makes our argument that much more difficult as do knee-jerk, poorly constructed suits that set bad precedent that works against us.

    Careful planning, proper execution and detailed followup must prevail if we are to succeed.

    This is NOT a game, this is NOT a hobby, this is a real life and death struggle that needs to be managed with good business sense and all egos set aside. We as an advocacy need to pull together and put our “adult chaps” on and stop pissing in the wind. The time to move forward, united, is NOW!


    • Me three! I hate what the BLM is doing. I hate the way the contractors get everything there way and we’re reduced to being worse than something lower than a snake’s belly.

      But I may not know all there is to know about how to keep our ducks in a row–but as RT said (pardon me for paraphrasing) “We Must Keep Our Eye On The Big Picture”. We have to stay within the law. We are demanding this of the BLM.

      Whoever did that put a lot of people and animals in potential danger. If it was an advocate–all I can say is you were way outta line. We fight our fights in court. We do not behave the way of BLM. We set the tone and the example.

      Sorry just my opinion.


    • Me four and I said just that when RT first posted the story about this. I have to say I was a bit taken aback that everyone seemed to be supporting what this pilot did. It will be great when we know all the details and, again, for the record, I just hope that this act has not set us, and especially Laura who has her azz on the line here directly, back in our efforts.


    • It did NOT stop the roundup, it could/would have added more additional stress to the horses and there is a much, much bigger picture, here. And that is what we need to be targeting…stopping ALL the roundups, not just flinging horse poop over the fence with no regard for consequences. Again, it is time to start being proactive and not reactive.

      Although everyone has a right to their opinion, I am taking a very strong stance on this. STUPID gains us nothing; for the sake of the horses we need to get our heads on right and act like a unified force with a concise and professionally progressed agenda. My fun meter is pegged at zero when it comes to stupid and we are beginning to cross the line…for the record.


  4. Hard to tell, but is the person wearing the orange jacket wearing a motorcycle helmet?

    “The Cessna was identified by its tail number N8881X as belonging to Don Colcord of Nucla.

    Colcord owns the plane, but it was loaned out the day in question, said a woman who answered the telephone at the Colcord residence”

    Surely the owners know who was using their plane since they loaned it out.

    But then again, maybe they used the plane themselves?


    • We won’t know right away. Just watch the fallout. For all we know he could have been a off duty BLM employee or not, like R. T. said this person could be a pretend advocate. Full steam ahead for now.


  5. Agreed RT , But almost anything that stops a needless, fraudulent, greedy and murderous round up is A OK with me Kudos to the pilot and his aircraft , sometimes one needs to fight fire with fire…………………………….The BLM is above the Law, WHY ??????? I have seen their horrors enough !!!! is enough !!!!!!!


    • Arlene…the roundup was not stopped. They quit early for that day, but the roundup went forward. The stunt did nothing to further the cause nor did it help the horses. If the plaintiff in this case is tied to that act the entire suit is thrown out with possible litigation thrown back at the parties involved.

      Not good, nor does it help the solid cases that are now moving forward. That’s my entire point, the BIG picture must be visualized. Without engaging a more global perspective all will be lost.


      • This incident fired people up, no doubt. But where is this suit and where is the second video promised? The act that is under investigation now may have far reaching consequences. Many red flags went up at this roundup. But we have to realize the red flags should not be from ‘advocate’ activity! We are on the the steep side of this fight and it only makes it a lot harder to get a little further. Aggressive actions have collateral damage that could set us back while the daring do won’t gain anyone an inch now or in the future. Please see that this publicity stunt did not help the horses. We don’t need thrills to hold our attention when we already have abuse and death to contend with!


  6. Barbara K, the fixed wing aircraft flying low did not stop THAT roundup or any future roundups. I agree with RT that we need to abide by the law. If advocates are feeling frustrated, they should organize a local rally for public awareness, create flyers to hand out or initiate an e-mail or calling campaign, and urge Americans to call their Congressional representatives. Do MORE to make the BLM accountable, but don’t do anything that is illegal or endangers any lives, horses or humans.


    • Don’t mean to sound stupid, Laura, but what does “lack of support” mean exactly in regards to the court cases you are involved in?


  7. The FAA needs to be hammered when it comes to Hazardous Helicopter use. FIRE is one of the main dangers in Helicopter crashes. The fire danger alone is an Environmental threat, especially in a state that has water issues. I learned that fires from Helicopter crashes are EXTREMELY hard to extinguish:

    Click to access EN-HFM-113-07.pdf

    Basic Principles of Crashworthiness
    Dennis F. Shanahan, M.D., M.P.H.
    Colonel USA (Ret.)
    Injury Analysis, LLC
    2839 Via Conquistador
    Carlsbad, CA 92009-3020

    Numerous aircraft accident victims survive the crash only to succumb to a postcrash hazard. These hazards
    include fire, fumes, fuel, oil, and water. Both civil and military crash experience has sadly shown that the
    most serious hazard to survival in helicopter crashes is fire. The design challenge is to provide for the escape
    of occupants after the crash under a host of adverse conditions. The approach may be either to control or
    eliminate the hazard at the source, to provide for more rapid egress, or a combination of both.


  8. Maybe is was just someone who wanted to take pictures of the horsey’s!

    I do think that the FAA should have investigated the Sun J pilot and not doing so is a double standard. At least the fixed wing didn’t hit a horse.


  9. LynnIL, regarding “at least the fixed wing didn’t hit a horse” – I was at the first Sun J roundup in Oregon (the day before Blue Moon broke his neck), and saw the helicopter pilot almost crash into the ground near the horse pens (without anything going on around him), so I’d worry for the safety of the horses if the Sun J pilot had ANY DISTRACTION at all around him. It’s beyond shocking that the BLM continues to use this contractor. There should be a CONGRESSIONAL INVESTIGATION into all aspects of the BLM’s wild horse and burro program.


  10. Correction: On second thought, it may have been that I saw VIDEO of the Sun J helicopter pilot almost crashing near the pens.


  11. Possibly if the BLM and other gov agencies can see the 2 sides. The side that stays calm and the side that no longer can tolerate the crap. They may realize that people are really getting aggravated. They might decide to cooperate with the calmer side and really start working on what the American people want. The gov agencies, in my opinion, deserve all the stinking aggravation that is sent their way. They might want to side with the “calmer less-stinking aggravation” and move things along quicker, which hopefully will also begin to appease the stinkier aggression. A little push may be what they need to see how un-behaved it can get and appreciate they fact that some’s patience is worn out and they don’t want to talk any more.


  12. I do not believe for one minute that Lauras credibility was harmed anyone would know that she had no attachment with the Pilot of the Cessna 182d, what he did he did on his own……………. I just pray that the Judge is open minded enough to believe what is shown to him in black and white…. and is not influenced by bias of the BLM…. This agency has been corrupt longer then anyone would want to believe, they have gotten away with their callis , greedy, murderous ways for far to long already………….It will take a lot to bring them down……….We are on the way to doing just that……. The Wild Mustangs have been tortured because the BLM can , i want to see that broken because they cant… Our Mustangs must catch a huge break, and we want to give them that huge break… They are not the Criminals here The BLM is, meanwhile they suffer waiting….. There needs to be an immediate halt in the BLMs agenda for that to happen, they can not continually keep doing needless damaged to the Mustangs unchallenged……. by the Law, that is precisely why there are Laws……… A Judge needs to lay down the Law now…………………


  13. Two great quotes from Mahatma Gandhi. He did know a thing or two about fighting power and oppression:

    “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

    When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it–always.


    • Great Quote Louie, he was a very wise man , ,and think about it they are fighting us now, so that means I smell a huge win in the making, oh just saw the Photo of Bob Abby , seen one last year he really doesnt look well !!!! Looks like lies and needless round ups are taking their toll on him !!!!!


  14. Whoever flew over in that plane, I wish to shake your hand!!! Not for scaring the poor horses ut at least you stopped the BLM from hurting any more horses even though it may have just been for a day. Wipe the numbers off and old crop duster and do it every day so they can’t do any more roundups!!!!!!!!


  15. I hope whomEVER was flying the blm helicoptor that day, this stunt with the cessna showed him exactly the way our horses and burros feel being STAMPEDED BY HIM!!! And yeah, I guarantee you he was scared! Probably thought it was some of US gonna get him for all the horrific things he’s done with that blasted helicoptor TO OUR ANIMALS! He probably peed his pants!!


  16. I see both sides of the issue here. But somehow an disappointed when the FAA takes a stand against the Cessna. I’m sure no one wants to see anyone including the horses injured or killed. Laura or others as the roundups, perhaps you should take videos including the sounds and send that to those who represent us in Washington, D.C. Let them hear the cries of those poor foals calling for their moms. And all the others including the stallions who are trying to protect their families. They do not realize how complex the family ties are. It would be one thing if some of the officials in the roundup areas felt any compassion towards the horses and burros, but its another thing to blatantly call them Desert Rats, Pests and anything else that they feel like calling them.
    The Good Ol’ Boy Network has been operating for some time violating the laws and doing what ever they wanted with these horses since Burn added that language to the Appropriations bill. I take issue with the fact that the FAA does nothing to the Sun J pilot while this person for what ever reason thought that he/she was doing something to aid the horses. I think another thing that we can do as advocates is request that our Sentors do an Senatorial inquiry as to the company that BLM has hired. The law is the law and should be followed by all, not just some. I think this is what frustrates alot of people. How can these people employed by the BLM continue to terrorize, injure and cause
    death to these animals without any conscious. Like I said, they see them as nothing more than pests that need to be iradicated, while the rest of us cry and pray for them in silence as they perpatrate these acts against them. I see your point Laura and RT, we must let the legal system do its job. My experience has taught me JUSTICE is a very slow moving creature. But how many horses can they roundup and how many more horses have to be killed before justice is done?


  17. The BLM stays united, no matter if it’s with lies, with their version of embellished, exaggerated, non-factual, so-called truths”, peppered with actual truth, no matter what, they stay on point and stick together. Now yes, they are using OUR taxpayer dollars to stick together and stick with the party line, however, we wild horse and burro advocates are a resourceful bunch and with the big meeting taking place in Alexandria, VA, thats a step in the right direction for becoming organized as they are because with numbers in a cohesive group all “on the same page”, it becomes much harder to “divide and conquer” us, and also keeps us all “on the same page” so serious mistakes in judgement do not occur that they can point the finger at to make us appear militant to the rest of the public, to judges, to our other elected and appointed officials, etc..
    One effort I see that would be vastly helpful is to have an organized collection of contributions that would allow for people to attend meetings such as the one in VA that they cannot afford to pay for out-of-pocket entirely. I live in Silver Springs, Nevada and see and/or interact with bands of wild horses nearly everyday (I just tailed a band last night along a fenceline at dusk and followed them a mile until the desert opened up and I could push them much further from Hwy 50 so none of them became another casualty to the motorist who drive upwards of 70 MPH). I also interact with ranchers, developers, hunters, people that work for the mines, etc, and get “the skinny” on what’s going on with them, how they feel about the wild horses, their plans going forward for “The Mustang problem” as they call it, etc, because although I can be out-spoken and a bit aggressive, I also can “rein myself in” (pun intended) and appear to be neutral and discuss many positions, right or wrong, factual and not, on this issue. Unfortunately, since we run a large animal rescue and we currently have 75 animals, 35 of which are horses, and many of them are formerly wild Mustangs, I cannot justify spending several hundred dollars for a trip to VA when I need it for feed, fencing (because we are always getting calls to rescue more animals, and also find dogs, cats, chickens, etc on the foreclosed properties we’re hired to clean up), etc. I would love to attend and listen and also contribute what I know with other advocates, but it is not in the cards for me. I know of alot of other people who would also attend if they had a little help with getting there.
    I truly believe that the only way to be taken seriously “sooner-rather-than-later” (because I truly am seeing head-way being made in peoples attitudes even with some of our opponents) is with large numbers of people “on the same page” and staying on point as the BLM does along with their cohorts. It not only makes more sense from a credability standpoint, but it also educates everyone to the important points and allows more people to interact face-to-face rather than through the medium of the Internet where emotions,expressions, body language, interpretation, etc can become distorted and misinterpreted, and can change from fact to fiction within a few emails and/or postings to a group or list or facebook, or wherever. Its also much harder for our opponents to discredit groups of people presenting a united front than it is to discredit individuals. It also allows the more experienced horse people to educate those with maybe minimal horse experience as to horse behavior, whats normal and whats not, etc, so they can speak more intelligently when speaking with others and trying to have them join our side of this issue. Since I’ve been a trainer in multiple disciplines and with many breeds, personalities, dispositions, temperaments, etc of horses, I even find myself more often than I’d like to say having to educate people with viewpoints that make them appear like nutballs with their lack of understanding of horses, so what shows the most when you speak with them is their ignorance rather than the compassion and true caring they have for wild horses and burros mixed with true equine education.
    If we can unite more and more people that are leading and interacting with other people with their educated, concise viewpoints and opinions, then when their passion and emotion for the wild horses comes forward and shines, those in a decision making position will absolutely take them more seriously because they do have a well-rounded education in regard to horses. I’d be the first in line to teach people that don’t have horse, especially wild horse and burro, experience as much as possible about horses so that they would gain more credability when speaking and writing to others. Just my long-winded opinion to consider………..


  18. I just think that before people start running off doing anything they darn well please–they consider the consequences.

    Laura has continually busted her backside for the horses in the past two years. She has taken abuse that none of us could or would stand for. She has done this to witness for the horses so that the day could come that she could show a judge what she means. Her actions must be perfect.

    By acting out and causing troubles at a round up–you tell people things about advocates that are not complimentary. Think of it like this. When I first came to this fight there was a lot of discussion–are we activists or are we advocates? What is and was the difference?

    An activist is someone who won’t stand down from doing harm to another. Years ago out here in CA there was a group called Act Up. One of their delightful things they did–was they didn’t like tree cutters cutting down old growth trees. So they put flat metal slates into the trees. That became shrapnel when the tree cutters hit the metal with their saws.

    Is this a group you want to be associated with? Do you support their actions? I don’t and never did.

    Later when this group was in Berkeley–am bomb they had in the car went off prematurely. Killed a couple people and a few went to jail (FINALLY). This group just kinda disappeared after that.

    Sorry but those of you who are rejoicing about this plane are working against equine advocacy. Everyone’s actions may affect Laura. Judges don’t wanna listen to groups who act out. We have a serious problem–no one is disputing this. But like women in medicine have to work longer and harder for the same respect–all of us have to be that much more UN–IMPEACHABLE for the horses sake and Laura who is busting tail.


  19. I just returned from the Cortez adoption, where learned a number of things from Wild Bunch, NMA/CO and BackCountry Horsemen members who observed all or part of the roundup. The plane was a dangerous distraction to the horses, a threat to the safety of the pilot and, consequently, the ground personel. The FAA has narrowed down the identities of both the pilot and passenger. If you’ll notice, the passenger is hanging out the door of the plane. Suspicions are that he/she was filming to support the lawsuit, but that has yet to be determined. This is an active investigation, so no information will be released until it’s completed.

    There is a very dramatic photo of horses turning back to try to escape and being blocked by the helicopter wash. There was some conversation that this was partly caused by the proximity of the plane. In all other instances, the horses came straight down the wings to the trap at a walk or jog. These observers praised the pilot for his skills and concern for the safety of the horses, and felt the Cattoor’s hands did a good job handling the horses, except for the predictable over-flagging. The loading from the trap site went as well as could be expected with wild horses fresh off the range.

    Tragically the paint stallion, Cinch, broke his neck in what must have been a chaotic incident in the sorting alley. Yesterday, I learned it was due to a collision with a gate. He was euthanized immediately by an APHIS vet. This is what TJ Holmes wrote about what led up to his death:

    Friday evening’s demonstration by Ems Rapp was very inspiring. It showed the Mustang’s amazing potential, and she praised their intellegence, endurance, range savvy, and too many other fine qualities to mention. People were so impressed by her horse, “Rock On”, that several folks wanted to buy him on the spot!

    I think there were about 60 people on the rails and in the bleachers, and they asked numerous questions. Ems answered each one fully and professionally, even though she admitted afterward she was extremely nervous. After the demo was finished, I saw a young lady (who looked about 8) riding “Rock On” around the far end of the dirt parking area. Despite people walking and chatting, and the proximity of strange vehicles, he didn’t turn a hair!

    Today’s adoption started out pretty slow, with much lower attendence. But the end, all but 5 of the 25 Mustangs offered were adopted. ALL the foals were adopted, and I spoke with several “proud parents” who were excited to start gentling them. I do take issue with the loading into people’s personal trailers. There was way too much pressure put on the horses, the alley set-up was bad, and the flagging was worse! Fortunately, there weren’t any “wrecks”, but I’m sure there were some scrapes, bumps and bruises.

    There will still be an opportunity to adopt early tomorrow morning, before the remaining 5 (hopefully, fewer!) horses are slated to be shipped to the Canon City Correctional Facility. Once there, they will be offered for adoption along with 11 other SCB horses of various ages. I think the majority of the 11 are Sale Authority, but found out some folks have already started paperwork to buy several of them.

    There’s a wrinkle on the Canon City adoptions I hadn’t heard before, and, IMO, is a good thing. All adopters will be required to pay an additonal (minimal) gentling fee. I think this “good start” will benefit both adopters (especially those with less experience) and Mustangs.

    Sorry to be so long-winded, but I feel it’s important for all of you to read about this from my perspective. If I misunderstood any events or conversations, I apologize in advance. I’m sure TJ Holmes will be happy to address any of your concerns on her “Spring Creek Basin Mustangs” blog.


    • You got a lot of info from eyewitnesses!

      I am relieved for those horses who have been adopted and believe they all will find homes this year. I love Bayley and another and I am sure they will be spoken for.


  20. Thank You Linda , I am saddened by yet another needless senseless death of a beautiful Stallion. by a needless senseless Round up ……….. Perpetrated by BLM greed and unprofessionalism………… I wish for Justice for the Wild Mustangs to come quickly ….. They have had to wait far to long … As for the FAA they should be as interested in the SunJ pilots criminal actions…………


Care to make a comment?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

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

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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.