Horse News

Bureau of Land (Mis)Management Excels at Manipulation Training

By Debbie Coffey ~ Director of Wild Horse Affairs at Wild Horse Freedom Federation
as published in the PPJ Gazette ~ Copyright 2013 All Rights Reserved

“The BLM also showed a video, but since a copy wasn’t included in the materials that were sent to me, for all we know, it could’ve been old episodes of ‘Mr. Ed’.”

BLM’s Manipulation Training

Cloud after BLM capture, Sept. 2009 ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Cloud after BLM capture, Sept. 2009 ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Did you ever wonder what made Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Wild Horse & Burro Specialists so “special?” Was it because they had extensive training in equine sciences? Was it because they were range management specialists or biologists who took a BLM Wild Horse & Burro Program “training” class? Was it because they had a big shiny rodeo belt buckle?

After filing a Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA) for documents relating to the training the BLM gives to Wild Horse & Burro Specialists, I wasn’t too surprised to see that the classes that the BLM offered, in which you, the taxpayer, paid for BLM and USDA employees to attend, (probably their travel, hotel accommodations and food), taught them to regurgitate boilerplate wild horse & burro “gather” plans(to round up the wild horses), and reviewed 82 pages out of the BLM manual (couldn’t they just read that at their desk, back at the office?).

It also included litigation, the history of the program, fertility control, the training and adoption agreement with the Mustang Heritage Foundation, and hundreds of other pages that stressed BLM’s range management and policies. Many of the instructors had backgrounds primarily in range management.

But how many pages, out of about 1,000 pages, actually dealt with wild horse behavior or health?

Based on the materials that were sent to me in response to my FOIA request, in 2010, at a 5 day BLM training class, there was 1 page regarding wild horse social structure, and 1 page about the Henneke Body Conditioning Scoring System out of about 400 pages of materials.

In 2005, at a 4 day training class, only 3 ½ hours in a 4 day training class, and about 47 pages out of 600 pages, were on wild horse health and handling.

In that 2005 training class, Terry Hensley, a USDA/APHIS vet was allotted 2 hours to speak on Equine Health Care, and although many pages seem to be devoted to administrative procedures, there were 31 pages on anatomy and 4 pages on the Henneke Body Conditioning Scoring System.

Ron Hall spoke about hoof care for 20 minutes (6 pages on hoof care). Fran Ackley and Sharon Kipping spoke about Animal Handling for an hour (6 pages on animal handling). The BLM also showed a video, but since a copy wasn’t included in the materials that were sent to me, for all we know, it could’ve been old episodes of “Mr. Ed.”

After being rendered almost speechless that the BLM would teach so little about wild horse behavior and health in their Wild Horse & Burro Specialist training classes, and just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, the real corker popped up: “Wild Horse & Burro Public Relations,” presented by Heather Emmons and Don Smurthwaite.

This included over 40 pages teaching BLM & USDA employees how to manipulate the public, in case the pesky public thinks they have a right to ask questions and get answers. What did these 40 pages include (in bold italics below)?

“The Spin Dr. is in”…tells these government agency employees that their PR person
“Deals with angry, hostile people” (would this be the public?) who need to vent…And actually listens to them…”
“schmoozes with the media and public” so you don’t have to
“Represents BLM on Camera” so you don’t have to and
Makes you “look good” (Good luck with that.)

“Working with the Media & Public”
“Heather’s Rule #1- People accept ideas from people they like and reject ideas from people they dislike…so…be First Brain friendly!” (What is “First brain friendly?”)

They teach The ABC Method in this presentation:
A is for Answer or Acknowledge
Answer if you can, but don’t repeat a negative
If you can’t answer, give a reason why
B is for Bridge
Make a transition to one of your key messages
C is for Control
Take the next question or bridge to another key message

They then teach how to “build bridges,” by saying things like:
“…and that’s a key point, but there’s another important one
…but let’s not talk about yesterday, let’s talk about today,
…at the same time, let’s not forget about this…
…which brings me to a point I’m sure your readers/viewers want to know,
…but we’ve found most people want to know about…
…let me tell you about something we just learned today…
…but it’s too bad that so few people know that…
…we do know the actual numbers and they show…
…on the contrary…
…our position is…
…that’s one point of view, but let me give you another…
…the other point of that issue is…
…our view is…

The PR gurus advise the Wild Horse & Burro Specialists to Use the ABC method
Be prepared: know your audience
Stick to your messages
KISS, not technical (KISS means “Keep it simple, Stupid”)
Emphasize the positive
Use headlines, sound bites
Don’t focus on detractors
Keep your cool
Never go off the record
Be aware of body language

Know your audience – WII-FM (What’s in it for me?)
Be the expert
Don’t lie
Be clear about who you represent and don’t
Look the reporter in the eye
Don’t look at the camera
Expect dumb questions (Who do these people think they are?)
Don’t accuse anybody
Use gestures
Remember “live” microphones
Don’t apologize for bloopers, just go on.

Then, there was a special section on the Pryor Mountains, which Ginger Kathrens and the Cloud Foundation, Carol Walker, Deb Little and many other advocates, have championed.

Here’s what was stated (in italics) in this presentation:
“PRYOR MOUNTAIN GATHER (“gather” is BLM speak for “roundup”)

Stuff that stuck with me

The Basics
The gather started on September 2 and was completed in five days.
About 40 people from wild horse interest groups were on site the first day.
Most of them were vehemently opposed to the gather and adoption
Many of them said they were reporters, although they lacked credentials
The gather was successful. No injuries, no deaths, completed ahead of schedule

YOU Can Lead a Horse to Water but that
Doesn’t mean It will do What it Oughter

NBC was the major news organization covering the event.
A field producer was on hand four days before the gather began to prepare for the story.
In short, we set up the story well with the national media.
It didn’t turn out the way we hoped.” (Gee, I wonder what the national media saw that changed their minds after you “set up the story?”)
“Local reporters did much better.
Lesson Learned:
Sometimes, the story just doesn’t turn out” (Could this mean that the credentialed media didn’t buy their Public Relations bullshit?)
“Second Lesson Learned:  Take care of the locals”. (What do you suppose “take care of” means? Bribe them with a free lunch?)

“The Sky is not Blue.
Dirt ain’t Brown.
The Sun isn’t Yellow.
The stories we saw were amazing for their inaccuracy.” (This, from the agency that seems to think if they repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it.)
“Proud, fearless Cloud was reluctant to leave his band.” (Note the mocking attitude here)
See for yourself what happened:
 “The horses were fatigued and mistreated.”
(Apparently, the BLM PR person was unable to identify horses that were limping.)  

“If You Don’t Want to See it on Network News, Don’t Say It”
Count on cameras and microphones being on 24/7, even when you think you’re out of earshot.
Stick with your messages.” (This might be good advice for advocates to remember)

In what almost seems like paranoia, the PR people talk about “Ploys,” and assume that reporters might “interrupt, put words in their mouths, state lies for a reaction” or “ask for an off the record comment.”

The PR people train Wild Horse & Burro Specialists how to respond to any perceived “ploys.” Below, they present a perceived “Tactic” and then give your very special specialist a “Response” to give you or the media, including:

“Tactic Interrupts Response (Politely) “Please don’t interrupt. If you’ll let me finish my thoughts on this, I can answer your next question.”

Tactic Puts words in your mouth “so, what you’re really saying is…”
Response Don’t repeat the negative. “No, not at all. Let me clarify that point.”

Tactic States lies for your reaction
Response Don’t repeat the negative. “No, that’s not true. Here are the facts…”

Tactic Machine guns questions at you.
Response “You asked me four questions at once. Please, let’s take them one at a time.”
Best: Start with the question you want to answer.
Bridge: “The most important question is…”

Tactic Demands answers to questions you can’t answer.
Response Give a good reason why you can’t answer, and tell when you can answer.
“That’s proprietary information.” Or “It’s just too early to say…” Add, “I should have the information in a week or two…”

Tactic False premise, no-win “When did you stop cheating on your taxes?”
Response “That’s a loaded question. (Bridge) The real issue here is…”

Tactic Speculation “Assume for a minute that…”
Response “I’m not going to speculate on that. (Bridge) The actual situation is this…therefore…”

Tactic Negative entrapment “What’s the most serious problem you face in…?”
Response Don’t repeat the negative. “Nothing comes to mind…(Bridge) but let me tell you about some challenges we faced and overcame…”

So, while teaching very little about wild horse behavior, family band structure, or wild horse health to their “specialists,” the BLM has chosen, instead, to hone in on how to evade your questions.

It seems BLM has a shocking attitude of disdain for the public, and apparently it’s so openly accepted that it’s even taught in classes. Even here, they’re told to expect “uneducated, annoying questions.” So, while you may think you’re having a conversation or dialogue with members of the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program, you’re most likely being controlled and manipulated. The BLM is staying on their message, and no matter what words they say, what they’re doing is “managing” the wild horses on our public lands to extinction.


To learn more:

Cloud snaking some of his mares, to try turn back and get his mares that BLM kept in the pens:

Foals limping at the Pryor Mountain roundup:

Crow Elder talking about the Pryor Mountain Roundup (Cloud Foundation)

The Pryor Mountain Roundup by Carol Walker:

“Rollin’ for the Wild Horses”

The Cloud Foundation at

Straight from the Horse’s Heart at

Wild Horse Freedom Federation at

Animals Angels at

28 replies »

  1. So “wild horse and burro specialist” actually only has to do with the fact that occassionally these sad excuses for human beings are in the vicinity of the animals we expect them to protect. They have no actual knowledge of the animals as a banded society, as an equine or even as a being capable of spiritual connections.

    Wow – what do they get paid for their awesome expertise that they get such a lofty title?

    Thanks Deb. Peeling it back, one lousy layer after another.


    • Some of them have Range Management Degrees. Some are horse people. The BLM never wanted any studies on wild horses and does not want the public getting involved. Too late, I think, BLM.

      But I am glad to say I have never run into anyone, not even a PR person assigned to a roundup district, speak at me like this management guide tells them to. How embarrassing!

      This is what we have to deal with. Unprofessionalism and cronyism and prejudice that runs the gamut. So how many real equine educated and oriented people really do work for BLM WH&B Program? Maybe a few? If the Program were what it could be or might have been there would be many. It is what it is because it was never meant to be anything more than a resource bank and a way to make money mustanging. It was never supposed to last either. They are shutting it down as fast as they can with no official insights provided to the amazed and outraged public.


      • Thank you for your work for documenting and reporting this information. In fairness to the studied inability to recognize shallow and superficial their statements are to anyone who knows much about the nature of the horse or principles of multi-species grazing management on any land that the federal government does not manage, these people need coaching. All this inane explanations have done is infuriate a public that cares enough about these horses to be paying attention.

        As for the Heneke body score, it was designed for use on domestic horses. A wild horse may appear thinner during certain times of the year depending on the types of weather events that have occurred in a particular HMA. They do not eat grain. In most areas, they survive on nutrient poor forage. The test of whether of not a herd is healthy is whether or not the herd is reproducing healthy foals that can in term maintain herd population. When I think of the first time I went to the BLM web site, and some PR person was standing in front a a herd of chubby wild horses with shiny coats and spirit in their eyes trying to explain that the horses were being removed so they would not starve…well, it was clear from the extra-special savvy the spokesman used that the BLM were waging a war against the animals they were being paid to protect.

        What frauds these mortals be.


  2. Obviously the BLM has a shocking attitude of disdain for the public as well as for the wild horses and burros. Thank you Deb Coffey for bringing this to the public’s attention. I’m not surprised just more disgusted than ever with the BLM and ALL their illegal and immoral tactics.


  3. Quite revealing expose, Debbie! It is indeed disgusting how our supposed public servants thumb their nose not only at those of us who appreciate the wild horses and burros in the wild but at the very core intent of the WFHBA! I am also disgusted about the lack of attention to the horse as native of North America and to their many restorative contributions to the ecosystem, also their prevention of catastrophic wildfires. Hope some of you have read my book: The Wild Horse Conspiracy. Remember it is available in print at or as an eBook with many color pictures in addition to the well-rounded and thoroughgoing text at As a professional wildlife ecologist and one who personally worked with Wild Horse Annie, I will be interested to field your comments and questions!


    • I have read your book and found it very informative. Going through the history to the the present day troubles being imposed on our horses was quite interesting.


    • Craig – I have your book “The Wild Horse Conspiracy” I find to be full of facts and current information. As far as I’m concern the BLM is full of fiction, they make stuff up as they go along. I had recently watched a movie called “Wild Horse, Wild Ride” showing some of the wild mustangs being trained by citizens’ non-government trainers. There were not many horses that made the grade, what happened to all of the rest of the wild horses not trained. The movie “Wild Horse, Wild Ride” might be put out to the general public to watch so they believe that the BLM is actually training all of the horses.


  4. Well done. I’ve been to battle with Heather and Fran Ackley. Neither will communicate with me anymore because I control the conversation. I didn’t let their little quips of nonsense get by. I’ve even gone over Fran’s head about his lack of caring over the 19 horses that we lost in Canon City…his facility. Shawna has been a good source over the years and even though we have serious differences she’s always been a good source of information that every time has come true. This relationship is now tenuous at best as she has begun to realize that the organization she represents is criminal. I will say I believe she truly thinks she has the best interest of the horses at heart.

    They are well schooled and for anyone who is delving into the underworld of the BLM for the first time I will warn you…after 2 or 3 conversations with 2 or 3 different ‘specialists’ the conversation will begin to sound like a broken record. They all read from the same script.


  5. Thanks for keeping us informed about the BLM and their inability to maintain horses and ability to lie about their motives and trick the public. Unfortnately for them, sicial media has a wide reach.


    • True. Just as information about horse welfare standards is available from any state agriculture, pony club, 4-H club, and most horse rescues not to mention from natural horsemanship trainers is available to anyone who cares enough to seek it out. The problem is that the leadership of the BLM does not think it is important—or at least not in the reign of Slytherin’ Slaughterczar.

      The more one learns about the physiology, anatomy, function, social and psychological nature of the species, the more willfully arrogant and ignorant the BLM appears.

      However, I do not doubt that some of the people who went to work for the BLM and wanted to work in the wild horse program probably did so with an interest in studying them, observing them, and helping them. However, when you have a (MIS)-management system that refuses to differentiate between wild and domestic structures of the same species, and refuses to recognize the differences in reproduction and first year foal survival combined with mortility rates in wild horses that are vastly different than for domestic horses, uses old, inadequate, and inaccurate information it is beyond the pale.


  6. Truth, something the BLM doesn’t and wouldn’t know anything about. I also listened to what the crow elder had to say in 2009 about what the BLM planned to do and Tue importance of these horses to the Native American culture. I’m not surprised by their education of the stupid people and it only confirmed that they think they are more slick or more intelligent than anybody else. Just a bunch of lying add thugs who make the mafia look like a bunch of school kids. Lord, i hate them.


    • Thanks Debbie and RT for bringing this enlightenment to the forefront. Your efforts are greatly appreciated. Shared this information.


  7. And, if schmoozing and the rest of the above doesn’t work….then there’s always HANDCUFFS.
    BLM Arrests Two Citizens During Contested Arizona Wild Burro Stampede

    “A couple of them seized my arms, it seemed like they wanted to break my arms,”
    Mrozek said on Sunday, he along with several observers had set up in an area designated for the public, by the BLM.
    Mrozek said their view was obstructed by a line of trucks. He noticed an older woman step around the line to get a closer look at the action, when BLM officials approached her and took her into custody.
    He started filming the arrest. That’s when Mrozek said two BLM officials approached him and asked him to speak to them.
    Mrozek said they suddenly jumped on him and started putting hand cuffs on him.


  8. That’s what it’s all about now. I worked for a government agency for over 20 years. About 10 or 12 years ago the philosophy changed to “Perception is everything,” which meant perception could be manipulated, no one had to worry about facts or data or even fairness anymore. If someone gossiped about you, you could be fired for it. It promotes the bullies, liars, embezzlers. That’s what I see happening in the BLM, it isn’t about doing the job they were created to do, or following the law, it’s about finding every sleazy, slimy way they can find to go around the law and make their opponents appear to be crazy or dangerous, and line their own pockets in the process. It’s frightening.


  9. The Twin Peaks roundup in northern California was run like a military operation. The BLM even had their personnel use their vehicles to surround the advocate’s cars. The public is treated as if they are criminals. The BLM had many armed guards on hand, and flew in PR people from across the U.S.. So, your tax dollars are being used to both manipulate your thoughts and treat you like a criminal.


    • Which roundup was that? 2010? Was it in response to some “perceived threat.” This type of armed SWAT mentality is why we have the 2nd amendment. Not saying anything except that our Pres Eisenhower warned us of the military “takeover” of our civil government. And we must be careful to weed out any false confrontations. I encourage everyone to calm emotions which rise in protection – those words said at those times may well be used against us and not in a good way. Remember, this is a battle of law.

      Why does the government feel compelled to defend itself against HORSE and BURRO advocates! Not to lead the conversation aside, but I have never seen anything like that…except at People’s Park (yes, I was there, young but there – and scared to death seeing the rifles and combat gear, but it was National Guard who were as young as I and their eyes showed us they were freaked too)back in the 60’s and that was a battle over civil unrest, blown out of proportion by frightened politicians.

      Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T


  10. Thank you, Debbie! Some times it takes all I have to be able to tolerate these BLM jerks without getting myself into trouble. But, as for now, freedom of speech (for what is left of it) means that I can say the BLM has a policy of breaking every one of us if they can, and I for one will not be giving up. The BLM has always been an illegal way for politicians to control investments and money; including the use of public lands and the theft and removal of Indian tribes…not to mention the abuse, torture, neglect, and killing of the wild horses. This is just their way of saying to me a bunch of dirty words without going on record as saying them. Great. This is just what we knew all along, and it sure is refreshing to find someone who reports truthfully. Thank you to all who have been working endlessly without fear and without giving up.


  11. Debbie once again you’re right on target. In Utah last summer I met with BLM. They told me that the helicopters use GPS and that they videotape from the moment the helicopter pilot picks the horses up. The reason (at least this is what I was told)they don’t put the video up to defend their side is no one would believe it. No one wants to see a bunch of horses walking and trotting for an hour to the capture pen. I told them to put the video up cause we would watch.

    Apparently since its deemed boring to watch a bunch of horses walking and trotting to the capture pens they don’t want to spend the resources putting it together. The idea being no one would watch because it isn’t dramatic or chilling enough. I challenged them to do so. Politely I might add. I know I wanted to see this–if what they were telling me is true then they shouldn’t have a problem releasing all that info.

    I also challenged them to call Dean Bolstad–and get his approval for a horse advocate to be allowed out on the range in a pick up truck when they pick the horses up. Maybe it bit off to the side but close enough to see EVERYTHING. Document EVERYTHING.

    I’m seeing the polite whitewash I was subjected too. It was a good learning experience. I’m just sorry I was the only member of the public there. But at least I have the peace of mind of knowing I tried. No matter how ineffectiveual I was tried I made the attempt.


    • Every voice counts Margaret. And it is in those conversations we have – civil and reasonable – that conveys the entire advocacy’s position. We love the horses and we will go to any length to be sure they are being treated with kindness and true understanding. You helped put a wedge in the hopelessness the PR person tried to plant and I for one deeply appreciate it and I know for a fact I am not alone in that.
      Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T


  12. Thank you Debbie, RT and all others working to save the Wild Horses and Burros. Your work is greatly appreciated and we need good people to look out for the horses. I live on the East Coast, own just one Arbrian mare and adore her. The horses out west need our help because they our helpless without you. The equines are up against the U.S. Government machine, big money, no hearts.


  13. The BLM has never faced a people who could share information and support each other in the way R. T.’s column allows us to share and vent. i remember the relief I felt when I read the first column—no, I was not alone. Other people shared my observations and evaluations…


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