“Today was a very tough day for me for a number of reasons. But no matter how tough it was for me, I always keep in mind, it is a thousand times tougher for these horses who lose everything dear to them, their families, their homes and their freedom all at once.”
Waiting to head out to the next observation point for the Checkerboard Roundup. It is a little later in the morning. I will be posting updates if I have cell service out there.
We have been waiting for almost 2 hours at the Point of Rocks exit for the Cattoors to come and set up the next trap site. Now we moved to Bitter Creek Road and the helicopters are looking for a trap site for the last few horses in the Great Divide Basin Checkerboard area. I was told they are waiting for an archeologist to come and clear the site and it may be another 2 hours before the helicopters fly driving the horses into the trap. We are headed to a coal mine where apparently about 16 horses have been living for many years within the fenced area around it. Why on earth I wonder, do they have to remove these horses? How are they disturbing the operation of the mine? It is a huge area.
The BLM vehicle speeds up Bitter Creek road so fast that dust billows up in spots, because it is so dry here. Several times I slow, and fall way behind the vehicle in front so that I can see. The road is so dusty following the BLM to the trap. I am concerned I might lose them because I have no idea where we are going, but I am more concerned that I do not fly off the road into the steep ditch next to it because I cannot see it. At one point I could not see anything at all except the boiling dust, so I stopped because I was afraid of going off the road into the ditch, and suddenly there is a bang, and the Ranger’s truck behind me rear ends my car. We stop and get out to see the damage. We keep going to a junction in the road where we still have cell service and then wait for the county sheriff to come and file a report on the accident. This was not at all how I thought this day would go.
We headed finally to the trap in the mine area. We missed 4 horses coming in while meeting with the county sheriff but there are at least 12 more they are trying to get. It is wild and beautiful and quiet out here with gorgeous view of Black Rock and the surrounding mountains.
After we arrived to our observation point a half mile way but with a view of the trap for a change, I observed the longest chase I have ever seen, over an hour, of 8 wild horses by the helicopter in the coal mine area. These eight wild horses including a foal were running up and down steep hills and ridges in the hottest part of the day. They finally went into the trap with lots of close pressure from the helicopter at the very end. He had to circle back to get a line black horse trotting slowly who almost ran back out but finally went into the trap. By this time I was pulling for the horses to finally be caught and end this for the sake of their health. Never before in all my years as an advocate and in the 10 years I have been observing roundups have I been pulling for the horses to go INTO a trap, just to make it stop.
There seems to be a major problem with this trap, despite the fact that the archeologist Ok’d it, the Cattoors don’t seem to have selected it wisely to conform to the landscape and make it easy for the horses to enter as they usually do. The hills are so very steep, and the horses are heading up this one ridge which overlooks the trap, and naturally when they see the trap, they do not want to go in, they run off, and then the helicopter has to chase and chase and chase to get them to approach it and go in.
Helicopter just drove in a family of 6 the brave red stallion in front who kept looking back at his family and three foals and two mares came in after going up hills down in the mine up ridges down valleys and up on a really scary ridge where luckily they stopped then turned around. The red stallion finally led his family into the trap and I sighed with relief I did not want to see them run any more when the intention is to get them all.
We are told they are leaving the two horses who are still in the mine there, and we think they might be done for the day.
But suddenly the helicopter flies out in a direction I have not seen him head, behind us, and we see a family of four pop up over the ridge. The bay stallion is in the back, sorrel mare and foal in the middle, with a black mare leading, and they are running very fast. They fly across the terrain. They are finally driven on top of the ridge near the trap, and they run right by it. The helicopter chases them around the ridge and finally at the top of the ridge they wheel and turn, the helicopter wheels too and from our angle it looks as though it might hit them, but our perspective is distorted, and it is hard to see in the dust. It looks as though they were all going in the trap, but it is only the elegant black mare, who trips somehow and flips over. She gets up and continues into the pen at the end of the trap. On the other side of the hill the foal pops out, and I wonder if he has become separated from his family, but no his mother joins him. The stallion runs as fast as he can in the opposite direction, and I hear that they are letting him go. The helicopter pulls up and flies off, and the exhausted mare and foal slow to a walk, and we wonder, is it really over? Can they actually go free? Down below the Cattoors are packing up the trap, which seems to be answer enough. We watch the bay stallion top a ridge, and pause, looking down, as if he is wondering if it is safe. He trots down to his mare and foal, and they trot up to join him. It is such a very bittersweet moment. I am feeling joy for this small family, that at least the three of them are reunited and will live at least for now in their home in Great Divide Basin. But it is a harsh and cruel reminder of all the horses like the black mare in their family who will never roam free there again.