Wild Horses Truer to Nature than ‘Slave Horses’

OpEd by Craig Downer as published in the Reno Gazette-Journal

“Wild horses deserve to be called wild…”

Stallion of Antelope Valley HMA ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation
Stallion of Antelope Valley HMA ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

As a serious student of horses and their place in our world, I take strong exception to the biased editorial: “Petition confirms horses aren’t wild” republished from the Elko Daily Free Press on July 19th. This fails to recognize the horse’s greater story/truth as proven by fair-minded scientists.

The horse species originated in North America at least two-million-years ago, and the entire horse family is deeply rooted here, dating back 58-plus million years. Abundant fossil and genetic evidence attest to this. They are a major integrator in North America. And considerable evidence indicates that horses never totally died out, although they diminished, along with many other species at the close of the last Ice Age. Their restoration is a truly welcome one in terms of species diversity and ecological soundness and stability. They can also greatly help stave off the life-threatening effects of global warming.

Wild horses deserve to be called wild. The horse is truer to its inherent nature when living freely in the natural world, as contrasted to a slave horse who must live only where its owner allows, often in bleak, artificial, spirit-killing confines for insufferably long periods! Horses are not mere machines; they are living beings who have arisen out of myriad past generations predominately in the wild! They possess an amazing wisdom, aka instincts, that gives them adaptive abilities that harmoniously fit into a variety of ecosystems, which they enhance. They quickly revert to the wild. To label them as being merely “feral” domesticated escapees ignores the vast majority of their evolution and their true character!

As semi-nomadic, post-gastric digesters, they are much needed to complement the lopsided preponderance of ruminant grazers such as cattle, sheep, and deer that people have foisted or promoted in unnatural numbers upon the land. Wild horses are needed to heal the grievous ecological wounds humans have wrought and to restore balance. They more greatly enrich the soils with humus and disperse the intact seeds of a greater variety of plants. They are restorers and healers of ecosystems to which they are suited and much more deeply rooted natives than either the bovids or the cervids in North America, though these too belong.

BLM attacking wild horses in Nevada ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation
BLM attacking wild horses in Nevada ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Wild horses should qualify as endangered “distinct population units” for protection under the Endangered Species Act. They quickly revert to the wild and adapt harmoniously and in complementary manner to each unique ecosystem, yet they are being either eliminated from their legal lands or brought to sub-viable, mere token population levels by their unjust enemies, including betrayers in the very branches of our government charged with protecting them – the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service!

Possessed by worldly powers and possessions and with a war mentality, their enemies have become blind to the true value, purpose, and justification for naturally living horses! We must quickly rectify this miserable situation and learn to share the land and freedom with such magnificent and highly evolved beings, as the progressive Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act still intends.


  1. I like to point out the fact that 100 years ago we had no oil and horses 100 years from now we will have no oil or horses. Craig as always gives logic to the need to keep wild horses wild in viable numbers as the true environmental keepers they are. They also are our keepers and may once again be if left alone to flourish.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks so much. Together and by getting every better and sharper and more focused we can turn this intolerable situation around for the wild horses and their rightful freedom and for ourselves also as human beings and in the same process!

      Liked by 3 people

  2. The horses that Congress protected in 1971 were wild. At the species level, they are exactly the same as the Przewalski[s horse, according to geneticists working in translational medicine. According to the American Museum of Natural History, the horse has traits that make the transition between wild and domestic a thinner line than with most other species. Those traits include their seeking behavior and social nature. Another recently published study noted that the domestic horse has suffered from the effects of inbreeding and lacks some of the traits that wild horses continue to show.

    But perhaps the biggest argument for keeping horses in the wild is their plasticity. Perhaps more than any other species, the horse has responded genetically to its changing environment, and the possibility for positive selection is much higher in the wild. Scientists believe they will learn a lot about how species adapt to different environmental changes through studies of the horse. Some fascinating studies out recently confirming once again what everyone in the world but the US government is willing to admit. Our government and its corrupt scientific community refuses to acknowledge conclusions that include the ancient and modern mitochondrial DNA, or some of the more advanced RNA which can actually locate some traits on the strand, bacterial DNA that is present in some well preserved specimens that have been consumed by microorganisms. Scientists can take DNA from dirt and determine what plants or animals have been there. This science is used across communities and is considered very sound. But our experts wants to limit the information to fossils—even though scientists have stated that it is next to impossible to accurately compare horses through bone structure because they are so very similar at the species and eve the genus level. If you have teeth, you can determine the species, but without teeth it is hard.

    The research on multi-species grazing is in and the difference between desert like conditions for single species grazing and lush pasture land when multi-species graze is dramatic. As I may have said before, a physicist explained that during drought plants create a compensatory effect through the metabolic process that makes the air more humid and having more water in the air actually helps. The problem is always going to be numbers—and both ranchers and the BLM must take responsibility. Most responsibility are the Harvard elitist environmental ecologist that don’t know didly squat about how nature works, can find journal articles in any of their professional journals, or go to symposium but write about healthy lands while making decision after destructive decision.

    There are solutions to these problems. A lot of them are far less expensive than the environmental destruction that could have been avoided. The BLM and other federal agencies need a variety of personnel, but they desperately need to work with the department of agriculture and get the scientists who understand what it really takes to make land healthy. Agenda 21 goals include ending deforestation, but our scientists seem hell bent on creating it—facts not lost on the rest of the world.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Well done and thank you, Craig Downer. I continue to learn from your lifetime of wild horse and burro knowledge and I know you will continue to share this knowledge with all who are willing to be listen and learn.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. On the subject of “feral”. The Nevada law states that any and all wild horses and burros that come under the Act are NOT feral.

    569.008. “Feral livestock” defined
    “Feral livestock” means any formerly domesticated livestock or progeny of domesticated livestock which have become wild and are running at large upon public or private lands in the State of Nevada, and which have no physical signs of domestication. The term does NOT include horses or burros that are subject to the jurisdiction of the Federal Government pursuant to the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1331 to 1340, inclusive, and any regulations adopted pursuant thereto, or any other federal statute or regulation.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. ” Understand that after two minutes with the wild ones, I knew that I had never seen a true horse.”

    Copyright 2005
    Pete Ramey

    So, I walked into wild horse country thinking that I was on a tourist trip; confirming what I already knew.
    I could not have been more blind.
    I could not have been more wrong.
    They were much, much more than I had ever imagined.
    What I write here, will probably sound very similar to what my predecessors have written.
    I don’t know if anyone’s words can get the point across to the world, but I have to try. I thought I was ready, but what I saw literally blew me away.
    I have worked on thousands of horses, all over the world.
    six years of my life in the saddle from daylight till dark.
    had the privilege of working on some of the finest horses, for the finest horsemen in the world.
    Understand that after two minutes with the wild ones, I knew that I had never seen a true horse.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Amen, Louie! One has to be sort of blind not to appreciate the magnificence of the wild horses in the wild and to respect and defend this!


  6. I shared the article about 27 Wild Horses killed in the Soda fire on LinkedIn. I am assuming he is a rancher that says he has a degree in Ranch Management and has been disagreeing with me regarding Wild Horse grazing vs cattle/sheep grazing. He states that Wild Horses do more destructive grazing than cattle. I have been politely “agreeing to disagree” with him. But, he told me to “be quiet” if I didn’t know what I was talking about. I just shared this article on LinkedIn to substantiate what I said about Wild Horses grazing. I also shared The Costs & Consequences: The Real Price of Livestock Grazing on Public Lands by the Biological Diversity, a recent report of Public Land and Resources Law Review, The Declining Importance of Public Lands Ranching in the West, by Mark N. Salvo, and the website link to Spring Mountain Alliance’s website that has information regarding Wild Horse grazing. This guy also went back & forth with someone else whose name I recognized that occasionally posts on this blog. Thank you, RT for a timely posting of Dr. Downer’s article.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I understand your frustration with the “person” you were trying to communicate with and possibly educate but who told you to “be quiet”. I think you will appreciate this true story: At a recent BLM ESP public meeting, the chairperson told the public to “suck it up”. Not kidding! Many people heard this and although some who make their living as welfare ranchers probably thought it was funny – it was absolutely rude and obnoxious and inappropriate during a public meeting. Yes, BLM was in the room during the meeting and said nothing. Other BLM was told about the situation and apologized for the chairperson but although requested, the chairperson never did publicly apologize and is still probably laughing about it with his welfare rancher buddies. Although I don’t care what he says in private, stating such a thing in a public meeting should have been reason for his instant resignation – voluntary or mandatory.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you for sharing your story, GG. Yes, my first impression of this “person’s” comment was “how rude”. I haven’t reviewed this gentleman’s LinkedIn profile & if I did, I would do it anonymously. I did “Google” his name & he is a rancher from Dallas/Fort Worth. Apparently he breeds deer on his ranch — 225 fawns on average each year. No response after I had posted my 4 links of additional information. He told me to refer to something that I can’t find. I still stand behind what I said as reliable information.

        Liked by 1 person

    • MT, I think it’s good for us all to pull back and recall there was no recognized “range science” until the 1930s, long after the impacts of unrestricted mass introduction of cattle and sheep to the West began to alter our ecosystems in ways that are still manifesting today. Worse still to blame the condition of western rangelands on wild horses and burros who didn’t seem to be causing any massive harm before 1971, and since then have supposedly been professionally managed by… (wait for it) Range Scientists!

      That our professional managers force horses to survive in shrinking territories, on land already irreversibly degraded by livestock, is not a legitimate scientific position from which to excuse eradication of the species in the wild.

      It is useful to consider that in concert with many gold, silver and oil “rushes” our lands also were subject to a massive mining of “green gold” which in the form of meat on the hoof made many people rich without any understanding of natural processes, or accounting for the harm this extraction process would cause for perpetuity. They weren’t scientists, after all, but just people trying to take advantage of the opportunity the mass extermination of Indigenous peoples and their food sources presented, virtually free for the taking.

      I suggest reading “The Western Range” (the original bible of Range Management) and the much later revision called “The Western Range Revisited” by Debra Donahue for a good review of the broader circumstances we are stuck with today.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, IcySpots, for the suggestion. I will look into these books at my public library before ordering them.


  7. Greatly appreciate all your support, fellow wild horse defenders, meaning defenders of horses’ right to land and liberty, two of the must essential qualities that make life worth the living in the first place. By working respectfully together in concerted fashion and getting better and sharper we can turn the present intolerable situation around for the wild horses, and burros too, and in the process greatly help to save all life on Earth!


    • While I have great respect for Mr. Downer and his dauntless courage, I had to laugh at considering my own horses “slaves” since that label more appropriately describes MY part of our relationship.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Grace, I think you significantly misjudge Mr. Downer’s credentials here, which are the furthest thing from elementary. I suggest you do a bit more research on his background, it would bolster your own credibility and understanding of these complex concerns.


  8. 4Grace, It’s hard to imagine how my comment could be construed by you to be an “insult” but you are and were incorrect to characterize Mr. Downer the way you described. If your words are true you are surely aware of his life’s work and his educational degrees and background or you would not make such claims.

    I do not begrudge him his eloquence, passion and spirituality, though others might.

    However, like you, I bridled at the “slave” language but shrugged it off as a headline, perhaps not even his own choice of words. I have not heard him use this term in this context prior. I agree it detracts from the issues we are all concerned about, and like you apparently do, I “do things” with my own horses (as does Mr. Downer, by the way). It does make one wonder at the distinction you are making about “serious horse people”… as opposed to what? Are you implying one must make money off domestic horses to be concerned about wild horses, or what?

    I can assure you I am a lifelong very serious horse person (as is Mr. Downer) and that It is a pointless, divisive exercise to try to one up each other in that regard when we all need to be looking for ethical solutions within a complex set of circumstances and agendas. As it seems you are also eloquent and passionate I encourage you to look past language to the deeper truths we are all trying to better express. Put your energies (as I am, and Mr. Downer is) towards engaging your unique voice and skills to come up with better answers. We who care deeply about horses (domestic and wild) all need to put forth our best thinking, hopefully more or less together and aiming for a better future for America’s wild horses than slow death in captivity or enforced sterility on the range.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. A slave can be a beloved slave, but if a horse is given no real choice he/she is still a slave. By the way, I did not assign the title to my oped piece, rather the editors of Reno Gazette Journal did. Nonetheless this title did get to the crux of the issue concerning true freedom for the horse in a world where he/she can truly live free. We humans should make this kind of world possible. It is not ALL ABOUT US!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. A slave is another fellow Earthling who is owned by another in the legal sense of human law and custom and is directed as to where he/she can live and what he/she can do. Not given any real choice as to how and where he/she can live life and what he/she can do. I believe the truer nature of the horse and so the truer freedom is realized in the natural world and that the wild horses could provide humankind with great guide on how to restore so many of the Earth’s ecosystems, in which they have an essential role to play, niche to fill. See my book The Wild Horse Conspiracy available on amazon or on my website by same name as title.


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