Horse News

Tour of Axtell’s Shadeless Feedlot for Wild Horses

Report of the Axtell Wild Horse and Burro Feedlot Annual Tour

By Carol J. Walker, Dir. of Field Documentation for Wild Horse Freedom Federation

On Thursday July 12 I was able to tour the Axtell, Utah BLM Holding Facility and see some of the wild horses that had been rounded up in September and October of 2017. I had repeatedly requesting access to view and to photograph the horses since November, 2017. I was told no, this is a private facility. Because it is private it does not mean that the BLM cannot allow people in – it means they do not have to let people in. I was told they do not have the staff time available to allow people to track certain horses they might be interested in. I offered to help the wild horses get homes, because I had done that after the 2014 roundup very successfully. Again and again I was told no or simply ignored. Then finally they scheduled their annual tour which is open to the public. There were over 1200 wild horses from Wyoming shipped to this barren feedlot that has no shade, no shelter from the elements. Now, there are only 800 horses left, and of that number, approximately 500 are from the roundup last fall. What happened to these horses?

Here is what I was told:

Those horses over 6 years old were shipped to “off-range pastures” or “off-range corrals.” The “adoptable” horses were shipped all over the country to adoptions or will be shipped to adoptions. They are treating the horses over 5 as “unadoptable” with no opportunity to be adopted when the age for being able to be sold “without limitation” is over 10. Once these horses are sent to Long Term Holding, or “Off-Range Pastures” the BLM will not allow anyone to adopt or buy a specific horse. You can buy them by the truckload, however.

Of the horses that are still there, I was told that two loads of 35 horses each will be shipped to Ewing, Illinois for an adoption event. There were young horses in a pen, and I was told that they were going to youth who were going to train them for a BLM event “Impact of the Horse” and at that event they would be available for adoption.

The young horses

As I continued to walk from pen to pen in the hottest part of the 90 degree day, I noticed a group of older geldings who no longer had their numbered neck collars on, making it more difficult to identify the horses. I was told they were going to go to a Long Term Holding Facility, and it was as though they were “already shipped.” But they were still there. Another pen full of  older geldings, again with their neck tags removed. When I in exasperation asked were there any horses that were not “already shipped” I was told that the older geldings in pen 17 had not been designated a destination facility yet. Also the mares with foals will not be available until the foals are weaned at 6 months old. Even the mares and foals had no shade or shelter in their pens.

Neck collars already removed

One thing I noticed immediately upon arriving was that there was alfalfa being fed to the horses. I was told that the young horses were getting straight alfalfa hay and the older horses were receiving both alfalfa and oat hay. Let me very clear – I am not a veterinarian nor am I an equine nutritionist. However, I have been a horse owner since age 12, and I currently have two mustangs of my own. Alfalfa would be the very last thing I would feed my horses. In my opinion it is far too rich for mustangs. I saw many overweight and very overweight horses at Axtell, and I do not ever remember seeing overweight horses at any holding facility I have visited before, such as at Canon City, Rock Springs, and more recently, Bruneau, Idaho. Being that overweight can be dangerous to a horse’s health. Look at the images and see for yourself. There is a body score system for horses called the Henneke which scores the body fat on a horse from 1-9. These horses did not look like this when they were rounded up. Here is the chart:

Some of these horses are overweight

Here are the images of the wild horses in Axtell from the tour:

Please feel free to use the images for reference. I got as many tags visible in the photos as I could. The first images are from the pen of mares that are supposed to be going to Illinois, number 4 – 42. Next the mares and foals, from 43 – 70, then the older geldings, from 71-94, then mares from 95-143, then a mix of mares from Wyoming and other places plus foals in a very large corral from 144-166, then pen 17, older geldings from 167-196, then the young horses are from 197-2016, then last the older geldings in a larger pen from 207-226.

Pen 17

I did ask at the very beginning of the tour if people were interested in adopting the horses at the facility would they be able to do that? Initially Gus Warr and Lisa Reid told me yes. So I am going to post the images I took at the tour, and if you are interested in adopting any of these horses, I encourage you to act quickly, and to contact Gus Warr and or Lisa Reid in order to do that. I cannot stress enough that all of these horses are at risk of being sold to slaughter, sent overseas, or being killed while Congress is still debating the 2019 Appropriations Bill.

Lisa Reid, Public Information Specialist, Utah:     W 435-743-3128
cell:  435. 979.2838

Gus Warr, Wild Horse and Burro Lead, Utah: 801-539-4057,

Mares and foals


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12 replies »

  1. Thank you for the report back Carol, and the photos. I have to wonder if the BLM are feeding these horses alfalfa purposefully to fatten them up for shipping in the night out the back door to kill buyers….too many unanswered questions, adn too many wild horses unaccounted for.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Certainly far from “fit” wild horses now. Feeding alfalfa? What would be the point – I would think it would be more expensive for one thing – but to feed hay thats detrimental to these horse’s health is just stupid – to put it mildly. Even overweight – they are all beautiful. Not allowing photos which could get them adopted is just a deliberate attempt for more propagandizing the BLM’s “excess” horses. Really big question as to where the rest of the horses went!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sent to me to share far and wide


    mosie Cedar Mountain Herd, Roundups

    On day two of the Cedar Mountain Herd roundup, I witnessed something that has stuck with and disturbed me ever since.

    We heard the rumbling of the helicopter as it pushed a new band of wild horses into sight, around the hillside, and across the valley towards the trap. They were running hard and covering miles and miles of land quite quickly. There was a paint bringing up the rear lagging a little; some of us thought that maybe it was the band’s stallion looking to protect the herd from behind

    The helicopter rounded the herd into the V, and they hooked onto the Judas horse, following him right into the trap, capturing them all… except for one. The paint horse avoided the trap and took off the opposite direction across the valley. It seemed that the BLM contractors usually let single stragglers go if they took off from the herd alone, but for some odd reason, the helicopter zoomed after this single horse in hot pursuit. The helicopter was right on her tale – alone now, severed from her herd and family, she galloped for her life as fast as she could. The iron predator didn’t let up, and he ran her for miles across the valley. Finally he confined her in a little ravine, but no matter how he pushed and pressured her, she seemed to refuse to back down or run back towards the trap.

    We saw a wrangler take off on a horse, galloping towards the gorge where the helicopter was low, holding the mare. He had a lasso in his hand. When he reached the ravine, the strong paint mare took off towards the fence line where all of our cars were parked. He was right on her tail, attempting to lasso her maybe 4 or 5 times with no luck. She kept running as fast as she could. The wrangler and helicopter chased her down the barbed wire fence line. We watched in silence – I couldn’t believe how hard they were trying to capture this single horse. I cannot even imagine the terror and exhaustion she must have felt having lost her herd and being relentlessly chased like this.

    There seemed to be no escape. She was running from a flying beast that was impossibly fast and never seemed to tire, meanwhile having ropes thrown at her neck by a rider right on her tail. With one last throw, the rider lassoed the paint mare and pulled tight as it caught around her neck. She crashed head first through the barbed wire fencing to the ground.

    She had so much momentum and fell mid gallop; her body collided so hard with the ground

    She got scrambled up to her feet as fast as she could. The wrangler thought he had got her

    Despite the rope tightening when she pulled, she yanked as hard as she could, and through the strangulation, she took off the opposite way. After all of this, she wasn’t giving up. The man had to drop the lasso at this point, and so she took off up the opposite hill, looking behind only to see if he was still pursuing her. Finally after all of this time, they gave up.

    She approached the viewing area.

    This beautiful mare who we had just seen galloping miles away, who we had just seen crash through the fence, who we had just seen escape despite all odds, was right in front of us.

    She was maybe 20 feet in front of me, and I got to look into her tired eyes. She looked so drained. Even though she was filled with fear, she just looked tired.

    Just look into those eyes…

    She was drenched in sweat, exhausted, and most likely pregnant.

    I could hardly believe what I had just seen… and to now see her up close… it was overwhelming and incredibly emotional to say the least.

    After taking a look at all of us here witnessing on the hill, the incredible paint mare trotted around us into the hills of her homeland, the lasso still dragging from her neck.

    With the impact she took, the cuts she must have gotten from the barbed wire, and the trailing noose around her neck… there is no saying what could happen to her out there. I hate to think about it, but we need to understand the consequence of these actions. She could very well strangle herself if the lasso gets caught on something out in the wild… she could abort her foal after such an impact… she could develop an infection from the barbed wire…

    The possibilities haunt me.

    I hope so much that she finds a way to get out of the lasso and finds another herd where she can live peacefully.

    If any horse could make it through these struggles, I think I would be her; she proved herself to be quite the fighter. Her spirit and resilience is astonishing, and because of it, she escaped against all odds.

    She embodies the strength, courage, spirit, and resilience of the horse – all that we love about these incredible souls… it’s how she made her great escape. Seeing her fight against all odds inspires me to stand up for these horses, no matter the resistance we may face. I hope her story may resonate with others and encourage them in the same way. If we honor her fight, her story and herd won’t be forgotten.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. For years, I have heard that our wild ones we see in these corrals that have no neck tag are likely on their way to being sold to slaughter. Their neck brand numbers will be grown over with hair and/or covered with their manes and so-called inspectors at check-points will not look at the horses closely nor will they care. They will only see a trailer full of horses and take a quick look at the (phonied) paperwork and then wave them through. Gone forever to a fate worse than death.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Having transported my two wild horses across a state line, I can tell you that the Agriculture “inspector” could have cared less what we had in the trailer … she never looked and we could have had wild tigers in there for all she cared. Now … multiply that times a trailer full of about 40 wild horses and there is no way any inspector would have any idea if the horses were “legal” or not.


  5. Thank you Carol, for another brave day of sorrow – looking into the eyes of the innocent and knowing that they came from lives of freedom … to the torture of being captured to now lives of abuse caused by the corrupt practices and MIS-management of the BLM.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. We tax-payers have paid Kerry Despain $10,290,214 in the four years since his original contract. We also know that many of our wild horses and many of our wild burros died under his “care”.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is the same ranch owned by retired Bureau of Land Management (BLM) employee Kerry Despain, who ran the now defunct prison mustang program at Gunnison prison. There was an Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigation into the Gunnison prison program. The OIG investigation stated “of the $3,918,437 in claimed costs, we identified $1,303,455 in unallowable costs and $628,244 in unsupported costs, totaling $1,931,699 in questioned costs.”

    Question: Was Kerry Despain investigated or did anyone ever get arrested for the alleged multi-million dollar “mis-placement” of taxpayer money from the Gunnison Prison BLM program?

    In addition, the BLM Gunnison Prison facility is where many many many wild horses died due to “gelding complications”. Gunnison prison facility had been a death camp for many of our wild horses (per FOIAs) and yet Despain, the retired head of Gunnison’s BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro program has our wild burros and wild horses on his private property and gets generously paid for it to keep them in this “feedlot”.

    These wild burros belong to you and me and they already have a home on the range – per the unanimously voted Congressional 1971 Wild Horse Act and where the BLM is required by law to protect them where found on their legal land and protect them from harassment and protect them from capture and protect them from branding and protect them from death.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Fattening up on alfalfa, name tags removed, hundred of horses already missing (if they ever even arrived), we all know what feedlots are for, the only difference is this one is on the taxpayer’s tab. I wish I was surprised.

    Liked by 2 people

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