Horse News

Killing the ‘Wild’ in Wild Horses – The Travesty of American Wild Horse Advocacy and Management

By: William E. Simpson II – Naturalist

My name is William E. Simpson II. I am not a part of any formalized advocacy group or non-profit…”

I have not sought monetary gain by my work. Instead, I do it in honor of the privilege of being able to study what may very well be some of the last remaining free-roaming wild horses living free in a wilderness area.

A stallion (left) and his mare sharing breath; photo courtesy William E. Simpson II

I am, to my knowledge the only researcher in America today who lives-among and studies free-roaming wild horses (mustangs) in a wilderness area (24-7/365), and have been doing so for the past 7-years from my cabin in the mountains on the Oregon-California border.

This is an important fact because many posits about wild horse behavioral ecology leading to management and advocacy positions are based-upon what may be called ‘snapshot observations’, where such studies are made via very short-term field trips watching wild horses at great distances over a sandwich and a telephoto lens. I can attest that by using such study methodology, important things are missed.
I am using an observational study method that was developed by Miss Jane Goodall (PhD) when she first went to Gombe Africa to study the Apes there in the early 1960’s, which I wrote about in this important article (linked below), which explains why there is so much misinformation about wild horses:
Given the gravity of the unfolding management disaster of American wild horses by the BLM and the USFS, new, out-of-the-box thinking is imperative, not more of the same!
As well-intentioned as the notion of adopting wild horses is, far too much noise is being made in the media about wild horses (mustangs) being adopted or used by prisoners and ‘broke’ for resale as saddle horses.
Wild horses are highly intelligent sentient beings, with highly evolved societies and strong family-bonds and values.
Capturing wild horses, and then separating them from their beloved family members, breaking their wild-spirits, and thereby causing them to suffer PTSD and chronic depression, is simply a draconian solution from the minds of humans, based upon human perspectives and values, without any regard for what matters to wild horses. This paradigm must end.
This critique is also relevant given that less than about 5% of all the wild horses rounded-up end up living a captive-life separated from their families via these short-sighted, and arguably inconsiderate methods.
Meantime, the other ~95% of wild horses being rounded-up end-up captive prisoners in off-range holding facilities, as unknown numbers of them are allegedly sequestered away out the back-gate and end-up over the American border in slaughter houses along with thousands of unwanted domestic horses…
Recently, an article in The Horse titled; ‘Equine Innovators: Exploring Demand for Wild Horses‘ highlights Dr. Stowe’s concept of finding uses for wild horses, but seems to miss a very important point:
American wild horses are native species ‘wildlife’, according to leading scientists, like Professor Ross MacPhee at the American Museum of Natural History.
The entirety of the concepts that seek to capture wildlife and then utilize them somehow to serve humans, especially wild horses, is scientifically obtuse since it fails to consider their critically important evolved roles as critical keystone herbivores in wilderness ecosystems.
And by removing wild horses from wilderness ecosystems, the flora and fauna, as well as forests, riparian areas and fisheries of those ecosystems suffer in many ways, as well as the wild horses that may be left remaining.
Moreover, we already have over 7-million domestic horses in circulation in America today.
As such, at any given time, there are thousands of those domestic horses that desperately need training, re-homing and adoption, even as sanctuaries are filling-up with perfectly good domestic horses.
Some of these domestic horses can also be used as therapy horses. There is no need to steal the freedom of a wild horse and break-up a loving family, when there are abundant domestic horses, specifically bred over the past 4,000-years to fill the needs of humans.
It now appears that the Sierra Club supports my own longstanding position on this subject, and have adopted new policy:
From Tri-State Livestock News:
“On May 2021, the Sierra Club’s 15-member Board of Directors adopted a new policy that likens wild horses and burros to wildlife, and advocates for livestock to be eliminated from herd management areas administered by the federal government
The Sierra Club is beginning to recognize that wild horses in America are native species wildlife that evolved exclusively in North America, and as such, are indigenous to north America.
However, like many others whose understanding of evolutionary biology and ecology is less than adequate, the Sierra Club still fails to understand the ecological folly of managing wild horses commingled with livestock in herd areas where the co-evolved predators of wild horses have, over the past 300-years, been aggressively eliminated in favor of unfettered livestock production. Such areas are ecologically unsuited for herds of wild horses, that is a scientific fact.
And the concept of re-wilding and reestablishing apex predators into livestock production areas, wherever they may be, will take decades of time that wild horses don’t have, and is economically unfeasible. There is a better way!
A solution that address many issues and provides a solution that is workable for all stakeholders:
There is a natural, holistic solution that allows wild horses to remain wild and free and beyond the conflict of public lands grazing issues.
That solution is called; ‘Wild Horse Fire Brigade’.
Wild Horse Fire Brigade needs to be centered as one of the options for a wild horse management solution, and that solution is outlined in this recent press release:
William E. Simpson II is a naturalist/rancher living among and studying native species American wild horses. He is the author of a new Study about the behavioral ecology of wild horses, two published books and more than 150 published articles on subjects related to wild horses, wildlife, wildfire, and public land (forest) management. He has appeared on NBC NEWS, ABC NEWS, theDoveTV and has been a guest on numerous talk radio shows including the Lars Larson Show, the Bill Meyer Show, and on NPR Jefferson Public Radio.
Capt. William E. Simpson II – USMM Ret.
Naturalist – Author – Conservationist 
Wild Horse Ranch
P.O. Bx. 202 – Yreka, CA 96097
Author @ HorseTalk

Member:  IMDb

Check out my FilmFreeway account for films, studies, TV & radio interviews, and more HERE:

15 replies »

  1. The Halls of Government are filled with Elected Officials who have long since sold their honor.

    When courage is needed, ask yourself, if not me, who? If not now, when?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I live high in the mountains in Central Nevada and have studied the wild horse bands living around me and I am frustrated with the governments efforts at controlling .I totally agree with your assessment of
    the intelligence of these sentient beings.

    Writing letters and receiving the same canned response,attending gathers and seeing the same mistreatment of these native horses,leads me to ask; what more can we do?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. There is nothing in the original 1971 WFRHBA that even mentions adoptions! Wild horses and burros were to be managed as an “integral part” of the public lands, using the “minimal feasible” methods. Only those animals deemed “excess” were in the crosshairs, though to this day the matter of how AMLs are determined include a lot of smoke and mirrors and are not science-based (even according to the National Academy of Sciences). We are NOT raising wild horses and burros at taxpayer expense with the end result being to produce riding animals for an already saturated market. Further, it is well documented that those removed most often face a perilous life, and many die or are disappeared into a Byzantine system which does end for some in a slaughterhouse. At every turn they are sold for cash as a commodity once removed from the range, but this again is NOT what our laws intended or specify, nor does it offer any legitimate equity to taxpayers who pay for this all coming and going.

    An older but still (and perhaps even more) topical article:

    While Nevada’s ranchers are fighting to get rid of wild horses in Nevada, the BLM pays ranchers in the Midwest millions of dollars annually to keep wild horses from the west on their land. The horses have become a pot of gold to many ranchers in Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Kansas. John Hughes of Oklahoma has been receiving millions of dollars annually from the BLM since 1993 for keeping the wild horses on his ranch. This year alone, Hughes received well over $3 million for his contract to keep the horses, while other ranchers such as the Reed Brothers Ranch profited this year with over $2 million, as did the Drummond Ranch, Trentman Ranch, Cross Bell, and many others. This is a prime example of “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”, and the BLM is paying Midwest ranchers a fortune for the “gold” Nevada’s ranchers are throwing away.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Replying to Dave: You’re absolutely right. Unless there is a much louder and more visual response from the public, nothing is going to change. Start demonstrations around and about this tragedy. Go see your legislators in person, tell them you’re not voting for them because of this issue. Get the Sierra Club to carry out a very public campaign, which they can do. I keep telling these horse advocate groups that if they want to be effective, they better start making a lot more noise because whatever they’re doing now is too little too late.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Agreed — only Congress can effectively change the BLM, but they won’t act at all without significant public uproar, as Wild Horse Annie showed us so long ago. It’s sad to see even a blog as consistent as this one garnering so few comments, when someone who stupidly glues their hair garners millions of viewers in a hurry. Do we need a scarred up and scared formerly wild horse on the White House lawn, perhaps?

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s disappointing that Biden has doubled down on what Trump started. He wants even more roundups. Everybody focuses on the BLM, but the BLM takes it’s marching orders from above. Biden is in a vulnerable position and something like this might get him to act if we could bring public outrage to a boil. Since so many people support the horses it wouldn’t be that hard to do it.


      • True, Icy – I remember when many more people were regulars here. I realize we all get older & our lives change in many ways. But it takes very little to ask questions, write emails & comments – maybe donate to organizations that are trying to make a difference. You can make noise in many ways – if you CARE! Our Wild Horses & Burros need us to care. Sure, there are a lot of things going on now but turning away because its too much trouble to write to your representative or to a newspaper & tell them they got it wrong! I dont “do” Facebook but seems to me Wild Horses are a lot more entertaining than glued hair etc. Allowing this government agency and the livestock lobby to eradicate these animals from OUR PUBLIC LANDS? Once they succeed – they’re gone – forever. I subscribe to several blogs – and have posted information whenever I see something that might open a few eyes. Not sure how successful I’ve been – its hard to pull eyes away from the political and ecological disasters around us!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Agree and saddened, now for decades thinking our voices will change things. When the DOI had a wild horse management team meeting within the last year and the people who were invited were from a Rare Earth Mining co., livestock producers, Mantle ranch, and oil and gas I knew the greedy now want all the horses lands without people’s interference. Wild horses attract people, get in the way of trucks speeding down dirt roads, show how the waters are sucked dry or toxic and the range chewed to dust by livestock.
    Mantle ranch, now is boasting a new contract where they will house 3500 wildones, each getting 400 sqft, and will train and adopt out a couple dozen a year. All for a tiny price of $5 or more million a year. They call them “harvested”.
    and about Biden, he came to Colorado prior to the primaries and stayed with ex sen/doi
    Ken Salazar. So, we know who is whispering in his ears and I suspect it was Ken who recommended Haaland knowing she was antihorse, pro commerce. ug.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Very unfortunate that Biden still listens to Salazar. Haaland is OK with the native lands being under the auspices of the National Monuments and Antiquities Act.


  6. Don’t understand why the Biden admin is following the Trump program regarding the complete disregard of our wildlife which includes wild horses.
    However, does anyone know if the banning of the transport of equines to slaughter as proposed by Reps Troy Carter, D-LA and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa and a bi-partisian team of 11 others made it in the transportation and infrastructure HR 3684 bill signed into law?

    Rep Steve Cohen D-TN proposed the banning of horses in double decker trailers intended for bovines in the Horse Transportation Safety Act (HTSA) – did that make it?

    The article is such a relief to read coming form a gentle naturalist like William Simpson. He is so much like Craig Downer, they should share their knowledge for the good of all including wild equines.


  7. What we, humans & horses & all sentient beings, all want is pretty simple, really. We want to be alive. To feel alive. Not just to exist but to thrive, to live out loud, walk tall, breathe free. We want to be less lonely, less exhausted, less conflicted or afraid . . . more awake, more grateful, more energized and purposeful. We capture this kind of mindful, overbrimming life in terms like well-being, shalom, blessedness, wholeness, harmony, life to the full, aliveness, and dare-i-say, THRIVING NATURAL ECOLOGICAL BALANCE ….

    Liked by 1 person

  8. We’re losing the battle, and those with the authority to help are too cowardly and corrupt to do so.

    But that’s just me pointing fingers, trying to salve my conscience for shirking responsibility…. We should have all formed blockades, vandalized the trucks, helicopters, something to get media attention.

    Once upon a time, tree-sitting to stop logging was passive-aggressive…

    And then there’s Cliven Bundy, his family & his ‘militia’ that went full-frontal against the BLM…

    On the one hand, feeling angry seeing repeated photos of horses being driven by helicopters in cruel BLM gathers…


    On the other hand, feeling sad seeing repeated photos of traumatized survivors without their families on their home HMAs…

    In either case, I cannot compartmentalize my compassion & my soul, much like ‘good Germans’ did w.r.t. the Holocaust, by saying on the one-hand, it’s terrible of the BLM to conduct helicopter-driven gathers and on the other-hand feeling unjustifiedly ‘happy’ at their gratuitous ‘beneficence’ in releasing traumatized survivors.

    We know what’s happening, the WHB are heading to extinction due to ‘fertility control’ as well as cruel roundups & family separations.


    • I’m glad to hear somebody else voice the things we need to be doing to call attention to the plight of the horses. I actually tried going round and round with the head of one of the horse advocate groups on more aggressive action, but she treated it like an insult to their organization. They think the answer is to do litigation and call your Congressmen, but court takes too long and calling or emailing your Senator has not been successful. What’s worse, I read in one of William Simpson’s articles that some of these horse advocate groups pay themselves handsome salaries out of donations to the horses. I wonder what they’re paying themselves for.


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