Mustang Heritage Foundation’s Extreme Mustang Makeover trainer exposed for horse cruelty


After over 63,745 people signed the petition below on, Extreme Mustang Makeover contacted the person who started the petition and and confirmed that Eli Slabaugh was no longer an active and approved trainer with Mustang Heritage Foundation and the Extreme Mustang Makeover.  Slabaugh “willingly withdrew himself” from the competition and the Mustang (not the horse in the video) that he had acquired from the BLM was being returned to BLM due to his actions towards another horse.

BUT THIS FACT REMAINS:  Mustang Heritage Foundation and Extreme Mustang Makeover had approved Eli Slabaugh as an active trainer for their organization.  He was a trainer for them since at least 2015.  Also, per information provided below, there was a previous video of Slabaugh that was reported, but he was still able to compete.

Eli Slabaugh, from Michigan, was a trainer with Mustang Heritage Foundation since at least 2015.  See these articles:

We need to demand to know Mustang Heritage Foundation’s vetting and approval process for all trainers, including trainers used for the Extreme Mustang Makeover.

Here is video of Eli Slabaugh “training” a horse:

This was on the petition site:

“Eli Slabaugh is a horse “trainer” that competed in the Extreme Mustang Makeover competitions. Recently a second video of him “training” a horse was released. The video shows Slabaugh lunging the horse while PULLING him/her down then WHIPPING the animal. A few seconds later you see Slabaugh KICK the horse as well. There was another video so this video is a second event of this happening. There was a previous video of him that was reported but he was still able to compete.”

Here is the petition:

“To whom it may concern

I’m writing you on behalf of the horse community to let everyone in charge at ANY EQUINE EVENTS know that the act that this poor excuse of a human did in the video shown is UNACCEPTABLE, DISGUSTING and most of all WILL NOT BE TOLERATED.

Myself and the rest of the horse community are standing by this petition to have Eli Slabaugh BANNED from competing as well as his horses being taken away until he receives punishment. The horse community and myself are letting you know that if he isn’t banned from equine events and doesn’t receive thorough training your organization that welcomes HIM (Eli Slabaugh) and any other people who treat animals like this WILL BE PROTESTED HEAVILY.”


“Horse experts call for end of federal mustang roundups”

Dan Vergano, USA TODAY          1:18 p.m. EDT June 5, 2013

“The last roundup? Federal wildlife officials need to rely on contraceptive measure to manage wild horses instead of removal, which only spurs a mustang population boom, an expert panel says.

(Photo: BLM)

Federal managers are taking the wrong approach on wild horse populations and should focus more on contraception rather than rounding up and removing the herds from public lands. If the existing approach isn’t changed, Western wild horses could triple their numbers in six years, an expert panel warns, and more than 100,000 horses could ravage public lands.

Under a 1971 law
, the federal Bureau of Land Management must balance wild horse and burro population numbers against other uses of public lands, such as recreation and grazing. The agency estimates that means about 26,500 horses and burros should be on Western public lands, a number the agency has attempted to achieve through the roundup and removal of excess horses, about 8,000 a year, which are put up for rarely achieved adoption.” …to read more of this story, click here

The Wild Horse and Burro Christmas Carol

Joint effort by Vicki Tobin and R.T. Fitch

This little piece originally appeared on SFTHH on Christmas Day of 2009.  As of late it has graced the pages of the December 2010 edition of TrueCowboy Magazine and SFTHH in 2011

Twas the night before Christmas on our public land
not a Mustang was stirring, knowing what was at hand.
They huddled in fear hoping someone would care,
in hopes that the advocates soon would be there.

The foals hid in cover while Mom stood her ground
while stallions ensured Sun-J was no where around.
With Salazar lurking and Cattor so close by
the bands must stay quiet and not blink an eye.

When out on the range there arose such a clatter
the Mustangs all knew, what was the matter.
They ran to take cover, on wings they did fly
for surely they thought that they all would soon die.

The visions of millions made contractors grin
while ranchers and wranglers high-fived a big win.
More horses removed by ignoring the law
hold on to your hats and stand back in awe.

The chopper did glisten on new fallen snow
sealing the fate of the horses below.
When all of a sudden, the bands all stood still
and watched as the chopper came over the hill.

They stood in amazement, can it really be true
the advocates appeared right out of the blue.
The horses retreated; not believing their eyes
for surely this is a BLM guise.

Then leading the charge, both lively and quick
were Downer and Holland and Fitch with a stick.
More rapid than lightening, Cate was in tow
with Simone close behind, telling all where to go.

Now Ginger and Wagman and Ann times two,
Oh Debbie and Grandma and Julie it’s you.
Now Vicki and Jerry and right there is Anne
now Terry and Marjorie with their cameras in hand.

Down the hill they descended toward the horses with care
and watched as the chopper, fled into the air.
The advocates came with injunction in hand
the decree shouted out, “this is our public land”.

“Enough is enough” the judge did declare
the horses were saved by the breadth of a hair.
Our work here’s not done, the advocates did cry
the choppers still flying, more herds could be spied.

Its back to D.C. with a permanent plan
to ensure all the horses can live on their land.
So love was delivered to the horses with pride
but the warriors must leave so that no more would die.

They climbed up the hill and turned back to the band
who all now had gathered on what was their land.
“We carry you with us”, R.T. did proclaim,
“We go to the White House to show them your way.”

The horses all bowed with a sign of approval
as they all now knew that there was no removal.
They neighed and they nickered to the spirit above
Thanks for sending the people who gave us their love.

The Luckiest Horse in Reno: A Christmas Story

Deanne StillmanDeanne Stillman
author of Mustang, Twentynine Palms as posted in the Huffington Post 12/23/2008

“Once again it is “Feel Good Sunday” and events in the world make it difficult for us to truly feel good while others are suffering.  But with that in mind, we are going to take a little twist, this pre-Christmas Sunday, and share with you a poignant, true and timely story written by our good friend Deanne Stillman and printed in the Huffington Post back in 2008.  A cruel turn of events gives this tale even more impact as our current attention is turned to help save what is left of Nevada’s Virgina Range Wild Horses.  As we steam ahead into the Christmas season, take a moment to reflect and ponder on the fate of our national icons.  There’s so much to do and so little time in which to do it!  Thank-you.” ~ R.T.


“…bullets hissed from the vehicle through the patches of juniper and into the wild horses of the old frontier”
Virginia Range Wild Horses ~ photo courtesy of

Virginia Range Wild Horses ~ photo courtesy of

When the men approached, the black foal might have been nursing. Or she might have been on her side, giving her wobbly legs a rest, leaning into her mother under the starry desert sky. At the sound of the vehicle, the band prepared to move and did move at once, for horses are animals of prey and so their withers twitched, their ears stiffened, their perfect, unshod hooves dug into the scrub for traction and then they began to run. The black foal might have taken a second or two longer than the others to rise. Perhaps the mare, already upright, bolted instantly, turning her head to see if the foal had followed. The headlights of the vehicle appeared on a rise. The men were shouting and then there was another bright light – it trained from the roof of the vehicle across the sunken bajada and it swept the sands, illuminating the wild and running four-legged spirits as their legs stretched in full perfect extension, flashing across their hides which were dun and paint and bay, making a living mural in 3-D in which the American story – all of it – was frozen here forever, in the desert as it always is, as bullets hissed from the vehicle through the patches of juniper and into the wild horses of the old frontier. It was Christmas. Two-thousand years earlier, Christ had been born in a stable.

Two months later on a cold and sunny afternoon, a man was hiking in the mountains outside of Reno. Something made him look to his left, up a hill. He saw a dark foal lying down in the sagebrush, not able to get up. A bachelor stallion had been watching from a distance and now came over and nibbled at the foal’s neck. She tried to get up but couldn’t and the stallion rejoined his little band. The hiker called for help. A vet arrived and could find no injuries. As it grew dark, a trailer was pulled across the washes and gulleys until it approached the filly, about a hundred yards away and down hill. The stars were particularly bright that night and helped the rescue party, equipped only with flashlights, lumber across the sands and up the rocky rise where the filly was down. Four men lifted her onto a platform and carried her down the hill and into the trailer. “She was a carcass with a winter coat,” Betty Lee Kelly, a rescuer, later told me. She was covered with ticks and parasites, weak and anemic. She was six months old. Two days later, at a sanctuary near Carson City called Wild Horse Spirit, Betty and her partner Bobbi Royle helped her stand. But she kept falling. Over the weeks, they nourished her and she grew strong and regained muscle and she began to walk without falling down. But she was nervous, not skittish like a lot of horses are, especially wild ones, but distracted, preoccupied, perhaps even haunted. Because of her location when rescued, which was near Lagomarsino Canyon, and because she was starving, her rescuers reasoned that she had been a nursing foal who had recently lost her mother. Without mother’s milk, a foal can last for a while in the wilderness, sometimes as long as a couple of months. And because a band of bachelor stallions had been nearby when she was found, her rescuers figured that they had taken her in, looking after her until they could no more, standing guard as she lay down in the brush to die. As it turned out, the filly was the lone survivor of the Christmas massacre and they called her Bugz.

Bugz was a member of the historic Virginia Range herd, the first mustangs in the country to win legal protection (which have since been eroded). Like the other mustangs of the West, their history in this land runs deep, as DNA has shown; they are direct descendants of the horses of the Ice Age, which flourished in the West, crossed the Bering land bridge, fanned out across the world, went extinct here and then returned with conquistadors, quickly reestablishing themselves in their homeland, blazing our trails and fighting our wars, ultimately – like many others – heading into the nether reaches of Nevada to be left alone.

This Christmas marks the ten-year anniversary of the Reno horse massacre. Over the years, I’ve visited the kill site several times, to pay respects and mark its change. On my latest pilgrimage with Betty Kelly, we climbed up the rutted road leading into the mountains, past sites where men used to trap wild horses and haul them away. Soon, we were near the place where the wild horses of Nevada are making their last stand. We parked and walked up a rise. It had recently rained and the stands of sage were puffy and fragrant. Except for our footsteps, it was quiet. The horse skulls and cages of ribs and shins and intact hooves and manes and tails were still there, forever preserved in the dry Mojave air. There was a pair of leg bones and they were crossed, as if running in repose, polished and caressed and battered by the winds of the Great Basin, radiating almost, a reverse silhouette of wildness paralyzed in movement and time. Betty knew exactly which horse this was, and had told me about her on our first visit to the site. Of the 34 horses killed in the massacre, she was horse #1 in the court record, or Hope, as she and Bobbi had named her after being called to the scene on the day the bodies were discovered, as they always are when mustangs are in need. Branded as pests that steal food from livestock or renegades that range into town and destroy lawns, they have been under siege for decades, enduring voracious government round-ups and vicious killings. The murders are rarely solved, although in the case of the 1998 massacre, three men were arrested and one of them ultimately pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge – killing a horse that another member of the trio had already shot to put it out of its misery. In the tradition of old-time mustangers, they had been heading into the mountains since their high school days, with at least one of them firing into the beleaguered herd and boasting about it to friends. And so had a long list of other suspects.

“She had probably been here for a day or two,” Betty recalled, and as she continued, it was like a prayer. “She was lying in the sand. She had dug a small hole with her front legs, intermittently trying to get up.” I knew the story well and in the bearing witness there was comfort and then Betty’s voice trailed off and we walked on. After awhile, we came across the horse known in the Nevada court system as #4. Like the others, Bobby and Betty gave him a name. It was Alvin. He was the one who was shot in the chest and whose eye was mutilated with a fire extinguisher. His carcass – the barrel of his chest – was picked and blown clean by time, wind, and critters, rooted always in the great wide open. His spine was vanishing, but still flush against the sand and his ribs curved towards the sky. “There was a stallion watching us that day,” Betty had told me long ago, now reciting the rest of the prayer. “Just standing at the perimeter as we found each dead horse. When the sun went down and we got in our cars, he trotted on down the road. His family had been wiped out but we still didn’t know how bad it was.”

As I walked the site this time, I saw that someone or something, maybe a coyote or perhaps the weather, had moved a few of the large stones in the cross under a juniper tree that Betty had made on the one-year anniversary. But it was still very much a cross and I decided that a natural force had disturbed the stones – a person who wanted to vandalize the scene would have done more damage. And then I discovered something new: an empty box of Winchester cartridges, lodged between the branches of another juniper tree. Winchester – the gun that won the West, the ammo that brought it to its knees – now back as a reminder, probably placed intentionally and maybe by the people who killed the horses. Did someone have us in their sights? I wondered as I looked across the range. “I think it’s time to go,” I said, but as we walked back to the pick-up, there came a wonderful sight – a few horses, down from a rise. Since the massacre, Betty rarely saw them in the canyon, and she had visited it several times a year, as a kind of a groundskeeper for the cemetery. On my visits, I had not seen any horses either, nor had I seen any hoofprints, which made me think that they had been avoiding the area because in the desert, tracks last for a very long time.

The horses that approached were brown with black manes – the scruffy and beautiful Nevada horses that nobody asks for at the adoption centers. We stopped in our tracks and watched them and they watched us back. After awhile, we bid them farewell. As we headed down the mountain, I turned for one more look. They were walking across the boneyard towards the stone cross, reclaiming their home.

For more about our wild horses, read Mustang: The Saga of the Wild Horse in the American West, a Los Angeles Times best book of 2008.

The Mustang Mansion: Building a Bridge with Creativity

Information provided by Melody Perez and Animal’s Angels

Rolling for the Wild Mustangs

Melody Perez ~ Artist, Singer, Songwriter of

A creative passion for the horse as a child and rebirthed with an affection for the wild mustangs of North America fine art painter Melody Perez relocated to the west two years ago with a vision to get back to her artistic roots only to discover the plight of wild horses and burros as she researched for painting equine subjects. Her painting technique is vivid and realistic as she re-creates on canvas the spirit of these living legends and the land they dwell upon.  Her first original painting was of a young stallion from the Sand Wash Basin HMA in Colorado. Little did she know the path she would begin as she continued to paint the Mustangs. Her first trip to the range was at SWB last year photographing the wild ones and building a portfolio to work from as well as experiencing the connection to the wild on the rangeland. Her passion continues being fueled by trips to public rangelands, wild horse sanctuaries, and participating in training events with the Wild Mustangs. Over the last year and half ‘Running Horses Studio’ has participated in countless art shows, equine events, mustang competitive and adoptive events, painting onsite at sanctuaries, to helping coordinate benefits and working with diverse organizations to help bring awareness and education around our wild horses and burros.

This year Melody has acquired a vintage ‘tincan’ RV, aptly named ‘The Mustang Mansion’, with a full tour scheduled for 6 states already this spring and summer. The Mustang Mansion is loaded with mustang artwork, books, DVD’s, educational materials and a myriad of other enticing items to win hearts to the Mustang. With murals of the western landscape and its wild inhabitants on the exterior of this little ‘Mustang Mansion’ it is an eye grabber for the passerby and curious of heart.

As Running Horses Studio crosses western states in this Mustang Mansion, there will be a collaborative work of bringing public, advocates and Management Authorities together in hopes to create working relationships bringing education, awareness and viable solutions to ensure the preservation and humane welfare of our wild horses and burros. Presently we are seeing wonderful cooperative and collaborative events in the works helping to achieve this goal. Together, we can make a difference for the wild equines of the United States of America.

Evidence of a Wild Mustang Murderer

Intro/Commentary by R.T. Fitch      Story and Photography by Vicki Frieberger

First Published on SFTHH in May of 2010

It’s now been a year since the seizure at convicted wild horse abuser, Jason Meduna’s 3-Strikes Ranch.

Many thoughts come into play when we think of the events one year ago as so many stories were written, so much was lost and new hope, for a few, was born again.  Each of us remembers with shock and horror when Habitat for Horses President, Jerry Finch, took the lead  and with the help of the local Sheriff seized the 200+ starving survivors on April 22nd, 2009.  I, personally, felt the shock and the outrage from the wanton neglect that led to the slow death of dozens of wild horses and I equally shook with fear at the realization that we now were responsible for 200 additional horses and how would we cope.  But these are separate stories, ones to be told when the time is right.

Instead, today, we would like to share with you the story of an individual and family that knew of the trouble, first, that were witness to the brutality and had to live next door to the evil that is Jason Meduna and his wife.

Long before the good folks on the ABR forum urged Jerry Finch to go and investigate 3-Strikes, this “Good Neighbor” was blowing the whistle on Meduna but no one was listening.  Through pictures and personal testimony she attempted to get the proper authorities to listen yet her laments fell upon deaf ears.  And then when all was said and done the corrupt and disgusting Meduna, along with his buddy Ray Fields, pointed fingers at her and her friends claiming that the good neighbors were at fault.  When that lie failed to gain traction Fields went down a demented path that some strange sickness possessed the horses and still the property next to the good neighbor was littered with bones and bodies, never cleaned up by  Meduna and his twisted spouse. 

Today we share with you the anniversary perspective from the woman who suffered long before any of us were aware of Meduna and who continues to suffer, today, from witnessing the evil that walked on two legs and killed wild horses as a hobby and pastime. Her name is Vicki Freiberger and this is her story, in her words and through her eyes. 

We bless her for bearing witness. ~ R.T.

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The Anniversary of

the Death of 3 Strikes Ranch

There is a lot of discussion happening

about what should the actual date be

which would mark the anniversary of the

saving of the horses that remained

in the hands of Jason Meduna,

or you could call it the

end of 3 Strikes Mustang Ranch.

It would seem natural that the date would be when

the last surviving horse was removed from the hell hole

that engulfed so many others; a final count that will

never be known for sure as to how many perished.

We will never know how many innocent babies died,

out in those sand dunes of Nebraska.

The land so abused, as abused as the horses;

in the care of Meduna and his wife.

For myself, the first anniversary was March 6 of 2010.

I started taking pictures long before that day of March 6, 2009,

but it was that Friday afternoon that he walked

out of the trailer, and noticed me on my 4-wheeler.

It was Friday, March 6, that he saw me taking pictures.


It was that afternoon:

he knew that I knew.


This picture was taken Saturday, April 10, 2010

 It is already different from when I first saw it earlier. My mom stands in the background. That day Mom, Dad, and I went to the bone pile. They had never seen it; in person. As we crested the hill and the bones were in their view for the first time, there was a little gasp. My dad said, “That’s not right.” My mom said, “Oh my God.” It is hard to imagine someone just dragging a bunch of horses to a pile and leaving them to rot. It’s hard to imagine until you stand at the pile, and those bones become bodies of helpless, loving and innocent horses. Horses of all ages. A baby laying by it’s mom in bones over the hill. A sight that those who were out there could have seen, if they just could have been allowed off the trail, because the trail was so close. Many would have driven right by this pile….they did not hear the cries of the horses. They did not listen. They listened to Jason. Now, people are listening. The horses and burros will always be remembered. Time will go on, more horses will have unimaginable endings somewhere else, but some horses will be saved…. By loving, unselfish people who do what they do, because they are called? or because they just know they are needed. So in their compassion they reach out and give all they can to help. They do this time and time again. The strength they have is something I cannot imagine; but it is something I could only hope to be blessed with. Thank you Mom and Dad for all you helped me with during this whole entire ordeal. And thank all the people who had anything to do with the saving of these wonderful animals.

 One of my favorite songs, “Bless the Beasts and the Children”…I think I’ll go sit down at my piano now. I haven’t played this in ages. I imagine I’ll have a whole new perspective on the song.


Visit Vicki’s touching and heart rending blog by clicking (HERE)

Copyrighted Photographs reproduced with Permission, not for redistribution.


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Obama’s BLM Flips Off Wild Horse Advocates with New Board Appointees

Special Interests stay as Focal Points on BLM Advisory Board

Unedited BLM Press Release
Release Date: 05/16/11
Matt Spangler, 202-912-7414

The Bureau of Land Management announced today that it has made selections for three positions on the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board. The BLM has selected Robert Bray, Ph.D., as a new appointee for the category of Wild Horse and Burro Research, James Stephenson as a new appointee for the category of Natural Resource Management, and Julie Gleason as a new appointee for the category of Public Interest (with knowledge of equine behavior).  These individuals will each serve three-year terms as members of the Advisory Board.

Robert Bray is Professor Emeritus of Animal and Veterinary Sciences at California State Polytechnic University. Dr. Bray, who lives in Woodstock, Virginia, conducted research and outreach/extension education programs with wild mustang herds for 15 years while a professor. He has 46 years of experience with horses, including management of three horse farms, as well as the owning, breeding, and showing of horses. Dr. Bray replaces Dr. Vernon Dooley.

James Stephenson has been a big game biologist with the Yakima Nation in south-central Washington State for the past eight years. Besides managing big game populations, Stephenson is responsible for overseeing the reservation’s wild horse herd. In that capacity, he wrote a comprehensive plan for wild horse management on the reservation. Stephenson was raised in eastern Oregon, where he grew up working on cattle and sheep ranches and participating in wild horse roundups in the Alvord Desert and Harney County.  Stephenson replaces Dr. Wayne J. Burkhardt.
Julie Gleason has served as wild horse and burro representative to the Resource Advisory Council (RAC) for the Mojave Southern Great Basin for the past five years. During that time, she worked with BLM’s Las Vegas Field Office to secure funding for the development of a virtual adoption program, Mustang Makeover events, and trainer incentive programs. Prior to joining the RAC, Gleason was a member and chair of the Nevada Wild Horse Commission for the Preservation of Wild Horses. While with the commission she helped develop the Wild Horse Inmate Training facility in Carson City, Nevada. Gleason replaces Renee Taylor.
The nine-member National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board advises the BLM and the USDA Forest Service on the management, protection, and control of wild free-roaming horses and burros on public lands and national forests administered by those agencies, as mandated by the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. Members of the board, who represent various categories of interests, must have a demonstrated ability to analyze information, evaluate programs, identify problems, work collaboratively, and develop corrective actions.

The BLM manages more land – over 245 million acres – than any other Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The Bureau, with a budget of about $1 billion, also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM’s multiple-use mission is to sustain the health and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. The Bureau accomplishes this by managing such activities as outdoor recreation, livestock grazing, mineral development, and energy production, and by conserving natural, historical, cultural, and other resources on public lands.


Washington Office Division of Public Affairs   1849 C Street N.W.      Washington, DC 20420

Points to Consider: Wild Horse and Burro Mortality

Original article by Lisa LeBlanc ~ SFTHH Investigative Journalist ~ with acknowledgments to Robert Bauer

BLM’s Skewed Math Rocks On

photo by Terry Fitch

Save for the wolf, few animals living wild on what’s left of the West’s ‘wide open’ spaces engender as much contention as wild equines. To some, they are iconic, tough and unfettered living anchors to our past, worthy of respect and preservation. To others, they are competitors for scarce rangeland resources, to be stringently controlled through mandates and policies and inevitably, removals. Procedural documents outline reasons for proposed removals of Wild Equines from a home range; most allude to the lack of available forage or limited water resources. Nearly all cite the absence of predators and the vast proclivity toward over-breeding of these long-lived species as compelling cause for removals.

But there are other factors, either missing or ignored, that contribute to the concept of stability in populations on the range and the uncertainty of what may languish in Holding. While this report is arguably biased, it’s purpose is to perhaps focus attention on those factors, to address critical errors and as an aid toward a truer assessment of what may actually exist – in Holding and On The Range – and why.

It is a natural and indisputable truth: All living things die. In the matter of Wild Equines, the accepted rates of mortality vary to a great extent. Beginning with foals, their first year is the most profound in terms of loss. One of the original National Academy of Sciences studies published in 1980 cited a 92% survival rate among foals, or a loss of 8%; while other rates in the study fluctuate widely, 8% seems to have been adopted as the norm. For those that survive their first critical year, mortality drops. According to the Bureau of Land Management’s “Strategic Research Plan/Wild Horse and Burro Management” , p. 12, estimated survival rates in adult Wild Equines ’exceed 95% annually’ and appear to remain constant during formative years and reproduction. Survival rates begin to lessen again for adults entering their late teens and twenties.

While mortality is acknowledged, there are no distinctions made from populations to fully quantify loss. If an average 5% loss were applied to an existing wild population, without age-related considerations – simply an ’average’ – nearly 2,000 animals could perish in a single year. The larger the population, the higher the loss. If calculating, year to year, only a 5% loss from published, on the range populations, roughly 20,357 animals have died since 2000. Of the 38,400 Wild Equines declared by the Bureau of Land Management for 2010, it’s conceivable a loss of 1,920 Wild Equines occurred – on the range, out of sight – newborns and elders, yearlings separated from their herds, non-survivable injuries sustained in competition or as the result of accidents, other natural stressors inherent in a wild environment or illegal culling .

Losses in captivity mirror closely those on the range. Published accounts generally recognize a 3% – 5% loss in Long Term Pastures, which allow free-roaming behavior and grazing, contributing to longevity. But not immortality. Calculating the average (4%) loss from Long Term Pasture’s largely-aged population of 27,570 (Wild Horse and Burro Numbers in Holding Facilities, Report Date 02/22/11), it’s possible a loss of 1,100 animals – 61 horses per Long Term Pasture – could occur over the course of a year.

Assuming only an ‘average’ 4% cumulative loss in all Holding facilities for the past 10 years, 7,360 animals have likely died. However, this is a conservative estimate; while Long Term Pastures allow for a more natural existence, Short Term and Maintenance facilities are considerably smaller environments, plagued by fundamental hazards: Serious injuries requiring euthanasia often occur from fractious animals living together in close quarters. Free-roaming behavior is curtailed; exercise diminished. Surgeries routinely go wrong. Unattended deaths of unknown origin occur. Even if painstaking attempts at sanitation were employed, it would not purge the bacteria, viruses and communicable diseases or food-borne ailments from the dirt or mud floor of a much-used enclosed pen. Particularly for vulnerable initiate animals, their natural defenses stressed by the processes of capture, unable to stave off illness or adjust to a foreign food. For Short Term and Maintenance Facilities, an 8% to 10% mortality rate might be more reasonable.

And though Holding Facility reports state 40,811 animals (as of 2/11) in Short & Long Term Holding, there appears to be no reporting method for animal mortality in Holding, simply the long, uninterrupted line of accumulation. Regarding cumulative losses, animals in Holding could be as few as 33,450 with variances possible from foals captured or born in captivity; that data also remains elusive and difficult to track.

It may be important to note that, while 40,811 animals – the approximation between what’s been removed and what’s been adopted – have been processed into Holding facilities over the past decade, the likelihood all continue to survive in the intervening years simply isn’t realistic.These figures must be accurate, with losses reported and accessible, particularly in light of summary granting of enormous budgetary requests which cite the rising cost of care and feeding of Wild Equines accrued – but that may no longer exist.

But it’s also vital to bear in mind – Wild Equines are not simply digits to be calculated or robotics to be modeled. There is a distinctiveness in these lives that should require recognition beyond theory or estimate. In decisions made which govern their existence in the wild, consideration should be given to them as living citizens of their home ranges and not simply as key strokes and statistics. And in Holding, their deaths should be accepted as fact, the losses defined – not exploited further.

All living things die; Wild Equines, whether free-roaming or in captivity, are no exception.

Captured BLM Wild Horse Gets New Home

Original story by guest contributor, Kathy Gregg

“Ace” Finds Forever Home at DreamCatcher

photo by Catherine Scott

March 2011 – I have been crying for the wild horses and burros since my daughter called me on her way back from the Twin Peaks Roundup last summer – after she saw for herself what REALLY happens to the horses and burros during the BLM stampedes.  This week however, my tears were of joy … it’s about time something GOOD happened … even if it is just a small step in a gigantic tragic story.  One of only a few remaining Twin Peaks wild stallions was “sprung” from a BLM wild horse and burro facility … and is now safe and sound at his new home at DreamCatcher Sanctuary … a million thank-yous go out from his heart and mine to many, many people … he is YOUR horse and my horse and has always has been and always will be … but he belongs only to himself … as it should be and always will be.  His name is ACE.

While trying to find and acquire a Twin Peaks wild horse named BraveHeart, we went to the BLM holding facility.  In the “possible release” pen, was a bay stallion with a large white star.  From seeing him on a website, we knew he had been magnificent and had a beautiful large family on the range.  Looking at him in the small dirty pen he almost did not seem like the same horse but because this horse had only one ear (the other ear is there but it flops down – maybe from a past stallion fight) we knew it was him.  The horse we saw at the BLM facility hung his head and was withdrawn and obviously depressed – a very sad sight.  All of a sudden out of the blue, my daughter said to me, “His name is ACE – he told me”.  Why ACE?  Because he had only one ear and because he was a number one kind of guy … although on that day we did not know how special he would later become to us.  We left the facility devastated that BLM had allowed our chosen BraveHeart to “disappear” … as so many wild ones do in their hands.  Soon afterwards we discovered that the big bay stallion was not chosen to be returned to his range … and would be gelded and sent to a long-term holding facility … never to be free again.  This only added to the sickening feeling that my daughter and I had experienced when we discovered the stallion BraveHeart had undergone the same treatment.  We could not allow it to happen again.

On the day of ACE’s release, eight of us got together for breakfast very early in the morning – including three generations. Some of us had never met each other before but we were all there that day to come into contact with a small miracle and when the day was done and the miracle experienced … we knew we would all be changed for life.   I have never in my life “met” anyone with so much presence as this wild horse, ACE!  In the middle of his huffing and puffing and running and snorting in the chutes at the BLM facility, ACE stopped quietly and looked at me through the fence and our eyes met … and his eyes showed his kindness.   What an incredible experience and what an incredible animal … with all that he has been through, he took a moment to stop and meet me eye to eye and using his animal instinct and intelligence he knew I truly cared and he thanked me with his eyes.  I don’t think I have ever experienced “anyone” with so much charisma and yet gentleness in his eyes … but he is without a doubt a wild horse!  Although he is the “ultimate” wild mustang stallion … he has a heart of gold and is not at all mean.  This is visible in the video that shows him on the range with his family – it shows his patience and understanding and loyalty to his mares and foals … his kindness.

What an incredible species these animals are …so intelligent and strong and courageous.  His eyes told me “I knew you would not forget me”.  Then as soon as the trailer was ready and the chute door was open ACE walked right into the trailer and looked out at all of us and said “let’s get the ___ out of here!”  We all scrambled to our cars and off we went!  ACE was the boss of us all that day!

photo by Cathrine Scott

When we were following the trailer and neared the Twin Peaks HMA there was no doubt that he knew he was near his previous home range and he smelled the air and looked in that direction and he remembered his old home and his family.  It was amazing. If there was any way we could have turned the clock back to allow him to be on the range again with his family … we would have done it without a blink of the eye.  If there was only some way to turn back the clock for the thousands of others that all deserve to go back home!  When we got to DreamCatcher Sanctuary (which is very close to his home range at Twin Peaks) and into the 800-acre stallion pen and opened the trailer door he pranced right out of there as if he was a show horse and he knew he was now safe and could once again be himself – a wild horse.  He is a gigantic mustang and is at least a hand taller than all the other horses and all muscle and very intelligent and intuitive.  I am in love.

At DreamCatcher, he joined the other stallions by walking up and down the line of those who were eating.  He was introducing himself to them but he never kicked or chased them.  He did not have to.  They also recognized his charisma and knew he was a leader, but knew he was kind and although much stouter, they knew he was not there to hurt them… although he did take over a complete bale of hay for himself!  When we got ready to leave, ACE turned and looked straight at us all … and he thanked us … I absolutely know that for sure.  He had never met humans before that truly appreciated him for who he was and he knew we did.  Hundreds of years in the wild have ingrained mother nature’s instinct and intelligence into these horses and although they surely all have it … occasionally we humans are in tune enough to actually realize it and see it and feel it … if we give ourselves the chance.  We are the lucky ones to be able to appreciate ACE and all the wild ones.  What an amazing day and an amazing horse.   He knows his life at DreamCatcher will be FAR better than his past 6 months but I doubt he thought he would be part of a big bachelor band … I don’t think that was what he had in mind!

What an experience!!!  What a day!!!  What a horse!!!   He is totally a wild one. Let it be known that sometimes “it takes a village” to save a horse and my daughter and I did not do it by ourselves by any means.  We could never have attempted it without our family’s commitment and animal-loving hearts!  In addition, there were many other people who helped too.  The list is very long.  It took ALL of us together to do this good deed.  I did not realize how monumental our day was going to be and I am still on cloud nine.  ACE’s release to a better life is such a small step for we humans to do for our wild ones but I hope it is encouragement for us all to continue our quest to help the wild ones.  The whole ACE experience was far more than just incredible … it was inspirational.  This story of ACE was written from the heart but can nowhere come close to the real feelings that ACE gave to us that day.  One horse rescued … 60,000 more to go!

[Videos of ACE on his home range with his family and ACE’s release at DreamCatcher Sanctuary by Gary and Catherine Scott]

“We have said that we will attempt to take Sundays off and share some “good time stuff” and “Grandma Gregg” has held my feet to the fire by submitting this story for your enjoyment.  If you have something that you would like to see in print, here, please feel free to do likewise.  In the meantime, thanks Grandma for sharing.” ~ R.T.

Wild Horse and Burro Preservation Groups Announce Phoenix Press Conference and Rally to Call for Immediate Halt to Roundups

Released in association with HfH Advisory Council

Dances with Wolves Author, Michael Blake, to join author Deanne Stillman, and filmmaker Ginger Kathrens in a wild horse advocates’ press conference on Thursday, March 10 preceding BLM Advisory Board Meeting

Phoenix, AZ (March 6, 2011)— The Cloud Foundation, Respect4Horses, The Habitat for Horses Advisory Council, Grassroots Horse, and American Wild Horse Advocates will hold a special press conference on the current state of America’s mismanaged wild horses and burros. Groups are calling for an immediate halt to all Bureau of Land Management (BLM) roundups that are destroying the last of America’s wild herds at enormous and escalating taxpayer expense. The media and the interested public are encouraged to attend this public press conference at the Phoenix Sheraton Downtown Hotel (340 N. 3rd street) from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 10th.

Michael Blake, Academy Award-winning author of Dances with Wolves will join renowned author of Mustang, Deanne Stillman and Emmy-award winning filmmaker, Ginger Kathrens along with other informative speakers who have been on the ground at recent fatal roundups across the West. The event will precede the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Public Advisory Board Meeting on Thursday afternoon and Friday at the same location. Advocates will protest to stop the roundups from 12:00 p.m. until 2:00 p.m. following the public comment period of the meeting.

“Americans need to stand up to save what’s left of our wild horses and burros.  We no longer have millions. The removal forever of the animals that played a key role in allowing America to be settled by humanity is not only wrong…it is done with criminality,” states Michael Blake. “The BLM and the Secretary of the Interior should be in court… defending themselves. Stop them now America.”  

A few hundred wild burros and wild horses still remain in Arizona but more are slated for permanent removal in the coming year. Remnant herds of wild horses and burros live in only 10 western states, including Arizona, but their future is tenuous. The agency responsible for their protection and preservation, BLM, is managing them to extinction. While the cruel and costly roundups continue, the BLM has no idea how many wild horses remain in the wild. An independent statistical review, using BLM’s own numbers, reveals a population of less than 18,000 wild horses on Western ranges. Currently the BLM has stockpiled more than 40,000 wild horses and burros in costly government holding, leaving millions of acres of legally designated wild horse and burro ranges empty. Advocates are calling for the return of wild horses and burros to the 24 million acres of designated lands cleared since 1971. Only 180 of the originally identified 339 herds remain in the wild. The BLM continues to “zero out” herds each year without proper justification.

The groups, supported by advocates from coast to coast, will join together in Phoenix to demand that the BLM call off all scheduled roundups immediately while solutions are proposed and considered to sustainably and naturally preserve these legally protected wild herds. Currently the agency’s wild horse and burro program is under an investigative review by the National Academy of Sciences, as called for by 54 members of Congress and several Senators in 2010.

Schedule of Events:

Thursday March 10th:

11:30am- 12:30pm: Press Conference at the Phoenix downtown Sheraton Hotel, 340 N. 3rd street.

1:00 pm -5:00 pm: BLM Advisory Board Meeting begins

7:00pm-8:00pm: Candlelight vigil for the wild horses and burros who have died and suffered at the hands of the BLM beginning in front of the Sheraton

Friday March 11th :

8:00am – 9:00am BLM Advisory Board Meeting resumes

9:00am- 12:00pm: Public Comment period of meeting, press encouraged to attend.

12:00am – 2:00pm Demonstration/ Protest beginning in front of the Sheraton Phoenix downtown hotel (340 N. 3rd street)

1:00pm – 5:00pm BLM Advisory Board Meeting concludes

Links of interest:

Independent Report to Defund Roundups:

Video calling for Defunding of Roundups:

American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign

Respect 4 Horses

Habitat for Horses Advisory Council

Grassroots Horse

American Wild Horse Advocates

54 Members of Congress protest BLM management

“This is Extermination, Not a Rescue” 1993 LA Times article by Michael Blake

BLM Boss Not Engaged with Wild Horse Range Reality

Stampede to Oblivion: An Award Winning Investigative Report from CBS Las Vegas:

American Herds – “What’s Left?”

Unified Moratorium letter and 200 signatories

Shortlink to this release: