A Horse's Tale
“To me, horses and freedom are synonymous.” –Veryl Goodnight
Throughout history, there has been no other creature to serve man better than we have. We've been helping man since the Spaniards brought us to North America way back in the 16th century. As recently as the 1800's, wild horses and burros numbered in the millions as we roamed from the Mexican border all the way to Canada. Today, only about 33,000 of us remain in the wild.
“What happened?” you might ask. My friend, our freedom has been sacrificed in the name of greed. The nation, especially the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), needs to change its priorities to save a pivotal part of the American West.
I am a proud Mustang that was born twelve years ago in the scrublands of western Nevada (the largest herd of wild horses roams 800,000 acres north of Reno, NV). I'm the head stallion in a herd that has dropped from eleven members to five.
I've been lucky that I have not been captured, but the danger is ever present. Countless times throughout the year, helicopters head into the mountains or open grasslands to look for us. The helicopters corral my frightened friends into traps. I have witnessed innumerable wild horses and burros, including members of my own herd, rounded up. My reaction is always the same to this nightmare: I neigh and whinny frantically and loudly. The fear and worry in the captured animals' eyes is indescribable. When I see my herd members corralled into the traps, I feel so helpless, knowing I will never see my family and friends again.
Roundups unfortunately create inbreeding problems. Capturing members of my species causes the remaining horses and burros in the wild to breed earlier and more actively to maintain their population-a basic survival instinct. This in turn, results in young horses being bred at an age that is far too young.
Why does the Bureau of Land Management roundup 10,000 of my species every year? The BLM claims there is not enough grass and water to maintain the herds. Several of my friends, however, are indeed healthy, and there is plenty of vegetation for both us and other native species. Many of our water sources, though, are fenced off by the BLM.
Capturing members of my herd and other mustangs and burros is not a solution. According to Congressional Representative Dina Titus of Nevada, “That’s why you have the roundups; that’s mostly just about elimination of the horse, not elimination of the problem.” Titus is absolutely correct because we are disappearing in the blink of an eye. Since 1971, more than 200,000 wild horses and burros have been removed from 47 million acres of public lands.
The BLM wants to reserve more land for cattle ranchers. Today, there are over 4.2 million cattle on public lands compared to an estimated 33,000 wild horses and burros. We are certainly more valuable to the public lands than cattle. Cattle provide no benefits to the lands. We, on the other hand, are much gentler on the lands and disperse intact seeds from native plants. Our manure helps keep plants alive in certain areas. This manure is also important to the creation of hummus in the building of soil in arid regions. Animals, such as bobcats and wild dogs, use my species as an important food source when we die. We can paw through ice to expose water during the winter months, which in turn, makes water available to other animals that cannot break through the ice. We also prevent wild fires by eating dry plant matter.
The Bureau of Land Management makes excuses to the public and tries to convince the American people that what they are doing is saving horses. John Phillips, FMR Wild Horse and Burro Specialist had this to say about that position, “I really believe deep down they think of them (horses) as a range maggot, they’re a pest, they’re a feral animal, they don’t belong.” The BLM clearly does not care about our feelings or emotions. They believe we are like a disease that is affecting the public lands.
So where is my species taken every year once they are captured? Currently, there are over 36,000 wild horses and burros in government holding pens. The conditions of these pens where the horses reside are absolutely appalling. The only amenities provided to the horses are feed and water. There is no shade, no roaming room, no escape from the elements, and no clean standing or rolling room. I cringe every time I think about these “prisons” because my herd members are living in these heinous conditions. The funding to keep the pens running costs millions of dollars, and this money comes from the American taxpayers. The cost of housing wild horses and burros continues to rise annually.
Will these roughly 36,000 mustangs and burros ever be released from the government holding pens? The Bureau of Land Management claims adoption is the solution. However, only thirty percent of my species will be adopted. Plus, adoption procedures are poorly regulated. Some animals may be released to the wild after receiving birth control. Others may be transported to different holding facilities around the country.
As a horse that has seen it all, I am begging you to take action. Do not be afraid to speak up for me, my herd, my friends, and for the countless other wild horses and burros that have been on the frontlines with humans since day one. I want to leave you with this quote that I truly find inspiring. Dayton O. Hyde, founder of Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary said, “The time to come up with a solution that’s practical and efficient and good for the horses, the time is right now.” As a nation, people must work together to save this special piece of history. America needs to stand up and take action against the Bureau of Land Management to save wild horses and burros now. Otherwise, our free and roaming spirit will be swept right off the land.
Age - 18 years
February 29, 2012
Host of 1st Annual VFTH Children’s Writing Competition
Voice for the Horse
P.O. Box 12072
Canada V3A 9J5
Dear Yvonne Allen,
I have always possessed a strong passion to help animals, particularly horses. Horses mean the world to me. We simply connect with one another. Without this special creature, life clearly would not be the same. Wild horses are such a significant part of American history. I look at this animal as a special symbol of our country. Wild horses mean everything that is beauty and grace. They are living, breathing examples of a true legend.
I decided to enter this writing competition because I have always been “animal crazy” and driven to speak out against animal abuse and harassment. For two years, I have volunteered most weekends at a rescue farm for abused and abandoned horses. Deep down in my heart, I honestly believe that I can make a positive, loving impact to save the animals that have touched my life in countless ways. One of my goals in life is to give these wild creatures a voice and to speak up for their rights.
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