Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Wild And Free And Then They're Not
Then I started reading newspaper articles about the government roundup that was about to take place. They had their eye on 38 horses to bait and trap. At least they weren't using helicopters this time, to chase them down. They used salt blocks, hay and water to lure them in. Within weeks the horses were rounded up and corralled, fed and freeze branded, getting primed for their adoption.
I felt a connection to these horses and the canyons and valleys that they call home. I was sad and mad that it was going to be taken away from them. I thought about the bonds and friendships they made with the other bands of flying manes. I knew I had to be at that wild horse auction to see them one more time. I was also curious about how the whole thing worked and who would be taking home these horses with special bloodlines. I wouldn't be one of the fortunate ones because, well, one needs a pasture, and I've got a small courtyard and no barn. Not that I didn't think about bringing one home. My husband knows, it would be just like me to do just that! Anyway, I promised him I wouldn't.
The adoption took place at Britton Springs, a pretty spot just southwest of the Wild Horse Range. I wore my fancy cowboy boots and carried three cameras, a journal and a pen. I felt like Harriet the spy, taking notes and listening in on conversations and the serious chatter of who that horse is, or who his father was, what band she belonged to and all kinds of knowledgeable talk about the markings and health of a certain horse. It was obvious that a lot of folks were connected to these horses in ways I never knew. I wasn't the only one with a soft heart for the Pryor mustangs.
A couple of hours before the auction began, there was a demonstration on "gentle ing" a wild horse. This cowboy, a sort of "horse whisperer" if you will, showed a group of prospective adopters some valuable techniques on taming and handling their horse. He was calm and diligent and gentle. He spoke softly and was a patient man. It was fascinating! What a great idea to include a clinic of instruction to this program. I wondered if this was the usual procedure at other wild horse adoptions in other states? All I know is this guy was good at what he did. In two hours, that horse went from being scared and shying away from every little thing to being relaxed and somewhat accepting and letting this horseman stand beside him and stroke his neck. All done without harsh or cruel treatment, as it should be.
And the bidding begins. The minimum bid is $125. Most of the horses went for just that. Some went for between $250 and $700. There were mares and their foals, and one mama and babe went for $2,300. It surprised me that the majority of bids were so low, considering that these are famous and stunning Spanish Mustangs, afterall! They are WILD and they are disappearing from the American West.
I'm happy to announce that every one was adopted and am confident that they all went to good homes. But, I left that afternoon with mixed feelings. During my drive back home, my head was filled with images of all the horses and what they were going through. The way they stormed around the unfamiliar iron corrals, the unusual sounds of metal gates opening and closing, human voices, loudspeakers, camera crews. How confusing it must have been, what a strange and unfamiliar land they were forced into. How Madison will never see her mother again, and all the others taken from their families. I try to understand and accept that the BLM is doing their best in managing the number of wild horses in the Pryor mountain range. I was impressed with the BLM employees that I met at Britton Springs. They are kind and caring, and I know they are just doing their job. They are taking orders from our Governer, who only cares about fracking and money. Jarod is a fine horseman who cares about these animals, and took a personal concern in how to handle the roundup. Personally, I think they are removing them unnecessarily. And I'm against them sterilizing and using birth control. Congress gave them that land a long time ago, to roam free. We should let them.
In the meantime, you can be sure I will return to the place where the wild ones "drink the wind". I will continue to follow the Pryor Mountain Wild Horses and their story, keep an eye out and make sure the ones that remain are protected from harm and capture in the future. One can only hope.