Little Snake Field Office and Sand Wash Wild Horse Meeting Minutes 2/2/2013

Cosmo's band

Cosmo’s band

I had promised friends and follower’s that I have made since starting to photograph the Sand Wash Basin Wild Horse Herds that I would attend this meeting and post minutes from it.  Sorry for the delay but I’ve been trying to juggle a more than full time job, 2 of my horses, my photography business, another aspiring business and my life all at the same time and I’ll be darned if I don’t run out of time at the end of the day!

Since these horses have so many followers and supporters and many of you live all over the US and wish you could be here but cannot, I think this is the only way to keep everyone in the loop.  Your support is very much appreciated; these wild horses as well as others need people like you and I think this is a great start.  With that said, these are the meeting notes I myself took.  They are from my writing and my thoughts at the time during the meeting.  I’m as accurate as I can be, if there is emotion included, that is my emotion and I try to approach things with a sense of humor.  Please, if you have a question, feel free to ask me – I’d rather be asked then to have questions posed to others who may not have attended or didn’t perceive things the same way I may have.

My first impression – the Little Snake Field Office is gorgeous!  Aleta Wagner Wolf worked with this office in order for us to hold this meeting there on a Saturday afternoon which I felt was very accommodating.  Normally meetings with government agencies are not held when the public can attend.  Although I was prepared to take time off work it was nice not to have to do so.  The doors were open and welcoming!  As I looked around the room there were about 25 people in attendance.  A few I knew because of our conversations on Facebook; social media is a wonderful thing when used to gain positive results.

Cowgirl from Cosmo's band

Cowgirl from Cosmo’s band

The meeting was facilitated by GEMS ~ Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary which is located in Deer Trail, CO (  They have established a 900 acre eco sanctuary where they have adopted and are taking care of Spanish and American Mustangs.  More information can be located on their website as far as how many horses they have been able to rescue and/or adopt but it is my understanding that all of the Sand Wash Basin horses that were rounded up in 2008 that were still remaining at the Canon City BLM facility were adopted by GEMS and are now calling Deer Trail home.  They have some wonderful videos on- line and can also be found on Facebook along with a trainer who is assisting them with training some of these horses in order to find them forever homes; his name is Sean Davies ( from what I’ve seen so far, I like!

A few of the people from GEMS along with the help of Aleta and many others have established SWAT ~ Sand Wash Basin Advocate Team (  Aleta is monitoring this website and emails and fielding questions in regards to the team.  They are attempting to establish the Sand Wash Basin horses as a “Treasured Herd” therefore gaining them more protection.

Why care or why become a member of SWAT?

The horses need a solid group of advocates to work together with the BLM and the HSUS.  Many people who live within a reasonable (okay, define “reasonable”) distance of the Sand Wash Horses have spent numerous hours with them; documenting and photographing them.  Nancy Roberts has spent endless amounts of her own valuable time cataloging and documenting these horses on Facebook and her Blog bringing many of us closer together and these horses into our families.  Since this group of very dedicated wild horse lovers has been out there more than anyone else they know the horses better, are more familiar with them and know what is best for them.

Vogue and another mare from Cosmo's band

Vogue and another mare from Cosmo’s band

The group would help the HSUS with PZP documentation; which mares were treated?  When?  Did they foal since?  When?  And how often?

 This group also knows almost exactly how many horses are out there and have been able to track and account for them – approximately 362 horses.  At the meeting the BLM officers said they were unable to get accurate aerial accounts and they know that this group has more accurate numbers from the ground.

 We discussed ideas of annual foal counts done via horseback, camps, rides and clean ups in order to keep the horses safe and safely monitored.

 Heidi from the HSUS will be out in Sand Wash Basin for one more year in an effort to collect data and then that project will be completed.  There is currently a seasonal position open for a field tech to assist in this study which includes the monitoring, documenting and darting the horses with PZP.  I have to warn you, I considered applying for this position as it sounds like a lifetime dream of mine.  Then I read “camping in remote locations” ~ I immediately envisioned cramped spaces, no internet access and worse!  No shower!  It became quite obvious that this is not for me; with no way to enjoy my photography, share it with others and keep my camera sparkling clean it is not meant to be.

 Ed Hendricks is the ranger who oversees Sand Wash Basin and the horses, one man to over 160,000 acres.  I’m not sure why, but he doesn’t feel he can be all over Sand Wash at one time and that we can help him help the horses.  He asked that if we come across an injured horse or suspicious activity to please contact him and he will gladly do his best to respond to assist or investigate.

 Tim Wilson with the BLM advised us that the BLM is getting ready to re-write new Herd Management Plans.  Jerome Fox is the writer of these plans, they are starting fresh and will value any input.  Jerome is open to ideas and ways to help.

As of the day of this meeting, 2/2/2013, Tim and Ed shared with us that the week prior all herd gathers were placed on hold due to too many horses in holding.  They do not foresee the Sand Wash Basin horses being gathered until possibly 2014 unless the environment made it necessary.  They did ask us to realize that this could change at any moment but that they were committed to working with us.

They also asked us to please work with them and if there are any questions, to please ask and be understanding.

In order to keep information organized and not bombard the BLM office the SWAT team is taking all questions, input, thoughts, ideas and comments and will do what they can to get the information back to everyone in a timely manner.  They are also a 501 (c) non-profit group.  Please visit their website and see where you might be able to assist; they are seeking members with all sorts of skills and strengths and even if you’re a distance away you might still be able to help!  If nothing else, contact them, let them know what your talents are and they will find something for you.  I’m not very good at math but if I were to take some beads on a string and ride my horse or drive around Sand Wash Basin I’m sure I could count new foals!  And just a hint, they are about a quarter the size of the large horse standing over them.

There are also a lot more than just wild horses in Sand Wash Basin as well; there is a lot of history, archeology and paleontology and all of that should be preserved as well.

I left this meeting feeling pretty optimistic.  There are a lot of people who want to do wonderful things to support these horses and they can use all the help they can get.  If we can work together to keep this herd safe and managed respectfully, who’s to say that we stop there?

Please be sure to check out the ID cards that Nancy Roberts is working hard to create on the horses of Sand Wash Basin in order to raise money to support them.

I have listed several websites above for more information on the wild horses and you can find more here as well, and don’t forget to follow most of this ongoing, hard and dedicated work on Facebook:

Vogue, pinto mare from Cosmo's band

Vogue, pinto mare from Cosmo’s band

All images are copyrighted by Laura Tatum-Cowen/

Please do not copy or reproduce without permission.

Portions of the proceeds of all sales from my wild horse images are donated back to the wild horses for without them then my photography would not be possible.  Sales of my images are what allow me to continue my efforts of documenting the wild horses and volunteering to see that they remain wild and free where they belong.  Please join us in these efforts.

Thoughts for Wolves and Wild Horses

Corona from Sand Wash Basin

Corona from Sand Wash Basin

I started my day watching a documentary that Jim and Jamie Dutcher filmed about living with wolves.  I wasn’t shocked by any of the wolf behaviors or how they managed to live with the pack and raised the pups, nothing about that surprised me.  What surprised me was the opening of the movie where Jim was wrangling horses.  In Wyoming around the 1980’s.  Years before the Yellowstone wolf reintroduction program.   There were no wolves in the lower 48 states but one afternoon while he was out looking for horses he came across one grey wolf, shy but curious, hiding in the trees.  A few days later he spotted another one in the same area.  Fear wasn’t something he felt but like the wolf he was curious.   That is how his story began when he brought the Sawtooth Pack to Idaho where he and Jamie lived for 6 years, living with and documenting these wolves and the pack.  I wish I could do that.  Everything was on the wolves terms, if they chose to socialize with you, they did, if not, they didn’t.

Salazar is leaving in March and going home to Colorado but now who will take his place?  I’m praying it is somebody who is educated and compassionate about animals.  Somebody who will hear both sides and won’t make decisions based on money and hatred.  Will base decisions not based on government statistics but statistics from independent sources that are honest.

Four years ago, there were reported to be 67,000 wild horses on public lands running wild and free.  Today there are less than 32,000.  I visited a holding facility back in October and it broke my heart to see these once proud, fiery and fun loving horses put in crowded pens.  There were week old foals in large pens of mares being chased by other mares, mares fighting between pens and stallions chasing each other.  Normal behavior for horses in captivity, but painful to watch these horses that were use to wide open spaces take out their frustrations on each other.

Four years ago there were 1,650 wild grey wolves in the Rockies.  This year alone 605 have been killed.  The Yellowstone wolves have declined by 25%, bringing the number down to around 80 within the park.  Of the wolves lost:  824M of the Mollie Pack, 829F of the Blacktail Plateau Pack, 754M of the Lamar Canyon Pack, 823F of the Junction Butte Pack, 762M and 763F of the Madison Pack, 793 of the Snake River Pack, 832F of the Lamar Canyon Pack – all collared wolves.  And in December of 2012 two collared wolves were found shot, killed and left decaying in the Grand Tetons.  These numbers are heart breaking and overwhelming.

This afternoon I read a blog posting by a wildlife photographer that I have great respect for who lives near the Tetons, Mike Cavaroc ( and he wrote some very valid points.  We can continue to wallow in our hatred and anger or we can find solutions.  I see both sides of the wolf issue but I will always fall on the side of the wolves.  Do some wolves predate on livestock?  Yes.  Those wolves should be dealt with appropriately.  Do I believe in hunting out of hatred, fear and revenge?  No.  Do I believe in hunting to put food on your table?  Yes.  Can wild horse populations get out of control?  Yes.  Do I believe in managing them?  Yes.  They can be managed properly through bait trapping and birth control.  Those are my opinions; many may not agree and that is okay with me.

I do not want to see these animals hurt or tortured; I’d much rather be involved in bait trapping of wild horses and the use of birth control to keep healthy populations and make sure all the horses that are in holding pens go to good and caring forever homes than see them chased by helicopters, hurt, live out their lives in holding pens or sent to slaughter.  If the BLM walked up to me tomorrow and asked me to help them bait trap some horses and dart other mares with birth control or they will go out with helicopters and round up 250 next month and some will be injured or die and then they will be shipped to slaughter you can bet I will be the first one to show up before the sun comes up ready to help.  Is it the right thing to do?  I’m not sure.  Is it the best solution?  I’m not sure of that either.  Do I support this 100%?  No, not really.  But I sure don’t see any other great ideas falling from the heavens at the moment and I would much rather them include me in helping to do something that has far less harmful side effects than to do something kept in secret where wild horses I have grown fond of could be injured or worse.  A good short term solution would help us work together to develop a stronger, better, long term one.

I'm not ready to share this story just yet, but I will.

I’m not ready to share this story just yet, but I will.

I have wondered for months why with so many wild horse and wolf lovers we are quickly losing ground.  I’ve spent many nights crying myself to sleep wishing it would stop and wondering how I could stop it.  I have been furious and at times full of hatred.  Each time though I have come back wondering what I can do to stop it; it is one of the reasons why I started my blog.  I was stunned at some of the hateful and nasty things I saw posted by wolf lovers about the hunters; if we want to be heard and respected you cannot fight a battle by being one sided, closed minded and blinded with rage.  You can’t fight it alone either.  I have a deep respect for Wolves of the Rockies and WolfWatcher, as hard as it has been they have managed to stay calm and rationale and have been the voices of reason.  I wonder how much duct tape they have needed to use in order not to say the wrong things.  I have to believe they can do this because they are “keeping the end in mind.”  They are fighting to save the lives of the remaining wolves, what we all want.   We will lose some of the fights and as much as I hate to say this we will have to give a little to win the ultimate goal for both the wolves and the wild horses.

I know I’m not alone in how passionate I am about wildlife, mostly wolves and wild horses.  My life has been changed in so many positive ways because of them and many of the people in my life now I know because of them.  We are the majority and we should work together to find solutions to help the wild ones we love rather than allowing hatred and vengeance consume us which will paralyze us if we allow it.  There are many great advocate groups out there working for both causes as well as photographers and individuals.  I was recently at a meeting regarding wild horses but I had another interest there as well, wolves.  A question was asked; can you imagine if both groups were to come together the strength they would have?  I’m not sure but it sure wouldn’t hurt to try.

Wild Horse Images

Picasso looking off into the distance

Picasso looking off into the distance

People ask me quite often what they can do to help support the wild horses and the wolves, how they can be involved and stay connected. I have a full time job in the veterinary industry and photography is a side job that I love. Wildlife and equine photographers enjoy being out in the field with the animals they photograph more than being indoors. It isn’t uncommon for us to spend hours in freezing wind or out in the beating sun to photograph an animal. I’ve hiked miles looking for something special and there have been times when I’ve come home empty handed.

To photograph the wild horses I have to drive 5 to 7 hours one way, believe me I”m not complaining because the time I get to spend out in the field with them is the most amazing moments of my life. Watching the interaction between a new mare and foal bonding, seeing a band stallion keeping his mares away from another stallion or seeing a young bachelor torment other bachelors and practicing their best fighting moves is what keeps me going back time and time again. Each time I go out I look for something new and different.

When Picasso lowered his head a breeze swept and tossed all those amazing colors together.

When Picasso lowered his head a breeze swept and tossed all those amazing colors together.

We love doing this and want to continue bringing you the images and the stories from places like Yellowstone, the Tetons and Sand Wash Basin and by purchasing some of the images that you fall in love with really helps us to be able to do this! It’s also encouraging to hear your thoughts on our images. So please keep stopping by and saying hello!

Images are copyrighted by myself/ To purchase copies of images please contact me direct via wordpress, on Facebook or my website.

Picasso and His Band 9/2012

Picasso  9/2012

Picasso 9/2012

Mingo    9/2012
Mingo 9/2012


We had just arrived in SWB and had driven about 3 miles to the first fork in the road, going left seemed like the right thing to do.  We would stop about every mile and scan the hillsides with binoculars but we didn’t see the first horses until about 5 miles in.  They were about a half mile out, I could tell they were pintos but couldn’t be sure of anything else.  Gail joked, “what if the first horse we saw was Picasso?”  She had been reading up on the different horses out here too.  I doubted we could be that lucky.

We got out of the car and walked out a little ways, the horses knew we were there but were looking away from us.  I looked over at Gail and smiled, we could go home now as we had seen Picasso.  She started to cry.  She was really hoping to see him.

For a few minutes I thought the horses were moving away from us and my heart started to sink.  I had no intention of chasing horses across miles of open land where rattlesnakes lived that didn’t want to be bothered.  I just stood and watched, deflated, and then suddenly Picasso turned around and headed right toward us.  A few minutes later Mimi followed and not to be left out, so did Mingo.

Mimi    9/2012

Mimi 9/2012

There was a small gully we were standing beside, there was a little bit more green grass along here, but it was obvious that we were in a drought area.  Picasso crossed the road and stopped a little ways on the other side.  It took a few minutes for me to realize that I wasn’t taking pictures and staring at him instead.  I was shocked that he had walked off the hillside directly toward us to graze.  He allowed us to spend about 45 minutes with him that morning while he, Mingo and Mimi grazed along the gully on the opposite side.

It amazes me how white the white actually is on wild horses.  Mingo seems to glow.  She is the only mare with Picasso and seems to be devoted to him.  Picasso is approximately 23 years old; he is actually in better shape than most captive “aged” horses.  Mimi is Picasso and Mingo’s filly that was foaled around May 2012.

Since I’m new here, I rely on other photographers like Nancy Roberts for statistics and names of the wild horses.  Nancy and many others have been documenting, following and assisting the BLM and HSUS with these horses since 2009.  They are family.  After 5 minutes with Picasso, I know why.  Once you have looked into a wild horse’s eyes there is no forgetting.

All images are copyrighted by myself/  Please do not “borrow” without permission.  To purchase copies of images, please contact me directly via WordPress, Facebook or my website.  Thank you.

Mingo  9/2012

Mingo 9/2012

Picasso – 23 year old, bay and white pinto band stallion

Mingo – Chestnut and white mare

Mimi – 5/2012, chestnut and white filly

Picasso   9/2012

Picasso 9/2012