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.
The meeting was facilitated by GEMS ~ Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary which is located in Deer Trail, CO (http://greatescapesanctuary.org/). 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 (http://www.coloradoreinsman.com/)and 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 (www.sandwashadvocate.org). 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.
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:
All images are copyrighted by Laura Tatum-Cowen/Performancehorsephotography.com
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.