“People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – Steve Jobs
I spent yet another great weekend with a friend out at Sand Wash Basin searching for and photographing wild horses. Along the way we spotted 8 moose which delayed the early morning we had hoped to spend with the horses but it also allowed us to spend about 30 minutes with a gorgeous badger when we arrived. I’m not one to complain when the wildlife seems to want to be photogenic. Watching 2 young moose play and jump around each other was well worth being late.
This friend had never seen wild horses so I was hoping that she would be so impressed with the horses that she would become an advocate and join so many who have been changed by these horses. As we drove up the first road I was stunned when up on the hill I saw Picasso. About a year ago he was the very first wild horse that another friend and I had ever seen and he had changed how I would fight and think about wild horses from that point on. My friend asked if he would be flighty. Every day is a new day in the wild and it’s hard to say, we started walking toward where Picasso was on the hill about a half mile away and I smiled when I saw him actually walk our way, slowly grazing on the way. I thought to myself that there could not be a better advocate for wild horses than this stunning, aged, wild band stallion himself. Of all the horses that a new visitor could see, this was one that could change the world.
We spent all day in the 100 degree heat in Sand Wash Basin and spotted nearly 50 to 60 horses; some I haven’t seen or photographed before and some like Picasso and Corona who I’ve been blessed to see a few times. I don’t take these opportunities lightly; each and every one of them, each horse, is special. We didn’t see as many foals as I expected to see since there have been so many born out there this year and some of the ones we did see were actually missing parts of their ears – these horses are so tough and endure so much. A couple herds would not allow us within 200 yards of them and others like Picasso almost allowed us to feel as if we were a part of his band for a short time. I think the most shocking thing of the day was when Star who was with a couple other bachelor stallions, called out to us as we were walking away and trotted to a hill closer to us as if he didn’t want to be left out of the photo shoot.
On the way home I received word that several trucks loaded with wild horses were on their way to the slaughter houses from Nevada. This news is disappointing to say the least. We as a society have let down the wildlife we greedily take the wild lands from and claim as “ours.” I can honestly say that the HMA’s I have visited I have no desire to “own” and I’m not sure who in their right mind would want to. The “normal” human being wouldn’t survive, or want to live there. They are desolate, remote, lonely, have extreme weather conditions and although pretty in their own way not what I would consider the greatest of landscapes. The only things that can live out there without assistance are rattlesnakes, badgers, mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes and wild horses. Yet we continue to want and take and force the wild animals that belong there off.
Since my first encounter with wild horses last year I made the decision that I would advocate for them along with several others (some photographers, some horse lovers). When I sold my wild horse images and jewelry I would donate the profit of the sales back to the wild horses; hoping to help groups maintain the HMA the horses were on, help somebody with possibly adopting one, etc but the money was to go back to the horses. I was surprised when I inquired on donating the money I was saving that the groups and people I spoke with didn’t want the money and couldn’t point me in any direction where I could donate the money to help. I’ve never had anyone turn money away before. So I continued to save this money hoping that one day somebody could answer me; there had to be a trustworthy group out there that were making a difference for the horses that I have come to love. After all, if it weren’t for them I wouldn’t be selling these images to begin with.
While doing my search I contacted other photographers and asked where they donated money to in support of the horses; crickets. I was a bit surprised. I recalled asking several photographers when I moved here about viewing the different wild horses questions like the best way to get there, the best herds to visit, best times of the day to see them, etc. At the time only a handful responded to my emails, the ones who did respond were very helpful and I thank them for that. They obviously love these horses so much that they realize that the only way they are going to survive is to get others to love them as much as they do. I didn’t let the crickets scare me. They actually made me more determined and I did a lot of research on my own and since then I have met many, many more great people who are good advocates for the horses. We may not win every battle but we try very hard and we may not win at all like this recent Nevada horse slaughter issue makes us feel but we are trying and we care. We care for every one of those horses and deep down I believe those horses know that.
I’m a year into this fight now and like an elephant I do not forget. The wild horses have blessed me with more friends than I ever imagined from all over the United States and the world. They have also taught me a lot about humanity and exploitation. These lessons hurt as I feel if you use a wild animal to help promote yourself you should, in turn, support that wild animal. Support comes in very many forms; donations, your time, education and much more. I’m asked often what we can do to help and what we can do to keep these horses free on the land they run on. I’m saddened because a few thoughts come to mind and I’m not sure that I like them.
1) Together we can move mountains but alone we will not move a pebble. I think many of the wild horse advocates feel this way often. There are many days I feel like I’m alone and talking to myself. If so many people out there love these horses (and there are thousands) then why aren’t we making a difference? Why can’t we stop the horrible events?
2) The “What’s In It for Me?” disease. It’s a horrible sickness and consuming and selfish. If this is a question you ask yourself then I’m not sure you should be an advocate because there is a simple answer. What is in it for you is that you’re saving a life, a living breathing animal, a species. If this isn’t enough than I’m not sure what is.
3) I’ve seen several people be “turned off” or pushed out of groups. I’m not sure why that happens but it seems like favorites are chosen and others are tossed to the side. I think that is something to be careful with; what if those people are millions of dollars strong? What if they could make a difference? If they aren’t given the opportunity to be involved, if they aren’t included or allowed to grow then these groups maybe shutting the people out that could truly make a difference for these animals we claim to love so much.
After I met Picasso last year I made up my mind and decided I would fight for the wild horses. I didn’t know at the time what I would do or how, but I was determined to make sure that others fell in love with the wild horses so that more advocates joined the plight of these wonderful animals. I knew that to do that I had to do my part. I can share my images all day long with people but it helps to really get them to fall in love when they see the horses for themselves. So I take people out to visit the horses who have never seen them before and if I can’t go with them, I do my best to give those directions and helpful hints in experiencing the horses. I’m never let down; the looks on their faces and the comments I receive when they do get the chance are so rewarding. I’ve seen people cry and seen people laugh when they see their first wild horse and it’s worth every minute. We all own these horses and they are here to be shared, we have no right to keep them to ourselves and not sharing them only makes it harder for us to save them.
Don’t give up; we won’t win every battle. Don’t let others discourage you. Not everyone is going to share the same opinions or feelings that you have; that is what makes the world so interesting and difficult. But don’t give up. There is no such thing as a bad or crazy idea and I’ve seen many ideas that others may have counted out that were shared with somebody else become the ideas that made great changes.
I’ve worked in the veterinary medicine field my entire life; my verdict on PZP is still out. There is as much bad information as there is good. What I can say is that the herds that have been on PZP have fewer round ups happen and therefore less stress on them. From what I’ve seen they are healthy, they don’t seem to be starving. The ones who are not on PZP seem to have more and more round ups, are sickly and seem to be dying of starvation and harsh environments. Do I miss seeing foals running around and playing and growing up? Yes. However, with over 33,000 wild horses being in holding pens with a very limited chance of finding a forever home that now may be going to slaughter I would much rather miss a couple years with no foals than knowing these horses are going to slaughter. Until we have a better solution to manage these horses, until every horse is healthy or every wild horse is adopted I think we need to be a little more understanding on the PZP topic.
We have so many “excess” horses in the United States without counting the wild horses. These days’ horses are a luxury and/or business and a very expensive one. We can’t even find homes for domestic horses that irresponsible owners bred that have great bloodlines, some of which are pretty decently trained horses. How are we to find homes for over 33,000 wild horses that require “special handling?”
In addition to my promise to myself of sharing the wild horses with people who want to see them and know more about them, I wanted to help even more. I still have some money to donate to the cause, but there has to be more. I am a horse owner after all and have been since high school. I know that wild horses are very smart and need facilities that have to be far more secure than a domestic horse. Not only can they hurt themselves but they could destroy property if not taken care of properly. I’ve been thinking of all this for awhile now and now that I’m in my own home again and I’ve built the facilities I want I had planned on adopting a young mustang and starting from the ground up. However the other day I was asked if I’d be willing to take a 10 year old Adobe Town mustang who is broke already and just needs some work. The current owners can no longer keep him, they have too many horses. As soon as I saw him I liked him. No need to ask twice, he’ll be picked up on Saturday. Now I have to re-think Plan A and the young wild horse I’d like to adopt; I’m not giving up.
I have a crazy idea. If anyone out there is in a position to adopt a wild horse, now is a great time. If you can’t adopt, think about donating what the average adoption fee of a wild horse is to a group that you trust, that adoption fee is $125.00. Start talking more about these wonderful horses and spread the word; they now need us more than ever since the slaughter houses are opening up again. If anyone out there wants to learn more about these amazing horses and would like to see them, I’m willing to share and take groups out often; all you have to do is ask.