Independent Humane Observer, Elyse Gardner:
Elyse is a licensed court reporter and officer of the courts of the State of California, an equine science major, musician, and horsewoman. She is here for the horses. She represents the American public. As such Elyse is the only independent observer who does not have an ongoing or previous working relationship with the Bureau of Land Management. Elyse has no potential conflict of interest when writing reports for the public or making recommendations for this and current BLM roundups.
For the first two days of this roundup, in the midst of media day, protesters, and great public interest, Elyse was accepted in the humane observer status she’ was asked to perform by wild horse advocates and In Defense of Animals. BLM rose to meet this new unexpected request and was initially gracious, providing Elyse an up-close view to the “processing” (working horses into chutes, freeze branding, PZP application, health inspection, etc.). However, her access suddenly decreased dramatically on Day 3 following some unfortunate incidents that she witnessed in the processing area on Day 2. After the crew was unsuccessful in pressing a frightened, very reluctant horse (Floyd, a 4-year-old blue roan bachelor stallion) to go into the narrow shoot after shaking flags at him (plastic bags tied to the end of sticks which make a very frightening sound and motion for the horses), slapping him with a blue paddle — including a couple of slaps to the face — pulling him via rope around his hindquarters, clapping at him, one of the contractors said to Elyse that he could get that horse in there in 30 seconds but wouldn’t do so in front of a camera. However, evidence exists that a “hotshot ” was used on Floyd following the video clip you see here. He screamed, kicked out and did not move.
Elyse recognizes that BLM and the roundup contractors did their idea of what is best under the circumstances, which only goes to prove that the methods of horse handling employed during the roundups and subsequent processing are frightening and harsh for the horses even when everyone is doing their idea of what is best. See the video of this incident below, which speaks for itself.
Elyse was not surprised when she was denied access to the processing area the following day.
As a result Elyse has been told by Field Manager Jim Sparks that in order to be allowed access to the processing area, she would be required to sign the Individual Volunteer Services Agreement, which is a document of the Department of Interior: Bureau of Land Management of the United States. Upon signing this document Elyse would essentially be made a volunteer employee of the BLM for the duration of this roundup. This Agreement details that the release of any film, video or reports (i.e., any work product Elyse compiles) automatically becomes the property of the United States, constructively requiring Elyse to relinquish her rights over her work. She has declined to sign this document, thereby losing access to the processing area. This is a tremendous loss for the horses. Her ability to observe and to be a presence for them has all but been removed.
Elyse’s objective remains to be the eyes, ears, and voice for the horses. Elyse was granted full access to the processing area for the first two days of the roundup when media and larger numbers of observers were present.
Currently Elyse is allowed approximately 30’ closer than the general public on ‘greasewood knob’ which overlooks the corrals. However she is still 150-200’ from the horses being processed and cannot see well enough to observe all the horses and humans in that area. At this time (11:35am) band stallions have been put together and are fighting in the corrals.
Elyse’s concern remains getting to see the incoming horses from the helicopter drive as soon as they arrive, or within ten minutes to assess their condition as well as being allowed to observe horses being processed.
BLM officials had stated they would “do what they can” to give Elyse closer access to observe these horses. This turned out to be meaningless. Knowing Bolder and his band had been driven 10 to 12 miles down the mountain in 90 degree-plus heat, Elyse was eager to confirm the Cattoors’ representations that these horses are not “run” down the mountain. However, she was not permitted to get within clear view of these incoming, exhausted horses to document respirations, sweat, or injuries to foals or adults. She was not permitted to see the processing of horses except from a distance. In fact, the small group of wild horse supporters were never told the horses were being processed until Elyse asked about the sound of a pawing horse.
She was given the same opportunities to view the horses as anyone else; thus BLM thumbs its nose at the “humane observer” desigation. After Cloud’s capture at 4:00 p.m., the Wild Horse and Burro Program Chief, Don Glenn, escorted Elyse out into the Greasewood area where all Elyse could clearly see were three cowboys sitting on top of the fence where the newly arrived horses were, a very inappropriate behavior when in the presence of wild horses, newly arrived or otherwise. They were sitting on the fence talking, seen through Elyse’s zoom lens.
When she would ask, “I renew my request to get close enough to observe, to do my job,” she was told by Montana Field Manager Jim Sparks, “You know what you need to do,” urging her to sign the “volunteer worker” agreement. The only close access this humane observer was given today was first thing in the morning when the public walk-through was conducted.
The following is a preliminary report:
For a multitude of reasons it is clear the BLM is doing its best to make this an exemplary roundup. This only proves the point that roundups are dangerous and destructive to horses and their families. The BLM and contractors are trying to make this a good roundup, but ugly things happen and they don’t want Elyse to see it; they don’t want us to see it; they don’t want Elyse’s presence to remind them that the world is watching. Nevertheless, An independent humane observer must be present at every roundup of our American wild horses.
BJ Star or “Sand,” daughter of Red Raven and Blue Sue with a scraped face. The crew blotted the wound with a cloth
Great Star (b. 2006) came out of the chute window and was hung up. This is ten minutes after another horse in Trigger’s band did the same thing. Great Star was obviously shaken up after the ordeal. He was allowed to rest for a time before going through again. This second video shows a horse moving through the chute.
The APHIS veterinarian on site touched horses with the butt end of a whip while they were confined in the chutes. He states his concern that the horses might injure themselves (by kicking out or otherwise struggling) and explained that he aims to distract them. Elyse observed that the foal was quiet other than whinnying, calling anxiously for mom.
These methods went on with Floyd for over 15 minutes. The woman swinging and slapping with the blue paddle is a BLM employee who has been with the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program and processing horses for 28 years.
Shortly after this short video was taken, an electric cattle prod, a “hotshot,” was used on Floyd once that Elyse could see. Hotshots are said to cause “significant pain” (Wikipedia). One member of the crew had told Elyse, “I can get that horse in there in 30 seconds , but I won’t do it in front of the camera.” He said he wanted to use a “hotshot.” When he later used it, Floyd cried out and kicked, but he did not move forward any further. We have no way of knowing how many times Floyd was hotshotted or on how many other horses it was employed because Elyse was denied this level of access the day following these videos.
The contractors, the Cattoors, are skillful with their helicopter and appeared to be bringing the horses in as gently as possible in this uusal roundup so scrutinized by the media and Amercan Public. Nevertheless, with no humane observer(s) up on the mountain, we can only see the helicopter on the final approach to the pens and have no way of knowing what the horses experience on the long trek down the mountain other than to document their condition. The horses often suffer exhaustion and injuries from such unusually long and pressured treks. One horse colicked, another seized up (“tied up”), and most all the foals were so footsore they could barely walk even days after being released. A veterinarian treated the colicking and “tied up” mares. Both appear to have recovered from their marathon ordeal.
The video below shows Cassidy’s respiration rate, a 1997 mare, 32 minutes [correction] after coming down the mountain and waiting in the corrals. This was one of the few times Elyse was given access to new arrivals within 15 minutes. Cassidy and her 11-year-old band stallion, Stiles, are slated for removal.
Fiesta (a four-year-old bachelor) was in the same group as Cassidy, arriving in the corrals at 3:08pm. The video below shows his respiration rate and stress level 35 minutes later [correction]..
Photos/Video by Elyse Gardner except where noted.