Archive for the ‘Humane Observer Reports’ Category

Stone Cabin Wild Horses Released – Feb. 2012

February 19, 2012

For the hundreds and thousands that are removed from the wild, there are still a lucky few who are released back. The Stone Cabin Wild Horse Complex roundup in eastern Nevada removed over 600 horses from their rangelands. Here are some of those that got the chance to go back home. Their families have been splintered, but at least they are free again. Photos of are both mares and stallions. All mares were treated with the infertility drug PZP. All photos were taken by Elyse Gardner, who was on site for the release. You can check out her reports from the field at her Humane Observer blog here.

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Twin Peaks Roundup- Videos by Laura Leigh

August 26, 2010

two new YouTube videos from Twin Peaks from HerdWatch director Laura Leigh.

Foals of Fallon

February 17, 2010

48 horses have died, 30+ aborted foals and now foals are being born in the pens without windbreaks or shelter of any kind. Photos by Elyse Gardner, 2/13/10. Read the Humane Observer Blog online here.

New posts from Calico Humane Observer, New Articles, Voting and Reminders

January 27, 2010

Elyse Gardner has posted new reports and videos on the Humane Observer blog (photo below by Elyse Gardner, see more on her blog)

New Article from the Desert Independent about IDA v. Ken Salazar case.

Please post comments on these articles, the media isn’t getting it right today!

Extinction Countdown from Scientific American “Does the US Do a Good Job Managing Wild Horses? Yea or Neigh?” — your comments needed!

“Mustang Redemption” from Mother Jones Magazine, this is not a well-researched piece -author writes “they’ll breed like rabbits fed Viagra” – wild horse herds do not double in size every 4 years, 10% growth is a more realistic average but herds vary. A call needs to be made for a balanced article worthy of this magazine, this article falls short.

Comments needed on the misinformation here too- both horses and cattle eat about the same and cattle do far more damage!

Please vote for a moratorium on roundups here — STOP cruel BLM roundups of WILD HORSES and Burros

Reminders: *Eagle roundup comments due 1/27, *Antelope Roundup scoping comments due 1/27 (both huge Nevada roundups)  + Phoenix and Tucson protests on Saturday, January 30th!!

Calico Roundup: Humane Observer Report for Thursday, January 14, 2010

January 17, 2010

Today the Calico Mountain roundup took place once again at Soldier Meadows.  Madeleine Pickens with sister Chris, faithful old canine companion Oliver, and staff came to view for themselves this process of removing our wild horses from their homes.  Attorney Valerie Stanley, wildlife ecologist Craig Downer, and I were present along with a “Good Morning America” crew.  While be escorted by BLM on the way to the capture site, we saw the two huge truck/trailer vehicles full of horses being shipped to Fallon that day, and Valerie Stanley and Jerry Reynoldson saw a mare down in the first trailer.  We promptly told Gene Seidlitz, who said he’d contact the driver.

(semi truck trailer transporting Calico horses in late Dec. photo by Craig Downer, blog manager’s addition)

BLM State Director Ron Wenker greeted us along with BLM Wild Horse and Burro Management Specialist Bolstadt and two additional public information specialists  — Heather Emmons, Managing Public Information Specialist, with another Public Information Heather from Idaho (sorry, Heather; I can’t locate your last name!) — and a larger than usual cadre of security people.  Gene Seidlitz and Lisa Ross were, of course, present as well.  Alan Shepherd, BLM’s lead Wild Horse and Burro Specialist, took the lead in speaking on behalf of BLM, followed by Gene Seidlitz.

BLM set aside this extra day to observe the roundup operation outside its committed Monday, Wednesday, Saturday schedule, in order to accommodate Ms. Pickens and the ABC crew.  Craig Downer, Valerie Stanley, and I were asked by Madeleine to accompany her, and we were very glad to do so.  Accompanied by several of her staff, Madeleine and Chris and staff arrived at the capture site carried by three helicopters BLM had given previous permission to arrive.  Driven by Jerry Reynoldson, former staffer of Senator Harry Reid, and escorted in a caravan of nine four-wheel drive vehicles, we arrived a good bit later at approximately 9:55 a.m.

The day started on a dark note.  BLM staff along with Sue Cattoor were angry, stating that Ms. Pickens and her helicopter crew had reneged on their agreement and had inappropriately flown over capture airspace, alleging that they had spooked the wild horses and jeopardized the entire day’s operation.  Alan Shepherd said he immediately downed their (Cattoor) aircraft when he saw the Pickens helicopters.  This was an unverified statement since no one from BLM nor the Cattoors were flying or able to see the wild horses.  We were tersely informed that it would be at least two hours before any incoming horses  would arrive.

After listening patiently to the anger and frustration communicated by Alan Shepherd, Gene Seidlitz, and Sue Cattoor, Madeleine Pickens stated that they had flown over what they believed was well away from the capture area; that they stayed high enough so that the no more than 200 horses they had seen were not at all concerned about their presence. She said they came down lower to view one small band of five horses, who merely looked up inquisitively and did not move off their grazing spot.  She stated, “This is not a friendly environment,” and was diplomatic but clearly outraged at BLM’s accusation that she had spooked the wild horses.

We looked at the approximately 80 horses still in pens, to be shipped the following day (Friday) to Fallon’s new facility. The horses are separated into weanlings six months and older; mares; stallions, and mare/foal combination.  Here is some of what we saw.

© Photography by Elyse Gardner

Uncertain youngsters.

Stallions.  Some really beautiful horses.  Alan Shepherd states these horses were at a virtual ideal weight.  He felt the mares were generally well but a little underweight.

Displaying a wary curiosity…

2:18:51 p.m.

When roundup operations resumed, we first saw the helicopter off in the distance.  It hovered for long periods before we could see any horses, and I was wondering what was going on.  When the horses came up over the rise and we were able to finally see them, it cut deep:  They were so far away, they looked like ants, but we could clearly see they kept squaring off and facing the helicopter, moving back toward it and trying to head uphill back into the safety of their mountains.  The helicopter would face them like some omnipotent monster and sometimes slowly head toward them until they turned back toward the trail the pilot wanted them to travel.  Here you can see the horses trying to move up the mountain toward the terrible machine.


Below, we can see the defeated horses running back down the hill toward the trail.  The helicopter has closed the distance between himself and the wild horses.  My video clip shows trotting and cantering horses, not easy on the uneven ground.  They are not walking casually.


Above, the first to arrive is mom with her baby valiantly struggling to keep up.

© Photography by Elyse Gardner     1/14/10     2:19:12 p.m

…followed closely by the helicopter now to get them into the pens. Note the Judas horse in front (the Cattoors’ horse, “Shorty,” a good horse who knows his job and does it faithfully.  You can also see Dave Cattoor standing where he and Shorty stood just a half our or so about even even with the last horse.

Freedom’s Escape- Expanded Humane Observers’ Report

January 14, 2010


10 January 2010

By now, many of you know I have been monitoring the Calico Complex roundup as a humane observer and that I was also likewise engaged last summer in the Pryor Mountains of Montana during the roundup of Cloud’s herd where the horses were driven 11 to 15 miles down the mountain.  I do my best to document and share with all of you who would be here if you could what my eyes and my camera see.  Craig Downer and Bob Bauer have been stalwart companions in the first weeks, and we’ve been gratified to see others coming out to stand vigil for our beloved mustangs who are losing their freedom and their home in this deeply wild and sparsely beautiful mountain range in Nevada.  It is our aim to provide updated, regular reports of what we see although logistically we’ve not been able to keep you all as updated as we would like. There is a tremendous amount of driving involved – Nevada is a big place – along rugged roads in very bad Pogonip ground fog and icy cold conditions.  It is sometimes so cold even my camera objects to being outdoors and won’t work properly, and I must turn it off and on again to coax it to photograph.  Nevertheless, she has been a real trooper and continues to serve us all as well as she can.

First let me say these horses are beautiful, healthy wild horses.  They are far more uneasy around people than Cloud’s herd, who are more accustomed to the sight of humans. The wild horses of the isolated Calico Complex and become quite nervous and swell together in unanimous, anxious whooshes of agitated movement when humans approach the pens.

At this point the beautiful stallion, Freedom, and his struggle and ultimate escape is familiar to many.  While Craig and Bob were over on the side of the pens where they saw closely his attempts and ultimate flight to freedom, I was on the other side of the pens filming the “processing” of the individual horses, which is when I took the photos of Freedom standing upright, with his right front elbow stuck over the top of the fence to the jerry-rigged processing/sorting area the Cattoors set up at their portable trap sites.  I’ve previously posted a picture you’ve probably seen of Freedom’s predicament, in which he got himself into in this sorting/processing alleyway by rearing up in an attempt to go up and over the fence and gate.  After horses are driven in by the helicoper, they are individually put through this little processing area to be identified and evaluated for gender and age, and assessed for injuries and overall condition.  Most all of the horses had a very difficult time with this area.  They are afraid, claustrophobic, extremely anxious, backing up into each other and into the rear gate to the area, heads swinging down low side to side, rearing, kicking the back gate.  Some just stand there frozen. Often it’s a first experience for them of being enclosed.  They are afraid and very anxious.

Freedom, however, is in a class by himself.  I believe Freedom to be Nevada’s Cloud.  Cloud is the only horse we have ever seen turn to face the helicopter before being driven into the pen.  His intelligence, courage, strength, and sheer spunk, as well as his tender affection for his family and his legendary good looks (!) constantly set him apart. Cloud has kept his head in numerous difficult situations, both on the range and in the hands of man, which is why he became a band stallion at only 5 years old.  I believe Freedom has demonstrated that same true greatness of spirit embodied by his courage, presence of mind, and unflinching determination in the daunting face of his greatest natural predator:  man.

I took numerous, rapid-fire photos of this incident, and as a tribute to him, to Freedom, I have decided, in response to people’s interest, to post them lest we forget what it means to these magnificent free spirits  to    b e    f r e e.

Here is my whole sequence in chronological order, complete with timestamps: a wild horse’s terribly frightening ordeal at the hands of humans, yet this is par for the course in the day of the BLM and the roundup contractors.  I am not alleging any specific abuse at the hands of man, rather, it is the general abuse inherent in this entire process of interfering with the wild horses’ right to run free in his own legally designated area.  Calico Complex, consisting of five separate but adjoining wild horse herd areas — Black Rock East, Black Rock West, Warm Springs, Calico Mountain, and Granite Range —  consists of 550,000 acres, easily enough room for 3,095 horses, almost 200 acres per horse.  They are healthy and beautiful now in the dead of winter; they do not need BLM’s form of “help”; what a travesty.  While they are drastically reducing the numbers of the wild horses, BLM has increased the number of cattle allowed to graze in the Soldier Meadows allotment.  These facts need to be known.

Freedom’s story needs to be told, and told again and again, to children and grandchildren.  To this end, Craig Downer and I feel privileged to share the photos we were so fortunate to take, so we are making available these photos to tell Freedom’s story.  We want to do all we can to ensure that his sacrifice was not in vain.  Personally, I am certain he sustained serious injuries to his chest when he hit the barbed wire fence full bore.  Craig observed a deep bloody gash just above his hoof on his front right leg as he freed himself from the wire, but close study of my photographs indicates he arrived into captivity with this fresh cut.  Nevertheless, I find some consolation in the fact that wild stallions sustain serious injuries every season during fights to win and keep mares.  Their resilience is legendary, and with our prayers, God’s grace, and Freedom’s indomitable spirit, he will recover to start a new family and be a reigning stallion in the Black Rock Range if he can stay out of sight during this and future roundups, and stay out of the crosshairs of those few albeit deadly people who seek to rid the range of his magnificent and gloriously beautiful kind.

To put it in Freedom’s perspective:  This ordeal was so serious for him, he was motivated to risk everything in order to escape the possibility of more of the same in captivity.   It only lasted one minute, but his life is now forever changed.  We must stop these roundups and the terrible stockpiling of these tremendously beautiful, peace-loving animals.

Photo A by Craig Downer 1/02/10 11:11:32 a.m.

Freedom’s band being driven into the trap area from Craig’s vantage point up on the mountain.  Note the foal in the rear, trying to keep up.  More foals than adults die from roundup injuries and subsequent complications.  Additionally, many foals end up footsore and limping. We saw numerous foals limping in the Fallon holding facility on Thursday, 1/7/10 (separate reports to follow).  Like human babies’ bones, their hooves are not yet hard, and they simply cannot sustain the pounding inherent in long treks keeping abreast with frightened adult horses, especially here on the hard lava rock, at any speed over a walk.

Freedom is in the front attempting to lead his band away from the helicopter threat, to safety. Sensing danger, he has slowed to a trot despite the looming pressure of the helicopter.  Stallions are all about protection of the family.  They are either in front, leading, or at the rear, placing themselves between the perceived threat and their family, in which case the dominant or “lead” mare assumes the responsibility for leading the band.

PHOTO B:  Freedom stretched out now in a full gallop, a last-ditch effort to escape the demon helicopter on his tail.  Although the helicopter sometimes hangs back over the long drive toward a trap site, at this critical juncture the pilot applies maximum pressure to make sure the horses move past their resistance all the way into the pen.  This means the helicopter is very close and very low.  The noise and wind are terrifying.  This is a great shot by Craig capturing the release of the Judas horse, who is trained to run ahead of the wild horses straight into the pen.  The wild horses, being frightened herd animals, tend to follow a strong leader.

Photo B by Craig Downer  11:11:46 a.m.

PHOTO C:  Thirty seconds later, seen from my (Elyse’s) vantage point on the ground:  Hard pressed, Freedom is hesitating, forced to lead his band into the trap. We can see the red-alert position of his ears, high head and arched neck.  Note the wrangler hiding outside the jute-lined fence.  Once the last horse (the foal) has passed, he and others likewise hiding will duck under the fence and start waving their flagwhips as they walk and run toward the horses to push them all the way up into the pen and slam the gate shut.

Photo C – 11:12:11 a.m. – Elyse Gardner

Trapped, frightened horses.  Freedom is farthest right.   Photo D (above) – 11:20:38 a.m. – Elyse Gardner

Freedom and band huddle together.  Note that the deep gash above his right front hoof.  It is a fresh wound.

Photo E (above) – 11:24:09 a.m. – Elyse Gardner

Intelligent and alert, Freedom (farthest right) watches me photograph him while his band looks elsewhere.  I am so very sorry, ashamed of my species…  I tell him what I told Conquistador when photographing him up on Commissary Ridge while trapped in the trailer in Montana:  I am so sorry;  I will tell your story.  I will tell the world. Photo F (above) – 11:24:09 a.m. – Elyse Gardner

PHASE II of Captivity

Stuck on the Fence, Freedom. Photo G – 1/2/2010 11:28:48 a.m – Elyse Gardner

This processing area was a narrow alleyway approximately 15 feet long within which the Cattoors would individually separate the horses to assess gender and condition.  The horses were spray painted on their backs in here, also, to identify from which herd area they were taken.

As you can see below (photo H), Freedom is stuck (see right front elbow).  Sue Cattoor is holding her flag whip (see the thigh-level white plastic bag, which is affixed to a whipstick approximately 3 feet long).

Freedom’s hind legs, his only traction, are struggling, and he’s slipping on the icy walkway as he thrusts to get enough lift to extricate himself.  His mouth is slightly open in these photos; he is extremely stressed.  Being immobilized is frightening enough to a horse, let alone a wild horse, but being immobilized in such close proximity to the greatest predators on earth would be a terrible ordeal for him. We can be sure he is highly motivated to get down off this fence.

Photo H – 11:28:51 a.m. – Elyse Gardner

Below in Photo I, two seconds later, he continues stressed. The pressure of the wrangler on the opposite side of the fence with flag whip uplifted is clearly felt.  He now has some relief in that both hind legs are back solidly on the ground.

Photo I (above) – 11:28:53 a.m. – Elyse Gardner

In Photo J, below, two seconds later, he’s collecting himself.  His mouth is closed.  I am impressed with his self-containment at this point.   He is nevertheless highly motivated to extricate himself from this terrible predicament.  Note that the wrangler opposite Sue Cattoor is no longer present; he is walking around to this side of the processing alleyway.

Photo J – 11:28:59 a.m. – Elyse Gardner

This very present, collected band stallion of ten other horses driven in with him (eight mares, two six-month-old youngsters — a sizeable, very respectable band) now turns to look at his persecutor, below.  He has his left front leg over the fence bar as well, giving himself some relief from hanging on the one side and definitely wanting to go over this fence and be free.  I’ve seen horses escape confinement; their only interest is to get away.

Photo K – 11:29:01 a.m. – Elyse Gardner

In the photo below, Freedom struggles again to dismount off the fence.  Bear in mind it’s only been about 6 seconds since the wrangler walked away from the opposite side of the fence.  What I’ve termed a “rest” was really just a split second of cessation of struggle.  He was struggling ongoingly to come off this fence.

Photo L 11:29:04 a.m. – Elyse Gardner

In photo M below, spray can in ungloved right hand and holding in his left hand his right-hand white glove, along with something else you’ll see in the next photos, BLM’s Nevada wild horse and burro specialist arrives on this side of the fence striding purposefully into the area.  Freedom has removed his left front leg from the fence but remains trapped by his elbow.  Sue Cattoor’s flag whip is visible below Freedom’s left front leg.

Photo M – 11:29:07 a.m. – Elyse Gardner

In Photo N below, BLM’s WH&B specialist places on the ground a yellow and gray object resembling a DuraProd electric hotshot (an electric cattle prod).  * Correction: this was in fact a notebook and not a hotshot. My thanks for this clarification from BLM.

Photo N – 11:29:12 a.m. – Elyse Gardner

Photo O- Enlarged

Below in Photo 11, Freedom is highly agitated and struggles desperately to free himself as he is goaded and flagged by Sue Cattoor, her wrangler, and the pressure of the presence of the BLM employee.  His open mouth conveys the angst and depth of his struggle.  He was not struck with the flagwhips; no one yelled at him or made any noise. People moved slowly and deliberately.  From the wild horse’s perspective, it is clearly nevertheless a terrible ordeal.

Photo P – 11:29:15 a.m. – Elyse Gardner

In Photo Q, below, 3 seconds later, Freedom is falling backwards as he finally unhooks his elbow from the fence.  I’ve seen domestic horses sustain terrible injuries from fences like this, and I fervently pray he is okay.  This turns out to be the least of his worries, as we have all learned.

Photo Q – 11:29:18 a.m. – Elyse Gardner

Below in Photo R, Freedom is catching himself, and he righted himself quickly.  What tremendous power and determination in this very special black stallion.  I also notice the bottom of his hoof.  What beautiful, healthy feet these horses have.  This will change as they become prior-wild horses living in holding pens with no grazing nor any opportunity for roaming over rocks in their natural habitat to naturally wear down the hoof.  If they go to long-term holding facilities in Kansas, Kentucky, and the like, they end up in flat pastures, and their hooves will grow unchecked like our domestic horses’ do, and they will then need routine hoof care.  How does a wild horse get hoof care?  They are generally brought in and driven with flags, much as we see here, into a squeeze chute that turns them on their side, and then their hooves are filed down with an electric sander-type device.  Long-term holding is not without its horrors for these horses.  They are amazingly resilient, peaceable animals who deserve to be left to run free.  I notice the presence of the yellow and gray device on the ground to the left of the BLM wild horse and burro specialist.

Photo R – 11:29:20 a.m. – Elyse Gardner

In photograph S, below, we see Freedom unhooked from his fence nightmare trotting briskly through the now-open gate into the adjoining pen where he would, in the next few minutes, gather all his strength and make several failed attempts at jumping the 6-foot fence before succeeding.

The fence predicament took just under one minute, from 11:28:48 a.m. to 11:29:25 a.m., but it was a life-changing minute for this horse.  Some of our life-defining moments are very short-lived, aren’t they.  This experience left an indelible impression on this horse:  “I will get out of here, whatever it takes.”

Photo S- 11:29:25 a.m. – Elyse Gardner

Less than a minute after extricating himself and escaping the looming pressure of human presence so close by, Freedom is now in the adjoining pen, immediately beginning his first approach to fly the fence into the relief of his mountains.

Photo T – 11:30:18 a.m. – Craig Downer

Failing his first effort by having hit the fence and fallen backwards, Freedom now struggles to see over the fence and focuses his full acumen on assessing the power and stride necessary to clear this fence, this barrier to freedom.  I feel such pathos in this hysterically desperate, burningly focused, do-or-die mission to flee to his mountains.  He wants it, needs it, so badly he can taste it…

Photo U – 11:30:34 a.m. – Craig Downer

After unsuccessfully hitting the fence twice, Freedom recalculated, and in a final herculean effort he mustered the wherewithal to sail over the fence only to encounter this terrible barbed wire perimeter fence which he hit full bore, becoming ensnared in its strands.

Photo V – 11:31:33 a.m. – Craig Downer

Finally, a bittersweet freedom, making a run into the relieving embrace of his mountains, leaving his cherished family behind.  His mares were desperate.  There was one mare in particular, whom I’ve got on video, who made several runs at the fence but knew she couldn’t clear it and repeatedly slid to a halt at the fence, stopping short of an actual jump.  It was heart-wrenching.

Photo W – 11:31:36 a.m. – Craig Downer

Freedom looking back a last time to the family he has to leave behind.

Photo X – 11:31:48 a.m. – Craig Downer

Turning back toward the mountains.Photo Y – 11:32:14 a.m. – Craig Downer

Freedom slipping into the welcome embrace of his mountain home.  We are with you, Noble One.  May you heal and stay always free.

Photo Z – 11:33:25 a.m. – Craig Downer


To Freedom, in tribute, for your sake and all your wild family.

And to the wild horse supporters, all of you who take a moment to write congresspeople or call the President to help the wild horses and burros stay wild and free, THANK YOU for giving at least one wild horse a voice every time you take action.

For the wild horses and their humble friends, the wild burros,

Elyse Gardner with thanks to Craig Downer

Caring is great; action is better. — Elyse Gardner, Humane Observer

Updated–Independent Humane Observer Elyse Gardner: Preliminary Report and Update

September 7, 2009

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.P1020604-= Elyse Gardner

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.

Conquistador and his mare

Conquistador and his mare

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 in chute 9.5.2009

BJ Star in chute 9.5.2009

Blotting wound

Blotting wound

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.

Ichilay with rope around neck in chute 9.5.2009[/caption]

Freeze brand on grullo

Freeze brand on grullo

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.

Dr. Thompson pokes black

Touching black foal with butt of whip

Dr. Thompson pokes grulla

Touching young grulla

On Friday, September 4th, “Media Day,” the temperatures down low were in the high 90’s (f), and the helicopter was grounded before noon because of the heat. On Sunday, September 6th, the temperature was about 97 f and the helicopter went back up to the mountaintop after the first group came in to continue bringing horses all the way down the mountain until 3:10pm.
Flint, Jasper and Feldspar in the rear of the group

Flint, Jasper and Feldspar in the rear of the group

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.

Fiesta, Cassidy run in among others at 3:08pm

Fiesta, Cassidy run in among others at 3:08pm

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.