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Thursday, September 23, 2010

My Buckin' Tailbone

I had looked forward to this ride with a couple friends on hilly and brushy trails, and pushing cattle to another pasture. I was riding a borrowed unknown-to-me buckskin mare. She was a grumpy old girl, that hadn't been handled much or ridden in a few years (I even wondered if she were only greenbroke in her younger years), pretty much simply a broodmare. Our task for the day was moving cow-calf pairs and some hefty bulls to another pasture. We had a heck of a time moving one particular big, young, and athletic beefcake who refused to pass the area he knew to be 'hot' where he had a run-in with the electric fence before, which used to cross there. It was the job for the three of us, along with another hand to push this impressive black angus ribeye over and beyond this 'hangup' to get him with the rest of the herd. The still-in-shock buckskin broodmare I rode, never having experienced any of this before, did surprisingly well. Though far less responsive than I was used to with my rope horse, Gus, and I spent much time and energy with my heels in her sides, but she minded reasonable well considering her life as a paddock pet... with this bull that outweighed her two times.

We finished our job of moving the herd, however, no matter the tricks, the reins, the hollers and clucks, we couldn't convince Ribeye to see things our way, and instead of risking life and limb as he grew ever more agitated with our coaxing, demonstrating his disdain for our help by mock-charging our horses and pawing the grass, we figured he'd follow the herd once they began moving up the hill and out of his sight, on his own. Calling it good, it was time to head a big stretch back to the stocktrailer and go home, so the three of us did what cowgirls 'on coffee' do and that is run our cowponies, full throttle, all the way back yipping and hollering. My two friends were up ahead of me, and me being me, couldn't let that happen... but my rusty ride, now tired and irritated with my heels in her sides demanding mock speed to regain lost ground, refused to go up another gear- and as she was galloping began bucking trying to rid herself of her coffee'd cowgirl with a need for speed.

I've ridden out bucking horses while working them in roundpens before, but never while on the run. Unwilling to be beat I held on with determined might- my legs and mostly my pride reined her in hard. The buckskin finally pulled up hard & fast but put in one more hard heave and dive onto her front legs. My pride still held strong, but not without my seat passing the saddle horn, as I watched the bronc's neck and flying mane rise at my face....and nearly going completely over. With time for only momentary surprise when I pushed forward and down in my stirrps that I regained my balance, and slamming my tailbone down... but not into the comfortable thrown of the saddle, but right onto the saddle horn itself- and hard. Momentarily stunned by the uncomfortable surprise, but relieved, as I could feel the angry old mare give to my reins, I reflected on my successful buckout as I got the mare to stop. Snorting & shaking her head mad, but stopped. Regaining composure and overall pleased with my performance, I looked ahead expecting to see my friends waving their hats with admiring smiles and adoration. However, instead I took note that they apparently missed my impressive ride, they even appeared somewhat let down to see my gentle lope to catch up to them (after the bucking). I made more than 8 seconds but no one noticed but Ribeye. Friends being friends, laughed their heads off when I told them about my buckin' saddle horn mishap. I still hear about it today.

Nope, I didn't go to the doctor, what can they do, certainly can't put a cast on it. Just dealt with the hand given me... a sore fanny. And if I sit on the hard ground, I'm still reminded of that day, especially when I'm out by the firepit and enjoying a good ribeye. ;)

Where the wild winds blow,

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Mustang Management in the Guise of Sheep's Clothing

More chair time has created this note for you to read, use, pass on, or ignore. Someone had received a reply letter to their wild horse concerns from a government official, and in it was a reasonable explanation as to why they do what they do in terms of mustang management. They then asked me if any of that was true. Here was my reply:

Thank you for writing to our lawmakers on behalf of our wild horses, every letter and every question makes a difference overtime to the care, protection, and ultimate preservation of our wild equids. I am very sorry to hear/see that it was an unfeeling form letter. In fact, many people on here and on my personal page have been sending me examples of the replies they've received, and it's very much the same- quite possibly word for word. How much of this is true? Very good question. Please be patient with my answer, though I tried to be brief, this is a very complicated issue:

It is indeed important to know both sides of the story. Looking at regional herd management, or "close up", there may be correct management, where the small regional BLM offices of the 10 western states are simply keeping wild horse numbers at predetermined "appropriate management levels" or AML. But when one looks beyond the day to day simple AML management duties of BLM personnel and turns attention "outward" and over the years, at the numbers, and at the government level, or more specifically, the Department of the Interior, from where whole herd elimination orders rain down, one sees a more sinister and questionable picture. For instance -discovering that nearly 50% of the horses to be maintained and "kept free from harm and harrassement" with the 1971 Act, have disappeared ... and that's just in the last decade, since year 2000 alone. There's an unaccounted number of mustangs in the 30,000+ which BLM records cannot tell you what happened to them. In 1997 the director of the Wild Horse and Burro Program admitted that eventually about 90% of our wild horses end up going to slaughter. Now, this is just one part, then the other-

-There's the question of the 19 MILLION acres taken away from wild horse management- with eliminated whole herds. When you set those two numbers side by side (40-50% horses gone, and 19 MILLION acres no longer for herd managment), you see the smoking gun. It becomes an obvious correlation with the percentage of wild horses gone along with the huge amounts of land. I asked the question where has this land gone- it's been sold off, traded interagency, turned into recreational areas, road development, livestock grazing, developed, and exploited for natural resources. This is your land and this is my land- a wilderness lost, for the benefit of those in Washington- and in the name of progress, we have now more homes scarring our west along with stripmalls for instance.

When the government zero's out whole herds of the very horses we entrusted in their care, and they under guise of "sheep's clothing"- the seemingly benign government officials in Washington, claiming that it's due to their "concern and welfare for the animals and to protect them from famine by keeping mustang numbers down"... are the SAME government officials who have recommended the euthanizing of the 36,000 mustangs captured and currently in government facilities (I can provide a link). We're now nearing 40,000 mustangs and burros in corrals around the US with uncertain futures, doubling/outnumbering what we have estimated left on the range (24,500 or less and declining). They've mismanaged our herds and chose instead to stockpile our American wild horses into government holding facilities because they don't know what else to do with them, and that they're costing tax-payers millions ($34M). Yet they continue to roundup more, feverishly against worldwide outcry- several thousand more of "our" wild horses and burros by October. Is this making any sense to anyone?? Why round up more to add to the problem on our dime, just to possibly destroy them... again, on our dime? And why not take the $1Million it costs (for an average sized roundup) to remove horses and instead, apply it to improve the water and range for all wildlife? By the end of this October, another 4,000 mustangs and burros are slated for removal. But it doesn't stop there, I have seen the roundup schedule in 2011- again, with whole herds to be eliminated. And if not completely eliminated, then unique bands vastly reduced, causing genetic viability to take a nose-dive.... a methodical "management to extinction".

For most anyone, it may be soothing and nice to hear gov/BLM say "it's for the welfare of these horses". Wild horses like ALL wild animals can do just fine without human intervention. True, the only predators wild horses have (beside the obvious~ man) are cougars (thanks again to "intervention"), so some form of managment will always be necessary, but hopefully to a less invasive, costly, and deadly degree. BLM also operates on the assumption that equine birthrates are 20-25 percent when they established AMLs. The National Academy of Sciences has determined it as 10%, and also having to take into account mortality rates (5% depending on range/climate conditions). During drought conditions or severe winters, survival is tested, as with all wildlife but of course only the fittest survive through natural selection, a benefit to the herds. A lack of forage for whatever the reason, IS also a process of nature, and keeps numbers in check. Insufficient forage or stressful range/climatic conditions means a further decrease in birth rates. The natural laws of survival and ecosystems are fully functional and self-adjusting. If a horse is lost to famine, nature also has a way to give back and recycles it to benefit other animals or organisms.

The "big picture" is key to understand the seriousness of this and why it's essential we don't sit idlely by. If we don't act we have much to lose and why we must protect our wild horses and burros, preserving them for the future, along wtih our wild lands. But why the "frantic removals despite massive outcry and protests worldwide"???.... Because protected wild horses and burros "LOCK UP" our public lands from use/exploitation. "They" know we're working hard to restore the wild horse and burro Act in '71 (prior to the devestating amendment which shot holes into it's protection)... known as the R.O.A.M Act... The Restoring Our American Mustangs (ROAM) Act (H.R. 1018). Watch for it, push for it, demand it!

"With every roundup, our west becomes less wild". ~Sonya, aka Mustang Meg

As a reminder, under the 1971 Act designed to "protect" our wild equids, 54 MILLION ACRES were set aside for our wild horses and burros. We have now lost 19 MILLION of those acres (and counting with each herd elimination), in addition- 111 herds have been zero'd out.... we've lost over 40% of our wild horses. Please protect "our" public wild lands from sales, development, and exploitation. These people WORK FOR US!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


1st of my "For the Mustangs" series where 50% will benefit a wild horse preservation program.

Update in prints: Finalized and approved the proof of the limited edition of 250 giclee prints of "Untamed" and ready for the presses. Prints will be 16x22.75 and printed on high quality 48# archival paper and inks. So far have raised over $500 for Return to Freedom wild horse organization with this image, first one of a series. Thanks to those of you supporting our wild horses, and keeping our western rangelands WILD!

Prints are still available, let me know if you want one!

The story: Nevada paint mustang mare that is an exceptionally good mother and has been so for the last five years, per Mark Terrell's observation. Original photograph used for this art is courtesy of wonderful mustang photographer, Mark Terrell.

Only 250 printed. Will go to the printer soon, taking reservations. Watermark does not appear on the limited edition giclee print. or email me on fb.

Prints $90 with shipping included. 50% goes to wild horse organization, Return to Freedom. You're welcome to contact me to be placed on a reservation list.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Horse Spit


Ah, the lazy days of summer. What a beautiful day, 81 degrees and a gentle summer breeze. Life as a ranch kid has its perks.

The boys somehow found themselves in the newly scrubbed water trough... Of course seeing me approach, they attempted to scamper out, that is until they heard me laughing with camera in hand. Of course, having not lead our horses to water, while I was there all three horses took turns to slurp the water the boys were playing in. Reno, the playful, still baby of the herd, spent much time there wiggling her lips in the water, even after she had her fill.

The boys, being boys, marveled at how the horses suck up the water through their lips, and of course with that there was plenty of "horse spit" involved. "Cool" was a favorite term at that moment. Of course, Reno would play in the water, drink some up, lift her head near one of the boys with water still pouring from her lips and onto one of the boys. Shrieks resounded through our little valley. I'm certain her well-placed wet lips were fully premeditated!

Simple things.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Why the Suspicions in terms of Mustang Mismanagement?

While I am one of those who usually sees the "glass as half full", many of those who know me, ask why the government suspicion regarding the recent escalated roundups, and where did it originate from? I believe it was in 2005 following the Burns Ammendment (2004) without any public notice or review, 30 years of the wild horse act was ammended. It escalated in my mind when I followed the Sheldon-Hart Mt. Complex on a controversial wild horse gather. I am not a range ecologist, but I spend a lot of time and thought on wild horses, wildlife, and the natural rangelands, and came across these photos as provided by US Fish & Wildlife Service to justify removal of wild horses.

Again, not being a rangeland ecologist, but I am highly aware of my natural surroundings. Look carefully on these two photos, provided by the US National Wildlifethe first one is labeled BEFORE Horse Gather 2004, the second as AFTER Horse gather 2005 " one year later", showing that the riperian area improved following the removal.

Pay close attention to the yellow flowering rabbitbrush and the 'greyed'-mature sagebrush. Those indicate the time of year to be late late summer/fall (where land typically looks dry anyway). In the second lower photo, they said it was the same time of year (one year later... following horse removal), that "riperian conditions improved". However, from my own field knowledge/experience in the high desert, and researching flowering times for Rabbitbrush, the second photo, if you'll notice the rabbitbrush is merely in the immature budding phase, and the sage has tender young bluish-silver tender new-growth. This photo indicates roughly the time frame to be 'approximately' May. (want to know more? Does this appear misleading?

I have contacted them with all my questions and my concern of possibly misleading the public along with my relevant OSU and range ecology references, but my comments/concerns were ignored. Was this an oversight/error on their part? I truly hope so. But from what I've been finding, my suspicions grow... So I continue my endeavor to help protect OUR mustangs in my own small way.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Mustangs and the "Land of the Lost"

This was my reply to some anti-mustang people on a facebook "Save the Wild Horses" group:

Here I go again (I know all my buddies on here are rolling their eyes... LOLL). It would save me a lot of time and a sore hiney sitting here, if people would go back and read what's already been said PRIOR to trying to make friends. But no problem, bc it's "just" for our last frontier here in N. America and mustangs... and I suppose there are always new people who come aboard in need of an education, so I'll take another deep breath and put in my poker chips.

Some of your points are valid, however please read in full (click on the link provided) about the ancestry posted earlier, line by line... and word for word, and you will have a clearer understanding about that topic. And along with that, MANY species during that period, were whiped out or effected in some way, along with the horse here in N. America. BUT NOT bc the continent couldn't support them, but bc of environmental factors....the last ice age (and ironically, quite possibly due to early man). But ancestry is just a part of what's at stake.

Yes, you're correct in stating there's a bigger picture. THE bigger picture is the CORRELATION between losing 40-50% of our wild horses since year 2000 & the fact that 19 MILLION acres of the original 49 MILLION -and- PUBLIC acres (originally set aside for wild horse management) is also gone. ... See More

By someone NOT wanting these horses protected (here in our west), IS AS GOOD AS SAYING they WANT our wide open spaces DEVELOPED. Bottom line people. Besides all the "wittle horsies", why do you think this is so important? Why else am I sitting here, instead of breaking up my own children's arguments, or helping them with their homework?

American mustangs... with EVEN MINIMAL PROTECTION (ie, 1971 Act), "LOCK UP" the wild public lands from development. Is anyone finally getting it????? Don't turn at eachother, face those yanking your chain, and making a buck at it!

WHERE has the 19 MILLION of OUR public ACRES gone? Besides some allocated to private cattle, that land was SOLD OFF, or TRADED with other gov't agencies. Like I originally said, to pay some 'big bills' (note: our economy is in crisis). THAT's where the true hostility should be. So yes, Holly, thank you for pointing that out, there IS a bigger picture. The mustangs are important, but there even something greater at stake.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Educating Some Anti-Mustang People...

This was my latest response and attempt to educate a couple loose cannons with bad attitudes about our wild horses on the "Save the Wild Mustangs" group:

I know a few of the responders on here. While I hail those who work tirelessly for our mustangs, at the same time I breathe a heavy sigh as it's painfully apparent that there are others where information from previous discussions hasn't been fully grasped and intellectualized, but rather passed silently over the tops of hairlines. I also see that some still haven't learned their manners. It's advised that if one wants to make a point, to avoid rude remarks or name calling, as subsequent comments will hold no merit bc it becomes apparent that those off-color remarks are merely fillers when there is no substantial thought to make an attempted point.

With that said, the common thread to this issue is the federal government and it's need for our lands. Ranchers are not the culprits, they feed our nations and other countries. Nor are the local/regional BLM personnel rounding these horses up, they're just following orders and doing their jobs. Our ranchers are essential and a good way to also utilize our public lands through leasing, and as an added benefit, the cattle are an excellent measure to the health of the rangelands enjoyed by all... private livestock or wildlife. But one must not lose sight of the fact that these lands were set aside for our wild horses, and for the American people. For the ranchers, I would like to see the government reduce the lease per head where there are wild horses sharing the same ranges. With money talking instead of 'smokescreeners', ranchers will be happier to share their borrowed land.

Again, this is not a wild horse and cattle war, my next remarks are to point out some false statements by head officials justifying escalated roundups, even zeroing out many herds across the west. As most of you know by now, cattle to wild horse ratio is 200:1 and there's been approval of cattle grazing by up to 300% on some of the rangelands also shared with our mustangs, (current ratio soon to be outdated). This approval to increase cattle grazing by 300% occured shortly after Ken Salazar deemed the removal of our wild horses as necessary bc "they are starving", and the lands were too poor to sustain them. Have any of you seen a herd of the many millions of cattle 'a bag on bones' on these same rangelands? I'm all over the high deserts of SE Oregon, and not a one. I look high and low for wild horses and often come up short but bump into a bovine around any given rimrock. Simply propaganda on the federal level.

Management is necessary, but the wild horse act needs to be changed before our wild horses are managed to extinction. Once a horse is born wild, it IS wild (I don't even need to go into the DNA, as it's all over the place and a fact they're a native species). These hundreds of generations of mustangs since the RE-introduction of our native species have adapted genetically and behaviorally to fit the high desert environment. Management is necessary but must be done at the least invasive level. It must comprise of a united coalition including an expert wild horse group, ranchers, government BLM, with unbiased annual range analysis by a third party. Also as previously mentioned, reduced lease per head for the cattle ranchers to keep them happy, and inturn advocating for the mustangs. Mustangs will need to be culled, but only to the amount of adoptions or other programs available rather than utilizing American taxpayers to flip millions to roundup/feed/vet our 33,000 CAPTURED and retained mustangs in holding facilities, when they cost nothing in the wild. The BLM even suggested euthanizing these horses, and there's also a current effort to bypass our laws and as a "work around" ship them 'live' overseas to fine restaurants. We will soon have a mere 25,000 horses left roaming our west in small bands in several western states, and dwindling at about 12,000 per year (current assessment for 2010). The BLM stats of roundups are public record... why are there herds being permanently zeroed out?

The government needs to pay it's big bills aka the deficit, and they're struggling to stay above water, which makes this country vulnerable to buy-outs of property and land by other countries. Funny how since year 2000 we've lost 40% of our protected mustangs (that's more then a healthy culling), and funny how we've also lost 19 MILLION acres of OUR public lands (originally 49 million was allotted for mustang management. It doesn't take much cerebral energy to see a CORRELATION. THAT'S why I am always saying "With every roundup, our west is less wild" bc it's more than the mustangs now, it's also about the last of our wide open spaces, our "wild west". You see, our "protected" wild horses, simply by residing on these public (ours, your and mine) rangelands, are PROTECTING those very same lands simply by being there. I'm hoping the bigger picture is now in view.

Another sobering thought.... our mustangs are so MISmanaged, that by simply human shallow "tastes", like a breeding program selecting (what nature does best) which horses are to be culled or left... will undoubtedly result in a bunch of 'show ponies' with genetic flaws... instead of wild horses shaped by the environment to survive best. I study wild horses, and I appreciate watching the NATURAL mustangs resulting from NATURAL selection, not human fads.

Bridger, I think even you appreciate our western heritage and our wide open spaces to hunt on.... truly, the high desert basin and other areas where wild horses roam are the last frontier, but if everyone idly sits by scratching beneath their ballcaps...they'll no longer be there.

I don't know of many people who would like stripmalls in place of the last open wild lands, and it's equivalent... where there are NO MORE MUSTANGS. THAT's what IS happening here... the federal government will be moving mustangs to artificial preserves in the east, and off our wild rangelands in the west. Now, can anyone guess why?

"Together THEY stand. Divided THEY fall"
~aka Mustang Meg

Group this information was in ‘Save the Wild Mustangs’ January 3rd, 2010