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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!