Monday, November 17, 2008


They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. My eyes behold this mare as a thing of beauty. How about you?

This has been a tough year for mustangs and their fans. While I can rationally agree with the BLM's announcement that euthanasia of several thousand horses in holding facilities is the only real option at the moment considering the massive amounts of horses and lack of adopters, there is one horse that I struggle with.


I first saw her a year ago while at the Kiger adoption in Burns, Oregon. Beauty was in the aged mare pen with several others 10 and over. Their chances of adoption were non-existent, unless someone that weekend spoke up and said they wanted one, the mares and geldings in that age range were sent to long term holding facilities where they were to live out their lives, watched over by contractors who would provide them with fresh water and plenty off good hay. It was a sweet life, really, when you think about it. No more hunger or wondering if you'd make it to the next water hole. Just hundreds of acres on which to roam with your long term friends and herd mates just as you had when you were free. No one knew that when Beauty and the others were loaded up, that they were marching down a trail that may just lead to their death.

Beauty and her friend fear the worst...and may get it.

30,000 horses is a lot. If you own a horse, stop and multiply the cost of that one and see just how much it's costing to care for all these horses in holding. It's not a pretty thought. In Oregon a gather was recently done in the Alvord Tule and Coyote Lakes Herd Management Areas. They hadn't wanted to. It's been less than 3 years since the last one. However, feed is in short supply and the horses are thin, their ribs poking out and backbones showing. It's nearly impossible to expect these horses to survive the harsh winter of no feed and deep freezes in this condition.

Mare and foal from recent gather tell the tale of a hard summer.
Photo courtesy of Andi Harmon.

I honestly haven't got a solution. They'll die of starvation left to themselves. In holding, at least, it will be swift. Little comfort. My grandmother will soon respond to this post. She'll tell me (again) that I can't save them all. But what I wouldn't give to be able to save Beauty...


Linda Reznicek said...

Thanks for that perspective. How sad to see them that starved. Was Beauty from the Kiger HMA or Beaty's Butte? Maybe by showcasing the horses out there, some of them will be adopted before the ineviteable occurs. I wish someone would come up with another solution, the economy would turn around, hay prices would go down--something. But 30,000 is a lot of horses to hold, no doubt. I was wondering about sterilization--is that a possibility for herd management in the future? It might be cheaper than the roundups, long term holding, adoptions, etc.

nerves05 said...

I love horses.. I had to get rid of mine.. I had 3.

I have enjoyed reading your blog.. I have read it for sometime now.. Even though i don't comment i'm still lurking, But i'm trying to get better about that..

I'm glad you didn't get bucked off and get hurt.. My daughter got bucked off our horse right before we got rid of him.

I love horses. I hope to get more one day. When i have alot more time to spend with them.

Thanks for visiting me..
Take care :-)

nikki said...

I for one think they should set up holding facilities in other states. As far as I know there are not any in Minnesota or North Dakota.

I also wish they would do more with promoting them. There has been more promotion lately with the makeovers but people still don't know that they can adopt one. Even the horse people here in MN/ND that I have talked to about my horses have no idea about mustangs and they are surprised that you can adopt them.

I just hope they try all other solutions before they do a mass euthanasia. I can understand the reasoning for it but the thought of any healthy vibrant animal being put down just breaks my heart.

Shirley said...

I say follow your heart and go find that mare and bring her home. She truly is a beauty; look at those big soft eyes! And if she is an aged mare, she may not be around for long.

Tracey said...

Nikki...suggestions on how to promote? Volunteers are the biggest asset the BLM has when it comes to promotion. Without us, the ship is sunk.

Linda, she's from Beaty's Butte. Birth control is the best option, but when you stop and think about administering it to 30,000 horses still in the wild, the task becomes daunting. By the time you get them all rounded up (4-5 years), it's time to start over again. But the good thing is that there should be a slower growth rate. Unfortunately, it doesn't help the horses who've been gathered the last 10-20 years.

Nerve, I hope you get your horse some day!

Shirley, she suckers you right in, doesn't she? I may need to orchestrate a jail may need to help me!

Cave BlackFyre said...

It is a hard topic Tracy with no perfect solution. Adoption is not always a perfect solution as not all of them that are adopted out end up being horses that someone can use or truly bond with an enjoy, keeping them confined to holding areas is not a perfect solution either as it costs millions and millions of dollars to provide enough feed for them but at least overall they do have feed and water, but still no real care outside of that.

Sterilization is a great place to start but then you have many AR groups and people who don't truly understand that if left to their own 'management' horses would soon over populate the areas they're in and not only would the horses starve themselves out but also the native animals, so those extremist groups decry round ups for any reason as "CRUEL and ABUSIVE"...

I wish I could come up with a perfect solution but the sad facts are this. #1, horses are not native to North America, so can not be left to manage themselves as they'll end up starving themselves and all the other animals in their area that compete with them for food and water.

#2, not all mustangs are good adoption material and not all people are good adoption material, so it's not a perfect solution either.

#3, Holding facilities are not always fantastic and don't offer the best means of care, plus honestly cost tax payers millions and millions of dollars to maintain.

#4, Euthanasia is a sad outcome for an otherwise healthy animal, but sometimes in the end, it's kinder then keeping that animal confined with the bare necessities to survive for years, sometimes even decades.

I belive that "Beauty" is indeed a lovely older gal and I hope she never feels a day of unhappiness for whatever is left to her life.

Unwanted domestic horses and unadopted/wanted mustangs are a huge, huge problem today due to a culmination of many factors that has created the perfect storm of more animals then qualified homes that can afford them and safely/caringly maintain them.

On the flip side... If we can give AIG company a Multi BILLION dollar 'reward' for screwing their business into the ground, it makes it hard to understand why we can't reallocate a few more million to care for horses. When we're trillions and trillions in debt, what's a few million more on the government's books?

Tracey said...

Karyn, you've had first hand experience with the dark side of adoption. Not many people run into a horse like Poncho (fortunately!)

I don't disagree with a single thing you're saying. The rational side of my brain is fully functioning...that is until I look at Beauty.

Funny how I can name a lamb, play with it all summer, and eat it in the fall without a twinge of guilt, but looking into her eyes, even in a year old photograph, tugs at my heartstrings and has me all choked up.

Cave BlackFyre said...

From the adoption perspective, what I'd like to see the BLM given a budget to offer at least halter broke horses to the public..

Volunteers are wonderful assets but they are limited in time and their own personal budgets. The BLM needs to be given a larger budget directed specifically at early training and socialization of the younger, more adoptable horses. I think that would give a higher rate of success for happy adoptions.

I do realize Poncho was not 'typical' he was a special guy in so many ways, including extra special in his sense of self preservation. There was not a mean bone in his body and he would never do anything out of malicious intent, but yet was extremely dangerous and not an animal you could ever let your guard down around since he would explode any time he felt his life was endangered.

When you raise that lamb, you know from day one, you're going to butcher that lamb, so even though you play with them and have fun with them when they're young, you know from teh begining that they are going to end up on your dinner table (or in my case dog food when I was still raising them).

When you see a horse, you do not think of them as something you're going to eat, so it's hard to look into those big lippid eyes and know that the life is going to end.

I think that's the difference.

Darling said...

Thanks mom, now I'm even more sad about it than I was before...

Tracey said...

You're right about the thought process you put into the animal. I reluctantly let Beauty go emotionally because she was going to Oklahoma (and I'd had just a smidgen of hope it would be with the Pioneer Woman.) Definitely I let her go believing she'd live out her days in a natural way.

The Mustang Heritage Foundation's TIP program is supposed to help with that halter breaking concept. Even with that, it was terribly difficult for me to find homes for everyone this summer. Joe, you'll recall, lingered here until the last minute. I saw several halter broke yearlings passed by at adoptions this summer, and the internet adoption saw even more horses that had been handled left at the corrals.

Halter breaking can surely be a good start, but we need less breeding both domestically and in the wild to really get a handle on this issue.

Anonymous said...

I just love those first 2 photos.

Katee said...

She is beautiful Tracey!

Cave BlackFyre said...

I have always been an advocate of responsible breeding which is, in essences breeding only those animals that there is a TRUE marekt for.

Right now, horses ARE still selling in the upper dollar range. A friend of mine who has a high end Arabian breeding facility in Canada has sold more horses in the past 2 months then they did the past 8, but these are horses who sell for $15K on up as a general rule.

People with deep pockets still have deep pockets.

What we should NOT do is breed just because we think it would be fun to have a baby to raise or because our horse is a particular color but built like a llama and not a horse.

If you want to raise a foal,adopt or purchase a weanling, there are PLENTY Out there looking for a new home :-)

And yes we need to figure out some way to reduce the ability of the Mustangs to reproduce as well, letting 'nature' take it's own course will only lead to decimation of the herds themselves and also native wild life.

There is no one simple answer, sigh.