The BLM Wild Horse Adoption Day 8/27/11



These colors look super saturated, but with the sun on their coats, especially the red penny ponies were really vivid, and I kept turning down the saturation here!


When the Spanish Conquistadors stepped onto this continent they brought with them disease and destruction on a scale difficult to imagine today. They also brought with them a species that had not been seen in the Americas since the end of the Pleistocene--the horse. By the late 1600's the horse had become a portable, renuable treasure beyond price to the indigenous peoples of the West. Those who had walked for thousands of years, could now ride, burdens were shared, and the vast distances of the American west could now be covered facilating trade, hunting, and war. Naturally, as has always been true, of humans and horses, a spiritual and loving bond developed as well, making horse-breeding as important to these cultures as it had been, and continues to be in the Old World. As the Spanish pushed northward, they were entirely unable to curtail the lightning raids of these precious livestock by tribes such as the Comanche and the Apache.


The mustangs up for adoption on Friday at the Bureau of Land Management facilities in Boise, are descendents of those herds, and of other domesticated horses released or abandoned during times of hardship for farmers and ranchers, such as during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Because the animals are descendents from domesticated herds and not, theoretically, "wild," their presence continues to raise fierce debate among management specialist, ranchers, horse fanciers, and the general public. Mustang herds tend to remain stable when a healthy predator population exists, but today with range land shrinking and subject to other claims, populations expand until food is scarce enough to cause starvation conditions, or when wildfires like the one at Sailor Creek last year eat up their habitat.

Periodically the BLM rounds up and feeds groups of wild horses that are at risk or that have become a nuisance factor. The animals are tested, given a freeze mark, tagged and fed before being put up at general auction a few times a year. A healthy breeding population is maintained by returning a few into the wild. The group we were looking at on Friday were displaced by the SaylOr Creek fire last August. Their entire home range burned and so a rescue emergency gathered took place to make sure the animals didn't starve. It has taken these many months to allow regrowth on the range. After the dangers of this fire season have passed, selected groups will be re-released. 




Natural selection and a little help from the BLM produces a handsome group of animals. In the dust and the August heat on Friday, I was impressed by the percentage of unquestionably gorgeous mares and geldings up for sale. From dappled greys in high silver, to pintos and paints, to roans, buckskins, draft descendants, inky blacks, chestnuts, bays, and palominos -- nearly all boasting the luxurious manes and tails that make wild mustangs so romantic and photogenic. I fell in love with a few, and very nearly came home with a sterling silver gelding--a steal of a deal at 75 dollars a head, and only 25 dollars for the second animal.


The horses have become used to people in their six monthes at the holding facility, but are not broken. When one is confronted by the horse of one's dreams, it is easy to forget the kind of expense and time committment such an adoption involves,. Hay for a winter here in Idaho is running around 500 dollars, and vet bills add up fast, even with horses as healthy as these. Contrary to popular belief, mustangs can be broken and trained like any other young horse, but unless you know what you are doing, this involves considerable expense as well. 


Strangely, I found the freeze marks beautiful in themselves, like a wild and windswept elven code that did not detract from the animal's looks.


Great people, who love horses, were here to pick up their new friends.





Wild Horse Adoption Day and Gentling Clinic, Filer Idaho

Coastal Blurs: Vanishing Point