World renowned American nature photographer, Thomas D. Mangelsen will be having an exclusive gallery event for his new “Forever Wild” Limited Edition Collection Which captures the spirit wild horses. The event will be held at MANGELSEN—Images of Nature Gallery in Jackson, Wyoming on September 18 at 5-9pm
By Thomas D. Mangelsen
Growing up in Nebraska I spent much of my youth on farms and ranches and have a deep respect for those families that are not welfare ranchers. I recently spent time photographing the North Lander herd of wild horses in Central Wyoming with my friend Jim Brown, while never a rancher, his family is fifth generation Wyoming ranchers, Jim works as a photographer, and wild horse advocate. We got to know the family groups, the herd stars, the young bucks, and, one sunset, photographed the entire herd stampeding along a dusty ridge. Bands of horses seemed to appear out of nowhere to join the stampede. They were seemingly running for no reason other than their wild spirit.
Wild horses are defined in the The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 as “…living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West.” They are truly magnificent animals, deserving of our protection. Only two animals have been protected by the American congress, the American Bald Eagle and the Wild Horses.
Recently, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will remove starting Oct 1st over 3,500 horses from public lands in Wyoming. This would leave one horse per every 1,600 acres. On the same 1,600 acres, the BLM allows 400 cows (or cow/calf pairs) or 2,200 sheep. Yet, the BLM claims wild horses are the cause of overgrazing!
(Source: BLM Environmental Assessment Report, Wyoming, July 2021)
Thousands of wild horses are rounded up every year, supposedly to reduce their numbers by adoption. For the vast majority, they were not adopted by 12 or 14-year-old kids for a 4H project. Many were adopted only to be sold a year later to slaughterhouses. The horses that are not adopted are sent to “holding facilities.”
There are more than 30 ranches that hold the horses in long-term holding facilities, most in Oklahoma and Kansas. There are approximately 50,000 horses currently in these facilities at $50 million taxpayer dollars per year or $1,000 per year per horse. (BLM) Many of these ranchers and contractors are already wealthy, CEOs of large companies, bankers, and even a celebrity female rancher. The holding facilities are feedlots “Off Range Corrals” or “Off Range Pastures” — we are losing our wild horses.
For most of my adult life, I’ve observed and photographed a number of much-maligned wild animals like wolves, coyotes, cougars, and grizzly bears. I feel we can add the wild horse to this list of unfairly persecuted animals.
Wild horses are in our legends and heritage. They were indispensable in the Native American culture and the white-man’s movement west. Horses were our beasts of burden pulling wagons and carrying riders across the prairie from the east to the west. There would be no such thing as cowboys or cowgirls without horses! Ranchers were totally dependent on them for survival. The Pony Express and mail would have never been delivered.
Native Americans and cowboys revered their ponies. They, not dogs, were their best friends and often their saviors in hostile lands. Many wild horses lost their freedom and their spirit when tamed by being broken. Those that retained some of their wild genetic spirits were often considered the best horses to own.
Every year, thousands of predators like coyotes, wolves, grizzlies, and cougars are killed by any means: trapping, poisoning or gunned down via helicopters, all for the sake of protecting sheep and cattle on our BLM public lands, all using our taxpayer money.
“…wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death.”
The Wild Horse Act
As of September 7, 2021, the BLM has removed 501 wild horses at Sand Wash Basin in Colorado, with plans of removing 783; 80% of the population. They were rounded up by helicopters, the BLM prefers to use the term “gathered up.” This atrocity is so-called by the BLM as the 2021 Emergency Sand Wash Basin Wild Horse Gather. Per the BLM, “This emergency gather prevents impacts to wild horses and the environment due to exceptional drought and lack of forage.” Even before the horses were rounded up 2,500 sheep were trucked in and put on the same landscape. A similar event happened recently at Onaqui Mountain Horse Management Area in Utah Most all of the wild horse management areas are targeted including the North Lander herd where they will be dumping 5,000 sheep there in November, at the same time removing 90% of the wild horses. So much for drought and lack of forage blamed on wild horses. It is well known that wild horses, like bison, are better on the land than cattle and sheep.
Yet the BLM continues to circumvent reality and honesty in favor of special interests.
What happened to the respect and reverence we had for those wild horses who have given us so much?
Do we really not have the wild spaces left, dedicated to cattle and sheep to be fairly shared with wild horses?
We should demand a decrease in the number of sheep and cattle that are overgrazing our public lands.
Want to Help and support:
- Learn more about this complex issue! Visit American Wild Horse Campaign
- Visit your public lands and see these magnificent wild horses.
- Write your congressional representatives asking them to stop the round ups while a better solution is found.
- You can email the President, Vice President, or the Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland or mail by clicking the links.
- Recommended reading: Wild Horse Country by Pulitzer Prize winner David Philipps