Having made it through our first day with a decision to commit to a second, Tom and I arrived at Britton Springs at the designated time for briefing. Briefings were held to present the plan for the day’s activities/goals. At the end of these briefings, we were allowed to ask questions (specific to just that day’s operations), but it was clear queries were to be kept to a minumum. There were times when the Independent Humane Observer was cut short with her questions and requests for more and closer access to the horses. Elyse (The IHO) was persistant, but she was often met by less than cooperative attitudes by some of the BLM personnel. I was told that her admittance to the area had been better earlier on (when the press was there), but shortly after the media left, so did most of Elyse’s access.

BLM personnel delivering the morning briefing

BLM personnel delivering the morning briefing

R.T. Fitch, Elyse Gardner (the Independent Humane Observer) and Ginger Kathrens at the briefing

R.T. Fitch, Elyse Gardner (the Independent Humane Observer) and Ginger Kathrens at the briefing

At the conclusion of the briefing, we were allowed another walk through to view the captured horses.

Exhilaration with Chino in the background

Exhilaration with Chino in the background

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Bolder's band

Bolder's band

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Horses tagged for adoption

Horses tagged for adoption

Flint - who is also known as Blue Moon

Flint - who is also known as Blue Moon

After going through the corrals, we were told that they were going to begin processing horses – putting them in the squeeze chute, taking hair samples, shaving necks, freeze branding (for those going up for adoption) and PZP’ing the mares. We were escorted to an area where we could watch, but it was from a pretty fair distance.

The squeeze chute is an incredibly loud device. It has to be a very frightening experience for a wild horse.

Horses to be processed

Horses to be processed

Processing a horse through the squeeze chute

Processing a horse through the squeeze chute

And then there was quite a commotion – a terrified young stallion was trying to escape from the chute.

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They did finally get the stallion through the process, but I’m sure he was quite shaken. It was very hard to watch and feel helpless to do anything.

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With the processing complete, we were escorted to the viewing ridge.

Looking down at the holding corrals from the viewing ridge

Looking down at the holding corrals from the viewing ridge

Ginger Kathrens, Ben Susman, Sandy Elmore, Terry Fitch, me and Elyse Gardner at the observation ridge

Ginger Kathrens, Ben Susman, Sandy Elmore, Terry Fitch, me and Elyse Gardner at the observation ridge

Behind the jute fence

Behind the jute fence

Bringing in Morning Star's band

Bringing in Morning Star's band

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As we listened to the helicopter approaching with more horses, we started to hear radio chatter going on behind us. Most of us had our lenses pointed towards the direction of incoming horses and when they finally came into view, the reason for the increased radio communication was clear. It was Cloud. Apparently, there was some concern that our little group might go ballistic or something at the sight of Cloud being captured, so our escorts were being forewarned. I remember hearing one of them relay back to the base folks, “they already know.” With that, the radios were silent and we watched the powerful, pale-colored stallion direct his band from one side of the valley to the other, giving the pilot a run for his money trying to save his family. Just before reaching the end of the jute driveway, Cloud did the most amazing thing – he turned and faced the helicopter. One last defiant gesture by the courageous stallion before he was forced to continue down the capture chute with his family.

Cloud and his band - several family members were about to lose their freedom forever

Cloud and his band - several family members were about to lose their freedom forever

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Shortly after Cloud’s family came in, Jackson’s band followed.

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Walking back from the ridge at the end of the day

Walking back from the ridge at the end of the day

As we walked by the holding corrals on our way back from the viewing ridge, I looked over and snapped my last photo of the day. His eyes spoke volumes and mine filled with tears.

A captive Cloud

A captive Cloud

(More to follow…)

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