March 17, 2010
A photo of the filly “Isolde” (it was the “I” year for naming horses) from the Pryor Mountains of Montana taken in July, 2008. Isolde was rounded up and put up for adoption in September, 2009. She’s no longer wild with her family anymore, but at least I know she went to a good home. Below is a picture of the filly now with her new family member, Sandy Elmore.
I met Sandy at the Pryor Mountain roundup. It was like meeting someone I already knew well – we seemed so much alike in our thoughts, views, expressions and even our emotions. Although it was a tragic event to witness, I’m very grateful for the friends I made while I was there.
Sandy shares her thoughts regarding the roundup and the subsequent adoption of her Pryor Mountain Mustang:
“I was watching and hoping the roundup for the Pryor Horses was going to be stopped. It seemed like the logical thing to happen. After all why would they need to or want to round up any in such a small herd? A herd that had plenty of land and seemed to be surviving so wonderfully. But I soon learned that it was going to take place. This was just another blow to an already disappointing year in Montana for horses both wild and domestic. The first happened back in April when our Governor let a Bill go into law that would allow a possible horse slaughter plant to be built in the state. Now the Pryor herd. I had a hard time accepting this. I did not intend to go. After all, what could I do? But something called me to them and I left at a moments notice. I arrived with my camera, minus my important tripod, but still recorded as much as I could. How I held that camera as steady as I did while watching the painful capture of these horses was surprising. It was one of the most emotional experiences I have ever had. I could feel their pain and could not hold it in.
When I got back home and looked at my footage I had gathered I realized that I had several shots of one very special girl. At the time I had no intention of going back for the adoption and was holding out hope that somehow we could return those that were kept to their families. But it was not to be so and so again at a moments notice, I decided to go to the adoption. I have to admit that a few days before the adoption I looked through the photos of the available horses and found her. There was no mistaking her. We had locked eyes a number of times and I recognized her immediately.
After helping transport some of the older horses to a new home on the other side of the Pryors we headed home with our new filly. I called her Valerosa, which means courageous or brave in Spanish. She rode the 7 hours so bravely and stepped out of the trailer with confidence. Although it took me several weeks to actually win her trust and allow me to touch her, it was worth the wait. I have been training my horses using Natural Horsemanship for over 9 years now. But working with a wild horse is so different. She has taught me to be more patient and understanding. Forget the clock, just patience and love. We are now sharing a special bond that grows everyday. Do I wish she was still running wild with her family? Yes. But I know that is impossible now. I hope that I can provide her with a long and happy life the best way I know how.
I now spend a lot of my time working to keep those wild horses free, not only by calls and letters but by my film work. I hope that somehow I can help educate people that don’t know about these wonderful animals and help remind those that may have forgotten.”
Be sure to watch Sandy’s new video, “America’s Wild Horses: A Living Legend in Peril.”
September 25, 2009
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.
At the conclusion of the briefing, we were allowed another walk through to view the captured horses.
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.
And then there was quite a commotion – a terrified young stallion was trying to escape from the chute.
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.
With the processing complete, we were escorted to the viewing ridge.
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.
Shortly after Cloud’s family came in, Jackson’s band followed.
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.
(More to follow…)