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One of the most important national treasurers still available to us here in America are our Wild Horses and Burros. Their importance as symbols of freedom and independence is second to none. Thinking about them running across great open spaces gives smiles to our hearts, but it is their embodiment of serenity, grace, power and stamina that carried our young nation to expansion. If it wasn’t for the horse, we would still be 13 colonies huddled along the eastern seaboard, where only boats and barges could take us distances further than we cared to walk. If it wasn’t for the horse, the American Indian would never have hunted the buffalo and been able to readily feed his family and tribe.
Most people only know of the way of capturing and breaking horses that our European forefathers unwittingly taught us, forcing them into pens, roping them and throwing them down, tying them up and making them submit, in order to get the horses to work for them. But let me here describe how the American Indians of our Great Plains got to be acquainted with his best friend, the horse.
It is written, and has been passed down from generation to generation by the wise men of the tribes, that in the days before Indians even saw white men, they saw horses. They thought them to be “big dogs.” However, they were much more flighty than dogs and couldn’t be readily caught and trained. So, usually one person, who was particularly interested in these new “big dogs,” would sit and watch them for many weeks, and over time, that person learned the horses’ ways. This person would soon be designated the tribe as “the horseman.”
Once the tribe’s “horseman” had learned the ways of the horse, he would position himself by a waterhole, so the horses would have to interact with him every time they came to drink, which was usually a couple of times a day. Over many weeks of daily contact, the horses came to accept the “horseman” as one of themselves, i.e. one of the herd. Once that was accomplished, the horses would allow this person to touch them for the purpose of scratching and bonding with them. Then some of the horses noticed that when they ran, their new “herd member” couldn’t keep up, so one of the more brave horses invited the “horseman” to onto her back so he could be with them all the time. Once this horse was totally accustomed to a rider, that horse would be introduced to a new rider who would then become that horses’ new best friend and the “horseman” of the tribe would go on to secure the friendship of another horse for another family member. And so it went until many were riding. That is the way, without wood for fences or rope for tying or any other form of restraints, the Indians formed a bond with and became best friends with their horses. From then on those horses would do anything for their new partners.
This method is still practiced today by some of the more discriminating horse trainers. The problem with it is that it takes a lot of time and patience and most horse owners want miracles performed overnight by their trainers and don’t want to wait for the real deal to appear. I personally have a young Arabian stallion who was never really trained and yet he lets me ride him anywhere and will do anything I ask. Will he let anyone else even touch him, no. He trusts me. The positive side is that no-one will ever be able to steal him. But I digress.
Today’s educators inform us that children and adults, too, learn most readily from observation. Once the wild horses are all gone, where can we look to learn courage and serenity, freedom and restraint, beauty and form, grace and rhythm, power with lightness, and bursts of speed followed by overwhelming stamina…the God-given qualities of Wild Horses?
Studies have proven that these beautiful horses, if left entirely alone, will curtail their own breeding, consequently limiting their own numbers. But our Bureau of Land Management, BLM, under orders from our Government Accountability Office, GAO, has decided that their 1971 mandate to “protect and preserve” the wild horse and burros includes routinely rounding them up (called gathers) and forcing them into chutes where they cannot move, and then branding them, worming them and injecting them with drugs, all of which causes the wild horses to panic to such an extent that some are killed and even more are deformed by being trampled underfoot by their own kind. And because their “gathers” aren’t in the least bit discriminating, they throw off the whole herd balance by separating horse family members from one another, which causes them to over reproduce just to enlarge their own families in order to protect themselves from future family disembodiments. Remember, this is all done in the name of “protecting and preserving” our wonderful national treasurers, the Wild Horses and Burros.
But the worst is yet to come. At this time the BLM has gathered so many thousands of these beautiful horses off of their home ranges away from their families (herds) that they don’t know how they can possibly keep them any longer, so they have decided to euthanize thousands of them.
WHAT, you say? Yes, that’s right. They are going to kill them unless you rise up as one and let your cry of outrage be heard in Washington. You heard it right. The BLM, under orders from the GAO is, today, by their own admission, gathering even more horses as I write this, and plan to murder thousands of these Wild Horses and Burros as soon as they can, all in the name of “protecting and preserving” them.
Let me see if you can really picture this. They will herd these beautiful animals, stallions, mares and foals (yes foals too) into pits about the size of football fields but around forty feet deep, and then men lined up around the perimeter will open fire with automatic rifles and kill them all as fast as they can. Of course some will take longer to die than others because the shooter’s aim can’t be too good shooting into that panicking herd. Then after all is quiet, they will start up the bulldozers and cover them with dirt and you and I will never see them again, ever.
This should never happen.
Visit the Wild Horse Preservation Campaign website to see how you can help prevent this tragedy.
JACK ELY, the former lead singer of The Kingsmen, is a veteran horse trainer. He lives in central Oregon.