20 09 2011

The last few days have been hellish tough.

THANK YOU to ALL who worked to make this as safe as possible for the horses and people attending. Those folks had a thankless job, and I hope I thanked you as often as I saw you, and as far as I know, they handled the event with professionalism and compassion. They certainly helped me.

We had some issues …

And we had tragedy: Cinch broke his neck in the alley while we were sorting the stallions for Canon City and adoption. I did not see it happen. The APHIS veterinarian made the decision to euthanize him almost immediately. I wish I could give you details … I wish I knew how it happened. What I’d like to know now is how to prevent that from ever happening again. I know it happened when or right after Hook crawled up and over the panel into the mare/foal pen. I won’t sugar-coat it. Cinch died, and that’s something I’ll always live with. He had at least two potential adopters waiting for him … one simply connected with him in the pen, and he reminded another of the very first mustang she had. I wish he was waiting for them right now.

It was a learning experience. (What an understatement.)

I learned that even though I thought I had prepared myself for the difficulty of it all, it was harder and more painful than I could ever have expected.

I learned to rethink some pre/misconceptions that don’t help us move forward.

I learned people and horses will surprise you in surprising ways … good and/or bad … surprising.

I kept learning that change is possible, and it probably never comes easily.

I learned that our Spring Creek Basin mustangs have touched people from Telluride, Colo., to Washington, D.C., and beyond. (WOW.)

I learned my heart wasn’t yet as shattered as I thought … and that what breaks it can also heal it – the horses.

I found solace in what brought me here in the first place.

Yesterday. Traveler. With a new family.

The horses … it’s always for the horses.

The last few days, I’ve been focused completely on the horses. Although many people had remarkable cell service, I had zero. I’ll apologize now, but all my energy was on the horses, and I couldn’t deal with the public with everything going on. My undying thanks and love to, especially, our Disappointment Wild Bunch Partners volunteers for talkingtalkingtalking. You bore the brunt of everything, and I can never repay you for your amazing fortitude.

You have questions, and I’m not sure I have all the answers. In fact, I’m sure I don’t. All the people involved did an amazing job with the circumstances we were dealt, and I will be forever grateful to all of them.

This was a hard, harsh, difficult thing, and I stand behind my belief that it was necessary for the overall health of the Spring Creek Basin mustangs and the Spring Creek Basin range. The horses look fantastic, and the range looks amazing.

Rain and rain and rain and a plane. … We never look down our noses at rain here, but the plane was absolutely an unnecessary danger to the horses.

Some numbers – because I think simple facts help in the overall understanding:

40 horses were ultimately removed.

42 horses are now on the range (this is shy just one horse of what was on the range after the roundup in 2007) – with one due any day.

22 are stallions (“males” of varying ages).

20 are mares (“females” of varying ages).

37 adults, 5 foals (this is the same number of adults and one foal shy of post-roundup 2007).

We released 5 stallions: Traveler, Bounce, Comanche, Chrome and Hayden

We released 5 mares and 2 foals: Kestrel, Juniper, Piedra, Houdini, Gaia, Alegre and Aurora

Six stallions went to Canon City: Mouse, Bruiser, Hook, Steeldust, Butch, Mesa

Five mares and one foal went to Canon City: Kiowa, Hacho, Luna, Alpha, Mahogany, Gemma

That means just 12 horses went to Canon City, and if you still wonder “why the roundup this year?” – this is why: So we didn’t put even more horses through this and send even more horses to Canon City next year or the year after.

Twenty-five horses will be offered for adoption:


Gideon – yearling

Fierro – yearling

Rio – yearling

Wind – yearling

Sage – 2

Ze – 2

Cuatro – 2

Milagro – 2

Whisper – 2

Pinon – 3


Liberty – 2

Sable – 2

Hannah – 2

Spook – 2

Ember – 3

Iya – 3

Two Boots – 4

Baylee – 4

Foals also will be offered at adoption: Deniz, Eliana, Briosa, Boreas, Cougar, Varoujan, Coal

I’ll put up pix of all of them in the next few days.

Last night, I saw Traveler – with Alegre, Aurora and Gaia; Chrome with Hayden; Bounce with Houdini; Ty with Chipeta, Puzzle, Reya and Maiku, Copper following; Tenaz with Corona; Aspen; Seven’s band – Mona still pregnant.

“The foal.” Partly because of the delay caused by the unsafe actions of the plane, the roundup was delayed at least a day. The second day, the helicopter pilot found a large group of horses (15-20) bunched around a foal (Chipeta’s). He couldn’t easily separate them, so he left them alone. When he went back, the horses had separated o their own, and he saw the mare (Chipeta) but not the foal. The foal was later found and brought to the trapsite and cared for. He has been adopted by a local resident who took him to her vet (the same vet who was there as a volunteer with our Wild Bunch folks). He is doing very well.

I can’t say enough good about the helicopter pilot. He bears the brunt of people’s hostility, but he did an amazing job. Because of the rain and mud in Spring Creek Canyon, the trapsite was moved to the west side of Filly Peak. I was initially worried about that location because of the broken terrain on the “back side,” but in many ways, it turned out to be a much better location than the canyon.

If I can address the viewing location, too, for a minute … I know people were upset that they were so far away, but with safety of the horses paramount, the overall view was much better there than it would have been at the canyon – and I believe the horses were safer coming to that trap location than they would have been at the canyon. The second morning, the helicopter pilot had to bring horses in from that hill. Lots of things had to tie together to make this a successful operation, and one of those things was that we had to capture horses in order to make good decisions about who to keep and who to remove – and how many. Because of the rain and sloppy road that morning, very few people were on the hill when he brought that band in. If the crowd had been on that hill when he was trying to move the horses, the safest thing for the people would have been for him to abandon that band. Maybe you think that wouldn’t have been such a bad thing, but I was already upset about the lack of horses I was going to be able to release.

Thank you again for your patience. Please don’t ignore the positives here, which are many. I won’t ignore the negatives, either – as long as we can use them to effect change. That’s what got me into this, and it’s what keeps us going.

One last thing for now: I did not take a single photo … until yesterday with the horses when it was all over. I will post those as soon as I can. Too much else going on, and I owed my attention to the horses, not to my camera.



30 responses

20 09 2011
Linda Horn

TJ, there’s not much I can say except I share your grief for Cinch and your optimism about the future. I’m very disappointed Steeldust went to Canon City, but it is what it is. I hope to see you and our beloved Spring Creek Basin Mustangs at the adoption. I pray they’ll all go to the loving homes they so richly deserve.

20 09 2011

The Spring Creek Basin mustangs are so very lucky to have the Disappointment Wild Bunch partners at their side through thick and thin. What you have been able to accomplish is ground breaking and will help move the program – both local and national – in the right direction. Thank you for your unselfish giving of your time and expertise.

20 09 2011

I’m really sad and a bit confused. The horses that went unmentioned here, are they on the range still- or in corrals [David and Shadow for example]? Why were old mares like Alpha, etc… sent to Canon City? Will any of the horses be sent to other countries for inhumane purposes? I’m so sorry if I seem…well, you know! I thank you for everything you have done! I’m just so anxious about these sweet horses!

20 09 2011
Mar Wargo

Thanks, TJ, for so much. mar

20 09 2011

Linda – Steeldust has a very determined lady who wants to adopt/buy him from Canon City and take him home. I’ve already heard inquiries from other people who are interested in the horses – some, at least – that went to Canon City. I think we’re going to have a lot of adopters … We got a lot of attention (!), and I’ll be surprised if we don’t have a lot of interested folks Friday and Saturday. Find me.

Ann – Thanks so much. We appreciate all YOUR help! We couldn’t have done this without all our supporters. The horses are our focus, and that’s why we’ve been able to accomplish so much.

Tracy – David and Shadow were not captured, and they are still on the range. I’ll do another post – I’ll do more and more more, believe me – with all the horses that are still here. Alpha was in my release pen, but because we didn’t get the numbers captured, the selection process was very difficult. We released a range of ages of mares (and stallions). Again, it came down to the horses and numbers NOT captured that ultimately set the limit on what and who were releasable – I ran the genetics over and over and backward and forward. For example, although I ended up not releasing Mouse, I think his genetics are represented in Winona (I think she’s his daughter). Alpha’s are represented in Storm, who was not captured. Horses sent to other countries (I think you’re really asking about slaughter here) … Fran Ackley mentioned “sanctuary” several times while he was with us, and again, I’ve talked to several people who are interested in adopting/buying the horses he now has in his care. Some people are adamant that BLM is selling horses to slaughter … I don’t know. I certainly don’t believe our horses are stepping off the trailer in Mexico. And as few as I sent to Fran, surely he can take good care of them.

I didn’t get home from the basin until late last night, and I’m just toast, and I’ve been on the phone and/or answering emails all day today … so that’s why this post is “delayed.” Keep asking questions – I will do my absolute best to answer fully, and I will certainly answer truthfully.

I’m headed to the fairgrounds now to see the horses. I’ve heard they’re calm and quiet and resting.

20 09 2011

Mar – Thank you for being so supportive.

20 09 2011
Rochlia [Tracy]

Thank you TJ. I appreciate you getting back to me so quickly about my questions! I’m glad the horses are peaceful at the fairgrounds.

20 09 2011
Tami Lewis

TJ, I know you have been to hell and back emotionally and physically and our thoughts continue to be with you. A stallion will jump over or crash through anything to be with his family, It’s his job. I will always remember Cinch as we saw him, wild and free.

Though their home has changed, the spirits of the horses removed remain in the basin forever. How do I know? My Dixie’s heart belongs to Nevada. Prayers and positive thoughts for the transition of these horses helps them. The round up has ended and now they begin their new journey.

While the list of names initially reads as an obituary, it is a list of beautiful, strong and magnificient horses. I had my personal moments to cry for Steeldust, Alpha and Luna who define the Spring Creek Basin, but their offspring will continue to thrive. Now I will pray for the best possible transition for them. The adaptability of the mustang is remarkable.

Thank you TJ for opening your heart to the horses, the basin and the greater good.

20 09 2011
Julie Onshus

So sad to hear of Cinch, rest in peace boy. So are there going to be any of the pinto group left? Interested to see pics of everyone still left it will make it much less confusing.

20 09 2011

Thank you for the news, TJ. I’m so glad you volunteered your time simply for the horses’ sake, I’m sure that made it a lot better for the herd.

I have a question though, I think I may have missed this earlier, what is Canon City? What happens to those horses?

The horses that are gone will be for sure missed, but the ones left will be loved more then ever. I just hope all the horses that will be adopted find good forever homes.

20 09 2011
Karen Schmiede

Thank God this is over. May Chinch rest in peace. Thanks, TJ for all the hard work you have done.

20 09 2011

We Thank You,
BLM thanks you,
ALL the horses thank you,
the basin thanks you.

Good Luck at the adoption.

20 09 2011

Tracy – The youngsters at the fairgrounds look great. They have plenty of hay and water, and BLM folks are taking care of them – though we got to do the hay and water tonight (we – me and another Wild Bunch member).

Tami – Thank you so much for all your support. I know the horses are in your heart as you saw them. They always will be. I don’t want the list of horses gone to Canon City as an obituary … a new beginning. Someone specifically wants to go get Steeldust (has been talking about him all week), and I’m hearing hopeful things about other horses there.

Julie – Yes, there are pintos left: I didn’t see Corazon, but Ty has Chipeta, Puzzle, Reya and Maiku (and Copper is with them). Interesting that it took the roundup to “reunite” them. I sat with them yesterday for a while, too. They’re a long way from “home” … but they look fine and are in a place with good grass and water.

Rachel – Thanks … There’s a short-term BLM holding facility at the prison in Canon City. I’ve been there just once – when we went to get Traveler four years ago. Horses can be trained there by inmates. They can also be adopted from there, sent to other adoption events and/or sent to long-term holding/sanctuary. Fran Ackley is Colorado’s “wild horse specialist,” and he mentioned sanctuary several times. The youngsters we selected for adoption had blood drawn for Coggins testing, got dewormer and vaccinations and got their neck brands before they left the basin. The others will have that done at Canon City – when I say that, I mean the BLM facility there. We have a lot of interest in our horses, which is huge for their potential adoptions to great homes.

Karen – Ditto … and thank you.

T&K – And I thank you both. I’m pretty sure our K-girl needs a mustang in the future … 🙂

20 09 2011

Thank you so much for the updates and all you do for the horses! I’m so sorry to hear about Cinch. That is truly heartbreaking to hear. My thoughts are with you and the horses.

20 09 2011

tears…that this was the alternative chosen. there are other gentler ways to manage the numbers of horses for their sake and that of the range. but you have enough tears to shed TJ. and more strength than 40 wild horses. God Bless you.

21 09 2011

Roundup/remove is current status quo; it’s the alternative we wanted – bait trapping – that we didn’t get this time. We ARE working toward that – and it will likely happen – in the future. Thank you …

21 09 2011
Linda Horn

I pray Steeldust’s adoption/sale works out, and the other SCB Mustangs at Canon City as well. IMO, there’s no more powerful force in this world than women with determination!

Are the nursing foals being kept with their Moms, and will they be offered as pairs? That’s a requirment for mares gentled by Mustang Camp in New Mexico. Of the 40 that were MC at the beginning of September, all but 9 have either been adopted or have adoptions pending. Any remaining on September 30th (when USFS management tranfers to the BLM) will be “foster adopted” by MC until good homes are found. I’ve never heard of “foster adoption” (essentially “placeholders”) before, but I think it’s an excellent idea.

21 09 2011
Dr Jon-Michael Tucci

Hey TJ,
As a newcomer to the herd [up close], it’s needs, & all the varied & sometimes conflicting issues/agendas associated w/it’s overall benefit & future sustainability, I have been processing lots of data & emotions of late – I thank y’all for your heart-driven desire to effect positive change, & your ‘puttin’ your boots on’ determination to make that so – meeting at David & Pati’s place gave me a much desired look inside the head/heartspace of WBP & truly, all y’all make happen to protect/assist the herd – it was enlightening. Thank you’s to the Temples & all you who invited me in –

So sad & sorry about Cinch – reminds me of the state [license plate] motto in NH, “Live Free, or Die.” I’m hoping Lissa will be able to seamlessly adopt Steeldust as she plans, b/c we’ll then have him up here on Wilson Mesa, & get to meet him up even closer.

I, as everyone else, would love to see more transparency in BLM policies/practices, & hope y’all continue to effect that kind of change so that ‘gathers’ are no longer necessary, at least mechanized ones –

What I’m really hoping for is more transparency on land use issues, so that this herd may one day [soon?] attain true sustainable numbers – as I see it, giving the land back to the horses it was originally set aside for back in ’71 IS the key issue – if we get vocal enough & stay committed to expanding the range back to original deed size, so much of this will become moot, no?
Peaceful, healing thoughts/Gratitude

21 09 2011

Jon-Michael – Great to meet you out there, and I hope we can continue to work together for the horses’ best interests. Thank you about Cinch … Seeing Melissa’s determination, I have no doubt she’ll have Steeldust soon.

One of the things I learned is that there’s a fine line between education and transparency and safety and organization. I think one of our increased duties in the future will be to help BLM with all of the above and make sure people know what we’re doing. I’m trying that here … We’re all learning.

There’s a lot to the HA issue(s). One thing to keep in mind is that no matter how much land you have, you still have a finite area, and the resources within it will still need to be managed. Even if we can eventually have 200 horses – if the range can handle that – we will still need some combination of fertility control and occasional removals to keep everything in balance. Just increasing the range alone is not the answer – not the ONLY answer.

21 09 2011

Bindelstiff – Thank you …

Linda – The foals were determined to be big and healthy and adoptable, so they were weaned (except Hacho (the youngest), who went with Kiowa to Canon City, and the foals released) and are together at the fairgrounds. Briosa, Cougar, Deniz and Boreas are in one pen, and Coal, Eliana and Varoujan are beside them. Iya, 3, and Two Boots, 4, also are at the adoption, but they’re being kept separately. Two Boots and Boreas nickered through the fence at the trapsite when they were separated, but Iya completely ignored Cougar. Foster adoption does sound like a good idea. I think all our foals will be adopted – at least.

21 09 2011
Linda H

I hate to see the mare and foal go to Canon City, among the masses of 3000 other horses. Their chance of adoption is less there and chance for the baby contracting something is definitely greater. Why didn’t they take them to the fairgrounds as well? Hopefully, someone will seek them out and get them out of there.

21 09 2011

I’m not sure of all the reasons, but they didn’t want to adopt pairs (at the fairgrounds).

21 09 2011
Linda Horn

Yeh, I call Canon City “the black hole”. Not that it’s a bad place, but they hold way too many horses. I think they have about 12 inmate trainers, but how many can they train to be ridden in a year? I think they should put as much emphasis on basic gentling as they do on getting the Mustangs under saddle. I’ve monitored the past 4 or 5 Internet Adoptions, and the horse in halters with their proud handlers beside them always get bids, and almost all for more than $125 … sometimes a great deal more.

I don’t know what the mare/foal pair policy is at CC, but it might be worth finding out. And I’ve heard of some adopters who’ve gotten a “three-fer” – $125 for PREGNANT mare with a foal at her side!

21 09 2011
Linda H

I’ve visited Canon City several times, know the folks there well. In the BLM scheme of things, it’s about the best there is. Fran and Lona do a great job, but let’s face it, they have 3000 horses to deal with. It’s not like they have their eyes on every one every day. Fran is a straight shooter and is at the top of the heap for BLM people, as far as I’m concerned. But, it’s still a holding facility. They could train far more horses there, if they had the trainers. Fran explains that they get some inmates that are really good, but they come from minimum security and their next step is parole, and then they have to start with a new crop. I know of several horses that have come from there, halter-trained, and the trainers have done a very good job. I’ve watched them work with the horses as well. Fran went on to say, that they could place many more saddle-trained horses, if they had the trainers. But all the saddle-trained horses now go to the border patrol. Fran and Lona will work with people to get horses in the right hands–let’s hope someone steps up for this pair.

21 09 2011

Fran and Ted and Lona will be here for our adoption, of course. I hope a lot of people get the chance to talk with them. I’ve been there just once … thank you both for giving us some more information about the facility.

21 09 2011

My condolences on the loss of Cinch. So unnecessary. And what a painful way for him to die after such a beautiful life out in the wild. Isn’t is just a sin that he will have no more offspring in the wild? It breaks my heart.

Is this herd even genetically viable anymore? 40 horses? I don’t think so. They should not have removed so many horses. It is not a good thing for the long range health of the horses. Once again, no science behind the round ups. Just pulling numbers out of their hat and the horses lose again. I cannot support your support of the BLM. Sorry. They are managing to extinction.

21 09 2011

Thank you about Cinch; Gaia should be pregnant with his foal. If, in fact, 200 horses are necessary for viability, when has this herd been viable? That’s an answer I don’t have. If we didn’t remove “so many” (fewer than we left), we’d have another roundup sooner than later. I was involved with the “numbers,” and there were no hats involved. Four years of extensive documentation was involved, though I don’t claim to be a scientist. I support, at least, the Dolores Public Lands Office and the supporting folks from Grand Junction and Montrose. And again, they were great.

22 09 2011
Stephen Casimir Romanowski

I am interested in adopting one or two of the Mustangs, However I live in NJ and I was wondering if there is a site or if there is a way I could see who is available for adoption by pictures. Also who can I contact that could help me find the ones I am looking to adopt..Thank you in advance for help in seeing who is up for adoption.

22 09 2011

I’ll email you … I’m not sure.

22 09 2011
Linda H

TJ, I’ll send him the BLM Canon City’s info, if you want. I’ll need your email address Stephen.

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