No Colorado mustangs left behind!

2 04 2019

This past weekend in Fruita, Colorado, you would have been lucky to take home one of the 26 mustangs or two burros offered for adoption.

Lucky because they ALL got adopted.

Every. Single. ONE!

Lucky because it took several hundred dollars to adopt many of the mustangs.

Lucky because one 2-year-old gelding was adopted for – wait for it – $2,750.

Twenty-four of the mustangs are from Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Range, and two of them were captured from private land outside Piceance-East Douglas Herd Management Area.

Twenty-some potential adopters had filled out applications by the end of Friday’s demo day. By the time the clock started on the adoptions Saturday morning, close to 60 people had filled out adoption applications.

Do you have goose bumps now? 🙂


One of our BLM partners in Grand Junction – Ben Smith, who started his career here in Southwest Colorado – said later that about 100 people braved the cold, wind and snow flurries on Friday to see the training demos (including Inez Throm, Diane Shipley, Stephanie Linsley, Montrose 4-H kids and their mustangs, Mustang Maddy and Anna Twinney), and at least TWO HUNDRED people showed up for the gorgeous day that was Saturday and adoption day!


In this pic, taken from the opposite side of the arena from the top photo, you can see the very first adopter driving into the arena (Rimrock Adventure Rodeo Grounds) to pick up their mustang – which is the light palomino mare, named Sunshine, at bottom left.

Also visible in this photo are the booths set up at the far side of the arena representing Colorado’s marvelous mustang advocates.

Let’s take a minute to applaud these amazing folks (follow the links to learn way more about each of these groups than I can possibly share here):

Friends of the Mustangs, advocacy group for Little Book Cliffs mustangs, spent hours and hours and weeks and months preparing and advertising for this adoption, which followed last fall’s adoption of LBC mustangs. Members know every single horse on the range – as well as sires, dams, siblings, etc. (And that’s how *I* know that the palomino above is Sunshine. :)) Their resources don’t end on the range; they offer training help and mentorship to adopters, and they’re the first to congratulate new adopters! This group has been around for nearly 40 years; they have fabulous BLM folks (shout out to Jim Dollerschell, Ben Smith and Wayne Werkmeister); they count as long-time members two of my very first inspiring people (Marty Felix and Billie Hutchings); their adoption team (Kathy Degonia and … ???) pulled off a TRIUMPH here! Massive, ginormous, astounding and grateful KUDOS to all of these folks!

Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary/Sand Wash Advocate Team are the dreams of Michelle Sander (dedicated to her dad) and the hard-working advocates for Sand Wash Basin (including but certainly not limited to Stephanie Linsley (head trainer at GEMS), Petra Kadrnozkova, Stella Trueblood and Connie Wagner). On the range, SWAT documents the mustangs, darts mares with PZP, and hosts range-project days, working closely with BLM. At GEMS, they offer sanctuary to some mustangs, and they take in more mustangs to gentle/train and find new, wonderful, loving homes. Also at GEMS, they host a wide variety of events, including horsemanship clinics and yoga with the mustangs!

Wild Horse Warriors for Sand Wash Basin also advocate for the Sand Wash Basin mustangs. They raised money to haul water to the horses during last year’s devastating drought, and they’ve raised tens of thousands of dollars to help build fence along the highway to keep the horses within the basin and safe from traffic. Cindy Wright represented the group to help educate people about mustangs.

Piceance Mustangs is a brand-new group formed to advocate for the mustangs of Piceance-East Douglas Herd Management Area, the largest HMA in the state. Some of the FOM members are taking on double-duty working for this herd, and they’ve already hosted range projects, during which they have removed miles of fence (repurposing old barbed wire into wreaths that they are selling to raise funds) and completed water-improvement projects. They’re working with BLM to hopefully implement PZP darting in the future. Tracy Scott (Steadfast Steeds Mustang Sanctuary) and Kathy Degonia (FOM) are working hard for this herd, and BLM herd manager Melissa Kindall is an amazing (and amazingly grateful!) partner in their endeavors.

And I attended to support these amazing advocates, their mustangs and their BLM partners … and to set some Spring Creek Basin brochures on FOM’s table to round out the full complement of Colorado mustang herds. 🙂


The amazing George Brauneis, pictured above with Michelle Sander and me (photo taken by Kathy Degonia), announced all the trainers and pertinent information during the weekend. George has adopted numerous mustangs (he currently has 12!), and he is one of the most enthusiastic promoters of mustangs in Colorado! He has a resource list miles long, all related to helping adopters help their mustangs. He’s a Colorado native, and he is supremely dedicated to Colorado (and other) mustangs. On Friday, his gorgeous black Little Book Cliffs mustang, Rango, helped trainers Stephanie Linsley and Anna Twinney help potential adopters by serving as a model.

My gosh, folks. This is the way it should be done everywhere. Everyone is mutually helpful and supportive and respectful. We appreciate our BLM partners, and they listen to our voices when it comes to our Colorado mustangs.

BLM’s Northwest Colorado District Manager Stephanie Connolly and BLM Colorado State Director Jamie Connell attended the adoption and saw the benefits of their partners for Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Range, Friends of the Mustangs.

Also deserving of a big round of appreciation for their work for and during this adoption event are the following BLM folks: Steve Leonard and Monica Mohr (from Canon City); Jim Dollerschell, Ben Smith, Wayne Werkmeister and Bob Price (Grand Junction Field Office); and Melissa Kindall (White River Field Office, Meeker).

To repeat: Not a single horse went unadopted this weekend. Not a single horse returned to BLM’s short-term holding facility at the prison complex in Canon City. Not a single horse costs taxpayers another dime.

As George and Kathy said: No mustang left behind! 🙂

I can’t say enough about the people who make up Colorado’s mustang advocate community (and although I specifically named several people in this post, never doubt that there are many, many, MANY more). There simply aren’t enough superlatives. They worked long and hard, and their ultimate reward was seeing all of the horses and burros get adopted.


Some additional links: Photo gallery in the Grand Junction Sentinel.

And this little girl, Jade, stole everyone’s hearts!



Black is beauty

17 08 2016


Pretty Raven in the secret forest.

Many readers know that Raven was born and raised in Sand Wash Basin and came here in 2008 with Mona and Kootenai to help boost our genetics. Because Spring Creek Basin’s appropriate management level currently is just 35 to 65 adult horses, BLM periodically introduces horses in order to help keep our herd’s genetics viable, per a recommendation by equine geneticist Dr. Gus Cothran (at my alma mater, Texas A&M University).

An EA has recently been released for a bait-trapping operation in Sand Wash Basin. Information about where to send your comments by the Sept. 4 deadline may be found here, in a news brief in the Craig Daily Press.

“The BLM seeks comment on the Environmental Assessment of this gather plan, available at the Little Snake Field Office at 455 Emerson St., Craig, CO 81625 and online at: Public comments will be most helpful to the BLM if received by Sept. 4. Written comments can be mailed to the Little Snake Field Office or submitted via email to”

(Note that the website indicated in the press release leads to an error page.)

Of note in the very positive category, Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary and Sand Wash Advocate Team are specifically mentioned for their partnership with BLM in managing this herd: “Our partnership with SWAT and GEMS has been vital to meeting our goal of maintaining the health of the Sand Wash wild horses and the lands they depend upon,” BLM Northwest District Manager Joe Meyer said in a news release.

Also: “While confined in a corral, BLM employees and Sand Wash Advocacy Team members would identify mares, that would be treated with a contraceptive called PZP, which delays fertilization, before being released back to the range. Up to 50 young wild horses would be removed for placement in the Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary training and adoption program.”

Please take a look at the EA and send comments. SWAT volunteers are currently using fertility control in Sand Wash Basin, and they need support in order to continue their efforts to manage this herd well.

BLM to round up West Douglas and Piceance-East Douglas mustangs

12 02 2015

BLM is planning roundups in West Douglas Herd Area and Piceance-East Douglas Herd Management Area, both in northwestern Colorado.

BLM gave just a two-week comment period about these proposed roundups, and the deadline is Saturday – Valentine’s Day.

Read information from the Cloud Foundation – – and American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign – – for more information and to send comment letters.

BLM info:

BLM scoping notice:


Tell BLM …

5 01 2015

… you want to see bait trapping in the future in Spring Creek Basin.

Today, BLM sent a scoping letter to gauge the public’s interest in doing bait trapping there in the future as opposed to helicopter-driven roundups. I think you’ll all agree that we want bait trapping instead of a helicopter. It was very successful in Little Book Cliffs in 2013, and we’re confident it can be successful in Spring Creek Basin – when needed.

The scoping letter (and bait-trapping proposal submitted by our groups to BLM last year) can be found through links on NMA/CO’s website.

It is important to note that there will NOT be a roundup in Spring Creek Basin this year. Our population is below the appropriate management level of 35 to 65 adult horses, and the use of native PZP has slowed population growth. Apparently, all of Colorado’s wild horse herds were put on the “2015 gather list,” but none were approved because of lack of funding and lack of corral space (this information is as of November 2014).

Note that the name of our herd management area is Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area. Also note that Spring Creek Basin is in Disappointment Valley (there’s no such thing as Disappointment Basin – at least not locally).

Please submit respectful and positive comments by Jan. 30. Members of the Colorado chapter of the National Mustang Association, Four Corners Back Country Horsemen and Mesa Verde Back Country Horsemen (a coalition known as Disappointment Wild Bunch Partners) have established a long-term working partnership with Tres Rios Field Office managers with regard to managing our Spring Creek Basin mustangs well. Our network of mustang advocates helps reinforce this partnership.

Thank you for your support of our mustangs in Spring Creek Basin!

Comanche, Piedra and Aurora

How does your donation to NMA/CO help the Spring Creek Basin mustangs?

28 05 2013

This question was asked recently, and answering it gives me another chance to let local folks know about the Pati Temple Memorial Benefit Bash we will hold next week, Monday, June 3, at the Kennebec Cafe in Hesperus, Colo. Follow that link for the details and to purchase tickets if you haven’t and plan to attend.


Now, on to an answer(s) to the question!

First, see this page, compiled last year by Pati, for a list of the National Mustang Association, Colorado chapter’s past accomplishments:

As it says, NMA/CO has spent nearly $100,000 to date on projects that directly benefit the mustangs of Spring Creek Basin! We rarely do fundraisers, relying mostly on memberships and donations. Administrative expenses are low, mostly what we put toward mailing newsletters. We had T-shirts and hats printed for the adoption in 2011, and we’ll soon have a link to purchase them through the website.

Fence repair and maintenance is ongoing through volunteer labor. As a result of their partnership with us as part of Disappointment Wild Bunch Partners, BLM received $25,000 last year through the Director’s Challenge grant, which purchased some materials to be used in a project on the basin’s southeastern boundary line (read about alternative spring break and University of Missouri students’ work here – – and here – I fix fences as needed while I’m in the basin doing documentation. Sometimes we use materials provided by BLM, other times by ourselves.

We also are continually encouraging BLM to look at water-enhancement projects. More than a decade ago, NMA/CO paid for a water catchment to be built in Spring Creek Basin, and it supplies the mustangs’ only clean source of water (all others being extremely alkaline, at least). We have a signed agreement from about 12 or 13 years ago with BLM to construct at least one more catchment, but it has never been built. I think the catchment cost about $10,000. Several years ago, we also started talking to BLM about water guzzlers (such as those installed on Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range) to add to the horses’ quality of water. Those are about $8,000-plus. NMA/CO also has purchased parts for the catchment’s troughs, which work on floats.

NMA/CO contributes funds to combat noxious/invasive weeds in Spring Creek Basin (knapweed, tamarisk, musk thistle, etc.).

A decade or more ago, NMA/CO was able to purchase the cattle AUMs from one of the two ranchers who held permits in Spring Creek Basin. With the help of the National Mustang Association, we were able to retire those AUMs permanently. In the process, BLM conducted a grazing EA (not sure the exact reference) and then drastically reduced the remaining AUMs and changed the timing to dormant-season grazing only – Dec. 1 through Feb. 28. For the last several years, NMA/CO has been trying to buy or trade for the permit in Spring Creek Basin to also retire those AUMs, with the goal of no cattle grazing in the basin. As BLM itself says, managing wild horses is easier when the mustangs are the priority. The permittee is willing, so we are trying to work with BLM to accomplish this goal.

NMA/CO also is asking BLM to consider the use of bait trapping in the basin, instead of helicopter-driven roundups to complement the use of fertility control. We submitted a proposal for a program using native PZP that was implemented at the 2011 roundup. To bait trap requires the use of a facility in which to hold horses as they are trapped. This facility requires a chute and pens. We recently purchase a chute ($18,000) with donated funds from the National Mustang Association (of which we are a chapter). Our primary goal in fundraising currently is to purchase the required infrastructure for this facility so BLM won’t have only the option of using a helicopter and won’t need to transport one or two horses at a time – as they’re trapped – to Canon City, which is full, as most/all of BLM’s facilities seem to be. NOTE: NO ROUNDUP CURRENTLY IS PLANNED FOR SPRING CREEK BASIN. We are planning this now to have the facility in place so a future EA can include it in the planning process. As BLM said in 2011, bait trapping was not considered because it wasn’t in the EA. It wasn’t in the EA because no facility was available. However, note that we started asking specifically for bait trapping in 2008.

Enhancing water sources, retiring the remaining cattle AUMs, establishing a fertility control program and making bait trapping the priority for roundups all were Pati Temple’s goals for the Spring Creek Basin herd. In addition to the accomplishments made for the mustangs during Pati’s lifetime, we plan to accomplish these goals in her honor.

SCB mustangs in the spotlight

22 04 2012

Most readers of this blog aren’t local to this neck of the woods, but if you are, I’d like to invite you to the “Southwest Colorado Spring Creek Basin Wild Horse Management Program” at the Center of Southwest Studies at Fort Lewis College in Durango. It’s part of the center’s “2012 Program Series: Celebrating the Preservation of our Natural and Cultural Heritage.”

Guest speakers will be Fran Ackley from Canon City; Tom Rice from the Tres Rios Field Office in Dolores; and Kathe Hayes with the San Juan Mountains Association. Our Disappointment Wild Bunch Partners will represent our member groups – National Mustang Association/Colorado, Mesa Verde Back Country Horsemen, Four Corners Back Country Horsemen and SJMA – during the event. It’s a great way to let the public know about our groups individually and Wild Bunch as a whole, and educate people about our Spring Creek Basin mustangs and how we help, including being part of the Director’s Challenge award that netted our BLM office $25,000 for projects for the horses. We’re excited to be part of this educational series hosted by the Center of Southwest Studies!

The event will start with a reception at 5:30 followed by the program at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 24, in the center’s Lyceum on the Fort Lewis College campus.

If you are local, or even passing through, we hope to see you there!


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.


13 09 2011

Thank you to all who have offered your support, your tears, your concerns, your optimism and hope. I can’t begin to tell you how much it means.

The last four years (and before that … 13 years back since others in our group have been advocating for our Spring Creek Basin mustangs?) have been difficult … The last few days have been more difficult still. It will get better. We have been working too long and too hard and with too much single-minded purpose to settle for any other outcome.

I’m packing now. I need to buy food. I’ll be at work till midnight, home around 1 a.m., and then I’ll be on the road to the basin in the morning. I’ll know more tomorrow … with probably no way to relay it here.

Again, BLM plans to have a hot line to call for information about each day’s roundup activities: (970) 882-6843.

I do not think I will have enough of a signal to connect to the blog via my cell phone for updates, so anything from me will have to wait until I return home, which probably won’t be until Monday.

The horses are strong. They’re in excellent health. They’re resilient and they are just damn tough. They will adapt. We all will – because we have to. The coming years will bring even more changes – positive changes. The roundup is not the end of the story, just the end of a chapter, and as time goes on and it’s further in our past, it will be yet another thing to learn from and channel our management into better forms. We have to get through this to get there.

Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you …

… for all your care.

The adoption

5 09 2011

Time to talk about the adoption related to the roundup. We have some educational opportunities in the works that I think will both draw adopters and help people keep their mustangs.

Our groups – Disappointment Wild Bunch Partners, made up of representatives from NMA/CO, Four Corners and Mesa Verde Back Country Horsemen, and San Juan Mountains Association – are already working to promote the adoption. I’ve been doing it with my talks that started in February this year, we have letters to the editor and “public service announcements” out to several local newspapers, and we are going to post fliers in locations around the region. BLM also will do some advertising. No matter how BLM divvies up the horses post-roundup, probably 25 or fewer horses will be available for adoption.

NMA/CO has enlisted the services of a local trainer, Ems Rapp of Durango – who adopted a Spring Creek Basin colt (Rock On) in 2007 – to help adopters with their new horses. NMA/CO will pay for her services, and we will encourage each adopter to take advantage of this offer.

It is important to note that this is an offer made by the COLORADO CHAPTER of the NATIONAL MUSTANG ASSOCIATION and has nothing to do with BLM.

We hope it will help folks get started on the right “hoof” with their mustang, and we hope it will lead to greater retention of adopted horses.

If you are local, plan to adopt and want more information, call Pati Temple (NMA/CO board member, adopter of several mustangs) at (970) 564-8400. She will be coordinating training help with Ems.

All the activities related to the adoption will take place at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds, a few miles east of Cortez, Colo., on U.S. Highway 160.

From 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, the evening before the adoption, Ems will give a presentation at the fairgrounds with her gorgeous boy, Rock On, now a 6-year-old. (Incredibly, I don’t have any pix of them!) This also is a change from the usual – instead of pulling a terrified young mustang away from his/her compadres, Ems will show potential adopters all the great potential of their mustangs, using Rock On as an example of mustangs in general and Spring Creek Basin mustangs specifically!

Rock On does, in fact, rock, and we think you’ll love him as much as we do. He also will be on-site the day of the adoption (Saturday, Sept. 24) as an ambassador for Spring Creek Basin mustangs.

In addition, Vern and Jeri Friesen (4CBCH members) will be ambassadors with their mustangs, Dolly and Lipton (2000 adoptees), and Wayne Goodall will be there with Tumbleweed II (2005) and his grandson, who also has a Spring Creek Basin mustang, adopted in 2007, I think. Vern and Jeri have taken their mustangs back to Spring Creek Basin almost every year to ride during 4CBCH’s annual wild horse count, and Wayne has a long history as a mustang ambassador. Dolly, Lipton and Tumbleweed are awesome!

Adoption activities will start at 8 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 24, at the Montezuma County fairgrounds. I believe this is when BLM will start taking applications from potential adopters. The bidding will start at 10 and end at 11 a.m.

This will be “silent bidding,” as opposed to “auctioneer-type” bidding – you’ll write your bid on a sheet that corresponds by number to particular horses (they’ll have the number tags by then) – and update your bid as people bid against you (and you against them!).

For each adopter, I plan to have available a packet that contains information about their horse – photos, sire and dam, birthday, siblings and simple history, including any insights to their personalities and/or fun stories. I will be at the fairgrounds both days to talk to people about the horses. Another thing I’m thinking about doing pulls another idea from Matt Dillon of the Pryor Mountain herd, who had information sheets at the 2009 Pryor Mountain adoption that listed each horse by number and name. So if you’re familiar with the horses through this blog, you’ll be able to find them by name.

Our groups will have volunteers present to also give advice and information about their experiences with the herd. Some of these folks have been visiting the basin for up to 15 years!

Mesa Verde Back Country Horsemen will have drinks available right at the table where Disappointment Wild Bunch Partners will have other information.

We want the adoption to be more than “bid and haul.” We want to provide information that will help ensure that our horses, which are becoming your horses, have long, happy lives with you who adopt them.

Again, if I can answer any questions, leave a comment or email me at mtbgrrl (at) fone (dot) net.

The roundup

25 08 2011

With the Spring Creek Basin roundup just about three weeks away, the time has come to address with more in-depth explanations what’s coming with regard to the Spring Creek Basin roundup. Along the same lines, I’d sure like to start discussions about what YOU are most interested in knowing. What are your concerns, fears, apprehensions regarding this roundup? I will answer as fully and candidly as possible – based on my knowledge. I can yak about things I *think* you’re interested in … but if you have something specific, please do ask. If I get enough questions, I may do a specific post, addressing each question, rather than leaving them in the comments sections.

My email – if you would rather not leave a public comment – is mtbgrrl (at) fone (dot) net.

A couple of disclaimers to start:

* I feel the need to explain this again: Because of the size of Spring Creek Basin (slightly less than 22,000 acres of high desert), it cannot support a population that is considered by many to be genetically viable on its own. Please don’t get carried away with some “certain” number that would make the Spring Creek Basin herd viable. The finite nature of the herd management area – and its water and forage resources – makes a population other than what the basin can physically support a moot point. To achieve that balance and maintain both herd and range health, this roundup and the removal of some horses is necessary.

* Because I will be working with BLM does not mean I am in full agreement with all its policies and/or procedures. In fact, quite a bit of the status quo that CAN be changed is what I am working very hard TO change. But we must work within the bounds of reality, and with that in mind, we have accomplished quite a bit here.

Follow this link to get to a PDF map of Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area. Warning: It takes an obnoxiously long time to download – and I’m on a high-speed connection. Then, when it was “done,” it was black. I clicked the + button at the top to bring it into view. The blue line denotes the boundary of Spring Creek Basin, and the G at the western edge denotes the location of the trapsite.

So let’s talk about the roundup.

As a representative member of Disappointment Wild Bunch Partners and president of the Colorado chapter of the National Mustang Association, I will be involved with BLM during the roundup. As documenter of the herd, with specific knowledge of the horses, I will be intimately involved. This is not precedent-setting; it happens with at least three other herds I know of. It’s one of the things that most impressed me before I started documenting the Spring Creek Basin herd – and why I realized I had to make it happen here.

What it means is that I will be at the pens the entire time, attached at the hip, so to speak, to Jim Dollerschell, manager of the Little Book Cliffs herd, who will be at our roundup in the capacity of “contracting officer.” What that means in practical terms is that Jim has lots of experience, and Spring Creek Basin does not have a herd manager at present (though it is hoped one will be hired by the time of the roundup). Because of Jim’s specific experience as manager of the Little Book Cliffs herd – using native PZP successfully (their roundup this fall was canceled, remember) and working with an active and dedicated advocacy group (Friends of the Mustangs) – I am extremely grateful to be working with him, in particular.

My main duty will be to advise BLM about the identities of each horse captured, as well as advising BLM – and, in turn, the helicopter pilot, with whom Jim will be in contact via radio – of the identities of horses on the range, especially as it comes to bands that should NOT be targeted for roundup. Specifically, two of those bands will be Kreacher’s and Seven’s, which include Raven and Kootenai (in Kreacher’s band), and Mona (in Seven’s). The reasons here are two-fold: 1) Raven, Kootenai and Mona were introduced in 2008 for their genetics, needed in Spring Creek Basin to keep our own genetics strong. 2) Kootenai just had her foal, and Mona is due to foal Sept. 15, the day the roundup is scheduled to start. Beyond even what BLM says, it would, indeed, be a “PR nightmare” for very young foals to be killed during the roundup – especially when they’re *known.* The third band will be Ty’s, which includes yearling Puzzle and her dam, Chipeta, who is due to foal Sept. 1.

Bringing in by band

We have talked with BLM about bringing horses in by band – as opposed to large groups of unrelated horses. BLM has not made any promises whatsoever in this regard – I don’t believe it *can* make such promises. But the biggest problem, as I see it, is that no matter in what “organization” the horses come to the trapsite, they are immediately “processed” and sorted into gender-specific pens – in other words, separated from their families and put in with unfamiliar horses, which causes fighting among stallions as well as mares protecting foals. This has no bearing on the current roundup, but it’s worth saying: Keeping families together – until the point of actually selectively removing a particular horse or horses – is just one benefit of bait trapping. However, because of the very nature of the helicopter-driven roundups and related “efficiency,” I really don’t see how it could be done other than the way it will be done. (That it NEEDS to be done differently is one thing we’re working on!)

Dates/timing of release and number(s) of horses to be released

Some specifics here via what we learned at our meeting yesterday (Aug. 24): The horses to be released (including mares, who will get the PZP primer) will most likely be set free as soon as it is determined the roundup is over and no more horses will be captured. The roundup is scheduled to start Thursday, Sept. 15. Expectations are that it will last no more than a couple of days, but, of course, this is subject to on-the-ground realities such as weather conditions. Horses not going to adoption may be loaded onto trailers bound for Canon City by Saturday (Sept. 17), and the horses bound for adoption will be hauled to the fairgrounds Sunday (Sept. 18). I understand that’s because that is the soonest date the Montezuma County Fairgrounds will be available for them. The training demonstration by Ems Rapp and her Spring Creek Basin mustang, Rock On, will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, with the adoption scheduled Sept. 24. The adoption details will be outlined in a separate post.

The contractor – Cattoor, same as in 2007 – is expected to arrive in Spring Creek Basin on Wednesday, Sept. 14, to set up, and the roundup is expected to start Thursday, Sept. 15. It is scheduled through Sept. 18, but it may or may not last that long, as noted above. BLM says about 10 horses likely will be released, but that number will depend entirely on the number of horses rounded up and the number left in the basin (not rounded up). We also have not specifically addressed how many horses will be left in the basin post-roundup. The low end of the AML is 35, but 43 were left in 2007 (unknown to BLM; the manager at the time thought 37 horses were left). We hope to use this precedent – as well as logic such as the use of PZP (with documented efficacy of at least 90 percent), no planned introductions of horses and the gender skewing – to leave at least this many horses after this roundup.

Mares to be released will be given the PZP primer (by Jim, hopefully with me being allowed to help) in the chute immediately before release. They will NOT be branded because of acknowledgment of my documentation – which will, of course, continue. (Of interest here is that BLM recently announced that it will pay for the PZP to be administered to Spring Creek Basin mares; NMA/CO had offered to pay for PZP for a period of five years (the expected length of the fertility control EA).)

In addition to saying it’s likely 10 horses will be released, BLM also says (in the Decision Record, at least) that the released horses will likely be six stallions and four mares. In a perfect world, that would represent a 60%/40% stallion-t0-mare ratio. In the real world, BLM cannot know (none of us can) what the make-up of the herd will be when BLM ends the roundup and prepares to release horses. In 2007, still espousing the gender-skewing goal, BLM released five mares, the weanling filly of one of those mares and four stallions (with Traveler released nearly a month later). As it turned out, there was still quite a significant split between mares and stallions. BLM had no idea then of the post-roundup stallion-to-mare ratio before it released those horses. This time, we’ll know – exactly – and the numbers/genders to be released can accurately reflect that. (To be clear, gender skewing is not something NMA/CO (at least) supports, but it was a battle we chose not to fight at this time.)

Contractor behavior

We also have repeatedly asked that the contractors give the horses time to settle in the first pen at the trapsite instead of being choused by the contractor’s cowboys using plastic bags on the ends of whips/sticks after the horses have just been run for miles and captured in pens and are then sent immediately into the chute for “processing.” Again, no promises have been made here – other than they will bring it up to the contractor. However, I believe this is behavior that should not be tolerated unless it is specifically warranted in a specific situation. Wild horses – like other wild animals – move away from pressure, a human being a great pressure. Example: At the last Little Book Cliffs roundup (also in 2007, just a few weeks after ours), only once did the volunteers need to use a plastic bag. Two very small bands came in together – as I recall, a stallion with one mare and a stallion with two mares (with a foal or yearling?). In the close confines of the alley leading to the pens, the bag was used to separate the stallions – then immediately put away.

Yelling and screaming and waving those things in the faces of wild horses that have just been on a terrifying run ahead of a helicopter and then penned with no way out is NOT the time to use it. We reiterated this plea at our meeting yesterday and will continue to do so.

Selection process

Now, about the “selection process,” the thought that prompted this post in the first place (much of this is pre-typed (though, I admit, oft-edited); I was waiting for information from yesterday’s meeting to post it). I want to emphasize here that this is MY philosophy, and based on MY knowledge of the Spring Creek Basin mustangs. This is necessarily tempered by the reality of what I think BLM is most likely to accept.

Part of my selection process is genetics, and the other real part of it is “adoptability.”

I’m going to address specific language in the Decision Record (and in the EA). (If you wonder why I use “roundup” instead of “gather” in my writing, it’s because this is, in fact, rounding up horses – capturing them against their will – sorting them and removing “excess.” “Gather” assumes some gentleness – some emotion. I can be emotional (and will be) as the day is long about these horses – my horses – but logic has gotten me this far, and it has earned me a reputation with local BLM that, in turn, earned me a place at the table (or at the pens). I defend the need for this roundup, but I absolutely will not call it a “gather.”)

According to the Decision Record: “Animals captured within the HMA would be removed using a selective removal strategy. Any horse gathered from outside the HMA would be removed and not relocated in the HMA. Selective removal criteria for the HMA include: (1) First Priority: Age Class – Four Years and Younger; (2) Second Priority: Age Class – Eleven to Nineteen Years Old; (3) Third Priority: Age Class Five to ten years old. Up to 10 of the captured wild horses would be released; of these, about 4 would be mares and about 6 would be studs.”

First, there are currently NO horses outside Spring Creek Basin, so I think this is formal language “just in case.” In 2007, several horses were outside the herd management area. One was moved into the herd area from private property and remains – David. One currently serves with the U.S. Border Patrol on the U.S.-Canada border from Washington state – Justice. (If you’ll allow me some pride … Justice also was one of the 10 Border Patrol mustangs that marched in President Obama’s inauguration parade – just 18 months after he was captured. (An FYI – he was aged at 10 by the contractors – and ripe for removal, no questions asked – but at Canon City, he was determined to be no older than 5.)) And about four horses were captured outside the southwest end of the basin.

Second, my strategy for “selective removal” is genetics-first – because I KNOW quite a bit of the genetics, especially of the adoptable-age horses. BLM goes with age because that’s what it knows (based on the contractor’s expertise in aging by teeth … which wasn’t all that great in 2007, as it turned out (even according to BLM)).

Third … which is related to second … is that I’ll be looking at a combination of genetics AND ages – especially as it relates to “adoptability” – or the fact that horses between the ages of 1 and 4 are most likely to be *offered* for adoption – especially locally, immediately after the roundup.

I will NOT make public the horses on the lists that I have given BLM, but these are the categories: STAY (I will say that Traveler and the introduced horses, at least, are on this list), should stay, can go, can go or can stay. This idea of having multiple lists came from Matt Dillon of the Pryor Mountain herd, to allow flexibility, and I think it’s excellent, so I adopted it (Matt has been a great inspiration over the years in many ways). Necessarily, maybe, the “can go or can stay” category has the most names.

*** Please (I really beg you), don’t appeal to me for your favorite horse(s). As important as I believe this duty to be, and as absolutely grateful as I am to our local BLM folks who have afforded me this opportunity, it’s going to just about kill me to make these decisions. I am trying to make decisions that I can defend logically, that BLM will accept and that will benefit the herd as a whole. Please, please do not make it any harder.

BLM says about half the horses rounded up will be offered for adoption and about half will be sent to Canon City. (Horses CAN be adopted from Canon City, and people can request halter (and saddle) training by inmates at the Canon City facility, to then be transported to the adopter’s home.) Realistically, this will depend on the number and make-up of the horses actually captured and removed.

BLM’s rationale for the half-half deal is that in 2007, only about 13 of the 32 available horses were adopted. As BLM says, it’s a bad economy, the horse market in general is in the tank, and the mustang-adoption market itself is down considerably from happier times.

But here’s “the rest of the (hi)story”: In 2006, BLM held a mustang adoption in Pagosa Springs, in southern Colorado, about 100 miles from the site of the 2007 adoption (it will be here again: Montezuma County Fairgrounds, on U.S. Highway 160 a few miles east of Cortez, Colo.). In 2005, a post-roundup adoption of Spring Creek Basin mustangs was held. So three adoptions in three years? That would tend to “saturate” even a bad market, yes? At the previous adoption – in 2000 – almost all the horses were adopted, according to NMA/CO memory. One of my goals for future sustainable management of this herd is to *create* a market for our Spring Creek Basin mustangs by making offerings somewhat “rare” – infrequent with few(er) horses.

BLM roundup information hot line

A BLM hot line will be available with information about the roundup: Tom Rice, associate manager of the Dolores Public Lands Office and deputy district ranger for the Dolores District of San Juan Public Lands, will update a message by about 10 p.m. each night about that day’s roundup activities. People can call that hot line at this number: (970) 882-6843 (his office number). The time will depend on the day’s activities and how soon he can get away to locate cell service. (Cell service within the basin – within the entire Disappointment Valley area – is bad at best.

I have thought about trying to figure out a way to post updates to the blog through my cell phone, and if I have a strong enough signal, I will surely do so. I am almost positive I won’t be able to post any photos until I return to civilization, which likely won’t be until at least Monday (Sept. 19). I plan to be at the roundup every single day, until the last horse is gone, the last panel is loaded and the second-to-last human being (me being the last) has left his dust on the road. I’ll apologize in advance for being publicly incommunicado during that time, but honestly, I won’t be thinking about the blog a whole lot.

Public observation

I want to talk about observation for a minute. This is a little up in the air with regard to FAA rules about safety of people (and horses) with proximity to the helicopter. In 2007, observers were situated on the rim of Spring Creek Canyon, above the creekbed through which the horses run on the way to the pens, and on a hill “behind” the pens – the route of the horses brought them to the pens almost directly in front of this hill. Until BLM talks with the contractor and pilot, we won’t know for sure where observers can be, but BLM told us that as of now, they plan to allow observation from the hill as before but probably not from the top of the canyon. Local BLM has told us they are committed to transparency, and close observation such as this has been a great thing about roundups here in the past.

Also, we have been told that in this age of “social media,” every/anyone can be considered a “journalist.” What that means in terms of the roundup is that media and public will be treated no differently. If the media can be in a spot, the public can be in that spot and vice versa.

BLM public information specialists are working on a flier/brochure about roundup/visiting etiquette that will be given to observers upon entrance to the basin. This is important: THE BASIN WILL NOT BE CLOSED DURING THE ROUNDUP – unless there is a safety issue. First flights each morning will likely begin around 7 a.m.


Another word (or more) about safety: An APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) veterinarian will be onsite, a veterinarian with a clinic in San Miguel County (most of the basin is in San Miguel County) will draw blood for Coggins testing, and a local Montezuma County veterinarian (Dr. Sue Grabbe, who has been present at the last two or so roundups) will be onsite again at the request of NMA/CO to observe the roundup for safety of the horses.


Finally, I promise to be candid about the event. I won’t defend BLM and/or the contractor if something “untoward” happens – and/or I’ll explain the event/why it happened (such as the mare that was mistakenly put in with the stallions in 2007) – but neither will I allow attacks via this blog on any of them for doing their jobs. We – BLM and our own advocates – have made every effort to ensure this roundup runs as smoothly and as safely – for horses and for humans – as possible.


This is going to be a difficult thing … but it’s something our groups have spent the last four years (specifically) working on to ensure that safety – and other management considerations such as fertility control implementation. Literally, we started almost immediately after the 2007 roundup. Nothing happens with government overnight, and it has taken every one of those years to get where we are now. We’re not done. We’re not going away.

It will always remain the priority of the Disappointment Wild Bunch Partners (and each of our individual groups) to maintain the highest level of welfare for our Spring Creek Basin mustangs.