September 8, 2009 – Gather Day 6

I know a lot of you have been asking about the status of Beauty, and I appreciate the concern for her. We still have not located her, but we have also not located Merlin. The last time I saw Beauty was the last time I saw him, and so I think it is probable that they are all together. Also, I realize what many people are saying about the workers during this operation. I was making observations just the same as people have been on other blogs when I commented on how I felt the workers were showing compassion for horses like Brumby. Again, I know what is being said on other blogs; and I think it is fair that these comments are being made. But I am making my comments too, and I think it is only fair that they be taken into consideration. Also, there are questions about Halcyon and her foal. The two have not been gathered; and, as you’ll soon deduce, they likely will not be gathered at all.

This morning, we were all talking; and we discussed how much we hated the horses to try and climb out of the chutes like they did yesterday. It was then decided that plastic fencing material could be spread out over the chutes and on a side area we’ve been worried about too.



This worked well. Out of all of the horses that went through the chutes today, only one stallion tried to rear up in there,; and he came down and never reared up again after brushing against the fencing material.

The first thing that was done today was to process horses gathered yesterday that hadn’t yet been processed. The first harem they brought through was Cloud’s. Last night, one of his daughters (Hurricane) seemed to be colicking; and they took care of her last night into this morning, when she was seeming to be doing a lot better. Three horses were removed from Cloud’s harem: Heart, Hurricane, and Image.


There was a question about me not commenting on Cloud apparently stepping out toward the helicopter. I honestly didn’t see this happen; at the time I was watching Image with my binoculars as he was a distance behind the rest of the harem. They have had me come down there so I can watch the horses coming in to give them faster feedback on anything I notice instead of me coming down after the horses are in the trap.

Duke and Jackson’s harems were also processed. Each had one removed from their harem. Meanwhile, the helicopter had left; and he came back some time later with horses. Three harems came together in this group.



It was Starman, Mescalero, and Cappuccino’s harems. They were all brought into the trap, and these three stallions weren’t too happy with each other. They were separated into their harems soon after, though. New pens had to be constructed to allow for this; I think it really is a good idea to keep these harems together and isolated. Soon after the horses had been separated, the harems were each brought down to the chutes to be processed. None of these horses were to be removed, but hair samples needed to be taken and some of the females were treated with PZP. Cappuccino had to be left in the chute while a pen for him and his mare was finished. He started to get agitated in there, and he ended up pushing open the hydraulic gate and getting out into the alley. The hydraulic system in the chutes has been very problematic between incidents like these and the terrible noise it makes when it is running.

Some time later, the helicopter came back with another group of horses.


This was Baja’s harem, but his mare Bacardi and her young foal were not there. I headed down to alert them to this, and we asked if there was any word on what had happened to them. We soon after discovered that the two of them were falling back a lot, and the pilot decided to let them fall back behind to reduce the potential for them to be injured.


Following this, the harem was processed. It was decided that the helicopter wouldn’t be bringing anymore horses down today. I noticed with some of the latest horses brought in that they are looking like they may be more sore than some that had been gathered earlier. I guess this is because these horses have been running from the helicopter on the range these past days, even if they aren’t brought to Britton Springs in the end. I think this had something to do with the decision to not bring anymore horses down. Thus, it is looking like tomorrow will be the last day of this gather operation. It looks like some of the horses that have been gathered already will be removed instead of the ones that have not been gathered off of the mountain yet. I will be back tomorrow with final observations on gather operations as well as specific information and numbers on horses removed, treated, released, and the like.

Published in: on September 8, 2009 at 7:56 pm  Comments (29)  

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  1. I do look forward to reading your account every night, but HOW can your information be SO different from the info coming from other sources at the site? How is your account so calm and near-perfect…making the BLM look like they are oh-so caring and compassionate? I don’t understand. So, is it not true that they ran a less-than-one-month-old foal over 10 miles today and that he is now very stiff and sore? I don’t think we’re getting the WHOLE truth from either side, frankly.

  2. This is actually a great question you have here. I’m not trying to be calm in certain cases, but I guess the way I write is seemingly that way. There are some things I write about that I am very angry or sad about here. I’m not trying to make the BLM look like they are so compassionate, I am just writing about things I see them do that jump out at me. I focus on this instead of the bad things that have been observed by some due to the fact that there are many others reporting on the bad. It is true that a foal was run down the mountain, but it is not true that the foal is less than one month old. The foals that came in today were born in late June. The foal that was not brought in with its mother today was born in mid-August, so it is less than a month old. These are trivial things, though. Really, by reading all available blogs, it is possible to see the different things people are seeing and the different ways they see them. The word “truth” has been overused lately. The way I figure it is that if you read all available blogs, you’ll probably find that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

    • Matt, thanks for your reply. I agree the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and when I read your account it actually puts my mind at ease a bit…then I read the other blogs and see things like this:

      I’m just glad it’s almost over! Thanks for all the updates!

  3. I haven’t yet read the above but want to thank you for being there to provide an eyewitness account of this historic roundup.

    Your work is appreciated and you are an important part of this great saga.

    Many fine people have been involved with this issue over many a decade in this country. They have sacrificed, risked life and limb, and seen the ups and downs of fortune of these majestic and charming animals.

    Rest assured you have a valued place in this history.

  4. Matt, you rock. Thanks for being willing to go down there and sort of “truce” with the BLM in order to help the horses. It’s doing the horses a big favor to have someone directing the BLM workers as to harems and other details regarding the groups.

    You have some guts, man. I like it ;)Don’t lose ’em no matter what. The horses out there need your help.

  5. Matt, you rock. You’re doing a lot of good for those horses on the frontlines and I appreciate it. Thank you for being there to instruct the BLM on the harems and all the other things you do.
    You’ve got guts, man. Never lose that 😉

  6. Maybe the difference is merely the difference between male and female. If you read both main blogs, they are saying the same things, (more horses footsore and weary today than yesterday) Both places mention the danger to the horses when they try to escape the chutes by coming over the top (by the way the fencing over the top was a good plan) Both the Cloud Foundation blog and the Pryor Mountain mustang blog are telling the same story, just through different eyes and different filters. I appreciate being able to hear from them all. I am learning. I think we are all learning. And one thing we are learning is this is a dangerous business that puts these horses at risk. It also puts the people at risk, although they at least volunteered to be there. I hope it can be avoided in the future!

  7. Matt, I too, appreciate greatly hearing your somewhat “level-headed” comments, even though sometimes they come-off as though you are being uncompassionate [especially beside other comments that are naturally reporting things from a different stance]. I know that you are in a “difficult position”, even though it is voluntary. I just want to hear “the TRUTH” too, and we all must realize that the Truth will have MANY faces— hopefully, the BLM, the Cattoors, and the Authorities ABOVE them will be made to acknowledge and PAY for their actions (criminally, I hope).

    I have ONE Request, though—
    Please Quit Calling this obscene operation a “GATHER”???? which is a BLM-euphemism to make themselves “feel more humane” (?).
    Please CALL it what it really is– a “ROUND-UP, Imprisonment, and FORCED REMOVAL” of Legally-protected beings, which is being conducted by methods that frequently CONTRADICT what BLM had specifically filed and been “approved/condoned” to do;– that subjects the horses to unnecessarily rough and inhumane treatments– WHENEVER the “removers” believe they can “get by with it”.
    Probably, just “Round-Up and Forced Removal” would suffice—-
    just PLEASE quit calling it a GATHER?
    {I Gather with my friends to see a movie; my extended family will Gather for a Reunion later this month—many of YOU-guys Gather to discuss the day’s events, THEN we will ALL go Home!} There is a big difference in “Gathering”, and this “Process” on which you have been observing & reporting.
    Thanks, with all due respect— Connie

  8. Was Cappuchino injured when he escaped the “hydralics and got out into the alley”?? (What/where is the Alley?) I don’t remember, which 1 is now “his mare”?

    You said,”3 horses were removed from Cloud’s harem: Heart [Arrow], Hurricane [Rain], and Image”— so they DID leave Cloud Dancer (Damsel) ON the range?? as well as Velvet, Aztec, Shadow, and the 2 new Foals?

  9. Whose responsibility is it to fix the holes in the fence so that horses don’t find their way to the “wrong side?”

    • For the sake of the horses, could someone please go out and fix the fence? I don’t really care whose responsibility it is, it just needs to get done…

  10. Matt,
    My heart goes out to you and all the horses. I don’t want to seem selfish in asking but, where is Fools Crow. You know he is one of my favorites and I haven’t heard anyhing about him yet. I have tried to spot him in the pictures on all the websites but haven’t been able to pick him out yet. I was glad to hear that two of the other bachelors were released. Keep up the good work Matt. I appreciate what you are doing. I can tell that this is really hard for you.

  11. Matt,
    It’s me again. I have racked my brain trying to figure out the reasoning for taking the older horses off the range. Does anyone really think these horses are better off in long-term holding pens? I thought part of the idea was to “gather” the more adoptable horses. Can anyone seriously think that taking a 21 year old horse away from the mountain is productive? I am pretty much beside myself these days. Is it really going to take a march on Washington to change things?

  12. FYI—the definition of the word “gather” is “to collect”. An appropriate use in this case.

    Have you ever heard the saying “some people would COMPLAIN if they were hung with a brand new rope”?
    Picky, picky, picky. There are WAY more important issues here!!! Suck up your frustration with this bad situation and do something CONSTRUCTIVE with your energy. Critizing one of the best advocates for the horses in the country on such a trivial matter is NOT CONSTRUCTIVE!

    I’ve been wracking my brain trying to come up with an idea of how to save the genetic contribution to the herd that has now been taken away by removing ALL the Forest Service horses. If I were a millionaire, or knew one, the problem would be solved. Any CONSTRUCTIVE ideas out there? What about artificial insemination as a last resort? What about frozen eggs?
    Money would be the problem again, right?

    Keep up the good work Matt. I KNOW you are doing your best. I know you’re not God or Superman. I am SO THANKFUL you have been there for the horses! I believe that MOST (but not ALL) of the people on the project are decent and caring, but I’m also sure you BEING THERE has definitely helped keep the environment better for the horses. I am also very glad that so MANY people care SO DEEPLY about this.


    • Well, then the word “collect” is most inappropriate for this “activity”, as well. BTW, it was a BLM document that 1st suggested using the word “gather” instead of “round-up”, because it “seemed less offensive to the public”. I’m not faulting Matt in this; he’s doing a great job– which does NOT mean that there is nothing he (or anyone) could do better– I just think, in context of his frustration/concern at being “misunderstood”, [which was the topic of that orig discussion], simply changing this “controversial verbage” would likely help.

      Anyway, you mentioned {If I were a millionaire, or knew one, the problem would be solved.}– recall that Madeline Pickens, as a multi-millionaire TRIED to “solve the problem” for BLM and BUY all the long-term holding horses??? Well, the BLM still won’t LET her do it— they are still arguing about it! & apparently there were 2 other similar offers, as well.
      So, we can’t imagine that BLM would help or agree in any way with any type of reasonable solution. It’s about “POWER” with them, I guess. Like Dad has to have “the last word of the argument”, no matter who was correct or relevant. Since they have Mismanaged this for 35 years, they’ll NOT allow anyone or any agency to “fix it”; not the G.A.O., Congress, Senate, or (president?)??
      & BLM did NOT adhere either to the RoundUp Plan that they filed, nor to their “stated long-term objectives” for PM-WHR, nor advice of their own Experts, that stress (over & over)to preserve the Rarer genetic alleles, including Color, Confirmation, known DNA lines; OR to AVOID if at all possible the non-selective culling of ANY certain subpopulation of horses,over that of the other groups, & that the “probable Worst management scenario” would be to selectively remove OLDER horses, that have already contributed to gene pool– as this actually shortens the generation span of the herd at large.
      -Now, we’re told that they ‘decide’ to Change plans AGAIN, by stopping the “round-up collection” before they procure the specific horses they said were so “scientifically selected” and just Take some MORE out of the ones they’re still holding at Britton Springs, instead! [the ones they scientifically decided should REMAIN on the range]. Are they “expected” for a high-stakes Poker-game on Friday night, or what?

  13. Yes I am frustrated. But if my comment came off as criticism of Matt I do totally apologize. Like most of the people that have ever spoken to Matt, I have nothing but respect for him and everything he has done. He is truly one of the greatest allies the horses have right now.

  14. Thank you for all the analytical and calm information contained in this blog. It is a refreshing change from what I read elsewhere. With all the eyes watching this operation I am sure the BLM is being careful in how things are handled. The photos are also very educational. It must be a hard thing to do, but thank you for all your efforts in analyzing and reporting what you see every day.

  15. Matt, Just wanted to thank you for all the work you are doing for the horses. This is such a difficult situation and I think you have been doing a fantastic job of walking the tightrope between working with the BLM and doing what is best for the Mustang’s. The round-up is not the answer to the Mustang’s management problems, but the BLM has made it the reality. You have made such a huge positive difference for the horses during this round-up and I shudder to think of what it would have been like had you not been involved. Many thanks!

  16. so what happens to the other wild horses all over the west who are also facing “gathers” with no Matt and no Ginger and TCF to be their watchdogs? The fame of the Pryor mountain horses brought them a little bit of coverage. What happens to the Mccoulough peak horses or the horses in the Dakotas or the Nevada mustangs? There was almost no coverage of the hundreds driven off their ranges in Nevada this year.

  17. Gather is not appropriate, nor is roundup since neither suggests the forceful use of heavy duty machinery – in this case heliocopters. The word that does come to mind is HARVEST – grow ’em and permanently remove them by force with machinery..

    To illegally harvest 19 year old Conquistador who had wandered outside the horse range is both deplorable and inhumane. There are plenty of wild horses in holding pens. To add a 19 year old band stallion AND all of his harem to the list of horses in holding pens is insanity.

    To manage herd numbers by injecting mares that have already contributed to the genetic makeup I can support. To remove extra batchelors I can tolerate. To break up family groups and condemn an aged stallion to captivity I cannot.

    That seems to me to be what you are supporting. Therefore I cannot support you.

    • Send this letter to someone in public service. This is a very good letter and it seems to speak to issues.

      The BLM has a job position called “wild horse specialist.” Maybe they and their superiors should receive these ideas you have of better herd management issues.

  18. Hi Matt:
    I apologize for being harsh yesterday…but you see… I’ve never seen a mustang “wild” in my entire life- but for 43 years I have loved them passionately, and all they embody. The genetic make-up of this herd is precious, and it is a shame that some bloodlines will have little chance of survival. These horses are historic- of course I’m telling you what you already know!

    I remember Wild Horse Annie, and the changes that happened many years ago, and this round-up (“Gather”) was still unnecessary. You know that, too… and I have no doubt that you had been gagged somewhat, by being a “volunteer” for the BLM.
    However-You did help IMMENSELY, and your presence helped these horses a great deal- by keeping harems together and identifying the horses- and knowing who is missing, like Beauty. You no doubt helped in others ways too- ways we’ll never be privy to as someone earlier said- you are “boots on the ground.”
    You saw, and heard, and KNOW. Never forget it.

    Thank you for providing this blog- for allowing us to vent and yell and ask questions!
    Thank you for being there, for loving these animals, and ultimately– for helping this round-up come to an early conclusion!
    Heather DeLong
    Nova Scotia, Canada

  19. Can you explain more about the Dryhead Mustangs? Is that a different area. Were they rounded up this week as well?

  20. Matt,
    Thank you for all you have done and will do to help the horses. This is a bad time and I am afraid it is only going to get worse. I am sending e-mails to the government in hopes that enough of us will make a difference. I do not understand why they will take the horses off the land when so many are in holding pens that they say they cannot feed. I know that if we lose these horses we cannot get them back they will be gone; we will lose another part of our past. Do we really need more land for the cows? If the cattle men do not have enough land to feed what they have shouldn’t they cut back on what they have? Just one more case of greed I guess. I cannot come here and say I know what the answer is, I cannot say that I know everything about horses; I love horses that is what I can say. I do not have any horse’s right now just four mini donkeys. I will keep sending e-mails not just for the horses of Pryor Mt. but for all the wild horses. I just hope it will help. Again Matt Thank you so much.

  21. Janet, just in case Matt doesn’t get a chance to reply to your inquiry about the Dryhead horses for a while, I’ll share some info with you from my visits to the PMWHR. The dryhead is the more desert-like area in the lower elevations of Pryor Mt. It is nearest the Bighorn Canyon Recreation Area and includes the very beautiful area referred to as Mustang Flats. (I have a view of Pryor Mt. from the middle of Mustang Flats as a screensaver on my computer and never tire of looking at it.)

    Some of the horses who usually “hang out” there, and who I have observed there during my visits are Blizzard and Strawberry and family; Durango and harem; Sam, Hightail and now Ghost Dancer and foal (which I saw born 7/4/09 near the entrance to the Range); Admiral and harem, including mares Seneca and Halo; Seattle and his harem of grullo and black mares and offspring; the very beautiful grulla stallion Merlin and his mare, who lost a foal this spring; bachelors Fiero, Fool’s Crow, Medicine Bow, and two bays I do not know the names of; old stallions Tony and Lone Wolf licking minerals from the ground on the Flats; and band stallion Starbuck, who had lost his mares, had an injured ear and was wandering by himself. Check out the entries in the Dryhead and archives category on this site. Matt has hundreds of great pictures and tons of info in there about the horses if you’re interested and haven’t already checked them out.

    In response to the person who feels that Matt SUPPORTS the BLM’s actions in this removal, I respectfully disagree. In my opinion, (and in America we’re all entitled to have one—and express it), Matt has been DEALING WITH it, the best he can, NOT SUPPPORTING it. Read his document in the link towards the end of his blog entry August 28, 2009 under Misc News to see what he wanted the BLM to do now and in the future to accomplish their mission. There’s no explaining why they didn’t implement his plan. I’m sure he has experienced a deeper disappointment than any of us (because of his close relationship with all of the horses) with what has happened.

    One more thing: regarding the Pickens proposal, (which sounded to me like a solution from Heaven when I first heard it), it is very enlightening to search “Read the BLM statement regarding Madeleine Pickens Wild Horse Sanctuary Proposal”. It was suggested to me by a concerned individual that when considering all the facts, it would benefit the Pickens bank account more than the horses in the long run. I didn’t want that to be true, but now I’m not so sure.

    I promise not to take any more space today. Linda

  22. PS: Janet, the Dryhead horses were most of the first ones rounded up and probably had the easiest time with all this because they are in closer proximity to people and vehicles because the Dryhead is easier to access for visitors.

    Now I’m going to shut my computer OFF so I can’t take up more space!

  23. Temptation got the better of me and I looked at Elyse’s report on the Cloud Foundation website. Apparently she changed the captions on the photos of me because it no longer says I am “poking” the horses as they go through. It does however say I am touching the horses butt while they are confined in the chutes- while this is closer to the truth it still isn’t quite accurate. In case any of the readers here saw the photos and wonder why this was occurring I will explain. I am actually rubbing the handle on the horse’e butt in an attempt to mimic the nuzzling a mare does to a colt. In young horses that are very nervous and banging around in the chute I worry about them injuring themselves and I found that gently rubbing the topside of their butts is either distracting or calming enough they stop and stand still. In domestic horses I use my hand but when these horses saw me they became nervous again. So if you look at the photo you see I am trying to sit out of view and using the handle intstead of my hand to settle these horses. It doesn’t work for every horse but it works often enough I generally try it.

    Matt, I really enjoyed meeting you and I really feel the horses come first with you.

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge this week

    • Dr. Thompson, if I may weigh in. I have been following this BLM action since Day One, and have no knowledge of anyone except for what I have seen and read on websites and news reports. Your explanation of what you were doing to help quiet the horses seems plausible and there is no reason to doubt it. The problem, I think, is context. You practice in a field in which the main trade association–the AVMA–seems stuck in the past. You were working (volunteering maybe?) for an agency that believes splitting up families and “culling” individuals is acceptable or necessary for the “good of the breed” or for land management reasons, and don’t seem receptive to anyone who disagrees.

      I understand that these views have not always been considered “controversial,” but the world of horsemanship and conservancy has changed radically in recent years. People today have very different ideas of “what to do” about horses and how to manage/train/handle/educate/live with them both in the wild and out of it.

      In that context, the BLM used tools in this action–helicopters, noisy chutes, paddles on sticks, ropes around the neck–that struck many (me included) as harsh. The measures may have been considered “necessary” for horse and human safety under the circumstances, but after all the horses did not create the circumstances. The BLM also employed “human handling” techniques, such as the “Volunteer Agreements,” that seemed arbitrary, heavy-handed and designed to shut down dialogue and prevent people from seeing what went on.

      That was the context in which the photographs of you sitting outside of a pen with a captured horse inside the pen were taken. I for one appreciate your setting the record straight.

    • I totally agree with theandbetween. Just your presence condones the extraordinary use of taxpayer money to chase wild horses for miles at high speed by heliocopter down rocky terrain so some “expert” can harvest 20 year old band stallions which have lived their entire lives on the range so they can be penned up and “offered for adoption” when there are already thousands in holding pens. . . again paid for by my taxpayer dollars. Seems a bit over the top.

      If I chased my horses, including two month old foals, down rocky terrain for miles with a heliocopter in 90 degree heat, I would most likely be visited by local law enforcement and humane officials and charged with animal cruelty.

      Why you were poking/stroking the horses in the chute is not really the statement. Your participation is.

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