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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 7 October 2003 Issue

By Judith Marie Gansen

Article 26 - Symbol of American Freedom - America's Wild Horses

There are no words to describe the feelings I get when I view wild mustangs running wild and free--their rhythmic movements as they run a combined symphony and ballet all their own.  It simply takes my breath away.  Or when I see a fierce stallion rear up with hooves flying ready to take on his adversary.  Or when a mare gently nuzzles her baby.  Wild horses are blessed with more beauty, grace, tenacity, spirit and courage than any other creature.  Along with our Western burros, they are a part of the heritage and history of this great country and they need your help now.  (To enlarge the photo of: Galloping Wild Horse in Wyoming click on the photo or link)

Do These Horses Give Anything Valuable To Us?

Ranchers have complained for many years that these wild horses take away the food supply for their cattle.  People arguing for the horses claim this is not true and offer ample evidence that they cause no harm and deserve our protection.  Others say we can't hunt them, eat them or license them so what good are they?  My question has always been--why do we need to place a value on a life equal to what that life may give back to us?  It's sort of like--what's in it for me and if I can't find out what's in it for me, then the life has no value.  Doesn't that make us terribly arrogant and greedy as well as ignorant?  (To enlarge the photo of: Wild Horses on the Range click on the photo or link)

Birds one can argue give us lovely plumage and the miracle of flight as well as beautiful melodies from songbirds.  Dogs offer us loyalty, protection, companionship, devotion, service, etc.  Cats take care of rodents, they "earn their keep" some say.  But what do wild horses give us?  What advantage is in it for us if they remain wild and free?  Well, if you can't see their incredible grace, beauty and history, one thing I read is that they help to re-distribute seeds by eating certain plants and then through their excrement, the seeds get moved and replanted as they roam.  They are also an integral part of the history of the United States--an important part of our history.  They fought wars with us, carried our burdens on their backs, plowed our fields and carried our mail.  Some of those horses got loose or were let loose and interbred with the wild horse herds and the present day horses are their descendants.  But even if a species gives us back nothing tangible that we can see for now at least, does that make them worthless?  If you are a spiritual person, do you think that your God thinks they are worthless?  Is any living creature worthless to Him?  Every year we increase our understanding of other beings--how then, can we be so arrogant as to say that any creature is "worthless"?  (To enlarge the photo of: Wild Horses on the Range in South Steens, Oregon click on the photo or link)

Some in the West call wild horses "jugheads" and claim that they are inferior because humans have not bred them properly as with domesticated horses.  Oops, I keep forgetting that humans can breed "superior" to God or nature and that humans always know best--or at least they think they do.  Nature, as any scientist will tell you, is about survival of the most intelligent and strongest.  Predator animals take out the weak and diseased and nature has many safeguards to ensure that only the best of the species will survive.  An error in judgment on the part of a not-so-smart horse could mean death--in this way the more intelligent horses survive to reproduce smarter offspring.  This ensures their survival.  When people breed horses, are they only breeding for intelligence and strength?  Or is it often for desired looks or a certain color or to get a champion?  Animal activists generally don't like breeding any animal as long as there are homeless animals still out there.  Perhaps the wild horses are not the ones we should be calling  "jugheads."  (To enlarge the photo of: Wild Pinto Horses at Water in South Steens, Oregon click on the photo or link)

The ability of these wild mustangs to survive against impossible odds is a great tribute to their courage and grit.  They are the descendants of the horses of the Great American West.  Sadly, they have been shot, driven off of cliffs to horrific deaths, chased by helicopters and planes and tortured and shot by inhumane monsters.  Things got better for the horses thanks to the efforts of one compassionate and courageous woman--Wild Horse Annie.  She got legislation passed to protect them.  Unfortunately the law has not been enforced as it should have been.  (To enlarge the photo of: Wild Stallion Lazarus and Part of His Band in West Warm Springs, Oregon click on the photo or link)

When our current President came into power I feared for the safety of the wild horses and burros.  My fears sadly proved to be valid.  There is a new war being waged against these majestic animals--by our government through our very own tax dollars.  More horses and burros are being removed from public lands then ever before.  Imagine only knowing freedom and your family group and then being chased in terror and kidnapped, trucked and relocated to holding pens.  Many are there for many months before being trucked again to places to be put up for adoption--the very nature of transporting and penning the animals is cruel even if they have the most compassionate wranglers.  There is little followup done on the adoptors and some of these beautiful animals will sadly end up in the slaughterhouse--sold for foreign consumption in countries like France or Asia.  It is unconscienable to treat these horses who have so much spirit with so much cruelty.

Some Ideas To Help Our Wild Horses:

1.  Wild Horses on U.S. Postage Stamps--we did it for the bats and for spay/neuter, why not horses?  To my knowledge there has never been a stamp for wild horses.  The money could go towards their protection and preservation because if the current trend continues of removing their numbers and pandering to the cattle people, they will be wiped out for good.

2.  Patronize places that take you to view them--make them a major tourist attraction.  Purists would argue that is not a good idea--it's like the marine life watching, a good idea but some problems developed that actually harmed some marine life so it needs to be well thought out.  With horses if you go to see them on horseback that is a very natural thing to do with the least impact on the environment--plan your vacation around this if you can.  When people who maybe do not care for the horses see them as a moneymaker in their own habitat, they may begin to care about protecting them.

3.  Make wild horses a state or federal animal with all the legal protections and special treatment that goes with that status.  Elevate them in the eyes of the people so they are no longer thought of as "misfits." 

4.  Stop eating beef.  It makes sense that less demand means fewer cows need to be raised and less conflict with the wild horses although with so many horses already removed and their numbers down so low already, it's ludicrous for anyone to think the wild horses could cause any problems anymore.

5.  Patronize businesses in the West especially who sell items related to the wild mustangs--photos and other gift items that celebrate the horses in their natural habitat--maybe if these businesses become lucrative enough, some cattle ranchers will switch businesses.  It's like buying products made by rainforest people-- it helps to stop the cutting down of the rainforest.

6.  Remember that Western horses and burros are not the only ones who need our help-there are other herds all over the United States.  Wild horses in foreign countries often have no protection at all.  They all need us to speak up for them.

Non-Native Species

I was looking through a book some time ago on wild mustangs and the author mentioned that some of the people in our West viewed the mustangs as "non-native species" and therefore, they did not belong in the U.S. and were "pests."  This argument has been used against other species if they had the unfortunate history of being kidnapped and brought to this country by humans in a misguided attempt to "make things better" or for a profit motive.  English Sparrows for instance have this history and now some are upset that they interfere with native songbirds. 

Mustangs it seems have an off again on again history of appearing in our country--they disappeared for thousands of years.  Since they have thrived on their own for so long surviving horrific drought and often barren lands, eating such things as bushes with barbs on them (that must be fun!) as well as the cruelty of man, doesn't it seem that they have earned their stripes so to speak regardless of their exact origin--they deserve to live too?  Ok then, here is a message to all the folks out West who feel these wonderful creatures are non-native species and therefore must be eliminated.  How many of us are a native species to the U.S?  When you think about it, unless you are 100% Native American blood I suggest you pack your bags because--guess what, you are not a native species either!!!

To Help Our Horses and Burros:

Write to your two U.S. Senators and your U.S Representative for your state.  Write to President Bush.  Tell them we need to stop pandering to the ranchers who want their destruction and/or removal and to leave the wild mustangs alone and that any problems that come up with them need to be solved with an enlightened, humane solution--one without violence!

To help horses in general please visit this website:

The Freedom Alliance

Read the history and become informed:

One courageous, wonderful woman who made a difference--  Wild Horse Annie:
Fund For Animals-Burros
Fund for Animals-wild horses

Current Campaigns: Horse Slaughter

Animal People:  Google Search: wild horses

Peta-Wild Horses Factsheet

Old Movie With a Message-- of wild horses being caught for dogfood (some very disturbing scenes in my opinion made before computer enhancement but the movie gives a graphic portrayal of what the wild horses have been through--ends on a somewhat positive note):  The Mistfits (Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe)

Great Current Animated Video-- (pretty intense movie especially for very young or sensitive types):  Spirit, Stallion of the Cimmaron.  The horses do not speak in our language which is very effective--excellent movie and does a terrific job of showing their pain and life from their perspective.


Mustang:  Wild Spirit of the West by Marguerite Henry; true story of Wild Horse Annie

Into the Wind-Wild Horses of North America by Jay F. Kirkpatrick, Photography by Michael H. Francis, NorthWord Press, Inc., Copyright 1994

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