The Horses Are Speaking
An Animal Rights Article from


Audrey Caprio on Tuesday's Horse
March 2010

More and more land is being allocated to welfare grazing for livestock, heavily subsidized by the American taxpayer, and which outnumber wild horses and burros at least 200 to 1 on public lands, although the cattle grazing comprise only 3% of overall beef production.

We look into these horses’ eyes, and as we we watch their spirits being broken, so too are ours.

Preparing to write about the trouble our wild horses and burros are in, I was overwhelmed by the influx of information, videos, and controversies added every day by extremely astute and knowledgeable people, became overwhelming.


What, possibly, could I write, to help make an impact?

After days of researching, and agonizing about the thrust of this article, I let go of my obsessing, and visited a horse who I have never owned, but captured my heart many years ago.

King is a very dear equine friend, on whom I can ride bareback with no more than a halter, and simply allow him to carry me. He is a domestic horse, but the blood of his wild ancestors course through his veins, the collective unconscious of all horses before him, in his genes. I relax upon his back, and ask him to somehow give me guidance, to somehow inspire me to communicate an important message.

And then it hit me. The mustangs are speaking to us, that their plight and that of the burros is mirroring our own.

Wild horses are our national icon; living symbols of freedom.

There are currently more wild horses in government holding pens than there are in the wild. Given our current, and rising, national debt, are we not also in somewhat of a holding pen?

It has been proven that horses first evolved in North America, and then thought to have migrated to Russia during the ice age. However, in 1994, a 25,000 year old horse carcass in good condition in the Yukon was discovered. Studies done by the University of Helsinki determined the remains to be genetically equivalent to the modern horse. Therefore, a population of wild horses may very well have remained, and thrived, during the ice age right here on our continent. But, no matter which depiction is accurate, the horse is still a native species. So why, in the face of this evidence, do the majority of wildlife and conservation organizations deny the rights of the mustang as a native species?

The early European settlers also denied the rights of the true indigenous people. In a shameful episode of our history, known as the “trail of tears”, men, women and children were taken from their land, herded into makeshift accommodations with minimal facilities and food, and forced to march a thousand miles. The human losses of the Cherokees were very high, with approximately 4,000 dying during their forced, and inhumane, migration out of their home territory.

An ugly reflection, and one in which history seems to be repeating itself, as applied to our wild horses.

In 1971, the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act mandated 47 million acres of public lands on 303 herd areas for the Wild Horses and Burros. Since then, they have been zeroed out to 111 herd areas, and a diminished area of over 19 million acres, and this is continuing at an alarming rate.

Why? Because more and more land is being allocated to welfare grazing for livestock, heavily subsidized by the American taxpayer, and which outnumber wild horses and burros at least 200 to 1 on public lands, although the cattle grazing comprise only 3% of overall beef production.

There is also the Ruby Pipeline, the 3 billion dollar natural gas pipeline, which is projected to begin this spring, and which goes throughout many HMA herds, one being the site of the Calico complex, the largest and one of the most brutal roundups of our wild horses in recent times. This pipeline is also running across an area of our public lands which is highly ecologically sensitive.

Something is terribly out of balance here.

What happened to the Wild Free Roam Horse and Burro Act? How is that our public lands are increasingly being diminished, and increasingly privatized? “This land is your land, this land is my land . . . .” Oh, really?

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, a coalition representing 10 million supporters, and comprised of public interest groups, environmentalists and humane organizations large and small, have proposed scientific, sound and viable solutions to the BLM’s management of wild horses and burros, while also acknowledging respect to the cattle ranchers.

So far, it has fallen on deaf ears.

According to information, of which there is a wealth, at, “Over the past forty years, federal law enacted by the people on behalf of their wild horses has been ignored. No strategic plan to keep viable herds of wild horses on public lands was ever developed.

The current situation is the result of a long history of failed policies, land allocation issues, and an intricate money trail. The BLM and the USFS, among others, are responsible for managing the nation’s public lands and are foremost the managers of wild horses and burros. Their responsibilities also include issuing public land grazing permits to cattle ranchers. These grazing permits cover limited areas of public land that are available for lease. So, for every wild horse removed from a grazing permit allotment, a fee-paying cow gets to take its place, and a public land rancher gets the benefit of public land forage at bargain rates. This is the number one reason wild horses are removed from public lands.

And here is another mirror. For, as the horses have no voice, well, what does the above affirm about ours?

Pictures, videos on YouTube abound, and increasingly the American public is distraught and outraged by this wild horse and burro holocaust. The horses, contrary to BLM statements about their poor and emaciated states, appear quite robust and healthy on a voluminous array of pictures and videos gathered by wild horse and ecological photo journalists. And yet, rounded up they are, and taxpaying public gets to view the inhumane practices of the BLM with their helicopter “gathers”, the terrified horses, the deaths, the stampedes, ad nauseum. How is it this animal abuse is permitted, and paid for, by us, the American taxpayer, and all we can do is watch, aghast at the scenes before us? Everything inherent in these roundups and “processing” is violent. May I quote an esteemed American scientist and inventor in saying, “Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.” Thomas Edison.

We look into these horses’ eyes, and as we we watch their spirits being broken, so too are ours.

Many herds are now deemed genetically unviable, and the powers that be seem intent on their total extinction, by our taxpaying money, on our public lands, which belong to us, the American people. They are at a critical level.

And so are we, with our troubled economy, with our healthcare crises, resounding “Broken Government” mantras on the news, gerrymandering, the power and influence of lobbyists on our elected officials; all of which has been going on for a long time, but is at a point at which serious change is needed.

The horses are whispering, “Wake up.”

We must continue to fight to ensure their place on their rightful land and sensible management, for in doing so, we are also fighting for ourselves. We must continue to seek positive shifts in our government, as the current course, over time and unchanged, has had a deleterious effect on our national symbols of freedom, to whom humanity owes so much, our wild horses, and burros.

Is this an emotional appeal? You bet it is. For emotion, and passion, is the compelling drive and force by which anything fought for, be it noble, or ignoble, is attained. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

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