I’ve kept pretty quiet about the matter of providing shelter to captive wild horse horses kept in short-term holding faculties. It’s not that I don’t care – quite the opposite in fact. There are so many eloquent people out there with betters ways of organizing their thoughts, and a larger audience than I could ever dream of having. It seemed like there really wasn’t much I could add to the subject.
Well that’s all over now. News broke over the quest to put up wind breaks at the holding facility in Rock Springs. Bad news. Now I have feelings, and darn it, those feelings will not fester in Facebook comments.
(I would recommend familiarizing yourself here reading this. It has all the nitty gritty details)
Sometimes I find myself wondering about all the people out there who just don’t get it. People who read the BLM’s decision to not put up wind breaks for captive horses in holding and somehow see the logic in not taking basic measures to improve these horses quality of life. “Boo ho hoo,” these imaginary entities in my head say, “Are the poor wittle ponies gonna get snowed on? Just like they’d get snowed on if they’re in the wild, loser. At least in the pens they have hay and are much more comfortable.”
(The voices in my head can be real uncompassionate jerks sometimes)
They’re also liars.
In all reality, the above caption is a parody of something that I regularly hear from BLM employees, especially those who work out of Rock Springs.
The Rock Springs short-term holding corrals are located on the northeast end of town. There are some small hills to the east side of the corrals where a few horses are typically kept. The hay is stored on the southeast side of the corrals. Most of the horses are kept in the westernmost corrals. These corrals most often hold the mares and the mares with foals.
Unfortunately for these horses, the wind in Rock Springs typically comes out of the West, the North, or the Northwest. None of the west panels where the mare pens are have any form of windbreak. What “natural windbreaks” exist in these pens are all in the East and South, the two directions that the wind is least likely to blow from, and thus, completely useless for the horses.
Back in 2011 every single panel had a small piece plywood attached to it. It wasn’t much, but it would help a little bit with wind and it certainly was better than nothing. Those plywood sheets are nearly all gone now, and boy they didn’t last long. My bet is shoddy craftsmanship when the plywood was put up. This is the government we’re talking about after all, and they are nothing if not shoddy.
Not three years later, the BLM is now officially saying that plywood is too heavy and the fences would topple like a house of cards. Why was this possible in 2011 but is not possible in 2014? And more to the point, if their panels are so sad & flimsy they can’t handle a little plywood, then how are they standing up to horses itching their bottoms or leaning against the panels?
More to the point, why is the BLM refusing to put up fencing that wild horse advocates are willing to pay for? Seriously, all they would need to do was put in a little elbow grease! And heck, I will drive up there on a weekend and volunteer to put in the elbow grease for them, because trust me, BLM employees really are that lazy.
Then we have the comment by Mark Storzer, the Rock Springs region district manager where he states, “On the range, within these herd management areas, the weather conditions are cold with few natural wind breaks due to the desert terrain.” Wait. This guy lives in Rock Springs? Has he ever stepped outside the city? Driven on I-80? Heck, has Storzer ever looked out his front window?
My friend Lauryn and I went up to White Mountain and Divide Basin last weekend. It was cold, but not unreasonable. The real problem was the wind. Throughout the weekend winds were gusting at an impressive 30-55 miles per hour. Not surprisingly, we didn’t have much luck find horses. Why? Because horses like 30-55 mph winds about as much as I do, only they are smart enough to get out of the wind. The horses kept low in the hills, seeking shelter. They were so well hidden that it was difficult to find any horses from the road, even when we knew they were in the area.
Early Saturday afternoon we hit a good patch of luck in Divide Basin. Five bands were just to the west of the road. Those five bands came closer and closer and… galloped right past. Clouds filled with snow were rolling in, and those clever horses headed to a more sheltered area to weather out the storm, just as it was arriving.
A similar thing happened to me in the Pryors, where the horses out of nowhere all galloped as a collective group for the tree line. Seconds later, it was pouring rain. Wild horses are masters at timing it just right, and ending up right where they intend to be just as the first snowflakes or raindrops fall. This human, on the other hand, was drenched.
Oh but wait, I must be wrong … Mr. Storzer there is saying that there are no natural wind breaks in the wild. They’re in a desert, you see. I’m just a silly girl who works in the private sector, so I couldn’t possibly know anything about the topography of Southeast Wyoming. I bet it’s kind of like the Sahara – one big flat plane of white sand…
My main point with all these photos is to show you all that just because BLM employees are too dumb to learn how to use the topography of a region to get out of the wind, does not mean the horses are stupid too.
But even if the Red Desert was like the Sahara; even if horses were too dumb to figure out ways to get out of the wind, it still wouldn’t matter. When the BLM makes the decision to remove a horse from the wild and place it in captivity, they are taking responsibility for that horse. They took responsibility for all 50,000 of those horses. If a horse is trapped in a small corral, they do not have the ability to take initiative and find a place where they will feel more comfortable on windy and snowy days. The BLM is in charge of that horse’s safety and comfort. It is their duty to tend to each horses needs.
If the BLM didn’t want to take the time to build shelters or windbreaks for these horses, then they should have let the horses stay free. In the wild, a horse is responsible for itself and its band. The horse makes its own choices, and he or she will live and die by those choices, just like you and I do in our lives.
The truth about what really is happening here and why the BLM is refusing such a basic right to these horses is quite simple. While wild horse advocates see this as a small request to improve the lives of captive wild horses, the BLM sees it as a challenge. We are barging in demanding that thinking, feeling creatures deserve the smallest level of comfort and in doing so we are not respecting the BLM’s “authority”.
How dare we provide suggestions to help improve the quality of life for horses! How could a bunch of ignorant out-of-towners possibly know what it is like for horses living in Rock Springs? What right do we have to tell people like Joan Guilfoyle and Mark Storzer that they aren’t doing their job correctly and need to make changes?
Oh wait. It’s funny, but now that I think about it, our tax dollars pay Joan Guilfoyle and Mark Storzer’s salaries. Our tax dollars pay to feed and water the horses in holding. Our tax dollars would pay for the shelters and their upkeep. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly government employees forget who they work for. It must be nice doing the bare minimum at a job for 40 years and getting a big fat pension upon retirement.
That is why BLM employees see our outrage and they still don’t care. This is all one giant measuring contest to them. All the hairy-chested BLM manly-men and women are whipping it out. They are telling the American people that they’re wearing their big boy pants, and nobody tells them what to do when they’re dropping those big boy pants to their ankles. It doesn’t matter if they’re clearly in the wrong. It doesn’t matter that nobody wants to see their junk. It doesn’t matter that what we are asking for is the most simple, easy thing in the world, or that they could put windbreaks up in the time it takes them to unbutton their trousers for a rousing rendition of the PR equivalent of saying “Up yours, American people!”
But while the BLM is busy flashing us, laughing in our faces because they think they hold all the cards, well… their hearts aren’t the only things shriveling from the cold.