Wild Horses Run Free... Don't They?

“… the Angel of the Lord descended… A wind whirled toward him, scoring red sand with its feet, scattering the dust with the blast of its nostrils, screaming with ferocity. Jibrail stayed the thundering cloud with his outstretched arm and grasped the fullness of it with his hands… The wild element condensed in Jibrail’s hand and by the majesty of the Living God emerged as the steed of the desert – the Drinker of the Wind.” ~ a Bedouin conception of the creation of a Horse; Carl R. Raswan

Red horse in desert

I know I said last week that I’d be posting some of the research I did for my work-in-progress. But I’ve been reading about the wild horses in America and wanted to do a post to highlight their plight.

UPDATE 08 JUNE 2018:
The US House of Representatives yesterday approved the use of barbaric, dangerous and very inhumane sterilisation procedures on wild horses. “This type of cruelty should not be inflicted on wild horses and burros when BLM (Bureau of Land Management) can’t even prove overpopulation exists in a court of law.” ~ Freedom4Horses.
This declaration by Simone Netherlands, president of the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group, isn’t an easy read, but people need to know what these beautiful creatures are going to be subjected to.

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t love horses. I used to say when I grew up, I wanted to be a horse; that’s how obsessed I was. For me, horses symbolise wild, abandoned freedom.

Although I’ve never been to America, I’ve always wanted to see the wild horses roaming free. Next best thing, I watch them on tv and follow organisations like the Cloud Foundation.

A thousand horse and none to ride! –
With flowing tail, and flying mane,
Wide nostrils never stretched by pain,
Mouths bloodless to the bit or rein,
And feet that iron never shod,
And flanks unscarred by spur or rod,
A thousand horse, the wild, the free,
Like waves that follow o’er the sea,
Came thickly thundering on,…
” ~ Lord Byron, XVII, ‘Mazeppa’, 1818

Horse herd running

I’ve come to realise that not all see horses in the same way. The very organisation that’s supposed to be acting in their best interest – the Bureau of Land Management – is doing all it can, it seems, to wipe them out.

Lawmakers are told again and again that there is a “wild horse problem.” The truth is that wild horses have been mismanaged by the BLM, which clings to an antiquated, inhumane and expensive system of helicopter roundups and warehousing of wild horses and burros despite the existence of safe, proven fertility control vaccine’ ~ ‘Return to Freedom.’

The entire article on Return to Freedom’s website is an eye-opening read.

As is this, on the Cloud Foundation’s website – ‘BLM Scrambles to Write New Management Plan’.

But there are other ways, a more humane management plan that can be used instead – ‘The Cloud Foundation, the American Wild Horse Campaign, and 80+ Groups Release Unified Statement Against Horse Slaughter’.

At the end of the day, I guess it all comes down to money; wild animals have no profit, so replace them with something that can make a profit – livestock.

When all the trees have been cut down,
when all the animals have been hunted,
when all the waters are polluted,
when all the air is unsafe to breathe,
only then will you discover you cannot eat money.
” ~ Cree Prophecy

That is no way to treat any living creature, especially one that has been so inextricably linked to human history and advancement.

Wherever man has left his footprint in the long ascent from barbarism to civilization we will find the hoofprint of the horse beside it.” ~ John Trotwood Moore

'Napoleon Crossing the Alps' ~ Jacques-Louis David

'Napoleon Crossing the Alps' ~ Jacques-Louis David

As I don't live in America, I am severely limited in the ways I can help; when I’m able to, I donate. And I am grateful that my recent contribution was able to help Grey Oaks Equine Sanctuary save a beautiful mare from the kill pen.

If you live in America and you want to help these magnificent creatures, please visit the Cloud Foundation and Return to Freedom, and others – they have links to the various ways you can help, including writing to your senators and representatives.

His is a power enhanced by pride, a courage heightened by challenge. His is a swiftness intensified by strength, a majesty magnified by grace. His is a timeless beauty touched with gentleness, a spirit that calls our hearts to dream.” ~ Unknown.

Wild horse in desert

Surely there’s no reason for any of this. Surely if wild horses were as numerous as the number of cattle, they would be easily found, easily seen; there would be no need to spend days trying to find them just to take a photo.

The ‘nation’ of human has no right to wipe out another ‘nation’ of animal just because it suits them; we’re not that big a deal.

Wild mare and foal

For no animal shall be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.” ~ Henry Beston, ‘The Outermost House’.

Fantastic Friday - Autumn Stable Run

I’m convinced the colours this autumn have been extra spectacular. It certainly adds more beauty to the drive to and from the stables… Some of the pictures were taken by Liam as I drove.

There are so many more pictures I’d love to take; unfortunately, they’re on parts of the route where there is absolutely nowhere to pull over, let alone come to a complete stop. 

This stupendous specimen, however, did require that bit of effort to pull over and get out of the car...

Fantastic Friday - Victory for Wild Horses

I may not live in America, I have never seen wild horses in the flesh, but I fully support their right to live free on land they and their ancestors have occupied for decades.

Pryor Mountain mustangs

Pryor Mountain mustangs

I support The Cloud Foundation, a non-profit corporation that was, more or less, started by the cinematographer and writer, Ginger Kathrens. She’d been following the stallion, Cloud, and his herd. As she got to know them, she began to fear for their future, and that of other wild horses.

I began to realise that we were losing America’s wild horses. They are rounded up by the thousands, losing in an instant what they value most – freedom and family. I realised that even Cloud and his family were in danger.” ~ Ginger Kathrens.

Cloud ( pbs.org )

Cloud (pbs.org)

I’ve been following the recent court case against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), responsible for rounding up and holding wild horses.

The case involved what’s called the Wyoming ‘checkerboard’, which is an area covering acres of unfenced land, which is both private and public. Private land owners, essentially the Rock Springs Grazing Association and other ranchers who use public lands, had requested the BLM remove any wild horses that cross into private property. But the group defending wild horses – The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) – claim that the Grazing Association want the land for livestock grazing despite the association having agreed 40 years ago to allow the horses to graze up to a certain number, which means the wild horses are federally protected on public lands. But the Grazing Association say the BLM has failed to keep the numbers low enough and it now wants out of the deal, and it wants the horses gone.

Pryor Mountain mare and foal

Pryor Mountain mare and foal

When hearing of cases like this, it is easy to let cynicism take over and believe that politics and money will outshout any humane voice of reason. Well, colour me awesomely surprised to learn that on Tuesday, October 11th, the US Court of Appeals ruled in favour of the wild horses!!

Here’s part of the press release:

'DENVER, CO (October 11, 2016) . . . Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals Tenth Circuit upheld a lower court’s dismissal of a lawsuit filed by the State of Wyoming against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) seeking the removal of hundreds of wild horses from public lands across the state. The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), The Cloud Foundation, Return to Freedom, and wild horse photographers Carol Walker and Kimerlee Curyl were granted the right to intervene in the case and filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit against the BLM.

At issue in the case, first filed in 2014, were wild horses in the Antelope Hills, Crooks Mountain, Green Mountain, Lost Creek, Stewart Creek, Fifteenmile and Little Colorado Herd Management Areas (HMAs) in Wyoming.

The Tenth Circuit held, “We reject the State’s arguments… the [Wild Horse] Act does not define the phrase “appropriate management level” and thus does not equate it with any requirement to remove excess animals from a particular HMA… the BLM is under no statutory duty to remove animals from the seven HMAs at issue.”'

And the link for the full transcript

Whenever I see Ginger Kathrens and her friends' beautiful pictures take of the wild horses (which can also be found on the Foundation's facebook page), I find myself yearning to be there, in those gorgeous surroundings, just for a chance to see those “freedom loving icons of the West”. (Ginger Kathrens)

Fantastic Friday - Favourite Horse Films Part II

Continuing from last week, next up, we have ‘Hidalgo’.  

'Hidalgo' movie poster

Before this film, I’d never heard of Frank Hopkins, the Western endurance rider.  I’d like to think that his story is true, that he was part Lakota, that he had won 400 endurance races, that he had been a rider in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and that he had competed in a 3,000-mile endurance race in Arabia in 1890.  Though there are sites that say all this and more are true, there are others who dispute them, mainly because there is no evidence to back any of it up.  And Frank Hopkins was, apparently, known as a teller of tall tales.

The film purports to be ‘based on a true story’; maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.  Personally, I don’t care; I enjoyed the film immensely.  Not only because of the horses, especially Hidalgo himself, but also because of Viggo Mortensen, one of my favourite actors.  The film focusses on Frank Hopkins' mixed parentage and his struggle to work out where he truly belongs.  The one certainty in his life seems to be his horse.

Part of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, Hopkins and Hidalgo are billed as “The world’s greatest distance horse and rider”.  This fanciful claim is challenged by a wealthy Arab sheikh, Sheikh Riyadh (wonderfully played by Omar Sharif); he asks that the show either stop using that phrase, or allow Hopkins and Hidalgo to prove the claim by competing in the ‘Ocean of Fire’ race, an annual 3,000-mile survival race across the Najd desert.  The custodian of the legendary al-Khamsa line of Arabs, the sheikh doesn’t, for one minute, believe that a little, mixed breed pony can stand a chance against his pure-bred horses.  Apart from the stiff competition, Hopkins and Hidalgo also have to face harrowing conditions, and contemptuous hostility from the Arabs for the infidel and his ‘impure’ horse.

I found the film tremendously enjoyable; it reminded me of the Westerns I watched as a child – high-spirited, bold and plain old fun.

An interesting aside – 5 horses were used to play Hidalgo; Viggo Mortensen developed a bond with the main one, TJ, and bought him after filming ended.  Mortensen also purchased two of the horses he used in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ films.  What's not to like about the guy?

Finally, 'The Black Stallion'. I guess if I had to choose, this might well be my favourite. It's one of the rare instances where I prefer the film to the book of the same name by Walter Farley.  

'The Black Stallion' movie poster

In a nutshell, it’s about the love between a boy and a horse.  The film is set in the 1940s; the boy, Alec Ramsay, is on a ship with his father, somewhere in the Mediterranean.  Also on board are, to Alec, mysterious foreigners and their prize horse, a magnificent black stallion.  During a severe storm one night, the ship is lost; Alec and the horse are the only survivors.

The first half of the film is basically boy and horse surviving on a deserted island.  This is my favourite part of the film.  Showing the growing rapport between the two, it’s beautifully filmed, an uplifting experience, almost epic but in a quiet way.

In the second half, after they’re rescued, the film becomes a straightforward ‘mystery horse’ race, with The Black, as Alec has named him, being trained to challenge two champion horses.  Mickey Rooney has the part of the trainer in what seems to be a reprisal of his role in ‘National Velvet’ with Alec in Elizabeth Taylor’s part.  But the last race, I found quite exhilarating and, again, beautifully shot.

The stallion that played ‘The Black’ was Cass Ole, a Texas-bred Arabian stallion.  Mostly black, he did have white pasterns and a white star on his forehead which had to be dyed black.  His owners had instructed that he not be used for the stunts, and the running and swimming scenes; three other horses were used instead.

The young actor who played Alec, Kelly Reno, grew up on a ranch with horses; his ease around the stallion was very natural.  Unfortunately, he was involved in a serious accident when he was not quite 20; the vehicle he was driving was hit by a semi-truck.  The long recovery from his serious injuries meant an end to his acting career.

Some kind person put this on Youtube … gorgeous:

Well, I hope you enjoyed this list I compiled.  Have you watched all these films, have I introduced you to new ones ... what are your favourites?