We dream of reuniting shattered wild horse families

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Misun’s family reunited at last. All photos by Meg Frederick.

Dear Friends,

Recently, we’ve shared our determination to reunite members of two wild horse family bands heartlessly separated by a traumatic government roundup.

Both Misun and Ares were proud band stallions captured in Wyoming’s Red Desert Complex in 2020. We searched—successfully—to find members of their bands in the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) holding corrals (the happy reunions that we’ve written about previously). Later, we were able to find two more of Ares’ mares, and reunited them recently with Ares and his lead mare, Gracie!

Area reunited with Gracie, Alexandra and Vivi Rose.

Ares and Gracie

When we found Gracie in the holding corrals, she had a beautiful foal we named Anteros. We asked BLM not to geld him because at barely 3 months old, he was too young. Our veterinarian assured BLM that she would wait till he was older—but the manager of the corrals instructed his crew to do it anyway. Sadly, this poor little colt, not monitored after this risky ordeal, was found dead after suffering an umbilical hernia following his surgery.

We all know it—wild horses belong free on the range.Holding pens are understaffed and overcrowded. They are no place for any horse, let alone a foal undergoing a potentially dangerous operation. This tragedy left poor Gracie, whom photographers knew as self-assured on the range, depressed and skinny before coming to the sanctuary.  Happily, after her reunion with her band stallion, Ares, she began to thrive again.

And more good news—Vivi Rose and Alexandra, two of Ares’s older gray mares, arrived from government holding corrals a few months ago. They were very scared, so we let them decompress and gain weight back in shaded corrals near a meadow where Ares, Gracie and Hotah have been living harmoniously. A short while later, we sent Vivi Rose and Alexandra into the meadow… and it was so rewarding to see them reintegrate with Ares, the perfect, patient gentleman, and Gracie! We were touched as they reasserted their rightful roles and relationships…and by the calm that came over them almost instantly.

As you read this, they will all have been released onto the rolling hills with 80 other horses and 24 burros!  It’s the support of people like you, who love and respect America’s wild horse and burros, who make these horse family miracles happen.

Misun greeting his mares for the first time in a year.

Misun and his family

We also have a happy update on Misun and his reunion with four of his mares and foals! Misun’s freedom was delayed due to an injury suffered in government corrals. It took months to heal, and he dropped a lot of weight. Once BLM released him, we could not wait to reunite him with Sunflower, Bella, Angel and Dahlia and their foals!

The foals, born in government corrals, had never met their father. The day that Misun arrived to their pasture, he entered the area respectfully and cautiously, but Angel, who was always by Misun’s side on the range, ran him off for days! A savvy former stallion, Misun maintained a distance as he explored, but his four foals (two colts and two fillies) wanted to be wherever he was. It took time to get back into Angel’s good graces but, in a matter of weeks, Misun could be found watching over his sleeping offspring while their mamas wandered off to graze.

Bourdo with papa Misun.

Horses are sentient social mammals, as bonded to their families as humans are to theirs. Government roundups use helicopters to push the horses for miles, then into a small trap — fathers, mothers and foals are stampeded, sorted and sent in different directions, never to see their home range or each other again. The roundups separate foals as young as 3 months old, while they are still nursing, from their mothers.

Banished to a relatively small share of BLM-managed public lands, the American Mustang competes for forage and water with large numbers of privately-owned livestock and local wildlife, and shares the land with other legally mandated multiple uses, like energy extraction and public recreation. The wild horses and burros alone make money for no one….and money is King…

For decades, ranchers and wild horse advocates remained locked in disagreement as BLM mismanaged public lands and wild herds. Frustrated by wild horse population growth on and off the range despite the growing cost of BLM’s program, the House of Representatives Interior Appropriations Committee voted in 2017 to allow BLM to euthanize tens of thousands of captive horses or sell them without restriction (to slaughter).A handful of senators saved the horses, but they sent a clear message—Wild horse advocates and other stakeholders had to find some common-ground solutions or something would have to be done, and soon.

So RTF, animal-welfare organizations and other rangeland stakeholders offered strong data to Congress showing a way to move BLM’s program away from calls for lethal “solutions” and roundups through the use of fertility control to stabilize herd growth, relocation of herds and range restoration. Although this resulted in greater support for fertility control among lawmakers, BLM continues to aggressively remove wild horses, while treating few mares with fertility control. This means even more wild horses living in off-range holding and more horses at risk of falling into the horrific foreign slaughter pipeline after adoptions and sales.

Will you join us in this fight? We can’t do it alone…

Since 1999, RTF’s American Wild Horse Sanctuary has demonstrated the viability of a non-hormonal fertility control vaccine as a humane, effective way to slow reproduction without destroying future generations through sterilization or removal from the range. Our resident sanctuary horses remain in naturally-selected family bands without reproducing beyond the ability of the land to support them. Not all mares respond to fertility control, so there are still foals like our beautiful new baby, Fig, to assure the continued legacy of the noble wild horse and burro.

While our sanctuary cares for more than 450 displaced wild horses and burros—a huge task in itself— we also work to assure a future for those still free on public lands. We push for government agencies to increase the use of this humane solution to stabilize herd numbers and for a fairer share of range resources to be allocated to the horses on their designated ranges.

We need your help to continue to both give a happy, safe life to those lost so much and to stop the tragic cycle of capture and removal.

With hay costs dramatically higher than ever before—up 30-45% from last year—we need your help to sustain the reunited families at the sanctuary.

Will you please give what you can?  A little help from lots of people adds up to a good life and better future for these deserving horses.

To the Wild Ones, and those who stand with (and help feed) them,

Neda DeMayo and All of Us at RTF

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