my dream is that wild horses will be allowed to roam free
Wild horses roaming freely in the American West symbolize the great American spirit. The sight of these strong, beautiful creatures has inspired poets, artists, and countless other Americans over the last two and a half centuries. However, the future of these iconic animals is in serious peril. Between two and five million mustangs once roamed free in the Midwest and West in the mid-1800s. Today, the Humane Society of the United States estimates that fewer than 25,000 remain. In Arizona alone, where more than 500,000 wild horses lived in 1915, the number has been reduced to a mere 500 horses.
In Arizona alone, where more than 500,000 wild horses lived in 1915, the number has been reduced to a mere 500 horses
In 1971, Congress enacted the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, which made it illegal to capture, brand, harass or kill any American wild horse or burro. At the time, it was a landmark decision applauded by animal-rights organizations and activists throughout the country. However, since its enactment, the Act has progressively been enforced less. In fact now, the government agency charged with enforcing the Act and protecting mustangs, the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM), removes thousands of them each year from federal land. The BLM claims it is “managing the population” so ranchers can graze their cattle on the same land. Using low-flying helicopters, BLM workers capture and corral the wild horses and store them in government holding facilities. Many are killed in the process, particularly pregnant mares and young foals. The surviving horses are put up for auction for a little over a hundred dollars each. The majority are not adopted, and some end up being shipped to slaughter. These once wild and free animals usually spend the rest of their lives in cramped holding pens or, even worse, are killed for their meat. Currently, about 50,000 wild horses are being held in 17 federal holding facilities, but they are in immediate danger as a result of recent developments from the Trump Administration.
Every wild horse that has fallen victim to the BLM’s population management is a lost icon of the freedom and untamed beauty that symbolizes the American Dream. Americans must stand up and demand an end to this practice before it’s too late.
Currently, about 50,000 wild horses are being held in 17 federal holding facilities, but they are in immediate danger as a result of recent developments from the Trump Administration
Public Lands Used for Private Gain and the Bureau of Land Management
The American wild horse crisis in large part comes down to one issue: cattle ranchers in the western states don’t want wild horses competing for the same grazing land as their beef cattle. Ranchers make tens of millions of dollars annually raising millions of cows and steers, which are then slaughtered for their meat. Wild horses are seen as a direct threat to the cattlemen’s lucrative industry because they often graze on the same types of grasses as the cattle. However, much of the land the ranchers graze their cattle on is publicly owned and paid for by American taxpayers. Cattle ranchers buy permits to graze their cattle on the public lands and in return reap a large profit, vastly greater than the cost of the permits, by selling the fattened cattle to slaughterhouses. The ranchers lease the land from the BLM at an incredibly low rate of $1.69 per AUM (AUM stands for Animal Unit Month—the amount of forage allotted to an animal, in this case a cow and her calf, for one month). This rate is more than 90% below the average market value of $18.20 AUM for the same land owned by private individuals. Despite this amazing deal for the ranchers, many cattlemen believe that the public lands are theirs and the wild horse population should be “managed” in order to keep the public grazing land primarily for cattle. Many ranchers note that their families have been grazing their cattle on the lands for decades and originally didn’t have to purchase permits at all. But why are ranchers even allowed to purchase permits in the first place, when the vast majority of the land owners, the American public, want the public lands to be designated for wild horses and not rented out to the ranchers?
The American wild horse crisis in large part comes down to one issue: cattle ranchers in the western states don’t want wild horses competing for the same grazing land as their beef cattle. Ranchers make tens of millions of dollars annually raising millions of cows and steers, which are then slaughtered for their meat
The BLM, in the estimation of many conservationists and objective observers, seems to side with the ranchers. American cattle ranchers hold nearly 18,000 permits and leases for livestock grazing on 155 million acres of taxpayer-funded public lands. Over one million cattle graze the land in comparison to the roughly 25,000 wild horses. The wild horses occupy a paltry 9% of the public lands and are outnumbered by cattle at a ratio of nearly 40:1. Despite this great disparity, the cattle ranchers view wild horses as a threat to their cheap, taxpayer-subsidized livestock grazing.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) is a very wealthy lobbying organization that donates millions of dollars every election cycle to politicians who favor reducing wild horse populations. The NCBA has publicly stated that they want to reduce the population of wild horses and burros in the interests of the ranchers, even though ranchers who use public lands to graze their cattle produce less than 3% of the nation’s beef supply. Many ranchers have publicly expressed that they would like to see the wild horse population exterminated altogether, citing that wild horses are not native to North America. They say this despite the fact that cattle are not native to North America either.
The Trump Administration and the New Threat
The election of Donald Trump in 2016 made the already tragic situation for American wild horses and burros even worse. A month after being elected, Trump appointed Montana Republican Congressman Ryan Zinke as the new Secretary of the Department of Interior, the agency responsible for overseeing America’s public lands, natural resources, and wild horses and burros. The BLM is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Interior. Zinke, an avid hunter, is a strong supporter of coal, oil and gas exploration who considers global warming “unproven science.” Wild horse conservation advocacy groups like the American Wild Horse Campaign and others consider Zinke a close ally of ranchers, the beef industry, and other anti-animal welfare groups. In fact, the United States Cattlemen’s Association and Safari Club International both publicly praised the appointment of Zinke. The environmental conservation advocacy group League of Conservation Voters, on the other hand, gave Zinke a 3 out of a possible 100 approval rating based on his past voting record in the House of Representatives on bills concerning animal welfare and environmental legislation.
The proposed budget, which has yet to gain Congressional approval, gives the BLM permission to sell the 92,000 wild horses currently in BLM holding facilities to foreign slaughterhouses for meat. It will also fully legalize horse slaughter in American slaughterhouses
Three months after appointing Zinke, the Trump administration proposed a national budget plan that cut funding for wild horses and burros by almost 20%. The proposed budget, which has yet to gain Congressional approval, gives the BLM permission to sell the 92,000 wild horses currently in BLM holding facilities to foreign slaughterhouses for meat. It will also fully legalize horse slaughter in American slaughterhouses. Additionally, the proposed budget will also drastically reduce money earmarked for free-range mare birth control.
The House of Representatives passed the provision legalizing horse slaughter but the Senate rejected it. However, there is still a chance it will survive and become law if the House appropriations committee can convince the Senate appropriations committee to include it in the finalized budget proposal when the two meet in the full conference committee.
The BLM announced in July of 2017 their plan to round up and remove over 6,700 wild horses in Nevada—roughly 80 percent of the estimated wild horse population there. This is a part of an even larger BLM objective to remove an astonishing 10,000 wild horses from their home ranges throughout the western United States between autumn of 2017 and spring 2018.
Horses Slaughtered for Meat
Although the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 makes it illegal for wild horses to be slaughtered for meat in the U.S., ranchers have been caught adopting wild horses from the BLM and then transporting them to Canada or Mexico to be sold to slaughterhouses for a profit. In the autumn of 2015, a report by the U.S. Interior Department Office of the Inspector General revealed that the BLM had sold nearly 1,800 wild horses for $10/each to a single rancher in Colorado, who then illegally sold them to Mexican slaughterhouses for a large profit. The rancher was a friend and neighbor of the former U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar. (The U.S. Secretary of the Interior oversees the U.S. Department of the Interior, which regulates the BLM.) In addition, the report revealed that the BLM failed to follow its own policy of limiting the number of horses a person can adopt and ensuring that the horses went to good homes and were not slaughtered. Amazingly, the report also noted that the BLM continued selling horses to the rancher even after receiving reports that he was sending them to their deaths in Mexico. No one was reprimanded or held accountable for the sale of the horses to the rancher. Wild Horse advocates believe that many other ranchers do the same and purchase horses for next to nothing before illegally selling them for profit to slaughterhouses outside the U.S.
Although the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 makes it illegal for wild horses to be slaughtered for meat in the U.S., ranchers have been caught adopting wild horses from the BLM and then transporting them to Canada or Mexico to be sold to slaughterhouses for a profit
The conditions the horses endure on the transport trailers to the slaughterhouses are horrific. No water or food is provided as they languish in cramped trailer enclosures where the temperatures can reach dangerously high levels. In the overcrowded conditions, rest is impossible, resulting in fighting, serious injuries, and even deaths. Documents from the USDA that were obtained by the animal-welfare organization Animals’ Angels revealed that horses arriving at slaughterhouses exhibited life-threatening injuries including eyes dangling from sockets, legs ripped from joint tendons, and severe head and back injuries. Several highway accidents involving transport trailers have also resulted in unimaginable pain and suffering for the horses.
Upon arrival at the slaughterhouse, the horses are crammed into holding pens just outside the facility. They can sense the fear and anguish of the horses being killed inside as the smell and sound of blood, suffering, and death are in the air all around them. Horses sick and injured from the transport often die in these pens before even making it into the slaughterhouse.
They can sense the fear and anguish of the horses being killed inside as the smell and sound of blood, suffering, and death are in the air all around them
Finding a Solution
The federal government’s policy of managing the Western wild horse population through helicopter roundups is not necessary. There are other more humane, more economical alternatives. Millions of taxpayer dollars are used each year in helicopter roundups, stampeding the horses into pens, and feeding/housing them in holding facilities. Injuries and deaths occur with every roundup. Birth control, a controversial population-control method, is a more cost-effective, humane way to manage the wild horse population according to many conservationists. With this method, horses are not rounded up by helicopter and don’t spend the rest of their lives confined in holding pens. Instead, the birth control PZP-22 is administered in the field by darting the mares. The birth control lasts for 22 months. If not administered properly and at the right time of year, however, births after the 22 months will occur in the autumn and winter months, greatly increasing mare and foal deaths.
Birth control, a controversial population-control method, is a more cost-effective, humane way to manage the wild horse population according to many conservationists
Still, the largest part of the equation that needs to be addressed is the ranchers’ scope of influence on the issue. Their objective to have full control over what happens to the horses and burros is completely one-sided and unfair to the animals. The federal government needs to reassess, without the profit motivations of the NBCA and ranchers considered, whether continuing granting permits and leases to ranchers is in accordance with the desires of the owners of the land, the American taxpayers.
Wild horse advocates have been successful in bringing the current plight of America’s wild horses and burros to the attention of millions of Americans. But unless the federal government begins making regulatory decisions about the public land with the horses’ interests in mind instead of the NCBA and ranchers, it will all be for naught. The very existence of American wild horses and burros are in our hands.
Educating the public about the dire situation facing America’s wild horses and burros is undoubtedly one of the most important tools in convincing local, state, and federal lawmakers to enact pro-mustang legislation. The more people know about these majestic, iconic animals and their plight, the more pressure will be put on lawmakers to protect them. Over the last decade, wild horse and burro advocacy organizations have educated millions of Americans. Through the outreach efforts of Return to Freedom, The American Wild Horse Campaign, Wild Horse Sanctuary Alliance, and other welfare organizations, more people than ever are stepping up and and joining the fight to save wild horses and burros from extinction.
Increased Public Awareness and Celebrity Support
Dedication from concerned citizens and wild horse advocates and organizations is more vital now than ever. In May of 2017, the Trump administration proposed a national budget plan that would greatly reduce funding for the treatment and care of the wild horses and burros currently held in BLM holding facilities as well as the few that still roam freely. The plan would give cattle ranchers and their organizations, like the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, more influence than they already have, paving the way for an even further reduction of public lands where wild horses and burros can roam freely and graze without harassment. Most importantly, provisions in the plan will legalize the sale and slaughter of horses and burros captured in BLM roundups and those currently in the holding facilities.
Despite this potentially devastating legislation, the reaction against it has been impressive. Massive amounts of concerned citizens have contacted their legislators, signed petitions, and educated friends and family about the urgency of lobbying to defeat the plan. Wild horse and burro advocacy and conservation organizations have amped up their educational outreach, informing Americans of the horrific consequences that the passage of the plan would bring to America’s remaining wild horses and burros.
Many celebrities have appeared in public service announcements aimed at heightening public awareness of the issue. Entertainment personalities Robert Redford, Whoopi Goldberg, Bill Maher, Jorja Fox, Viggo Mortensen, Ellen DeGeneres, Huw Collins, Paul Sorvino, Lily Tomlin, Rob Reiner, Wendie Malick, Ed Harris, Kevin Nealon and musicians Sheryl Crow, Willie Nelson, and Paul McCartney, have all publicly voiced their support for wild horses and burros. Additionally, various industry leaders have publicly lobbied for increased protection. The founders of Paul Mitchell hair-care product company, John Paul DeJoria and Paul Mitchell, have expressed deep concern and support for the cause, as has world-renowned electric car manufacturer, Tesla.
Entertainment personalities Robert Redford, Whoopi Goldberg, Bill Maher, Jorja Fox, Viggo Mortensen, Ellen DeGeneres, Huw Collins, Paul Sorvino, Lily Tomlin, Rob Reiner, Wendie Malick, Ed Harris, Kevin Nealon and musicians Sheryl Crow, Willie Nelson, and Paul McCartney, have all publicly voiced their support for wild horses and burros
Legal and Legislative Victories
There have been encouraging recent victories that have given wild horse advocacy groups some hope. In April 2017, the American Wild Horse Preservation campaign and wild horse advocates scored a major victory in Nevada, where more than half of America’s remaining wild horses live. The 9th U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco denied an appeal by the Nevada Association of Counties and Nevada Farm Bureau Federation—an organization representing cattle ranchers—who argued that overpopulated wild horse and burro herds were damaging public Nevada grasslands and robbing their livestock of forage. The lawsuit had demanded that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management expedite widespread roundups across Nevada and allow the horses to be sold for slaughter. The decision upheld an earlier ruling in 2015 by a federal judge in Reno, Nevada, who had originally dismissed their lawsuit. The 10th U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver upheld a similar ruling in favor of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign in Wyoming in October of 2016.
A bipartisan group of Democrats and Republicans in January 2017 reintroduced legislation to the U.S. House of Representatives that would declare horse meat unfit for human consumption and ban the transport of American horses to foreign meat processing plants, including Canada and Mexico. This bill, the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, is the latest attempt to outlaw the purchase and transport of U.S. horses for slaughter. A combination of federal legislation and court rulings in 2007 closed the last existing horse processing plants in the United States, but since then thousands of wild horses and burros have been purchased and exported to meat processing factories in Canada and Mexico. The bill importantly notes that since horses are not bred in America for human consumption, they are often administered unregulated drugs. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Agriculture, where it is still being reviewed.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (the second-highest federal court after the Supreme Court) in a preliminary hearing on January 11, 2017 began to take steps to make significant changes in a 2013 U.S. Forest Service (USFS) directive that was aimed at diminishing wild horse protections in Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory. The territory is located in remote northeastern California and is adjacent to many cattle ranches. The directive, pushed through the USFS by the California Cattlemen’s Association and the State of California Farm Bureau, attempted to cut the wild horse population in the territory from around 2,000 to 200 – 400. The directive also aimed at cutting 25,000 acres from the area where the wild horses are allowed to graze.
On July 31, 2015, The United States Forest Service (USFS) announced that in one week they would begin rounding up wild horses in the Tonto National Forest in Arizona. Opposition from wild horse advocacy groups was so swift and organized that the governor of Arizona, Doug Ducey, publicly sided with the groups and told the USFS that he would do everything he could to halt the roundup and protect the horses. Within two days, a petition was posted online by the Salt River River Wild Horse Management Group, demanding the USFS directive be dropped. It received over 75,000 signatures in 48 hours. By August 5, hundreds of wild horse advocates had gathered in Phoenix to protest the measure. Simultaneously, tens of thousands protest calls and emails were being directed to the USFS Arizona office. As a result of the relentless pressure, the roundup was dropped. Nine months later, the state of Arizona passed a law making it a crime to take, harass, kill, or otherwise interfere with wild horses in the Tonto National Forest. It was a major victory for wild horses. As a thank you, the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group in February 2017 announced that the first wild colt of the year had been born in Tonto National Forest and named “Ducey” in honor of the Governor.
As a result of the relentless pressure, the roundup was dropped. Nine months later, the state of Arizona passed a law making it a crime to take, harass, kill, or otherwise interfere with wild horses in the Tonto National Forest
Wild Horse and Burro Advocacy Organizations
The positive impact that wild horse and burro advocacy organizations have had in educating the public cannot be overstated. Organizations like American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, Return to Freedom, Wild Horse Sanctuary Alliance, Habitat for Horses, Wild Horse Freedom Federation, The Unwanted Horse Coalition, Saving America’s Mustangs, Animals’ Angels, The Cloud Foundation, Salt Water Wild Horse Management Group, Fleet of Angels, Equine Welfare Alliance, and other advocacy groups have opened the eyes of Americans to the systematic eradication of wild horses and burros by cattle ranchers and the BLM over the last 30 years. They have also informed the public of the very real possibility of extinction currently facing the remaining herds. These wild horse and burro organizations have stood up to cattle ranchers and their powerful lobbying organizations, single-handedly saving the remaining wild horses and burros from extinction.
These wild horse and burro organizations have stood up to cattle ranchers and their powerful lobbying organizations, single-handedly saving the remaining wild horses and burros from extinction
Return to Freedom Preservation
Return to Freedom Preservation is a devoted wild horse advocacy organization that advocates the rights of wild horses and burros and challenges the legality of BLM wild horse culls. Return to Freedom Preservation is arguably the most influential wild horse and burro advocacy group in the US. Return to Freedom Preservation staff work tirelessly for wild horses and burros, reaching tens of thousands of people annually through media, conferences, programs and events, galvanizing support for wild horses and burros from politicians and leaders in the film, music, and corporate industries. The Return to Freedom website contains in-depth daily updates of all news and legal/political activity concerning wild horses and burros.
American Wild Horse Campaign
The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC), created by Return to Freedom Preservation in 2004, is committed to advancing federal and state legislation to improve the welfare of wild horses and burros on both the range and in government holding facilities. AWHC actively promotes and defends America’s wild horses and burros in the court of law. AWHC has introduced and successfully pushed through litigation hindering ranchers and their lobbying groups from achieving their stated desire to eradicate wild horses and burros from public lands. AWHC has defeated numerous lawsuits advanced by these ranchers’ coalitions and associations and has even defeated litigation brought forth by local and state governments. The importance of the AWHC’s work and accomplishments cannot be overstated.
Wild Horse and Burro Sanctuary Alliance
The Wild Horse and Burro Sanctuary Alliance (WHBSA) is a collaborative effort by Return to Freedom, Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue, and Habitat for Horses. The WHBSA is committed to providing a lifetime of feed, medical care, and emotional enrichment for sanctuary horses and burros. They are also committed to educating the public through sanctuary tours, outreach programs, and events. All donations to the WHBSA go directly to the horses.
A very active, focused campaign is currently underway by wild horse advocacy groups, demanding the protection of the few American wild horse herds remaining. Due to the recent conservative turn of the federal government, the increased political power of cattle ranchers, and the sharp decrease of the wild horse population over the last 30 years, this effort is at a critical juncture and couldn’t be more time-sensitive. If drastic change isn’t made in the conservation policies of wild horses at both the federal and state levels, it is a real possibility that wild horses in America will be extinct within the next 20 years. Stand up and speak on behalf of these intelligent, majestic animals and become an important part of the movement to help keep them wild and free. Here are some ways you can help bring about the change.
Add your signature to petitions that seek to increase state and federal laws protecting the rights of wild horses
Protect Wild Horses and Burros From Roundups and Slaughter
Thousands of wild horses are living peacefully on public lands right now, completely unaware that the government is coming for them soon. Many will be rounded up this fall, and their advocates have raised serious concerns that they will be sent to slaughter, along with thousands of others.
Don’t Let Them Kill 45,000 Wild Horses and Burros!
We request that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) return the 45,000 captive wild horses and burros, now at risk of being killed, back to public land Herd Areas established with the 1971 Free Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Protection Act.
Ban Horse-drawn Carriage Rides in Charleston, SC
The Wagon Companies always have a weak excuse, but the public and tourists are finally seeing the reality of life as an enslaved Wagon Horse in a crowded city.
Please sign and share and help stop the Wagon companies from animal abuse and bullying the Animal Rights Advocates.
Ban Horse Carriages in St. Louis, MO
Ban the inhumane and dangerous use of horse carriages in St. Louis, MO. One company has already been banned for having unlicensed drivers and endangering horses, and one company remains.
Demand an end to needless horse deaths and injuries at Royal Ascot
Ascot is one of the most well-known racecourses in England, and also one of the most deadly for horses racing on the flat . There have been deaths at the June Royal Ascot meeting for the last four years. Pushed beyond their limits in the name of entertainment, horses suffer injuries that lead to them being destroyed.
Support wild horse advocacy organizations and wild horse and burro sanctuaries
Return to Freedom Preservation and American Wild Horse Sanctuary
Return to Freedom Preservation is a devoted wild horse advocacy organization that advocates for the rights of wild horses and challenges the legality of BLM wild horse culls. Return to Freedom staff meet with legislators and policy-makers, and reach tens of thousands of people annually through media, conferences, programs and events, galvanizing support for wild horses and burros from politicians and leaders in the film, music, and corporate industries. The Return to Freedom website contains daily updates of all news and legal/political activity concerning wild horses.
In 2014, Return to Freedom launched Wild Horse Rangers – Advocacy in Action to encourage people to observe wild horses on the range, monitor roundups, and empower citizens to advocate on behalf of wild horses. Return to Freedom sends representatives to film and monitor BLM roundups, documenting all horses captured and helping to ensure BLM workers treat the horses humanely.
The Return to Freedom American Wild Horse Sanctuary is situated on 1500 acres on the central coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, and is home to over 400 wild horses and burros. The sanctuary’s first priority is to keep wild horses in their original family bands or naturally selected social groups. This ensures emotional well-being in the horses, which in turn facilitates optimum physical health. Through the Return to Freedom website, you can sponsor one of the horses or burros at the sanctuary.
American Wild Horse Campaign
In 2004, Return to Freedom launched the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC). The campaign has become the most powerful and effective grassroots voice for wild horses in the US, with a coalition of over 50 wild horse advocacy groups actively working together towards the same goal. AWHC is led by Return to Freedom and is committed to advancing federal and state legislation to improve the welfare of wild horses and burros on both the range and in government holding facilities. Their efforts include meeting with members of Congress and mobilizing wild horse advocates to reach out to their elected officials.
Just as importantly, AWHC defends America’s wild horses in the court of law. Working with their coalition partners, including the legal team of Meyer Glitzenstein & Eubanks, the AWHC have amassed a strong record of successful litigation opposing those working against the interests of wild horses. They have defeated numerous lawsuits brought forth by ranchers, ranchers coalitions and associations, and even local and state governments. The importance of these victories cannot be overstated.
The AWHC is the leading wild horse advocacy group, utilizing major print, TV and radio outlets with the goal of raising awareness about the plight of wild horses and empowering the American public to take a stand for wild horse protection. In 2016 alone, they collected more than 400,000 petition signatures and had 300,000 actions taken on behalf of wild horses and burros.
Wild Horse Sanctuary Alliance
The Wild Horse Alliance was created to provide financial support to wild horse and burro sanctuaries. All donations to the Wild Horse Sanctuary Alliance go directly to the life-saving needs of wild horses in sanctuaries, whether it be emergency feed, emergency handling equipment, transport, or emergency veterinary care. In addition to helping with support for emergency needs, the Alliance assists with sanctuary management concerns such as fundraising, marketing, volunteer programs, and other operating functions. The Alliance member organizations and sanctuaries are the Return to Freedom American Wild Horse Sanctuary, Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, Habitat for Horses Sanctuary, Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue, Animals Voice, and the California Wild Horse Sanctuary.
Educate friends, family, and your community about how the American wild horse population has plummeted in the last 100 years and what can be done to change it
Tell your friends and family about the dire situation facing America’s last remaining wild horses and burros. Show them some of the educational videos and documentaries on the subject, available on wild horse advocacy websites and YouTube. Join other animal activists in demanding an end to governmental policies that benefit cattle ranchers and the beef industry while wild horses and burros die. The American Wild Horse Campaign website has a comprehensive take action page which contains many pertinent wild horse and burro petitions and describes other ways you can help these animals.
Contact your state and federal congressional representatives and senators
Voice your support for the remaining wild horses and burros to those that have the most power to save them. Urge your state and federal congressional representatives and senators to end the persecution of America’s wild horses once and for all. Click here to find your US state congressman and senator. Click here to find your US federal congressman and senator.
Post information on Facebook and other social media sites
Return to Freedom, American Wild Horse Campaign and other wild horse advocacy organizations have Facebook and Twitter accounts. Follow their pages and share photos and posts with your friends and family. Keep them up to date on important wild horse advocacy news and issues. The Return to Freedom website contains an excellent page devoted to daily updates and news concerning wild horses and burros.
North American wild horses, or mustangs, are descendants of escaped Iberian (Spanish and Portuguese) horses reintroduced to the Americas by Spanish explorers in the 1500s. The word “mustang” is derived from the Spanish word “mustengo,” which means stray horse.
Mustangs live in herds consisting of one stallion, approximately eight mares, and their offspring. In addition to the stallion, the herd is led by one mare. In dangerous situations, the head mare will lead the herd to safety, and the stallion will stay and fight. In cases of extreme peril, separate herds have been known to unite. Herds spend most of their time grazing and can often be seen playing together.
Mustangs are a medium-sized horse. They are about five feet tall and eight feet long from nose to tail. They weigh around 800 pounds. Mustangs have a wide variety of colors but are usually bay, which is a reddish-brown color. They can also have a variety of colored patches, spots and stripes.
Historians estimate that in 1848, between two and five million mustangs roamed the American West and Midwest. According to the Humane Society, less than 25,000 remain, living on rugged, arid terrain in Western states where they must work hard to survive. Some small mustang herds also live in remote regions of the Atlantic coast and on the Sable, Shackleford, Assateague and Cumberland Islands.
Explore the breathtaking world of America’s wild horses and burros through these photos and video clips and see how intelligent, social, and powerful these beautiful animals are.
Roughhousing in a River: Like humans and other animals, wild horses enjoy playing in water. Watch the horses in this herd near Salt River, Arizona, splashing and roughhousing with each other on a sunny, spring morning.
Up Close and Personal: In this amazing footage, wild horses in the West Desert of Utah are seen bathing in a shallow mud hole. Towards the end of the video, the horses notice the camera and become quite curious!
No Turn Signal Necessary: Feel the size, power and athleticism of these wild horses as they pass a truck driving on a remote dirt road in Wild Horse Canyon, Mojave National Preserve, California.
Wild Horses Relaxing on Beach: This amazing footage shows what a typical day is like for the wild horses of Assateague Island off the coast of southern Maryland.
Foal Meets a New Friend: Watch this footage of a young foal meeting a member of another species on Assateague Island. Notice how the foal’s parents make sure the new friend doesn’t get too close!
The Wild Horses of Oregon: Observe the grace and elegance of these wild horses in eastern Oregon as they traverse the unique sagebrush terrain of the Steens Mountains.
Horses are herd animals. In a band of wild horses, the dominant horse is responsible for the safety of the entire group. The subordinate horses expect his or her leadership and protection at all times. The herd members constantly challenge the dominant horse, making sure he/she is strong and alert enough to take care of them. As long as the dominant horse is in control, they can relax. If the leader senses danger and decides it’s worth running from, the herd will immediately follow.
Horses communicate with one another mainly through facial expressions and body language. They will neigh when aggressively making a point or when afraid. Occasionally, they will snort and nicker when eating or lounging. A horse immediately picks up on other horses’ emotions and notices the most subtle body movements. For example when a dominant horse decides he/she wants a particular patch of grass where another herdmate is eating, he will use body language to tell the subordinate to move.
Wild Horse Band Hierarchy: Watch as the stallion of this band of wild horses establishes control and respect over the rest of the herd.
Through social media, you can connect and network with other dedicated wild horse activists who are committed to saving wild horses from extinction. Many of these advocacy organizations have social media pages that post news and important information on a weekly basis. The links for the social media accounts of some of these groups are listed below in addition to a link to their websites. Tell your friends, family, and communities about the plight of America’s wild horses and how they can be saved.
American Wild Horse Voices
The Return to Freedom and American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign websites are great sources of information concerning the dire situation facing American wild horses. Both contain up-to-date news, actions being taken by animal welfare groups to help the horses, and what you can do to join the effort. These sites are fantastic resources for anyone who wants educate and make a difference for these beautiful animals. Wild Horse & Burro Radio is an educational outreach program of Wild Horse Freedom Federation that airs on most Wednesday nights. Guests have included experts on wild horse and burro issues such as horse slaughter, wild horse rescue, wild horses on public lands, and wild horse sanctuaries. They maintain a library of these shows as a resource for public education.
The following documentaries are great tools for anyone wanting to dive deeper into the world of America’s Wild Horses and their fight against extinction.
- The Vanishing Herd: The Fate of the American Mustang
- Cloud: Wild Stallion of the Rockies
- Cloud: Challenge of the Stallions
- Cloud’s Legacy: The Wild Stallion Returns
- Strong Women, Wild Horses
- Palomino Valley
- BLM Mustangs
- American Mustang
- America’s Wild Mustang, Untamed Legacy. PBS Documentary
- Last of the Spanish Mustangs