It has taken me 10 days to write this post.... because this was not supposed to be what our 'wild horse road trip' was about. When Rob and I (and Dude the dog) left our home in Manotick Ontario a month ago, the goal was to find wild horses in the American southwest (and eventually Alberta), and to photograph them, wild and free~ from the places they were born, whether on a desert plateau, high atop a mountain range, or deep in a thick forest. I am very familiar with the serious issues facing wild horses. But I wanted to put a positive spin on it. If I could capture the beauty of these magnificent animals in the wild, hopefully I would in some small way connect more people to wild horses. An emotional connection can change the world. My story was supposed to be one of happiness and joy. As many of you know, ten days ago I was photographing wild horses in the desert on a beautiful morning in Cold Creek Nevada. I had no idea that this would be their last day of freedom, as the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) had announced a round-up beginning within 24 hours of the entire local herd, over 200 wild horses. Rob and I went to a town hall meeting and watched residents plead for their wild horses to remain free, to be enjoyed for generations to come. But, in the end, it was a done deal. When it comes to the various revenue-generating uses for public lands, the wild horses always lose. Wild horses don't make money. Having spent that very morning with some of the wild stallions, mares and foals in Cold Creek, I became determined to know the entire story. There are currently over 46,000 American wild horses in BLM 'holding facilities'. What happens to them once they get there? Perhaps we were naive when we drove to the BLM Wild Horse Facility in Fallon Nevada, where thousands of wild horses languish in captivity. We were stopped at the gate. I pleaded to see the horses but they were off limits. We were told to go to the BLM's 'Palomino Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Centre' about 90 minutes away. Here, the wild horses are 'processed'- meaning, they are given a tattoo, a serial number, the stallions are castrated and each wild horse is given a price tag of $125. This facility was open to the public. Rob and I were the only people there. Here are some photos of the holding corrals. It broke my heart. But I also wanted to show the breathtaking beauty of these once-wild horses. That's something no one can ever take away.
We are back on the road, more determined than ever to find horses, wild and free. I will never return to a holding facility. As for Dude, yesterday he spent the day at the Grand Canyon, made friends with a yellow lab, and shared our happy hour cheese and crackers. Sometimes I wish I was a dog.