Friday, September 26, 2014

Checkerboard Wild Horse Roundup Day 11: The Carnage Continues

Straight from the Horse's Heart

Eye-Witness Report by Carol Walker ~ Director of Field Documentation for Wild Horse Freedom Federation

“The rider throws a loop and catches the foal, who bucks when he feels the rope then as it grows taut he is thrown to the ground…”

We are about 20 miles in from I80 on County Road 19 and about 1/2 mile from the trap which is on public land for a change. We can see the trap from here the back of it anyway but not the approach to it, that is on the other side of the ridge from us. They caught 105 horses here yesterday so just expect to get stragglers today. This area is so remote there is no cell service.
It is a beautiful day, we can see the mountains clearly, and we spotted a small band of horses just across the ridge, peacefully grazing , with no idea what fate awaits them. One helicopter flew over starting the search for horses.
Soon I hear a helicopter in the distance, behind the ridge that hides the trap. He goes back and forth several times, leading me to believe that he is having trouble getting the group he is driving into the trap. Suddenly, a lone black stallion pops up over the hill. Apparently he escaped the group, and he runs over the hill ignoring the helicopter, in the direction of the small group we saw on the hill.
Then finally the helicopter pushes the group behind the hill into the trap – I see many horses running to the panels, and then being moved into the adjoining pen with lots of dust. I see some greys but mostly bay, black and chestnut, typical for horses from Great Divide Basin.
Meanwhile the other helicopter is following another group that cuts across the hill right in front of us. We see a beautiful grey stallion bringing up the rear, and one foal in the middle. They disappear over a ridge, going away from the trap. I am thinking we will most likely see them again, and we do a few minutes later and they have gained more horses behind them. They are in dramatic silhouette, lots of dust boiling up and two foals now. They head down the hill toward us but the helicopter stops them, heading them the long way around the ridge to the trap, out of sight.
About an hour later we see another group head up a ridge with a sorrel stallion in front and a white mare moving more slowly than the rest of the group. Then we suddenly see a sorrel foal all by itself, come over the hill pursued by the helicopter. At first he is running, but slows to a trot then a walk, and seems bewildered. He stops and I notice that a rider is heading down the hill toward him. When he sees the horse and rider he starts running toward them. Clearly he wants to be with another horse and not stay all alone! The rider throws a loop and catches the foal, who bucks when he feels the rope then as it grows taut he is thrown to the ground, he gets up and goes along with the horse and rider very quietly all the way to the trap.
We are told that the roundup is over for the day, and they are loading the captured horses onto 3 small trailers and one large one and as the trailers drive down the road I see their faces in the trailer – they have no idea what awaits them at the end of their journey.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Rock Springs

Monday, September 22, 2014

Horse Power Gains Favor Among Small-scale Farmers

Straight from the Horse's Heart

By Mary Esch as published in The Valley News

“…horses don’t use fossil fuels, their manure contributes to the farm’s fertility, and they cost less than tractors…”

“Due to the advent of the International Equine Conference and travel the weekly installment of ‘Feel Good Sunday’ fell by the wayside…and I was called on it.  So in an effort to bring the planets back into alignment we share with you, today, what should have been shared, yesterday.  Please enjoy and it was an emmense pleasure for Terry and I to see and to share quality time with our trusted and valued equine advocate friends.  Keep the faith!” ~ R.T. Fitch
Donn Hewes leads his work horses back toward the stables from the pasture at The Northland Sheep Dairy Farm in Marathon, N.Y., Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth)

Donn Hewes leads his work horses back toward the stables from the pasture at The Northland Sheep Dairy Farm in Marathon, N.Y., Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth)

Marathon, N.Y. — While most modern farmers work their fields accompanied by the rumble of a trusty tractor, sheep farmer Donn Hewes labors to the faint jingling of harnesses in rhythm with the hoofbeats of horses and mules.
He readily admits that horse-powered farming takes more time and effort than tractor farming. But as one of a growing number of small-scale farmers dedicated to keeping alive the art of the teamster, he’s fine with that.
“People always want to know how many dollars an hour can I make, and can I really profit from farming with horses,” says Hewes. “We can, but to me, that’s the wrong question. I benefit in so many ways. I benefit from working with young stock, building fertility for the farm, and all the time I get to spend enjoying doing what I’m doing.”
Hewes and his wife, Maryrose Livingston, own Northland Sheep Dairy on a hilltop in central New York, 40 miles south of Syracuse. Livingston milks grass-fed sheep and sells handmade cheese. Hewes, who has a night job as a firefighter, works about 100 acres of land with Percheron and Suffolk draft horses and mules pulling implements for haymaking, compost spreading, snow-plowing and log-hauling.
Horse-powered farmers cite a number of reasons for eschewing engines. For example, horses don’t use fossil fuels, their manure contributes to the farm’s fertility, and they cost less than tractors.
As president of Draft Animal Power Network, Hewes is dedicated to mentoring and sharing experiences with other farmers who want to work with horses.
“Young people are starting organic vegetable farms, realizing there’s an opportunity to make healthy food for local markets,” Hewes says. “A segment of that movement is finding out about draft animal power. That’s creating new demand for horse-powered equipment, and Amish businesses are responding to making equipment that’s smaller and more accessible to beginning farmers.”…(CONTINUED)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Wild horse roundup plan sparks controversy

Straight from the Horse's Heart

By Paul Joncich, of Las Vegas Channel 8 News

“We have got a phenomenal tourist attraction…”

Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation photographing members of the Cold Creek Herd, Sept. 2012 ~ photo by R.T. Fitch

photographing members 
of the Cold Creek Herd, 
Sept. 2012 ~ 
photo by R.T. Fitch
LAS VEGAS — Those who live in Cold Creek know how majestic and friendly southern Nevada’s wild horses can be.
But the majority of the wild horses left here are on the schedule to end up in federal holding pens. They are mostly in two spots Cold Creek, which is about 50 minutes north of Las Vegas off highway 95 and the west flank of the mountain just northeast of Pahrump.
The Bureau of Land Management plans to roundup 80 percent of the horses in the winter. One group of wild horse advocates showed up at Thursday’s BLM advisory meeting in Las Vegas to oppose the idea.
They think the government is missing a big opportunity, if they go forward with the roundup.
Right now, there are between 500 and 600 horses in the Spring Mountains. This winter the BLM plans to only leave 63 to 93 of them there.
“We have got a phenomenal tourist attraction. And if Las Vegas learned anything in 2008, we need to diversify our tourist draw,” President of the Spring Mountain Alliance Arelene Gawne said.
Gawne wants to gather and sterilize most of the horses then release them back.
Advocates want the BLM to use them as a potential tourist attraction, creating trail rides and backpack trips for tourists.
“A half-day trip, to see wild horses and burros behaving naturally,” Gawne said.
Members of the Spring Mountain Alliance said people from as far away as Japan and Europe come to see the horses. They think making it an official eco-tourism draw would bring tourists from places like China as well.
The proposed roundup would leave just one horse for every 10,000 acres.
“I have talked with many of the big tourist companies like Pink Jeeps. They will not invest the tens of thousands it will cost to have tour guides etc. unless they know those horses will remain intact on the range naturally,” Gawne said.
In June of last year, wild horse advocates showed up in droves at Cold Creek to tell the government they want the wild horses to stay.
The Spring Mountain Alliance’s plan would require the BLM to engage in an experimental management program…(CONTINUED)
The roundup would cost hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars. For more information, go to

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Day One Checkerboard Wild Horse Roundup

Straight from the Horse's Heart

On-Site Report by Carol Walker ~ Director of Field Documentation for Wild Horse Freedom Federation

“It is just stunning and disheartening that a special interest group with only 50 members, the Rock Springs Grazing Association, has more influence on the BLM, the state of Wyoming and the courts than the tens of thousands of American people who want to see these horses remain free.”

Photography by Carol Walker, Music by Opus
As I was driving behind the BLM vehicles this morning on Bitter Creek Road I thought of the last time I was doing this, in December of last year on the coldest day of the year. I am so very tired of following the BLM out to trap sites where our beautiful, majestic wild horses are driven by helicopters into traps, separated from their families, and sent to holding pens to live out their lives. I am just sick of it, just sick.
This time, even the courts provided no remedy, even though the BLM has broken piles of rules and laws.
All I could do was to be there to witness it, once again.
It cannot be stated enough that the BLM has nowhere to put these wild horses yet they are determined to remove from their homes and their freedom. As of October 6 the Gunnison, UT facility is no longer home to 1100 wild horses.
It is just stunning and disheartening that a special interest group with only 50 members, the Rock Springs Grazing Association, has more influence on the BLM, the state of Wyoming and the courts than the tens of thousands of American people who want to see these horses remain free.
I will be updating as I can, cell service permitting.
I am at the trap site in Salt Wells Creek or should I say 1/2 mile from the trap site. The trap site is on private land, and we are placed on public land. There is a group standing right over the trap on the rocks, a fabulous view point, and I can only assume it is the landowner and family. Even my very long lens is having a hard time getting any sort of a decent shot of the horses coming in.
They are starting here in this location in Salt Wells Creek for only 20 horses, then moving the whole operation tomorrow to Great Divide Basin. No doubt a very influential land owner demanded they start here first.
The first group of wild horses driven in by helicopter today was led by spectacular and proud black and white pinto stallion who did not want to go into the trap. We heard the helicopter circling around and moving the horses for over an hour before they made it into the trap. The horses looked so tired, heads hanging low, sides heaving. Then immediately the Cattoors pushed them into a trailer, and the stallions are fighting furiously. There is dust spilling out the sides of the trailer and I see the black and white stallion go down, and get trampled in the close quarters. Why on earth did they shove them all in there together? He finally gets up.
The next group has a week old baby foal running gamely in the middle, through the dust to the trap. The whole family runs into the trap, and then they flag the baby to separate it out so he will not get trampled in the trailer. Of course he is terrified and his mother is whinnying.
The last horse they tried to bring in today was a gorgeous black stallion with a bald white face – I called him Baldy – he bumped into the Judas horse, was very clearly surprised, jumped back and decided that he wanted no part of the trap – they tried to bring him back around 3x then let him go after he faced the helicopter. Jay D’Ewart, Wild Horse and Burro Expert for Rock Springs radioed and said “let him go.” Still wild and free! We all cheered.
This day has left such a sad bitter taste in my mouth that I decide to go see some wild horses in Salt Wells Creek. The beautiful families that are simply resting together on this gorgeous fall day lift my spirits. This is the only way I or anyone else should see wild horses.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ex-BLM Officials Indicted in Elaborate Fraud Scheme

Straight from the Horse's Heart

From Illegally Rounding up Wild Horses in Wyoming to obvious corruption within their ranks the BLM just can’t shake the image being a “Criminal Agency”

"I LOVE Horses and Burros, and I am here to help!!!"
“I LOVE Horses and Burros, and I am here to help!!!”
as published in the Billings Gazette
Two former high-level federal Bureau of Land Management officials who worked in Virginia, including a deputy state director from Montana, have denied criminal charges accusing them of defrauding the government in an employment scheme.
A federal indictment filed in U.S. District Courtin Great Falls accuses Larry Ray Denny, 66, of Box Elder, and John Grimson Lyon, 60, of Clifton, Va., of devising a scheme in which Denny continued to receive his $112,224 annual salary and benefits as a BLM deputy state director even though he left and never returned to his job.
Rather, Denny relocated to Montana where he contracted with the Chippewa Cree Tribe for drilling and consulting work.
Prosecutors also allege Denny claimed sick leave and regular pay while gone from his BLM job but that bank records showed he visited various golf courses and traveled to Las Vegas, Arizona and around Montana.
Denny, who was deputy state director for natural resources for the BLM’s Eastern States Office in Springfield, Va., pleaded not guilty to four counts during a Sept. 4 arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Strong in Great Falls.
Denny’s attorney, Penny Strong of Billings, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Lyon, who was the BLM state director for the Eastern States in Springfield, Va., pleaded not guilty to three counts during an Aug. 19 arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Holter. The indictment was filed in July and unsealed with Lyon’s appearance.
Lyon is represented by Evangelo Arvanetes, an assistant federal defender in Great Falls. Arvanetes could not be reached for comment. Holter ordered Lyon to pay $300 a month for attorney fees.
Laura Weiss, a spokeswoman and prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, could not be reached for comment.
The BLM fraud case is the latest in a series of indictments that have come from investigations by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of Inspector General into fraud and corruption on Rocky Boy’s Reservation.
The investigations already have led to convictions of former state Rep. Tony Belcourt and several contractors who provided kickbacks on federal contracts.
The indictment charges Denny and Lyon with wire fraud, false claims and theft of government property. Denny also faces a count of federal false statements regarding outside income.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Weldon said in the indictment that under the scheme, Denny left his BLM post “with the knowledge and approval” of Lyon, his supervisor, to relocate to Montana to pursue other business interests as a consultant with the Chippewa Cree Tribe and “for all intents and purposes” abandoned his federal job “without relinquishing payment” as an employee.
Lyon is accused of perpetuating Denny’s fraudulent wage claims by approving and submitting false information to the BLM.
The scheme began in about June or July 2012, the indictment said, when Denny told Lyon he needed to return to Montana to “overcome health-related issues.” Denny left BLM’s Springfield office in July 2012 and never returned.
But from July 2012 until March 23, 2013, Denny was paid for 550 hours of regular work, 461 hours of sick leave, 389 hours of annual leave and 72 hours for federal holidays, the indictment said. During that time, bank account activity showed Denny went to golf courses and traveled to Las Vegas, Arizona and in and around Montana.
In a 2012 job appraisal, Lyon rated Denny’s performance as “exceptional,” which led to Denny getting a $3,262 cash award in November 2012, the indictment said.
When BLM employees asked about Denny’s status for business reasons, Lyon refused to provide any information, claiming federal laws about releasing health information prohibited him from disclosing such information, the indictment said.
Meanwhile, in January 2012, the Chippewa Cree Tribe, located on the Rocky Boy’s Reservation in north central Montana, contracted with Denny Technical Services for drilling-related services, including exploration, energy use projects, research on mineral lease agreements, development of drilling programs and communication with relevant agencies.
Denny negotiated the contract with the tribe, while his daughter, Misty Ann Denny, also known as Misty Brooks, executed the agreement, the indictment said.
For a year beginning in March 2012, Denny received about $67,243 from the tribe in addition to his BLM salary and benefits, the indictment said. Of the amount from the tribe, Denny received about $49,000 during 2012 and did not report it on a federal confidential financial disclosure report, the indictment said.
The indictment also includes forfeiture allegations seeking a money judgment of $112,302 and other property that may be traced to the alleged crimes.
If convicted, Denny and Lyon face a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the wire fraud charge.
Both men were released pending trial. The case will be heard by U.S. District Judge Brian Morris of Great Falls.

Click (HERE) to comment directly at the Billings Gazette

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Steven Spielberg and ‘The horse the Germans could not kill’

Straight from the Horse's Heart

Source: CNN

“Warrior is an extraordinary example of the resilience, strength, and profound contribution that horses made to the Great War,”

Steven Spielberg, director of Oscar-nominated film "Warhorse" paid tribute to Warrior.
Steven Spielberg, director of Oscar-nominated film “Warhorse” paid tribute to Warrior.
(CNN) — Hailed as the horse “the Germans could not kill” after surviving machine gun attacks and falling shells, one of World War I’s most famous animals has been honored with its own version of Britain’s most prestigious medal the Victoria Cross.
Warrior, who arrived on the Western Front on August 11, 1914, with his owner and rider General Jack Seely endured the horrors of the Battle of the Somme and was rescued twice at Passchendaele after becoming trapped in his stables.
After suffering a number of injuries, Warrior returned home to the Isle of Wight in 1918 where he lived until he passed away at the age of 33, and the horse has now been honored by being awarded an Honorary PDSA Dickin Medal.
Warrior’s life has been used as an inspiration by the likes of film director Steven Spielberg, whose film Warhorse won critical acclaim and was nominated for an Oscar.
“Warrior is an extraordinary example of the resilience, strength, and profound contribution that horses made to the Great War,” Spielberg said.
“Recognizing him with an Honorary PDSA Dickin Medal is a fitting and poignant tribute not only to this remarkable animal, but to all animals that served.”
The film, which was based on the 1982 novel by Michael Morpurgo, is one of the most famous of its kind as it tells the tale of Joey, a horse which serves in WW1.
It’s the first time that the PDSA Dickin Medal has been awarded to an animal who served on the front line during conflict in the veterinary charity’s 97-year history.
The medal was accepted by Seely’s grandson, Brough Scott, who is a horse racing journalist and broadcaster.
Queen Mary and Warrior
Queen Mary and Warrior
The ceremony was held at London’s Imperial War Museum where the horse was honored 100 years after he began his journey into war.
“Warrior’s story – which I grew up hearing at my mothers’ knee — was lost in time to the wider world. But now he rides again 100 years later, thanks to PDSA,” said Scott.
“My family and I are more than honored that Warrior has been given this award on behalf of all animals that also served; we are truly humbled. I only wish Jack Seely were here today to witness Warrior receiving the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.”
Warrior is the 66th winner of the medal from the PDSA but is the first to receive an honorary award and the first to have done so having been involved in WW1.
Since its introduction, 65 Dickin Medals have been awarded to 29 dogs, 32 Pigeons who flew in World War II, three horses and a cat.
The most recent recipient was Sasha, a military dog, who died while on patrol in Afghanistan.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Gunnison Prison Wild Horse Program Suspended

Straight from the Horse's Heart 

“We are not able to sustain the program without losing money…”

In this 2007 file photo, an inmate works with "Norton" in the round pen with part of the herd in the background as part of the wild horse program at the Gunnison State Prison in Gunnison. Tom Smart, Deseret News
In this 2007 file photo, an inmate works with “Norton” in the round pen with part of the herd in the background as part of the wild horse program at the Gunnison State Prison in Gunnison.
Tom Smart, Deseret News
GUNNISON — Disagreement over the costs associated with a wild horse gentling program at the Gunnison prison has led to its suspension, and efforts are underway to find a place for 1,500 horses.
The program’s cessation means the Bureau of Land Management will move about 90 percent of the animals to out-of-state facilities, with a prison-imposed deadline to have that accomplished by Oct. 6.
“The BLM’s Utah State Office has valued our relationship with the Utah Department of Corrections and regret that it has decided to terminate the Wild Horse Inmate Program at Gunnison,” said Tom Gorey, acting spokesman for the BLM in Utah. “This program has aided in the rehabilitation of inmates and has, through the gentling of horses, helped place animals into good, private care.”
Gorey added that the state agency decision to end the program will complicate national efforts to make sure there is enough off-range holding capacity for wild horses and burros that are removed off public ranges.
Mike Haddon, deputy director of the Utah Department of Corrections, said the program was losing money and had very little inmate participation. The BLM was informed of the agency’s decision on Friday.
“We are not able to sustain the program without losing money,” he said. “The program was not cost-effective, and we do not know if it was effective in reducing recidivism. We do know it was not serving a lot of inmates.”
Since its inception in 2007, the program had 175 inmates who gentled horses for the public to adopt through BLM-managed programs. Of those 175 graduates, Haddon said only 82 of them had been released from prison — too small a number to effectively judge if the program had any viable, lasting impacts.
Haddon said the differences over money arose in 2012 when the initial five-year contract was renegotiated from a per-head, per day rate to another model of reimbursement.
“There was a discrepancy and dispute between what the BLM believes the department should be reimbursed and what the department believes it should be reimbursed,” he said.
An audit by the Office of Inspector General released last year shows a more than million-dollar discrepancy between the two entities that raised questions over the costs.
The Utah Correctional Industries under which the program operated reported costs of a little more than $5.3 million for the five-year contract period, of which auditors said $1 million was “questioned” —or not allowable under the terms of the agreement.
Of that million dollars, $928,000 was deemed “unsupported,” meaning documentation related to the costs was insufficient, the report said…(CONTINUED)