Monday, September 26, 2011

A Magical Moment
Between Donkey and Child

by Carol Knight Watson

Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month    

 He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog.
You are his life, his love, his leader.
He will be yours, faithful and true to the last beat of his heart.
You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.

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Be Sure to See the Latest Grass Roots Horse Report
at the end of this post: on-the-spot reporting of the BLM wild horse roundup held on August 27, in Butte Valley, Nevada.

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     This letter, written by Mr. and Mrs. Addy from Bristol, England, was received by The Donkey Sanctuary, Sidmouth, Devon, England, in the latter part of 1997 and appeared in their Spring 1998 Newsletter:

     “Another year passes, for some with regret, for others with relief, only too pleased to see it gone. Nevertheless, each passing year seems always not only to throw up its fair share of tragedy, 1997 was certainly no exception but also some truly magical moments.
     “Picture, if you will, a fine, warm, sunny East Devon day, a windless, almost breathless, day. The yard at the Sanctuary, although full of donkeys, has the air of quiet contentment. It’s early—only a few visitors have arrived; maybe the staff and donkeys realize it’s just the calm before the storm and are making the most of it.
     “We sit on one of the benches, just looking, alone with our own thoughts, the tranquility of the moment belying the suffering that had gone before. Can these wonderful animals ever trust again, can they ever forgive their tormentors? You could forgive them if they could not.
     “Cabbage breaks the stillness and, with an air of insatiable curiosity, wanders nonchalantly over to a child in a buggy. Gently she placed her head on the child’s shoulder as if whispering some long-held secret in its ear. Child and donkey held this position for some considerable time. We watched …. the child’s father watched from a distance …. neither wishing to destroy the moment …. what would happen next?
     “Obvious, really. Cabbage’s secret now safe, she did what all good friends do. She took half a step back, bent forward and placed an approving kiss on her new friend’s cheek. Anthropomorphic? Maybe, but I’d like to think not. No audible sound was exchanged between the two, but communication, yes, I’m sure.
     “I often wonder what the secret was, but it was never mine to tell. For a brief moment in time, I was excluded. It was a moment of tenderness, affection, and trust. I did not … could not understand. I could only feel the magic.
     “As far as my questions of earlier were concerned, it would appear that if you are very lucky, donkeys will show you unconditional love and trust and seem to forgive without a second thought.
     “Best wishes to you all, staff and donkeys alike.”

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Eyes on the Wild Herds (from Grass Roots Horse) 
Triple B Complex Wild Horse Roundup
August 27, 2011 ~ Butte Valley, Nevada editor: This report covers the capture of two bands of wild horses; however, one of those bands breaks free. The morning roundup operation began with a pre-dawn (4 a.m.) meeting at the Town Green in Ely, Nevada. BLM personnel met with those who were there to observe. We had been informed that it was media day but no media were in attendance. We are informed that no horses will be shipped that day from the temporary holding pens. 
     We go directly to the trap site location on Butte Valley Road. Observing the roundup were six BLM personnel and three members of the public. Additional observers were our photographers in remote, non-visible locations, who were able to photograph the entire scene of action by using a super zoom telephoto lens and high resolution video cameras. 
     The abuse that these and other federally protected wild horses were subjected to began at 6:06 a.m., well out of public view. These are only some of the photographs that show what these horses endured during, what is in my opinion, a targeted assault by the BLM’s contracted helicopter pilot, a pattern of cruelty and abuse repeated throughout the time we covered this roundup.

     We witnessed the helicopter chase a band of what appeared to be eight, possibly nine, horses. There seemed to be a great deal of chaotic activity as the horses were driven in multiple directions during the time they were in our view. Horses were repeatedly split from the band and chased in multiple directions. The horses appeared to be under a great deal of stress, were soaked with sweat, and appeared exhausted. The helicopter splinters the group, and the horses are chased in different directions, back and forth, many times.

      Some of the horses ran in the direction that was behind us, and we could see and hear the helicopter hover directly above the hill, as well as on the other side of the hill and just out of our view. We could see dust flying, as well.

     You can see the jute trap wings crossing the road behind the helicopter. It is evident why the horses are dripping in sweat.

     The helicopter pilot follows his usual pattern, which still remains unchecked by the BLM or law enforcement, of breaking apart bands of wild horses and then targeting specific horses. The assault shown here is only a segment that began at 7:12 a.m. when he began to harass a group of eight wild horses. The horses were captured at 7:29 a.m.

      The pilot continuously challenges some of the horses and cuts them apart from the rest. He repeatedly dives down at the horses and flies dangerously close. Often, it appears he is losing control of the aircraft as it dips and sways, unsteady in the currents he creates by his actions.

      The wild horses change directions to find safety, and it appears to me that it angers him and he continues the pattern of abuse even more aggressively.

To me, this seems more like he is hunting horses, not herding them.

Look closely to see the foal behind the light colored horse right underneath the skids.

         The pattern of chasing the wild horses back and forth, splitting and targeting horses continues. Another man is in the cockpit with the pilot, who I believe to be John “Jake” Holmes, owner of Sun J, the helicopter contractor, and Pilot Josh Hellyer’s boss. A complaint was filed with the White Pine County Sheriff’s Office. In this specific sequence, this goes on for 25 minutes and is not an isolated instance but has been the documented “norm” throughout the roundup.

     At the trap wings, which is the entrance to the trap, the pilot makes a severely aggressive push to the lead horse, which is really what I would call an attack. This is just out of view of the observers.

      This is the horse who had been aggressively pushed into the trap wings. These horses had been overrun aggressively for 25 minutes just prior to their capture. Photographic evidence shows they had been in small groups that had been run repeatedly with other bands prior to that.

     The aggression escalates. My opinion is the pilot knows the public observers have minimal viewing because of their restricted observation area. Our range photographers, however, documented the pilot running wild horses up and down the hillside. Photographs taken from the observation area, as well, show the helicopter flying low on the top of the hill and behind it.
     The wild horse and burro specialists, Ben Noyes and Ruth Thompson, are in constant radio contact with the pilot and ground crew, as is the public relations person, Chris Hanefeld. If they did not know this was happening, then they certainly should have known. It is the responsibility of Ben Noyes and Ruth Thompson to ensure the safety and humane treatment of the wild horses at the roundups.
     The helicopter could be seen coming into view, very low to the ground, and three adults and one foal were captured. I believe they were from the band that had been run down and split apart during the long chaotic runs. As viewing was so limited at the trap, there may have been a fifth horse who escaped before entering the trap.

The wild horses are soaked in sweat and appear disoriented and exhausted. Notice the young foal to the right.

     Into view came a small band of five horses, four adults and a young foal, being chased by the helicopter. 

     Based on all of our photographs, I believe they may be the other half of the band broken apart earlier that had been chased for quite a long time—close to 45 minutes. This band was chased in several different directions, back and forth in a chaotic manner, with horses falling as the helicopter flew close. These horses also appeared very exhausted, stressed, and were visibly lathered and dripping with sweat.

Foal behind lead horse struggles.

     Chaos ensues as the helicopter pilot gets way too close and pressure scatters the struggling band.

     The horses entered the trap site and appeared to almost stop in confusion and exhaustion. They were clearly lathered and drenched in sweat. The foal, seen to the left, is still with the band. The horse to the right breaks straight through the jute. The other four, including the foal, managed to break through the jute to the hillside side.

     Some of the wild horses fell after their incredible break through the jute and their jump for the hill. (See the very graphic picture at the top of this post.)

The wild horses get back on their feet and take off up the hillside.
(That’s one for the wild horses! ... for now anyway.)

     The helicopter continues to give chase and pursues them over the hill. Shortly after, we are informed that the trap is being moved to a location farther down the road.

Photographers of these incredible pictures:
Arla Ruggles,
Darcy Grizzle,

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Temporary Restraining Order Issued in
BLM’s Triple B Complex Roundup
     Late Tuesday, August 30, 2011, U. S. District Judge Howard McKibben denied a request to halt the BLM’s Triple B Complex roundup in Northeast Nevada, but he did issue a rare emergency Temporary Restraining Order banning the continuation of the documented mistreatment of the wild horses being captured. 
     This particular roundup, originally scheduled to begin on July 6 and end on August 22, began on July 20 and was completed on August 31, with 1,269 horses being captured. It was handled by Sun J Livestock of Vernal, Utah, with the use of a helicopter.
     In his decision, Judge McKibben cited misconduct that was in violation of the Wild, Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act by the helicopter pilot working the capture. 
     BLM officials denied the claim that the helicopter pilot actually struck a horse with a helicopter skid on August 11, that was evidenced in the video taken by plaintiff Laura Leigh, vice president of the Texas-based group, Wild Horse Freedom Federation.
     Judge McKibben said the evidence submitted by the BLM in denying any wrongdoing was contradicted by the video and that he did not appreciate the blame the horse direction of the BLM’s statements. “I am deeply concerned that declarations presented to the court by the Agency do not address the issue but simply deny wrongdoing.”
     The Temporary Restraining Order prohibits “the use of the helicopter as demonstrated on August 11, 2011, that is, striking horses with the skid or flying the skid or part of the helicopter being dangerously or unreasonably close to the horses during the remainder of the first phase of the roundup at the Triple B Complex.”
     Judge McKibben said his order didn’t preclude the BLM from completing the roundup because Justice Department lawyers representing the Agency indicated there would be no further use of helicopters at that roundup. “Should the defendants contemplate the use of helicopters on the Triple B Complex in the future, they will need to address the concerns raised by this court or be subject to possible additional intervention by this court in the future.”
     Plaintiff Laura Leigh said the ruling was a small but important victory in a larger effort to bring attention to what is the BLM’s routine violation of federal laws protecting the horses. “This is significant because the judge saw what we see every day. This is a recognition in the federal court system that there is something wrong with not only what is going on out there but something wrong with the justification process.”
     Now, in its September 23, 2011, news release, BLM Director Bob Abbey announced that he is calling for a review of the adequacy of existing operating procedures that relate to instances of alleged animal abuse during the recently completed Triple B wild horse “gather” carried out in Nevada in a complex northwest of Ely and southeast of Elko. 
     The review, to be conducted by a team of BLM employees who will be able to consult with specific non-BLM experts, will look at several incidents, some of which have been videotaped by the public. “The team will carefully review the incidents to determine what happened and to assess the gather operations,” Director Abbey stated. “The review and findings will inform the Bureau’s development of a comprehensive animal welfare plan for the Wild Horse and Burro Program.”
     The BLM’s 2011 summer roundups ended on September 30 (the end of their fiscal year). Their tentative roundup schedule for fiscal year 2012 proposes the round up of 7,976 mustangs, with the removal of 5,727. Their schedule also shows 661 wild burros to be rounded up and the removal of 611. If these figures are adhered to, this would show somewhat of a drop in the number of animals rounded up and removed in comparison to fiscal year 2011. More later when final figures for fiscal year 2011 are available. 

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     Everyone at Amberwood Sanctuary is doing well except for the usual little things: Tommy (dog) has an ear infection; Jake (donkey) has a somewhat bad bite on his neck from fighting with another jack; Audrey (dog) has an eye infection; Emma (rabbit) has an allergy causing her to sneeze a lot. I think that’s about it. Oh, my allergies are driving me crazy. We’re all happy the 100 degree weather has finally ended. The 90’s seem almost cool in comparison. Work is progressing on renovating our old barn. The foundation has been repaired and the building has been pulled back to plumb.
     Here’s Clancy helping me take care of the correspondence for Amberwood Sanctuary. I can’t believe he’s 16 years old. He still acts like a kitten most of the time.
     Talk to you next time. . .

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Donkeys: Stupid/Stubborn? Not!

     by Carol Knight Watson
On the One Hand, Doing It Right
On the Other, Abuses
Arla M. Ruggles, working with Grass Roots Horse, attended the 
first day of the wild horse roundup at Triple B Complex in Nevada and reported that the Bureau of Land Management has made definite improvements in its roundup practices. But then, 15 days into the roundup, disturbing abuses of wild horse foals took place. 
Be sure to see both reports at the end of this post.

     Down through history, donkeys, along with snakes, rats, and many insects, have been given a bum rap for various reasons: misinformation, false assumptions, human-centered fallacies, preconceived notions, generalizations, insufficient information, ignorance, personal rationalizations, prejudice, acceptance of someone else’s opinion as fact, acceptance of consensus, and probably many more. I am just beginning to learn a little more about snakes, rats, and insects, but I feel I am somewhat of an authority on donkeys, having loved them, cared for them, and lived closely with them for 34 years. 

We think they’re stubborn; they think they’re cautious.  

     The above adage was one of the first and best I learned when I decided to adopt a wild burro and began to learn about them. Probably, the most widely held concept of them is that they are stupid and/or stubborn. Nothing could be further from the truth. They are, in fact, very intelligent and, indeed, are cautious. With their highly developed sense of self-preservation, they make decisions based on their own comprehension of a particular situation. If they think they are in immediate danger, they do not react hysterically but generally will run a short distance and reassess the conditions. Rather than being sluggish dolts, with their desert heritage, donkeys have an inherent trait to conserve energy. So, it is rational for them to have little interest in moving any faster than necessary. They will occasionally run just for the sheer joy of running, usually in play; and they will certainly protect their territory and chase away trespassers. In comparing the usual speed of the donkey to that of various other animals, the figures might look something like this:
In the water:                                   
          sailfish, 68 mph  

          blue shark, 43 mph
          killer whale, 35 mph                          
          barracuda, 27 mph                     
          sea lion, 25 mph
          dolphin, 24 mph                            
          trout, 5 mph

          man, 5 mph
Peregrine Falcon
     In the air:
          spine-tailed swift, 105 mph
          homing pigeon, 95 mph (This bird can maintain a high rate of speed for long distances. One averaged 73 mph over a distance of 182 miles, and several have flown over 90 mph for distances of at least 80 miles.)
          peregrine falcon, 70 mph (diving speed: 200+ mph)                           
          hummingbird, 60 mph (Amazing!)

          bald eagle, 44 mph
          mallard duck, 40 mph: cruising speed (flies up to 60 mph)
          woodcock, 5 mph

     On land:
          cheetah, 70 mph (From a standstill, this cat can accelerate to 45 mph in 2 seconds and cover a distance of 65 yards but will be exhausted after several hundred yards. He can run comfortably at 30-40 mph for as long as half an hour.)
          pronghorn antelope, 60 mph (When chased by a car, one pronghorn maintained a speed of 60 mph for 2 miles before dropping to 50 mph and then slacking off to a running speed of 40 mph. He can average 35 mph for distances as great as 27 miles.)
          lion, 50 mph 
          red fox, 48 mph
          horse, 48 mph

          jackrabbit, 45 mph
          greyhound, 45 mph
          ostrich, 44 mph
          coyote, 43 mph
          deer, 40 mph
          housecat, 30 mph
          man, 25 mph
          elephant, 25 mph: charging speed (The elephant usually walks along at 2 to 4 mph.)
          black racer snake, 4 mph

          turtle, 1/10 mph
          snail, 55 yards per hour

donkey: He wasn’t so inclined!

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Eyes on the Wild Herds (from Grass Roots Horse)
Wild Horse Roundup
Triple B Complex, Nevada editor: The following report and photographs are by Arla M. Ruggles who has been out on the range for us and attended Day 1 of the Triple B wild horse roundup.
Wild Horse Roundup Day 1 (July 20, 2011)
Triple B Complex Field Report and Photographs
by Arla M. Ruggles
     In our role as advocates for better treatment of our wild herds, it often seems like only the mistakes and abuses are talked about. The worst aspects of wild horse management operations do need to be brought to light, AND we should be just as quick to recognize improvements as they occur. 
     Today, it must be said that Sun J and BLM did an excellent job in all aspects of their gather operations, and every part of the process was carried out with professionalism and skill. 

Sun J pilot, Josh Hellyer, showed marked improvement from his earlier 
performances at the Antelope Complex gather, early this past winter. 
      Throughout the day, Josh held back from the running herds, and at one point, even fell back and allowed them to rest and regroup before continuing into the jute enclosure.
     None of the horses entering the trap appeared unduly stressed, and no lather appeared.

Padded overhead rails are known to reduce injuries significantly.

     We noticed that most of the overhead railings were padded. Our BLM rep explained that the padding had been suggested as a way to reduce neck and head injuries, and they adopted this small improvement that has been incorporated into the standard setup. (One example of how speaking quietly gets better results than screaming epithets.)
     A few of the railings were missing pads, and this was also pointed out to the rep. 

Situated in a gravel pit, the gravel mounds provided
 an excellent point of vantage for wranglers.

     Today’s trap setup was unique, in that the trap and sorting corrals were directly connected to short-term holding pens. This eliminates one in a series of loading and unloading, as the horses will be taken directly to their destination in Gunnison, Utah. This not only reduces stress on the horses, it is economically advantageous.
     The pens were well supplied with fresh water and hay. A water truck from BLM Fire filled troughs and then encircled the pens with a swath of cooling spray to quell the dust. We noticed that the animals seemed undisturbed by the large truck driving around the pens, while workers on foot were frightening to them. Given that this is a mining area, the horses are used to heavy vehicles rolling through their habitat.

     The sorting process was carried out quickly and efficiently and each group of animals settled down quickly after sorting. The four-wave gather brought in eight stallions, eight dry mares, two mares with foals, and two heavily pregnant mares, for a total of 22. At the end of the day’s gather operations, we were invited to approach the holding pens. All animals were in very good condition, and no serious injuries were observed.
     It is gratifying to note that cooperative efforts between advocates and BLM have brought about some improvements in the roundup process. We can be grateful for the horses’ sakes. Such progress in dialogue bodes well for continuing efforts in the struggle to achieve a healthy equine environment and an end to mass removals of horses from their native ranges.

Wild Horse Roundup: August 4 - 6, 2011
Triple B Complex, Nevada 
by Maureen VanDerStad,
 Photographs Show Serious Abuses of Captured Foals
     As the number of deaths increases of wild horse foals captured during the Triple B wild horse “gather” currently under way in Nevada, disturbing photographic evidence of abuse of the foals has been uncovered. A “gather” is the BLM’s euphemism for a roundup.
The photos come not from public observers witnessing the roundups but from the BLM itself and appear to have a connection to a video montage covering what transpired from August 4 - 6, taken by Deniz Bolbol of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC). The video clearly showed foals being pushed, kicked, shoved, wrestled, and manhandled by the employees of the BLM’s contractor, Sun J, during trailer loading. The footage taken for AWHPC and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) shows the abusive trailer loading as well as the aggressive roping of an exhausted foal after being chased by five mounted wranglers.  That documented abuse of foals is now joined by BLM’s own photograph taken on August 5, 2011, by BLM Nevada and posted on their Flickr page. 

                                                                                        photo by BLM/Nevada
     The photograph clearly shows a foal separated in a pen at the holding corrals being hung by his neck, tied high on the top rail of the corrals. A wrangler can be seen outside the pen gate, where he appears to be waiting for the foal to be “readied for loading onto the trailer” although the caption reads, “Foal at holding corral separated for travel.” 
     “This foal, in addition to having been galloped to the point of exhaustion (and possibly one of the many foals retrieved from the range after being chased and roped by wranglers), is now tied high by his neck, isolated in a pen. As you look closely at the photograph, you see an example of not only inhumane treatment but physical abuse. The foal’s eyes are wide and the photograph, under close inspection, shows the rope in a location that appears to be cutting off the foal’s air passages,” commented Maureen VanDerStad of Grass Roots Horse. “And this is not the only photo by BLM Nevada that shows violations.”
     Ms. VanDerStad continued, “It is the responsibility of the contracting officer’s representative (COR) to assure the humane treatment and handling of the wild horses during all phases of the capture operations and to ensure that the contractor fulfills its contractual obligations. This treatment is in violation of not only the above, but of the 1971 Wild, Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, the Federal Code, and Standard Operating Procedures. The COR/PIs (project inspector) need to do their assigned jobs in a conscientious manner, and we have the right to demand they do so. There is a great deal at stake.”
     Bruce Thompson, wild horse and burro specialist, is the COR/PI for the Elko, Nevada, portion of the Triple B wild horse roundup, and he can be contacted at 775-753-0286. He reports to the Elko district manager, Ken Miller (775-753-0200), regarding his responsibilities as COR/PI. 
     Ruth Thompson (775-289-1800) is the COR/PI for the Ely, Nevada, portion of the Triple B wild horse roundup. She reports to the Ely district manager, Gary Medlyn (775-289-1800).
     Dean Bolstad, deputy division chief, Wild Horse and Burro Program (775-861-6583).
     Please contact your congress people and ask that this roundup be stopped immediately and that a moratorium be placed on all wild horse and burro roundups until the necessary investigations into this program and this contractor’s personnel be conducted by an impartial and independent review team. 
     BLM’s photostream at Flickr can be seen at
     Information on public use of BLM’s digital photographs:

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     This is our new workshop—almost complete. After 20 years, I will finally be able to get all the tools and equipment off my front and back porches and from inside my house!

     Below are “before” pictures of the old barn now being renovated. This is a big job. It looks pretty bad now, but wait till Bobby gets through with it.

     Talk to you next time. . .


Remembering Jake and Harry

                   JAKE                                              HARRY