Wellness and Wild Horses

Wild Mustang“Wild horses run unbridled or the spirit dies.” – Anonymous

“I’m kind of sorry now so many were caught, ’cause I have a lot of respect and admiration for the mustang. The fact that he’d give us back the same medicine we’d hand him, with sometimes a little overdose, only made me feel that in him, I had an opponent worthy of the game. Even though I’d get sore at them when they’d put it over on us and rub it in a little too hard, the satisfaction I’d get at catching some wise bunch didn’t last very long when I’d remember they’d be shipped, put to work and maybe starved into being good by some hombre who was afraid of them and didn’t savvy at all. For they really belong, not to man, but to that country of junipers and sage, of deep arroyos, mesas—- and freedom.” – Will James, Cowboy Author and Wild Horse Hunter

I love watching wild horses.  If there is a documentary or film on wild horses, then I make sure that I watch it!  Wild horses and domestic horses are not the same in how they live and how they act and how they stay mentally alert and healthy.  Their needs are not the same.  And yet they are all horses.  They look similar, have similar dietary and exercise needs, yet live very different lives!  And I pondered the question, “What is wellness for a client who experienced rejection, isolation, trauma, and loss as a child?”  Who is, in many ways, like a wild horse; having learned hypervigilence, survival, and running alone.  And how do we as therapists treat them?  Do we expect our “little wild horses” to willingly and gladly accept OUR boundaries and conventions as the norm?  Do we insist on our cultural norm as a sign of wellness?

When one throws a rope on a domesticated horse, the horse does not fear it or find it threatening.  Rather the horse knows the lasso and rope are to lead it safely where the horse needs to go and what it needs to do:  to work, to eat, to sleep, to bath, to be groomed and all such things.  A rope also helps create a boundary in which the horse operates.  A domesticated horse does not see the rope necessarily as punitive or threatening.

A wild horse finds no such solace with a lasso.  The rope is a threat.  The distance wild horses keep from other animals, including humans, is greater.  More space is required for safety.  And ropes are not seen as safe, but rather as a danger to the well-being of the wild horse!  A cowboy/trainer is not viewed as a friend or a benign authority figure.  It is a battle of wills and a battle for survival, as far as the wild horse is concerned.  The ability of the trainer to understand the wellness issues of a wild horse often does not enter into consideration.  Rather, as cultural norms would dictate, the wild horse MUST become domesticated in order for all to be well and function within the society of domestication.  And so, the wild horse MUST accept ropes or find itself severely injured in the process.

A captured wild horse must accept boundaries imposed upon it by others who have embraced the cultural norms of domestication as the sign of mental wellness.  And if the wild horse does not accept the rope, then more ropes are thrown on the horse until the horse is no longer able to move on its own.  It is all tied down by the trainer’s ropes – the trainer’s boundaries.  The more severe boundaries of domestication are applied even more intensely to the wild horse as it fights and strains and injures itself in fear for its life!  The wellness of the wild horse has not even entered into the equation; only the requirements of the cultural norms for the domesticated society are used as a reflection of mental wellness.  It is certainly not the wild horse’s mental wellness that is being considered!

Therapists must take great care with regards to mental wellness and the individuality of our clients.  Not all clients, especially those who were abandoned or unwanted or traumatized as children, are domesticated and can trust others with leading them to safety or providing safe and supportive boundaries.  That trust and leadership must be earned.  It must be demonstrated to the wild horse that she is safe.  Sometimes the best way to lasso a wild horse, (to set a boundary,) and show it a safe and nurturing environment is to simply drop the rope and allow the wild horse to come  to you all on its own.  And sometimes the clinician needs to trust their “little wild horses” on the path to wellness.  The danger is to fall into the trap of cultural norms as a measure of mental wellness for our “little wild horses.”
– Helen Hill

2 thoughts on “Wellness and Wild Horses

  1. Click Here to visit The Cloud Foundations YouTube page.
    Famous Wild Horse Herd Granted Two-Day Reprieve from Massive Roundup Monday, 31 August 2009 21:06

    Press Release

    BILLINGS, MONTANA- AUGUST 31, 2009: The Pryor Mountain Wild Horses, perhaps best known from the popular Cloud: Wild Stallion of the Rockies PBS Nature series, have two more days of freedom before an unprecedented round up could begin. The Pryors roundup has been delayed for two days to allow Judge Sullivan of the Federal District Court to hear the case brought against the BLM by The Cloud Foundation and Front Range Equine Rescue.

    The Bureau of Land Management, responsible for managing wild horses on public lands in the United States, plans to round up all the horses in Montana’s only remaining wild herd and remove 70 horses plus four or more foals. This will leave a non-viable herd of only 120 horses according to respected equine geneticist, Gus Cothran, Ph.D., of Texas A&M University. The Pryor Mountain wild horses are a unique Spanish herd renowned for their primitive markings, historical connections, and spectacular habitat.

    BLM is dispatching National Wild Horse and Burro Program staff for this round up, perhaps because they expect trouble from humane advocates who are currently being prevented from observing this roundup. “Never before in my experience have plans been so vague and operations so secret in the Pryors,” says Ginger Kathrens, Volunteer Executive Director of The Cloud Foundation.” The BLM will be closing down roads to the mountain top where the majority of the herd spends their days grazing peacefully in their subalpine meadows. Young foals, only days old will be driven by helicopters and are in serious danger of being hurt or killed. Billings BLM Field Manager Jim Sparks told one advocate that they would expect a loss of 2% or six horses as a result of this operation.

    The BLM has always had signs posted at the entrances to the horse range that tell the public to ‘report violations of harassment, death or removals.’ “Why are they above the law?” Asks Crow Tribe Historian and Elder, Howard Boggess. “Everything that is against the law for me they are planning to do to these horses. This is a very sad thing as far as I’m concerned. The horses have lived here for over 200 years. Even under the harassment of the BLM they’ve survived since 1971.”

    The BLM claims that it is necessary to remove 70 horses in order to “maintain a thriving ecological balance.” However, the range is still green in late August following three years of above average precipitation after a multi-year drought. The horses are fat, preparing to go into winter. “Why are they removing nearly half the horses after the drought is over? I’ve told them [the BLM] if you take these 70 horses you’ve destroyed the bloodline, the gene pool will no longer be there,” continues Boggess. “Their whole goal is to get rid of the horses.”

    “What they are proposing to do is criminal— people locally and all across the Nation worked so hard to save these horses from eradication in 1968,” explains Kathrens. “This range was specially designated for wild horses, the first of its kind in the nation. This is their refuge and it is about to be invaded.”

    The BLM plans to remove 17 horses over ten years old and by BLM’s Standard Operating Procedures, “old, sick or lame horses shall be destroyed.” “When they take out the old horses they remove the ones that know the way to the water, the good grass, the way around the canyon – they’re taking out all of the knowledge of the herd,” Boggess explains. “It is really sad to sit there and look at the horses and think that in the next ten days they’ll be taken off this range and they’ll never see it again.”

    This case is scheduled to be heard on Wednesday, September 2nd, and thousands of people around the United States and the world await the decision of Judge Sullivan which will decide the fate of the unique and beloved Pryor Wild Horse Herd.

    Please Keep Calling! Wednesday, 26 August 2009 13:46

    WE ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE! KEEP CALLING
    We’ve just been told that BLM Director Bob Abbey is meeting with other officials regarding this round up due to the number of calls and e-mails they are receiving. KEEP IT UP- KEEP CALLING, FAXING AND E-MAILING.
    These are our wild horses living on our public lands!

    HALT THE PRYORS ROUND UP and all others across the west.

    BLM Director Bob Abbey
    Call: 202-208-3801 or 866-468-7826
    Fax: 202-208-5242
    Robert_Abbey@blm.gov This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

    Help us keep you updated– join Cloud on Facebook and Twitter now! 11th Hour for Cloud’s Herd – Act Now!!! Wednesday, 26 August 2009 13:11

    Please act now to stop this unnecessary and cruel round up— the BLM still plans to move forward on September 1st
    The Bureau of Land Management is rounding up and eliminating 12 herds (650 horses) off 1.4 million acres in Nevada right now– next they plan to destroy Cloud’s herd with a massive removal of 70 horses that would include OLDER HORSES and YOUNG FOALS.
    Many of the horses you have come to love in the Cloud shows and will meet in the new Cloud show on October 25th will lose their families and their freedom next week. By zeroing out whole herds and reducing others to below genetic viability, the BLM is circumventing the will of Congress. The House just passed the Restoring of American Mustangs (ROAM) act and the Senate will review this bill (now S.1579) when they return from recess in September. Is BLM just trying to do as much irrevocable damage to America’s wild horses as they can before Congress can act?
    This round up will start on September 1st unless we can stop it. Removing 70 horses will destroy this unique little Spanish herd, leaving them well below the bare minimum for genetic viability. The range is in great condition and the horses are healthy. This removal should be stopped. Please do all you can to help! Listen to Ginger Kathrens on Endangered Stream Live– a special edition show “Angels for Cloud”

    National Call in Day for Cloud is Friday, August 28th — SPREAD THE WORD! Have your kids call in and write too– These horses need to be preserved for future generations and we must act NOW

    1. Call/write/fax President Obama as often as you can—this herd is a national treasure and should not be wiped out by a government agency. Please flood the phone lines with calls! Phone: 202-456-1111 or 202-456-9000 Fax: 202-456-2461
    E-mail Obama

    2. Ask Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar to stop this round up
    Call: 202-208-3100
    Write: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

    3. BLM Director Bob Abbey, tell him to halt this round up– he must reconsider his agency’s actions
    Call: 202-208-3801 or 866-468-7826
    Fax: 202-208-5242
    This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

    4. Call and write your own Senators and Congress people- tell them that Montana is allowing the destruction of Cloud’s unique and historical wild horse herd. Politely express your outrage and ask them to help stop this round up. Find your state offices here

  2. compatriots!
    Status Update Wednesday, 02 September 2009 16:48

    The DC District Court Judge denied our request for a Temporary Restraining Order. We are not giving up on these horses though– KEEP CALLING YOUR SENATORS and CONGRESS PEOPLE, All MEDIA OUTLETS and tell your friends– this is another treasure being destroyed if we can’t stop this unneccessary, callous and massive roundup.

    We will do our best to keep you updated- the round up is scheduled to begin tomorrow, Thursday Sept. 3 and over the next few days or week the BLM plans to remove over 70 horses– from older mares and stallions to young foals. Don’t give up.
    Who Has Been Hired to Round Up Cloud’s Herd? Wednesday, 02 September 2009 14:28

    Dave Cattoor is a contractor hired by the BLM to perform wild horse round-ups. He and his wife and son run a business largely funded by the American taxpayer to harass and remove wild horses and burros. He was indicted by a federal grand jury and pled guilty to illegally hunting wild horses, aiding and abetting in 1992. He rounded up protected American mustangs, corralled into pens, loaded them into trucks, and hauled them to a slaughter house in Texas where they lost their lives. It was government theft and animal abuse. Among wild horse and burro advocates, he has a reputation of being cruel and inhumane. Photographs of newborn foals run to exhaustion, found hog tied on the range, horses and burros bleeding from their nostrils, broken legs and injured during exhausting gallops to captured pens are displayed on many wild horse and burro web sites.

    He is currently being investigated by the Department of Interior Inspector General for procurement fraud. It is known from federal contracting web sites that he has earned 13 million dollars since 2000 for which records are available. It is believed he has earned more than 21 million dollars since his conviction. Both he and his wife spoke separately before the Wild Horse and Advisory Board in 2009 and advocated for the continued use of helicopter round ups in an attempt to influence the boards recommendation to continue their lucrative contracting business. Federal law prohibits the use of contractors that have been convicted of a crime. Generally, a indictment would eliminate a contractor from consideration. However, Mr. Cattoor has been rewarded and made a millionaire many times over by the BLM despite the public outrage.

    Fully knowing the public’s concern about Mr. Dave Cattoor ‘s inhumane practices, the BLM Billings, Montana office have denied humane groups request to placed humane observers on the ground with full access during the Pryor round to ensure animals are treated humanely. Wild horses advocates have advised the BLM Billlings office as well as BLM officials in Washington DC that foals only day old and heavily pregnant mares are among those the contractor plans to run long distances for captured.

    Click Here for more information about Dave Cattoor

    Click Here to see a Helicopter Removal Pictorial
    Article from Honoring Freedom: The Ride to Save America’s Wild Horses Wednesday, 02 September 2009 14:18

    American Indian Leaders and others concerned about BLM’s wild horse management gather for Ceremony to honor the land and pray for the safety of the horses

    Download PDF Here
    Legal Battle to Save Clouds herd Wednesday, 02 September 2009 12:37

    See Documents Who Has Been Hired to Round Up Cloud’s Herd Tuesday, 01 September 2009 15:02

    Click Here to visit The Cloud Foundations YouTube page.
    Congressman Raul Grijalva calls for BLM to stop Roundup Friday, 28 August 2009 00:00

    Congressman Raul Grijalva calls for BLM to stop Roundup not only of Cloud’s Herd but of all Wild Horses and Burros

    Download full PDF here!
    Crow Elder & Historian Speaks Against Roundup Tuesday, 01 September 2009 00:00

    Howard Boggess, Member of the Crow Tribe of Indians, Elder and Historian talks about the Pryor Wild Horses he’s known all his life. Mr. Boggess discusses what could happen if the roundup of Cloud’s herd goes forward on Sept. 4th. Everything that is against the law for me they are planning to do to these horses. This is a very sad thing as far as I’m concerned. The horses have lived here for over 200 years. Even under the harassment of the BLM they’ve survived since 1971.
    Keep calling Secretary of Interior Salazar, BLM Director Bob Abbey, the Billings BLM Office and President Obama.

    http://www.thecloudfoundation.org/index.php/donate-now

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