Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Gathering

While the eyes of the nation stayed riveted on our teetering economy poised precariously on the brink of financial melt down, wild horse and burro advocates, leading scientists, top experts, high ranking BLM officials and concerned citizens from across the nation reached deep into their hearts (and wallets) to attend the National Wild Horse and Burro Emergency Summit held in Las Vegas, Nevada this past weekend to rally for America’s Living Legacy – the American Mustang and Burro.

The Emergency Summit was called in response to BLMs recent announcement of considering killing tens of thousands of America’s wild horses and burros now warehoused in government pens or initiating an Instant Title program (aka, selling to killer buyers for slaughter) in order to alleviate the agency’s financial woes.

Organizers Jerry Reynoldson of Wild Horses 4 Ever , President Karen Sussman of the International Society for Protection the Mustangs and Burros, and Marisa Morin* coordinated the Summit in record time in efforts to halt what many consider the “managed extinction” of America’s herds.

In an unfortunate turn of events, just days before the Summit began, Jerry Reynoldson had a riding accident on his beloved horse and was hospitalized for a concussion, two broken ribs, and a punctured lung and was unable to attend the very event he had taken a lead role in bringing to life. On a positive note, Jerry has now been released and is on the mend. Though physically absent, his presence could still be felt throughout the event and I would like to give sincere thanks for all his hard work and effort in bringing everyone together to help save America’s Mustangs and Burros!

The Summit opened on Friday night with screenings of award winning filmmaker James Kleinert’s powerful documentary “Spirit Riders-Riding to Mend The Sacred Hoop”. This short version was the companion documentary of the HBO featured film “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”, which won 7 Emmy’s, and the full version of Spirit Riders is scheduled for release this spring.

Kleinert felt it was important to begin the Emergency Summit by “reflect[ing] on our brutal American history and how it still continues with America’s Wild Horses and Burros”. This was followed by “Saving the American Wild Horse”, a stunning documentary that showcased the true majesty and travesty surrounding these iconic animals and concluded with a sneak peek at some recent footage taken of the herds in Colorado’s Disappoint Valley.

Saturday morning was the “official” kick off of the Summit, where attendees were honored by the presence and spiritual leadership of Chief Arvol Looking Horse, 19th Generational Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe. Through his words of wisdom and prayer, he acknowledged all by beginning with “My relatives” and recounted the power of the horse and its spiritual guidance for humanity as well as the need for us to return to an honorable and sacred relationship with a way of life that is in harmony, respect and balance with Un-ci Ma-Ka (Grandmother Earth). With deepest respect, Chief Looking Horse, many blessings to your work and journey!

The collective knowledge and experience of all those who attended and spoke was truly amazing as lifetimes of work were condensed in intense educational formats, people struggling to both be heard and to listen, to open their hearts and minds by embracing a united vision in what can only be described as a frenzied environment - as all knew the clock was ticking with the lives and futures of thousands of America’s wild horses and burros hanging in the balance and dependent on the outcome of this collaborative effort.

Honestly, words cannot describe the power of experiencing so many who’s lives have been dedicated to the preservation and protection of these majestic icons as they came together in heartfelt determination to stop the genocide and decades of mismanagement of our wild herds and restore them to their rightful place on public lands.

Some of the highlights included:

*Michael Blake, author Dances with Wolves, both hero and champion of America’s mustangs and burros for decades, delivered a powerful message detailing history, warnings and a new vision for America’s herds.

*Madeline Pickens, wife of oil man T. Boone Pickens, made a surprise special guest appearance to announce her support for saving America’s wild horses and burros and promised to bring their message to Washington.

*BLM Deputy Director Henri Bisson spoke and gave assurances that he was personally reviewing all round up proposals and none would be implemented without his authorization, that all future round ups were being put on hold, including McCullough Peaks in Wyoming (but he did note that the Sandwash Basin herds in Colorado and Cedar Mountain herds in Utah were the exception as they are scheduled for a new fertility control study) and that he was intent on focusing all his energies on resolving the Wild horse and Burro Programs problems before he retires in January 2009.

*A comprehensive and detailed plan presented by wildlife ecologist and long time wild horse and burro advocate, Craig Downer, to restore America’s herds to their rightful place on public lands, which received a standing ovation.

*Karen Sussman of the ISPMB revealed the results of nine years of observing behaviors from three different herds at the ISPMB sanctuary. The conclusions of these observations has shown that two of the herds who had lived wild and free with no “management” before their final capture (aka, constant round ups and shattering social bonds and order through indiscriminate removals) only reproduced at a rate of 10-12% per year and demonstrated stable relationship patterns among the bands. The third herd studied, who had been subjected to the trauma of continuous round ups and removals, had a reproduction rate of 31% with little cohesiveness and stability and was classified as exhibiting a variety of “dysfunctional” and aberrant behaviors compared to the “non-managed” herds.

While these are just a few of the most powerful highlights, their was a wealth of other valuable information, presentations, insights as well as the formation of strategies for public education and awareness, political, legal and adoption strategies, short-term and long-term goals and a general consensus of the imminent threat America’s remaining herds now face. (To view the speakers, panelist, and subjects, Click Here and scroll down to Summit Program.)

At the end of the Summit, all who were in attendance joined together in a circle as Chief Arvol Looking Horse closed the event and everyone affirmed their commitment to mobilize, organize and win back the eroded rights of America’s wild horses and burros so they may continue to be preserved…now and for generations to come!

New stories covering the event include:

KLAS Channel 8
I-Team: Headway Made at Wild Horse Summit
Includes a section titled “Who’s Responsible” with contact information for Nevada’s BLM Wild Horse and Burro Lead Susie Stokke to voice your opinion on BLMs wild horse and burro management.

KVBC Channel 3:
Are Wild Horses Facing Extinction?

Las Vegas Review Journal
Government Urged to Save Wild Horses by Keith Rogers
Wild Horse Summit Slide Show by John Gurzinski and Keith Rogers

Public Radio KNPR
-on the BLM's proposal to euthanize thousands of wild horses in an effort to keep their population under control and summit organized by those opposed to that plan. Interviews include:
Karen Sussman, President of ISPMB
Jerry Reynoldson, President of Wild Horses 4 Ever
Don Glenn, Acting Division Chief of Department of Wild Horses and Burros, BLM
Tom Gorey, Public Affairs Specialist, BLM

Sante Fe Northern New Mexico News
Group Pushes For More Wild Horse Protection

Note: This article has been widely distributed from the Associative Press. AP continues to print that BLMs target populations are 27k for wild horses when the truth is, the target populations are 24.3k for wild horses and 2,915 for wild burros, a number less than the Endangered Wolf and certainly capable of qualifying for Endangered Species Status in their own right. Please consider writing AP at and request they accurately protray that 27k covers BOTH wild horses and burros or better yet, print the REAL numbers to help the public understand what has and is going on with our herds and why there is so much concern for their future.

*In the original post, a very important co-creator of the Summit was inadvertently missed, Marisa Morin, whom I extend my deep apologies for this oversight. Marisa was key in providing a very positive, upbeat environment throughout the event as well as presenting an astounding presentation on the Healing Power of Horses that, among many other things, provided scientific documentation and photos taken with cutting edge technology of how wild horses actually altered brain wave patterns, caused physiological body changes and had provided core fundamental healing in war veterans that suffered from post traumatic stress disorders for YEARS who were permanently transformed within a very short time just being in close proximity to wild horses. Very powerful stuff! Thank you Marisa.


Anonymous said...

Excellent summary, Cindy. We can retore the herds and rescue the 33,000!

Anonymous said...


Cindy, you spoke at the WHBS in Vegas at South Point and I appreciate your audacious and quantifiable way of getting to the point.

I'm curious as to what you think the next step is. Talking to a Senate Sub Committee? Securing funding and getting a moratorium? Why doesn't the govt. just carve out the wild horse and burro program and give it to some universities. Simonds, Rutberg, DeMayo, Sussman, Reynoldson and you could run the program through university endowments and veterinary expertise. It makes everyone look good. I'd sleep at night with that lineup at the helm. I'm losing sleep now becasue I know too much.
What do you think is next?

Meg Potter
Co-sponsor of WHBS LV