Friday, March 29, 2013

Virginia Range Wild Horse Challenge Painting #399

Mike Holmes, Former Nevada Department of Agriculture Astray Manager, Interview Part 2 of 3
"Running Through Lava Rocks"
5 by  7 inches Watercolor
LindaLMartin Artist
 Original $65.00
11 by 8.5 inches In house Signed Prints: $35.00
To check availability email:

One of the Questions I asked Mike Holmes,  was, 'Why do you think your approach to wild horse management was so successful?"

“ I think it was because I listened to every body.” He said thoughtfully “ I was a public servant and I listened to everyone’s ideas and what they thought.”  He was quick to insist that didn’t mean everyone agreed with all of his decisions or they way he handled things. That was to be expected.  Mike knew how to be diplomatic and he knew how to generate working compromises. His ability to work with people and  also his fair and compassionate treatment of wild horses has made him probably one of the best loved  wild horse managers in Nevada.

Mike also came to the position armed with common sense and the law as well, as the ability to solve problems.  While he was busy listening to people, he was also making good decisions that reflected well on his superiors and generated a lot of public support for them. His handling of the Virginia Range horses had a very positive Public Relations affect and he was always available  to address groups  and meet with individuals when asked.

“ When schools or organizations  invited me to come and speak about what I did and the Virginia Range Horses, I always tried to make myself available.”  Mike told me.

Mike’s job consisted of a number of management tasks.  He was charged with maintaining the herd numbers so they didn’t grow to be too many to sustain on the available habitat.  The state managed well over 300,000 acres for wild horses and under Mike the numbers stayed  between 1200 and 1500 head of horses.  This was unlike the BLM managed Pine Nut Mountain HMA which can only sustain  110 to 175 horses on about 90,000 acres. Mike was also empowered to remove  nuisance horses and issue citations for people who insisted on feeding or harassing the horses.

“ Mostly what I tried to do was  educate people, “ Mike said when talking of visiting people who had been sighted feeding wild horses. He explain to them how what they were doing was harmful to the horses and would prevent them from going off and finding food as they should in the wild. Then he told offenders  that if he issued them a warning citation and they continued feeding the horses and someone was injured or killed because of what they had done, then because he had warned them,  he would testify if they were charged, that  they had been warned. “ I usually didn’t have to warn people twice”  Mike insisted.  He made them aware that the civil suits would probably be worse than the fines, if they continued  feeding wild horses and someone was hurt or killed.

When horses would continue hanging around people’s homes, the public roads or other industrial areas where they or people could be hurt, Mike would trap the horses and release them in another part of the range far from towns and populated areas. If he had to remove the same horse or band  3 or 4 times then Mike would call one of several non-profit  groups that work with wild horses and place the horse with them. The non-profits would then seek either sanctuary for them or to place them in adoptive homes.

“I would usually have to remove between 100 and 150 wild horses a year”Mike explained “ That kept the numbers  steady. That was about the size of one year’s foal crop.”  Mike told me that most of the removals were with traps or on horseback, however ,Mike did several round ups using contractor helicopters. "When we did those sort of removals we knew exactly how many horses we expected to remove  from the range and we had per-arranged  with  one( or more) of the approved legitimate non-profits to take the horses in advance.” 

According to Mike Holmes he always tried to do right by the horses first and foremost. “ The horses in our care were always taken care of.  I can go on record that no horse ever went to a stock sale under my watch, not even the few domestic horses that we had to bring in occasionally.”

Also under his watch was the first PZP round up for Birth Control of Virginia Range Wild Horses. “ The contractor rounded up as many horses as they could in  2 or 3 days. We gave about 150 mares a dose of PZP. That kept the numbers from going up for a few years.”

Also under Mike Holmes’ watch was a special "Saddle  Horse Program" in which non-profits were chosen for their horse training programs. Selected wild horses were  accepted for training  and then auctioned off much like the BLM auctions, with the  Non-profit holding the title until the new owner  had the horse for at least one year under approved supervision. “This protected buyers from taking the horses and turning around then selling them at auction for slaughter. “ He said.

Mike tried to use the best most successful and most humane management practices available and made himself available to help educate and solve problems.

Tomorrow : Groups Mike Holmes worked with and people that influenced and aided him in the good management of the Virginia Range Horses.

Special Thank-you to Mikel Ann Hettrick for the reference photography for today's painting.

Blogger's Note: A lot of people have misgivings when talking about rounding up wild horses and removing them from the range. Some people think that good range management should not include removing horses. However, if wild horses were not protected and removed they would soon over populate and that would lead to starvation and suffering , the like of which many advocates have neither seen nor experienced.

All forms of wild life in the United States have some sort of "culling" procedure and also a relocation plan for
nuisance animals. One of the many  things that impresses me about  what Mike Holmes did  was that instead of stock piling the wild horses that were removed from the range in hopes that people would come forward to adopt or provide sanctuary for them, he made sure that there was a place for each horse to go before it ever was taken from the range.

Placing horses to be removed before removal required working together with a number of people and organizations that didn't always agree on every aspect of range management.  That he was able to do this, in my opinion, is part of Mike Holmes' success as a wild horse manager. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Virginia Range Stallions Challenge Painting #398

Part 6: The first part of a 3 Part Interview with Former State of Nevada Estray Manager Mike Holmes:
Virginia Range Stallions
11 by 8.5  inches Graphite on #110 paper
by LindaLMartin Artist
Original $200.00
Signed Prints $35.00 each plus S&H
I had the great privilege to interview Mike Holmes, the first full-time Estray Manager for the Nevada Department of Agriculture, this evening. Mike and his Wife and their Son currently reside on a privately owned Ranch in California. Mike is the Wild Horse Manager of the ranch there.  The majority of the wild horses managed by Mike and his family on the ranch are horses in sanctuary. The newest additions are a group of Pine Nut Mountain Horses  recently removed from a housing development  where they were considered a nuisance, outside of Carson City, Nevada. Horses in Mike’s care are allowed to roam freely on the ranch  where he and his son inspect each band  almost daily on horseback to make sure they are healthy and injury free.

Over the years Mike Holmes has developed a unique skill as a wild horse manager and understands that wild horses must be handled differently than domestics. He loves the life and wouldn’t change it.

“I really never expected to be doing this all the rest of my life” Mike told me in our phone conversation. “ We are glad we did. As my wife always says: One right turn changes everything down the road.”

While Mike says that he was always involved in ranching growing up; however,  his main occupation had been in the construction industry. One day a friend ,who happened to be brand inspector for the Nevada Department of Agriculture (NDA)  at Carson City asked him if he would like to work part time as the Virginia Range Astray Manager.
“I agreed and 3 or 4 months later they decided to make me full time” Mike shared with me, “ I wasn’t the first.  That was Bruce Greenhalgh.”Mike also told me that prior to the creation of the  Astray Manager it was the state brand inspector under  the state Veterinarian who removed the horses that caused problems.

Mr Greenlalgh was a retired state trooper who had already retired from one job and according to Mike didn’t want to take on another full time position.  “At the time  the job was mostly picking up nuisance horses  and releasing them in a part of the range that was farther away.”

Occasionally, a horse would keep coming back in to the industrial areas and make themselves a nuisance again so the astray manager would basically remove the animal and then contact a local non-profit organization to take the horse.

“When they made the job full time, I basically had to answer only to three people, Paul Iverson, the Director of NDA; Dr. David Thaine, the State Veterinarian; and The Governor of Nevada.” said Mike.
Mike Holmes’ superiors were looking to him to build a program for wild horse management on the Virginia Range that would serve both the public and the wild horses.

When the state assumed responsibility for the  Virginia Range horses in the 1980s there had been no real management. Ten years later all these horses were spread out and into the developed industrial areas and some were becoming a problem in great number .

Although it didn’t happen overnight the number of horses had grown to between 1200 and 1500. Even though technically the State Was responsible for the management there was no agency in place to manage the horses. “ There were always wild horses there”  Mike insisted, “ but the management was slim to none until the Virginia Range Estray Manager position was created.”

Tomorrow: What may  have been the most successful State Run Wild Horse Management program in The United States.

 Special thanks to Mikel Hettrick for the use of her photography.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Virginia Range Wild Mares Challenge Painting #397

Part 5: Figuring Out Who Would Protect the Wild Horses of the Virginia Range in Nevada
Virginia Range Wild Mares
5 by 7 inches  Drawing on #110 Paper
by Linda L Martin
Original $65.00
11 by 8.5 inches Signed Prints $35.00 plus S&H for availability
At the time the Wild Horse and Burro Act one estimate said that fewer than 17,000 wild horses lived on public federal lands across the entire west. One estimate put the number as low as 12,000. Due to lack of grazing and frequent drought conditions most range specialists and biologists agreed  at the that the total number of horses that could be sustained on all Wild Horse Herd Areas was a maximum of 27,000 total for all range areas in the west.

These numbers were based on what the land could sustain in an average rain year.  Had there been plans in place managing wild horses, which was a totally new science at the time, those numbers probably would not have gone over 25,000 at any given year.  And under drought conditions, die offs would have lowered the numbers substantially. Instead the number of wild horses not only exploded but, the horses, due to lack of forage and water, as well as territorial issues when new bands were created, began to expand into areas that prior to 1971 had no wild horses.

The arduous task of figuring out which horses were owned by whom and what their legal status was became that action that took precedence to any hard core management plans. In fact, on some Herd Management Area plans are still evolving and changing even after 42 years of learning how to manage wild horses.

After a number of court rulings, several decisions were made to establish the ownership and control of wild horses. By 1976 property owners were requesting that wild horses be removed from their property by the BLM.  These horses were considered by the BLM to be estray, or formally domestic horses, that had gone feral and were not among the original wild horses protected by the act.  In fact, it was geography and time period that determined which horses were wild and which were not. If title could be proven in ownership, private citizens were responsible. If in the wrong place at the time of the Wild Horse and Burro Act they were estray.

The first group of Pine Nut Mountain HMA wild horses had migrated down to High Way 50 by 1978 and were causing problems on private land and road hazards.  Due to fencing and natural obstacles the BLM took responsibility for those horses and removed any horse that became a problem in that area that bordered  the Herd Area and has done so since.

Another document stated that both the BLM and The Nevada Department of Agriculture recognized the ownership of  wild "feral" horses by private land owners . Private land owners had to make a determination. If they did not want the horses removed by the BLM on their property the horses, no matter what the origins, were theirs and they must control both the populations and the migration.   Some property owners did round up and sell off wild horses others did not.   Wild horses were being rounded up by privately hired helicopter contractors on private land well into the 1990s, until pressure was brought to bear by private groups living in the areas of the Virginia Highlands.

Yet still, wild horses were running freely throughout the state controlled region and private citizens had stopped claiming ownership. In 1982 the Nevada Department of Agriculture took responsibility for the horses and solidified their legal rights to do so.

The feeling was that the Department of Agriculture, the citizens of Nevada and the local government and land owners didn’t want to remove the horses totally. They wanted to preserve them to healthy levels so that they could be enjoyed by everyone safely.  The determination that the Virginia Range could sustain from 100 to 150 wild horses in good health was actually determined sometime in 1995.

What was needed was a good plan to keep the animals healthy, control the populations and to make sure the animals were protected. The Department of Agriculture created a position: Virginia Range Astray Manager. Governor Bob Miller of Nevada from 1989 to 1999 appointed Mike Holmes, to that position.

Tomorrow: Mike Holmes and what he accomplished for the Virginia Range Horses.

Special thanks to Mikel Hettrick for the use of her photography.
Sources for some of the information in this section are from different wild horse advocacy groups, public information, The State of Nevada and interviews provided from advocates of the Virginia Range horses who wish to remain anonymous.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Wild Stallion on the Virginia Range Challenge Painting #396

 Part 4 History of the Virginia Range: Complications
"Virginia Range Stallion"
5 by 7 inches Watercolor
by Linda L Martin Artist
In house signed prints available $35.00 each
The wild horse privately held round ups had legally ceased in 1971 with the enactment of the Wild Horse and Burro Act. It had two dramatic affects.

The first effect was on the domestic horse population. This is something I lived through. Before I went to  college  anyone could buy a low end domestic horse for less than $100. I had a friend who started her horse business that way in 1972. In 5 years there was a population explosion on the range. While the population of wild horses was going unchecked on the range the prices of low end domestic horses was pushed up by Kill buyers who needed to fill their orders. A $50 domestic healthy over weight horse in1970 by 1978 was selling for $650 to $850 through the stock sale.  By 1983 the market did taper off, And 45 cents to 55 cents a pound was frequent for domestic horses. It hurt a lot of us who were just starting out.Although it was only in hind sight that any of us in the horse industry in the east at that time realized how we were impacted by the "horse meat slaughter market".

I have to say that I have never supported in principle or in fact any portion of the industry that deliberately bred horses for a cruel use including slaughter for human consumption. The reason many of us supported the Wild Horse and Burro Act in the 1970s is because we all knew that in some states that is how wild horses were being used. And the slaughter mentality for the most part did not include humane treatment for any horses they considered "walking dead". This is still true today.
Since, I and the majority of my friends in college all supported the Wild Horse and Burro Act,  as I am sure we all do to this day because it stopped the majority of the cruel and bloody round-ups that  were a daily occurrence at the time, we didn't realize how it would change our own participation in owning and training horses once we finished college. In fact no one knew what the outcome would be because this whole situation was uncharted territory for us as advocates, for ranchers and stockmen and for the Federal and State Governments involved. Those who were not advocates of wild horse protection and humane treatment  had always looked at wild horses as a commodity. After 42 years that perception has not changed much in the horse industry.

Too  many horses on the range because the round ups ceased in 1971 began to created a  crisis.  With too many horses and  frequent droughts  anyone who was at ground zero in the situation including  the  cattlemen, horse advocates,  outdoorsmen, as well as conservationists were beginning to sound the alarm. If the horse populations continued to go unchecked then there would soon be no grasses of any kind in low rain areas of the ranges. Wild horses and other wild life would begin starving in great numbers.

On the Virginia Range this was a cataclysmic prospect because of the nature of the grass. The main grasses were clump grasses. Unlike the continuous grass that we see here in the east and in other rain plenty states, clump grasses were adapted to low rain and high temperatures of harsh high desert habitats. This is why when you look at photos of the range you see  a dotted effect  where these native grasses grow. There are many varieties of this type of grass all good for grazing  and they grow this way to conserve water and provide protection for their roots.   
Cheatgrass grows well between the
volcanic rock that covers much of
The Virginia Range.
 The other type of grass the horses exist on is called cheat grass. It is an invasive species that thrives is low rain areas like the Virginia Range.  Several articles I’ve read on cheat grass say that its nutritional value isn’t as high as the native clump grasses. The problem is that when a range of clump grasses is over grazed, especially during a drought, the cheat grass over runs the area of the clump grass, because it grows faster and has an extensive underground root system. One story compared it to eastern crabgrass, which also so  over runs the native grasses by its strong root system. Another side effect of cheat grass is in drought conditions it’s the first to dry out and the first to catch on fire. It acts as a tinder. When other grasses burn out the Cheat grass over runs the area and replaces the native grasses.

The population explosion of wild horses was heading toward a crisis that was further complicated by another practice: horse dumping.  

For the uninitiated, horse dumping has a wide and varied history in the west and indeed it was also happening just recently during the economic down turn of the last decade. Horse dumping is pretty much done for the same reason that puppies and kittens are dumped by the side of the road. The idea is that if an animal is sold at a sale it would cost more money than it could bring in.   That would mean that the blood lines of good horses might end up purchased for slaughter.   Or a rancher in poor economy might not even be able to pay the transport to a sale facility, much less get his money out of the sale. For a rancher that was already having economic trouble transporting good stock to a sale where it wouldn’t even pay for the gas to get there was impossible.

When every effort was made to sell horses during an economic down turn and the prices could not be met, traditionally all over the west horses were simply let loose. The hope was that they would be picked up by another rancher who could benefit with a stock upgrade or that when the rancher could get back on his feet financially he could get his horses back. Most often it was opportunistic band stallions or bachelor stallions looking for a band that got the mares.  It was really rough going for the horses that were use to being fed  because many, especially those who were not adopted by bands, died cruel deaths of starvation or froze during the winter. Those who became part of the a band were able to survive and infuse the wild horses with some pretty amazing blood lines.

Through out history so many horses have been dumped in western states that sometimes it is difficult to tell the domestics from the wild ones. Now it is against the law to dump horses. By 1978 it inflated the numbers of wild horses further and during the frequent drought years it taxed the land to badly that some areas of the range would never recover. Then die offs began.

A lot of people would like to hold the cattle and sheep producers completely responsible for land degradation in the west, however it is not just cattle that the horse must compete with in the fragile high desert areas. There are a number of wild animals that graze  there as well.

There was a desperate need for a management plan. This management plan needed to make room for the horses and the range to be healthy as well as make room for other Nevada wild life and to prevent destructive over grazing. Since this was all new terrirtory there was no scientific data available and no people other than professional mustangers who knew how to handle wild horses.

A management plan needed to be put in place that would both preserve the horses and would protect them from abuse as well as starvation.  The Virginia Range Horses needed a savior. And because of the circumstances that savior was going to have to come from the Nevada Department of Agriculture.

The designation of Virginia Range horses was astray. They well might have been wild the entire time but because of the fact that no unbranded stock was left on the Virginia Range Public Land except on Pine Nut Mountain, the horses had no protections except what was designated by the Nevada Department of Agriculture.

Tuesday: Who would Save and Protect the Virginia Range Wild Horses?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Virginia Range Foal Challenge Painting #394

Part 3: Virginia Range After 1971 ( Who Owns the Horses and Where?)
When Congress unanimously declared America's wild free-roaming horses and burros to be Living Symbols of the Historic and Pioneering Spirit of the West in 1971 Everyone who loved horses and history through out the  USA seemed to breath a sigh of relief.

"Woolly Bear"
Virginia Range Foal in the Snow
5.5 by 8.5 inches Graphite on #110 Paper
by Linda L Martin
Original $75.00
Signed Prints $35.00 for information on purchases

The very thing that pulled at the heart strings of the American public regarding Wild Horses was the idea and  romance of these beautiful creatures  running free on the range. This is a symbol of our freedom and  a historic documentation of where our peoples came from. However,  most American’s  love their wild horses from a distance. The romance is far from the reality, as life often is.

The very first thing the New Wild Horse and Burro program had to do was figure out who owned what horses. On the Virginia Range in Nevada it was a complicated process. I think the Alliance of Wild Horse Advocates sums it up best in their Introduction to the Document on the "Virginia Range Horses and the History" of their management.

“There are two distinctly separate BLM Herd Use Area s (HUA) areas located near the large block of private lands currently holding estray horses managed by the State of Nevada. They are known as the Jumbo and Horse Springs HUAs.

The Jumbo HUA is located west and south of the aforementioned private lands, and the Horse Springs HUA is located to the east. Following extensive planning and public input all horses were captured from both areas and both were declared horse free following completion of the removals. BLM received only positive responses to its capture plans with no one objecting to either the removals or the horse free designations.

The rationale behind each removal was somewhat different but both were backed by not only the law and regulation but extensive case law as well.
No federally protected horses occurred within the Jumbo HUA at the time the Act was passed in 1971. The law specifically restricts (BLM's) management to those areas where horses occurred in 1971 thus Jumbo was eliminated from consideration for long-term management. The horses remaining within theJumbo HUA had relocated there from the Pine Nut HMA after passage of the Act and as a result were removed in late 1984, and the area was declared horse free.

The land use patterns within the Horse Springs HUA are heavily skewed toward private holdings with 15,000 acres of BLM lands as compared with 37,000 acres of private lands. Written requests from the private landowners, and several traffic accidents involving wild horses, necessitated the removal of all of  the horses from the HUA. Again, extensive public input and planning were completed prior to the removal of the horses with no entity opposing BLM's proposed removal.

All horses were removed in 1983 and the area was declared horse free. At the time of the removals a Mr. Woodrow Cox ran horses on the adjoining Curtis Wright lands leased by Nick Mansfield. The horses now present are believed to be descendants of these horses. Prior to the State of Nevada assuming management of these horses, several large removals were conducted by Nick Mansfield that held their numbers in check. At that time the State of Nevada recognized Mr. Mansfield as the owner of these horses. A lack of any substantial removal effort since has resulted in the numbers now present.

Over the years the BLM has worked extensively with the all divisions of the State of Nevada concerning the remaining horses located on the private lands and have on numerous occasions reaffirmed our position( the AOWHA) that all remaining horses are not under the protection of the BLM”

Keep in mind that from the time the first census of wild horses was taken in 1971-1973 no one was  legally removing wild unbranded horses from the range. As the wild horses produced more and more offspring the bands began to spread out.   The nature of wild horses is that each band stallion has a territory. The territories do over lap . However if all the space is taken by existing band stallions then when a young stallion gets his first mares he has to establish his own territory. As stated before wild horses go where they need to. 

Add to this the fact that any wild horses who ranged on privately owned lands were not protected by the Wild Horse and Burro Act in 1971.  When their herds began to re-populate out of control with nothing to keep the numbers in check they began to  fill up and overlap into Nevada Department of Agriculture managed land because there was nowhere else for them to go. It wasnt long before the Virginia Range was again covered with wild horses, a lot of them from private sources  This population explosion created  the beginning of a crisis for both the wild horses and the ecosystems on the range.

Monday Part 4: More complications for Virginia Range Horses

A special thank you to Mikel Ann Hettrick for the use of her photography.

To read more about the History of the Virginia Range management you can read the white paper put together by the AOWHA:

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Virginia Range Foals Challenge Painting #393

While I was researching this Background history of the Virginia Range, I was surprised to learn that the Virginia Range at this time is not under the management of the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program. Logic would tell most of us that since it is where the first activities of  Velma Johnston and her husband to advocate for mustangs started, that it should be the main and most high profile location, and possibly even a showcase for the success of the new act. It wasn't to be.
Virginia Range Youngsters
5.5 by 8.5 inches Graphite on #110 paper
by Linda L Martin Artist
Original $75.00
Signed Prints available for $35.00 each

This is where the first complication to setting up the Wild Horse and Burro Act comes in.

The land was not continuous.  Of course a wild horse doesn’t know this. A wild horse goes where the food and water is based on seasonal availability. Sometimes that would be on state land, sometimes federal, and sometimes on private property.

This mix of owner ship in land intertwined is called checkerboard. This checker boarded layout of land ownership created a lot of confusion in developing a management plan that would help the horses be protected and thrive. In the mid 1970s the Federal Government began to try to consolidate land through a series of trades and purchases to make the land continuous and easier to manage.  I remember this was happening when I was a junior in HS.  A friend’s family farm was a part of the trade for the National Park Service to secure a protected management sight and gain a smoother boarder and to allow the private land owners to have more privacy on their land.

In the meantime the fledgling Wild Horse an Burro program was having a problem figuring out how to manage. No one had any real experience in dealing with wild horses except those who had grown up in the culture of capture and release. It had never been regulated.  When people needed horses they just went and rounded them up. The round ups were generally bloody to wranglers and horses, wild and domestics alike because of the rough and rocky remote terrain in most areas where wild horses were found.

Basically before the Wild Horse and Burro Act when people wanted to upgrade a herd they just released purebred stallions into the wild herds.  In one part of the country a whole industry was built up using wild horses for dog food. They regularly released heavy stock and large muscled draft horses into the wild herds to improve their quality for that purpose.  Even the Federal Government was known to release high quality blood stock into the local wild herds so as to develop hearty usable work horse that had strength and endurance needed for artillery and cavalry remounts.

The frequent round ups on federal land prior to the 1971 act kept populations of horses under control. According to one account prior to the law protecting wild horses on public lands The BLM had no problem with private citizens rounding up the wild horses and using them any way they wanted to. At that time wild horses had no legal standing and their was no budget to manage them on federal land. Since in most places predators to the wild horses had mostly been wiped out  it was mustangers that helped keep the horses from becoming too populated.

By 1971 there was estimated between 12,000 to  17,000 wild horses left in all the Western states

When the Wild Horse and Burro Act was signed two things happened immediately. 1) it became  illegal for any private citizen to  capture, chase or harass any  wild horse for any purpose that was housed on federal public land  2) any horse on public land that had no brand was automatically designated wild even if it was a domestic or the off spring of domestic horses.

That made for a mad scramble to get as many horses off the range as possible in some locations where for generations and decades ranchers, mustangers and settlers had been storing their ranch stock on public lands until needed.  According to one book I read, published in 1979, some of the ranchers refused to go along with the law and just kept catching and releasing for years after wards because they said it was their historical right.  Their reasoning was that their grandfathers and fathers did it, so those horses were theirs.  This activity continued in some more remote areas of the country until law enforcement finally put a stop to it.

The first thing the new managing entity, The Bureau of Land Management, did under the newly created Wild Horse and Burro Program was to  conduct a census to see where the horses were actually located and  to establish  herd areas for them and the boundaries that needed to be established. By 1973 the census was completed and the Herd Areas for Wild Horses were established. The problem was in 1971 there were no unbranded wild horses on the federally managed areas of the Virginia Range.

Then something happened that no one could foresee causing a wild horse crisis in the Western States.

Friday:  Virginia Range After 1971

A special thank you to
Mikel Ann Hettrick for the use of her photography.

If you would like to read more history about the early days of the Wild Horse and Burro Act and how it came to be,  I highly recommend  The Wild Horse Controversy by Heather Smith Thomas  published in 1979  by A. S. Barnes and Co. Inc.  It can be purchased on

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Virginia Range Foal Challenge Painting #392

The Virginia Range in Nevada is one of the most well known and important areas to the Wild Horse Advocacy.  Historically this is where the whole movement to preserve the modern Wild American Mustangs began with a woman named Velma Johnston. 
"Run For Joy"
Virginia Range Foal
5.5 by 8.5 inches Graphite on #110 Paper
by LindaLMartin

As a Child, I read about Velma Johnston and how she was riding to work one day and saw a truck load of freshly caught Virginia Range wild horses in a truck heading for a slaughter plant. The animals had been run and wrangled to within an inch of their lives. In one account she said they  were so bloodied by the way they had been chased, captured and handled, that blood was literally running through the floor of the truck and pooling on the ground around it. 

She was moved to compassion as she understood the horror in which these animals had suffered in capture. Velma realized that something needed to be done to prevent this from ever happening again. Yet, it took 20 years, to rally the country, speaking at hearings before congress, convincing people. She had to encourage people through out the country to speak up with their convicitons that wild horses were worth saving as a cultural and historical symbol of our freedom and sacrifice in as Americans. The law Velma Johnston helped to put in place is called the Wild Horse and Burro Act.

Velma Johnston, also known as
Wild Horse Annie, led the fight
to protect wild horses in the USA.
She began that fight with the horses
from the Virginia Range outside of
Reno, Nevada. Her activities began
in 1950. She and her husband were
the first people to advocate against

the use of airplanes in the rounding
up of wild horses.
Photo copyright

The Wild Horse and Burro Act was originally passed and signed in to law in 1971. Today there have been several additions made to the law, so that even though it protects wild horses to some extent on public Federal land, it does make a provision with the Burns rider passed in 1995 to allow  for the sale without provision* or waiting period and even the euthanasia** of healthy wild horses if they are considered excess.  Keep in mind the director of the WH&B Act also has the right to create special sanctuaries as needed for wild horses, in addition to allowing for the adoption of wild horses to private citizens.

The national bill only deals with wild horses on federal public lands. State, and local government open lands are not covered under the Wild Horse and Burro act.*** These entities manage under their own laws and ordinances. There are a few exceptions.  Special laws have been passed by congress to protect two herds of Spanish Colonial Mustangs in North Carolina.   For some of the other herds on the East coast and central US, the horses are managed by non-profit groups where their numbers are kept in check and the horses are maintained in good health.

Today that same range where the Wild Horse and Burro Act started with Velma Johnston has no protection under the Wild horse and Burro Act.  The reasons are as complicated as developing and passing the law its self. Keep in mind also, that from 1950 until her death  in 1977, Velma Johnston worked tirelessly for all the wild horses around the Reno and Carson City Nevada Areas to help protect them at the state and local levels as well..

The very first thing to remember is that  when the act was passed  it stipulated that only wild horses that were on the Federal land  at the time would be considered  for protection and Horse or Herd Management area would be set up around the range that the horses already lived in at that time the act was signed.

This is where the first complication to setting up the Wild Horse and Burro Act comes in. The land was not continuous.  Of course a wild horse doesn’t know this. A wild horse goes where the food and water is, based on seasonal availability. Sometimes that would be on state land, sometimes federal, and sometimes on private property.

Tomorrow: The Lay of the Land

To Read more about Velma Johnston here:

A special thank you to
Mikel Hettrick for the reference photography.

* The official policy of the BLM has been for the last 10 years that no wild horses will be sold to any private citizen or business for the purposes of slaughter. Supposedly persons who defraud the government can be prosecuted including BLM employees who knowingly approve such sales.
** In 2010 the Congress of the United States wrote a section into the budget for the BLM preventing them from using any tax payer money to euthanize any healthy wild horse. As of this writing,there has not been a new budget written.
*** protection of wild horses on state and private lands varies state to state. In Nevada it is legal to round up wild horses with a state issued permit and sell them to anyone, including a meat processor.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Deer Run Road Mares Challenge Painting #391

Thousands of Wild Horse advocates were appalled and angry over the removal of wild horses from around the Deer Run Road Subdivision outside of Carson City, Nevada this past week end. They were appalled because it was so easy to remove the horses.

"Deer Run Road Mares"From Pine Nut Mountain HMA
5 by 7 inches Graphite on #110 Drawing Paper
by Linda L Martin Artist
Prints $35.00 each
For Information  email:
I have been told  by many wild horses advocates that in the wild, a wild horse does not even know what grain is. Generally, it takes weeks and even months to introduce it into their diets. According to the advocates some wild horses will never eat it. Wild horses do know what alfalfa is, and they do recognize some grass hays, however, for the most part, the diet of domestic horses is completely unknown to wild horses. In some instances a domestic horse diet is far too rich and will cause wild horses to founder or colic, both of which can lead to extremely painful lingering deaths.

So on the week-end of the Deer Run Road  removals by the BLM, while all the locals to the area were deeply grieved at the loss of their favorite band of wild horses, the rest of us were becoming more and more outraged. Outraged because we know that this is what happens when wild horses are fed over time and become tame.

Here in the East coast we deal with it all the time with our wild herds. Horses so tame from feeding and  luring to food,  that foals sometimes end up in the back of the cars of tourists and are kidnapped from remote areas. Horses are so fearless of cars and trucks that they just walk out right into the road and impede traffic or surround vehicles  begging for food or are hit, and sometimes killed,  because they jump out in front of cars.  Horses so unafraid of people that people are seriously injured when a wild horse kicks or bites at another horse while they are being petted.

This is so prominent on Assateague Island that  the National Park Service has put out a brochure warning people to stay away from the horses and what can happen:  It is out rageous that intelligent people ignor the warnings all the time.

Three of the Deer Run Road Mares.
The entire band often made trips
right into the city park at Carson City
in search of  food, according to one
local news source.

Thankfully we have private non-profits here in the East that work with managing entities to remove the most troublesome horses and put them into sanctuaries or if they are young enough, have them trained and adopted out. What is just as appalling is that many of the people who were complaining about the removal of the Deer Run Horses were claiming to be activists, yet had no knowledge of the history of their community, its wild horses or the laws regarding the protection of the horses.  Some, by their own admission, said they had really done nothing proactive to help protect those very horses and keep them running free.

There are laws put in place to assure the freedom of those horses. Unfortunately, many in the housing development ignored the law regarding horses on federal land.

Did you know that it is a federal crime to feed and pet wild horses that are managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service? This is what the law says:

“It is illegal to feed, pet, or other-wise harass a wild horse or burro, individuals will be cited for those activities and the citations carry a minimum fine of $500.00 per incident.”
This is the band stallion.  The
horses are from the Pine Nut HMA
that boarders a development where
residents regularly fed the horses.

So if you have 10 or 15 federally managed horses migrating through your property to water or grazing and you start feeding them because they look skinny, You ccould be fined up to $7,500 every time you put out food for them. And if you are doing that every day twice a day for a year and so is everyone in your subdivision of 30 or 40 houses you could fund the entire Wild Horse and burro program for nearly 4 years. And that includes building permanent sanctuaries all over the country and getting them out of long term holding.

Ok,  is that not enough for you financially? Every time you feed or pet a wild horse, according to wild horse behaviorists,  you actually are acclimatizing it to humans. Wild Horses over time lose their fear and they grow dependent on humans for their food, shelter, and protection. However, because they are still wild they really don’t have any boundries of behavior, because they have no training or handling. They are going to look at their human providers and a source of security but they will do it from a horse to horse perspective. And they will keep coming back every time they are looking for food. Not only that they will cease the demanding activity of seeking food and water on the range and simply stay in the location because they feel secure and have an unlimited food source.

When they lose their fear of humans they also lose their fear of cars and trucks. That is when they start causing accidents. Wild horses will not stay near a road, highway or subdivision unless they are acclimatized to humans and feel safe and secure.  A little fact check for you.. once those horses cross over the boundary from the HMA to private development land they technically are not protected by the Wild Horse and Burro Act.
The horses were so friendly and curious that it was
hard to believe they were wild.

Because they are being fed they also will not run away when someone tries to capture them.

All of the local activists and advocates surrounding the capture of the Deer Run band were very sad that the animals were being removed. But Thousands of Advocates across the US and other countries were Appalled because 1) it only took one guy to capture the entire band of wild horses and 2) all he had to do was shake a bucket and they all walked into the trap.    And everyone of us who saw that news video had our hearts in our throats because we knew that if the BLM had not removed those horses ANY ONE with a truck and panels could have lured those animals into a capture pen and shipped them off to a slaughter plant and no one would have known!
Today, because it was the BLM that did the capturing, those horses are safe and secure in Temporary holding  at the Carson City Prison and they are going to be put up for adoption  on the 23rd of March 2013.

This not the best scenario but unfortunately it is the only option for wild horses that have been deliberatly tamed by feeding them against the law.

Anyone who wants to and cares enough about these horses to follow the BLM guidelines to keep them safe and healthy as domestics can qualify to adopt them. Keep this in mind , these horses had their freedom stolen from them, not by the BLM ,but by people who were well meaning and had no knowledge of  the nature of wild horses.

There are things you can do to prevent this from ever happening again!
Things you can do to help Protect Wild Horses in Developing Areas of North America.

Please Please Please do not feed wild horses!
Please do form a non-profit around your local herd to help place troublesome or injured wild horses And to help educate local people on the history of the herd and ethical wild horse etiquette. In those times when horses might need to be adopted, help with that as well. It would be of great help to form some sort of sanctuary to put horses who like the Deer Run Band could be kept safely and stay together.

Know the history of where you live near the herd.
Know the laws protecting the horses and why they are set up that way.
Help pass state and county laws that will fine those who feed wild horses. Make residences who feed the horses illegally liable for damages caused because they have caused the horses to “take up residence”
 Unify your Homeowner’s association to help keep Wild Horses in your Area Free by working  to Create pass through  zones for wild horses in your development and place signs and fences where needed. In a place like Nevada it is a fence out state. That means you have the right and the obligation to fence your development to protect local wild life from human intervention.
Work with Zoning entities to place mandatory Wild Horse and Wildlife zone areas into development plans to limit contact between people and wild life.
Work with the DOT and other agencies to create special wild life pass-through’s zones under or over major highways and high traffic roads. If major highways divide horses from water sources  work with local governments, state and federal governments, to help them to create special wild horse oasis so the animals will not need to cross populated, industrial or high traffic roads.

Remember if you own the property you can put most of these things into place by right of ownership with out breaking the law or harassing the horses.

You Can Help Wild Horses Remain Free and Protected.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Burros From New Mexico~ Challenge Painting #390

"Coming Out"
New Mexico Burro Jenny and Foal
5 by 8.5 inches  Graphite on Paper
by LindaLMartinArtist
$65.00 Original
$ 35.00 Prints for purchase details

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Burros From New Mexico~ Challenge Painting #389

"Finding Shade"
New Mexico Burro Jenny and Foal
5 by 8.5 inches  Graphite on Paper
by LindaLMartinArtist
$65.00 Original
$ 35.00 Prints for purchase details

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Burro From New Mexico Challenge Painting #388

New Mexico Burro #3
5 by 8.5 inches  Graphite on Paper
by LindaLMartinArtist
$65.00 Original
$ 35. 00 Prints for purchase details

Monday, March 4, 2013

Friday, March 1, 2013

Burro From New Mexico Challenge Painting #386

BLM New Mexico Burro
5 by 8.5 inches  Graphite on Paper
by LindaLMartinArtist
$65.00 Original
$ 35. 00 Prints for purchase details