Cheyenne and her 2014 foal Laramie
Of Sand Wash Basin
5 by 7 inches Watercolor
by Linda L Martin Artist
Reference Photos by John Wagner
Since the last round up this herd of horses on approximately 160,000 acres of high desert along with seasonal sheep and a healthy number of native wild life have been thriving even in drought. They also have undergone a slower than usual population increase.
In 2008 the last round up brought their numbers down to less than 200. These well loved and well visited horses have been documented by an army of photographers who track their bands, locations and changes in health and interactions. Some thought it an inhumane activity to round up the horses then pull some of the oldest most prolific mares and inject them with PZP.
PZP has been successfully used in birth control in wild horses since the 1970s in Maryland by the National Park Service. In Maryland and Virginia also it has been used to control deer populations in areas where hunting was not an option for more urban habitats.
This administration of the drug was over seen by the Humane Society of the United States. The main operative who darted and observed the horses in the early stages also happened to be someone who was passionately in love with the herd. Her goal from my conversations with her was to find a way that this herd did not have to be rounded up again due to over crowding so the herd could remain healthy and thrive in the wild.
What a lot of people now involved in Wild Horse Advocacy do not know is that it was less than 25 years ago that this herd and all the wild life was devastated by a killing drought and under-management of the wild horses on the Sand Wash Basin. I had the opportunity to correspond with one of the locals who witnessed first hand the devastation. " Once elk thrived there in herds as big as the horses today, and deer too. There were plenty of wild life and forage. Then the populations began to grow in the wild horses. The droughts came and animals began diing. It was horrible. You have never seen anything as awful as all those beautiful animals laying all over the dried ground for miles." She told me that neither the deer or the elk populations have recovered since that terrible time.
The problem and also the benefit of Sand Wash Basin is that it is ranch locked. In fact there is a boundary fence completely surrounding the entire range with gates and cattle guards to keep domestics out and wild in. Except when the snow drifts over the fences in winter or the populations increase to the point where young wild horses in search of territories and mares are forced over ( or sometimes through) the fences and on to ranch lands. This did in fact begin happening as the wild horse populations began to reach past their sustainable numbers in late 2012 and 2014.
Before 2008 The Sand Wash Basin herd was rounded up every 3 years to keep the populations in check. It was at the 2008 round up that 62 mares were given the PZP. In 2012 it was discovered that the herd population had indeed slowed in growth and doses were given that year as well using darting. The 2012 round up was cancelled.
Cheyenne was one of the mares that was a prime candidate of the birth control drug. She was an older mare and a long time lead mare to prominent and prolific band stallion Corona. Her last foal was born in 2009( it is believed she was in foal when administered the drug) and her offspring that year is the well known young stallion Tripod.
Tripod is one of the reasons that many of the new advocates who have come to love this herd do not want the herd rounded up again. Tripod was crippled soon after birth. And while he has surprised everyone by thriving and even challenging other stallions, the likely hood that he would survive a round up with his lame leg is very remote. In all likely hood he would be destroyed humanely if a round up were to occure.
This year, 2014, was the first year that Cheyenne has produced a foal since 2009. Her beautiful daughter, Laramie, is a creamello with blue eyes and the spitting image of her big brother Tripod.
In the words of Nancy Roberts, a long time advocate of this herd and who introduced them to me through her blog and facebook page: "Long may they run!"
A special thanks to the Wild Horse Advocates of Sand Wash basin(SWAT), Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary, and all those who have taken the time to share with me about this herd since 2009. Thank you. To John Wagner wild horse and wild life photographer, thank you again for the reference shots.
If you would like to become part of the solution for the Sand Wash Basin Herd please connect with the Sand Wash Advocate Team on their Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/sandwashadvocateTo see more photos and stories on going as well as the photos of mares PZP'd in 2008 you can follow https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sand-Wash-Basin-Wild-Horses/101181969939406