It is so hard to turn away the many monetary requests one gets in the mail from often deserving and needy organizations, but if you are on a fixed budget, rarely are there any discretionary funds left over to support all those you really feel need them. This month I reluctantly had to turn away the requests of worthy organizations like Bread for the World, Leo Grillo's Delta, PCRM, Animal People, Farm Sanctuary, and IDA to mention just a few, but I know that today I will have to send something -no matter how small to the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros (ISPMB). I have not been supporting them in the past-not from lack of concern but from a lack of funds, but this time I realize that I should dig deep and find something to send them if I truly care about the survival of the wild horses of the West.
I was surprised but pleased to find out that the very first president of this organization was "Wild Horse Annie." Anybody who knows anything about the wild horses of the West knows of her untiring efforts for them which culminated in the passing of the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971- giving these magnificent creatures a supposed guarantee to run forever free on public lands. Her spirit is alive and well today in this organization and to all of us who love them and her crusade.
I fear that the practices of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are thwarting the horses ability to survive. At one time I felt that they might need to use contraceptives to keep their numbers down, but that fear is no longer a concern as I understand. Through the years the BLM has been rounding them up in great numbers and selling them at auctions where dealers in horse flesh snapped them up and sent them to slaughter for the tables of Europe and Japan. These beautiful creatures were also joined by the thousands of spent Premarin mares and their male foals. All suffered much as a result. Slaughter for the adults horses is especially painful and traumatic because of their size. Even though our slaughterhouses have been shuttered and closed, the horse flesh peddlers are still buying them and sending them for slaughter to Mexico and Canada where the realities are even more harsh and brutal then they were in the U.S.
But despite the dwindling numbers, it seems that the BLM continues to engage in these round-ups which cause turmoil and suffering to the horses and many of them have even been killed as a result. My understanding for this is that they are seeking to release more and more of the public lands for the cattle ranchers. If true, I and anyone who respects the legacy of Wild Horse Annie (Velma Johnston) are abhorred by this practice. Public lands are just that - and no commercial interests should benefit from them without an act of Congress. However, the ISPMB newsletter does not address this issue. They would rather focus on doing what they can to manage the two herds which they are caring for.
As President Karen Sussman wrote: "Of all the programs to save our wild horses on public lands, ISPMB's Conservation Center is paving the way for permanent protection of the BLM's herds by creating the model for management. We just must succeed." I agree and I hope everyone who wants our national treasure to continue does as well.
For 11 years ISPMB has been studying herd behavior with two of the healthiest herds left in our country. The White Sands and Gila herds have not been gathered in decades and their social structures are intact. Unfortunately, the other herds which the BLM oversees have been subjected
to gate cuts or selective removal. When the older horses were released, many of the older stallions were never able to reclaim their mares because the younger stallions took advantage of the opportunity to steal them. And then younger and younger mares were getting pregnant by younger and younger stallions which in effect interfered with the mentoring and the education process.
Since ISPMB's two herds- the White Sands and Gila herds had not been gathered in decades- their social structures were in tack. The same stallions were in charge of their mares for the past eleven years. The importance of this social structure was made evident to them when they acquired their third herd - Catnip. Sadly this group displayed all the behaviours of horses that have suffered from constant removal. Now, it is their mission to find a way to infuse healthy behavioral modeling in herds like Catnip who have suffered from the ongoing devastation of their harem structures.
As you can well imagine -caring for three herds in the throes of a freezing, cold winter in S.Dakota, the group sought to help them with hay for survival. The cost for one year of hay is $100,000. A donor promised to pay for this past winter's hay and has not done so. So now the group needs money not only for this coming winter's hay but also for last winter's bill. Karen Sussman personally guaranteed the acquisition of hay for last winter by putting up her ranch as collateral for payment. So, now she has till November 1, 2011 to make a final payment of $250,000 to retain her ranch.
Reading that, I realized that yes, I will send something. She said that if everyone reading the newsletter would send $5- that would be enough money to buy hay for a month. And if we could pledge monthly that amount, it would keep the project going forever! But she is a realist and mentions that statistics show that only 3% respond to requests. But she also notes that unless ISPMB gets funding, they may have to disperse its herds. This thought is frightening to anyone who realizes that we need this group to carry on the vision of that brave pioneer of the 70's who contacted children, congresspeople - everyone and anyone who would listen to her impassioned plea to save them and to make sure that the wild horses of the west would run free forever. I hope her vision never dies and people like Karen Sussman and her group are doing all they can to keep it alive.
In the past they had been receiving funds in this regard from the HSUS but 2010 would be the last year. Now, I guess it's up to us. If you want to visit their internet site it is: www.ISPMB.org You can also visit them on Facebook as well.
I wish that I knew how to send the beautiful picture of Karen and Sultan from this flyer but I admit my talents along this line are nil. Sultan, a superior Gila stallion was profiled in this newsletter. Three years ago he suffered a serious injury to his knee which required him to be removed from the Gila herd and brought to the ranch for treatment. How lucky were those who would be able to monitor his condition for two years. Naturally, he received a lot of attention and in 2007 Karen Susmann was able to give him his first human kiss on the nose. His face was the only part that he felt comfortable allowing them to touch.
But last summer Sultan started to drip drops of blood from his nasal passage and his respiration became noisy. He needed medical attention and surprisingly at this time -two weeks before a trip to Denver and to the Littleton Animal Clinic to check it out, Sultan finally let Karen scratch his back and then let her rub him all over without flinching. What a great joy for Karen, but this joy would be short- lived by a trip which would not end happily. They had found a massive tumor in his nasal passages which was inoperable and the sad decision was made to euthanize this great stallion.
Karen's words at this incomparably sad moment in a small pasture behind the barn: "I'll never forget the last moments with Sultan. Tears engulfed my face as I gave a final hug to this stallion who shall always remain the greatest of all stallions. He was as graceful in death as he was in life."
The newsletter also contains information re the ROAM Act (HR 1018) which passed the House in July
2010. ROAM stands for Restore Our American Mustang Act. Not surprisingly only 33 Republicans voted Aye to 206 Democrats. The bill has yet to be introduced in the Senate and if it is not, then the bill will have to be reintroduced in 2011. I am writing Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio my concerns in this regard. Hopefully, he will be concerned as well. Per this newsletter:
"The ROAM Act will reverse the notorious Burn's Amendment slipped into the Appropriation Bill in 2004 allowing wild horses over the age of 10 to be sold to the highest bidder (slaughter) and horses of any age who failed being adopted three times. Three Senators involved in the silent rider were : Ex-Senator Burns (R-MT.), Sen. Dorgan (D-ND) ad Senator Harry Reid (D-NV).
ROAM will also restore acreage (19 million acres) to wild horses and burros and will allow for wild horses to be moved to lands other than the land where they were originally found. It also recommends the use of birth control on the herds."