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Terri Farley
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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Where Have all the Mustangs Gone?

Broken Arrow, broken promises

The public is barred from Broken Arrow Ranch on Indian Lakes Road in Fallon, Nevada. Though privately owned, it is supported by the Bureau of Land Management as a feedlot for thousands of "protected" wild horses.

Public Property:  Keep Out

Except for a few highly-orchestrated visitation days, members of the press and public have been considered trespassers since May 2010. 
According to an internal email, BLM cut off public access due to "the damage that is being done to the BLM’s image as the result of the tours." *
*BLM denied this information. Read more in "There Are No Secrets at Indian Lakes."
Eyes Wide Open

In my blog entry from March of 2010, you'll see why Broken Arrow gates are literally chained shut. 
We saw too much.
My March 26, 2010 phone interview with John Neill (then-director of both Palomino Valley and Broken Arrow wild horses) was an honest one in which he revealed the existence of "phantom foals."  The unrecorded birth and death of foals born inside BLM facilities was and remains standard procedure.

Friday, March 26, 2010 --Fallon Foal Death

Mare stands guard over new foal, photo by Tara Kain

There's a new set of hooves in Heaven.

BLM's death tally for the week doesn't show what happened.
However, visitors are allowed to tour the tax payer funded Indian Lakes wild horse facility. It's land-locked inside a private ranch in Fallon, Nevada, but opened once each week by reservation only for two hours.
Three observers from the CalNeva Cloud Foundation and photographer Cat, visited Sunday, March 21 and took photos, video and notes.

Saturday, March 20

a pale dun foal is born to a buckskin mare

Sunday, March 21

11:00 Members of the public arrive to tour the Fallon facility. Director John Neill is their guide and he waits for a late arrival
11:37 tour begins
11:45 visitors observe buckskin mare and newborn foal in a pen with other adult horses. Foal looks like "he had melted into the contours of the ground" according to one observer and Mr. Neill said the foal was a weak newborn from the night before.
12:30? Sometime during the tour, members of the public notice a nursery pen with just six mare and foal pairs inside and wonder why the buckskin and her foal aren't with them*

(RIGHT: As adult horses move, mare makes a protective barricade of her body, photo by Tara Kain)

1:45 Tour ends, passing by the buckskin mare and her foal. Mr. Neill agreed with visitors that foal might be sick and indicated he would check on it. If necessary, a vet would be called. He added that volunteers from WHOA might be asked to bottle feed the foal if it couldn't rise to nurse.

2:00 as observers depart, foal is still down.

Monday, March 22
no deaths are listed on the BLM's facility update, so CalNeva Cloud observers hope for the best

Tuesday, March 23
9:55 am
Still no deaths listed for the weekend**, but one observer calls and talks to John Neill who says "the colt was euthanized." She understands Neill to say the vet had determined the colt had a broken femur and must have been kicked.
The caller commented, "Oh, that's why he never got up."
Neill replied, "No, he was up that morning nursing." Sometime after that, he speculated, the colt must've been kicked."
Neill said the foal was destroyed via chemical injection.

(with freedom tantalizingly close, mare urges foal to rise and nurse, photo by Tara Kain)

Friday, March 26

I reached John Neill at Palomino Valley wild horse corrals and he answered my questions about the Medicine Hat stallion I've told you about before and this foal.
He clarified two points from the timeline above:
* "Once we know the colt's strong, we put them in the nursery pen" along with their mothers
** Live births are not entered into BLM's system until horses have been freeze-branded, which takes place after four or more months.
Since foals delivered "in facility" are not listed as born, they are not listed as dead. So, they are not posted on BLM's online Calico Round-up updates.

John Neill described the last hour of the little dun's life.
"He was down during the tour. Afterward I went out to check on him and he was packing a right hind leg and he had to be put down."
"When did the vet come?" I asked.
"He didn't."
"Was it a compound fracture so that you could see it was broken?"
John answered, "I could just tell, so I took care of it."
After our call ended, my English teacher brain flashed to "I am cruel only to be kind." Hamlet, I remembered, and knew that if I were watching over a newborn foal with a fatally fractured femur, I would not want it to suffer.
But "Hamlet" ends with a stage strewn with corpses.
I tried to get confirmation that such a leg injury is easily diagnosed, but the two vets I consulted disagreed on both diagnosis and prognosis.
John Neill told me "We have births daily and if something happens like this or there's a bad mother, we can't track them all accurately."
Is it fair to the public that our mustang foals are born and die without notice?
This is not Neill's decision; it is BLM policy. As with so many other BLM policies, the numbering of lives and deaths are rough estimates.
That's wrong.
There are no disposable mustangs. Taxpayers have no disposable income, especially for a system they hate.
There must be a moratorium on the capture of our wild horses, before a ruined system erases an entire species.

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