February 2012 Highlights


I was on the range… had no clue.

I showed up this am in the bitter cold and there was no public access point at the trap… “Who in their right mind would come out on a day like today?”…. (Never said the mind was “right”) Could not see handling at holding. Cannot see enough to assess horses and handling, at all. (I still don’t think they understand I can see horses on the range by myself and do with frequency. I want to see how they are handled).

There have been areas of improved dialogue working on the Stone Cabin adoption but real access is a major issue…

I left with a head ache thinking tomorrow might be better.

As soon as I had signal I saw I had a text from my attorney Gordon Cowan “Call Urgent.”

He read me the decision with so much emotion he had to stop twice.

I could hear those that signed our Constitution into law… applaud.

BLM Must Grant Press Access to Observe “Gathers” After Huge Loss in Federal Court

From Horseback Magazine

February 14, 2012

Wild Horse Advocate Laura Leigh Wins on All Counts in Ninth Circuit Case

By Steven Long

Photos, Laura Leigh and Gordon Cowan

HOUSTON, (Horseback) – In a Nevada case with far reaching First Amendment implications, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down a ruling by a Reno federal judge and remanded the complaint of aHorseback Magazine news photographer back to his court. Laura Leigh, a freelance photojournalist on general assignment to cover massive Bureau of Land Management roundups of wild horses in the American West, sought a temporary restraining order on  grounds that her access to observe the capture process directly was being routinely denied by the federal Bureau of Land Management.

The BLM denies access to press and public to roundups it terms “gathers” in which scores of horses are stampeded and die. They are then held at taxpayer expense on vast pastures owned by private landowners when the agency controls 245 million acres where the horses could be kept for free.

It also sets up temporary holding pens where the press and public is denied on private land claiming it denies access on orders of the land owners.

Judge Larry Hicks of Reno had denied a temporary restraining order sought by Leigh in late 2010 saying it was moot since the roundups had already taken place. In the appellate court’s Valentine’s Day ruling Justice Milan D. Smith speaking for the court sternly pointed out the case became moot because Hicks was tardy in making a judgment either for or against Leigh. She was represented by famed Nevada litigator Gordon Cowan.

Amicus briefs in the case were filed by The Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press and National Press Photographer’s Association.

Cowan, the Reno, Nevada attorney who handled the case from its inception, said “When federal appellate judges write compelling words that, ‘The free press is the guardian of the public interest, and the independent judiciary is the guardian of the free press,’ in my opinion they demonstrate their true heroism in standing guard for First Amendment freedoms. And, they give press members like Ms. Laura Leigh hope that someone is looking out for them.”

In a call from the Nevada wilderness late Tuesday to Horseback Magazine, Leigh reported she is still being denied access to observe the handling the animals in temporary holding by the contractor at Stone Cabin in Tonopah despite her victory in federal court today.

In writing for the court Smith reminded Hicks, of an 1822 a quote from James Madison, author of the U.S. Constitution, saying, “a popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Face or a Tragedy, or perhaps both.” The justice went on to say “To provide this first Amendment Protection the Supreme Court has long recognized a qualified right of access for the press and public to observe government activities.”

The BLM’s chief Washington spokesman Tom Gorey refused comment on today’s developments in the California appellate court.


The Stone Cabin Saulsbury roundup concluded today with the release of aprox. 147 back to the range. Final numbers will be posted on BLM’s update page and on this website (along with a complete report from the field on this page).

Tomorrow will be the day for the “trap site” adoption in Tonopah and with luck some of these youngsters will go to a loving home that can understand all they have been through and all they have to teach.

But I wanted to take a moment and share some images and thoughts on this experience.

The Leap Home

The release was about a 50/50 male female ratio with mares treated with PZP. The last roundup done in this area was in 2007 with no fertility control.


Animals were released into home ranges and immediately headed off into the distance toward familiar water sources. It is an incredibly beautiful range. There is a stark beauty that these animals magnify of our western heritage. They are a true symbol of that spirit to survive.


This range was the first to be rounded up under the 1971 Act. This area is known for the “Stone Cabin” grey. These animals were beloved by “Wild Horse Annie” and she was in attendance to watch over them and their care during that first round up that marked the end of “mustanging” by private profiteers and began the system that has evolved into the one we have today.

Stone Cabin Grey

This roundup saw two club foot youngsters go into the adoption program instead of being euthanized. One will be available at the trap site option, the other at Ridgecrest facility.

This roundup also saw two older, thin mares released back to the range and not euthanized. “They have good teeth and have a good chance,” said the wild horse and burro specialist onsite.

Old Grey Mare

This mare fell in the trailer as it pulled up for her release back “home.” She struggled to regain her feet.

But the last photograph of the day was of this mare meeting a friend that waited on the hillside for her. They went slowly over the horizon together.

As it should be…

The full report on this operation coming very soon.


A page has been set up on this site to post information as we get it on the progress of the adoption event set for Feb. 18th on at the BLM pens located at temporary holding in Tonopah. http://wildhorseeducation.org/stone-cabin-trapsite-adoption-info/

As of today 11 youngsters (yearlings, weanlings) have been set aside for the event.

Almost ready to go home

“I fell in love,” said Laura Leigh, founder of Wild Horse Education, “Eleven times today.”

Getting snow fencing tied down, Leigh and BLM Wild Horse and Burro specialist Shawna Richardson

After setting up BLM portable corrals the youngsters were moved by BLM personnel into the pens set up for the adoption event.

Leaving Sun-J’s corral

Video will be posted shortly and individual information will be added to the link listed above.

Now in BLM pen awaiting a new home. Maybe yours?


note: operations are beginning early as Garfield Flat ended early. They will begin on Sunday. I will arrive shortly after that.

geldings needing homes at Palomino Valley Center

The BLM (Bureau of Land Management) will be conducting a removal operation of wild horses within the Stone Cabin and Saulsbury HMAs.The Tonopah Field Office (TFO) is planning to conduct trap site adoption for people interested in bringing a horse from these ranges into their homes. This trap site adoption could be considered a “home range” option for adopting wild horses or burros.

This option allows prospective adopters to bring their horse home from the range instead of obtaining the animal from a short-term holding facility.

Bureau of Land Management Battle Mountain District Manager Doug Furtado believes that integrated trap site adoptions are the right thing to do. Mr. Furtado states “In the past, BLM has conducted satellite adoption events as well as trap site adoptions.  Integrated trap site adoptions are cost effective as no additional expense is incurred as the wild horses and/or burros are adopted on site prior to shipment to a temporary holding facility.  Secondly, and most importantly, adopted wild horses or burros are taken directly from the gather to their new homes.”

This is an option that may facilitate a faster adaptation to ‘home’ life minimizing trauma of transport and the movement that occurs at the holding facility. This will allow the new owner more control of stimulus presented to the horses.

“Having an adopter come to the animals home range has other benefits as well” states Laura Leigh, a wild horse advocate and founder of Wild Horse Education and VP of Wild Horse Freedom Federation, “the new owner may gain an appreciation of how this animal has lived and survived that may also facilitate a deeper understanding and relationship.”

Wild horses and burros removed from the range are offered for adoption to qualified people through the BLM’s Adopt-a-Horse or Burro Program. Potential adopters must have the proper facilities and financial means to care for an adopted animal, and we always hope that they have experience (or experienced assistance) working with a wild horse or burro, which will help ensure the gentling process. All animals adopted in this “home range” option will be subject to compliance check and all provisions will be identical to those adopted at a facility.

No horses will be “sale authority” through this adoption.

If you do not have an approved application and are interested in this adoption option please begin your approval process as soon as possible.

To facilitate the public and assist with questions and paperwork wild horse and burro specialists from the BLM will be on site.  Wild Horse Education will also be present and available as a resource for the public.

“This option is being done with the intent to offer the public and horses something that may prove beneficial,” said Leigh “toward that end I have volunteered to assist the BLM by helping to answer questions, offer input on problem solving and follow through.”

“Working together to find options presents many new possibilities,” said Furtado. “Perhaps through this process we can begin to expand dialogue into the future.”

“The focus of our advocacy work has always been to improve conditions for each horse and improve communication,” states RT Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation “it is with sincere hope that actions like these begin to facilitate that end.”

If you are interested in adoption please contact Thomas Seley, Field Manager, Bureau of Land Management Tonopah Field Office at (775) 482-7801 or Wild Horse Education at WildHorseEducation@gmail.com

palomino valley center


I can see the positive and have reported it. I will report on what you allow me to see. If I can’t see it… or simply see things that raise serious issues… if I have no channel for dialogue… my only option is to have the public raise their voice.

I will contrast for you:

Kiger 2011

Triple B. If you listen to me  you can hear me say “Ben, call him off.” I knew the potential here was “not good.” No one near me EVER has a working radio anymore because it can only be assumed you don’t want me to hear you… and do not want to hear me.

All I want is an avenue for productive, honest dialogue.