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Wildlife Society and Wild Horses

Wild Horses In Winds of Change film, Filmmaker, Mara LeGrand.


I am publishing this debate and link to the wildlife society because it is indicative of how different many see the issues for the wild horses.  Dr. Horney is an educated professional,  likely an educator ,  who clearly believes wild horses damage the range and although cattle do also he comments that they can be managed.  We both think one another present biased views of our opinions but hmmmm – I made a film with a point of view and he expressed his point of view back.  I personally think neither of us have enough research to draw upon because almost all of the studies that are done go in with a particular bias, usually against the wild horses.   I truly wanted more science to include in my film, but because all ranges are not the same and if studies are done they are done a few years before they are presented, consequently there is a lack of currency in the studies.  Because as we know nature is an ever -changing dynamic, with different factors to consider each season, similar but not exactly the same from year to year.   Solutions are needed for all of the natural system and right now,  I think it’s important to stop the round ups of wild horses until  sustainable ,  humane solutions are figured out in a fair, unbiased way.  I made several attempts to interview professors at leading universities but once I told them the film was about wild horses they treated me like a lepor and didn’t want to be involved.  We are at a great divide – because like it or not we all have to share the  dwindling resources of our planet.  Why should the wild horses and burros have to be the losers for others to also survive?   Send your comments – I welcome them.  Mara LeGrand

Dear Dr. Horney,  I am glad to hear you made it to see Wild Horses In Winds of Change, even if it didn’t fit your way of seeing the issue.  The film does reach beyond the wild horse advocacy circles and although it is not a Ph. D dissertation, filled with scientific reporting and data it presents much food for thought.  Of course a person must be interested in thinking with an open mind, thus the characterization of thoughtful.   Many people see the holistic approach I present and do scratch their heads, and dredge their hearts to find solutions.  I certainly do.

It is obvious if we take away most of the land designated for the free roaming wild horses, and we fence them into barren land masses and away from good water sources, their survival will be in peril.  I’d like to know how much time you’ve spent with your backpack – following and observing horse herds?  There are many who have – including environmentalists Katie Fite and Jonathan Ratner from Western Water Sheds.   It’s obvious to them and Wild Earth Guardians that cattle are the destructive forces on the range and are the main culprits of damage to riparian sites.

Cows camp at water but I have seen many times, the horses come down a trail, twice a day, in small groups, take a drink and head back up the trail.  This behavior has been noted in many field studies.   Corporate cattle  that are dumped, are owned by absentee cattleman who don’t know anything about if the range is ready to be grazed or what their cows do.  In the past ranchers moved their cattle and sheep from paddock to paddock and most of the ranchers were “men” of the land who knew if they didn’t take care of it they wouldn’t be able to make a living.  Now most of the 12 million cows out there are strictly commodities and as they say when the corporate boys are away the cattle will camp and at water holes  play. There is no comparison to small bands of light hoofed free roaming horses to the same number of heavy cattle hooves.  If it were even the same number we might have something to compare but the impact of twelve million cattle dumped on the range every season does more damage to the environment in a few months than years of a few thousand free roaming wild horses.

Fences prevent them from traveling as they need to and of course you mention their predators are gone.  Where do you think their predators went?   Perhaps their mounted heads can be found on the walls of your house or those of your friends?  The point is the ranchers and livestock growers wanted the predators gone and with the help of the DOW and hunters – their wish was granted.

There is great need for  more unbiased studies done by Universities and other neutral ecologically grounded groups.  I have degrees in science and appreciate that science above all is an ever-changing dynamic field however in a time of specialization it has become myopic. Field studies often look at one factor – as in the one they want to base their hypothesis on.   Science is an opportunity to be inclusive – not exclusive.  It’s basic premise is exploration and should be able to find solutions for all problems we’ve created for  nature and it’s inhabitants.

You mention that the Equus Callibus indigenous status is interesting but not widely accepted among those who manage the horses.    So do tell me why the horse is less deserving of being given it’s rightful status and respected as an integral part of the natural eco -system as any of the other species?  It sounds like you’re saying it’s not a convenient designation for those in charge of managing them.

This blatant lack of acceptance for the science available , archeology, paleontology as well as genetetic identification in molecular biology  all making a  plausible  claim that  the horse is indigenous  to this continent is clearly a case of  special interest groups, especially Agriculture wanting to keep the horses under their imminent domain.

I made a film, to expose  the injustice and calloused cruelty done to a sentient being due to our continued manipulation of nature .  The Wild horse situation  is a glaring example of how badly human manipulation messes things up, to the point of treating these magnificent creatures  like they are rodents with a plague who need to be exterminated.

The  disgusting “old guard”  management of the wild horses and burros epitomizes our failure to be  honorable and trusted  guardians of the natural eco -system  and until all sides figure out how to work together for all of nature –  there will be a continual fountain of blood that could have been the flourishing of life and beauty instead.   For more information http://wildhorsesinwindsofchange.com


DR. Horney’s letter after Mara LeGrand’s first post on Wildlife Society blog about inadequate and biased reporting from a CNN spot.  See link to follow the thread.

I’m sorry, Mara. I watched Wild Horses in Winds of Change at the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival, March 12, 2011. You film does not *begin* to provide anything like Good reporting of all sides on the issue. I thought the narrative script was poorly done, and missed every important aspect of this real problem except for the passion of many of the so-called ‘horse lovers’ who advocate letting the horses run free on the landscape. The arguments the film mustered for this position were examples of sympathetic cases where the horses are stressed and injured (and sometimes killed) as a part of the gatherings (a fact, but a more complex one than you may appreciate), attractive visuals of the horses running loose on the landscape, and the uniformly happy people and their adopted mustangs. Nothing really new there, and just as profoundly myopic as all the the rest of the pleadings from this particular special interest group. Not a word was offered of the documented evidence of the impacts these horse populations have had on indigenous wildlife and the vegetation, water sources, and landscapes they depend on. Nor mention of how persistent exceedance of wild horse AMLs on many wild horse ranges has led to horse starvation under some circumstances, and depletion of food for other wildlife species. Several of your scenes showed horses in stream areas with evidence of bank and soil deterioration, but in your film the focus was on the ‘pretty horses’, not the negative effects of horses on the landscape under present management guidelines. You attempted to blame those environmental problems on ‘corporate cattle’, and I appreciated the humor – only I’m pretty sure you meant that seriously (I’d be interested in learning how you defined ‘corporate’ in this case, because I do believe that the vast majority of ranches running cattle on allotments in these areas a family operations – though I don’t see how this matters exactly, except to afford a rhetorical opportunity to tap the well of public sentiment against ‘evil’ corporations). The management of cattle has indeed been responsible for ecological damage, but that is at least somewhat amenable to changes in management – as has increasingly been undertaken since the early part of the last century. Horses are capable of just as much damage in similar numbers, and their use of the landscape isn’t managed in any meaningful way. As to your argument that, since Equus caballus evolved in North America, it should be treated as a ‘natural’ part of the present ecosystem, that’s an interesting assertion but not by any means an idea that necessarily has broad acceptance among the land managers, ecologists, and wildlife biologists who have to wrestle with keeping keeping complex ecosystems functional for a variety of species and purposes. Most of E. caballus’ original predators are gone, and returning horses, alone, to the present landscape – absent the many other ecosystem-shaping animals and environmental conditions they formerly experienced the landscape with – is not an obviously ‘right’ idea. Not in circumstances where it seems quite possible that in some present ecosystems, their presence could well cause real harm to a number of wildlife species already in crisis. You stated that there was
o research of any substance about wild horses. That’s not true at all. Your ‘research’ apparently never left the limited confines of the literature available in the popular press and mustang advocacy organizations. That’s a pity. Research has been done, and is presently being done, on the impacts of introduced horse populations on local ecosystems (I attended several presentations on the topic just last month), but not nearly enough is being done as we need. If you really would like a more balanced, and more completely informed, understanding of the subject, say so. I’m not the only one here who could help steer your towards a richer vein of information on the subject.

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