I have never seen a mustang, either in captivity or in its natural habitat, so when I began to contemplate wild horses as a focus of Desert Meditations, I searched the internet for some photos. It was the juxtaposition of my findings which tethered me to the topic of horses and proved the irony or death of a second topic under consideration for Desert Meditations: sovereignty.
First I discovered a gallery: Paula Krugerud: Wild At Heart – Nevada Mustangs. Krugerud’s photograghs reveal vast and elemental spaces that, without the subject mustangs, might appear barren until the eye’s superficiality has lapsed.
By contrast, the next site I visited, The Jurga Report: Horse Health Headlines, contains a video clip from Good Morning America of a roundup by the BLM of mustangs in the Nevada high desert. [The BLM, or Bureau of Land Management, is an agency which serves the Department of the Interior.] Hauntingly audible in the video is the staccato of helicopter blades as a low-flying craft coerces mustangs attempting to flee, toward towering orange plastic nets.
Prior to their capture on February 5, several hundred mustangs were chased by BLM helicopters across hundreds of desert miles. I have crossed hundreds of miles of the northern Nevada Desert; it is at most times a sanctuary of solitude, space, and beauty.
Subsequent to their capture the horses were delivered by BLM trucks to a facility in Fallon. Sixty horses have died of various causes, including the stress of the roundup and the inability of the horses in captivity to digest domestic food, and more than 20 mares suffered miscarriages (abortions in equine terminology, according to Jurga.)
During my online exploratons I have glimpsed controversy surrounding a series of roundups by the BLM and and the motive(s) for them. The BLM appears to offer a motive of mustang sustainability, while activists appear to contend that the need for roundups is unsupported by accurate data and observation, and that the roundups derive from more obscure and perhaps less benevolent motives.
I look forward to learning more about the mustangs. In the interim I will pray for the horses in Fallon, the BLM, the Department of the Interior, and the horses that remain on the range, no doubt bewildered by the losses they suffered seemingly to a factory of predators.