American Wild Horses Through Time

The mountains and the lands of the West are powerfully beautiful – dignified and majestic- as are the horses that live among them.

Wild horses are born with the colors of the mountain upon them: the browns, reds and blues, the dapple and flea-speckled grays and the white of the snow-covered peaks.

They are as tough as the steep rocky hills, and when they gallop, their hoof beats resound like distant thunder.

Horses are a nation that finds joy in living and in friendship. They play with unabashed gusto, teasing and tackling and playing catch me if you can.

Sometimes they hurt each other, but forgiveness comes swiftly. Soon they are resting side by side.

The mares watch the fillies and colts playing, standing close by like schoolmarms ready to break up mock battles if they get too rough. The words “band,” “harem” and “herd” are used to describe groupings of horses, but they fail to relay the intensity of the family of young and old: fillies, colts and mares, and the stallion that guards them all. They have close bonds of friendship and stinging rivalries, but they don’t have the human fault of holding a grudge. They are a nation unto themselves and in harmony with their environment.

The history of man and horse is woven into a story more than 5,000 years old. Horses have been at the heart of that tapestry, a vivid patchwork of conquest as man triumphed over his fellow humans and the good earth. The horse has brought us from humble caves and huts to the palaces of kings, tilled the land, carried produce to market, endured our weight going home and then freed our hearts as we raced over the mountains for the sheer joy of the wind in our hair.

Yet, in some communities, wild horses and burros have been classified as an over populating nuisance akin to rats in the cellar. But rats have never taken a bullet in our wars or fallen to the ground struggling to clear our lands or broken a leg racing for our entertainment.

Yes, the populations of wild horses and burros need to be adjusted to the conditions where they now live, confined by fences and government regulations. Where there are too many for the land to support, they need to be removed, for the benefit of themselves and the land.

But it is not humane to let them “naturally” starve or die of thirst in the unnatural environment we have created for them. Once we remove the “excess,” for whatever reason, man has the responsibility to see that they are cared for properly, as true friends and companions.

Horses need to have enough space to run freely and to live with other horses as nature intended. They can express their true joy in being alive, so that their power and majesty can shine forth like a sunrise over the mountains.

From “The Wild Horse: An Adopter’s Manual” by Barbara Eustis-Cross and Nancy Bowker. Available from the Life Foundation, 1111 So. Lamb Rd., Ridgecrest, CA 93555 (760) 375-4574 – – $30.00 book, shipping and handling