As the final installment in our series on the Mustangs of Onaqui Mountains, we take a look at Mustangs that have been rounded up and are in a BLM holding pen in Wyoming.
I have seen the listless, grubby mustangs at a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) auction here in Tennessee. When photographer Kisa Kavass sent a text to me with pictures from a wild horse holding area in Wyoming, I compared them to the photographs she took of the Onaqui Mountain horses featured in the three-part series Behold Freedom.
My own words fail me. Humble apologies to Lakota Chief Red Cloud. I was inspired by (and borrowed) lines from his final address to his people (July 4, 1903). His words felt appropriate for the future of the heritage horses taken from the lands protected for them. Promises made and broken.
“My sun is set. My day is done. Darkness is stealing over me. Before I lie down to rise no more, I will speak to my people.”
“Hear me, my friends, for it is not the time for me to tell you a lie. The Great Spirit made us and gave us this land we live in. No one put bounds on us. We were free as the winds, and like the eagle, heard no man’s commands.”
“We were happy and died satisfied. What more than this can that which the white man offers us give?”
“Shadows are long and dark before me. I shall soon lie down to rise no more. While my spirit is with my body the smoke of my breath shall be towards the Sun for he knows all things and knows that I am still true to him.”
The photographs of holding pens were taken at the Rock Springs Wild Horse Holding Facility in Wyoming around September 10, 2019. The facility houses up to 800 wild horses. Rock Springs is one of the many short term holding facility and adoption centers installed by the BLM.
According to Kisa, the horses appeared to be fed and watered but lacked the spirit of the free roaming horses of Onaqui. The family units have been destroyed in this Wyoming herd. All that was familiar has been shattered — their future unsure. Per Kisa, “It is a subdued scene — horses stand with heads hung and eyes devoid of a glimmer of life. “
The roundup of Onaqui Mountain wild horses in Utah began on September 10, 2019 and will continue through September 17. The Wild Horse Education Organization posted this update of the round up on September 13, 2019.
Filmmaker and founder of Thundering Hooves, Neta Rhyme (with M. Aku RoDriguez) shared her experience of the slaughter trucks that pass her home in Toyahvale, Texas on the way to Mexico in the documentary film Their Last Ride.
Wild horses that don’t survive round-up or holding or don’t get adopted may have their “sun set” on one of these trailers. The Onaqui Mountain and other round-ups continue.