Privately Owned Horses On The Open Range Around Hornbrook
Note: We have taken the time to write and publish this summary out of respect in consideration of those citizens who are genuinely interested in the documented truth about the heritage herd of horses owned and managed by Wild Horse Fire Brigade, William Simpson and Michelle Gough.
Most unfortunately, there are disturbing rumors circulating that one or more people or ranchers are engaged in the criminal-act of shooting and/or stealing our legally-owned horses on the Open Range. And such criminal behavior jeopardizes all livestock on the Open Range everywhere.
As a result, the board of directors at Wild Horse Fire Brigade has determined that some action was required and authorized that an immediate reward of $10,000.00 cash be offered for information leading to the arrest and felony conviction of anyone or persons harming or stealing our horses; See Reward Poster.
Sadly, some people seem to prefer that our 501-c-3 nonprofit organization, Wild Horse Fire Brigade, stop rescuing BLM Mustangs (aka: Wild Horses) that improperly ended-up at the kill-buyer auctions. Most horses purchased at these ‘kill buyer’ auctions end-up being sent to Mexico where they face a vicious & brutal death. BLM Wild Horses are never supposed to end-up at a kill-buyer auction.
Over 1,000 BLM Mustangs went to a brutal end in Mexican slaughter houses according to PHYS.org: https://phys.org/news/2022-09-wild-horses-slaughter.html
The path to the Mexican slaughter pipeline works this way:
The Bureau of Land Management (‘BLM’) rounds-up Wild Horses, aka: ‘Mustangs’, from Herd Management Areas (HMAs). All Mustangs collected are sterilized; stallions are castrated and mares are now chemically sterilized using GonaCon. Mares were previously sterilized with PZP. During the processing, they all receive vaccines and then a unique freeze brand on the upper left side of their necks, which confirms they were processed by the BLM, This process is performed on all BLM Mustangs rounded-up before they are offered to the public at BLM adoption events. This means that horses bearing the BLM freeze brand on their necks are sterile, non-breeding, fully vaccinated horses.
People adopt BLM Mustangs and discover that many resist training, contrary to the BLM’s sales pitch. So these ‘adopters’ abandon their commitments to these iconic wild horses, and send them to the kill-buyer auctions where they are then re-sold by auction houses to bidders, many of whom are kill-buyers.
Our team of volunteers walk the talk, and use their own money to buy a few of the hundreds of BLM Wild Horses that are not ever supposed to be at these disgusting auctions.
Then, using their own money again, these volunteers pay to have them put through quarantine, and then health checked by a licensed Veterinarian, who also checks, tests and certifies that each horse has the required vaccines and is legal for transport to our ranch.
ALL of our rescued Mustangs have a State Certified Certificate of Health, which is required at the border to enter CA.
After completion of the quarantine period, and veterinarian health checks and certification process, we buy these horses from our volunteers, and get a bill of sale along with a chain of title, and State Certified Health Certifications. We never sell any horses.
Yesterday (October 24, 2023), during a meeting with Agricultural Commissioner James Smith, with news reporter and publisher Jay Martin present, William Simpson presented the files containing the chains of title, bills of sale, and State Certified Certificates of Health proving testing and vaccines for the recently rescued Mustangs.
The fictions and plain lies that have been spun by a few people have caused a lot of false hear-say information that has wasted the precious time of our busy authorities.
Managing a hybrid herd of native heritage horses that are privately-owned livestock
The ancestors to many of the native heritage horses that exist in our herd today on and around the mountains on the Oregon-California border above and to the east of Hornbrook were documented by explorers in Sir Francis Drake’s party in this region in 1580, according to a published doctoral thesis by Dr. Yvette ‘Running Horse’ Collin, which is also considered part of the indigenous wisdom now accredited by science. And in the 1800’s, the local area newspapers and journals in Ashland, Central Point, Jacksonville, Yreka and Medford, contained articles citing ‘wild horses’ in the mountains outside of Henley-Hornbrook and Ashland. Horses fossils are numerous in the area, so much so that they are relatively common. Of course since those days, other horses, some from U.S. Calvary releases, and to a lesser extent, released domestic horses in recent years, have interbred with the heritage native herd.
The famous local cowboy and Bureau of Land Management range-rider George F. Wright’s own diary and family photo album going back to 1911 cite and depict “wild horses” and the “wild ones” on the local Open Range in the same region. Excerpts from the diary are found at this article: https://sierranevadaally.org/2022/04/04/the-american-heritage-of-wild-horses/
Life on the Open Range in a Balanced Natural Ecosystem
We do lose horses to the operations of nature’s planned Natural Selection (environmental pressures, including Apex predators), old age, and rarely an accident. But these factors are nothing new for the local native herd which we now own and manage as privately-owned livestock, or for the Mustangs we have rescued. Natural history, cultural archaeology and the fossil records prove these native horses have lived in this area on the landscape for time immemorial, and were always subject to nature and Natural Selection, which quite importantly preserves the genetic vigor of these horses. The ancestors of these native heritage horses were here when the local volcanoes where erupting lava, smoke and throwing giant boulders into the air. They lived through hundreds of wildfires and were exposed to predation by the now extinct saber tooth lion and other large predators like the grizzly bears that roaming the mountains around Hornbrook, CA just 70-years ago.
Injured Horses on the Open Range
We work very closely with the Siskiyou County based nonprofit Humanity for Horses, who also supports our work, and has donated to our organization, Wild Horse Fire Brigade.
We have published numerous Public Notices on various social media cites (Facebook, etc.) stating that we legally own the local herd of native horses that were previously considered ‘feral’ by the Siskiyou County Agricultural Commissioner. And as such, they are now jurisdictionally speaking privately-owned ‘livestock’.
Those published Public Notices all have our direct contact information (phone contact). And as the owners of these horses, which are jurisdictional ‘livestock’ legally on the Open Range, we have the management authority over these horses.
The Care of Our Herd of Heritage Herd of Horses
We provide care as needed for the horses and herd to our best abilities, which includes but is not limited to: caring for physical injuries as well as feeding and worming horses with low body scores. We purchase about 25 tons of premium locally grown (Scott Valley) alfalfa annually to augment the diet of older horses, some of which are nursing and/or are pregnant mares. We also have two large water troughs always filled with water along with several mineral blocks that are replenished regularly on our property. This care is far superior to what they had prior to our taking ownership of the herd.
When we become aware or are notified of any horse that for some reason is physically unable to continue to remain on the Open Range, we take that horse to sanctuary. In cases of serious injury where we feel we need a professional second-opinion from a Veterinarian, we pay to have a Vet visit the ranch.
We also have university Equine Scientists who visit our ranch annually, with the last visits by Dr. Julie Murphree from Arizona State University in May of 2023, and more recently, Dr. Wayne Linklater from Sacramento State University in September 2023.
These scientists are world-class experts in equine ecology, biology, diets, and more. They have seen the vast majority of our herd of ~150 adults (we don’t count juveniles) and consider them in prime condition, with excellent average body scores.
Every single step is by the book, legal, and appropriate, and based upon science and our best abilities.
We use a combination of the best available science combined with the scientifically current and relevant parts of the BLM’s own Wild Horse and Burro Management Handbook, to manage our herd.
Because our herd of heritage native horses is a hybrid herd, formerly considered native (or ‘feral’ by the County), and now as owned-horses, they are legally and jurisdictionally ‘livestock’. And in managing such a herd, we have to carefully consider the genetic implications of what we do, as indicated in the BLM Handbook, with a priority of maintaining genetic diversity.
Dr. Gus Cothran, the geneticist (professor emeritus) at Texas A&M University, a consultant to the BLM in this regard has stated (quoted in the BLM Management Handbook) that a minimum herd size of 150-200 horses is required to maintain the minimum required genetic diversity. Managing for a loss of genetic diversity is by definition mismanagement of the herd. And since our local herd are native heritage horses, we are duty bound to use our best efforts to maintain genetic diversity. As such, we have never rescued any domestic breed horses.
Jurisdiction of Privately-Owned Horses on the Open Range
Livestock in Siskiyou County are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture and Animal Control, not CA Fish & Wildlife, not U.S. Forest Service, and not the BLM, even though some of our privately-owned horses bear the BLM freeze brand.
The heritage local herd of native horses that we have ownership of, and management authority over, had been maligned and pilfered by some people for decades, with some of the best genetic specimens (best younger horses) illegally taken off the Open Range, leaving a skewed population of very young and old horses that came into our ownership.
Due to the anthropogenic impacts on the herd prior to our ownership (people taking the best horses), we have a large percentage of our herd that is in excess of 15-years of age. Generally, these older horses naturally have lower body scores than younger horses 10-yrs and under. Low body scores (thin horses) occur for several reasons that may include extreme old age, worn teeth, worms, and poor genetic immunity to normal environmental stresses on the Open Range.
We are now in the middle of the lengthy process of cataloguing the herd into a database, which is the segue to genetic testing of the herd, and then selecting and removal of horses that are genetically inappropriate to the local heritage herd, including addressing the studs that were part of the herd of native horses we now own. All native heritage horses will be microchipped and radio-tagged (for location and tracking) for ongoing scientific study in behavioral ecology, which will utilize our existing drone over-flight surveys.
There is a scientifically and ecologically appropriate process for managing a herd of horses, especially a treasured heritage herd of native horses, and costs associated with that process.
Open Range and Grazing
We regularly survey grazing conditions on the Open Range and consult with other unbiased experts and scientists. The Open Range south of the Oregon-California border and east of Hornbrook to Jenny Creek Canyon is not over-grazed.
Cattle rancher and professional livestock producer and legislative advocate for the livestock industry via R-CALF and other organizations, Mike Schultz provided his observations of the local grazing conditions and our herd of horses at this link: https://www.siskiyou.news/2023/10/23/to-those-who-want-to-continue-keep-doing-what-you-have-always-done/
Even though these lands contain signifiant grazing capacity in excess of the needs of our heritage herd of horses, these lands are nevertheless ill-suited for cattle or sheep due to the mountain lions, bears and ‘wyotes’ (wolf-coyote cross).
Our Organization and its Team
Wild Horse Fire Brigade has a team of people on its executive and advisory boards that have professional credentials and experience in the fields of; equine and environmental law, equine science, equine training, equine management, range-grazing management, as well as forestry and livestock (horse and cattle) management.
There are few organizations anywhere in America today with such a compliment of genuine experts in all subjects related to horses and horse management and their behavioral ecology and ethology.
The brief bios of the team at Wild Horse Fire Brigade can be found online at:
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