Preserving the American Mustang

There is an odd habit in the American culture. It is regarding the naming of places. An area where eagles are often spotted nesting, eventually is named “Eagles Nest” referring to the very inhabitants that were displaced to shopping malls or a new housing division. The Native American tribes are rolled up and placed on reservations, only to have their tribal names used in hotel monikers, street signs, ski lodges and resorts. It is an odd habit, but it shows the natural progression as to how living beings can be discarded as unfit to live among human society or civilization, yet their very names evoke something better that had been lost, so the attempt to acknowledge them in some way becomes important. Therefore the habit of naming places is in part a way to recover some of the appeal that drew many to the area. Today, there is a group of beings in the United States that may very well exist in name only. These endangered beings are the majestic American Mustang.

Wild American Mustang in Northern Nevada. SOURCE:

The American Mustang began its bloodline from horses brought over to the Americas by Spanish conquistadors circa 1493. From this introduction, the American Mustang has evolved to a wild horse that currently shares DNA with newer bloodlines joined from ranch stock and other horses that found themselves in the rugged country of North America. Regardless of what flows predominately in the American Mustang DNA one fact stands out above all the rest, the American Mustang existed long before there was ever a country called the United States.

The question of origin for the American Mustang is really not an issue for millions of United States citizens. In fact many of Americans do not mind that their tax dollars are going to preserve and care for these majestic creatures, however their wishes do not appear to be considered by the United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM). This statement can be supported by the many written and filmed documentation showing techniques used to round up and corral these four-legged beings in ways that create stress and great suffering to these animals. Although the BLM has been working to change their practices, it does not appear that they have much control over the taxpayers’ employees entrusted to round up and care for the American Mustang. This may be partly due to reduced funding over the years leading to fewer resources given to monitor their activities closely, and it may be that the higher officials of the BLM may be more willing to listen to the demands of the cattle ranchers and sheep herders who use the public land to graze their cattle for free. These ranchers and herders consider the American Mustang as pests who eat up the grazing land that they use to feed their livestock.

BLM Low-Flying Helicopter Less Than 6 Feet Above the American Mustangs. SOURCE: AP Photo/Reno Gazette-Journal. Lisa J. Tolda

Although it may seem like the BLM is a cruel agency regarding its management of the American Mustang, one must consider the fact that this government agency must walk a fine line trying to fulfill the needs and desires of all the stakeholders regarding this issue. There are livelihoods at stake that rely on raising livestock to support their way of life, yet there are lives at stake regarding the American Mustang and they have been deemed a living symbol of American history since 1971. Congress has clearly defined the Wild American Mustang as “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West, which continue to contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people.” Therefore the treatment and well being of the American Mustang must be addressed with as much care and reverence as all the national treasures in the United States. The merciless method of rounding up American Mustangs by use of low-flying helicopters is not only a costly use of taxpayers money compared to traditional means, but it has been documented on video of how these horses have been driven on a death march leading them to tight confining corrals. With the recent ruling to lift the ban of horse slaughterhouses in the United States, buyers will be able bring these horses to a form of slaughter that creates great suffering to the wild American Mustangs. One can only wonder if these horse slaughterhouses continue to operate, will the American Mustang population be able live out this current decade?

Although there have been ugly mistakes regarding the treatment of the American Mustangs by BLM employees, cruelty free methods used for managing them can still be cultivated by the BLM and they seem to be up for the challenge during this present time. One way that the BLM has been showing signs of refining their methods is through its newfound receptiveness to consider new ways of addressing this issue. At this moment in time, the BLM is considering a “Wild Horse Eco-Sanctuary” proposed by Madeleine Pickens and her organization called “Saving America’s Mustangs” (SAM). Ms. Pickens has been working hard to bring awareness to the plight of the American Mustang and she has strived to open a much-needed dialogue between the millions of American taxpayers, Congress and the BLM regarding how best to preserve these living national treasures.

Madeleine Pickens American Mustang Advocate. SOURCE:

Although Ms. Pickens is not the only individual working hard to protect the American Mustang population, her ability to address this issue in a manner that evokes dialogue involving all stakeholders, is really something to take note. This holistic approach appears to be building a way to keep these horses alive and free from suffering. As more awareness grows regarding the plight of the American Mustang, and the efforts from organizations such as SAM, these four-legged national treasures may just escape the odd American habit of existing in name only.