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.




  1. Is this the folly of being a national treasure? How can a national treasure be approved to be slaughtered and run down by helicopters? Foals and pregnant mares are run to their death. Remember the shot of Cary Grant running from the helicopter?? I wonder how fast the BLM folks would run if they were chased by a copter? BTW, Madeleine Pickens has also lobbied long and hard to abolish horse slaughter and now it’s back to rear it’s ugly head. What’s worse, many new appointees to the “advisory” committees for the wild horse population are vocally pro slaughter. The mustangs in holding pens are in concentration camps. No shelter; no ability to run; no future. And, we the taxpayers spend @ $2,000/year per horse so that the ranchers can “own” the federal land that supposedly every American owns. Let’s give Madeleine’s Mustang Monument a chance to work. I haven’t heard a better solution yet.
    Preserving the American Mustang #AnimalRights #NationalTreasure #Mustang

  2. I’ve never been a big fan/supporter of the round-ups. Only see it as the humans encroaching on the land that these majestic animals have roamed long before us….we are not a superior being.

    • Michelle Quevedo says

      This is quite an insight of yours Debbie. Yes, we humans created this problem and our management of the issue sucks because “…we are not a superior being.”

  3. Michelle, what a great article and one very close to home! I get the privilege of running with beautiful creatures every weekend and evening! SAM is a great cause and one I was unaware of until now. Thank you for sharing your knowledge!

    • Michelle Quevedo says

      Thank You Heather. I bet it’s quite an amazing sight to run along these majestic creatures. Thank you so much for adding to this dialogue!

  4. As a hunter, I feel that ALL wildlife needs to be managed so that ALL wildlife has room to roam and food to eat. Though I do not agree with the way the wild mustangs are rounded up to be managed, I do believe they need some form of management.
    Wildlife Agencies such as NDOW, offer limited hunting of big game animals, waterfowl, migratory birds, small game such as rabbits, and fishing, in order to keep populations to numbers that will let these wild animals flourish. Although horse meat is not a staple for the table here in America, wild horses, along with ALL wildlife, need a management program that works. Wild mustangs are not the only wildlife that is “rounded up” for management. They also round up antelope, sheep, deer, and elk, yet no one complains and cries foul over these roundups. These are done to manage the numbers of these animals to sustainable numbers so that they don’t starve to death. We could manage horses the way we manage deer, elk, sheep, and antelope. But that would be a wanton waste of meat. And yes, during these roundups, there are also sheep, deer, antelope and elk that die.
    It is sad to go to an area in Nevada that has had a wildfire burn thru and destroy tens of thousands of acres of sagebrush and vegetation and find wildlife scavenging for food. This is just one reason we need management programs.

    • Michelle Quevedo says

      Thank You very much for your comment Fawna. We need to have dialogue about this. This is why the BLM is considering Madeleine Pickens’ business plan because it will pay for the Horse management without tax funds. If you go the you’ll see why these efforts are working because like the article stated, they are involving all of the stakeholders.
      It’s a pity how we created this wildlife management problem in the first place, and we are so far doing a pretty poor job trying to fix it. This article is not meant to isolate anyone and their valuable opinions on this issue. The truth is, there are only 26,000 American Mustangs left in the the United States. It’s true that agencies such as NDOW are working hard to preserve the common wildlife game and they have done a far better job then if no effort was ever taken to balance the order of things. Although, even with these efforts, the population is still dwindling. I read the latest report about the Mule dear population, and even with the efforts of management agencies, their numbers are dwindling lower and lower. Ms. Pickens plan is a solid way to stop this from happening to the American Mustang. There are many ways to do round-ups that are cruelty free- the BLM has not had a good record of showing that they are taking this into consideration although we are hopeful this will change soon. I’ve never seen deer, fowl, elk and antelope round-ups that involve kicking and punching the defenseless animals. Nor have I ever seen such wildlife round-ups similar to the helicopters knocking horses off their feet. This has all been video documented and there is plenty of footage showing that this is not a rare occurrence. This is why the plight of the American Mustang is unique, and must be discussed at length by everyone. Again, thank you for your addition to this dialogue and I certainly hope you take the time to share again.

  5. Monica Myles says

    Great article. I have always been horrified by these barbaric roundup methods. The current method is not a suitable one, but I do believe that because humans have encroached so badly on their natural habitat, we also have the responsibility to provide a humane management program.

    • Michelle Quevedo says

      Thank You Monica! Management is fine and needed, but the “Barbaric” methods have to stop. Hopefully it has, given the fact that the BLM is reviewing Ms. Pickens business plan which involves cruelty free management and preservation without a taxpayer burden.

  6. This has been a long time subject of Nevada and other western states. Clearly a subject no one wants to be honest about. I for one find our wild horses beautiful and pretty much harmless. However, I’m not a scientists and have never studied their affect on the indigenous animals that also roam the country side. My thinking is if they were some highly invasive plant or other creature like the pike introduced to lake Davis we would eradicate them? Right now I find that absurd! Management seems the only answer. I hope no one finds this heartless because I do care. It’s better then eradication!

    • Michelle Quevedo says

      Thank You for adding to this dialogue Tim! At this point in time, Management is the answer, however this can be done without cruelty. The spotlight is no on the BLM to see if they can continue to show America’s taxpayers that they are making changes with their handling policies and if they are really serious about working on a way to preserve ‘America’s living heritage symbols.’

  7. Excellent article. Readers might be interested in knowing how they can support Madeleine Pickens efforts.

    • Michelle Quevedo says

      Thank You so much Hazel! I had thought to include Madeleine Pickens website but I wanted to make sure this article was balanced. I suppose We could have included a link to her website and to the BLM. Then it would be a little more neutral. 🙂

  8. Great article! And a very emotional topic! I love the Mustangs and believe in their right for survival~ Funny how important we think spotted owls and toads are! But I also understand the recognition of protecting them from over population…. Sanctuaries and adoption are so important! Unfortunately, adoptions, and the plight of ownership of horses in general has been compromised by this economy! Hope is for better days for the adoptees, the sympathetic public and for the people like Madeleine! The power of the Ink is Vital! Awesome article Michelle!!!

    • Michelle Quevedo says

      Thank You for adding to the dialogue of this article Debbie! Yes, with the economy still recovering, American Mustang adoptions are affected by the fall out, so a American Mustang Sanctuary would be one of the most effective ways of managing their numbers and taking the burden off the taxpayers.

  9. Cathy Fitzgerald says

    I heard that they’re planning to outlaw roundups of the wild horses by helicopter, I hope that takes effect. And I hope that Madeleine Pickens eco-sanctuary becomes a reality. It’s such a pleasure to see the wild horses in the Virginia Highlands and off of Toll Road on trail runs, there is now a “wild” steer hanging out with the horses in that area.

    • Michelle Quevedo says

      Cathy, what a great treat you have to be able to run with America’s Mustangs! It would certainly be a winning solution for all involved if the Madeleine Pickens eco-sanctuary does become a reality. The decision is now in the hands of the BLM now, so we will see…

  10. I read Cathy’s comment about helicopter round ups and sincerely hope this practice will end, and soon. The idea of 10,000 of these magnificent animals being held in pens for 3 years is extremely distressing. I am heartened to read your articles and hear about the inspirational work of people like Madeleine Pickens. Thank you for caring Michelle.

    • Michelle Quevedo says

      Thank You for adding to the dialogue on this subject Karyn 🙂
      Yes, the past treatment of the wild horses and the wild burros is very distressing. Let’s hope that things have changed regarding treatment and methods involving America’s Mustangs.

  11. Shawnee says

    Thank you for opening my eyes to this problem. I now feel that American Mustangs are a national treasure and should be treated as such. Your article did a great job of showing the problems that this goal is facing.

    • Michelle Quevedo says

      Thank You Shawnee! Let’s hope that more are willing to use cruelty-free methods when managing the national treasure of America’s Mustangs.

  12. Maryanne says

    I especially enjoyed reading your article about our wild mustangs, a subject very close to my heart. They are truly national treasures. I often see them when I’m hiking near Hidden Valley and a few of them have let me get close enough to feed them by hand. They are indeed majestic. In an ideal world there would be no need for management of any kind. But, as we all know, this is not always an ideal world. A program like the one Madeline Pickens has put together seems like the best possible solution. Let’s hope that Madeline’s Mustang Monument is given a real chance. It is definitely the best plan I’ve heard yet. I encourage your readers to check out Madeline’s website at Thank you, Michelle, for the research you did on this piece. As a Nevadan and a horse lover, I have been aware of this sad situation for some time now. After reading your article I realized there were so many facts that I wasn’t aware of. I learned so much today and I sincerely thank you for that.

    • Michelle Quevedo says

      Maryanne, Thank You so very much for sharing your thoughts and experiences regarding America’s Mustangs. I especially appreciated your comment: ” In an ideal world there would be no need for management of any kind. But, as we all know, this is not always an ideal world. ”
      What a profound insight you have made. I also believe that you and Ms. Pickens understand how this issue must be addressed with the understanding that the American Mustang population does need to be managed. Thank You for sharing the link to her organization. I believe it may be the only way to preserve this national symbol of the American Mustang.

  13. They are so beautiful and I hope the round ups stop somehow! Wonderful piece Michelle!

  14. Wow, American Mustang is indeed very beautiful and strong horse. We should take every possible step to prevent such a great creature of God.

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  16. Michelle Quevedo says

    Thank You for the Tweet @Mauguamedia!!!