Friday, October 9, 2009
Tanya Hanson: Wild Horses
Nearly 37,000 wild horses and burros --descendants of the Wild West -- roam Nevada, California, and Wyoming. Another 32,000 are tended in corrals and pastures in Kansas, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. While the Bureau of Land Management rounds up thousands annually for adoption, there have been fewer takers the last few years.
In recent months, Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior Ken Salazar has warned that the slaughter of many of these animals might be inevitable. Water and forage are limited in the West, he said, and drought and wildfire threaten both range land and the animals' well-being.
Fortunately, Salazar just announced to Congress a new plan to protect both the animals and range by moving thousands of horses and burros to preserves in the Midwest and East. Five preserves in addition to two already maintained would become refuge for 25,000 wild horses and burros. Many remaining on the range would be neutered, and reproduction closely monitored.
The planned preserves, essentially large ranches, would be accessible to the public, ecotourism. Salazar's plan is highly praised as it reverses decades of government policies that consider these critters "nuisances."
The thought of slaughter broke my heart. Horses and burros are tightly woven into the fabric of the Old West. I almost wish those buckaroos were called horseboys in honor of those elegant, hardworking, temperamental equines. And as for burros, well, I just love them and have sponsored three at a sanctuary in Israel. If only I lived on a farm or ranch and not a typical suburban cul-de-sac.
Here's some downhome kinds of four-legged friends.
1. Bangtail is another name for a wild horse, a mustang.
2. Cold back is a green, or unbroke, horse.
3. Churnhead is slang for a stubborn horse.
4. Dobbin is a gentle farm horse.
5. Buttermilk is another name for a palomino.
6. Calico is spotted, piebald: a pinto.
7. Cremello is an albino with pink skin and blue eyes.
8. Medicine hat, a black speckled mustang, was considered good luck by the Indians.
9. Palomilla is a milk white with white mane and tail.
10. Sabino is light red or roan with a white belly.
How about that for a remuda, the string of horses, preferably geldings, assigned to cowboys on a ranch or along the trail?
I think my favorite movie horse was the mountain horse in Man from Snowy River. I sobbed when bad guys shot him out from under. Won't be watching that movie for a long, long time. How about you? What are your favorite horse or donkey stories?