"What's to Be Done About the Wild Horse Herds of the American West?"

"They're tearing up rangeland and riparian areas—and also our ideas about wildness".

"I am watching 35 young geldings weave through a muddy arena off the highway south of Grand Junction, Colorado, wondering what a wild horse is supposed to look like.

The mustangs are mainly black and bay, and some are that ruddy reddish color that western riders call sorrel. They have dished noses and delicate legs, and they each have a red rope with a number around their neck. Five to a pen, they school like fish, heads moving in the same direction at once, tracking threats or any minor change in their surroundings. They're nervy, noses and ears up, like they're onto something I'm not smart enough to understand. There's a five-foot gap between the pens and the area where people can observe, so I can't go up to the fence to try to lure the horses by putting out the flat of my hand. They look alert and wise, and they're fat enough to be shiny.

It's day one of a Bureau of Land Management wild-horse auction. This November morning followed the first real snowstorm of the season, and all the passes into Grand Junction have been sketchy. Still, the lot is full of trailers. People who have driven over the Rockies from Cheyenne, Wyoming, or up from New Mexico are rocking from boot to boot in the bitter cold, trying to follow the patches of sun that sift through the roof. Wild-horse advocacy groups and equine trainers have set up tents around the arena, and potential buyers, many of them teenage girls and their families, circle the pens, looking for connection."

Heather Hansman reports for Sierra magazine with photos by Melissa Farlow June 12, 2023 (Summer cover).

Source: Sierra, 08/16/2023