I’ve ridden and worked around horses most of my life, but I was totally surprised by what I saw when a friend invited me to go to a Bureau of Land Management wild horse roundup in Wyoming a couple of years ago. It was both spectacularly beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. I went in with a lot of preconceived notions, but soon realized that the controversy over wild horses is hardly black and white. Tensions really run high on both sides of the fence, so I started researching.
Thousands of wild horses roam free on public lands in the American West. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is mandated to protect and manage these horses along with a variety of other interests vying for space on our public lands. Currently the strategy is to round up and remove thousands of wild horses every year. Some of the horses will be adopted, but the reality is that horses are expensive and, in a bad economy, many of the horses will fall through the cracks or live out their lives stockpiled in holding facilities.
Something about these wild creatures resonates with our sense of what it is to be American. Every person I have asked, from all walks of life, says that the horses represent freedom, independence- the founding values on which this country is built. So why, if they are so iconic, do tensions run so high on this issue?
I believe that the story of these horses says a lot about how we choose to manage our increasingly limited public resources. Is it possible to protect these iconic creatures in a way that is ethical, humane, financially sound and environmentally viable? Through the making of this film I found impassioned individuals who believe the answer is yes. Across the expanse of the West they are exploring new solutions for a sustainable future for wild horses and people.