Monday, June 12, 2017

Wild Horses

Last spring, my contemporary western romance, Wild Horses, was released.  It was the start of my four-book, Sierra Legacy series, published by Harlequin, that I just wrapped up with my May book,
His Last Rodeo.

The title of Wild Horses is pretty self-explanatory.  There are a lot of wild horses in the story!  The heroine is a plant biologist, hired by the Bureau of Land Management to study the impact of wild horses on the native plants east of the Sierra Nevada.  The hero is an activist, who gentles and re-homes captured mustangs, and would prefer that the wild horses stay wild.  Needless to say, there was a whole lot of conflict between these two, and the fact that they used to be in love made the story even more complex!

I learned a lot about wild horses, researching this book. I studied where they'd come from, the controversies surrounding them and the creation of the Wild Free-roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, which currently governs their care.  I read a great book, called Wild Horses of the West by J. Edward De Steiguer, which I highly recommend for anyone who wants to understand the history of wild horses in America.

I've been thinking about wild horses a lot lately, because I'm writing a novella, also set east of the Sierras, and a couple characters from Wild Horses show up in the story.  The hero of this as-yet-untitled novella gentles wild horses with the help of veterans who are struggling with PTSD, as part of the therapeutic program he's created.  Which led me to wonder, what's going on with wild horses right now?  And what will their fate be under our current administration?

For anyone who is unaware of the plight of our nation's wild horses, I will try to sum it up quickly here.  Wild horses are managed by the Bureau of Land Management.  The BLM also manages other uses for public lands, including leasing land for ranching, for oil, gas and mineral extraction, and for many other uses which are often in conflict with the needs of wild horses.  Because of the many interests wanting to make use of BLM land, the horses' range has been shrinking, and they are often pushed onto less habitable land because good rangeland is leased to ranchers.

When herds show signs of stress, or are considered to be overpopulated, the wild horses are rounded up, often by helicopter, creating extremely stressful and dangerous conditions where horses are often injured.  Once rounded up, the horses live in corrals managed by the BLM.  Many animal protection groups have expressed concern about the round-ups and the living conditions provided for these rounded-up horses, who often are held in crowded conditions in hot climates without shade.

Many people consider wild horses to be pests— domesticated horses who have gone feral and who eat grass better used for cattle and sheep.  Other people consider wild horses to be beautiful symbols of American history and the old west, who should be protected and allowed to run free.  And many wild horses really are part of history, descended from the mustangs first brought to America by the Spanish in the 16th century.

A quick Google search revealed a lot of recent news about wild horses. Wyoming has rounded up 42 wild horses and is offering them for adoption.  And this article, about the history of wild horses in the Great Basin area, showed up from Elko Nevada.  It's informative, and also a little hard to read about horses rounded up for consumption in the twenties and thirties, and not even offered food or water.  On a happier note, some formerly-wild horses in Colorado have been trained to become sheriff's patrol horses.  And in eastern Idaho, the BLM is working with 4-H groups to gentle and re-home wild horses. I know that many people would prefer that wild horses remain wild, but at least these horses will be well-loved and cared for in their new situations.

But then there is the not-so-good-news for wild horses.  As part of the proposed budget of the current political administration, the BLM would be able to round up wild horses, euthanize them or sell them for slaughter.

National Geographic wrote a couple articles about wild horses in February this year, and in one they give an overview of the various options for managing the herds that is pretty informative.

If you love horses, I hope you will keep an eye on the news and the actions of our government, and write to your representatives with your opinions and ideas. Because whether you're a rancher who considers wild horses as pests competing for good grass, or someone who believes that wild horses should remain wild, I think we can all agree on one thing. These animals are our responsibility, and it is up to us to make sure they are treated well, do not suffer, and are managed in the most humane way possible.

And as for my story, about veterans and wild horses?  It's coming out in October as part of an anthology called Falling for You, along with nine other novellas written by Harlequin authors. It should be available for pre-order by the end of July.

And on a quick personal note, this is my first blog post for Cowboy Kisses and I'm thrilled to be a part of this great community!  I'll be posting here on the second Monday of each month. And in the meantime, I'll be stopping by the Cowboy Kisses Facebook group, and hanging out on my own blog and social media pages.  I hope to see you there!


LynnB said...

You did a great job making WILD HORSES an entertaining book while educating us on the plight of the horses too Claire!

Claire McEwen said...

Thanks so much, Lynn!! And thanks for visiting me here at Cowboy Kisses!! xo