I adopted a wild mustang back in 2006. At the time, I lived on a couple of acres in Wyoming with two horses (and the rest of my family). Tragically, my mare Harper colicked and died one weekend. We were all heartbroken, but nobody suffered as much as my gelding Atticus. The two of them were best of friends. I have no doubt that he specifically missed Harper, but he is also extremely social and did not do well as an "only horse." Fairly quickly it became obvious that I was going to have to do something to remedy his living arrangements.

To complicate matters, I was seven months pregnant when Harper died. Our expenses were about to increase with the arrival of the baby, and my income was going to be negligible during my maternity leave. We could afford the upkeep on two horses, but there was no money in the budget to buy a new one.

I asked around to see if anyone was looking to retire a horse to a good home or if there were any reasonably priced "lawn ornaments" for sale but hit a dead end. That’s when I ran across an advertisement for a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) mustang auction that was scheduled for just a week later and about 10 miles down the road from us. Fate, I thought.

Auction day arrived and I cast my eye over the horses in the pens. And there she was … a beautiful little grey roan filly with the "look of eagles" in her eye. I promptly fell in love. Completely convinced that everyone holding a number in the stands was going to be vying for her, I planned my strategy — don’t bid too early and drive up the price but wait and break everyone’s spirit as a last minute entry into the fray. I got her for $125 (nobody else bid on her).

horse, grey horse, american mustang, wild horse, auction horse, Dr. Jennifer Coates

2006 — Our new horse, Piper

Piper lived with us for about a year before we relocated to Colorado (don’t worry, I found her a fabulous home). During that year she taught me a lot about the American Mustang. They are tough as nails, smart beyond belief, stubborn, and worthy of our unending admiration and support. Which is why the article, "All the Missing Horses: What Happened to the Wild Horses Tom Davis Bought From the Gov’t?" written by Dave Philipps for Propublica, broke my heart.

To make a long story short, a Colorado livestock hauler named Tom Davis has bought 1,700 or more wild horses and burros from the BLM. He signed a contract promising that the animals would not be slaughtered, but refuses to provide records of where the animals ended up. Brand inspection reports show that Davis had 765 animals transported to a part of Texas near a border crossing used to send horses to slaughter in Mexico. According to the Propublica report:

…Davis is a longtime advocate of horse slaughter. By his own account, he has ducked Colorado law to move animals across state lines and will not say where they end up. He continues to buy wild horses for slaughter from Indian reservations, which are not protected by the same laws. And since 2010, he has been seeking investors for a slaughterhouse of his own.

"Hell, some of the finest meat you will ever eat is a fat yearling colt," he said. "What is wrong with taking all those BLM horses they got all fat and shiny and setting up a kill plant?"

The BLM may have been turning a blind eye to Davis’ activities since he was allowing the agency to easily get a large number of animals off their books. This situation is unacceptable and demands that the whole thought process behind the BLM roundups be re-evaluated (birth-control anybody?).

My life would have been poorer for not knowing Piper, but I would have gladly given her up if it meant that she and others like her could have remained wild in the American West.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

A confident presence

Image: Volodymyr Burdiak / via Shutterstock