Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Return to Hardtrigger

Today I was lucky enough to witness a rare and beautiful sight. Wild horses being returned to their home land! It was enough to bring tears to your eyes as the horses came off the trailer, sized up the line of spectators, gave us a show of their spirit and then ran out of view into the hills. 

Deep in the Owyhee Range of SW Idaho lies a Wild Horse Management Area named after a nearby creek, Hardtrigger. Wild horses have been in this area for many years and I have been lucky enough to observe them since around 2005. Horses of all colors were hidden amongst the hills and washes of the country side, and if you knew where to look, you could find them.

In the summer of 2015 one of the nations largest wildfires, the Soda Fire, swept through the Owyhees, burning over 279,000 acres and unfortunately taking the lives of wild animals with it. Occasionally a green patch was spared and it held survivors. But without feed they wouldn't live for long, and an emergency gather was planned. Off the three ranges, Black Mountain, Hardtrigger and Sands Basin, 279 horses were brought in.  The horses were sorted, some adopted, some picked out for return, some still remain in holding waiting for adoption. The horses destined to return were cared for by the BLM at the Wild Horse Corrals in Bruneau and Boise.

A herd was released in 2018 to the Sands Basin area. Now in 2019, a total of 14 horses would be returned to Hardtrigger HMA. I was amazed at the number of people who came out to watch this rare event. I didn't count but there had to be at least 200 people, including the local news and media. Everyone was lined up anxiously awaiting the arrival of two trailers of horses as the sky grew darker and the thunder rumbled.

The first 7 returned to freedom were all mares. And not far behind their release came the 7 stallions from the other trailer. These horses have been cared for by humans for nearly 4 years, they aren't real timid, but it didn't take them long to see the freedom that lay ahead, and for them to scramble up the hillside and disappear.

Amazingly, a few were curious enough to swing back and give us one more look at their magnificence before saying goodbye and disappearing into the hills. It'll be fun to go back and look for them another day.