Laurie Hood's Difference Makers

S1 Ep3: Ellie Phipps Price — The Plight and Protection of Wild Horses

August 29, 2021 Alaqua Animal Refuge Season 1 Episode 3
Laurie Hood's Difference Makers
S1 Ep3: Ellie Phipps Price — The Plight and Protection of Wild Horses
Show Notes Transcript

Laurie Hood interviews Ellie Phipps Price, president of the American Wild Horse Campaign, at her Montgomery Creek Ranch in Northern California where they discuss what's wrong with, and what can be fixed, with the way wild Mustangs are unfairly treated, at taxpayers' expense.

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Our combined work depends upon your donations and support to keep pushing forward and making real change in animals' lives. We encourage you to learn more about the "differences" our guests are bringing to the foreground for animals of all kinds. Links below.

AMERICAN WILD HORSE CAMPAIGN:   https://americanwildhorsecampaign.org/
MONTGOMERY CREEK RANCH:  https://www.montgomerycreekranch.org/
LAURIE HOOD & ALAQUA:  https://alaqua.org/

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ABOUT LAURIE HOOD'S DIFFERENCE MAKERS

Our podcast series celebrates the work of animal advocates from around the globe who have dedicated their lives to animal protection and safety. These "difference makers" are doing extraordinary things to help all types of animals protect their overall welfare. In each episode, Laurie and her guests exchange larger-than-life tales of triumphs and setbacks and discuss how they got started advocating for animals, all the while inspiring others to join their movement. 

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Laurie Hood:

So easy for the public to just stay removed because they don't get to see them.

Ellie Phipps Price:

1000s of horses are going through this program, but some of them are ending up on their way to slaughter. We're not just saving these few horses that we can pull from the kill pen, we can also reach out and put some pressure on the Bureau of Land Management to change this program. This is the horse that helped make America let's fought in wars with us and help settle America. This horse now is being thrown under the bus. And I thought maybe there was something I could do.

Laurie Hood:

We're here in Sonoma, California with Ellie Phipps price. La thank you for being with us today.

Ellie Phipps Price:

Thanks for having me, Laurie.

Laurie Hood:

So Ellie, I think you're one of the most determined women I've ever met in my life. You are such a hero for horses. Is it something that's always been your passion?

Unknown:

Coming from you? That means a lot. Thanks, Lori. Yeah, horses have always been a passion for me. I've always loved horses. I spentactually spent some of my growing up years on a cattle ranch in Colorado. And then I lived in Southern California, and I never had a horse of my own. And that's how probably why I ended up with quite a lot of wild horses right now that I've rescued because I just didn't get it out of my system early enough.

Laurie Hood:

So, we met the very first wild Mustang that you rescued. Can you tell us about that?

Ellie Phipps Price:

So that was Dunston, the first Mustang that I ever got he I adopted him from BLM. He's just been wonderful. I was doing research on the wild horse issue with the American wild horse campaign that I'm president of, we went to Colorado to see what was going on with the wild horses that were in government holding. These were horses that had been rounded up, off the range lost their freedom and their families. And I got to the government holding facility and just saw a sea of horses, over 3000 horses, and my intention was to adopt one, and that horse is Dunston.

Laurie Hood:

How did you even find out about the issue with wild horses, but one of the reasons for me doing this particular show is because we have so many followers and so many fans that absolutely love animals. And I am shocked at the fact that they have no idea what is happening to these iconic animals in the West. So how did you first learn about that?

Unknown:

Around 2008 2009, I had read an article in Vanity Fair about you know what was happening with the wild horses. It was an expert day about the poor government management and the plight that these horses were facing, being removed from our Western public lands. And I thought, well, this just this doesn't seem right at all. And then I went on to, my mother had given me a book Mustang by Diane Stillman. And I read that book, and it just connected the story of wild horses and how they had returned to North America and the 1500s. And they are protected as far as they have a status of protection with the Bureau of Land Management in our government. And they are managed by that government agency. There is this wild, free roaming Horse and Burro act of 1971. And that established the protections for these horses, because before that they were just being rounded up and hauled off to slaughter. The problem right now is that the management isn't humane, and it isn't sustainable. How many are there? There are 70,000are probably about 70,000wild horsesand maybe 10,000 burros in the United States free and there areover 50,000 that have already been rounded up and put into government holding pens.

Laurie Hood:

So what typically happens to these horses when they round that up, I mean, what's the process?

Ellie Phipps Price:

It's really very tragic. It's very difficult to watch. I've witnessed several roundups, they government has contracts with helicopter contractors and they go fly out and identify the herds and they group them all together and then they drive them in with the helicopters into traps when the horses go into the traps and realize that they've lost their freedom and they have no place to go it's a terrible thing to see they're terrified. They're slamming into the fences, they break bones they try to climb out occasionally when will jump out, they injured themselves. After that they break up the family bands which are this is the horses most important thing is their family and their freedom. And they separate all the mares and falls into one group and they separate all the stallions into another and then they haul them off and trailers to government holding pens where they process them. I've probably pulled 1500 horses from slaughter. You know I've pulled them, place them bought them. Save them.

Laurie Hood:

You do it all. I mean, you ride the horses, you work with the horses, you run the ranch. I mean, you're like me, you know we have dirt under our fingernails. And I love that. We just left the wild mustangs out on the open range and watching them with their family bands was amazing, you could tell that the family was everything to them. So to think about rounding these horses up and then breaking up, their family is just heart wrenching. And I think about all the stallions going in together, and from the rescues that we do at Alaqua. I mean, but I know what it is to even have two stallions in close range to one another at the refuge. I can't even imagine them all being in one pin. So what happens there?

Ellie Phipps Price:

Well, I mean, the roundup is very stressful, and then dividing all the stallions and taking them away from their their mayors and their families, they will fight with each other. They're disoriented, and you know, a stallion down in the wild, will fight to the death for his family to keep his family and to keep his mayor's losing that family losing their freedom is the worst thing to see. When the stallions get processed by the government agency that's tasked with managing wild horses, which is called the Bureau of Land Management. When they take the stallions in, they castrate all of them. All the horses are freeze branded on their neck, and the mares that are have nursing foals get to stay with their foals. And then they basically never see each other. Again, they are, are separated. And eventually some of them are offered for adoption. And many of them just go into short term and long term holding, which is why we have over 50,000 horses that were once while that are now in government holding and who's paying for all of that? Oh, yeah, we are the taxpayers paying for that.

Unknown:

So that to me is what should make our entire country want to stop, right? I mean, you're paying for these animals to not only be taken away from the wild and to be processed in humanely and to ultimately go to slaughter. It's absurd, what has just happened with the adoption program and the incentive that they've given because I know where these horses are going to end up, or the majority of them. So can you speak to that There are three things that are really not working. One is these taking these horses off the public lands, where they live wild and free, a wild horse in our care, is costing the taxpayer over $20,000 per horse. And over their lifetime, it could be even more. So that's a cost. It's inhumane. And then the government's response is well, we're offering some of them up for adoption. Well, when you're removing 10s of 1000s of horses, throwing them into holding and just a few 1000 are getting adopted every year. That isn't solving the problem. The other problem is the government came up with this new incentive program, this AIP adoption center program basically has created a incentivize people to send buy horses and send them to slaughter, you adopt a horse for $125. And then the Bureau of Land Management pays you $1,000 over a year. And then once you have title, these people are just turning the horses over to kill pens to self. I mean, you look in this horse's eyes, so beautiful. That is the pipeline to slaughter a government program which is encouraging that pipeline,

Laurie Hood:

how many is one person allowed to adopt and get that $1,000.

Ellie Phipps Price:

So an individual can adopt four horses from the BLM. So if you have a family of six people, and this actually happened, the campaign and identified several families that are doing this with horses and burros and their every member of the family goes down and adopts their maximum four horses, then they each get paid $1,000. So six people in a family, four horses each, that's $24,000 that they make in one year, and then they also sell the horses back to the slaughter. So is becoming a business for people. It's terrible.

Laurie Hood:

It's the cases that I say you know, every day elbows, you know these horses end up in the backyard, they end up being abused and neglected. And then their faith is that they are turned around after a year and sold to slaughter.

Ellie Phipps Price:

And we see these horses when they get to the kill pens, and we're tracking them from the moment they're offered for adoption. until a year later, they end up in a kill pen. And that documentation, which was recently covered in the New York Times article which was fantastic on the front page of the New York Times and even with that kind of media coverage, the government agency is not changing their program, they are going to continue to basically promote horse slaughter.

Laurie Hood:

What can we do? What can people do that are listening to this?

Unknown:

One of the most important things you can do is find an organization that's working on this issue like the American wild horse campaign. And there are other organizations, and they have email campaigns, call your senator, call the Department of Interior, reach out and find out how you can get your voice heard and say, you don't want to see America's wild horses adoption being incentivized with this program.

Laurie Hood:

I'm sure everyone wants to know the answer to this question, why? Who is behind all of this who's behind this movement?

Ellie Phipps Price:

As far as why the horses are being rounded out? Right? Well, I think it's, you know, horses are very good at reproducing. And the government agency that's tasked with managing them has chosen a path of managing them through roundup and removal and stockpiling and government holding. That path is not sustainable and not humane, the better path would be to manage them with birth control. And there is a proven way to use birth control to manage wild horse populations. The American wild horse campaign has a program in the Virginia range in Nevada, where we do manage a very large group of over 3000 horses with birth control. And we've kept in the last three years, almost 2000 foals from being born by using this vaccine. But getting back to your question of why is this happening to the horses, it's really competition for grazing. So right now wild horses are on Western public lands. And some they share that those grazing lands with privately owned cattle. And those ranchers have leases. And they have their cattle out there in a also a government subsidized program that taxpayers are also paying for by the way. And the competition for grazing, you may have 100,000 acres and you might have 500, head of cow or sheep out there. And you might have 100 horses, but it's actually more like you'd have 50 horses if you had 1000 cows, because the numbers are so skewed towards livestock, wildlife and wild horses do not get their fair share on our Western public lands. And the cattle ranchers are very powerful. They are have a lot of money, right? They have a lot of money. They have a lot of influence in Washington. And there's also a feeling I think, with the public that wild horses are beautiful, and they're out there running free, but they don't realize where they are, how they live, the amount of land that they need. A wild horse can cover 20 miles 30 miles a day, and their natural habitats have all been sectioned off. And the ranchers are running the show.

Unknown:

I know you took a big step in in trying to save one particular herd and that was how you founded my Montgomery Creek Ranch. Is that right? Yes, it is. It wasn't my plan to have a horse sanctuary, which is really what my Montgomery Creek Ranch is. But I hope what we can do now is show the value of these horses at McHenry Creek Ranch. And the way it started for me was I was learning about the issue. And then someone alerted me that there was an auction with a large group of wild horses going into the sale. And they were all wild. They had just been taken off the range in Nevada. They were not being managed by the government agency that offers them protection. And so I went up to get the mayors and falls. I thought well, at least I can save those 3040 horses, the mares and foals out of this group of 170. When I got to Fallon, Nevada, and saw those horses. I looked in their eyes, they were down on the floor where they're literally selling them by the pound and they would bring in a group of eight stallions. And they were so scared and they were running in a tight little circle in this little platform on a scale. And you could see how much the horses weighed. But the amount they weighed was how much the kill buyers which are the people that are buying the horses for export for slaughter, they were looking at the numbers and just calculating how many pounds of horseflesh were on the stage at that moment on the scales. And I looked at these horses eyes and I just thought, this is not happening on my watch. I'm going to just raise my paddle and I'm going to get between these horses and that horrible fate. And then I'll figure it out later. I couldn't let them go.

Laurie Hood:

That's amazing. It true He is and I got to meet some of those horses. And I got to see your operation there and you are a sanctuary, you described it to me as some of the horses just are not able to fit the adoption criteria. So those go into the herd, right. And those are the ones that were sanctuary. And they get to live out their lives as much as wild horse could in that situation, which is, what 2000 acres.

Ellie Phipps Price:

Yeah, it's about 2000 acres. And the original group of 170 horses that we bought on that one day in Nevada, that group is we got a lot of them adopted. And now we have probably 100 of those horses still. And then we've picked up different bands, you know, tried to keep families together, found horses that were in the slaughter pipeline. And we've tried to tell the story of where these horses come from, how they come to be at risk. And also we've tried to identify the younger horses as adoptable, and we've developed a training program, and we're getting probably 15 horses a year adopted, which isn't a lot. But those every horse that we get adopted to somebody is an ambassador for all wild horses that have lost their families and their freedom.

Laurie Hood:

Some of them just may not ever be adoptable where they can be written and they are comfortable, their fear is so great that they're just not ever going to get there. And I love that you give them an option and a love that they're able to go in the herd, if that's what it takes to keep them alive.

Ellie Phipps Price:

So Laurie, thank you for noticing that. And I'm so glad that that resonated for you about the choice that we're giving our horses in a way we're giving them a voice when we rescue a horse. And even if it looks like a really great training prospect, young, good looking good minded everything. Probably one in six horses that go through our training program do not make it to our adoption program, then they have a place in our big herd of forever wild horses on the ranch. And some of them have been turned into pasture horses, you know, they can be a companion horse to somebody who just needs a horse in their pasture. The American people even though not everyone even knows that wild horses exist. But the people that know that they're out there, value them wild and free. They want to see them there for future generations.

Laurie Hood:

So it's been on my bucket list my entire life to see wild horses running free. And I was able to do that earlier in Oregon this week. And then I was able to go to your amazing ranch and and see them running free in these large herds. But what struck me immediately was the dust and the dryness. And I was so my heart was heavy to hear what was happening on your ranch. I mean, you're running out of water.

Ellie Phipps Price:

We are this drought is been very, very hard for us. As for the whole western United States right now is so affected by it. California is in an extreme drought the entire state. We're maintaining But at a certain point, probably later this summer, we will run out of water. This is just the worst year we've ever had. And it does it keeps us up at night basically had two years of drought. And it's it's a very scary thing. I mean to think that there's 240 horses out there that that that's a lot of water. It's a lot of

Laurie Hood:

they drink gallons a day. I don't think I forget is it eight gallons a day that the average horse drinks I knew this Yes, at one point.

Ellie Phipps Price:

Yeah, it's a lot. So it may be even lower than that. Yeah, it's a big concern for us. Long term, it's a concern. But just even in this immediate moment, we're hoping that the water we have is going to hold a little longer, and then the rains will come and Fingers crossed. But we're coming up with Plan B and Plan C and everything else because we will take care of these horses no matter what.

Laurie Hood:

As if this work is not hard enough. I mean, I can't even imagine the weight that you have on your shoulders that and you have to fundraise to pay for it all. I mean, no.

Ellie Phipps Price:

Yeah, we do I and we want to always, you know you deal with hurricanes. I just wish you could send some of that water our way right? I know he was we could share we have to create a pipeline between Florida and California because we could definitely use the water here. My Camry Creek Ranch. We want to be a sustainable place, an organization and a place that can protect wild horses that have lost their place that have been saved from slaughter. We want to be there for horses going forward forever.

Laurie Hood:

I know it's always a challenge to get the word out and get it to people who may not be aware of the situation. What what methods have you used for that?

Unknown:

Oh, well. Let's see. I've tried everything. Everything I can do. I have developed some friendships with people in Washington, DC See on both sides of the aisle. It's been a real learning experience for me to go in and meet with senators and Congress, congressional representatives and their staffs, and to educate them. And actually, a lot of them know a lot about this issue. And they have constituents that care about it. And so that's everywhere I go, I talk about it and put bumper stickers on my car. I mean, every level takes all of it, it does take all of it, I have a horseshoe on my wine label, just another talking point and a way to get into the issue named my first Mustang after my winery. And the thing that has meant the most to me has been being on the board of the American wild horse campaign. The organization has been very strong for 10 years working on this issue. And we have raised awareness, we have over 2 million followers. And we have an very motivated base that when something happens on the range, we can reach out to our supporters at American wild horse campaign and we can activate them to get 36,000 emails to a senator or get 50,000 people to sign petitions to stop roundups to reform management, anything that we're trying to do to raise awareness. It's an amazingly strong campaign. I hope everyone will check it out.

Laurie Hood:

What else do you do?

Ellie Phipps Price:

I've gone and met with people in the BLM field offices. I've lobbied in Washington, DC, I've, I've gotten certified to Dart, the PCP vaccine. Wow. So I have a dark gun. I've darted horses. I mean, taking care of the sanctuary is one of the most day to day things that I do, staying on top of that training program, keeping some of those horses here in Sonoma so that we can put extra time into some of those horses, learning about horse training, learning about a veterinary care, it's just about building the family of people that care about animals, you would think horse, people would care about wild horses just naturally. And many of the people that are attracted to this issue, they really just love animals. They don't even know that much about horses, but they see they see something they see a gentle spirit, they see something that is in horses, I live in Seoul, it's a living. So yeah, it's a powerful thing. And getting horses are used for therapy. Right now I'm meeting with people to talk about building an f1 therapy program, equity assisted therapy for people with disabilities. I've looked into wounded warriors, several of our employees are vets. And I think we just attract people that care about these animals and the animals have something to give back to them to

Laurie Hood:

something that really strikes me as we have field trips that come out or, you know, families that come out to the refuge and, and they're there to adopt a dog or a cat or maybe just a stroll around. And sometimes we get drawings back from these kids, and they don't draw the dog or the cat, they draw the horse, you know, and it's just it gives me chills, because I think about that. Sometimes it's the first time they've ever met a horse or have seen a horse. So part of our mission is to try to bring those people out for whatever reason they're visiting for and introduce them to these amazing creatures. And hopefully, we're inspiring future advocates by doing this.

Ellie Phipps Price:

And in the end, that's what's going to save horses.

Laurie Hood:

I agree. Yeah,

Ellie Phipps Price:

I know it gets can be a little consuming to care for animals, especially when calls are coming in. I think for you all the time. There's always an animal that needs you. And I feel that way too with the horses. We have so many calls. Every week we hear about so many animals that are slipping through the cracks.

Laurie Hood:

Everyone says to me, You know what? You can't save them all? Well, no, but you can try to prevent them from getting there. And that's what that's what the other side of your work is doing. And I mean, you're doing an amazing job, and I'm so grateful for everything that you do for the wild horses. So thank you,

Ellie Phipps Price:

Laurie, thank you. Thank you so much for shining a light on this

Laurie Hood:

favorite Mustang color. Done. Animal passion hero,

Ellie Phipps Price:

Jane Goodall. Yeah, Laurie head. And Suzanne Roy, Executive Director of American wild horse campaign favorite type of red and white wine, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, easy,

Unknown:

favorite name for a horse? Dunston of course. funniest moment where the horse, we

Ellie Phipps Price:

took the kids to Iceland, and we went horseback riding on the Icelandic ponies and we were told they were very safe and easy to ride and wonderful. And one of them swooped in both the kids fell off within five seconds of each other. And I just thought, well, there goes that. So it was kind of funny since nobody got hurt.

Laurie Hood:

Favorite movie, you haven't co written or produced the Black Stallion. Okay. Have you ever thought, Oh, my animal passion has gone too far? Oh, yes. Yeah, short answer. Yes, yes. Yeah, I think we all have Yeah. So Ellie, tell us how people can donate to your organization or how they find you.

Unknown:

So, Montgomery Creek ranch.org is probably the best way. We have a website, where we describe everything. We're doing our training program, our advocacy work, our affiliation with the American wild horse campaign. And we basically have two events a year. We occasionally have tours, we do photography workshops, we bring in clinicians, we try to find ways that we can connect their stories with people through adoption, through events through education. And we are deeply grateful for any support, especially in this really challenging year. When we are going we're buying hay, we're feeding one and a half tons of hay a day. And we will soon be probably shipping in water and trucks. So it's going to be a really, really challenging year. We're going to be reaching out a lot to just to try to keep it all together.

Laurie Hood:

Well I hope everyone listening well go to your website, make a donation, you made a comment to me that really struck me I know how much it is to keep a horse and you said it's an average of $20,000. Yeah, for the lifetime of a horse and you have a lot of horses so you have a lot of horses. For

Unknown:

more information about the animal passion series, and host Laurie hood, visit aliquam.org. For more information about Ellie Phipps price, visit montgomery Creek ranch.org and don't forget to check out the animal passion podcast YouTube channel. Thanks for listening.