Cloud: Challenge of the Stallions

A Live Discussion with Filmmaker Ginger Kathrens

Ginger Kathrens

Filmmaker Ginger Kathrens

On October 25, 2009, NATURE hosted a live discussion with filmmaker Ginger Kathrens to allow viewers to ask questions about Cloud and the making of the film.

Linda H. says:

What can kids do to help Cloud and his family and all the other wild horses so they always run free?

Ginger says:

Linda: thank you – Kids are crucial and can save the wild horses again- they did in the late 1960’s with Wild Horse Annie (you can read more about wild horse Annie on the web). Kids should write President Obama, their Senators and Congress-people — and most importantly: teach your families and school mates. Kids can share what is happening to wild horses with their clubs. There is a sample letter and more ideas on our website, — if 100,000s Kids write Obama maybe we can stop these ongoing roundups.

Shelley Sawhook says:

Can you tell us which of the horses in the video are no longer free to roam with their herds? Also, in light of the proposed BLM gather schedule of over 12,000 additional horses in FY 2010 can you tell us what efforts are underway to stop these gathers or what we as average citizens can do to protect our herds? What plans do you, as an activist and a film maker, have to ensure the genetic viability of not only Cloud’s range, but all wild horse and burro ranges? Lastly, has anyone determined if the mare Baccardi and her foal, who were left on the range without herd protection during the gather, are safe and unharmed from the gather “activities”?

Thanks for all you do and my whole family LOVES Cloud, his herd and you for showing us their unique qualities. My 10 yo daughter wants to be just like you when she grows up!

Ginger says:

Shelly: In the September 2009 roundup in the Pryors, 57 horses were removed. Among those are many that you meet in Cloud: Challenge of the Stallions- the following were removed. They are in good homes but they have lost what they value most: their families and their freedom. Cloud’s daughter: Rain is now in VA; Cloud’s granddaughter, Arrow (the bay filly with a big star) is now in Colorado; Ember and Image are in Ohio together; Cloud’s dun mare (who he gets in this show) was removed, as was his brother, Sax — who I adopted and now is part of the band at my ranch with Cloud’s sisters and Trace. The massive roundup of this herd was unnecessary and costly: $150,000 to remove 57 horses. Among those were the entire bands belonging to stallions Conquistador, Bo, Trigger and Shane. These horses, along with blue roan bachelor who was traumatized in the processing chutes, are now on a ranch in Montana. The Cloud Foundation, due to an incredible amount of support, was able to rescue these horses, and keep the bands together. It is our hope that this sub-population can be returned to their home in the wild. Summer, Shaman’s granddaughter who was with Bolder, and Bolder’s only daughter over a year old, were removed as well. The black bachelor, Stiles, who you see chasing Sitka and Flint at the beginning of the film, was also removed. He has since been gelded but was rescued by a sanctuary in New Mexico. Millions of people know Cloud’s band and herd so well but the 12,000 other horses and burros being removed now are equally important and we must stop these massive roundups.

We saw Bacardi and her foal, (who were left behind while the rest of their band was driven down the mountain – the foal could not keep up) on September 25th. The foal was very footsore but he and Bacardi are back with Baja’s band now. Many foals who were just a month old or less were driven by helicopter over 12 miles down the mountain. With other great organizations such as yours
( we are working to create a grassroots effort that demands the immediate moratorium of all roundups. The more people learn about wild horses the less they understand why these roundups are taking place. If we all and take a few minutes to call and write their Senators, Congresspeople, local media and President Obama I think we can create enough of a stir to save our horses. Right now our government is not listening as an increasingly educated and aware public demands a stop to this mismanagement.

Katie Schultz says:

After a mare gives birth, does she make any noises to the foal? And what is her behavior to the foal?

Ginger says:

They do, as you’ll see in this show, mares often vocalize to their foals. They nicker to them and vocalizations are an important means of communication for horses. I was especially lucky to hear vocalizations to a newborn foal in the wild — and I’m glad I can share this with you in this new show!

Here are some ideas on what you can do — I hope that Cloud and the horses of Montana have inspired you to save them all. Thank you, Ginger

1.     Send your letter demanding an immediate moratorium on all roundups to President Obama and Secretary Salazar (a copy will be cc’d to your Congress people and Senators).

2.     Follow up with faxes, letters and calls to call both your Senators and Congresspeople. Ask that your Senators support the ROAM Act (§1579) to return wild horses to lands stolen from them & end the mismanagement of America’s Wild Horses & Burros.

3.     Sign the Save Our Wild Horses Resolution petition & join the Cloud Foundation mailing list to stay informed (join us on FacebookTwitter & check our Blog for frequent updates too).

4.     Please watch the most recent report from CBS’s George Knapp, this short news story outlines how BLM has moved from over-management to the clear destruction of our wild herds. Click here to watch his one-hour report Stampede to Oblivion

5.     Last but not least, contact media—this story of mismanagement of our mustangs and burros, truly living history, needs to be explored & shared. Find local media contacts here. Write letters to the editor and ask National outlets for better coverage.

Ginger says:

Many of you have asked what is really going on with the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro program – and I’m sorry to report that the mismanagement is only getting worse. The BLM has proposed, and is currently in the process of removing, 35% of the wild horses and burros left in the wild. Please join me in calling for an immediate moratorium on all roundups before the BLM is successful in completely managing our wild horses on our public land to extinction. Take some time to call and write your senators and President Obama – the loss of our wild horses in imminent if we don’t demand a stop to these roundups. We will have a sample letter and more information on There you can also sign our petition to stop these roundups. Wild horses were saved in the early 70’s by an outcry from America’s children and many adults – we need to do this again. Over 80% of our wild horse herds are now below genetically viable numbers – Cloud’s herd is now among those after last months cruel and unnecessary roundup.

Through the Cloud programs I hope that we have expressed to you how vital it is to you to keep wild horses in the wild – their freedom and families are of the utmost importance to them – as they should be to us as well. Secretary of Interior Salazar has proposed moving 26,000 wild horses to the east in preserves. Non-reproducing herds of horses are not wild horses- this $96 million plan is not acceptable.

Alison says:

I give money to Frontline Range Equine Rescue and sign petitions to president Obama. What more can I do to keep these horses free?

Ginger says:

Alison – please write your Senators and ask them to support the ROAM act now in the senate. Ask them to stop the roundups until an independent census can be done and further investigation of the mismanagement. Tell your friends and family about the wild horses – and please write letters to the editor and ask your favorite media outlets to investigate this further. The BLM relies on few people knowing what they are doing. But these are our horses on our public lands and I do hope the American public will not sit by while all our horses are removed. Herd by herd we are losing them. Please keep writing and calling. Thank you.

Steven Long says:

Ginger, will there be another Cloud film?

Ginger says:

Absolutely – there is nothing I love more than watching and filming the Pryor horses. I have been lucky to make this fabulous area a second home over the past 15 years – starting when Cloud’s father, Raven, allowed me to film them without running away. I will continue to document Cloud’s herd and I hope that there might be another program about Cloud in the future. The more I know about wild horses the more I am surprised by their intricate family dynamics. In my wildest dreams I never imagined a story this dramatic.

Frank says:

Why do the BLM feel a need to keep horse numbers down in the first place? What harm do they see more horses doing to the land or their interests?

Where all the horses in the area rounded up by them?

Ginger says:

Frank — The BLM is acting not on science but on their disregard for wild horses. There mismanagement of our american wild horse and burros is becoming almost as legendary as the horses themselves. There is an excellent report out from Las Vegas CBS — there are interviews and quotes that will explain more. The BLM needs to be stopped and the situation reevaluated. We are losing our horses at a cost of millions to taxpayers who are not aware that we are losing them. It is not understandable, Frank, but we need to bring transparency to this now and demand that science and logic play a role in the management of all of our western herds.

Emily Murdoch says:

Ginger Kathrens, you are a hero to wild mustangs everywhere. Thank you for all you do, and for your mustang heart. My question is, is there a way, presently, that land could be bought for the Pryor mustangs so that those rounded up could be “adopted” from the BLM and put back on the land to live wild and free? While I appreciate their adoption by concerned citizens, and in that, the horses avoiding slaughter and the slaughter pipeline, it saddens me that these mustangs are no longer “free”. If there were a fund to donate to for this land/sanctuary, I’d be first in line. Thank you again, Ginger, for being on the front lines of such an important issue as the Pryor Mt. mustangs.

Ginger says:

Hi Emily – Today I was with our 15 horses that were rescued at the Pryor auction of the wild horses. We were able with the help of friends in Billings, MT to reunite these wild horses families. What a wonderful experience! We hope to release them again back in their home in the Pryor Mountains or in the Bighorn Mountains across the canyon. Conquistador and the other band stallions are doing great and are with their mares. Band stallion, BO, and his little daugher are so close. It is our hope that these little bands can help the main herd survive genetically.

Nini says:

Please update viewers on what has happened to Cloud’s herd — and what is happening to their wild horse relatives all over the West right now. Thank you!

Ginger says:

Nini – Cloud’s herd is getting back on their feet after the roundup.  Cloud was lame upon his return to the wild, so were Bolder’s mother (now with Cloud again!) and Firestorm.  Velvet and Cloud’s 2009 daughter, Jasmine, was extremely footsore and could barely walk. 12,000 more wild horses are being removed this year — the BLM called this roundup “a model roundup”- but that only tells you how bad the others are.

Christina L says:

Hi. My question is about Cloud. At the end of the show, you talked about what happened to a number of the horses, but didn’t mention what happened to Cloud. Is Cloud still alive? Has he been adopted or was he set free a second time? I the BLM is starting to euthanize the wild horses because they don’t have the space or resources to take care of them. I really hope Cloud is alive and well!

Ginger says:

Christina, Cloud is alive and well – I last saw him before the auction, where he and his family walked slowly to the water hole – without their usual exuberance. They released Cloud and his much smaller family band two days after they were rounded up and ran 10-15 miles down the mountain in 90+ degree heat. There is a write-up and photos of his capture and release on the Cloud Foundation blog. Cloud actually turned and faced the helicopter during the roundup – he’s been rounded up twice before and knows what is coming.

Annette says:

I want to know what has happen to Diamond and Red Raven.

Ginger says:
Annette, during the bait-trapping operation, Diamond was injured while fighting with another stallion (Stiles – who was removed last month at age 11) and we thought he might die – he lost his entire band. However, he has since made a full recovery and has his band back. Red Raven and Blue Sioux are still together and have their 2007 daughter, Halcyon with them. Another blue roan mare, Adona, is also with them. Adona is 9 and has never foaled – she was darted with a contraceptive drug that the BLM uses to keep the population down– the same drug that caused Shadow’s out of season birth. The drug (PZP) seems to have caused the three out of season births from last year too. I oppose the use of these experimental infertility drugs because they don’t always work as designed (causing out of season births, sterile mares, mares constantly cycling etc). The Pryors can be managed naturally by nature! The mountain lions, if not hunted to such extremes, they manage the herd perfectly.

Jocie says:

well how will (in the new film) it be a problem for clouds son and flint will they spread apart?? you’ll probably tell me to watch the movie but just tell me has anything happened to raven?? and do you think Obama will help protect the wolves or wild/endangered animals like the mustangs??

Ginger says:
Hi Jocie and Cheyenne,
Thousands have written the President to protect our mustangs but we have seen no improvement with this administration yet; in fact it has only gotten worse. This is not a reason to give up — rather: keep writing and calling the President. If he hears from tens of thousands of people than we can make these roundups stop now. The worsening situation is due not to new presidential policy but to a lack of oversight while the same people mismanage our wild horses. It would seem that the BLM is trying to manage our wild horses to extinction before any change reaches this rogue agency.

Raven, Cloud’s father, died in his mountain home sometime in the late winter of 2008. He did have one very fine day in June of 2007 when he had a band again for a few hours! Raven was an amazing horse and I will always be grateful to him. Shaman, too, has passed away. He died just a few weeks before the roundup at the age of 24.

Brian says:

Have you ever been to Theodore Roosevelt National Park? They have a lot of Wild Horses in Theodore Roosevelt National Park!

Ginger says:
Hi Brian – I haven’t been to Teddy Roosevelt but alway wanted to go. Now, I am hearing all the horses are going to be removed. What a shame!!!

Maggie Hall says:

I admire your work and you continue to inspire! How do you feel about the government’s current plan for the wild horses, and how would you feel if Cloud and his herd were removed from their own land? What about Madeleine Pickens plan – does it need improving?
thank you, Maggie Hall

Ginger says:

Hi Maggie – Madeleine is trying to do her best to protect our mustangs held in holding facilities. But, we need to focus on the horsesstill in their homes in the West with their families. 1/3 are schelduled to be rounded up in the next year. Please let your Senators know that they need to have hearings on reining in the BLM; to put an immediate moratorium on round ups and to hold hearings on the behavior of the BLM. Our horses in the wild need our help!

Dennis Manske says:

What does thisd mean for the BLM adoption program? On one hand I feel that this encourages the BLM to increase the gather, on the other hand, I am concerned that if the horses they have captured aren’t placed, they will suffer and or meet an untimely demise.

Ginger says:
Hi Dennis – As you know I am a wild horse adopter and am a new adopter of Cloud’s half brother, Sax, captured and removed last month. Unfortunately, only about 3,000 mustangs are adopted each year in recent years yet the BLM is removing 12,000 this year (unless we can stop them)—far too many for the adoption program. The BLM program must be revamped and Congress must call for a moritorium on round ups now, before it is too late.

Suze says:

Ginger, Can you let us know how badly Cloud and his mare are injured? With winter already settled upon the Pryors, I am so concerned for their welfare. They need to be perfect to survive. Thank you for what you are doing for OUR mustangs!

Ginger says:

I think Cloud will be fine, and I am hopeful his lameness will go away. People who have seen him since I have reported that he is fine as are his mares. I look forward to being up there with them soon.

Michael says:

Ginger, Are there any large influential groups working on this issue who can get to the administration & congress? I am working as creatively as I can nationally & locally, tried to contact someone at AWHPC but got no response. There must be some large organization such as Sierra club who is willing to take this on. Please let me know if I can assist any actions your group is taking besides the letter, editorial activities. Thanks,


Ginger says:

Hi Michael – You can find out more at The Cloud Foundation. Hope you will sign up on our email list so you can get all our updates and learn what to do. Thanks so much for your concern.

Pam says:

The horse’s herds seem to be a pretty complex social structure. Doesn’t it stress the horses to separate the herds, like it would stress people to be pulled out of a family unit? Why can’t the BLM keep the herds together when they thin them? Thank you for the wonderful film/story telling work you are doing.

Ginger says:

Pam, you are absolutely right, the horses have an amazing and complex social structure that is literally shattered when the helicopters arrive. The individual bands are torn apart during roundups but it is advisable to only remove younger horses if a herd does really need to reduced in population size. The Cloud Foundation recommended that no more than 20 young horses (aged 2 and younger) be removed from Cloud’s herd this year if a roundup was to take place. When the BLM failed to listen to the public and even to their own science, and when our temporary restraining order was denied in DC district court, the helicopter took to the air.  On the first day of the roundup we were informed that the BLM planned to remove whole family bands off the Pryors. Bands like the one led by 19-year-old stallion Conquistador, who Cloud challenged in the fog nearly 10 years ago; the family led by 13-year-old Trigger, who I’ve been filming since he was just a few days old; and the band belonging to the stallion Shane, who we rescued after he rolled under a barbed wire fence as a foal.  Even 21-year-old Grumpy Grulla (Raven’s first mare) was removed. In the end, BLM stopped the roundup early. With so many of us watching, I think they feared a horse would die in the extreme heat during their long run down from the mountaintop.

Two weeks later a total of 57 horses were auctioned off, including four of Cloud’s grandchildren, his daughter, Rain, and his brother, Sax.  With an amazing crew of volunteers we trailered Shane, Bo, Trigger and Conquistador with most of their mares, as well as the traumatized blue roan bachelor stallion, Floyd, to their new home north of the Pryors. Watching Conquistador and Cavalitta walk calming off the trailer together brought tears to our eyes. Seeing the greeting that Bo gave to his mare, Chalupa, and their filly foal made this entire effort worthwhile.

Only with the help of our many supporters and immediate action on behalf of volunteers were we able to mobilize and adopt these horses and keep them together in their family bands. It is our hope that our lawsuit against the BLM will be successful and these four bands, along with the bachelor, can return home. Until then they are under our care although they remain as close to wild as possible. With the BLM planning on rounding up a staggering 12,000 wild horses and burros this year we can’t stop fighting for the freedom of all.  We so
appreciate your support and ask for your continued work on behalf of all our wild horses and burros. The BLM is rounding up a 1000 horses in Wyoming this month and next month. Half of Nevada’s horses (over 25% of the total number left in the west) are to be removed in the coming months. The BLM is acting illegally and if they are not stopped we won’t have any horses left in the wild. In 1974 there were some 54,000 wild horses in the wild- by next September there will be only 22,000 or so. And over 40,000 in costly government holding pens, pastures and “preserves.” This is not the way to manage an icon of the American west.

Larry says:

While watching your program, it looked like there were acres and acres of open land. What is BLM’s problem with these horses?

Ginger says:

Larry, Cloud’s herd lives on a nearly 40,000 acre designated range and in addition to that, they “illegally” live and move in and out of another huge area in the Custer National Forest (where they have lived for centuries). The BLM has determined that only 120 horses over one year of age can live on this 40,000 acre area – despite the fact that anything less than 150 is not genetically viable. We’ve been working to get the range legally expanded to allow for a 200-300 horse herd that would preserve these unique Spanish genetics into the future. The BLM could have managed this herd at 170-200 horses if they had spent money on range improvements rather than rounding up 146 horses and removing 57 of them at a cost of over $150,000.

Further investigations into the BLM’s Wild Horse & Burro program are called for. Secretary Salazar’s recent plan to move 26,000 wild horses to expensive eastern preserves in sterilized and segregated herds is not the answer. The west is the home of the wild horse and 54 million acres of public lands were set aside primarily for their use as free roaming wild animals in 1971. Nearly 25 million acres have since been taken away from them and it is time lands were returned. Less than 33,000 wild horses remain on our public lands, down from an estimated 54,000 in 1974. Meanwhile, over 3 million head of livestock graze on public lands – many owned by huge companies, not by family ranchers. Federal public lands grazing is estimated to be a $123 million/year net loss and the true cost to our environment is much higher (estimated upwards of $500 million to $1 billion per year in damages). We would save money and wild horses by simply paying legitimate ranchers not to graze. Wild horses are outnumbered on the range and yet are blamed for any damage. If there is no damage they are removed. I would encourage you and all interested to watch the recent investigative report “Stampede to Oblivion” which is now online.