Synclitic Media LLC

 1646 White Oak Road •  Strasburg, PA 17579  • 877-887-4878 • Website Design © Bonnie Urquhart Gruenberg 2015

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The Value of Wild Horses

By Bonnie U. Gruenberg

Members of the horse family left their hoofprints across North America for 55 million years, many times longer than human beings have lived on earth. After a brief absence, less than 10,000 years, horses returned to their ancestral homeland with Spanish explorers and helped power the European conquest of the Western Hemisphere. When horses escaped captivity, they reoccupied their ecological niche as neatly as if they had never left it,surviving not only in grasslands, but also in deserts, forests, and swamps and on mountaintops.

Although we no longer depend much on domestic horses for labor, we still value them as athletes, workers, and companions. But almost everywhere horses run wild in America, they create controversy. We cannot seem to agree on how or whether free-roaming mustangs are important to us. We cannot hunt them, eat them, ride them, or in many cases get close enough to watch them. Mustangs live private lives that are largely unseen and undocumented. Some people argue that because we cannot make use of free-roaming mustangs, they have no value. Others—some of them scientists—accept them as native wildlife with an important history and a clear role within the habitat that they have reclaimed for themselves.

We have the power to shape the natural world to our liking. Our values guide our decisions to protect certain species, habitats, and landscapes and to change, use, or destroy others. Often we protect the parts of nature that seem most useful to us and eliminate anything that does not mesh with our narrow interests and short-term projects. If an animal is not obviously useful to us, can it still have worth and importance? What was the worth of mold before Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin? What is the importance of the Grand Canyon or a sunrise?

Emotions can cloud facts where horses are involved, but they also have their own legitimacy. Horses have been admired and romanticized by people for thousands of years as symbols of power, elegance, and freedom. We cannot overlook how horses touch our souls in ways that few other species can. Even people who have never been close to a living horse appreciate the beauty and power of the animal.

America’s mustangs should be valued as reintroduced native wildlife that has a birthright to its wild existence, whether or not they are useful to us. We may never profit from free-roaming horses, but their simple presence in the wild benefits us beyond measure. Wild horses should be honored and cherished because of what they are—beautiful, intelligent, fellow creatures, tenacious survivors who excite and inspire our domesticated souls. When we watch them grazing in the marshes or galloping like free spirits across the prairie, we can feel the spirit of wildness well up in our own hearts. While they endure, there is hope for us. As long as they remain free, so do we.

Synclitic Media LLC

1646 White Oak Road •  Strasburg, PA 17579  • 877-887-4878 • Website Design © Bonnie Urquhart Gruenberg 2015

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