“They seem to be arriving and leaving at the same time, halfway in and halfway out of the world.” That’s my impression of the wild horses I photographed for the exhibition “Ghosts of the Great Basin,” opening October 21st at the Utah Art Festival Gallery in Salt Lake City.
American wild horses (more accurately termed feral horses or mustangs) endure a tenuous existence and uncertain future. People brought these horses to the country’s wilds, yet we saddle them with a love/hate relationship. There are far too many for the land, as we manage it, to support, yet our will to make decisions about them wavers. They are truly in limbo, as pointed out recently in a New York Times story.
Mustangs overpopulate their American ranges by up to 10,000 horses today, and we provide extra water and food for their survival. They are efficient competitors for resources with livestock and wild game, which generates some criticism. But to many, they are simply beautiful, inspirational free spirits.
In addition to the wild herds, there are 40,000 more in captive holding pens in the Midwest. Some are adopted, but that is not a solution because it is much easier to raise a domestic horse. They depend on humans to exist, yet we don’t know what to do with them.
The reality is that of about 70,000 feral Mustangs, we are warehousing about 1/3 of them on the range, and 2/3 in captivity, and none of them are truly wild. Another story of hurting the ones we love.
Gallery stroll and artists’ reception — 6:00-9:00 pm, October 21st, 230 S. 500 W., Salt Lake City. Details at the Utah Art Festival Gallery website.