Utah woman wild about wild horses, and they seem to like her too

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Kelly Jay is a photographer like no other. You'll see that in her photos, and in the video accompanying this story you'll get a glimpse of how she does what she does. But then again, it's just a glimpse.

I was fortunate enough to be her tag-a-long on just one of many days she's spent journeying into the desert. It started out with a ride in her Jeep. She blasted something called "Texas Country" through the speakers as we made our way south and west from Tooele, for many, many miles.

Kelly says she first learned of the wild horses from her boss at Dugway Proving Ground, a U.S. Army installation, where she works as a paramedic. She says she was "dumbfounded" the first time she saw them, nine years ago. A claim I'm quick to believe since she was still in awe the day I rode along, and frankly, I was too. I've seen a thousands of horses on hundreds of farms, but this was my first close encounter with wild horses. They're so unlike domesticated horses. Not better or worse, but they seem somehow like entirely different creatures.

It's worth mentioning that Kelly keeps track of the movement of the herd, and even the movements of individual horses, the entire time she's on foot in their vicinity. I forgot to do this at times, as the horses can become seemingly mellow. But another battle is always brewing and the last place a mere human wants to be standing is in the middle of two stallions ready to charge.

Wild horse encounters certainly aren't for everyone. In addition to the horses themselves, there's the triple digit heat, the rattlesnakes, and the badgers, all of which Kelly contends with in the region where the horses roam. For these reasons, the exact location of the story isn't shared in the video, or in this article. Anyone seriously interested can do their homework elsewhere, and put in the time it takes to build some small level of familiarity with wild animals (It may take nine years or so). Or you can skip all that and see and read about the magic moments Kelly has captured, on her Facebook page which is updated regularly.



  • crypto666

    The only difference between those feral horses and any horse in a backyard is their location.

    They are not wiildlife. But it is interesting how they warm you about the real wildlife you might encounter while out looking for stray feral horses. They have totally destroyed the area.

    “Anyone seriously interested can do their homework elsewhere, and put in the time it takes to build some small level of familiarity with wild animals (It may take nine years or so).”

    • Kelly

      What a horrible person you must be to promote such a negative and sadly ill informed opinion. By the very definition of wildlife, wild horses ARE wildlife. They have been proven to be native to this continent and I am more than familiar with wild animals, thank you. I have more than 20 years experience in rescuing and rehabbing wild animals so you shouldn’t make snap judgements about people. It is the cattle that graze for pennies on government land that are destroying the area. Do the research. It won’t take you nine years, but if you spend less than nine hours , you will find this out for yourself. And you will find the studies that back up the fact that horses are indeed native to our continent. I am not sure what your agenda is to post something so distasteful, but wild horses make people happy, plain and simple. They are beautiful, wild and free and they represent the resilience and the spirit of the west, as well as our country. They survive and thrive in a harsh and unyielding environment. And when they are captured in brutal roundups and someone (hopefully) adopts them, they turn out to be the most loyal, smart, and easily trained horses that you could imagine.

      • crypto666

        What a horrible person you must be to condemn feral horses to a life in a “harsh and unyielding environment”. Then is someone tries to round them up and place them in more humane conditions, you try to prevent that. Thus you just condemned the horses to a slow painful death. Also, the suffering of the true wildlife at the hooves of horses is also horrific. The true wildlife have no where to go to escape the overwhelming destruction that horses bring as they consume every foragable plant, leaving nothing for the other animals.

      • Kelly

        Please, PLEASE do some research before we chat again. You misunderstood SO much! They SURVIVE in this harsh environment! They are survivors! They are magnificent! They are NOT dying slow painful deaths at all! That is deceptive BLM propaganda. The horses are strong and well fed and have plenty of water sources. The OTHER wildlife who live in the same environment are also not dying of starvation OR under the hooves of the wild horses. This is all such nonsense! The roundups and subsequent imprisoning in BLM long term holding facilities is horrific. These horses are social animals and they have family groups who actually love each other and are committed to each other. It is torture when they are all separated at the roundups and sent to live apart from each other. They live in the wild. They are wild LIFE. They fight for what they want and they sometimes die, but not from starvation. They exist under the code of “only the strong survive.” They don’t tolerate any weakness in their offspring and they grow to be hardy and healthy, wild and FREE. That is, until they get rounded up by helicopters and placed in equine concentration camps for the rest of their lives because no one can afford to adopt horses any longer, or worse yet, sent to slaughter. These noble creatures who ask nothing from humans but to be left alone to live and die FREE, like nature intended, are being sent to slaughter(ILLEGALLY). It’s criminal! There is nothing at all humane about a roundup, or a long term holding facility. Also, there are zero wildlife dying under the hooves of the wild mustangs! Unless you are talking about snakes. The OTHER wildlife has no need to escape the horses. They exist right along side of the wild mustangs with no issues whatsoever. I see the antelope, badger, mountain lion, and prairie dog finding all they need to eat. The cattle are the only animal that is decimating the grazing lands that I can see. There really is no truer wild life than the wild mustang. Please take time and do the research and find out the facts. I won’t respond to any more of your comments because it’s obvious that you have no desire to learn or to be educated about wild mustangs in Utah. You seem to have a chip on your shoulder or are holding a grudge against the wild horses for reasons I can’t begin to understand and no amount of quoting facts and relaying experiences will change your mind. Bottom line: the wild mustangs were here first. They are NOT starving or lacking for water. Roundups and BLM holding facilities are horrific. Life in the wild is sometimes cruel and not very pretty, but it is LIFE. The wild mustangs are not harming any other species and they deserve to remain FREE.

    • morgansinkc

      Crypto, the video shows just what we’ve all been saying — that there is plenty of land to support these magnificent creatures and they are not only surviving, they are thriving. They should be re-classified as native and put onto the Endangered Species list. There is no reason to round them up. The BLM short-term holding pens have no shelter or wind breaks, except for one that is an “experiment” in Palomino Valley. This is all done at a huge cost to taxpayers, when it is not necessary. It doesn’t cost us a dime to leave them out on the range. I have had horses for 41 years and we have plenty of wild life in my area and not one of my horses as done anything to harm them. I’m not sure why you seek out stories to comment negative on regarding our wild horses, but I suspect you are either a Welfare Rancher or a Fracker, and neither have a place on our public lands.

      • Kelly

        Thank you so much for your well informed comment. As someone with life long experience with horses it’s obvious that you clearly understand what is going on. Those short term holding pens are a JOKE, aren’t they?! I wish so badly that we could show everyone what they are really like. Just as the BLM rep told the reporter about the horses all being starving and sickly. It simply is not true! The wilderness that I see every week has plenty of food sources for the mustangs and the only thing I see that looks out of place are the vast herds of cows and sheep eating on our dime. There also is more than enough so the antelope, and other wildlife I encounter out there are also wildly healthy! I love what you said about the reclassifying and putting them on the endangered species list. I will do anything that I can to help make that happen. These horses deserve to be free and live out their complicated but beautiful lives with the family bands that they cherish. They are living symbols of our heritage and need to be left alone and simply respected and revered. Thank you. :)

    • Matt

      Crypto666. How very cleaver…Crypto, secret, hidden then 666, really? Secret Satan?? Your entries are wrought with your own internal struggles. The horses, insects, plants and inhabitants of the landscape are the true inhabitants. Perhaps the horses were brought from a number of invading races, perhaps not. Regardless, they are the landscape, they are the land. Until a mere 200 or so years ago their home was just that. We invaded them. Would you suggest, Mr. secret Satan, that cattle which roam and graze unfettered and for the most part untaxed on federal land to be docile travelers? Your assertion of horses destroying their own environment is absurd on it’s face. Any issue of over population is also due to our, your, descendants decimation of natural predators.
      Your choice to attack another human being who chooses a cause, embraces an art and has the constitution to make that passion public is abhorrent. Perhaps there are nuances that are not known, perhaps there are other opinions or alternatives, but it shows a complete lack of human understanding and basic human emotion to attack someone like her who simply displays a passion, a view, a love for something other than herself. Your pseudo-psychoanalysis is disgusting and your misinformation borders on criminal.
      This woman displays her humanity through a lens and reality, you display your ignorance through a keyboard.

  • cheryl bowe

    Kelly, You are so blessed to have the opportunity to visit the wild horses. Thank you for recording their existence through your photography. In the days before computers, the BLM could lie about the horse’s condition and numbers. Now through the internet we can see for ourselves that the horses are healthy, not skinny and starving, and they are not in “great numbers”, but rather few and far between, in small bands spread out across our public lands.
    Anyone interested in knowing the truth about the wild horses can access the information, from scientific reports about their genetics, to current filming as to their condition, live reports about their numbers, and truthful reporting about how the wild horses help to preserve the environment, not destroy it.
    Thank you for helping to spread the truth. If the BLM continues to “zero out” the wild horses, your photography will be the only way people will ever see them and remember they existed.

    • Kelly

      What a tragedy that would be. I consider myself an ambassador of sorts, helping to enlighten people to the beauty and grace of these magnificent wild animals who are being driven out of existence by the very people charged with protecting them. It is truly heartbreaking. I asked the reporter that day if he thought people would still be proponents of annihilating the mustangs and supporting the helicopter roundups if they could spend a day out in the wilderness, watching, hearing, and smelling the herd. I’d like to think that once they saw how close these family band are and how much they really do love each other and protect each other, they would realize what a mistake they had made. Especially after seeing the mother’s caring for the foals! I hope that with all the people who own cameras and video cameras , the BLM will not be able to sustain their lie about herd conditions and numbers. The truth will eventually be brought out into the light. The key to changing minds is the research. The facts ARW out there if the public wants to find it. Thanks again, Cheryl. I really do feel blessed.

      • crypto666

        What you do is make money off feral horses kelly. You make money, so of course you are blind to their destruction. You have no idea what has already been lost, and what we will lose in the future. You are blinded by your own obsession. You aren’t taking pictures of the grass plants that are no longer there. You are not taking pictures of the riparian areas that are destroyed. You are not taking pictures of the wildlife that has left. You only take pictures of the horse.
        So what childhood trauma did you experience? Death of a parent? Abuse? Abandonement?

      • Crbr62004

        Crypto, do you actually research things before you jump behind your keyboard and start spewing your more than likely “googled” opinions which you present as your own thoughts??? Or are you just so terribly bored that you feel the need to find something as innocent as photographing WILD horses, and make it out to be some evil conspiracy against nature?? My guess is you just like to stir the pot. Well, cowboy, since you are clearly educated in the area of wild horses, why don’t you go wrangle them all up and take them to some ranch and make sure to video tape the whole ordeal so you can put your foot in your mouth as you get trampled because those horses want nothing to do with living in captivity. And what is with the psycho babble about a traumatic childhood?? You’re ranger Rick AND Dr. Phil??? You must be sooooo smart.

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