Report on Tour of Bureau of Land Management Indian Lakes Short Term Holding Facility

Story By Terri Farley     

Photos by Cat Kindsfather

Fallon, NV (October 17, 2014)….Following two years of locked gates and secrecy, the public was finally allowed to tour Bureau of Land Management’s Indian Lakes Road Short-Term Holding Facility in Fallon, Nevada. This facility is also sometimes referred to as "Broken Arrow," the name of the company of the contractor, Troy Adams, who operates the facility. 

The two 2-hour tours were conducted on October 17 by John Neill who has returned as Operations Manager of Palomino Valley Wild Horse and Burro Facility after two years in Nevada BLM’s Carson City office.

“We’ll have another tour in spring and at least two tours per year.” Neill added, “The public has a right to see these horses.”  

Mustangs at Indian Lakes once lived throughout the West and their conformation and coloring reflect a variety of adaptations.  Pintos, palominos, grullas, creams, buckskins, sorrels, bays and blacks are built like Quarter Horses, Arabs, Morgans and draft-crosses. 

All of these horses are available for adoption or sale, and Neill agrees that public awareness of individual horses and their histories raises the number of adoptions. That’s one reason tours recommenced.

Adoptions aren’t handled at Indian Lakes. Wild horses or burros can be chosen there, but the animals are transferred to an adoption facility – like Palomino Valley – for processing and pickup.

Although Indian Lakes is considered a short-term facility, some of the horses who came there in 2010, or were born there, already wear hip numbers that indicate they will be transferred to long term pastures in the Midwest.

The numbers

Indian Lakes is designed to hold 2,850 equines. Corrals contain 2,712 wild horses and 21 burros according to BLM’s September 30, 2014 tally. The count provided by BLM is approximate, however, because foals born in most BLM facilities are not officially counted until they are weaned and freeze-branded at about 6 months old.

The 320-acre facility has 36 holding pens each measuring 70,000 square feet, each designed to hold about 100 horses.

Seventy-five per cent of Indian Lakes horses are mares, but a recent transfer of 400 mustangs from the shuttered Gunnison Prison program included geldings as well.

Indian Lakes is an “overflow facility” for Palomino Valley Wild Horse Adoption Center.  This means that wild horses living at Palomino are moved to Indian Lakes when horses from recent round-ups such as those just completed in Wyoming and Oregon are shipped to Palomino Valley to be dewormed, blood-tested, freeze-marked, gelded, and vaccinated.

The Past: Has Anything Changed?

Since the facility was closed to the public on May 28, 2010, visitors have only been allowed to view horses from seats on a truck-towed “wagon,” which made observation wild horse health difficult for visitors. It is most likely that the BLM locked the gates back then to stop the close-up documentation of wild horse injuries that resulted in public outrage.

Contractor Troy Adams’ Indian Lakes Road facility has improved since its hurried construction in last 2009.  Built to contain thousands of mustangs captured during the disastrous 2010 Calico Range roundup, it was more suited to feedlot cattle than range wild horses. Consequently, the facility was the scene of hundreds of wild horse deaths that resulted from round-up injuries, accident, shock, neglect, spontaneous abortion and lack of dietary and veterinary care.

Today, feed troughs are more suited to horses and, Neill says, an automated bale feeder makes it easier to customize hay mixtures for different equine populations. Vet care is still handled by Dr. Rich Sanford, but sub-contractor Lahontan Valley Veterinary Clinic does weekly vet inspections and care at Palomino Valley. In addition, BLM staff, not contractors, does most hands-on work, such as hoof care, with wild horses.

Hoof care is done 1-2 days per week, every week, Neill said, and indicated it’s an unending job.  Pointing to one corral, he added,   “You’ll notice some of the Utah horses came here with long feet.”

When a visitor asked if young horses’ tails had been docked, Neill said no. He explained that youngsters chew each other’s tails – not tugging once or twice in play, but daily. 

Even an “improved” prison is still prison.

Deprived of family and freedom, Indian Lakes’ inmates suffer the trauma and boredom of other prisoners.  The difference from other prisons, of course, is that these horses were innocent by-standers to the range vandalization for which they were jailed.

Terri Farley is a well-known author of books for young adults, including the popular Phantom Stallion series, which has sold over two million copies worldwide, as well as many non-fiction magazine articles. She is also a northern Nevada resident and dedicated wild horse advocate who recently joined AWHPC in its successful efforts to intervene in a lawsuit filed by ranchers seeking the removal of thousands of wild horses from public lands in Nevada and the sale for slaughter of the nearly 50,000 wild horses warehoused in BLM holding facilities.