new-logo25By Debbie Coffey                 PPJ Investigative Reporter

Director of Wild Horse Affairs, Wild Horse Freedom Federation                

Copyright 2013 All Rights Reserved.

“The BLM also showed a video, but since a copy wasn’t included in the materials that were sent to me, for all we know, it could’ve been old episodes of “Mr. Ed.”


BLM’s Manipulation Training

Did you ever wonder what made Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Wild Horse & Burro Specialists so “special?” Was it because they had extensive training in equine sciences? Was it because they were range management specialists or biologists who took a BLM Wild Horse & Burro Program “training” class? Was it because they had a big shiny rodeo belt buckle?

After filing a Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA) for documents relating to the training the BLM gives to Wild Horse & Burro Specialists, I wasn’t too surprised to see that the classes that the BLM offered, in which you, the taxpayer, paid for BLM and USDA employees to attend, (probably their travel, hotel accommodations and food), taught them to regurgitate boilerplate wild horse & burro “gather” plans(to round up the wild horses), and reviewed 82 pages out of the BLM manual (couldn’t they just read that at their desk, back at the office?).

It also included litigation, the history of the program, fertility control, the training and adoption agreement with the Mustang Heritage Foundation, and hundreds of other pages that stressed BLM’s range management and policies. Many of the instructors had backgrounds primarily in range management.

But how many pages, out of about 1,000 pages, actually dealt with wild horse behavior or health?

Based on the materials that were sent to me in response to my FOIA request, in 2010, at a 5 day BLM training class, there was 1 page regarding wild horse social structure, and 1 page about the Henneke Body Conditioning Scoring System out of about 400 pages of materials.

In 2005, at a 4 day training class, only 3 ½ hours in a 4 day training class, and about 47 pages out of 600 pages, were on wild horse health and handling.

In that 2005 training class, Terry Hensley, a USDA/APHIS vet was allotted 2 hours to speak on Equine Health Care, and although many pages seem to be devoted to administrative procedures, there were 31 pages on anatomy and 4 pages on the Henneke Body Conditioning Scoring System.

Ron Hall spoke about hoof care for 20 minutes (6 pages on hoof care). Fran Ackley and Sharon Kipping spoke about Animal Handling for an hour (6 pages on animal handling). The BLM also showed a video, but since a copy wasn’t included in the materials that were sent to me, for all we know, it could’ve been old episodes of “Mr. Ed.”

After being rendered almost speechless that the BLM would teach so little about wild horse behavior and health in their Wild Horse & Burro Specialist training classes, and just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, the real corker popped up: “Wild Horse & Burro Public Relations,” presented by Heather Emmons and Don Smurthwaite.

This included over 40 pages teaching BLM & USDA employees how to manipulate the public, in case the pesky public thinks they have a right to ask questions and get answers. What did these 40 pages include (in bold italics below)?

“The Spin Dr. is in”…tells these government agency employees that their PR person
“Deals with angry, hostile people” (would this be the public?) who need to vent…And actually listens to them…”
“schmoozes with the media and public” so you don’t have to
“Represents BLM on Camera” so you don’t have to and
Makes you “look good” (Good luck with that.)

“Working with the Media & Public”
“Heather’s Rule #1- People accept ideas from people they like and reject ideas from people they dislike…so…be First Brain friendly!” (What is “First brain friendly?”)

They teach The ABC Method in this presentation:
A is for Answer or Acknowledge
Answer if you can, but don’t repeat a negative
If you can’t answer, give a reason why
B is for Bridge
Make a transition to one of your key messages
C is for Control
Take the next question or bridge to another key message

They then teach how to “build bridges,” by saying things like:
“…and that’s a key point, but there’s another important one
…but let’s not talk about yesterday, let’s talk about today,
…at the same time, let’s not forget about this…
…which brings me to a point I’m sure your readers/viewers want to know,
…but we’ve found most people want to know about…
…let me tell you about something we just learned today…
…but it’s too bad that so few people know that…
…we do know the actual numbers and they show…
…on the contrary…
…our position is…
…that’s one point of view, but let me give you another…
…the other point of that issue is…
…our view is…

The PR gurus advise the Wild Horse & Burro Specialists to Use the ABC method
Be prepared: know your audience
Stick to your messages
KISS, not technical (KISS means “Keep it simple, Stupid”)
Emphasize the positive
Use headlines, sound bites
Don’t focus on detractors
Keep your cool
Never go off the record
Be aware of body language

Know your audience – WII-FM (What’s in it for me?)
Be the expert
Don’t lie
Be clear about who you represent and don’t
Look the reporter in the eye
Don’t look at the camera
Expect dumb questions (Who do these people think they are?)
Don’t accuse anybody
Use gestures
Remember “live” microphones
Don’t apologize for bloopers, just go on.

Then, there was a special section on the Pryor Mountains, which Ginger Kathrens and the Cloud Foundation, Carol Walker, Deb Little and many other advocates, have championed.

Here’s what was stated (in italics) in this presentation:
“PRYOR MOUNTAIN GATHER (“gather” is BLM speak for “roundup”)

Stuff that stuck with me

The Basics
The gather started on September 2 and was completed in five days.
About 40 people from wild horse interest groups were on site the first day.
Most of them were vehemently opposed to the gather and adoption
Many of them said they were reporters, although they lacked credentials
The gather was successful. No injuries, no deaths, completed ahead of schedule

YOU Can Lead a Horse to Water but that
Doesn’t mean It will do What it Oughter

NBC was the major news organization covering the event.
A field producer was on hand four days before the gather began to prepare for the story.
In short, we set up the story well with the national media.
It didn’t turn out the way we hoped.” (Gee, I wonder what the national media saw that changed their minds after you “set up the story?”)
“Local reporters did much better.
Lesson Learned:
Sometimes, the story just doesn’t turn out” (Could this mean that the credentialed media didn’t buy their Public Relations bullshit?)
“Second Lesson Learned:  Take care of the locals”. (What do you suppose “take care of” means? Bribe them with a free lunch?)

“The Sky is not Blue.
Dirt ain’t Brown.
The Sun isn’t Yellow.
The stories we saw were amazing for their inaccuracy.” (This, from the agency that seems to think if they repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it.)
“Proud, fearless Cloud was reluctant to leave his band.” (Note the mocking attitude here)
See for yourself what happened:
 “The horses were fatigued and mistreated.”
(Apparently, the BLM PR person was unable to identify horses that were limping.)  

“If You Don’t Want to See it on Network News, Don’t Say It”
Count on cameras and microphones being on 24/7, even when you think you’re out of earshot.
Stick with your messages.” (This might be good advice for advocates to remember)

In what almost seems like paranoia, the PR people talk about “Ploys,” and assume that reporters might “interrupt, put words in their mouths, state lies for a reaction” or “ask for an off the record comment.”

The PR people train Wild Horse & Burro Specialists how to respond to any perceived “ploys.” Below, they present a perceived “Tactic” and then give your very special specialist a “Response” to give you or the media, including:

“Tactic Interrupts Response (Politely) “Please don’t interrupt. If you’ll let me finish my thoughts on this, I can answer your next question.”

Tactic Puts words in your mouth “so, what you’re really saying is…”
Response Don’t repeat the negative. “No, not at all. Let me clarify that point.”

Tactic States lies for your reaction
Response Don’t repeat the negative. “No, that’s not true. Here are the facts…”

Tactic Machine guns questions at you.
Response “You asked me four questions at once. Please, let’s take them one at a time.”
Best: Start with the question you want to answer.
Bridge: “The most important question is…”

Tactic Demands answers to questions you can’t answer.
Response Give a good reason why you can’t answer, and tell when you can answer.
“That’s proprietary information.” Or “It’s just too early to say…” Add, “I should have the information in a week or two…”

Tactic False premise, no-win “When did you stop cheating on your taxes?”
Response “That’s a loaded question. (Bridge) The real issue here is…”

Tactic Speculation “Assume for a minute that…”
Response “I’m not going to speculate on that. (Bridge) The actual situation is this…therefore…”

Tactic Negative entrapment “What’s the most serious problem you face in…?”
Response Don’t repeat the negative. “Nothing comes to mind…(Bridge) but let me tell you about some challenges we faced and overcame…”

So, while teaching very little about wild horse behavior, family band structure, or wild horse health to their “specialists,” the BLM has chosen, instead, to hone in on how to evade your questions.

It seems BLM has a shocking attitude of distain for the public, and apparently it’s so openly accepted that it’s even taught in classes. Even here, they’re told to expect “uneducated, annoying questions.” So, while you may think you’re having a conversation or dialogue with members of the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program, you’re most likely being controlled and manipulated. The BLM is staying on their message, and no matter what words they say, what they’re doing is “managing” the wild horses on our public lands to extinction.


To learn more:

Cloud snaking some of his mares, to try turn back and get his mares that BLM kept in the pens:

Foals limping at the Pryor Mountain roundup:

Crow Elder talking about the Pryor Mountain Roundup (Cloud Foundation)

The Pryor Mountain Roundup by Carol Walker:

“Rollin’ for the Wild Horses”

The Cloud Foundation at

Straight from the Horse’s Heart at

Wild Horse Freedom Federation at

Animals Angels