Author of The Wild Horse Conspiracy
This past September Author Craig C. Downer was in Las Vegas, Nevada to address the attendees at the International Equine Conference. The evening before the event, Brandi and Pennell of Animals’ Angels Inc. had the distinct pleasure of dining with him. A few days before I had asked Brandi to take along some questions to ask him because his work in the fields of ecology and wild horses, in fact, all equids, has been remarkable and a life-long study. Here’s what he had to say.
Anne: The Wild Horse Conspiracy is an intriguing title for your book and I’m looking forward to getting my own autographed copy to read. The back cover write-up reads beautifully and I think anyone with any environmental sense would immediately want to find out what you are talking about. Your viewpoint as an ecologist piques my inquisitive nature because like most people I want our planet to thrive. How long did it take you finally to compile your findings and present them to the public?
Craig: It took me four years to write and perfect The Wild Horse Conspiracy. The book considers both wild horses and burros and is a well-rounded treatise on these magnificent presences here on Earth: Their evolution and history, ecology, a plan for their restoration called Reserve Design, personal experiences, update and higher thoughts.
Since this is a convoluted subject involving a war of values going on in human society, there are new developments every day. Though my book is an expose of the dishonesty and maliciousness that have subverted the Wild Horses and Burros program and the WFHBA’s true intent, it is above all a positive book that stresses why the horses and burros do belong and what can and shall be done to restore the herds by following the principles of Reserve Design.
It includes my personal account of experiences with many herds throughout the West and with all the various human actors, both pro- and anti-wild horse and burro. These could lend themselves well to a dramatic film; and this is something I would, indeed, like to do in the near future in order to get the message out on a worldwide scale and effect the kind of positive, dynamic changes that need to occur.
Anne: I see you are also a poet having written Streams of the Soul. I understand the reason your words flow so well. Can you recount your favorite poem here?
Craig: Thank you for your compliments on my poetic side. I also have a musical side, which is very much related to my poetic side, and offer a musical CD called Wild Horse Rhapsody. This contains about ¾ of an hour of my original melodies played by a gifted pianist. I also play the piano and my mother, Alice, was a fine pianist who helped me progress over the years. The CD can be ordered from me and is a collection of 13 medleys, each of which expresses a particular facet of wild horse life and is given a corresponding title. I have also written much poetry over the years, including – as with my music – on that most inspiring of subjects: the wild horses. Here I present one of my poems about the wild horses that are found in my book Streams of the Soul, together with photo illustrations of these wonderful animals. By the way, my photo-illustrated, 341-page book can be ordered either directly from me or by visiting here. My wild horse book can be ordered at Amazon. On pages 138-9 of my poetry book (photos also in my wild horse book) appears a picture of “El Espanto”, a Medicine Hat Stallion and his band and my 1995 poem:
I write a poem
About the wild horse,
‘Cause there’s a lot of feeling here,
Albeit much long-suffering
And abuse by man – most gruesome!
… Yet, too, vast wide-open spaces,
And MANY lives lived out
With Grace and in Joyful Freedom!
‘Tis a saga of the Old West
— And I believe the New —
This story of the wild horse,
This enduring, wind-drinking
Runner of desert and plain,
As – Alas! – of very time!
His story is one with yours and mine.
May he reach far upon this Earth Plane!
For ‘tis a saga of what this Land is yet to be,
Of a Destiny yet unfulfilled,
When Man and Horse in Freedom live,
Once again with mutual Respect.
Anne: I am a true believer in destiny and things happening for a reason. When did your passion begin? Were you a child, a teenager? I read you grew up with your tall chestnut stallion, Poco, sharing many wonderful times together. What primarily increased your awareness of the wild animals and their habitual terrain?
Craig: I share your belief in destiny and a reason for what happens in life as well as the interrelatedness of all happenings and all lives. Since childhood I had a keen sensitivity to the natural world and fellow living beings. I was born with a sense of reverence for life and my empathy for animals. I could sense their moods and delighted when they were in good spirits, each fulfilling its unique and God-given purpose in life.
I loved to be out in the world of free nature and was born with an aversion to slavery and confinement of animals. I felt this was perverse and out of tune on the part of man and causing terrible problems on our shared planet Earth … not to allow each individual being to realize its own true place and role, but to have some warped and selfish confinement or unnatural molding imposed upon this individual or even its entire family or kind. I knew this to be wrong in my heart of hearts. So I was most happy when out in the free and natural life community, be this the forests of the Sierra Nevada or the deserts of the Great Basin. Some who knew me and of my belief that all living creatures should live freely in nature thought I was a reincarnated Native American. I will not hazard a guess, but I do believe in reincarnation and realize that every individual has many lives past and future, and that this is not just for humans but also for all species.
Anne: Can you share a short story of one of your Poco memories please?
Craig: Yes, I grew up with my ‘best friend’ Poco, a tall, rich chestnut horse with a white star on his forehead. We shared many fine adventures together. For example, we did the High Sierra Trail Ride from the Y at South Lake Tahoe over the High Sierra then down to “Hangtown”, the former name for Placerville. This was a very scenic trip and Poco and I actually won a trophy, 10th place, though I let Poco eat some grass while on the trail and even swim in a lake after one particularly hot and grueling day, contrary to the judges’ wishes.
I felt that Poco yearned to be free again out in the wide-open spaces and to be with his own kind. Whenever we met other horses, I would make sure that he had plenty of time to commune with them, be they short Shetlands or giant Drafts, with both he had a strong affinity, as with all fellow horses. This communication was something beautiful to observe. There was something mysterious about it. Once we heard a hair-raising scream while riding through a forested canyon in the mid-elevation Sierra Nevadas. This sounded like a woman being attacked, but was, in fact, a female puma. Boy! Did Poco every give me the ride of my life after this – clearing high mounds over 5’ and twice as broad and running full speed all the way home, about 5 miles. Instinctively he knew the life-threatening danger posed by a mountain lion.
Anne: Did you learn to speak Spanish and French in school or did someone teach you privately? Has knowing three languages helped you reaching out to the world during these times of getting the word out about how the ecology is in danger from the calculated removal of our native horses? Do you go abroad and speak or give lectures? Have you ever been interviewed on radio?
Craig: Yes, I am fluent in Spanish, having become so during my Peace Corps years in Colombia, where I served as a wildlife ecologist and did extensive inventories of the five vertebrate classes of species as well as some botanical and invertebrate inventories. I had to give talks and prepare reports in Spanish. I helped guide the formation of the natural resources department of the Cauca Valley Authority in western Colombia and helped establish national and local parks and nature reserves, doing ecological surveys therein and employing reserve design. It was in the Las Hermosas National Park that I first glimpsed the endangered mountain tapir, as a male-female pair right above the tree line in what is called the “paramo” with picturesque “frailejones”. My fluency in Spanish has served me well in later work to save this endangered species that occurs in about 20 places in the northern Andes. I have translated articles and speeches by colleagues.
It is quite stimulating to be multi-lingual. I also studied French both in high school and at the university and can read and write this well, though I would welcome the opportunity to immerse myself in a French-speaking community for a lengthy period in order to acquire verbal fluency. Yes, being fluent in Spanish and having a sound knowledge of French has allowed me to communicate to audiences near and far about the value of wild horses, the injustice of government officials’ and ranchers’ attacks against these and as concerns their return native status in North America, and many positive contributions to the ecosystem. Yes, I have given talks in foreign countries on the wild horses as well as the mountain tapirs, in English, but often in Spanish as well. In October 2012, I was in Finland and gave a series of talks at schools and universities both on wild horses and mountain tapirs.
Come back Thursday for Part Two …. to be continued …
- Advocates decry BLM’s wild horse roundups at meeting in SLC (rtfitchauthor.com)
- BLM Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board Member Endorses Horse Slaughter during Public Session (rtfitchauthor.com)
- Horse Advocates Schedule Press Conference in Salt Lake City, October 29, 2012 (wdneoh.wordpress.com)