Visiting the Onaqui Herd

After the first day at the roundup, a friend and I drove Onaqui Herd Management Areas to herd lands to see wild horses in their natural home. Having just witnessed the very difficult to watch roundup process, I was anxious to see wild horses at peace in their homelands and get a better understanding of just what they were leaving behind.

We drove 3-4 hours through beautiful, wild Utah, and I was amazed by the magnificence of it all. Despite the car almost getting stuck in the mud multiple times, I was on cloud nine. Everything took my breath away; from the low hanging, purple clouds to the frosted mountain tops and rolling golden fields – it was all spectacular. What a remarkable home these horses are born to inhabit.

What really got to me, perhaps even more than the gorgeous scenery, was how at peace I felt out in these wild lands. There was no cell service whatsoever, only a dirt road and 1 rest stop… and I felt at total peace. I was so happy.

This happiness took me off guard; it honestly felt a bit random. Just a few hours ago I had felt pretty devastated after seeing the roundup… and even now, I had no real “reason” to feel so elated. Yet driving on this dirt road in the middle of seemingly “no where”, I felt pure bliss… the pure peace that comes from reconnecting with the natural world… and it felt forgiven.
A thought dawned on me: perhaps deep down, some part of me sees “happiness” as doing… somehow our culture has ingrained in us that happiness is earned. In my head, I know happiness is found within… that we shouldn’t look to things outside ourselves to “make” us happy. Overall, I think of myself as a pretty happy person, yet maybe there is still something within me that believes I need to earn my happiness – that I need to be working on projects or that I need to be doing more or that I need to be “doing” in general in order to be happy…

Horses have taught me the value of time just “being”, but perhaps I have never quite fully understood the pure bliss that comes simply from reconnecting with my roots… the natural world. I am lucky enough to spend most of my waking hours outside due to my job, but there was something different and really special about being on these wild lands off the grid… something quite magical. It saddens and scares me deeply to think that we are destroying these wild habitats every single day…

In this busy culture, we value the “doers” – we value what makes a profit. It is deeply ingrained in us from an early age that to make a profit, to be “useful”, is to be a success. We disregard and even shame activities and people that aren’t profitable. Time spent outside – time spent in reflection – time reconnecting with who we are – these are some of our most valuable moments that we enjoy as humans. These moments shape us and give us clarity about who we are and who we want to be – but they don’t make a profit. So they aren’t valued in this culture, despite being vital to our well being and self-understanding.

These wild horses… they don’t make a profit. They are often treated like worthless trash and are being rounded off their land because of it. They aren’t lucrative, so they have no value in the eyes of many. However, just as we are fairly unaware of our human need for all that is natural and how we continue to kill our own and only earth, we fail to see that their value goes far beyond what money can buy; when we lose the wild horses, we lose a piece of ourselves. We lose beauty and strength – we lose community and family – we lose the unprofitable yet most vital things that make life truly worth living.
In a money driven culture, the parts of this world that give life meaning but make no profit are disregarded and even destroyed; so is the case with these wild horses, our planet, and our connection to the natural world.

On the other hand, cows… beef… that makes a nice profit.

So I guess it shouldn’t have surprise me when we went out into the Onaqui Herd lands and saw hundreds and hundreds of cattle… but only 1 horse. Herds of cattle crowded the lands, and we searched every herd for signs of horses, but no luck.

Finally after a few hours, we came across this man, and I was ecstatic to see a wild horse on his own “protected” herd’s land!

He was beautiful. There is something truly special about being in the presence of a wild horse. I felt totally enchanted watching him graze quietly. Such a striking stallion; he had a peaceful strength about him. We watched each other as I walked a little closer to him. Staying as present with him as possible, I took a few photos during our experience together. I caught his eyes, and we looked at each other for while. There is such raw beauty in wild horses… you can feel their vibrant spirit, even at a distance. It felt like a real honor to be in this horse’s presence.

We decided to extend our drive in hopes of finding even just a few more horses. Miles and miles away, we found 1 band of 7 or so horses. They were beautiful. When they saw us driving down the road, they immediately surrounded their one foal in a stance of protection. We obviously left them in peace and did not pursue the band, but it was really wonderful to see how much they care for their young. They are a true family, and even in this little moment we shared with them, that was very apparent.


On the way back home, we saw 100s of more cattle; sadly I was pretty focused on the horses and didn’t think to get many photos. Here’s just a bit of what we saw. It can give you an idea of what most of the herd lands looked like.

I hadn’t realized just how obvious the plight of the wild horses would be, but there is no denying what is so clearly in front of our eyes.