Tag Archives: wild horses

Wild Horses in Peril

Guest Post by Karen McLain

In June of 2009, I was on my way home from a workshop with Cowboy Artist of America, Jim C. Norton, when I first visited wild horses. It was the Onaqui herd, located west of the Salt Lake area in Utah.  As I began to paint them, I had no idea the profound impact they would have on my heart, and the important way they would change my painting. The first series I painted, “Among the Mustangs,” featured that Onaqui herd, and 10 days before I first exhibited them, 200 of those horses were rounded up.

Onaqui herd

Onaqui herd, Utah. ©Tribe Equus

History of Wild Horse Management 

At that time, I began to learn about the problems facing wild horses and see what solutions were being worked on. In 1971, the Wild Horse and Burro Act was passed and the BLM and Forest Service were mandated to manage wild horses where they existed on the range lands at that time.

KarenMcLain-Stallion Bunch

Stallion Bunch. ©Karen Mclain

During the past several years Herd Management Areas have been zeroed out, (or vastly reduced, threatening the genetic viability of the herd), and the horses taken to Long Term Holding. Currently, there are more horses in Long Term Holding facilities than are living wild on the range.

In 2011 the National Academy of Science (NAS) did an independent study of BLM management practices and the wild horse program. The findings of that study were recently published and brought before the BLM Advisory Board. It is imperative that the BLM follow the recommendations of the NAS study for a science based and consistent, humane management approach.

Current Needs of Wild Horses  

KarenMcLain-Mare foal

Mare and Foal. ©Karen McLain

My hope is for more on-range management with accurate (not over reported), numbers of wild horses and low stress removal as needed. I also would like to see the continued use of PZP, a vaccine that blocks fertilization. The other aspect that is vital is the collaboration of community partnerships—onsite projects, waterholes, trash clean up, herd monitoring—as well as giving the land a break from multi-use (cattle and sheep grazing) in primarily Wild Horse designated areas.

KarenMcLain-Apache sparr

Apache Sparr. ©Karen McLain

For further information see:

Wyoming RemovalsThe Peril of Cloud’s Famous Herd“Why Wild Horses”,

“Why Wild Horses” by Carol Walker, National Academy of SciencesFacts to Consider

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Karen McLain

Karen McLain Videos






Painting Wild Horses





Painting Wild Horses

Guest Post by Karen McLain

The summer of 2013 I took my fourth solo trip to paint wild horses. My travels took me to the Upper and Lower Little Book Cliffs, the Sand Wash Basin in Colorado, and McCullough Peaks and the Pryor Mountain herd areas in Wyoming. My schedule fell into a routine of being up before dawn, locating horses, hiking out to them, (sometimes that was further than other times), painting and photographing during the daylight hours and heading back to my campsite in the evening. This process focused my attention and thoughts in the present and resulted in a wonderful time of learning in addition to adding to an already large body of work.

Karen McLain-Sunset Ridge

Sunset Ridge, ©Karen McLain

Spending time with wild horses changed me. I felt like I was a voyeur to something sacred, almost forgotten. I want to express the beauty, power and bonds that I see manifest in wild horses. The freedom, risk and challenge that are inherent in living wild in nature is reflected in my process of painting from life. My work is not solely a painting of a horse, but a reflected communication of their experience and our journey.

Karen McLain-Run with the Moon

Run with the Moon, ©Karen McLain

In addition to the experience of painting the landscape from life, I find painting horses from life to be not only challenging but vital to the life that I put into studio paintings. When painting a landscape from life, we don’t need to worry about the landscape moving (only the sun moving), when painting a human from life, we can pose the model, when painting a domestic horse from life, we can tie them to a hitching post, but painting a wild horse from life has none of those constraints.

Somehow, the lack of those constraints symbolizes the freedom of wild horses. That energy, freedom and life is part of what I put into those studies.

Karen McLain-Sound of Freedom

Sound of Freedom, ©Karen McLain

Freedom is the essence of wild horses. There is something fundamentally pure and powerful in that. The feeling of being renewed, the sense of adventure and peaceful unity is what I want to pass on.

Karen McLain-Moonlight Drink

Moonlight Drink, ©Karen McLain

Karen McLain is an Arizona native whose paintings are collected across the U.S. Her oil paintings evoke the essence and beauty of the horse and landscape. The special magic of Karen’s work is communicated through the connection between horsemanship and painting. Expressing elements of harmony, balance, timing and feel as they relate not only to painting but to the heart of the horse is a goal she brings to every painting.

Karen McLain-Love and Light

Love and Light, ©Karen McLain

For more information contact Karen or call 480-720-2582.