Running Free: Why Horses Are Good For Wilderness

running free - black horse

Photo: courtesy Laura Simpson; wild black stallion at a full run (copyright 2014)

Few people could disagree that the wild horses of America represent the true strength and freedom that made America great. Frankly, what has an eagle ever done to help man? Today, we thrive on the legacy of their past service to mankind, and most people have completely forgotten this very important fact; we built America off the backs of horses. They carried men and cargo across the country; a horse carried Paul Revere as he warned the township of a pending attack, and horses have carried men and equipment into battle world-wide. In the early days, horses were part of fire departments and drew the wagon-wheeled fire trucks through the streets of early cities.

The horse is largely responsible for the early growth and development of America from the very earliest days of the Colonies up and until the early 1900s, when Henry Ford was able to productionize his automobiles and trucks. After that the horse took a back seat as the main form of personal and work transportation and was relegated mostly to use on farms and ranches.

As far as my own experience with horses: I spent my formative years growing-up on a working ranch in the Applegate Valley (Southern Oregon), where we used horses to help us manage our livestock (polled Hereford cattle and sheep). In the 19060’s and 70’s we didn’t have ‘Quads’ like the cowboys today… our horses were important to our livelihoods… they took us hunting and fishing, helped us haul tools and fencing, and many other chores. I understand what ranching is all about. I also have some experience with wild horses and my wife and I currently have several herds that visit our ranch. Personally, I am happy to have them grazing-down the dry grasses that are fuel for wildfires on our land… that was especially true when the Gulch Fire was blazing just a couple miles from our land. Horses will graze tight to the ground and will graze areas that cows will not (in the rocky areas and on really steep slopes).

So question is: what would happen if the unspeakable should occur and as a result of some cataclysmic disaster we suffered a major loss of the transportation infrastructure (roads and bridges susceptible to massive earthquake) or even worse, the national electrical grid, which in turn would shut down everything, including all of the oil and gas refineries… then what?

This scenario is not so far-fetched as some uninformed readers may believe. In fact, our own government is so worried about it that they commissioned a highly detailed and expensive study using some of the world’s best engineers and scientists to determine if such a risk exists, and how devastating the effects would be.

In addition to several other nations, the United States has seriously contemplated the effects and possible responses to the complete failure of the national electrical grid, as is evidenced by a 2004 Congressional study entitled; “Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack”. Here is a link to the Congressional proceedings:

The bottom line is that there is a consensus among credible experts that a terrorist cyber-attack, severe geomagnetic storm or discharge of a high altitude electromagnetic pulse weapon over the U.S. would likely result in the catastrophic failure of a large part or the entire national electrical grid (AKA: ’grid-down‘). This event would, for all intents and purposes, thrust America back into pre-industrial revolution status, possibly for months or years.

More on this subject here: ;


If you took the time to read the foregoing reports (at the links) you now know that this scenario is not some far-fetched sci-fi thriller, but a legitimate potential reality in our life-times. Added to which, the West Coast’s modern infrastructure has never seen the likes of a magnitude 9-10 earthquake, and that alone could create more widespread damage and chaos than is imaginable! This would include the loss of hundreds of bridges and roads (making transportation by car or truck impossible in many areas), along with power-lines and other key infrastructure (no power = no fuel).

So what can anyone do?

There are many ways to prepare for such a potentiality and among those preparations (which I cover in other articles:, having a horse or three is one way to have a dependable form of transportation and also a way to get work done in a post-disaster situation when roads and bridges are impassable, even if you had some fuel for your rig. Just as it was back before the automobile, a horse can get the job done.

In days gone by, cowboys would round-up some of the wild horses and saddle break them, thereby providing useful working horses. This can still be done today as needed, and is still done today with some of the adopted wild horses (yes, you can adopt a solid horse for a very modest fee; learn more here: and here: ).

But wait… what if there are no wild horses left? 

Well, with less than adequate numbers of domestic horses around today to serve all the needs during a large scale disaster, having low, or no reserves of wild horses could be a problem. Especially since the herds of wild horses that were once plentiful in the U.S. and now declining. It seems that the BLM has taken it upon itself (once again) to play God and decide to round-up wild horses and many have mysteriously gone missing, and there are rumors they are being sold for slaughter (this is down-right unacceptable).


running free - 2 wild horses

Photo: Wild Horses - courtesy of Laura Simpson (copyright 2014)

Some people may ask; why the heck would they do that when the Federal Government already owns or controls about 75% of all the lands west of the Rocky Mountains where these horses once roamed freely and could easily continue to do so?

Well, the Rule of Thumb is; there must be big money in it for someone (certainly not the American taxpayer)… as with all things of this ilk. And there are horrific rumors of these majestic wild horses being sold to meat markets!

Having grown-up on a working ranch where we used horses (as opposed to the quads and other motorized vehicles that many ranchers and farmers use today) to work and run cattle, I think the loss of this important resource (horses that we may need again in the future) through mismanagement is a big mistake.

History teaches us an important lesson: horses were critical before the advent of fuel powered autos and trucks, and in a catastrophic situation, they may once again become the foundation of travel and work on farms and ranches… if there are any wild horses left, and enough to go around to those who need them.

running free - 2 wild stallions Photo: Wild stallions Northern CA. - courtesy Laura Simpson (copyright 2014)

It may not be a bad idea to continue to ensure that these majestic and beautiful animals be allowed to maintain their existence unmolested on public and free-range lands, so if the day ever did come, we would have the option to re-enlist their help. And that day may be just around the corner! Scientists have predicted that the magnitude 9-10 earthquake could come tomorrow or 30 years from tomorrow.

Just a thought from someone who has harnessed the strength of a horse to skid and haul lumber, build fences and haul supplies to the ranch, among many other chores.

Cheers! Capt. Bill
Capt. William E. Simpson – USMM

NOTE: The photos used in this story and many others are available at reasonable prices in high-resolution suitable for gallery prints; funds received are used to help support herds of wild horses in Northern California. Please contact Capt. Bill via his website ( for more details.

About the Author:


Capt. William E. Simpson II is a U.S. Merchant Marine Officer with decades of boating and expedition sailing experience, having logged more than 150,000 miles at sea. Capt. Simpson has successfully survived long-term ‘off the grid’ at sea and at remote uninhabited desert islands with his family ...


Emergency Preparedness, Most Popular, Prepping, Survival Skills


wild horses, infrastructure, horses, alternative forms of transportation

One thought on “Running Free: Why Horses Are Good For Wilderness”

  • Alex Howe

    I have grandparents that own a ranch with 5 or 6 horses that roam freely within the 1,000 or so acres of land they own. So they are not quite wild horses as they are cared for medically if need be. I just thought it was interesting to read this article as i was just thinking about how helpful those horses would be in a grid down situation.
    Thank you for all of the good information.

    P.S. Paul Revere was in jail the night of his "famous ride" as he had been caught out past curfew and put in a holding cell. Another rider actually completed the journey warning everyone of the British Army's movements. Paul Revere was also supposed to make the ride that night and since he was a well known figure the story has stuck ever since with him as the rider and messenger.

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