Friday, March 30, 2012

The Wild Horse "Problem"

I have to admit that before my trip to Nevada I was not aware of the scope and scale of the wild horse "problem". I had seen the horses on some of the ranges in Colorado and Wyoming and these vast ranges and the good health of the horses there lead me to believe that the ranges could support them without human intervention. While this may be true on some of the ranges what I saw in Nevada has changed my thinking. We hear so much about the wild horses on BLM lands that are rounded up and in the holding pens waiting for adoption (45,000-50,000 horses are in long and short term holding facilities at this moment with only a fraction of that number finding homes.)

But, there are horses other than the BLM wild horses in the west. There are Indian ponies that run on federal and state lands and could be classified as wild, and these days there are a growing number of horses that are being turned loose by owners no longer able to care for them and are left to fend for themselves. In addition, in Nevada there are what are termed the "estray" horses. These horses are not on BLM federal lands, but on state lands, and as many as 2,000 range in an area within 20 miles of the population center of Reno, with many other areas of Nevada also being home to wild horses on both state and federal lands. These horses are only "managed" when they start to become termed a nuisance and wander into territory that may have been theirs at one time but is now being developed by human beings. They may then be trapped and taken off the range, but there is no planned round up of these horses to keep their numbers so that the existing range can support them. While the BLM has never sent a horse to a sale where they may end up as meat on a hook, the horses on the state land do not enjoy this protection and when they are trapped out they could very possibly end up at a "killer" sale. While slaughter of horses no longer exists in the USA, horses are regularly shipped acorss the border to kill plants in Mexico and Canada.

The Nevada estray horses have a vast range but the factors of drought, loss of habitat and encroaching human development is taking it's toll. In addition local people have taken it upon themselves to feed these horses (which I believe is ILLEGAL) and now a group of as many as 100 horses wait on the edge of this development for their moring handout. While some of the younger horses in this group looked healthy I saw many many older mares (mostly pregnant) that looked extremely thin (starving). I have been disturbed by what I saw and I can say with confidence that this is going to get worse as the horses continue to grow in numbers while having less and less to eat. In my opinion, these horses do need to be managed. Is it more humane for a small group to thrive and be productive and healthy or for a large and growing group to slowly starve to death?

Look, I was only a visitor there for a few days, and I know there are groups to help the horses and I am not going to get into the BLM or slaughter debate with anyone. I don't claim to have all the facts, I am sharing what I saw and hope that for those of you that live far away from these ranges will learn from what I saw. Working for solutions rather than fanning the flames of controversy and propaganda against the BLM and the roundups is counter productive when we should be doing all we can to try to come up with viable solutions to help the horses. One thing you can do is support some of the great wild horse sanctuaries that take some of the horses from the holding facilities. With our support they can help more horses. I am sharing a list of reputable sanctuaries below. Get out to an adoption event and make room in your barn for a mustang or burro.

I have been thinking about this situation since my visit to Nevada and the horses in the holding pens will be something I will carry in my soul for the rest of my life. I hope that the BLM will work with the wild horse advocates and implement a policy of returning sterilized older horses to "zeroed" out Herd Management areas that can support these horses for the rest of their lives, and I also hope they will consider more humane methods to rounding up the horses. And I hope that the estray horses can be managed in such a way that the range can support their numbers, however I fear that their future looks bleak as long as people continue to encroach on their habitat and their numbers continue to grow.
My final wish is that as human beings we can do what is right for the horses.

Cimarron Sky Dog Sanctuary
Return to Freedom
Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary
Monero Mustangs

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