The agency has failed over and over, wasting time on think tanks, challenge concepts and meetings that go nowhere instead of directing resources toward actually managing land, water and habitat on the range and building a robust volunteer effort to help with critical projects benefiting wild horses and other wildlife.” BLM has been close to its Appropriate Management Level before, but the agency balked at using fertility control despite ample evidence that it was safe and effective.
The number of wild horses on the range stood within 1,071 animals of BLM’s own population goal in 2007, yet, even then, the agency chose not to aggressively implement fertility control. “A balance must be struck between ranching and mining interests and wild horses and other wildlife as part of a fair interpretation of BLM’s multiple-use mandate on the range,” said Demand.
It is time to stop treating America’s wild horses and burros like an unwanted invasive species and start becoming real stewards by using the safe, proven and humane tools available, in keeping with the spirit of the Act and the will of the public.” As of August, the agency reported that 44,640 captured wild horses and burros were living in off-range facilities, including 32,146 on leased pastures referred to as long-term holding.
She joined the others on the board in voting to recommend that BLM increase its funding of reversible fertility control to $3 million by fiscal year 2019, up from about $100,000 in 2017. In September 2016, the advisory board voted to recommend destroying captive wild horses and removing all restrictions to their sale, which would allow buyers to purchase them on the cheap and transport them to Canada or Mexico for slaughter.
Human voices were muted and a new hydraulic chute minimized the clanging and whinnying sounds of frightened horses in close captivity. By afternoon, stock trailers were loaded with the first of the 100 or so wild horses that will forever leave the park and be sold Saturday at Wishes Livestock.
The auction’s already attracted some serious money to buy and transport three dozen or so of the horses to an East Coast Legacy Mustang sanctuary, and hopefully prevent any from going to a slaughter barn. The park hopes to avoid future roundups, or minimize them, by continuing a contraceptive vaccine program that started that same year.
Few people spend as much time with the wild horses as she does, naming them and keeping track of their lineage. The idea is to help educate buyers about the skills and patience needed to train wild horses, or find others willing to donate money to keep them from being slaughtered in Mexico or Canada.
Legally, there are only supposed to be 27,000 wild horses and burros for “thriving natural ecological balance” in the area in which 75,000 now roam. There are another 45,000 in government holding pens, gathered to prevent overgrazing, that are costing the agency nearly $50 million annually.
The Bureau of Land Management is caught in gridlock of lawsuits filed by a variety of interest groups that has hindered the agency’s ability to take action, including administering fertility control on wild horses. The most widely used wild horse fertility control is POP, Porcine Zone Pellucid, which TJ Holmes uses in Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area in southwest Colorado.
Successful POP programs are typically smaller herd areas with easily identified horses and passionate local volunteers. Theoretically, this would work, but it would require tens of thousands of horses to be rounded annually, hundreds of volunteers would have to be certified in POP, and millions of more dollars would have to be allocated by Congress to the BLM.
POP fertility control is currently administered to fewer than 1 percent of the wild horses and burros annually. Although the BLM annually spends more than $6 million in adoption expenses, they’re competing in an extremely saturated horse market with untouched wild mustangs that can be dangerous or otherwise undesirable.
This well-intended but restricting red tape makes it difficult for trainers to have turnover of horses and the rural horse-owning demographic typically doesn’t like the federal government to control the livestock on their land. Although the Wild Horse and Burro Act explicitly states the Secretary shall cause additional excess wild free-roaming horses and burros for which an adoption demand by qualified individuals does not exist to be destroyed in the most humane and cost-efficient manner possible,” in 2016 the BLM released an official statement saying they have not and will not euthanize healthy horses.
The majority of wild horses that enter into the BLM captivity system of living in feedlots and holding pastures will eventually be euthanized in their old age, after they’ve accrued the cost of $50,000 per individual. Because the USDA stopped inspection funding for domestic horse slaughter, they would have to be transported to either Canada or Mexico.
The transportation to foreign slaughterhouses can take days, and horses, which are prey animals with a strong flight instinct, are inherently difficult to kill and process. Selling wild horses and burros in holding pens without stipulation is not currently an option being considered by the BLM.
Nationally, the 75,000 wild horses and burros on BLM herd management areas will utilize about 900,000 Animal Unit Monthly (AUM's) of forage in 2017. In 2013, the most recent year I could obtain data, livestock operators were allocated 1.1 million AUM's on the same lands as occupied by horses.
Even if the land size for wild horses was tripled, and they were allocated 100 million acres, within a few decades they would reach capacity on the expanded range and the problem would still exist, just in a much larger state. As of August 2016, there were 12,430 wild horses and 1,081 burros in short-term feedlot-style holding corrals, another 31,588 horses in long term pastures, and 562 in subsidized eco-sanctuaries.
The possibility exists for Congress to allocate a larger budget for holding pens that would allow the BLM to gather excess horses to alleviate pressure on the range. Most people don’t consider this a valid option because the BLM logistically can’t find enough places to put the horses in long term pastures, and even if they did find pastures for an additional 10,000 horses each year, that only keeps up with the current population growth in the wild.
Most big game populations in North America are controlled by predators, hunting permits, and culling. For example, elk in Yellowstone National Park were causing ecological damage prior to the reintroduction of wolves.
Bison in Yellowstone, on the other hand, don’t have enough predation by wolves, can’t migrate out of the park, and are culled to control population sizes with meat going to Native American tribes. Over the past 250 years in the American West, humans have created conditions of island biogeography for large herbivores and subjected them to a boom- and-bust cycle.
A New York Times article shows that the BLM was in a similar state of emergency in 1991, only back then it was smaller and more manageable. The 400,000-acre Nevada Wild Horse Range located in the Ellis Air Force Base had been ignored for decades.
“The Indian rice grass and tall Shad scale that should nourish the horses is long gone, replaced by inedible rabbit brush and noxious weeds. And in the case of the BLM, it has never allowed natural regulation to truly occur because public outcry forces them to conduct emergency gathers.
The BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program is on an unsustainable path that seems to be at or leading to natural regulation, potential starvation, and destruction of public land. Although I’m on the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board and have studied the issue closely for the past six years, I’ve never seen the 15-year plan for the BLM to get the program back on a sustainable track.
Under the Trump administration, Ryan Zine was appointed to be the Secretary of the Interior and Neil Bronze is no longer the director of the BLM. In today's world there is a veritable plethora of “complete” feeds available on the market. They promise to fulfill all of your horse's nutritional desires at a variety of prices.
These “complete feeds” are intended to give horse owners an easy out where nutrition is concerned. With his metabolic disorder, EPSM (equine polysaccharide storage myopathy) his diet had to be kept under tight control much like a child with diabetes.
In learning how to care for Gideon's health challenges, I have discovered that the diet he survived on is of great benefit to ALL horses. In our world of chemically laden bagged feeds, we forget that weight is not an indicator of the health of our horses (or dogs).
If this were true, then every overweight person in a fast food restaurant would be considered healthy too! Sadly the consequences of these depletion may not show up for possibly many years in the form of arthritis, weak bones, lowered immune system and overall ill health.
The natural diet of the horse is pasture grass and tender plants. Pasture grass isn't necessarily the problem, the type of horses we've developed and the lack of exercise are.
Those of us with easy keepers need to limit the amount of fresh grass our horses have access to. For the horse that is a hard keeper, however, good pasture provides the best nutrition.
It helps to have hay tested so that any shortfalls in vitamins and minerals can be compensated for with supplements. Thomas Shampoo / Getty Images Oats are a traditional grain fed to horses.
The seed head of grasses would be the closest thing a wild horse would come to eating grains in their natural environment. Grains that are grown, harvested and processed as we do now, are not natural foods for horses.
Grain also doesn't require the chewing time or contain the silica grass does and this can contribute to things like ulcers and dental problems. Concentrates are usually a mixture of things like grains, flaxseed, beet pulp, molasses for energy and flavor, bran, vitamins and minerals, and other ingredients.
Concentrate mixes, like grain, help make up for any shortfall in nutrition and provide a quick source of energy. Supplements such as salt and minerals may be included in a concentrate mix or may be offered separately.
Some people offer free-choice minerals as well, or it can be added into the horse's grain or concentrate meal. Many people find that salt is consumed more during the summer months than in the colder weather.
These tidbits may include things like apples, carrots or other favorite fruits or vegetables, handfuls of grain, sugar cubes or candies, or sometimes odd things like a bite of a hot dog or boiled egg. However, it may not be advisable to feed horses meat or too many sugary treats, including fruit.
Of course, a horse won't make the connection to the hamburger they ate an hour ago and the discomfort they're having now, so they'll probably eat any food they like over and over again. Treats need to be considered as part of the overall feeding plan and kept to a minimum if your horse needs to watch its weight.
A horse eating pasture grass probably won't drink as much water as one on a hay only diet. Don't be tempted to throw lawn clippings, garden refuse or compo stables over the fence.