Earlier this week on the Glenn Woods radio show “Wake Up Wyoming” a Casperite called in to discuss their concerns about the treatment of wild horses by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

“The horses are put into, like, livestock pens shoulder-to-shoulder–they can’t move around. When they’re captured they’re supposed to be vaccinated and they’re not, so they’re getting all these flus and diseases. One mare had to be killed because she had this big abscess on her chest when they released her and she just wasn’t doing very well at all.”

The caller said “they [the BLM] interfere more than they need to in a lot of things”

“Why can’t they just capture them, sterilize half of them and give them their vaccines?”

Renee Taylor, a member of the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory board for eight years responded.

Taylor said the wild horse and burro advisory board advises the BLM on how to go about managing the horses with respect to research and information from the public.

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Taylor said, “...overall the horse program is tied up in its own knot because the wild horse advocates don’t want us to remove horses from the range.”

“The BLM is charged with multiple use management and they’re supposed to be looking at range conditions and wildlife and other resources and they also have a big grazing program…”

“BLM’s effort is to maintain the horses within the program management level, and those are set in the program and they’re determined every year by a survey with how many horses are out there, and then they try to manage to that level and remove the excess horses.”

“They have to go somewhere. In all reality those horses are gathered up, taken to temporary holding like Rock Springs, their condition is checked, and then they’re sent to an off-range facility–the off-range corral–after they’re freeze-branded, vaccinated.”

Taylor said, “The only ones that are ever killed are the ones that are in poor condition…occasionally horses are killed during roundup, not that often, but those are the only ones you hear about.”

Taylor explained that from there, the horses in the off pasture corrals go to training facilities in large part. “There’s another prison training program that helps the horses and the prisoners, and what they do is help gentle these horses so that people can adopt them.”

The Wyoming Honor Farm’s Wild Horse Program began in 1988. The program’s philosophy is that inmates working with horses learn that through respect and patience, even a wild animal will respond in a positive manner, according to their website.

The horses progress from round pen work to halter work, and finally into being saddled and ridden. Clinton Anderson’s training series is used as the main horse training system at the Wyoming Honor Farm’s Wild Horse Program.

Taylor said the “BLM holds adoption for these horses at various places in the country trying to get them out of the system and into private hands, but there are very very few relatively speaking that are ever adopted in the course of a year.”

As for the horses that are not adopted—-or even “unadoptable,”–they go to off-range pasture facilities.

Taylor said taxpayers are paying hundreds of millions of dollars a year to support this program, and the horses go to off-range pastures in places like Kansas and Oklahoma.

“Those pastures are heaven on earth for these horses. There’s no predators, they have excellent feed, they have lots of space, they get looked at and cared for if they have an issue, but there’s a limited amount of grass out there. We can’t just let them all go. There’s no control on their population. The Wyoming Horse and Burro Management veterinarian representative suggested numerous times various forms of sterilization but were shut down every time.”

The counter-argument comes from biologists and wild horse advocates like Robert C. Bauer who has earlier said, “The undying claims of the BLM are that it is, in its efforts, out to help maintain a thriving natural ecological balance. This is the motivation to justify its roundups of thousands of wild horses that it says are destroying the rangelands of the west. As a biologist, there is a specific response to these allegations that the public needs to take into consideration before swallowing these claims of the BLM.”

In 2014 Bauer said that despite BLM’s assertions that it is striving to maintain a thriving ecological balance, “its methods and the manner in which they are being carried out are anything but natural, nor do they bring about any balance.”

The National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board meets to make recommendations for the BLM to consider. You can find materials related to the most recent meetings of the Advisory Board as well as materials for upcoming meetings here.

The BLM offers wild horses and burros for adoption or purchase at events across the country throughout the year. There is a detailed event schedule on their website or you can call the Wild Horse and Burro Information Call Center at 866-468-7826 for the most updated information.

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