Saturday, June 18, 2011


  •  MUSTANGS FACE THEIR FIRST "NON-REPRODUCING HERDS" AS THIS YEAR WE CELEBRATE THE 40TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE PASSAGE OF THE WILD FREE-ROAMING HORSE AND BURRO ACT OF 1971 BY A UNANIMOUS CONGRESS.  I can think of better ways to celebrate.    Can you imagine?  Those people (Congress) were serious about protecting these animals.  And so are we.  
           BLM WYOMING WAS JUST ITCHING to create the first nonreproducing herds, a concept I first saw in a FOIA'd (obtained by citizens through the Freedom Of  Information Act)  BLM document from October 2008.
           Dr. Pat Haight of the Conquistador Equine Rescue and Advocacy Program (CERAP) had uncovered, via this document, a chilling plan by BLM to kill many thousands of healthy horses in holding and call it "euthanasia," as well as the internal notes taken by Lili Thomas, the "Implementation Team" leader, of the multiple conference calls the "team" had which ultimately led to the document.  I find Lili Thomas's "Implementation Team Conference Call" notes to be the most telling (click on the link to view the document).   
             It is an internal BLM document entitled,  Alternative Management Optionsand we are now seeing more and more of the disturbing "options" carried out by the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service.  Please click on this link to see BLM's Final Solution for the Wild Horses and BurrosAttorney Laura Allen's analysis of this very troubling document.  You can see Dr. Haight's helpful summary of this document, also, for an overview of its contents.
             I notice John Neill was to, among other things, "talk with Nevada on how they can justify zeroing out a herd, but are able to maintain a nonreproductive herd."  He will also determine "what this will buy the program, how many horses would be on these areas and how does this help?"
           Congress needs to read these documents.  
              I do not like making extremist-sounding statements, but speaking truthfully, it seems these agencies charged to protect and manage wild horses and burros will do nearly anything rather than allowing the wild, free-roaming horses and burros to remain wild and free roaming as the — guess what — Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971 mandated.

           Specifically, in the years following that 2008 document, we have been seeing:
Cattoor pilot heavily pressures straggling, very pregnant mare who 
couldn't keep up and fell behind her band.  Her yearling son stayed with her.
  • practices of increasingly large helicopter roundups of increasing numbers of wild horses;
  • increased use of still-experimental infertility drugs; 
  • intentional sex skewing of the herds — with no scientific study as to consequences —  so that the ratio of stallions to mares is 60% stallions to 40% mares; 
  • increasing Catch/Treat/Release roundups which sound good on the surface but which actually decimate every band rounded up since BLM breaks up each band, making no effort to keep the bands intact, a simple process that would greatly help ease roundup stress, reduce injuries, and be the humane thing to do;
  • and now the plan to create totally experimental nonreproducing herds with no research to rely on,
all purportedly to "maintain a thriving ecological balance" for "multiple use" purposes.
          However, when we see a mining interest "multiple user" toxifying far more groundwater in the Herd Management Areas in one month than 10,000 wild horses could drink in a year; and we realize thousands of cattle and sheep, outnumbering wild horses and burros by five to one in the Herd Management Areas, are devouring over half the vegetation, then the light dawns and the BLM mantra of removing these animals "to maintain a thriving ecological balance" and "multiple use" rings hollow, and BLM loses virtually all credibility.
           These constant roundups, skewing gender ratios, creating public lands zoos with sterile wild horse herds, are all practices antithetical to the nature of the wild horses.  With no prior research, the Wyoming plan to create nonreproducing herds turns the entire HMAs into giant Petri dish experiments whose repercussions are likely to impact individual horses as well as the band and herd severely.  
            When I saw Wyoming BLM's decision to proceed with creating the two sterile, nonreproducing herds, which meant introducing the dangerous, ill-advised practice of sterilizing wild mares through hysterectomy or ovariectomy, I recalled three things:
           1)   A conversation I had in September 2010 with Paul Steblein, Director of the Sheldon-Hart National Wildlife Refuge, wherein I learned about their sickening experimental hysterectomies through the anus on wild horses in that beautiful refuge, a practice I've not heard used or even mentioned anywhere else; (remember, they are not under BLM jurisdiction);
           2)  Dr. Al Kane's March 10 "Research Update" presentation to the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board wherein he spoke of the various infertility experiments taking place and planned.
           3)  The FOIA'd internal BLM document, Alternative Management Options and Lili Thomas's "Implementation Team Conference Call" notes of the meetings which were the basis for it.
           IN TERMS OF HYSTERECTOMY, intrinsic to BLM's goal of nonreproducing herds, here is a video I put together from Dr. Kane's March 10 presentation to the Advisory Board.

               In a response to the myriad calls and letters pouring in to BLM officials by people objecting to its decision for nonreproducing herds, BLM Wyoming announced it is reconsidering these planned "nonreproducing herds," and they have temporarily withdrawn the "nonreproducing herd" plan.  Congratulations to BLM Wyoming for their responsiveness.
              However, Wyoming has the same language and is still considering the "nonreproducing herd" plan as a viable option for the Great Divide Basin HMA.  Comments are due on this on Monday,    June 20.  It is vital that we voice our consternation about this plan.
            The "nonreproducing herd" concept is so unnatural, so contrary to the core of who wild horses are, it is virtually certain to be illegal since it flies in the face of the spirit of the 1971 Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act which states:
...they are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands.
            Yet they are treated as unnatural, made to be incidental, their family-life-centered society considered expendable and irrelevant to the life of the mountains where they live.  No, I think BLM had best prepare to scrap the nonreproducing herd idea.  It tortures wild horse society beyond recognizability, creating Salazoos on public land, which is clearly not why Congress took the time to craft the 1971 Act.
           FINALLY, as I mention in the video, Sheldon-Hart Wildlife Refuge Director Paul Steblein told me Fish and Wildlife Service did experimental hysterectomies through the anus on (CORRECTION) 30 wild mares, something I have never before heard of.  When Dr. Kane refers to the Sheldon study, he talks about colpotomy (or culpotomy) and states it's an approach through the vagina.  So which is it they are planning to study?  Which are they planning to do?  
             Paul Steblein said they had a 10 percent death rate which was reduced after they had "perfected" the procedure.
             He said they released the mares quickly, usually within two days, to avoid exposing the horses to illnesses which often occur when horses are kept in large groups. This early release precludes the followup which prudent veterinary care — and certainly which any study worth its salt — would seem to require.  I understand dealing with wild populations presents challenges, but two days?
             I note that according to the FOIA'd notes obtained by Dr. Pat Haight re the 2008 BLM internal meetings,  Dr. Sanford, the vet at Broken Arrow for the Calico horses, spayed about 12 mares in the early 90s, and there was a 30-day to six-week recovery period.
             I am researching to learn which approach the research team plans is studying/plans to study and plans to use.  This is over the top...   Thus far, I know we have the following concerns:
             Failure to adequately track the horses to learn of the efficacy of the practice isn't acceptable;
             Failure to administer post-surgery antibiotics endangers the lives of every horse.
             BLM is smart to call for a re-think on its Wyoming plans.  They were about to step in it up to their hips.
                             Twin Peaks Mare and Yearling (Same family as above)

              Dr. Kane referred throughout his presentation to the "hysterectomy"; nevertheless, I do not believe he means"hysterectomy" since that literally means removal of the uterus.  He appears to be describing ovariectomy, removal of the ovaries. 
             Notice Dr. Kane's presentation is entitled, Study of Feasibility of Spaying Mares (emphasis added)?  Now, this presentation was March 10, 2011, only three months ago.  
            How did they leap from the beginning stages of research, a study with "only short-term post operative monitoring," to full, on-the-range implementation of these experimental procedures in two HMAs in Wyoming? 
              Only short term post operative monitoring was glossed over.  This means in the Sheldon and other studies, they haven't followed the mares and don't know how they fared. 
              Please note that no provision has been made to examine population growth in these studies.  They haven't progressed beyond the procedure itself.  Chairwoman Robin Lohnes made a point of this, as well, saying basically, "isn't population growth the issue here?"
              I also note the last item, that as of then (March 10, 2011), there was no determination yet of how, when, or where the studies would be done.  
              Dr. Kane glossed over the troubling overhead text which stated:
BLM has reviewed proposal to test safety of spaying WH mares... to examine safety during early, mid, late gestation. 
             First, how are they proposing to "examine the safety" during gestation? Remove the ovaries of mares in various stages of pregnancy and see what happens?  See if they abort?    Imagine removing a woman's ovaries while she is carrying a child.
             Will they provide post operative pain medication for these horses?
             What horses will they experiment on?  How will they be selected?  What is the aftercare they will be given?  Will they be kept with other horses?
             Who will perform the procedures?
             Where will these procedures be done?
             What procedure will be used?  
             Are they considering doing the through-the-anus procedure Paul Steblein described to me?
             Are we in fact talking ovariectomy?  Either way, these are pregnant wild mares we are talking about stressing.  I will be looking into the details.
Beautiful Twin Peaks family in idyllic HMA, but where are all the other horses?  Very few remain on this California HMA full of cattle and sheep.
             People sometimes suggest, "Why don't they just geld all the stallions, or geld most of them to effect population control?"  People are tempted down this road because gelding is so common and accepted, but this approach reminds me of someone who lost their keys in an unlit parking lot but searches for them under the streetlight on the corner because they could see better.  Sure, it's easier, but it doesn't come close to getting the job done.
               Gelding the stallions to decrease population growth yet maintain a healthy, viable, self-sustaining wild horse population on public lands is a fallacy.  
               In terms of "population control," the first and most obvious problem with this is all this accomplishes is severely depleting the gene pool, setting up what was a healthy wild horse herd to become rapidly inbred and inviable.  You've got fewer studs spreading their seed around.  Studs will find mares in estrus.  Some "gelded studs" (an oxymoron; what do you call "band stallions" who are no longer stallions?) will fight them off to protect mares, but behaviorally we can't assume they will continue to behave as they do in their wild, free roaming ungelded populations Congress meant to protect. — which brings me to the heart of the matter:
              GELDING STALLIONS AND PUTTING THEM BACK ON THE RANGE, THEY ARE NO LONGER "WILD HORSES." "NONREPRODUCING HERDS" ARE NO LONGER WILD HORSES.   As I wrote in my comments to Wyoming BLM objecting to the Great Divide Basin Herd Roundup:
                       Additionally, your Alternative D, a "nonreproducing herd," should be removed from all consideration, as well as any thought of gelding large segments of the male population and returning them to the range, or surgically altering mares. This creates a zoo on the public lands. It is grossly invasive of the nature and physiology of these wild, highly social animals and in no comprehensible way meets the "minimal feasible level" of management required by law since they will no longer be "wild horses" in any recognizable sense.
                       When any reasonable person stops to consider, we recognize that when people go to see wild horses, we are inspired and greatly moved by their family relationships: By the activity of the stallions in winning and protecting their mares, by the devoted attention mares give to their young, and by the stallions' participation in raising their offspring. 
                        While the grace and beauty of wild horses in the wild is moving, it is these familial relationships combined with their beauty that sets them apart from all other western wildlife species, and what BLM is proposing is utterly beyond any acceptable management practice.
                        Adding to that the fact that no one knows what effects these practices will have on individuals or bands or herds, Alternative D — non-reproducing herds — in any aspect should be immediately taken off the table entirely, yet BLM proposes to impose these completely alien conditions on entire wild horse populations.
                These approaches are neanderthal and display a mind boggling lack of finesse and respect for the scientific process, for the nature of wild horse society, and for the law since BLM is thumbing its nose at Congress's mandate to protect their wild, free roaming populations.
Halcyon, daughter of Red Raven and Blue Sioux (background) nurses her four-day-old daughter 
                To be continued...
For the wild horses remaining wild and free roaming with their humble burro friends,
Elyse Gardner


  1. Excellent! Keep up the good work and get this out there, gal!

  2. I really like the thorough-going examination of exactly what is going on with the BLM as far as their Frankensteinian plans for the wild horses! This deserves exposure to the light of day and reform. There needs to be a more natural approach and a greater giving of forage and water and land to the wild horses and burros, not more cruel manipulation. We need to look seriously at Reserve Design for naturally self stabilizing populations.

  3. Excellent article. We have so many unanswered questions. We must keep as many bands of wild horses in tact. The BLM does not seem to care about this. We must have accountability for the ones that have been taken and moved into different bands. No one is thinking about the reproductive opportunity to keep a few wild herds intact. We must continue to present the research and have knowledgeable professional vets in the filed to monitor our herds. The government is doing a very poor job in management of our herds. It is going to take a lot of us working and helping our horses that have been broken to somehow protect the family bands we have left. We must protect them and not have them sterilized or we will loose them forever. We need to implement the constructive land management design for eco sanctuaries for our horses. Design the land to provide for them to go back and live in harmony with nature. Give them the right water sources and place the proper grass and plants in order for them to survive. We can do this. As horticulturalists and animal lovers I/we as professionals can do this privately. We need billionaires to support our plans. Great tax write offs and stimulate good design and shelter for our horses, summer and winter. As we do for our feral cats outside, horses will need more attention but we can build the right shelter and feed them the right stuff so they can survive. I want to plan eco sanctuaries. That is what I plan to do in the near future. Anyone who wants to come on board with me contact me. I have some incredible ideas. Get a think tank together and lets do it now. Time is of essence. Saving our wild horses one at a time. Protecting and defending them Judith Hamilton-Schultze

  4. yes, Judy, and the horses will need sufficient space and right type habitat to realize their true potential here on Earth. and that special requirement: freedom to be themselves.

  5. Hi Elyse
    I've been doing a fair amount of reading since Zenyatta lost her first foal. So far only one vet book even mentions spaying.

    Spaying "can" be done post 90 days breeding--assuming you have a wild mare with a foal by her side. But who is going to check her? BLM I don't believe is equipped to handle something this involved. This is a job for an equine reproduction specialist--not just any vet.

    Plus you have to consider her post surgery needs--like a CLEAN pen and stall. What about post operative mess and antibiotics?

    WY has a weird kind of patchwork property ownership. Apparently every other parcel of land belongs to the rancher or to the government. So the horses "stray" onto private property and supposedly they destroy water hole after water hole.

    In my conversations with BLM WY I know they tell me they are committed to better transparency and safety for the horses. Sounds great but I hope they can really put deed to word.

    I hope if they have any more situations with the pilots hitting animals with the helicopter--I hope they manage that far differently than they did in NV. Immediate grounding of the helicopter and termination of those involved.


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  11. Do you know exactly how many of the spayed Shelton mares died ? Please Email me at
    I think it was more than 10%.