Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"Nobody's Horses" are EVERYBODY'S HORSES!

author of Nobody's Horses
----- Original Message -----
From: Don Hoglund MS, DVM
To: Kats@hughes.net
Sent: Tuesday, March 30, 2010 3:45 AM
Subject: Attached - "Say Something" Management of the free

Attached PDF for publication on your Web Site. Permission granted to
reproduce the attached article "Management of the Free."



Capture Stress Affects the Free-Roaming Horse:

It was reported on February 4th, 2010 that approximately twenty-five formerly free-
roaming horses had abortions in the hours and days after strenuous captures in the Calico
Complex Mountain Range of Nevada. Bloggers blogged, journalists scribbled, and wild
horse advocates blamed the abortions and other horse deaths on a devious Bureau of
Land Management (BLM) staff beholden to the cattle and energy lobbies. The advocates
often cite the tortures found in the feature film, The Misfits, and quote Thelma Johnson
while public observers recited their pledge to restore the protections of the now-
weakened Wild Free-roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971.

Nonetheless, some physical, chemical, or mechanical processes caused more than twenty-
four equine abortions in the hours and days just after capture at the Calico Complex. Did
these processes contribute to what we veterinarians call an apparent “abortion storm?”

In 2001, Holcomb and Ashley, at the University of Nevada-Reno, reported that
“successful management of many species often relies on actions that involve intensive
handling of individuals. Knowledge of how such handling may affect reproduction of a
particular species is important and may be applicable to managing other species.” They
used pregnancy testing, field observation, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) records,
and adopter surveys to determine effects of stress induced by gather and removal
management practices on the reproductive success of feral horses in the Garfield Flat
(GF) Herd Management Area (HMA) in Nevada. They analyzed pre-release confinement
effect data from gathers conducted in August 1993 and January 1997 and data on the
additional effect of removal in 1997. The data for an un-gathered population in the
Granite Range (GR) HMA in Nevada were used as controls for both years. Data from ungathered
GR horses also were used as controls for habitat effects on reproduction.
“Granite Range and un-gathered GF mares in 1997 had similar reproductive success
rates. Pregnant removed mares in 1997 had less reproductive success than un-gathered

Don Höglund MS, DVM Nobody’s Horses

mares at GR (P=0.003) and GF (P=0.005). Gathered and released GF mares had less
reproductive success than un-gathered GF mares (P=0.05). The results suggest that
minimizing time that mares are held prior to release will reduce fetal loss.”

During the fast and furious hours of any stimulating aerial herding the equine body goes
through a series of stress induced biochemical, physiological, neurological, and
mechanical effects. The heart and lungs accelerate, normal gut movement slows leading
to increased gas production, blood vessels constrict in many parts of the body and dilate
in the muscles, salivation increases, the colon evacuates, hearing is diminished, tunnel
vision results in loss of peripheral vision, instantaneous reflexes accelerate, sweating
begins, muscles fatigue, shaking results, and in the mare – occasionally abortion storms
appear. All of these conditions could be considered signs of stress, but did the stress of
the actual chase cause the abortions in an animal that evolved able to run while pregnant?
Or was it some other capture related phenomenon?

“Abortion in horses may result from a variety of causes. Infectious agents, such as
bacteria, viruses or fungi, may attack the fetus or its membranes, resulting in fetal death
and expulsion. Other factors attributable to the mare, fetus or external forces may also
cause loss of the embryo or fetus. These factors include twinning, hormonal deficiencies,
congenital anomalies, ergot alkaloid toxicity, and ingestion of tent caterpillar setae.1”
According to some experts, nutritional deficiencies have not been associated with
abortion in mares and in spite of common beliefs, experimental rough manual
manipulation of the pregnant uterus has not caused abortion or embryonic death2.

I think we can all agree that major equine physiological occurrences result during the
acute stress response of being chased by aircraft, land vehicles, and humans on foot.
Those powerful effects are often mediated by way of chemical and electrical signals
originating in the brain and affecting the adrenal gland and numerous other fear
responsive organs. As a result, during the chase and for hours after, high-levels of many

1Dr. Dan Kenney, Diplomate in the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine at the University of Guelph,
OMAFRA fact sheet, 89-169.

2 Dr. Dan Kenney, Ibid.

Don Höglund MS, DVM Nobody’s Horses

stress related hormones are produced or released by the adrenal glands, including
adrenaline and cortisone. Though not definitively proven, increased cortisone levels have
been implicated in contributing to abortion in horses. Some reports indicate that abortion
in mares [occurring within hours to days of capture] is most likely caused by an increase
in cortisone levels that initiate the parturition cascade in the mare.3 In one study, mares
experiencing artificially induced colic who subsequently aborted had higher cortisone
levels than untreated mares carrying to full term.4

If 50 horses perished as a result of gathering and handling 2,500 horses, the capture
fatality rate is about two-percent. Though no deaths or some fatality rate lower than two-
percent is preferred, two-percent is not ridiculously high for the capture and disposition
of 2,500 formerly free-roaming horses. The exception that I know of for lower abortion
and other fatality rates during capture and removal of more than 1,800 free-roaming
horses was at White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) in 1995. After slow, multiple
helicopter captures of 10 to 27 miles duration I observed 1 death due to capture
technique, less than 10 deaths due to the combined veterinary processes, freeze-branding,
other handling, and transporting to holding facilities, and I attended 2 abortions on
WSMR. Neither of the abortions appeared related to the capture process. Of the 1,800
plus horses of all ages removed from WSMR during the birthing months of January to
August, the adoption herds produced more than 300, 1995 foals. What might have caused
the abortion storm at Calico?

In my experience, and not judging a capture that I neither attended nor participated in, I
make the following generalizations. The abortions at Calico were not likely the result of
some faulty technical strategy during the actual aerial herding. Helicopter facilitated
captures are the safest, least stressful, current strategy for capturing free-roaming horses
on vast tracts of land. I doubt that the abortions can be attributed directly to the weather,
the time of year, or the length of incarceration. Assuming water was available on the

3 Dr. Anne Schramme, clinical assistant professor of Theriogenology at the veterinary teaching hospital at North
Carolina State University, personal communication.

4 Santschi, E. M., M. M. LeBlanc, and P. G. Weston. 1991a. Progestagen, oestrone sulphate and cortisol
concentrations in pregnant mares during medical and surgical disease. J Reprod Fertil Suppl. 44:627-634.

Don Höglund MS, DVM Nobody’s Horses

Calico Complex, poor range conditions did not cause the abortions unless poisonous
plants were recently consumed in pathological quantities. If the horses had consumed
adequate plant toxins they would likely have aborted in the harsh winter months prior to
capture and did not have adequate photoperiod for recycling and breeding by early
January 2010. Diagnostic testing and the age of each fetus at the time of abortion might
help answer the toxin or infectious disease questions. Increased cortisone levels from
acute stress during and just after capture may well have induced potential for the
seemingly large numbers of abortions. So what really caused the pathological levels of
stress at Calico?

In my assessment, the most stress a free-roaming horse undergoes results from the close
proximity of human handlers in the hours and days just after capture. Any presence of
movement by a human on foot causes stress to the free-roaming horse. As a result, at
WSMR, the technical specifications for capture demanded that the freshly captured horse
be left alone with abundant average quality forage and free-choice clean water for not
less than three contiguous days. I propose that the near presence of humans on foot and
human related processing of freshly captured horses immediately after the Calico
captures and not the actual aerial pursuit by itself was probably the causative-agent for
untenable stress resulting in higher than normal cortisone levels in the mares. It is
possible that the combined stress conditions led to an acute parturition cascade resulting
in abortion in some mares at the Calico capture facility. However, technical capture
strategy changes limiting humans on foot in or around the BLM corrals for three-days
post-capture might reduce such abortion tragedies in future captures. That strategy is not
without logistics, time, and cost considerations.

Few of the claims of BLM mismanagement or advocacy legal maneuvers have slowed
the western states’ public horse captures or resolved the free-roaming horse breeding-
herd dilemmas we face. On the other hand, I have searched the various arguments about
mismanaged public horse policy for fair-minded references to the good federal, state, and
private free-roaming horse management found at the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang
Center near Lovell, Wyoming and along the coasts of Virginia and the Carolinas. Those

Don Höglund MS, DVM Nobody’s Horses

programs have produced effective public policy and precedent setting management of
free-roaming horses. Perhaps we should study the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center
policies and the Outer Banks horse management solutions and determine if those
principles and practices apply to the management of public horses in the ten western
states. Nevertheless, in order to understand the federal free-roaming horse policy and to
offer palatable solutions for management of the western states’ free-roaming horses, we
might remind ourselves of how America got to this crossroads in the mustangs’ long road
to freedom5. After all, when we capture a free-roaming horse, we destroy an aspect of the
very freedom we treasure as Americans.

Historical Perspectives on the Free-roaming Horse:

At the beginning of the nineteenth century nearly two million wild horses, or mustangs,
graced the western ranges, the rearing stallions – tails and manes flying – were almost
mythical symbols of freedom, independence, and endurance. By 1970 free-roaming horse
numbers on western states’ public lands were pared down to nearly 20,000 animals. The
Wild Free-roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 (Public Law 92-195) was enacted to
protect the remaining wild horses where then found on forty-seven million acres which
became divided into three-hundred and three herd management areas.

Sadly, within the last thirty years, some members of congress have worked tirelessly to
zero-out over a quarter of the originally preserved acreage and have eliminated one
hundred and eleven of the wild horse herd areas. The traumatic capture and adoption of
free-roaming horses have been so successful, that six of the original sixteen western
states that were home to wild horses in 1971 no longer have herds. Due to recent federal
legislation by politicians beholden to private enterprises, free-roaming horses could
vanish from the American west. What will the future hold for these noble creatures who
are direct descendants of horses that once hauled us across the frontiers of America and
helped us build a nation?

5 Heacock and Valdez, The Spanish Mustang and the Long Way Home, University of Houston Center for Public
History, vol. 7, Number 1, Fall 2009, houstonhistory@uh.edu.

Don Höglund MS, DVM Nobody’s Horses

Today, the attitude of “Live and let live,” when applied to the environment, just doesn’t
work. Human population growth, urban sprawl, and natural resource development have
made it necessary to manage everything – even wild things. So, to preserve the wildness
and the world we love, we must intervene to save these free-roaming horses. The first
intervention might be to detoxify the vocabulary.

If you ask anyone vaguely familiar with horses about free-roaming American equine
issues, be prepared to spend considerable time in debate. There are plenty of valid
viewpoints, several of which are quite emotional. The multitude of positions has created a
deafening whirl in the halls of Congress as well as out on the western rangelands.
Concerns for and about wild horses pit urbanites against ranchers, public servants, and
horsemen. For instance, just referring to free-roaming horses as wildlife is a great way to
get bogged down in arguments, even law suits, about definitions. What distinguishes wild
from exotic, mustang, feral (ranch horses gone loose), or indigenous? The truth is that,
when cornered, free-roaming horses have plenty of equine wildness in their behavior, and
it is that very wildness that captures the human imagination. Calling them ‘free-roaming’,
as found in federal language, allows the discussion to concentrate on the horses
themselves as a unique environmental and national treasure. The key is to find palatable,
long-term solutions to preserve them, while at the same time protecting the environment
and the interests of private citizens.

As an equine veterinarian and professional horse welfare advocate with 25 years
experience in dealing with and training thousands of un-gentled horses captured in
western and eastern states, I completed seven annual contracts as the attending
veterinarian with the Bureau of Land Management and New Mexico prison inmate horse
training programs. I also provided the onsite technical support, veterinary care, and
adoptions program for the rescue of the White Sands Missile Range horses from which
Nobody’s Horses arose.

From my perspective, in order to comprehend this often emotional debate, we must
understand that there are two major horse populations in the United States; the domestic,
private property horses and the publicly-owned, free-roaming horses found in the wild in

Don Höglund MS, DVM Nobody’s Horses

many states or held in federal captivity awaiting fate. Only some of the free-roaming
horses in the western states fall under the federal protections of ‘wild’ horse law. The
other free-roaming horses, east or west of the Mississippi River, are on sovereign lands,
military reservations, park service lands, federal lands not covered by ‘wild’ horse law, or
on private property. In these various places the horses are either not protected by any law,
as in the feral designation, or they are only protected by state and/or local laws. I consider
only the federally protected, free-roaming horses in this discussion.

At first glance and because Nobody’s Horses is a book about free-roaming horse rescue,
the domestic group of equine might easily lope out of this discussion because they fall
under the purview of domestic property law. Not so fast. Though the domestic population
of 9 million horses is privately owned, current congressional potential for prohibiting
horse slaughter for human consumption is locked between forces supporting and
opposing such federal legislation. Because debate revolves around the acceptability of the
slaughter of any horses, the fate of free-roaming horses enters the fracas. The publicly
owned, free-roaming horse populations – hoofing out a living mostly on public lands –
counts at about 64,000 head total. About one-half of these highly regarded horses – in
effect, John Q public horses and taxpayer assets – range freely in ten western states. The
discussion will return to their destiny later. The other 34,000 head, to the disquiet of some
vocal sympathizers, are imprisoned in protected holdings called sanctuaries or in federal
stockyards awaiting adoption to loving homes or death by law.

As of this publication and regardless of logical or emotional perspective, three statements
can be made. Free-roaming horses are still being captured even though more than 34,000
are already detained and munching out a life in taxpayer funded holding areas. Some
captured, free-roaming horses are not federally protected from commercial processing.
Domestic horses including some of the refuges from the wild life are not protected from
human consumption. How did this trifurcation and resultant anxiety come about, this
time? I say Senator Burns and his colleagues in Congress forgot about the determination
of wild horse advocates. Or did they?

Don Höglund MS, DVM Nobody’s Horses

In 2004, due to the Burns Amendment change in wild horse law, 8,000 of the imprisoned
equine captives that are deemed not-adoptable are likely headed for a cold meat-hook. As
the Burns Amendment would have it, regulatory protections for wild horses managed by
the staff at the Bureau of Land Management and its counterpart in the Department of
Agriculture were changed. Senators had written into the 3,300-page federal budget a
mandate that the BLM sell to the highest bidder wild horses deemed not-adoptable. In
April of 2007 the House of Representatives passed H.R. 249 which would have restored
the prohibition of the commercial sale and processing of captured, free-roaming horses
and burros. That bill would have overturned the Burns Amendment. However, sessions
of Congress last two years and at the end of each session all proposed bills and
resolutions that haven't passed both houses of congress are cleared from the books.

H.R. 249 later evolved into H.R. 1018 that passed the House in July, 2009 and
hibernates peacefully in the Senate – Committee on Energy and Natural Resources –
as S.R. 1579, a companion bill to the House version. Like it or not, as of February,
2010, the fate of the free-roaming horse is regulated under the protections of legislation
formed and passed on or before fiscal year 2005.
My current concern is for the destiny of the few remaining free-roaming horses that fall
under the often amended and notably weakened protections of the Wild free-roaming
Horses and Burros Act of 1971. The land management policies that apply to public
horses seem to revolve around the concepts of health of the public lands, capture for
adoption, maintenance in sanctuaries or holding facilities, or in-the-wild management.

Dr. Kathleen Fagerstone of the USDA Wildlife Services tells us that “for most of the last
century, federal and state wildlife conservation agencies in the United States have
focused on conserving or increasing populations of many species of wildlife. The
changing cultural values and increasing urbanization of the United States are curtailing
traditional wildlife management tools used to effectively manage conflicts between
human and wildlife populations. A growing interest in non-lethal methods for [animal]
population control [in-the-wild] of nuisance or damaging wildlife species has fostered
research in wildlife contraception.” Due to the fact that contraception for wild or other

Don Höglund MS, DVM Nobody’s Horses

free-roaming animals is now possible, thanks to advances in scientific research, this
method of population control is gaining favor in the hearts and minds of horse advocates
and wild horse critics alike.

Dr. Gary Killian, a distinguished professor and fertility control expert, notes, “There are
lots of factors that need to be considered, not to mention the fact that mares that are
contracepted tend to live longer. Decreasing the death rate will add to the total
population. I guess if fertility control of free-roaming horses were easy, it would have
been done already. At least we have some tools now like immunocontraceptives that have
potential to be useful if we could overcome the politics and figure out how best to apply

So what are equine immunocontraceptives6? How do they act to reduce birth rates? Who
is against their use, and why?

USDA Wildlife Services at the National Wildlife Research Center in Fort Collins,
Colorado began developing wildlife contraceptives in 1991. Scientists both here at
affiliated universities and private companies have steadily worked toward developing and
registering contraceptive products that are practical and safe for animals and humans. In
2005, the regulatory authority for wildlife contraceptives was changed from the Food and
Drug Administration (FDA) to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Currently, two immmunocontraceptive vaccines, the Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone
(GnRH) and the Porcine Zona Pellucida (PZP) vaccines have been tested to prevent
pregnancy in free-roaming horses. Both come in a liquid form for injection by needle or
bio-bullet. (Inter-uterine devices (IUDs) have also been tested, but with only limited
success.) These two vaccines use the animal’s immune system to produce antibodies
against reproductive hormones, gamete (egg) proteins, and other proteins essential for
successful reproduction. In other words, the antibodies interfere with the natural activity

6 This author does not consider hormone injections a viable option for contraception in Free-roaming horses. Oral
vaccines for fertility control in horses are not yet available.

Don Höglund MS, DVM Nobody’s Horses

of the reproductive agents. The vaccines can now be made so as to be effective
contraceptives from 1 to 4 years or longer. Neither is a hormone, nor do they have
hormone-like activity.

GnRH Vaccines are not Hormone Injections:

The GnRH vaccine creates antibodies that interfere with the reproductive hormone in
both sexes by causing blocking of biologically active GnRH. The result causes a
reduction in the release of other reproductive hormones and silencing the activity of the

Fagerstone et al report that blockade of mammal GnRH is effective in reducing fertility in
most mammals, including rodents. The contraceptive effects of a single-shot GnRH
vaccine lasts for at least four years. As of October, 2006 in the fourth year of Dr.
Killian’s well-refined study of the GnRH vaccine GonaCon ™ 7, half of the mares are
still open (not pregnant). In preliminary studies with white-tailed deer using a modified
GnRH vaccine, GonaCon-Blue™, 80% of the females are infertile four years following a
single vaccination.

A recent USDA “Target Safety Study” completed for the FDA8 in collaboration with Dr.
Killian’s group at Penn State University, “did not find any contraindications associated
with GonCon use.” GnRH vaccines can cause sterilization, but only if administered
repeatedly. Hence, GnRH vaccines need to be used judiciously by knowledgeable,
experienced handlers. The GnRH vaccine has been submitted to the EPA for registration.

PZP Vaccines:

7 ™ -National Wildlife Research Center, 4101 LaPorte Avenue, USDA, Animal Plant Health Service, Fort
Collins, Colorado.

8 Safety and Toxicity Evaluation of GonaConTM Immunocontraceptive Contraceptive Vaccine in White-
tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

Don Höglund MS, DVM Nobody’s Horses

The Zona Pellucida (ZP) is a naturally produced glycoprotein layer located on the outer
surface of the egg which is produced in the ovary of the mare. Use of the PZP vaccine
results in infertility either by blocking sperm from penetrating the zona pellucida layer or
by interfering with egg maturation. According to Fagerstone, “The advantages of PZP are
that, because PZP is a protein broken down in the gastrointestinal tract when consumed, it
does not enter the food chain [if a vaccinated horse were eaten]. Also, its effects are
normally reversible. It is not species specific and is effective in reducing fertility in most
mammals tested. The disadvantages are that PZP vaccines must be applied by injection.”
Other significant disadvantages with PZP vaccines exist. The vaccinated mare continues
cycling and thus remains a target for stallions, where as pregnancy would limit that
harassment. Also, it is unknown if ovary destruction occurs as a result of the antibodies.
In some instances, when the antibodies level drops below critical thresholds (as the
vaccine effects wear off), late-term pregnancies may occur complicating the winter life of
the mare and the new born foal.

Long-term studies involving GnRH and PZP vaccines on white-tailed deer (Miller et al.
1999 and 2000) showed no adverse effects on the animal’s health. For the GnRH vaccine,
altered heat-cycles in the deer were seen and expected. The same can be anticipated for

There are of course concerns that must be addressed when using contraceptives to control
overpopulation in free-roaming horses. Any program will need to be funded, easy to
administer, cost-effective, effective for multiple years, and have few or no known
contraindications (adverse effects). Currently, since the vaccines are injectable, horses
must be captured and processed or shot from a remote location with a dart or bio-bullet.
Even though capture for processing is traumatic and inherently violent, study of vaccine
efficacy and horse health necessitates a close relationship to the target animal. Aerial
facilitated darting or use of bio-bullets can be inefficient, and these types of vaccination
methods make research study of the health and biomedical effects of the contraceptive
difficult. The darting process has the potential to leave a mechanical dart in the
environment. Further, annual capture of free-roaming horses for booster vaccination

Don Höglund MS, DVM Nobody’s Horses

usually becomes more difficult with each subsequent attempt. This is not economical and
from a behavioral perspective it is not logical. A vaccine that is effective for multiple
years is better and less costly than a one -or two-year vaccination.

There are other considerations to take into account when attempting to control herd size.
Is the population “open” or “closed” to migration from other herds? What are the sex
ratios, age structure, and the natural estimated increase or mortality of the targeted herd?
Researchers have produced various models, some of which suggest that animals which
give birth at 3 years of age, as horses generally do, will need more interventions than
simply contraception in order to maintain a herd at a desired population. These additional
interventions include capture and removal, redistribution of family groups to lands
allotted for herd management, or in the case of game or nuisance wildlife, lethal control.
Of course, lethal control was not an option for free-roaming horses, until recent

Contraceptive treatment to manage free-roaming horse populations in the wild must take
into consideration the average age of the animals involved. Dr. Killian astutely observes
that ‘if younger mares have had one or two foals, they have contributed to the gene pool,
and additional foals with their genes are not needed” to keep the genetic pool intact. In
addition, due to the difficulties of gathering an entire free-roaming herd for vaccination,
there will always be a number of untreated mares in any given population.

Bottom Line:

I agree with Dr. Killian’s suggestion that “The bottom line is there are some reasonable
one-treatment options that will be available for contraception of mustangs in the near
future. These far surpass anything currently being used for mustang contraception. What
has to happen is that the public needs to drive the course of action. In my experience, the
people with the dollars and currently in charge of dealing with the [horse] problem are set
in their ways and have different ideas about how to proceed.” Given the normal
mortality, sex-ratios, and reproductive rates of free-roaming horses in a herd of one

Don Höglund MS, DVM Nobody’s Horses

hundred and twenty horses, contraception in one mare for one year who would have
otherwise foaled a reproductively viable female offspring will – on average –
eliminate eight to twelve horses from the population over the next fourteen years.9

However, the author recommends contraception in mares ten years and older so that the
genetic contribution of each mare in the herd remains intact. In this manner, one ten-year
old mare blocked from contributing one viable female offspring might remove eight
animals over the next fourteen years.

The wild horses of the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center and the Outer Banks of
North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland have set the precedent for true art in the fertility
management and adoption of free-roaming horses. Thousand Welcomes Farm in Chapel
Hill, North Carolina, the Foundation for the Shackleford Horse in Beaufort, North
Carolina, the National Parks Service at Assateague Island National Seashore Trust in
Maryland, and the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia are notable
examples of farms and organizations who have proven their love and respect for
historical America and free-roaming horses.

I don’t know if all sides of the free-roaming horse debate can be placated, but I do agree
with groups who say that ecotourism should also be given a chance to play a role in herd
preservation. “Horse lovers, wildlife enthusiasts, as well as those with an interest in the
history of the Old West, should be given the opportunity to enjoy wild horse excursions
year-round. In addition to non-intrusive observation of wild horse behavior and herd
dynamics, in-the-wild management itself could become part of a unique experience for
visitors to herd management areas.”

As an equine veterinarian who has spent his professional life protecting the publicly
owned free-roaming horse, I understand the legitimate concerns of all interested parties,
cattlemen included. However, I feel that we need to protect our public property first,
while we weigh the proper stewardship, transport, and disposition of this revered part of

9 D. L Höglund, mathematical calculation, 50% chance of female offspring; ten foals over twelve years @
50% male; 20% mortality; reproduction until age eighteen.

Don Höglund MS, DVM Nobody’s Horses

our American spirit. I am not accusing our Interior Department and USDA land managers
of mismanagement. My experience with the staff in these entities has been trusted and
respectful. Most public servants and land managers tell me that they want to manage the
free-roaming horse in the wild. They need the proper laws, proper policy, dedicated staff,
time, and mandated funding to do it right and to study the effects of the management.

The agriculture and veterinary medical colleges in states with free-roaming horse
populations are a great mechanism of public oversight and could be recruited to assist
these agencies and keep academic research and influence involved. After all, we trust the
schools to teach and lead our young people, and since we already employ the staff and
faculty, why not trust them to care for our free-roaming horses, too? It would be a perfect
outdoor laboratory and a good use of public funds.

Judiciously applied fertility control contraception will go a long way in maintaining horse
populations at desired levels. However, when environmental study indicates that any
given population of free-roaming horses needs to be artificially lowered by capture, I
suggest the captives be remanded to the good and effective wild horse transition
programs such as the prison inmate training programs and the New Mexico Mustang and
Burro Association transition program. In this manner, free-roaming horses are gentled
under a humane and controlled system before they are released into a domestic equine

Many cattle growers would applaud effective free-roaming horse population control.
Animal advocates should be pleased with preservation and limited captures. Wildlife
managers would welcome the funding needed to appropriately manage all of our
important wild species. Slaughter of free-roaming horses would not be necessary because
the horses would either be returned to freedom after being examined and vaccinated, or
gentled in a prison training program and sold to responsible owners. One in ten thousand
horses is truly not amenable to gentling. Those few might be neutered and returned to
their original herds. We can’t manage one million free-roaming horses, but we can
manage enough to be meaningful. Should we tolerate the possibility of zero free-roaming

Don Höglund MS, DVM Nobody’s Horses


Even though emotion about the issue of free-roaming horse survival often takes us to
places we do not want to go, we should allow reasoned passion from the heart to direct
our efforts. We should protect all of our animal species from birth to death with
intervention only when necessary and always as humanely as possible. If we choose to
terminate animal life, we should do so humanely.

It is time for solutions: not finger-pointing; not just words. It is time for action. Captures
resulting in unreasonable numbers of abortions and death should stop until these
problems are resolved. In the mean-time, funding for long-term study of all of our natural
resources through the State University should be required. In this manner we can trust the
university system in the ten states where free-roaming horses reside to report back to the
taxpayer on best-solutions for management of all of our natural resources – including the
free-roaming horse. Help save the free-roaming horse from destruction by contacting
your elected representative and respectfully ask them to get involved in the management
of free-roaming horses in-the-wild. After all, the horses belong to all of us, the land
belongs to all of us, and the elected representatives who control our money work for all
of us. These nobody’s horses are everybody’s horses.

About the author: Dr. Don Höglund is an equine veterinarian and author of NOBODY’S HORSES: The
Dramatic Rescue of the Wild Herd of White Sands. He has spent 25 years working with wild horses
rounded-up in the western and eastern states. He served seven annual contracts with the BLM as a private
contract veterinarian in the successful New Mexico prison inmate wild horse training programs organized
by the then Congressman and current New Mexican Governor, Bill Richardson. www.nobodyshorses.com.

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