The Horse

FEB 2019

The Horse:Your Guide To Equine Health Care provides monthly equine health care information to horse owners, breeders, veterinarians, barn/farm managers, trainer/riding instructors, and others involved in the hands-on care of the horse.

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TheHorse.com | The Horse February 2019 27 dedicated to preserving viable free- roaming wild horse herds by advocating for the animals through legislation and litigation. Roy believes mustangs in both short- and long-term holding face many welfare concerns. These include a lack of freedom, loss of family, inability to engage in natural social behaviors, and increased risk of disease. "Conditions at short-term holding facilities are notoriously harsh—crowded feedlot pens that offer little to no shelter from extreme summer heat or winter winds, snow, and cold," she says. Sarah Ralston, VMD, PHD, Dipl. ACVN, professor emerita in Rutgers Uni- versity's Equine Science Center, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, disagrees. While at Rutgers, she conducted several studies comparing the skills and personalities of domestic horses and mustangs. During her visit to the BLM corral at Sulphur Springs, Oregon, she saw no long-term welfare issues connected to the short- term holding of horses there. "They have plenty of food and water; they don't always have a lot of shelter (holding pens are out in the open), but they wouldn't always have that in the wild, either," Ralston says. "Initially there can be a lot of chaos, and it can be confusing, but they seem to get over it pretty quickly—the horses learn from each other." But that's not to say the amount of time the horses spend in short-term holding does not affect their behavior, she says. For one of her studies, Ralston turned to the BLM to obtain a group of yearlings that had been kept in short-term holding. All the horses she selected were three- strikers. Three of the mustangs had been placed in short-term holding after they were gathered from the range. The fourth had been born in captivity. The difference between the horses was obvious. "We use natural horsemanship tech- niques, including advance-retreat, where we would move in toward the horse, and when it moved toward us we released the pressure and backed up," Ralston says. "The three that had been born in the wild came around pretty quickly—they were highly alert and aware of their surround- ings at all times, but the one that was born in captivity took longer to train—she was deprived of a certain level of focus and did not have the same social skills as the horses gathered from the range. She was more like a domestic horse." Ralston later conducted another study in which she used a group of eight 2-year- old mustangs and compared their skills and focus to domestic horses. In that group seven horses were born in the wild and one was born in captivity. "It was exactly the same situation," Ralston says. "(The horse born in captiv- ity) did not have the social framework as the horses taken from the wild." Nearly 12,000 Mustangs live in short-term holding corrals awaiting adoption or sale. COURTESY GREG SHINE, BLM ALEXANDRA BECKSTETT/THE HORSE Horses deemed unadoptable or "three-strikers" live their lives out on long-term pastures located primarily in Kansas and Oklahoma.

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