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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28 February 2019 The Horse | Gathers and Adoptions The amount of time wild horses spend in holding can affect their adoption appeal, says Meggan Hill-McQueeney, president and chief operating officer of BraveHearts equine-assisted activi- ties and therapies (EAAT) program, in Kearney, Nebraska. BraveHearts pairs military veterans with mustangs obtained from the BLM. Four of their horses came through the MHF; five others came from the BLM Rock Spring short-term holding facility, in Wyoming. "The mustangs were part of the Check- erboard gather," Hill-McQueeney says. "The (BLM) presorts the horses after a gather according to what they think will be most appealing to adopters, but we didn't want presorted horses because of the unique work we do with veterans, so we had a full-access walk through the fa- cility to choose our horses. Then we made a list and identified them by the numbers on their necks and then peeled our horses out of the herd." Among the mustangs Hill-McQueeney chose was a 19-year-old three-striker that BraveHearts later named Boo-Yah. "He was a blue roan, and he was just stunning," she recalls. The mustang had been featured on the BLM adoption website but, even though he drew plenty of interest, potential adopters balked when they discovered his age. Though he had no formal training, it didn't take long before Boo-Yah became part of the BraveHearts therapy herd. "He was a therapy horse as soon as he got here, as far as I was concerned," Hill-McQueeney says. "The veterans were sitting outside his stall, having their breakfast, reading the paper, just being with him—he was a magnet for the veterans." Today Boo-Yah is 22 years old and working under saddle in BraveHearts' EAAT program. Hill-McQueeney believes if there are welfare issues connected to mustangs, they have little to do with the holding of horses removed from the range. Some wild horse advocates, including Diane Delano, operator of the Wild Horse Rescue Center in Mims, Florida, believe those problems stem from the way the BLM gathers mustangs from the range. Delano works with the BLM and with law enforcement authorities to rehabilitate wild horses that have been taken off the range and have, after their adoption or purchase, been found in private-sector abusive or neglectful environments. She also mentors mustang owners, presents workshops for prospective owners cover- ing care and gentling techniques, and conducts educational seminars about wild horses' role in American history at wildlife festivals and other community events. "The BLM needs to make changes," Delano says. "First of all, they need to slow the helicopter gathers way down." The method the BLM uses to gather the mustangs that will be placed in hold- ing facilities has long been an issue for many wild horse welfare advocates. But Lenz says the agency has little choice. He believes gathering the animals is the only way to balance their numbers against resources available on ranges that can only support 26,000 horses. "These horses are threatened by drought and wildfire, and they eat everything," he says. "So years ago there was plenty of vegeta- tion, and five years ago not so much, and today there is none at all." Still others don't blame the roundups for welfare issues mustangs might experi- ence once they have been taken off the range. Ralston says most gathers put less stress on the animals than many people expect. "Gathers are not as horrific as people would lead you to believe," she says. "I have seen horses walking along with the helicopters behind them, and as they get closer to the chute, I've seen the helicopters get in closer to drive the animals to the holding site." Meanwhile, she says, those who plan the gathers are mindful that the mustangs ought to have the best opportunities for adoption or sale once they have been removed from the range. "For example, at Stinking Waters in Or- egon, gather personnel select for stockier, more rugged-looking horses, while at Twin Peaks in California they look for a thinner, more athletic, more Thorough- bredlike look," Ralston says. "They gather for what the area calls for, and the guys I talked to were experienced horsemen who were so proud of their herds." LIVING IN LIMBO Older horses like Boo-Yah (right, in holding at age 19) have a harder time getting adopted. Today, however, he's a valued member of BraveHearts' equine-assisted therapy program. COURTESY CAROL J. WALKER, BRAVEHEARTS The herds double in size every four years, and we have no long- range plan to deal with that." DR. TOM LENZ

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