The Force of the Horse

Wild Horses/ Cattle and how the AUMs and AMLs stack up

Everything you ever wanted to know about “Animal Unit Months” and “Appropriate Management Levels” but where afraid to ask!

by Mustang Jack

Members of Cloud's Herd in danger of being extinguished by the BLM (Photo by Sandy Church/Rimrock Humane Society)

Members of Cloud's Herd in danger of being extinguished by the BLM (Photo by Sandy Church/Rimrock Humane Society)

Although there is no clear science determining how much horses eat oppose to livestock and other ungulates,the BLM devised a formula which mostly meets their own standards. That of unfortunately has made the wild horse the renegades of the rangelands .

At this present time there are approximately 5 million cattle in the United states and more than half  of them graze upon the same rangelands as the horses that are removed.. The current ratio of cattle to free roaming wild horses is approximately 6-1. You don’t have to be a mathematician to figure out that the BLM does not particularly care about AUM’s and AML’s when they allow ranchers to lease the pristine landscape and have their cattle decimate withing a few short weeks.

Cattle degrade rangelands faster than any other ungulate on the face of the earth because of the devastating way that they consume range grasses. Horses eat the tops of prairie grass and legumes but leave the root system intact. Cattle on the other hand will tare the grass and plants from its roots, that in turn renders the once lush parcel of land in ruins.

In addition to the comparisons between wild horse and cattle,a horses digestion system is conducive to rangeland rejuvenation. A horses stomach and intestines does not break down seeds and nutrients as cattle’s systems do. The complex physiological design of the horses digestion system is conducive to rangelands in every way.

I do indeed hold our federal government responsible and call for the restoration of the now largely empty, but still legal herd areas. America should consider the Relative Proportions of wild horses/burros, livestock and big game animals, both within the original 53.4 million acres where the wild horses/burros have a legal right and upon the public lands as a whole. Doing so will reveal that a terrible injustice has been perpetrated contrary to the law and public will.

Over 95 percent of the original Herd Areas and over 98 percent of the reduced Herd Management Areas are leased to livestock grazers and most of their remaining resources relegated to big game animals.This is in clear violation of the Wild Horse Act that states that wild horses/burros are to be treated as the principal presences in these areas.The unappreciative bullies who seem to call the shots on the public lands are not satisfied with already getting the hogs share of public lands resources, but perversely insist on marginalizing the wild horses/burros even within those greatly reduced herd management areas that are still inhabited by their scant populations.

Over 19 million acres, or 36 percent, of the original legal herd areas on BLM/USFS lands have been zeroed out, including 7.6 million BLM acres, or 18 percent of the original acreage, and 5.9 million Forest Service acres for an outrageous 53 percent. There has been an effective displacement of the wild horses/burros from at least three-quarters of the public lands to which they are legally entitled. In other words, of the ca. 4,522 livestock permittees originally having to share, 1,612 no longer have to bother.

Forage eaten yearly by livestock on BLM lands is about 7 million animal unit months. This contrasts with only 381,120 AUM’s used by the tiny remnant of wild horses/burros. The latter consume only 5.3 percent of the total used in combination with livestock. And when forage consumed by big game animals is taken into account, wild horses/burros are responsible for less than 2 percent.

On Forest Service lands, livestock such as cattle and sheep devour 6.6 million AUMs per year, yet wild horses and burros eat a mere 32,592 AUMs less than ½ percent of what livestock consume.(Two percent is also the proportion of nation-wide livestock production represented by all the public lands.)

Wild horse advocates call for major reform in our nations wild horse and burro program and a restoration of these National Heritage Species in all of their over 300 original 1971 herd areas. This is where the all captured wild horses and burros should be released. But only this time under the protection of public servants who really care for them and defend their rights to freedom, to fill their vacant ecological niche in the natural world. These wide-ranging herbivores are perfect for reducing dry flammable vegetation, re-seeding native plants, and building soils along with many other ecological benefits. Wild horses are also a wonderful aesthetic resource and bring natural joy to those seeking their whimsical ways. And North America is their evolutionary cradle and rightful home.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

31 replies »

  1. Mustang Jack,

    Your opening statement is wrong. There is a clear science determining how much horses eat oppose to livestock and other ungulates. If you knew anything about range management, had studied grasses and soils, actually been around horses, cattle and wildlife, had to manage pasture of your own, you would know this.

    Please get your facts straight. This is NOT the first time you’ve been wrong. Too bad so many folks read your blogs and take them at face value.


    • Hi Jeri, I dont know how I missed your reply but I did.

      It is you that is wrong Jeri. In fact you are delusional if you believe that what the BLM uses is a science. Oh sure to you would think it’s science because it suits your greed and need.But as far as it being a real science when determining AUM’s and AML’s your perception is distorted and obscured of what science really is.

      The BLM uses an antiquated methodology to determine AUM’s amd AML’s. The BLM’s reports are,and always have been inaccurate and fabricated.

      Thank you for making the rest of the world much stupider because of comments like yours.

      Anytime that you want to meet me face to face Jeri, I will be more than happy to reeducate you.

      Let me know.

      Anytime Jeri!


      • I stand by my previous statement: There is an established science dedicated to range (grass/forb/pasture) management. As landowners, we use the resulting data to determine how many cattle to put on our privately-owned pastures and how much to charge someone who rents pasture.

        Both sides of my family have been in the ranching business in Montana since 1902 and 1910, respectively. It is imperative that we not abuse native or introduced forage. If we do, we’re out of business.

        One year of drought is not negated by one year of rain.

        For the record, from North Dakota State University, here’s the Animal Unit (AU) equivalent for each class of livestock and livestock types. A 1,000 lb cow with calf is calculated at the base rate of 1. Other classes/species are either higher or lower, depending on how much they need to consume on a daily basis for optimal production. A mature horse requires the most of any agricultural animal on the list: 1.5.

        1,000 lb. beef cow/calf pair = 1.00 AU value
        1,200 lb. beef cow/calf pair = 1.13 AU value
        1,400 lb. beef cow/calf pair = 1.25 AU value
        Calves by themselves over 3 months = 0.30 AU value
        Yearling cattle (600-800 lb) = 0.75 AU value
        Mature bulls = 1.30 AU value

        Mature ewes with lambs = 0.20 AU value
        Mature Rams = 0.25 AU Value

        Mature doe (goat) with kids = 0.17 AU value
        Mature buck (goat) = 0.22 AU value

        Mature Horse = 1.50 AU value


    • Hi Jeri, Regarding your following reply:

      Since you did not answer may question, I did look op NDSU.

      First, did you obtain written permission to copy this information as the R-192 requires?

      Second, you misrepresented this, by ommission of fact, as it is titled “LIVESTOCK”, so is clearly about domestic horses, and does not include science about free roaming wild horses.

      Third, this report expressly shows that the American public should DEMAND higher prices for grazing on OUR PUBLIC LANDS – Thanks for making that point SO VERY CLEAR. We should be charging from $675 to $762.75 per cow /calf!


      • You are SO right, Roxy! Even though these “welfare ranchers” produce only about 2% of the beef eaten in the US. The rest of the beef comes from private ranchers who pay $20 to $50/AUM to lease private land.

        The cost to graze cattle on public lands is $1.79/AUM. Half of this money is returned to the BLM/ Forest Service “Range Betterment Program.” These monies go back to the rancher for range improvements. The Public Lands Grazing program costs taxpayers one-half billion dollars yearly.

        I don’t know why the cattlemen in the Midwest aren’t throwing a hissy-fit about this. They are getting SCREWED, big time. Along with all the rest of us, of course…


      • To the best of my knowledge, Animal Unit (AU) figures are a standard used across the U.S. Land grant universities in each state–where agriculture, science and engineering are taught–should have information available for that state. Such information is readily passed along to the public.

        Animal Units are not unique to the U.S. Though sometimes called livestock units, they are also used in Australia, the United Kingdom, Africa, and Canada.

        I do not know if there is a difference in how a wild horse compares to a domestic horse in AUs. I spent some time over the past several days trying to find out, making phone calls, sending emails, reading research reports. Nowhere was I able to find anything that reflects a difference.

        There is an excellent discussion of AUSs/AUMs in a dryland situation on the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service page at

        No, I did not mention slaughtering wild horses. My comments were about range science and stocking rates.
        My mission as webmaster of is to document the neglect and abandonment of America’s horses. The site was designed as an informational resource, archiving links to police reports, news reports, magazine articles, research studies, and links to horse-related organizations.

        Domesticated horses by the thousands are being relinquished to rescues and turned loose on public and private lands. They have turned up on BLM acreage, the owners thinking the animals will be accepted into wild horse herds. Many are backyard pets that have become too expense to keep in light of the recession or that have worn out their welcome. The situation is taxing the financial resources of those on the frontline: rescue and rehab facilities, individuals, county and municipal governments, SPCAs, and local humane societies. It’s a rare facility that’s not full; not running at a deficit.

        At no time have I suggested that all horses should be slaughtered. I support a horse owner’s right to legally dispose of an animal as they deem appropriate in their situation. That does not include dumping them, turning them loose, or starving them, which is happening with more frequency since horse processing has ceased in the U.S. and horse values have decreased. There are those who claim there is no such thing as horse abandonment; that all such reports are false. I encourage them read the assembled collection of headlines at .

        In the course of my lifetime, my family and I have sold horses to individuals who were going to find them a great asset in their ranching operation, given horses to youth who could not afford them, and buried beloved horses on our ranch–caring for them well into their 30s. In two memorable instances, we sold horses for slaughter that were a clear danger to anyone who rode them. Both were broke to ride when we purchased them; both had troubling issues that came out afterward. We believed it wrong to resell them to unsuspecting individuals who could have been hurt.

        While euthanizing them was an option, the money realized from selling them went toward buying another horse. Such sell/buy scenarios are the same as an individual trading a used work truck for a newer model work truck or a homeowner selling one home to buy another. In ranching, horses are a valued and trusted tool, not a pet. I contend that to slaughter or not to slaughter goes beyond being a purely humane issue. At the most basic level, it is a personal property issue.


    • Jeri, once again, you will need to provide more.

      You have said: “To the best of my knowledge, Animal Unit (AU) figures are a standard used across the U.S. Land grant universities in each state–where are taught–should have information available for that state. Such information is readily passed along to the public.”

      “…agriculture, science and engineering are taught…” Where is the wild land ecologist, the wildland bioligist. In your domesticated world, you are leaving out a huge part of this wild horse picture – you will need to learn more to convince our group.

      Then you said:”… spent some time over the past several days trying to find out, making phone calls, sending emails, reading research reports. Nowhere was I able to find anything that reflects a difference.” You did not try very hard – go to There you will find several links to several science reports from several scientists of various wild ecology and wild biology fields -please let us know what you discover. If we need to be corrected so be it.

      Then you said: “In ranching, horses are a valued and trusted tool, not a pet.” You are so right about that. Wild horses are niether a tool or a pet. They are simply wild, and the American People and Congress have spoken, whether the ranch industry likes it or not, that they be protected.

      Why do you all insist on taking away this very important american western icon from the rest of us? It is such a little thing we ask for, that the horses remain wild, in their lands, and that we know they are there living free in their families. Is it some sort of spite? What did we, what did wild horses do to you?

      If you have a favorite book, and I don’t like it, should I burn your book and all the others? We aren’t slaming your profession, your business, or your favorite things to like or love.

      I suggest you separate “Wild Horse” issues form everything you are talking about in a separate set of comments, so as to be very clear to this audience.

      My only reason for being here is to save wild horses where they belong. I am not part of the no slaughter campaign, not because I support slaughter, but because I am focused on this issue.

      I have already too many other causes and believe, like “puppies are not products”, that the domestic horse business and slaughter should be on the backs of any who domestically breed horses. All breeders, not just their employees, should have to work in slaughter plants for so many hours a month, hit them on the head with that stun thing, slit thier throats and watch them bleed out, skin them, etc.


    • Hi Jerri, I’m back. I’m replying to your original comment. but so much more has been added, so everything is a little out of place.

      I also did some more research and found that if you study Gus Cothran and Craig Downer, both of whom are more into eco science (for lack of bettr wording), natural biology, and the actual traits of wild horses it becomes clear to me that the study of domestic horses CANNOT be applied. You are correct “wildlife” is not taught in relationship to agriculture, science and engineering as these are really business related studies. I just copied the following from my earlier reply: Where is the wild land ecologist, the wildland bioligist. In your domesticated world, you are leaving out a huge part of this wild horse picture.

      My wish for you would be to separate what your organization sees as a overpopulation problem with domestic horses from “wild horses”, help us promote natural population management, study the many benefits of wild horses to the eco system (fire control, seeding, so much).

      Those of us who love wild horse in the wild, are heart sick at what is occuring and has been occuring at the hands of BLM. We want so little, only to know OUR American wild horses are left alone on OUR public land to live out their lives. We just want to know they are there. They bring such rare pleasure into our lives, even when we don’t see them – to know thye are there. Why must that be taken away?


  2. Well, Jeri, I’ve just been to your web site, and if Mustang Jack is wrong, he’s not the only one. According to you, Jeri, the ONLY way to help all these thousands and thousands of horses is to go back to slaughtering them, huh? NOT!

    I could point you to research demonstrating that this relationship is largely fiction, but why bother? Owner responsibility and breed registry responsibility are the only viable solutions. Do you not know how horrible and INhumane slaughter is for horses? Don’t you think that if we cared ENOUGH we would be innovative enough to come up with more reasonable solutions for the horses that are already here? Necessity IS the mother of invention you know.

    This is likely a moot point anyway, with the EU coming up with stringent new regulations to prevent our contaminated horse meat from reaching their tables, and it’s about time! So, we will likely HAVE to figure out other solutions whether you pro-slaughter folks like it or not. Too bad we are SO uncaring and greedy that we didn’t to it willingly.


  3. OK, ok, ok. Lets hear Jeri out. Jeri, any other sources besides North Dakota State U? And then, where does/how does NDSU get their AU from? And are those AUs for irrigated land for domestic cows and horses, or for free range, non-irrigated lands for “wild horses”? Same question for other sources. And we know from watching “wild” horses, they do just eat the top grass. I will be going to the NDSU link tomorrow to see what I can find out.

    I was taught in college, and it has done me well, to question all sources – (though at 62, and having spent the last 25 years writing technical “stuff”, which does not use proper grammer in the first place, my grammer does not indicate that I ever went to college, hope that won’t be held against me).

    Everyone else, where do you get your AU values from? Lets compare and dig into the science before we stop talking to each other. Maybe someone computer smarter than myself could actually do a comparison of various sources of AUs – BLM, vs NDSU, vs _____, vs _____.

    Maybe there is some common ground (no pun intended) – maybe it doesn’t even matter.

    Last, what if the Mature Hores AU is 1.5 , what does that really mean? What does that mean, start just with the Pryos, to the existing land and horse? What would that mean once their land taken away were returned to them? Does this really matter? I’m not studied in this field at all – so am serious about getting these answers.

    Last I did not see Jeri mention slaughtering wild horses, only a different perspective on AUs. Jeri – maybe a bit too strongly stated against the author?

    It was mentioned going to Jeri’s website – what is that please, I don’t see that listed?

    Mustang Jack, your sign off on Comment by ____, is spelled deferently so many times, I’m never sure its really you, or some imposter posing as you – look at your first reply to Jeri. When I sign on here my name is automatically listed as Roxy.


    • Roxy ~ Here is Jeri’s website. You can just click on her name: It’s one of those sites that says “responsible” horse people support slaughter because of all the millions and millions of horses that are being abandoned and abused, and so on and so on……

      Here is another site that Our bud Jeri helped found: They call themselves United Organizations of the Horse – should be Organizations of the Special Interests. Same old same old. Promote slaughter; oppose all pro-horse legislation.

      This is a new org, but they’ve insinuated themselves in a lot of places. I learned about them when I read a couple of their very misleading articles in the publication of the Indiana Horse Council. Lots of other legit orgs there too. I will contact the IHC about it.


      • Suzanne, thanks, I’ll check those out. I find it intersting that “they” never have open blogs like we have – what are they afraid of? I did find some info when I accidentally clicked on her (or his?) name – I did not know you could do that – I’ll be clicking on everyone’s this weekend.

        Of course Jeri never answered any of my questions – they never do. The silence tells me that 1.5 AU is INCORRECT for wild free roaming horse herds.

        I had a dream last night about division, not this specifically, but related. Lets say Jeri has a favorite book and a bunch of us don’t like it so we burn them all – how would Jeri feel about that?

        So Jeri does not appreciate what we are trying to do, so stay out of it – why does it pain Jeri, and “them”, that we want to keep 66,000 wild horses roaming free? Thats really such a tiny number on such a tiimy piece of our Public Lands (if we get that back)! Warped!

        I’ve been watching Americas Greatest Idea (not through part 2) – this has been a constant battle betwen idealogies. One of admiring beauty and art, in this case nature and wild horses, and one of power over everthing – the only good tree as a cut down tree! Versus – “just leave it alone” Teddy Roosevelt.

        I’m staying out of slaughter of domestic horses issue – wish you all the best for getting that stopped – it is not pretty, don’t get me wrong on that – but if someone breeds them then the ultimate fate of that horse is that breeders responsibility. Also, I’m not here to tell people in other countries what to eat and not eat, I don’t believe that is an USA value – but they should not be eating our USA “wild horses”.

        I’ve already got too many other causes (one of which would require licensing breeders of dogs, horses, whatever, to spend one day a month at animal control euthanizaing animals, and breeding without a license would require jail time, or increased time at animal control, and guess what they would be doing all day? Take that off the back of animal control and humane societies!).

        I’m only here for wild horses to be kept in the wild and I don’t want them to go to slaughter.

        I’ve had some luck, I dont’ know if it held, with pro slaughter people to separate the issue of wild horses from domestic horses and to appreciate our love of wild horses running free.

        Soap box – sorry.


  4. Hey, Roxy, it doesn’t bother me for you to be on your soap box. Heck, I’m sure on mine!

    I totally agree with you about the overpopulation of horses we have right now is primarily because of over breeding, and yes, it is the breeder’s responsibility. But no matter who is responsible, horses are dying a hideous death in slaughterhouses, and it certainly isn’t THEIR fault. However, there is another reason for my unrelenting fight against slaughter that never seems to get any publicity.

    There wasn’t always such a surplus of horses, but there was still slaughter – in fact, it was still legal here when I got my first horse back in 1977. I was in Dallas, Texas then, and Dallas Crown and Beltex were still doing a booming business. Many of the horses came from auctions, of course. I’ve been there, seen the killer buyers outbid everyone else for some nice horses. They weren’t taking the old, sick, skinny scrubs I can tell you for SURE! They were taking the BEST, and they could afford it because horse meat was worth so much per pound.

    But a lot – and I mean a LOT – of horses ended up on the kill floor because they were stolen. It was absolutely UNREAL. I didn’t know ANYONE who hadn’t either had a horse stolen themselves or had a friend’s horse stolen. Horses were disappearing from people’s back yards!

    From 1977 to 1992 – when I moved to Indiana – five of my closest friends had horses stolen. It was awful. A rep from the Cattleman’s Assoc. came to the stable where I boarded and told us the best way to protect our horses was to have them branded. It wasn’t a sure thing, but thieves would sure pass up a branded horse when there were so many more without them.

    I had my horse freeze branded on the hip, and it probably did save his life. Just before we moved, my stable – which had never lost a horse before – had three stolen on one night. All three were from the barn where my horse lived – including the horse in the stall next to him. I all but had a heart attack. I will never, never forget that.

    Even with all this surplus, horses are still getting stolen. When they shut down the plant in Illinois, horse theft nose dived 33%.

    I don’t have a problem with Europeans eating horse meat if that’s what they want to do. I do have a problem with OUR horses – which were never intended to be food – being stolen or having someone who would give them a loving home out bid by the killers because they were worth more $$$ per lb. Not only that, our slaughter process – captive bolt designed for cattle – is in no way shape or form humane for horses. Neither is our manner of transportation. I’m losing it. Gotta stop…

    Well – how was THAT now for a soap box rant?!


    • Hi Suzanne, I think you have beat me this time! Good info -as always I enjoy and learn from your writing. I’m so sad for you about the horse thefts. I do always write to support anti horse slaughter, it’s just not something I have time to invest in right now. I do wish the movement to win. And, of course, you have nailed the ugly truth on the head – when there’s money to be made, some peole, if they had a soul, sell it to the dollar. We should go back to public hanging of horse thiefs? (not really – but does propose at least a mental image of justice!).

      I have learned so much – It feels like it won’t fit in my head some days – I come from, in my childhood, a shoot em up, hunting, cattle & horse rancher family tree, real frontiersmen (my grandfather was a sadler in WWI) – where horse slaughter was just considered a part of life (if they couldn’t “break” those wild horses they rounded up, off to the rodeo or slaughter they went) – as a child, nor did I ever hear anyone speak of it, I never considered horse meat for human consumption – all new to me. I always thought glue factory or dog and cat food.

      I just got through the 2nd episode of Americas Best Idea – the bad guys will always be there, and they will always “seem” to outnumber the good guys, but it only takes one good guy at a time to change the world (something like that – not a direct quote from the show).

      Just saw Capitalism, A Love Story today – I highly recommend it, has some really creepy revalations – I was shocked. Also, reminds us all of the “power of the people”. Keep the faith!


  5. Jeri posted: “In ranching, horses are a valued and trusted tool, not a pet. I contend that to slaughter or not to slaughter goes beyond being a purely humane issue. At the most basic level, it is a personal property issue.”

    So, you don’t think “a valued and trusted tool” that’s given you everything that’s been asked of “it” doesn’t deserve even a “good death”? That is SO sad. Oh yeah, you want to buy a new horse with the blood money of the slaughtered one. I forgot. If slaughter were even CLOSE to being humane I would still be disgusted – as it is, I’m sickened.

    As for it being a “personal property issue,” just because you own an animal that doesn’t give you leave to do anything you please with it. If you don’t believe that, maybe you should have a word with Michael Vick.


  6. I have one honest question for those skeptical of the BLM’s calculations: How do you know if it is junk science? I mean, I am a beginning range science student and know enough that I know that horses consume 1.5 times as much forage as a mature cow because of the design of their digestive systems, and therefore as long as beef ranching continues and cattle get the lion’s share of what little forage can even grow in the arid West, wild horses will effectively eat themselves out of house and home. However, since I am only at the beginning of my education, I do not yet know much beyond the basics of calculating stocking rates to be able to recognize “fuzzy math” on the part of the BLM. Could anyone enlighten me?


    • from wildhorse preservation
      The Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act recognizes the wild horse as an “integral component of the natural system.” It stipulates that horses can only be removed from public lands if it is proven that they are overpopulating or are causing habitat destruction. It further mandates that the government “maintain specific ranges on public lands as sanctuaries for their protection and preservation.”
      In stark contrast with BLM’s assertions, scientific studies have shown that horses actually benefit their environment in numerous ways; vegetation seems to thrive in some areas inhabited by horses, which may be one reason the Great Plains were once a “sea of grass.” Generally, range conditions in steep hilly areas favored by horses are much better than in lower areas frequented by cattle.
      Cows have no upper front teeth, only a thick pad: they graze by wrapping their long tongues around grass and pulling on it. If the ground is wet, they will pull out the grass by the roots, preventing it from growing back. Horses have both upper and lower incisors and graze by “clipping the grass,” similar to a lawn mower, allowing the grass to easily grow back.
      In addition, the horse’s digestive system does not thoroughly degrade the vegetation it eats. As a result, it tends to “replant” its own forage with the diverse seeds that pass through its system undegraded. This unique digestive system greatly aids in the building up of the absorptive, nutrient-rich humus component of soils. This, in turn, helps the soil absorb and retain water upon which many diverse plants and animals depend. In this way, the wild horse is also of great value in reducing dry inflammable vegetation in fire-prone areas. Back in the 1950s, it was primarily out of concern over brush fires that Storey County, Nevada, passed the first wild horse protection law in the nation.
      The fact that horses wander much farther from water sources than many ruminant grazers adds to their efficacy as fire preventers. This tendency to range widely throughout both steep, hilly terrain and lower, more level areas, while cattle concentrate on lower elevations, also explains why horses have a lesser impact on their environment than livestock: when one looks at a boundary fence where horses range on one side and cattle range on the other, the horses’ side typically reveals about 30% more native grasses. Their nomadic grazing habits cause horses to nibble and then move to the next bunch of grass. This is why horse range is seldom denuded unless the horses’ natural grazing patterns are disrupted by human interference, mostly in the form of fencing.
      A team of Russian scientists, part of a cooperative venture with the United States, came in 2001 to study the effects of grazing animals on riparian areas in Nevada. They tested streams for nutrients and examined the desert and Sierra to learn techniques to improve the environment of their homeland. The scientists found that cows, which tend to camp around water sources, cause more damage to the stream banks than wild horses, which tend to drink and move on: “When we saw horses drinking from creeks, we didn’t see much impact except for hoof prints. The water looked clean, had good overhanging branches and there was no sign of erosion on the banks. There was an abundance of insects and animals, including frogs and dragonflies and water-striders.” Areas extensively used by cattle had fewer nutrients in the water and showed signs of bank erosion and other damage, concluded the study,
      Horses have proven useful to other species they share the range with: in winter months, they have the instinct to break through even deep crusted snow where the grass cannot be seen. They also open up frozen springs and ponds with their powerful hooves, making it possible for smaller animals to drink. During the historic blizzard of 1886, hundreds of thousands of cattle were lost on the Plains. Those that survived followed herds of mustangs and grazed in the areas they opened up. Another positive effect of wild horses on biodiversity was documented in the case of the Coyote Canyon horses in the Anza Borrega National Park (California). After wild horses were all removed from the Park to increase big horn sheep population, bighorn sheep mortality actuality skyrocketed: mountain lions, wild horse predators, compensated the loss of one of their prey species by increasing their predation on other species.
      Wild horses should not be used as scapegoats for range degradation that is in fact primarily caused by private livestock: for instance, environmentalists have determined that in Nevada, home of the vast majority of America’s remaining wild horses, the herds have little impact on the ecosystem compared with the hundreds of thousands of cattle that also roam the Nevada range. The Western Watersheds Project acknowledges that “the main cause of degradation of public lands in the arid west is livestock use and not wild horses.”


    • Beth, I can only suggest that you are studying “range science”, not wild ecology, wild animal econology, wild animal biology. Try Gus Cothram and Texas A & M, and Craig Downer, you can get to thier research from There are some other research papers ther too.

      Make sure you gather from the original authors. It is reported that Gus Cothrans reports have been altered by unknowns and republished, much to his alarm.

      Hope this helps.

      But I’m back to an old question that no one has answered as yet – what if wild horse AUM is 1.5? What exaclty does that mean in good terms and in bad terms for the wild horse? In additon to telling me BLM is wrong, I need to know what are the consequences of that infoormation one way or the other. Or is it something that can simply be debunked as a NON ISSUE? Apologies to anyone who did anwer tis question, I missed it.

      I copy this from jo bunny above: “In stark contrast with BLM’s assertions, scientific studies have shown that horses actually benefit their environment in numerous ways; vegetation seems to thrive in some areas inhabited by horses, which may be one reason the Great Plains were once a “sea of grass.” Generally, range conditions in steep hilly areas favored by horses are much better than in lower areas frequented by cattle.”

      “may be one reason the Great Plains were once a “sea of grass.”” – is this why they want to take our wild horses east? I continue to have this tickle on the back of my neck that we don’t know the real reasons why this is happeneing. Mining makes most sense right now, but that really does not feel right either.


    • roxy, sorry. i am only just now realizing that there have been a few more comments added here. the 2nd comment i posted has the link added in (vicki tobin’s site). the first one was from wild horse preservation
      i went to “learn more” (which brings up OODLES of titles of articles) & then i clicked on the link for “wild horses & the eccosystem”
      i know that i have seen other articles related to this, just cannot remember where. will keep looking.


  7. Mustang Jack, Thnak for this report. It sent me on a research trip that led me to research on goats eating wild fire vegitation. Found numerouse Univeristy studies and local studies. Problem with goats, it turned out, is they eat too much, more than horses, pull up roots and all (according to my local Fire Marshal). Googled several different ways, and got to different resultsm mostly Univiveristy studies. Several have pictures of before and after of both goats and wild horses.

    jo bunny, can we get a link to the reports you mention in your October 30 comments?


  8. Well, I was going to throw my 2cents in to good old Jeri, but see others like Roxy, Jo Bunny, Suzanne, et al have done a great job already. I would only add, based on my ag education, that depending on who is peddling the dogma (beef states peddle beef is perfect, poultry, pork, etc the exact same thing) the education will be slanted toward that production animal. Take a look at the chairs, scholarships, buildings, donations funding of those extension universities and colleges and then tell me that doesn’t influence the graduate and policy work of land grant institutions?!

    I will only comment that I found it very counterintuitive and more than queer that we in the US were feeding beef and dairy cattle animal protein based supplements to improve production weights and measures. Now, that was industry standard back in the 70’s and may be a variable in the “mad cow/BSE” dilema, of which concentrations in dairy cattle are disproportionally higher because they go to slaughter at a much higher age (excluding veal). In other words, Jeri…the meat industry is controlled by massive corporations supplying products front-end and buying/processing at the back end. I’m all for making a buck, but I don’t think ethical behavior is at the top of their to do list. Are they crooks?…didn’t say that. But they have agendas and it affects what is taught in schools, research, etc. Also, you know those dairy cows that the rest of the world won’t import? Guess who eats the bulk of ’em, Jeri?…that’s right, the American public. Where’s your beef cattle go Jeri? My guess is a big chunk goes to exports because of who you sell to and what they get for price. So Jeri, what you were taught re: AUMs/AMLs is antiquated, industry driven pixie dust that the BLM just loves.

    p.s. I do believe that some people are turning their horses loose, but it is not in the thousands. That is Sue Wallis, proslaughter undocumented propaganda. It is also an attempt to say mustangs are nothing but Bar JJ horses. Feral? Sorry, some might be (how, I don’t know because people like you can’t gather them up and whack them fast enough over the centuries), but there is science that says some herds may have survived the last Ice Age (10-20k yo). But of course that science wasn’t published by your university, so it must not be valid.

    Mustang Jack: Thanks for the input…I’d work on some of the grammar and spelling though in the blog, comments a different matter. Keep up the good work!


  9. Horse slaughter is driven by market demand, not the number of horses “out there.”

    Studies have shown that the “unwanted horse” population has no bearing on the demand for horses by the slaughterhouses. That is driven by MARKET DEMAND IN OTHER COUNTRIES.


  10. Much of this is what I gave in my Forever Wild and Free speech at the Wild Horse Summit in Las Vegas on Oct. 12, 2008. Much is verbatim from the speech. While I am glad the information is getting out, perhaps to avoid plagiarism, I should have been credited. You can call this speech up on the website


Care to make a comment?

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.