Horse News

BLM Error or the Right Move?

“In My Humble Opinion” by R.T. Fitch – Author of “Straight from the Horse’s Heart

An alternative water source for the Pryor Mountain Herds

Now I don’t want to muddy the waters or go off into left field but in an effort to be fair and balanced it appears, at least at first glance, that the BLM is in the process of doing a good thing for the wild horses in the Pryor Mountains.

Granted, we still have not scabbed over from the unnecessary and botched  helicopter stampede of last September, but  there has been a bustle of activity out to the Britton Springs holding facility, over the past week, and it was not centered around tormenting the horses; instead it appears to be aimed at helping the herds.

There was the malicious roar of helicopter blades over the area, again, but instead of renegade contractor choppers chasing horses down mountainsides it was a cargo helicopter lifting equine water “guzzlers” to the remote BLM facility.  (It still probably scared the living daylights out of any horses within earshot.)

I had heard about such contraptions last year and the recent press releases are the first opportunity that I have had to actually lay an eyeball on them and better understand their construction and in this case, their use.

Each “guzzler”, as depicted in the picture, has the capability to contain about 1,800 gallons of trapped rain and melted snow in an effort to supply the wild horses with an alternative drinking source to their natural water supply.  The domed cover also contains and limits any evaporation while an opening in the end allows the horses to access the water.  With the exception of the water opening the remainder of the unit will be fenced off for the safety of both the horses and the guzzler.

Jared Bybee attempting to explain the reasoning behind the helicopter stampede of the Pryor Herd to Ginger Kathrens - Photo by Terry Fitch

According to BLM employee Jared Bybee the intent is to spread about 7 of these out and across the Wild Horse preserve in areas where the horses normally don’t graze due to limited water natural water sources in those areas. Hypothetically, this will allow the horses to spread out and may even encourage the BLM to allow for larger numbers to remain on the reserve.  This was the main sticking point in last year’s round-up; the numbers that were left may not allow the herd to survive and then add the fact that the mares were pumped up with PZP to prevent further pregnancies makes the future of the Pryor Mountain herd look questionable at best.  Another point not highlighted by the BLM is that the bulk of the natural water holes are leased out to welfare, private, cattle ranchers.  Our native, publicly owned wild horses go begging for water.

So is the BLM doing right?  Too little too late?  I don’t know as I am not nor never will be a wildlife ecologist but to my simple, horse loving brain it tastes a little bit like the right thing to do.  So I will give credit where credit is due.

Now, if they could only get their numbers right and leave the horses in the wild where they belong we would be on level ground, but until then, they made one right move in the right direction.  It sure would be great if this was the beginning of a trend.

Will wonders never cease?

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27 replies »

  1. RT, I have heard of this too, I am hoping it signals good will and good management for this little herd, and also if successful, will help other herds in other areas. ALso, there are 25 babies out there now, plus a good crop of yearlings, I was glad to see another exact replica of Cloud among this year’s babies. I too hope this is a start in a “new direction.”


  2. More hope the the BLM is actually implementing new management strategies. Don’t want wild horses overgrazing a particular area? Don’t want them too close to a road or maybe even the RUBY PIPELINE? Stragically place some of these “contraptions” where you DO want them to go, and see what happens. Thirsty animals learn pretty quickly where the water is.

    The dark color should provide a longer drinking season. They may ice over, but, except in prolonged periods of freezing weather, the sun should take care of enough of the ice so the horses can break through. Hopefully the covers will slow down algae production, since I don’t know how often they’ll be cleaning them.

    I wonder if they’ll experiment with these in combination with a well/windmill/float combination?


  3. Cautiously optimistic is my mindset. Money spent wisely and fiscally responsible (for a change) to give the horses more range usage is a good thing. As my wise dad would have said, “A day late and a dollar short” for last September, however.


  4. it’s good to catch the rain water and water runoff. 1,800 gallons isn’t much water. I’m sure the wild horses know all the natural pockets in the land that also catch water runoff. some may be much larger than 1,800 gallons.

    They have been talking about guzzlers, well lets call them what they are- 1,800 gallon water runoff catchers for about 2 years now? and they blamed someone, I forget about the delay in doing their work.

    It is good the BLM think of water as we all know horses are a fluid based animal and die faster than most animals- without water.

    It’s hard not to be critical. yet how much did it cost to helicopter ‘metal’ water catchers(how much did they cost?) and how long untill they rust away.

    wouldn’t it be easier to ‘readycrete’ a natural pocket of land to catch thousands of gallons of runoff. and concretes cheap. Can drop the bags dry- no need for forms, can shape it by hand in any natural depression- to hold water. Love my readycrete lol, use it all the time 😉


  5. by the way my nevada mustang mare showed me how her herd used to have water. and water is always upppermost on her mind. guess she came from an area dry as a bone.

    when it rains she paws a hole in between her front legs in about 20 seconds. her head drops over that hole, rain runs off her mane and forlock right into that hole, like a gutter the rain fills that hole fast! Then she drinks! No matter she has clean water always. She loves when it rains and always catches herself a big drink without even moving an inch 🙂


    • I’ll say. . .well documented! This is the kind of “up close and personal” learning the foals get from their mammies and baby sitters! This is what is lost when too many older ones are removed. . . survival techniques. . .learned behavior passed down over the generations. And it is only our arrogance and lack of observation which is the wall through which we cannot see the secret mysteries. They are all around us!

      The “bands” of horses serve a survival purpose — the possessiveness of the stallions, the hierarchy of the mares, in these ways we see the manifestation of eons (and, perhaps mere generations) of nature’s selective breeding program.


  6. There will be more than just this one waterer, to spread the horses out over the area, and also to get them to go into areas they don’t go into because currently, there’s no water there.


  7. I was wondering when the BLM would get it that they themselves were causing overgrazing of some areas by limiting either acreage, access to water, access to forage, preventing “free roaming,” etc. I’m sure they still don’t have the big picture, but this is something anyway.

    You’d think “horse experts” could figure this out.


    • I understand that Pryor is working on extending the herd area toward the west and southwest; to more natural boundaries and also removing unnecessary barbwire fencing.

      Matt also seemed to like the idea of a “project” where “Indian dams” might be created in certain areas — this is ancient technology that could be utilized to decrease the rate of water runoff or evaporation in areas where there is water.


      • Linda — all I know about Indian Dams is here: (these comments are found at the following link, about water sources:

        My comment is here:

        On December 15, 2009 at 1:30 pm Janet Ferguson Said:

        This is from a rather old booklet, “Seven Amana Villages — recipes, crafts, folk arts from the Seven Amana Villages of East, Amana, Middle, High, West, South, and Homestead”, copyright 1981 by Penfield Press, 215 Brown Street, Iowa City, IA 52240. There is a photograph of a small river, taken from the banks, showing a 55-65 foot long pool at the edge of the river, within a rock circle. The caption says,
        “Indian Dam – When the sun is high and the days are dry, the waters of the winding Iowa River drop lower and lower until there is exposed to view the river’s great scenic prize — its Indian dam in the Amanas. The Indians built the dam to aid them in catching fish in times of low water. This is the only Indian dam on a river in Iowa.” I guess the “dam” is built when the water is low, and then when the water again recedes after a high water period, water remains in the dam. And some fish. Of course, the water would be stagnant after a while if no rain came. But the dam was still there in 1981.
        Would this ancient technology or similar technology be considered a possibility? I guess all the above would do would be to postpone the inevitable (while providing fish for a short time to eat).
        ◦ On December 18, 2009 at 12:27 pm pryorwild Said: 
That’s very interesting! I think having some simple dams made of native materials would be great if it could at least temporarily make a variety of water sources available around the range. Thanks for sharing!


  8. When I read an article about this I thought “finally”. The article I read is that they were going to fence the guzzlers in such a manner that the horses could only go to the open end to drink and not stand on the unit. I wondered why they didn’t use redicrete too, then they could have used the left over to see rebar into the cattle catchers so there wouldn’t be stuck hooves. I’d like to get my hopes up that this is a wave of future range management but they’ve been dashed too many times. Don’t suppose they could ever have thrown some sprouting seeds out the doors of those heli’s.


  9. They get out of school. They need a job. The government has jobs. Like most everyone, they do as they are told in order to keep their jobs. They probably actually believe what they are told. It has been proven that when you tell someone something often enough, they begin to take it as TRUTH. It is done all of the time in marketing–also in brainwashing. That’s where we come in. There are probably those within the bureau that hate the system, but it is awfully hard to do much when you are in it. I think, in some ways, we help them too.


  10. They do as they are told in order to keep their jobs? The guards at Dachau also did what they were told to do to keep their jobs. Not good enough. Not buying that for one minute.


    • Louie is right unfortunately. There is a real cult of secrecy in the BLM and probably in the entire DOI. They don’t like whistle blowers. They will either fire a person outright or make it so miserable for them that they are forced to quit.

      Like Louie, I do NOT approve, but I do know that it’s true. Jobs are in short supply, and if a person has a family depending on him/her it’s not such an easy decision.


      • I can’t help but wonder what happened to the DOI/BLM employees who posted Open Interior ideas calling for transparency and an end to the culture of secrecy and intimidation in the department. I don’t imagine it would have be that hard for the government to track them down electronically and show them the door.


  11. I know, but that is what we are dealing with. You sort of have to know where they are coming from in order to understand the scope of the problem Doesn’t mean that we go along with it. We have more power on the outside of the system than they do on the inside.


  12. On a lighter note–click onto the Mustang Projects blog to see two GREAT videos. You all will enjoy them. You need to see something GOOD.


  13. I ran across the use use of rain guzzlers and did some research a while back..they have been doing this(BLM) extensively for some time for the big horn sheep which tend to live in higher and dryer places..this isn’t rocket science and its not new, and yes this is a better version than the concrete or metal ones used..Its about time..the BLM is always complaining about cost..but pales in comparison to the cost of helicopters and holding facilities..So I am happy to pat them on the back for doing something happens every once in a while..


  14. I really hate to be so cynical, but DOI/BLM do very little to encourage and protect wild horses and burros. As such, I can only assume that this operation is to provide expansion to cattle and sheep grazing rights and game hunting at the initial effort to appear equine friendly. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised that the DOI proposed this program to get budgeted and funded as wild horse/burro critical and then turns around, rounds them up, zeros out and let’s the mineral trolls, grazing interests and hunters just have a good old time!….or maybe BLM is just running out (oun intended) of wild horses and burros and are looking for other “contractor” contract opportunities. I kid you not!

    BTW…politic Sunday morning shows still talking JUST MMS….nothing DOI or that the land based abuser in charge, Abbey is now in charge of MMS via Emperor Slaughterczar’s edict.

    p.s….when was the last time that DOI did any water improvements for wild equines that didn’t include other species, primarily bovine/ovine????? Just curious.


  15. In all honesty, it is usually the ‘good’ livestock owner who fixes the water troughs..If you read the WWP lawsuit on the calicos..many troughs were broken leaking and dry..beat up by horses who went there expecting to find water and they were dry..what do you expect them to do? What are the blm employees getting paid to do? They complained that the calico range is too vast and remote to check…millions of dollars to round them up but no one can check on them…miserable inadequeate management…


  16. I don’t know— I hope it isn’t a water trap like those used in other areas–get the animals coming to a constant water source– and then run a fence around it to capture them— read about “water traps ” a while ago. No trust here. Hope I’m wrong!

    So glad to hear that there are babies and young horses out there on the range– this winter’s reports were so depressing. Thanks for all the info –you are all such wonderful advocates for “our wild horses”.


  17. the idea there is not enough water is only because the mankind who runs this world do not know how to capture and hold water

    this is a good start…imo Anna Wahpoose 1951 usa


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