Blondie the Horse’s Accident Raises Moral Questions about the Carriage Tour Industry

as published in The Charleston City Paper

Horse Ethics

Meet Blondie. He’s a quiet, well-mannered Belgian horse who spent most of his first 12 years working in the fields of Ohio Amish country. Human employees of his current owner, Old South Carriage Company in downtown Charleston, say they see him as a coworker.

Blondie's accident left him on the pavement for nearly two hours before a crane righted him - COURTESY OF CHARLESTON ANIMAL SOCIETY

Blondie’s accident left him on the pavement for nearly two hours before a crane righted him – COURTESY OF CHARLESTON ANIMAL SOCIETY

Blondie had only been in Charleston about 70 days when he fell down in the intersection of East Bay Street and North Adgers Wharf on his first tour of the day around 9:30 a.m. on Fri. July 17. The driver told police that noise from a nearby cement truck spooked Blondie and caused him to back up into the carriage. When he fell, he remained on the ground for at least two hours before a forklift was brought in to help him back to his feet.

Blondie’s accident has prompted yet another round of a familiar debate in Charleston: What to do about carriage horses? Some protesters gathered in the street last week calling for the tours to be banned, as they have in some other Southern cities. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released the following statement after the accident:

“Busy city streets are no place for horses, who are easily spooked by loud noises and commotion, so it should come as no surprise that Blondie’s collapse reportedly followed a scare. As temperatures in Charleston soared into the high 80s, temperatures where hoof meets pavement likely rose above 100 degrees. Blondie languished on that pavement for more than an hour before a crane was called in to lift him to his feet. This incident is yet another testament to the cruelty inherent in the horse-drawn carriage industry.”

The Charleston Animal Society, meanwhile, stopped short of calling for an end to the industry altogether, but it did successfully lobby the Mayor’s Office last week to order an independent veterinary review of the accident.

The moral questions of how humans ought to relate to horses hinges on some fundamental assumptions about the nature of the relationship between man and beast. Hal Herzog, a professor of psychology at Western Carolina University with expertise in human-animal interactions, says horses are a prime example of what he calls “the moral confusion that we have about animals generally.” Herzog dealt with this confusion in his book, Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It’s So Hard to Think Straight About Animals.

Historically, horses fit into the category of livestock or working animals. In some cultures, they were even treated as meat animals. But today, with animal labor no longer playing a central role in transportation or production in urban areas of the developed world, Herzog says their category is shifting.

“Horses are now what are sometimes referred to as a boundary species, and that’s the problem. In some ways they’re working animals and we see them as working animals, and in other ways we see them as pets,” says Herzog.

Add to that moral confusion the anachronistic appearance of a beast of burden lumbering down a modern city street, and Herzog says it’s no wonder that a diversity of opinions exists on how the horses ought to be treated.

“The degree to which we anthropomorphize animals partly depends on the category they’re in,” Herzog says. “So we’re more likely to anthropomorphize a horse than we would, let’s say, a cow.”

The welfare of horses is not a new cause for animal-rights activists. At its founding in New York City in 1866, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals made the protection of horses one of its first concerns, campaigning against city-sanctioned practices that overburdened carriage horses and even creating the first ambulance for injured horses.

Today, according to Charleston Animal Society CEO Joe Elmore, the city of Charleston could do more to ensure the safety of horses on hot summer streets. “We all know the carriage horse industry is controversial. Everybody in Charleston knows that,” Elmore says. “We’re focused on the accident and what can be learned from that to prevent this from happening again.”

Elmore, who has asked that the Charleston Animal Society be allowed to participate in the accident review, says the initial report from police raised several questions in his mind, both for the carriage company and the city.

“If what was stated is true and the horse reacted to the cement mixer truck, how are the horses operating now? Are they still going by that cement mixer truck each day?” Elmore says.

“The other thing was, in the police report, there were 10 passengers. Why weren’t any of their statements recorded to corroborate what the carriage horse operator said? I mean that’s just basic … If a Delta Airlines plane were to go down, you know you’d have the NTSB, which is an independent group, really investigating it. You wouldn’t have the airport or the airline providing the information.”

Elmore says he’d also like to see a review of city policies meant to keep carriage horses from overheating in the summer months. An ordinance currently requires tour companies to pull their carriages off the streets when the ambient temperature reaches 98 degrees or the heat index reaches 125, but Elmore says the city should reconsider the location for its official thermometer, which is currently several blocks north of the Market on Calhoun Street and affixed to a three-story building.

Shawn Matticks, a manager at Old South Carriage Company, says he doesn’t have a problem with submitting to an independent investigation, but he doesn’t see the need.

“If that floats their boat, let them do it,” Matticks says. “I don’t think there’s a need to because it’s pretty straightforward. I don’t know what else they’re going to find that is going to be contrary to what happened. They can come look at our records, they can talk to the police officer on the scene. It doesn’t change the narrative.”

Last Tuesday, with the heat index around 115 degrees in the afternoon, Old South made the decision to bring its horses in from the heat, despite the fact that city ordinances would have allowed them to keep working. Matticks says the company lost money because of the decision, but they decided it was best for the horses.

According to Matticks, on the day of Blondie’s accident, he got a call from his driver and ran the half-mile to the scene to help. He says he, his staff, and a veterinarian tried using water, ice, and even intravenous steroids to help coax Blondie back onto his feet, but they determined that the horse had lost blood circulation to two feet from lying on his side. His feet had fallen asleep, essentially.

Matticks says the company’s veterinarian determined that Blondie’s body temperature, breathing, heart rate, and hydration were all fine. Blondie is resting at the company’s pasture on Johns Island now, but he says the horse’s only injury from the accident was some abrasion to his legs from the asphalt.

On the day of the accident, Matticks says he wasn’t thinking about business. He says he was thinking about a coworker.

“When I came up on the scene and saw Blondie laying there, I didn’t see Blondie the horse or ‘Oh my God, my people aren’t going to finish their tour,'” Matticks says. “I saw my coworker laying there on the ground, and I was trying to get him back up.”

2016 Wild Horse Freedom Federation Calendar

Front Cover

Front Cover

WHFFCalendarJanuaryOver 60 beautiful photos by Carol Walker of the wild horses living in the Adobe Town Herd Management Area in Wyoming grace this 2016 calendar. From the small foals to the powerful, mature stallions, Carol’s images capture the spirit and beauty of the wild horses in this Red Desert herd.

50% of all the proceeds from sales of this calendar will go to Wild Horse Freedom Federation

(Available here) beginning August 2015

Saving the near extinct donkeys of Bonaire with Marjorie Farabee (Wild Horse Freedom Federation) and Sean Paton (BICEPS Bonaire) on Wild Horse & Burro Radio (Wed., 7/29/15)


Wild_Horse_Burro_Radio_LogoJoin us on Wild Horse Wednesday (*SM) , July 29, 2015

4:00 pm PST … 5:00 pm MST … 6:00 pm CST … 7:00 pm EST

Listen to the live show (Here!)

You can also listen to the show on your phone by calling (917) 388-4520.

You can call in with questions during the 2nd half hour, by dialing (917) 388-4520, then pressing 1.

This is a 1 hour show.  It will be archived so you can listen to it anytime.


 Our guest tonight will be SEAN PATON, a freelance writer and journalist, radio host (Forum Antilles) and active environmentalist, who lived on Bonaire for 12 years, is founder of the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) BICEPS BONAIRE (Bonaire Island Coastal & Environmental Protection Society) and BICEPS WORLDWIDE.

Tonight’s show will be hosted by MARJORIE FARABEE, Dir. of Wild Burro Affairs for Wild Horse Freedom Federation, the Equine Mgr. of Todd Mission Ranch (home of TMR Rescue) and founder of Wild Burro Protection League.  Marjorie spent 6 weeks (2 trips) investigating the donkeys of Bonaire.


Marjorie Farabee


Sean Paton


To contact us:, or call 320-281-0585


1/28/15 – John Holland, President of Equine Welfare Alliance, with an update on horse slaughter issues. Listen HERE.

2/11/15 – Ginger Kathrens, Founder and Executive Director of The Cloud Foundation, and Debbie Coffey, V.P. & Dir. of Wild Horse Affairs for Wild Horse Freedom Federation: The PZP debate. Listen HERE.

2/18/15 – Gail Fagan, spokesperson for Help Alberta’s Wildies (HAW), a group of concerned Canadians who have been fighting to save the remaining wild horses, called “wildies,” from being culled in Alberta, Canada. Listen HERE.

2/25/15 – Janine Blaeloch, Founder & Director of Western Lands Project (fighting to keep public lands public) on industrial solar plants, and BLM & Forest Service land swaps. Listen HERE.

3/4/15 – Carol Walker, Dir. of Field Documentation for Wild Horse Freedom Federation with an update of the Wyoming checkerboard case and the captured wild horses. Listen HERE.

3/25/15 – Marjorie Farabee, Dir. of Wild Burro Affairs for Wild Horse Freedom Federation & Sean Paton, founder of BICEPS Bonaire and radio host of Forum Antilles, talk about the endangered donkeys of Bonaire. Listen HERE.

4/8/15 – Erik Molvar, the Sagebrush Sea Campaign Director for WildEarth Guardians, talks about retiring livestock grazing permits, oil and gas issues, a uranium mine in Wyoming and public lands issues. Listen HERE.

4/15/15 – Carol Walker, Dir. of Field Documentation for Wild Horse Freedom Federation on western wild horses under siege. Listen HERE.

5/6/15 – Marjorie Farabee, Director of Wild Burro Affairs for Wild Horse Freedom Federation and Simone Netherlands, founder of respect 4 horses organization, on the BLM’s plans to remove wild burros from the Black Mountain HMA in Arizona. Listen HERE.

5/13/15 – HOWARD LYMAN, (featured in Cowspiracy and author of “Mad Cowboy” and “No More Bull.”) Lyman stated his opinion of the risk of Mad Cow disease on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 1996, and he, Oprah and Harpo productions were sued by Texas cattlemen.  Listen HERE.

6/17/15 – R.T. and Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation on equine disaster preparedness and evacuation.  Listen HERE.


*SM – Service Mark

Nunki, the last wild horse on Bahamas’ Great Abaco Island, dies

Wild Horses of Abaco's photo.

source: wild horses of Abaco facebook

From Milanne Rehor:

It is with the heaviest of hearts that we have to tell you, our faithful fans and followers, of Nunkis passing on July 23rd.  Nunki was over 20 years old, which is quite remarkable for her.  She passed peacefully and painlessly in the loving arms of her caretaker and friend of over 20 years Milanne Rehor (Mimi) and with friends Avener and Dr Bailey at her side.  Her over stressed liver finally gave up.  On this saddest of days as we all try to wrap our heads and our hearts around what has happened, I wanted to reflect on a few things and share them with all of you.

Let us remember that our goal and mission was for this breed and for Nunki…and that goal still remains the same…trying to preserve this breed for future generations and to make what has gone wrong right again. And even though Nunki is now gone that mission does NOT change.  We will continue to work towards the return of the herd, and with Nunkis DNA that is still possible.  So let us not forget why we ALL joined together, why we were friends to Mimi, the Team and most of all Nunki and her kind, because we all cared enough to want to make a difference, and our work is NOT done.

Let us all keep Mimi, Avener and Jean in our thoughts and prayers, because no one knew or loved Nunki more than they did.  May Nunki rest in peace, I know she is kicking up her heels, whinnying to all those that have gone before her, with the wind whipping thru her mane.  We look forward to continuing to work with all of you on her re-birth.

May God Bless Us All, and help us be successful on this incredible mission that we have ALL come together to accomplish.

Rest in Peace Sweet Nunki



Last wild horse dies on Bahamas’ Great Abaco Island

By DAVID McFADDEN Associated Press

The last of the wild horses on Great Abaco island in the Bahamas has died, prompting caretakers to collect tissue for possible cloning and hopefully bring back a viable population.

Milanne Rehor, project director for the Wild Horses of Abaco Preservation Society, said Tuesday that a U.S. veterinarian removed tissue from the dead mare and the material has just been shipped to an animal cloning technology company in Austin, Texas.

“We are sad at the loss. But we are also optimistic because we do have a crack at bringing the herd back,” said Rehor, a 71-year-old New York native who has spent over two decades trying to preserve the wild horses in the northern Bahamas.

Some 60 years ago, as many as 200 wild horses grazed and trotted freely through the scrubland and forests of Great Abaco, which was once logged for its pine trees.

The horses were imported from Cuba in the late 1800s by a logging company. When the company switched to tractors for pulling logs in the 1940s, the animals were set free and went feral.

The wild horses flourished for a time, then a young child died while trying to ride one of the horses after it had been tamed and townspeople killed all but three of the herd in the early 1960s, according to Rehor’s organization.

The herd rebounded to about 35 animals by the mid-1990s with the help of Rehor and other enthusiasts who secured a preserve for the horses in Abaco’s Treasure Cay. But the remaining horses were sickened by poisonous plants, pesticides and herbicides and were unable to reproduce. The last one, a roughly 20-year-old mare called Nunki, died in recent days.

Rehor, who lives on a boat moored in Abaco, said she lost a “wonderful companion.” She hopes Nunki’s cells can be reproduced and one day a foal can be bred with DNA from a living stallion.

Ernest Cothran, a clinical professor at Texas A&M University’s Department of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences who has studied Abaco’s wild horses, said he would be surprised if the cloning plan succeeds. “I would not say it is impossible, however,” he said.

Ricky Bobby the diaper-wearing donkey finds home in Decatur, TX

as published on The Fort Worth Star-Telegram

“There is no doubt he is our baby”

This Ricky Bobby is a real jackass.

But the Wilson family just loves him.

Donkey Ricky Bobby has been adopted by Johanna Wilson, a staff member of the Humane Society of North Texas. - photo by Joyce Marshall

Donkey Ricky Bobby has been adopted by Johanna Wilson, a staff member of the Humane Society of North Texas. – photo by Joyce Marshall

The Bethlehem donkey, almost two months old, is nearly housebroken. He sometimes wears Depends for Women and there are pee pads on the floor.

Ricky Bobby sleeps in the bedroom with Johanna and Terry Wilson of Decatur.

A German shepherd-Great Dane mix named Beulah acts as a sort of nanny for the 20-pound donkey.

“He thinks he’s a mix between a dog and a horse,” Johanna Wilson said, breaking into a giggle. “There is no doubt he is our baby.”

Ricky Bobby’s story was nearly a tragedy.

His mother was one of 142 donkeys seized by officials in April and May from a feedlot in Kaufman County and a site in Louisiana, animals that were headed to slaughterhouses in Mexico. Officials estimate that the number of donkeys being held in Texas border towns awaiting slaughter in Mexico increased by 214 percent in the last year.

“They were sick so they had to be quarantined in Crowley,” said Whitney Hanson of the Humane Society of North Texas. The donkeys were Bethlehems, paints and miniatures. “They had respiratory problems and pneumonia.”

Dozens of the jennies were pregnant, including Ricky Bobby’s mother, who gave birth to him June 8 in Crowley at a quarantine facility operated by the Humane Society of North Texas.

Born premature, he weighed about 10 pounds — a normal donkey birth weight is 20 pounds.

“The day before, another donkey had given birth and as soon as Ricky Bobby was born his mother went straight to that other baby,” Johanna Wilson said Thursday. “She just rejected Ricky Bobby. We tried to get that other jenny to take Ricky Bobby, but she wouldn’t.”

Officials called the Wilsons to help. Johanna Wilson is a staff member with the Humane Society of North Texas. The couple owns a ranch near Decatur, which the humane society leases for horses and livestock.

The Wilsons adopted the new donkey, brought him to Decatur, bottle-fed him and gave him medications around the clock for the first few days.

Johanna Wilson named him Ricky Bobby after the character Will Ferrell played on Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby.

“In that movie, Will Ferrell had the line, ‘If you ain’t first, you’re last,’” Wilson said. “He was born, and another baby got milk from his mother and then got milk from Ricky Bobby’s mother. Ricky Bobby was last, and that made me think of that line.”

But Ricky Bobby isn’t last in the Wilson household. He’s loved and fed goat’s milk and milk pellets four times a day, enough to help him gain 10 pounds.

Along with Beulah, the Wilsons have four other dogs: Biscuit, Sug, Trish and Coco, all play partners for Ricky Bobby.

His other farm friends include four silkie chickens, three hogs and at least five horses at the Six Ds Ranch.

The Wilsons have six daughters and one son.

Johanna Wilson plans to keep Ricky Bobby somewhat homebound until the end of summer.

“I have to make sure he can exist on his own and can get away from any problems,” Johanna Wilson said, sounding like a mother talking about her child. “I think we’ll get to a point that we will be able to leave him in the barn.”

She also has Ricky Bobby’s career laid out. She sees him as a goodwill ambassador who will go to schools and nursing homes, comforting patients and educating children about donkeys.

Ricky Bobby was a big hit at the First Baptist Church Crowley, where he met with autistic children last month.

The little guy seldom leaves Johanna Wilson’s side.

“I think donkeys make the best pets,” she said. “You have to love and care for them, and once you do that, they are very devoted to you.”

Feel Good Sunday: Da Vinci, The Chestnut Foal, Always Has A Horse On His Back

Chestnut foal has unique marking which runs up his left shoulder and neck

It looks like an optical illusion but this chestnut foal was born with his own perfect white shadow.

The unique marking is the profile of another horse which runs up his left shoulder and neck.

It then merges seamlessly from white to black into his mane.

Da Vinci

The pattern is such a work of art that the foal’s owners have called him Da Vinci, or Vinny for short.

He was born at the start of May at Fyling Hall riding school at Robin Hood’s Bay, North Yorkshire.

Wendy Bulmer, who runs the riding school, said: ‘I bought his mother at a sale and didn’t know she was in foal [pregnant] so that was a bit of a surprise.

‘I wasn’t very happy at first but he is so friendly and the kids love him.

‘The chestnut horses have irregular patches but they don’t normally make something as recognisable.

‘He’s even got a little white heart shape on his bottom as well.’

Stewart, Hatch Wage War on Wild Horses and Burros with Bills to Give States Power to Manage Wild Equines into Extinction

Source: Multiple

“Below is an unedited article that has appeared in many publications across the country and beyond.  The content, as usual, is riddled with bad facts, incorrect information and bombastic assumptions that all point to the demise of our wild equines for the benefit of special interest groups who support individual political agendas.  I am sickened to the very depths of my soul.  We, as Americans, are so much better than this but the public’s will is continually denied by those who hold political office.  They ALL need to go!” ~ R.T.

Rep Chris StewartWASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Chris Stewart and Sen. Orrin Hatch introduced legislation Thursday giving states and Indian tribes the option to take over the management of wild horses and burros. The Wild Horse Oversight Act of 2015 would preserve all protections under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 and allow states to implement horse and burro management plans that address the specific needs of their own state.

“The federal government has never been able to properly manage the horses and burros in the west,” Stewart said.“Every state faces different challenges, which is why it’s important that they have the ability to manage their own wildlife.”

In the 44 years that the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act has been in place, horse and burro populations have soared above the populations envisioned in the legislation. This has led to the destruction of important rangeland and habitat for native species.

The BLM is neither capable nor equipped to manage wild horse populations, and federal stewardship has allowed their numbers to reach unsustainable levels,” Hatch said. “Deferring management authority to states and tribes is a commonsense solution that will mitigate the devastating ecological consequences horse overpopulation is causing to public lands in the West. Ranchers shouldn’t have to pay such a steep price for the federal government’s inability to manage wild horse populations successfully.”

Sen Orrin HatchThis bill would allow states to form cooperative agreements to manage herds that cross over borders, and the federal government would continue to inventory the horses and burros to ensure that the population numbers as prescribed by the 1971 Act are maintained.

“States and tribes already successfully manage large quantities of wildlife within their borders,” Stewart said. “If horses and burros were under that same jurisdiction, I’m confident that new ideas and opportunities would be developed to manage the herds more successfully than the federal government.”

A local approach would allow for coordination and partnerships between landowners, ranchers and other groups, Stewart said, “to provide better oversight and create a localized approach to each population and rangeland.”

What’s a Model of Self-Awareness? A Horse, of course

By KARIN KAPSIDELIS as published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch

“There’s something very powerful about being face to face with these creatures who are large and who mirror our energy,”

Teachers (from front) Anne-Margaret Evers of The Goddard School, Bonnie Sponsler of South Elementary School in Prince George, and Pamela Johnson of Patrick Copeland Elementary School in Hopewell work with Henry, a 12-year-old Appaloosa-Thoroughbred cross, during the equine-assisted learning class. – photo by JOE MAHONEY/TIMES-DISPATCH

Mooch, the 5-year-old mustang with the mischievous eye, was getting all the attention.

As three teachers tried to coax him to the end of the arena without benefit of halter or lead rope, Henry waited passively to be called on, his attention wandering off to a pair of horses stalled nearby.

“We felt like Henry was going to cooperate no matter what,” said Kathy Hayes, a Prince George County elementary school resource teacher, explaining why her team chose Mooch for the exercise.

“So tie that to the classroom,” Barbara Morgan, associate professor of psychology at Richard Bland College, asked the teachers. “What happens to those who cooperate?”

“They get overlooked at times,” Hayes said. The attention goes to “the one we know is going to be the challenge.”

But in this equine-assisted learning class offered by Richard Bland, it was the horses doing the teaching.

The challenge for the students was to interpret the shifting body language of horses as a lesson in self-awareness they could take back to school.

The weeklong teacher recertification class focused on coping strategies and stress management intended for “helping professionals,” said Morgan, a licensed professional counselor, marriage and family therapist and a certified psychotherapist through the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association.

Horses make excellent teachers, Morgan said.

“There’s something very powerful about being face to face with these creatures who are large and who mirror our energy,” she said.

As prey animals, with their survival at stake, horses constantly monitor their environment and the dynamics of anyone around them, Morgan said.

“They are highly emotionally intelligent and good sources of information about what is happening during an activity involving them,” she said.

Through its new equine center, Richard Bland also offers a three-course Equine Therapy Certificate, a credential for students enrolled in the college’s associate in behavioral science degree program as well as for licensed professionals seeking additional skills.

In both equine-centered classes, the horse is a key member of a team whose role is to serve as a metaphor for self-reflection, Morgan said.

“It’s not about horsey magic or petting the pony will heal you,” she said. “It’s really a learning model.”

The classes are ground-based — no one rides the equine team member.

“It really is the only time that horses can be exactly who they are while working for us,” Morgan said…(CONTINUED)

Click (HERE) for the rest of the story

Wild Horses: BLM’s Sterilization Studies are Barbaric and Unnecessary

SOURCE:  Wild Hoofbeats

by Carol Walker, Director of Field Documentation, Wild Horse Freedom Federation

The BLM has released more information about its proposed studies of wild horses, that they will be initiating 21 research studies for population control. They will be spending $11 million on these studies which will include  spaying of mares, gelding of stallions, chemical castration of stallions, chemical sterilization of stallions, and drugs causing permanent sterilization of mares. These barbaric practices will be performed in the field. The risk of infection and trauma to the wild horses is severe, especially with the likelihood of no medical follow up after these procedures.

The 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act requires managing wild horses and burros in order to maintain sustainable herds. Sterilization is counter to this requirement, and will inevitably lead to the ultimate extinction of our wild horses and burros. The current plans of the BLM require managing 78% of wild horse and burro herds in 10 western states at below genetically viable levels, which require least 150 adults in a herd.

Experimenting on our wild horses and burros is cruel, inhumane and absolutely unnecessary. There are proven methods of birth control that are safe and humane including PZP which has been studied for over 40 years. The Pryor Mountain Herd in Montana, the McCullough Peaks Herd in Wyoming, the Spring Creek Herd and Little Bookcliffs Herd in Colorado are all using PZP to successfully manage population growth, but the BLM refuses to use PZP on other herds.

Earlier this year I traveled to Washington D.C. with other groups to meet with BLM Director Niel Kornze and Deputy Assistant Director Mike Tupper to discuss solutions to wild horse and burro issues. Some of our recommendations included a significant expansion of  the number of mares treated with PZP in order to make a difference in population levels as well as possible voluntary retirement of livestock grazing permits in Herd Management Areas. We also discussed returning wild horses currently housed in Long and Short Term Holding facilities to Herd Areas that had been zeroed out. We offered to work with the BLM, and to find volunteers to help.

Mike Tupper was supposed to respond to our proposals but as yet has failed to do so. Instead, the BLM is embarking upon these sterilization studies, without public comment, without oversight, without protection for our wild horses and burros.

Despite the fact that these sterilization studies have been in the works for over a year (first announced in August 2014), the BLM has not released the names of the herds that will be experimented upon, nor have they responded to queries about this.

Sand Wash Basin Stallions - soon to be sterilized?

This unwillingness to work with wild horse advocates and commitment to dangerous and inhumane treatment of our wild horses clearly demonstrates the BLM’s ultimate goal – the destruction of our wild horse and burro herds.

Part 5 – What makes a horse worthy?

This us an update on the Wildies in Canada.


SOURCE:  Our Alberta Wild Horses

There’s a question for you. What makes a horse worthy? There are as many different answers, as different people. Do they have to be pretty, or come from long established bloodlines? Do they have to be registered in some man established registry? Do they have to be warm bloods, or cold bloods, or hot bloods? Do they have to be fast, or slow, docile or spirited? Do they have to have big expressive gaits, or long wavy manes and tails with feathers around their feet? To me, they just have to be. That makes them worthy. They already all come from long established bloodlines, dating back millions of years. Long before you or I were here, and long before people started judging them as being worthy or not.

Help Alberta Wildies (HAW) has withdrawn from future participation in group advocacy. The reasons for doing this have not been disclosed publicly. HAW says it will continue to offer aerial support to wild horse advocates, when possible and required. HAW’s future support will be in the background and on a smaller scale.

HAW has recently released news that it has partnered with equine conservationist Victoria Tollman of Central Registry Service Group (CRSG), and Dr. Gus Cothran, from Texas A&M University. HAW intends to gather at least 100 samples of DNA from captured wildies to send to Dr. Cothran to determine the genetic heritage and uniqueness of the Alberta Wildies.

I commented on the HAW page that in order to get a true sampling of our wildies, samples should be taken from all 6 Equine Zones and from as many different horses as possible, and not just from the captured wildies that are scattered throughout Alberta. Most of those horses are from the Sundre Zone and are probably related. The wider the variance, the more accurate the test results will be. My comment generated a response from Dr. Jocelyn Poissant, informing me that his team was, in fact, doing just that.

Dr. Jocelyn Poissant, researcher of the University of Calgary is also collecting DNA samples from our Alberta Wildies. Dr. Poissant has also done genetic research on the Sable Island Horses. This is what was posted on the University of Calgary’s website:

• Dr. Poissant joined the HPI group as a post-doctoral fellow in July 2014. He is working under the supervision of Dr. John Gilleard in the Department of Comparative Biology and Experimental Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Calgary, and Dr. Philip McLoughlin in the Department of Biology at the University of Saskatchewan. Dr Poissant is originally from Montréal, where he obtained a B.Sc. in Ecology at the University of Québec at Montréal in 2000. He then obtained a M.Sc. from the University of Guelph in 2004 where he worked on brook trout landscape genetics and a Ph.D. from the University of Alberta in 2011 where he worked on bighorn sheep evolutionary quantitative genetics and genomics. He came to Calgary after spending 2 years at the University of Sheffield (UK) where he worked on great tit evolutionary genetics as an NSERC and Marie Curie postdoctoral fellow. Dr. Poissant is supported in part by NSERC CREATE HPI.

• Dr. Poissant is an empirical evolutionary geneticist combining fieldwork with molecular and quantitative genetic approaches to understand how evolutionary forces such as natural and sexual selection interact with genetic variation to shape phenotypic diversity in wild vertebrate populations. His main research project, conducted in close collaboration with Dr. Philip McLoughlin from the University of Saskatchewan, focuses on the ecology, evolution and conservation of wild (feral) horses from Sable Island National Park Reserve in Nova Scotia.

• In the Gilleard’s lab, Dr. Poissant is developing molecular methods to characterize individual-level variation in gut nematode communities in horses (the equine ‘nemabiome’). These tools will then be applied in Sable Island horses to understand the impact of gut parasites on host health and life history in wild long-lived vertebrates.

Dr. Poissant’s research on the Sable Island Horses will be targeting projects concerning four inter-related themes of research. These themes address fundamental and applied projects on (I) Population ecology; (II) Inter-species interactions and community ecology; (III) Population genetics; and (IV) Parasitism, disease, and health of Sable Island horses.

There are many aspects to Dr. Poissant’s research regarding the Sable Island Horses. One of those aspects is the relationship between grey seals and the horses. Grey seals congregate on the tips of the Island to give birth to their pups. As a result of this congregation, the seals enrich the soil with nitrogen, which in turn feeds plant life, which in turn draws the horses. Horses then spread nitrogen throughout the Island with their droppings. If you remove one, does everything collapse or improve? Another aspect of this research is nematode related, or worm levels and their variations, and what effect, if any, does that have on the eco-system.

The Sable Island Horses are a unique herd, in that they are completely isolated, and they have received no medications. The last man-introduced horse to the Island was in 1935. Our Alberta Wildies differ considerably to the Sable Island Horses. According to Environment & Parks, all Alberta Wildies are domesticated escaped barnyard horses. Each and every wild horse on our Public Lands, were deemed unworthy of being kept by their owners, and when their use to their owners was over, they were thrown away in the wilderness of Alberta. This apparently occurred in the early 1900’s. All of these escapees and unworthy throw away horses would have therefore received medications. It will be interesting to see what difference there has been in the evolution of gut nematode communities between Sable Island Horses and our Alberta Wildies.

I, in no way, point any fingers at Dr. Poissant, the University of Calgary, or the University of Saskatchewan. Dr. Poissant is a researcher who has been carrying on these types of studies for many years. I do, however, point a finger at the other Partners of this study, and how they will use, or abuse, the information provided by Dr. Poissant, as it relates to our wild horses.

Those Partners are, the Alberta Conservation Association, whose Member organizations include the Alberta Fish & Game Association, the Alberta Trapper’s Association and the Alberta Professional Outfitters Society, two of them, members of the Feral Horse Advisory Committee, and all pro-slaughter, pro-cull wildies. Further Partners are, Agriculture Canada, Environment and Parks and WHOAS, also pro-slaughter or pro-cull. You will note, that I’ve included WHOAS in that statement. WHOAS actively and willingly participates in culls and has recently refused to take in a young mare from this year’s cull, after she became too much for her adopter to handle. WHOAS knew that she was destined for auction and slaughter, and did nothing to help the mare. WHOAS claim they cannot take in a horse that has been in contact with domesticated horses, due to the threat of disease to the wild horses at their adoption facility. WHOAS does not answer the question of why they take in dozens of wild horses that have been at the auction house, a well known hothouse of disease and parasite infections. I sure would like these people to get their stories straight!

Why would this mix of groups partner up, and why would they be interested in our wild horses? Could they be looking for a way to finally say the wild horses are “diseased” as they have so many times before, but this time, provide research data to try and give some justification for eradicating the wild horses? Certainly, no research data was needed, or provided in the past. Culls are issued simply to rid Alberta of any horses on Public Lands, claiming the wild horses damage the grasslands. All without any proof of such claim, of course.

All animals have worms. Deer, elk, moose, cattle, skunks, gophers, etc., but this particular study only focuses on the wild horses. It will be very interesting to see how the Partners of this study, use the information of genetics and parasite infestation. If their past performance is an indicator, my guess would be that this is the next round of the wildies are “infected” and have to be culled, or the world as we know it, will end.

All of this information, and how it is going to be used, just brings up more questions. My original question was, “What Makes A Horse Worthy?” I suppose I now have to add in, do genetics make a horse worthy? Does worming make a horse worthy? Do worms from our wild horses cause more disease or damage to animals and grasslands, than worms from all other animals? Those answers should be coming soon, and I suspect, to be used in conjunction with another cull of our Alberta Wild Horses.

Here’s another question. Does anyone see a conflict of interest here? If you do, contact Environment and Parks.


Minister Shannon Phillips
323 Legislature Building
10800 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB
Canada T5K 2B6
Phone: (780) 427-2391
Deputy Minister Bill Werry
Environment and Parks
915 – 108 Street
Edmonton, AB
T5K 2G8
Phone (780) 427-1799
Shannon Flint, Assistant
Deputy Minister Policy Div.
Environment and Parks
11th Fl. Petroleum Plaza St.
9915 – 108 Street
Edmonton, AB
T5K 2G8
Phone: (780) 422-8463
Helen Newsham Section Head
Rangeland Integration Section
Environment and Parks
4th Fl. Great West Life Bldg.
9920 – 108 Street
Edmonton, AB
T5K 2M4
Phone: (780) 427-4764


July 17, 2015