Horse News

Letter: The West Douglas Wild Horse Herd

by Dr. Don Moore as published on The Herald Times

Many have spent years of blood, sweat and tears to protect this herd, especially the Moores…” ~ R.T.

A West Douglas Family Band ~ photo by Toni Moore

Dear Editor: 

The Bureau of Land Management should never be allowed to arbitrarily select wild horse herds for roundup and slaughter. The BLM was created by wealthy ranchers and other power brokers for their own purposes. Initially, it was for the roundup and sale of cattle, followed by the roundup of wild horses, which were frequently slaughtered.

This practice continues to this day, evidenced by the roundup of the West Douglas herd, which is currently taking place without allowing timely input from the public, who legally own these public lands. This means the public is legally entitled to have major input on this decision, as well as sufficient time for responses.

Powerful grazing associations across Wyoming and Colorado have systematically eliminated all impediments to their acquisitions of public land. Cattle drives used slaves, cattle barons threatened and subjugated Native Americans, and settlers who came west looking for a better life. All fell prey to the wealthy, fast-growing cattle industry. In controlling all these grazing lands, the cattle barons controlled the cattle herds, and thus, the money that came from the sale and slaughter of these cattle.

Unfortunately, the federal government approved of these practices, because they generated more money for the government as well. Consequently, the cattle industry absolutely wanted the government to control and regulate the use of public lands. Hence the creation of the Bureau of Land Management, which was never created to allow the public to control their own lands.

The next impediment to this land control has become the wild horses who manage to survive in this wilderness. Instead of being a symbol of the great American west, and left alone to survive on their own, they have now become targets of this land acquisition. They are rounded up, transported to places where they have very little chance of survival, and then slaughtered. The myth of having them adopted is just that—a coverup of the fact that the BLM doesn’t even keep track of their whereabouts.

Horses have always been an integral part of the nation’s growth, used for traversing vast distances during the western expansion, as well as for farming, mail delivery, and sadly, instruments of war. They have helped us in numerous ways, and they are as important as every animal who lives on our public lands.

Using the excuse that they are putting a “strain” on the ecosystem is a noxious argument. We put the worst strain of all on the planet. Horses should be protected and preserved, not slaughtered. The BLM is doing a disservice to us all. If they truly are the “managers” of our public lands, the BLM must protect these horses. This agency is at a crossroads now. Does it protect our lands for the benefit of all the creatures that inhabit them, and the public who cares about them, or does it bow to the wishes of the rich and powerful? The West Douglas horse herd is now the lynchpin.

Don Moore, D.

20 replies »

  1. So sad. I am sure that these horses could have easily been rehomed if the welfare organisations had a chance to do so. Actually, my feeling is that wild horses should no longer be on “public” land.
    There should be a concerted effort to get funds in and to put them on a well managed wild horse reserve that is bought and paid for by the public. PLEASE get fundraisers for this involved – what about a public company with $50 shares that can be bought by horse lovers . Maybe a $50 levy per year to pay for their management and vet care. Then get a public company run by veterinarians and animal welfare experts and real cowboys that know horses and perhaps even a studbook association for genuine wild horses ( not strays) that can all be microchipped and DNA’d. I would be happy to be part of such a company and part owner of a wild horse herd as a result. We could have a Facebook page and video links to hidden cameras as we do with wild animals in reserves in South Africa – so those who are shareholders can basically watch the horses online. We have privately owned reserves in South Africa? Why not in the USA? I am a qualified veterinarian and AQHA member and feel passionate about this. Would like to help I any way I can.


    • America’s public lands are already “bought and paid for” by the government, though often through trickery and theft from indigenous peoples. Private sanctuaries already exist but most are scattered, private access only (!) and non-reproducing herds. We are already paying a lot to subsidize the private, for-profit grazing leases on these public lands, along with the escalating costs of the wild horse and burro “management” in place today.

      The answer is not to remove them and privatize them further, rather it lies in existing law which is clear that the competition for grazing resources in legal horse and burro areas is manmade and the equines have priority over commercial livestock, period. The simplest answer is to erase this needless conflict since just over 10% of the legal grazing permit areas inclue wild equines, meaning 90% are livestock only already. In those 10% livestock should be banned, and those areas which were once legal for wild equines need to be rewilded by thoughtful reintroductions.

      I do agree we can and should have more cameras in place in the wild AND in the off-range holding facilties so the public can better monitor our wild equines. I also agree we need to bank DNA and archive specific alleles to ensure our future herds remain genetically robust. We are paying to do embryo transplants in supposedly native Red Wolves at high cost, why can’t we do this with our wild equine genes before they are gone forever? The technology exists but not the will.

      FWIW I am a former AQHA member. I dropped out due to their pro-slaughter stance which seems incompatible with the veterinary oath to me. Also worth noting: the original quarter horses were largely mixtures of whatever was on the range and favored bloodlines were perpetuated before the AQHA was formed. Some of the best talent and qualities (and colors) that are now so diluted in the registry came from the rich genetic diversity on the range.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, Quarter horses are a mixture. However, almost all horse breeds ( except Arabians and probably some of the antique pony breeds ). So are thoroughbreds. Thing is, once you register a breed you allow for selection of the best animals within the breed norms. Using outcrossing and inbreeding scientifically, you will have a horse that is sound and fit for the purpose that the breed intends. American Quarter horses have been bred for sensible temperaments, speed, agility and soundness. Genetic testing removes inherited diseases. There are a variety of “types” within the breed and you can pick your type and breed towards it as there are good records of the ancestors that show the type of horse that you would choose. As a purchaser, you have a choice between a huge halter horse ( some of which become police horses and others barn ornaments ); a practical working cow type that is great for outrides and can survive on almost nothing in harsh environments (I saw some sleeping out at 40 below in Canada); a nifty, solid little reining horse that can gallop and spin and stop while carrying a tall cowboy ; or a real racehorse that you can bet on while it gallops for the finish on a grand racecourse. As a vet, I really like working with QH because they are easy to work with! Also like owning them because they are good doers and sensible to ride.

        Liked by 1 person

      • SACowgirl: I used to be an AQHA breeder and grew up with these horses (and many other breeds) in the American West. I still have some myself so you are preaching to the choir mostly about their virtues. However, as a vet you surely are aware of some of the negative aspects of so much inbreeding and pursuit of the almighty dollar often to the detriment of the horses themselves, and their genetic bases for being structurally sound. In fact, plenty of registered horses are carrying genetic diseases but are still being knowingly bred. It may be in SA you see less of this but it is endemic in the US, and is part of the supply chain for disposing of horses long before their prime as they become unfit or unsound.

        While I understand your “mobile abbatoir” suggestion, it is not likeley to be favorably met in the USA. Most horses here are not commodities or raised with the intention of slaughtering them one day — not to mention you surely know as a vet that common medications used in standard husbandry makes the meat unusable?

        We do have an “end of life” problem for beloved horses though, which I have proposed elsewhere could be addressed by owners paying a small fee or tax on every purchase of horse-related goods or services over a horse’s lifespan, which would buy a plot in their home state for an eventual respectful burial of a horse or horses.

        My larger point here is that in wild conditions (or as near as is possible) we still have mostly natural selection at work, and a broader diversity of genetic adaptations — including perhaps some for a changing climate — which we should value more highly. Inbreeding and linebreeding within registries is costing us many millions (not to mention pain and suffering which could be avoided), and our wild herds are the only repository of the broader genes which could be used to replenish our narrowed (and diminishing) domestic bloodlines.


      • Icy Spots. I am a also a vet and I am definitely pro-slaughter. Or rather, pro-humane slaughter. In my opinion, the best thing that the Vets in USA could do is have small legalised facilities where a horse can be slaughtered humanely, without using drugs, so that the remains can be repurposed so that there are no environmental consequences. Or vets should assist in facilitating the use of licensed small mobile abattoirs ( we have them for wild game in South Africa) That can travel to a farm, stable or veterinary clinic and slaughter injured or infirm horses humanely and remove the carcass for repurposing. Seeing live horses forced into large trucks and transported thousands of miles is so cruel that it is unbelievable,


    • Wow the land that is for the wild horses&burrows is being taken away from them ,Just like Did To The Native Americans and when the Government Gave them some land it was Stripmined Shame on You A Solution,Everybody Has To Share Equally!!!!!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Rtf is part of the reason the path forward is into play now them amounted a few other horse advocacy groups sold out our wild horses to the cattle association so stop acting like u care rtf….

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This is so very sad because NO one is listening to our VOICES! I truly thought there would be a change with this Administration!
    However, it’s only become the worse possible scenario! I pray to God he helps us before it’s too late!

    Liked by 1 person



  5. As an overseas commentator ,UK, I have stated time and again the BLM must be in the pockets of rich ranchers etc, why don’t the government listen to the public about what goes on in these so called public owned lands, why do they allow so many cattle and sheep to overgraze and spoil the water sources. Why isn’t more made of the possible tourist industry who want to visit and see these wild horse herds thus making money to help manage these horses. There should be an immediate amnesty on roundups until a thorough and unbiased investigation is held, we all know horse numbers are vastly exaggerated to facilitate many of these roundups. It’s horrifying the numbers of horses stagnating in holding facilities after being ripped away from their families and range. There are many people all over the world who are worried about this situation, I’ve been following these reports for many years, really thought the new government might be more sympathetic to investigating the BLM and maybe setting up something new, is there anyone in government who is sympathetic to this cause. I curse the roundups that cut families apart and cause fatal accidents. I live in hope as many do that there will be a change sooner rather than later.


  6. Deborah is so very correct. Our Wild Horses, were here before the cattle!! They are legally protected; yet, our Government, violates that legislation!! Brutal; horrific roundups, need to be defunded! The high hopes that were once there, for the current Administration, have disappeared. The Wild Horses, have strong family bonds. Those who are in charge, are oblivious, to this factor.!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Greatly appreciate Dr. Moore’s wise and trenchant expose concerning what is happening to the wild horses. BLM and those egging this agency are making a mockery of the WFHBA. This needs to stop and our government needs to quit catering to the bullying arrogant and nature-destructive ranchers, among others of similar motivation!

    Liked by 2 people

    • To Sacowgirl – you say you’re a vet and definitely pro-slaughter – humane slaughter without drugs so the carcass could be re-purposed or more likely have their flesh sold wherever there is a demand for them to be eaten by humans. Sorry to have to tell you, considering that you’re a vet, that there is no such thing as “humane” slaughter. Rather, you’re most likely associated with top quarter horse slaughter proponents. Quarter Horses’ hooves usually give out when they’re about 7 yrs old; but never mind that when quarter horses no longer can race, their pound of flesh brings in tidy sums. About 70% of horses going to slaughter are quarter horses. BTW meat still has to be inspected by the USDA, so your mobile abattoir will be illegal. Now tell everyone who you really work for.

      Liked by 2 people


    Largest wild horse roundup in Colorado history underway

    303 wild horses have been captured so far as BLM White River Field Office conducts emergency removal of animals from western Colorado

    John LaConte
    Vail Daily

    RANGELY — The largest wild horse roundup in state history is underway in western Colorado, with helicopters chasing the animals into a trap set on land overseen by the Bureau of Land Management’s White River field office.

    As of Wednesday, Aug. 4, the roundup had removed 303 horses over the course of nine days, making it the biggest in Colorado history. The next closest was 10 years ago in a roundup east of Colorado Highway 139 in the Piceance East Douglas Herd Management Area, in which 276 horses were gathered, according to information provided by the BLM.

    In addition to BLM land, the horses currently being rounded up in western Colorado also range on state-owned and private property. The horse habitat is known as the West Douglas herd area, and has long been considered to be outside of the areas identified for the management of wild horses by the White River field office.

    In other words, the wild horses don’t belong there in the eyes of the land managers who oversee the property. The small amount of range land that is available in the area has been impacted by drought in recent years, and 60% of that range was burned in the recent Oil Springs Fire, according to the BLM.

    “This emergency gather will prevent further deteriorating body condition of the wild horses in the area due to limited food and water,” said White River Field Office Manager Bill Mills.

    Many of the horses snagged in the West Douglas roundup have arrived at a level 4 body condition on the BLM scale of 1 to 10, which is considered healthy. High numbers on the body condition scale are nonexistent in the wild, a 10 would be “a pig on stilts,” the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro manager for Colorado, Steve Leonard, said Saturday.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. To Sacowgirl – don’t know you, and I don’t want to know you. Furthermore, I am very concerned and worried about the animals you supposedly care for. I am very disturbed regarding your use of the word “slaughtered”, as a vet, for injured animals. If a animal is severely injured or sick and there is no OTHER means of helping them, then putting them humanely to sleep is what should be done – not “slaughtered”. It appears that you will not use any form of medication to help an injured/sick animal for fear you won’t be able to “slaughter” it and use the remains. You are a sick, vile human being – not a vet.
    Our wild horses and burros have a federal designated right to live and roam free on our public lands. The problem is the federal agencies that are charged to protect and preserve them – don’t. This would be the BLM and USFS. Our wild horses and burros need to removed out from under their charge. And, no veterinarians, like yourself, near them.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wow the land that is for the wild horses&burrows is being taken away from them ,Just like Did To The Native Americans and when the Government Gave them some land it was Stripmined Shame on You A Solution,Everybody Has To Share Equally!!!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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