Louisiana’s Wild and Free Roaming Horses

“The remarkable beauty of one of Louisiana’s best kept secrets is threatened”

Local reporter, Rickie Smith, from The Leesville Leader, has published an article about the unique herds of wild horses seen on Peason Ridge. The article, Wild Horses Embedded in Peason History   highlights the uniqueness of the this area and its wildlife, especially the wild horses who have thrived here for over a century. Please take a moment to read and share the article, as well as show your appreciation to Mr. Smith for getting the word out about the unique herds of culturally significant wild horses in Louisiana.

Recap on the Peason Ridge Heritage Tour:

The Peason Ridge Annual Tour, held on March 30th, 2018 was truly amazing. Mr. Rickey Roberson, our tour guide and local historian, shared his extensive knowledge about an area in west central Louisiana, known as Peason Ridge. The Ridge is situated between the Sabine River and the Red River, called the Neutral Zone where Native Americans and settlers traded during precolonial times.  We learned the locations of each homestead and what crops they grew. Some of the fruit trees still thrive to this day. We learned where each fresh water spring is located, as well as locations of natural salt licks! These natural resources are still providing key nutrients to the wildlife in the area; such as, the unique herds of gaited wild horses, wild turkeys, bobcats, wild hogs, cougars, black bears and the red-cockaded woodpecker which is classified as endangered, just to name a few.

Wild horses and cattle were driven right across vast un-fenced area of what is now Sabine Parish to the livestock markets in Natchitoches in the 1800’s. (Sabine Parish is only 14 miles from Texas border). Saddle horses and wild horses were documented as being sold in 1800’s estate sale records in the Kisatchie region, where Native Americans traded horses before and into the turn of the century.

One of my favorite parts of the tour was when Mr. Robertson explained to all in attendance that the wild and free roaming horses are the last standing reminders of our ancestors in this vast Louisiana landscape know as Peason Ridge.

Brigadier General Patrick D. Frank,  new JRTC Commanding General, kicked off the tour with a speech thanking the Heritage Family members for their sacrifice of loosing their land, which was taken by the Military via imminent domain in 1942, forcing homesteaders to leave.

The tour was escorted by a US Army Captain Jason James. In his opening statement Capt James mentioned how the US Army cares about the environment and preservation of it, as well as the preservation of the old homesteads and artifact areas (most of which are marked with orange stakes). Capt. James even specifically said how they “take care and protect the Red-cockaded Woodpeckeras well as the Horses”.

All in attendance loaded onto an Army bus and spent four hours touring the area. There is so much land to cover and the horses seem so small on this vast Louisiana landscape, its truly breathtaking! The next tour of Peason Ridge is scheduled for October 2018.

In addition to the footage from Peason Ridge, I received several photos from the Drop Zone area of Fort Polk. The video above shows the two distinct areas of concern, which are approx 30 miles apart.

  1. Peason Ridge
  2. Main Base / Drop Zone.

The video is rather long but there are so many wonderful pictures that needed to be shared for everyone to see the remarkable beauty of one of Louisiana’s best kept secrets.

The majority of the public is against these wild, free roaming horses being systemically removed from these wildlife areas, where they and their progeny have coexisted in this rich environment for a century . The locals, as well as all who have come to know and appreciate them, view the wild horses as a unique reminder of days gone by in this historic region of precolonial Louisiana.

It is vital that the public CONTINUE to engage decision makers.

Make your voice heard TODAY.

Please take a moment to contact federal and state officials asking them to protect Louisiana’s wild and free roaming horses!

Take action by ALDF
http://aldf.org/blog/take-action-protect-louisianas-wild-horses/

Mike Strain
(225) 771-8942
info@mikestrain.org
commissioner@ldaf.state.la.us
File a Complaint: 225-922-1234
Buying/Selling/Transport without certificate
Livestock: 800-558-9741

Bill Cassidy
(202) 224-5824
http://www.cassidy.senate.gov
https://twitter.com/BillCassidy
https://www.facebook.com/billcassidy

John Kennedy
(318) 445-2892
(337) 436-6255
(202) 224-4623
https://www.kennedy.senate.gov/public/email-me
https://www.kennedy.senate.gov/public/

John Bel Edwards
(844) 860-1413
(866) 366-1121
govpress@la.gov
https://www.facebook.com/LouisianaGov/
https://twitter.com/LouisianaGov

Jeff Landry
(225) 326-6079
(225) 326-6200
ConstituentServices@ag.louisiana.gov 
https://www.facebook.com/LandryforLA/

Billy Nungesser, Lieutenant Governor
ltgov@crt.la.gov
(225) 342-7009
(504) 433-1200

Go to @fortpolkhorsesPEGA for more info or http://www.pegasusequine.org

Update on wild horses of Fort Polk and Kisatchie National Forest in Louisiana

We received this update on wild horses of Fort Polk and Kisatchie National Forest in Louisiana from our friend Amy Hanchey of Pegasus Equine Guardian Association:

Objections Filed in Case to Project Louisiana’s Free Roaming Wild Horses

Objections to the March 9th Report and Recommendation were filed on March 23rd, 2018

Link to Objections herehttps://pegasusequine.files.wordpress.com/2018/03/03-23-18-68-1-mem-re-objections-to-rr-1.pdf

Link to Report and Recommendation herehttps://pegasusequine.files.wordpress.com/2018/03/03-09-18-67-rr-on-pi1.pdf

Recap:
On Friday, March 9, on narrow grounds a Western District U.S. Magistrate Judge chose not to recommend that the Court stop the elimination of wild and free roaming horses at Fort Polk, Louisiana.

However the Court denied the Army’s two motions attempting to block Pegasus’s evidence on the issue and accepted the evidence on the record of the preliminary injunction.

The Magistrate Judge relied on two factors to find that harm to the plaintiff is not “irreparable”: Pegasus had not proven that the Army will eliminate all of the horses before the Court could rule on the merits. And Army clarified on the record that it will not remove any horses from the surrounding Kisatchie Forest land (including the land used by the Army for training). Because of this, the Magistrate Judge would not recommend the “extraordinary remedy” of a preliminary injunction against the Army at this time.

It should be noted that the Court did not find that Pegasus failed to prove the other three elements of the Preliminary Injunction: likelihood to prevail on the merits, public interest, and balance of harms.

Additionally, the Court has not yet ruled on the merits or on which extra-record evidence will be allowed in the record on the merits.

A few items of consideration: While it is true that volumes of horses have already been removed from areas near or from elaborate catch pen and corral system on army drop zone land (that borders Kisatchie National Forest), it should be understood that like other migratory grazing wildlife, wild horses do not stay in one area on tens of thousands of acres. Rather, they migrate between foraging areas, water sources and tree cover of Kisatchie National Forest and army land. Because the wild and free roaming horses don’t know where unfenced boundaries between Kisatchie National Forest and army drop zone areas are, they could continue to be removed, as long as the migratory horses are in the area.The majority of the general public is against the systematic removal of Louisiana’s Wild and Free Roaming Horses, from these wildlife areas, tracing their existence back decades, in this historic region of precolonial Louisiana.

It is vital that the public CONTINUE to engage State and Federal Officials ( contact info below)

Take action by ALDF
http://aldf.org/blog/take-action-protect-louisianas-wild-horses/

Mike Strain
(225) 771-8942
info@mikestrain.org
commissioner@ldaf.state.la.us
File a Complaint: 225-922-1234
Buying/Selling/Transport without certificate
Livestock: 800-558-9741

Bill Cassidy
(202) 224-5824
http://www.cassidy.senate.gov
https://twitter.com/BillCassidy
https://www.facebook.com/billcassidy

John Kennedy
(318) 445-2892
(337) 436-6255
(202) 224-4623
https://www.kennedy.senate.gov/public/email-me
https://www.kennedy.senate.gov/public/

John Bel Edwards
(844) 860-1413
(866) 366-1121
govpress@la.gov
https://www.facebook.com/LouisianaGov/
https://twitter.com/LouisianaGov

Jeff Landry
(225) 326-6079
(225) 326-6200
ConstituentServices@ag.louisiana.gov 
https://www.facebook.com/LandryforLA/

Billy Nungesser, Lieutenant Governor
ltgov@crt.la.gov
(225) 342-7009
(504) 433-1200

Advocates Urge Court to Immediately Stop Army’s Illegal Seizure of Horses, Slaughter Plan 

Pegasus Equine Guardian Association files preliminary injunction motion to protect Ft. Polk horses

January 9, 2018

Contact: media@aldf.org

New Orleans — This week animal advocates filed a motion for a preliminary injunction asking a federal court to take immediate steps to stop the Army’s illegal roundup and sale of Louisiana’s wild horses pending their lawsuit’s resolution.

In 2016, Pegasus Equine Guardian Association (PEGA), led by attorneys with the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic, sued the Army over plans to evict roughly 700 wild horses from a western Louisiana Army base and national forest areas that are used in trainings. The lawsuit alleges the Army violated laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act, by asserting it did not need to prepare an environmental impact statement for the removal of the horses. The Army also omitted other requirements, such as ensuring nonprofit organizations could put groups of horses up for adoption, rather than the horses being sold for slaughter.

The plaintiffs filed today’s motion in an attempt to restrict the Army from moving forward with its plan, pending the lawsuit’s resolution. The Army has recently ramped up its efforts to evict the horses, leading to speculation it will try to moot the lawsuit by completing its plan before the issues can he heard.

For decades the horses have been living on, and part of, historic Fort Polk and Kisatchie National Forest areas. Horses have ranged free on this property long before Fort Polk existed. Animal advocates fear that the Army’s current, controversial plan will result in the slaughter of the majority — if not all — the wild horses due to the difficulty in rehoming horses who have been wild for generations.

“There are several unique herds of truly wild horses in Louisiana, that are of value both environmentally and culturally, especially to the inhabitants of the area, but also to all Americans,” says Amy Hanchey of Pegasus Equine Guardian Association. “The horses should be preserved and protected. Regardless if they have been abandoned, generationally wild or otherwise wild, their welfare is at stake.”

The Animal Legal Defense Fund works with law schools across the country to expand their curriculum of animal law related classes and clinics. The organization’s expert animal law attorneys provide support and advice to programs, such as Tulane Environmental Law Clinic.

Link to Press Release Here:
http://aldf.org/press-room/press-releases/advocates-urge-court-immediately-stop-armys-illegal-seizure-horses-slaughter-plan/

Advocates Urge Court to Immediately Stop Army’s Illegal Seizure of Horses, Slaughter Plan

SOURCE:  Animal Legal Defense Fund

Pegasus Equine Guardian Association files preliminary injunction motion to protect Ft. Polk horses

Contact: media@aldf.org

New Orleans — This week animal advocates filed a motion for a preliminary injunction asking a federal court to take immediate steps to stop the Army’s illegal roundup and sale of Louisiana’s wild horses pending their lawsuit’s resolution.

In 2016, Pegasus Equine Guardian Association (PEGA), led by attorneys with the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic, sued the Army over plans to evict roughly 700 wild horses from a western Louisiana Army base and national forest areas that are used in trainings. The lawsuit alleges the Army violated laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act, by asserting it did not need to prepare an environmental impact statement for the removal of the horses. The Army also omitted other requirements, such as ensuring nonprofit organizations could put groups of horses up for adoption, rather than the horses being sold for slaughter.

The plaintiffs filed today’s motion in an attempt to restrict the Army from moving forward with its plan, pending the lawsuit’s resolution. The Army has recently ramped up its efforts to evict the horses, leading to speculation it will try to moot the lawsuit by completing its plan before the issues can he heard.

For decades the horses have been living on, and part of, historic Fort Polk and Kisatchie National Forest areas. Horses have ranged free on this property long before Fort Polk existed. Animal advocates fear that the Army’s current, controversial plan will result in the slaughter of the majority — if not all — the wild horses due to the difficulty in rehoming horses who have been wild for generations.

“There are several unique herds of truly wild horses in Louisiana, that are of value both environmentally and culturally, especially to the inhabitants of the area, but also to all Americans,” says Amy Hanchey of Pegasus Equine Guardian Association. “The horses should be preserved and protected. Regardless if they have been abandoned, generationally wild or otherwise wild, their welfare is at stake.”

The Animal Legal Defense Fund works with law schools across the country to expand their curriculum of animal law related classes and clinics. The organization’s expert animal law attorneys provide support and advice to programs, such as Tulane Environmental Law Clinic.

 

Animal rights group presses Army on wild horse roundups

by By JANET MCCONNAUGHEY as published in Stars and Stripes

Animal rights advocates want a federal court to make an Army base in western Louisiana stop rounding up hundreds of wild horses on land it owns or uses…

Horses graze in front of an armored Humvee at Fort Polk, La., on Sept. 20, 2014. Animal rights advocates want a federal court to make an Army base in Louisiana stop rounding up hundreds of wild horses on land it owns or uses. Court papers filed on Jan. 8, 2018, say Fort Polk began escalating efforts in November and may be trying to eliminate the herds before a judge can decide whether the roundups are legal. WILLIAM GORE/U.S. ARMY

Fort Polk began escalating efforts in November, and some captured horses are treated poorly and many may be slaughtered, the Pegasus Equine Guardian Association said in court papers backing up its request for a preliminary injunction.

People and groups that might adopt the horses, “are being arbitrarily rejected and removed from the potential adopter list, increasing the likelihood that ‘kill buyers’ will be able to acquire the horses,” the association wrote.

Justice Department spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle said in an email that the department cannot comment on pending litigation.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Kathleen Kay scheduled a hearing Jan. 30 in Lake Charles.

The association sued the Army and Fort Polk’s commanding officer in December 2016 over plans to get rid of about 700 “trespass horses” the Army considers a safety risk in training areas.

Most of the horses are on about 48,000 acres (19,400 hectares) in the Kisatchie National Forest — part of 90,000 acres (36,400 hectares) of forest land that the base uses for training, U.S. Forest Service spokesman Jim Caldwell has said.

The Army has lists of tax-exempt rescue groups and people interested in taking the horses. Its plan calls for notifying them after roundups of up to 30 horses. Any rescue group unable to take every horse from one roundup is struck from the list. Individuals who can’t pick up the number of horses they commit to within five days also are removed.

The horses have been there for decades, possibly more than a century. Some people speculate that the herds are descended from Army cavalry horses. Monday’s court filing, however, asserts the horses have roamed the area at least since the early 1800s. Fort Polk was founded in 1941.

Some look like descendants of horses acquired by Choctaw Indians from Spanish colonists, according to a letter from Jeannette Beranger, senior programs manager of The Livestock Conservancy, filed in the court record.

Some horses from isolated areas should get a closer look, which might prompt DNA tests to see if they are “Choctaw horses” or similar strains, wrote Phillip Sponenberg, a professor at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, in another document filed Monday. He said such horses would be valuable for conservation.

In a another court document, Jeff Dorson, head of the Humane Society of Louisiana, said he received complaints this month from tipsters who aren’t Pegasus officers about inhumane treatment of the horses.

Pegasus has received other allegations that “current contractors or subcontractors are not treating the horses humanely, failing to provide adequate and non-moldy hay and sufficient clean food and water, using inhumane round-up techniques, or engaging in practices that will favor moving the horses to kill buyers over animal welfare organizations or humane adopters,” the organization said.

One contractor or subcontractor, Jacob Thompson, “has been in legal trouble with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture, State of Texas, and State of Oklahoma for abuse, theft or other violations involving livestock,” according to Pegasus’ filing.

Thompson was fined $3,150 on Friday for violating five Louisiana regulations including selling livestock without a permit, Veronica Mosgrove, spokeswoman for the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, said in an email. She said his only state-licensed business is Thompson Horse Lot. The lot’s Facebook page states that it’s in Pitkin, which is near Fort Polk.

A call to the number on Thompson Horse Lot’s Facebook page was answered by a man who said, “We’re not interested in no press.” The man said he was not Jacob Thompson and hung up when asked his name.

https://www.stripes.com/news/army/animal-rights-group-presses-army-on-wild-horse-roundups-1.505920

Whither the “Wild” Horses of Louisiana?

By Fran Jurga as published on EQUUS

Wild Horse Advocates Challenge US Army in Legal Standoff

tjr-wild-horses-of-louisiana-640

Herds of wild horses roam the United States under many jurisdictions. One of the most unusual–and contentious–has been the fight over the fate of a herd in Louisiana that likes to range into the US military base at Fort Polk, Louisiana. The US Army wants the trespassers to leave. Their defenders want the Army to keep their hands off these horses. The next range they’ll roam will be the US court  system, as advocates sue to protect the rights of the wild horses you probably never even knew were there.

 An advocacy group called the Pegasus Equine Guardian Association (PEGA) is rounding up support for its day in court with the US Army at Fort Polk. The struggle between advocates and the military goes back to the first roundups in the 1990s. At that time, state officials were accused of pressuring the military to get rid of the horses…(CONTINUED)

http://equusmagazine.com/blog/defending-wild-horses-louisiana-citizens-army-standoff-legal-case-54784

Lawsuit filed to protect Louisiana’s Wild Horses

For Immediate Press Release
Fort Polk, Louisiana (December 14, 2016)

fort-polk-horses-5

Today, Pegasus Equine Guardian Association, represented by Tulane Environmental Law Clinic, filed a lawsuit in the Louisiana District Court against the US Army at Fort Polk Louisiana, charging that the Army’s plan to eliminate herds of horses violates the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA).

The suit is about the historic and cultural significance the free roaming Heritage Horses have on the landscapes of Western Louisiana and the Army’s intention and actions to “eliminate” them. Wild horse herds across the United States are remnants of our country’s earliest history and they exist in the Kisatchie National Forest region of Louisiana, where they roamed on vast grazing areas near abundant water sources and dense stands of trees that sheltered them from harm and the elements for generations. They were in the area long before Louisiana became a state in 1812. Horses referred to today as Spanish Colonial Horses, were obtained from the Spanish and brought from Texas by Native Americans to the Kisatchie region. The Caddoan, Comanche and Avoyel horse cultures traded them with the French and others to the north and east, past the Mississippi as early as 1682 (r1). This is also the Louisiana Purchase and Neutral Zone region where thousands of wild cattle and horses were driven from the Piney woods of East Texas near the Sabine Parish area to the Natchitoches livestock markets on a trail known as Old Beef Trail or Burrs Ferry Road. This small, compact horse is found in the wild herds of Peason Ridge, LA and in the remote areas down toward Fort Polk, LA. As settlers moved to the region and made farming their livelihood, they documented the numbers of livestock produced (r2). In the mid 1800’s, thousands of horses were free ranged with no fencing on vast grazing areas in today’s Sabine, Vernon, Beauregard, Rapides, Grant, Natchitoches, Webster, Claiborne and Winn Parishes, Leesville and Fort Polk. Furthermore, auction and estate sale records show hundreds of saddle horses and wild horses were sold in these areas. Horses and mules also came by railroad and were transportation for the area’s sawmill towns and massive logging industry. When commercial logging subsided, some horses were reported loosed with existing wild horses, others were left behind when the army took over Heritage Families’ land by eminent domain (r3).

Horses of every size and age were also utilized by the military from locals and used as “remounts” and service animals because of the shortage of regulation cavalry horses. Hundreds served alongside the cavalry horses during the Louisiana Maneuvers of 1941 involving over 400,000 men (17,000 mounted Cavalry Troops) in preparation for WWII.

“Those horses are part of our ecosystem. They were here before we got here and we just have to figure out how we’re going to deal with that,” 
– Retired Army General Russel Honore’

“In light of the thousands of wild horses and burros that the federal government wants to remove from the range in Nevada and elsewhere, it would be irresponsible for the Department of Defense to move forward without a long-term, humane management plan for the Fort Polk horses. We respectfully urge the army to partner with local organizations to create and implement a humane management plan, using safe, proven fertility control, to reduce the number of horses over time..”
-Neda DeMayo, wild horse expert, President and founder of Return to Freedom.

“The Army’s plan sets a dangerous precedent for future viability of these unique horses. The unique herds of truly wild horses are of value both environmentally and culturally, especially to the inhabitants of the area, but also to all Americans. They should be preserved and protected. Wild horses are wild by their nature, regardless of what label some want to put on them. The wild horses that survive today may be regarded as “feral” by some, however, the fact that horses were domesticated before they were reintroduced back to the North American continent matters little from a biological nor a welfare standpoint. Regardless if the horses are abandoned, generationally wild or otherwise wild, their welfare and long term viability is at stake.”
– Amy Hanchey, President, Pegasus Equine Guardian Association

Citizens and animal welfare organizations have expressed concerns for the welfare of these innocent creatures. Locals have reported seeing them in the area as long as they can remember. Several attempts have been made to collect information pertaining to the horses on behalf of Pegasus Equine Guardian Association, however the Army has been unable to provide basic information regarding Louisiana’s Piney Horses. 

Reference 1 USDA USFS Kisatchie Heritage Program
Reference 2: A Good Home for a Poor Man: Fort Polk and Vernon Parish, 1800-1940 by Steven D. Smith
Reference 3: www.PolkHistory.org

View Complaint Here

Amy Hanchey, Pres. of Pegasus Equine Guardian Assoc., on efforts to save Fort Polk wild horses in Louisiana, on Wild Horse & Burro Radio (Wed., 12/14/16)

painy

Wild_Horse_Burro_Radio_LogoJoin us on Wild Horse Wednesdays®, Dec. 14, 2016

5:00 pm PST … 6:00 pm MST … 7:00 pm CST … 8:00 pm EST

Listen to the archived 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 show will be archived so you can listen to it anytime.

img_7214Wild horses at Fort Polk

Our guest tonight is Amy Hanchey, Pres. of Pegasus Equine Guardian Association, that is striving to protect the wild horses on the main post at Fort Polk, Louisiana, as well as at Peason Ridge, and throughout Kisatchie National Forest. The U.S. Army at Fort Polk is in the process of removing wild horses from ranges and pine forests that the horses have inhabited for many generations.

Despite the fact that Ft. Polk Commanding General Gary Brito has said the removal of the horses is to be humane, in actuality, the Army has shown no serious concern, and will shoulder no responsibility for what happens to the horses after they are removed. That very likely means the horses will end up going to a cruel death at slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada.

Find out how you can help save the Fort Polk wild horses.

This show will be hosted by R.T. Fitch, Pres. of Wild Horse Freedom Federation.

To contact us: ppj1@hush.com, or call 320-281-0585

Continue reading

Hundreds of Wild Horses to be Relocated from Louisiana Military Base to Dallas TX Area for Adoption

Caleb Downs, Breaking News reporter as published on The Dallas News

Hundreds of wild horses from a military base in Louisiana are being relocated to North Texas in an effort to find them new owners.

fort-polk-horsesThe operation is being managed by the Humane Society of North Texas, according to KXAS-TV (NBC 5). It is moving the herd of nearly 400 horses from the Fort Polk Joint Readiness Training Center in Vernon Parish, La., to the Humane Society’s location in Decatur.

“It’s an honor to work with the Army and be a part of this,” said Sandy Shelby, the Humane Society of North Texas’ executive director. “It is kind of historic.”

Army officials said there were previously around 700 horses and donkeys living on and around Fort Polk, but many of the donkeys were stolen, according to the Humane Society of North Texas.

Shelby said the horses are well-known in Vernon Parish and are referred to as “trespass horses.”

The army decided to move them because they were too close to the military base and all the weaponry contained within it, which wasn’t safe for the horses or military staff.

Many advocates have argued that the horses should have been left alone, but “kill buyers” were offering to purchase the horses and ship them to Mexico to sell their meat.

The Humane Society then stepped in to relocate the horses for adoption, Shelby said.

The Humane Society of North Texas will move the horses in groups of about 50 at a time for the next two years until all have been relocated, according to NBC 5.

The first 50 have already been moved. They’ve had little human interaction, and volunteers with the Humane Society said they need special homes.

“Whoever comes in that wants to get involved in this does need to be an experienced horse person,” Shelby said. “We’ll keep [the horses] as long as we need to until every last one of them gets a home.”

The Humane Society says the relocation effort will cost about $50,000. It is asking anyone who can’t adopt a horse to make a donation to help feed and house a horse while it waits to be adopted.

http://www.dallasnews.com/news/texas/2016/12/05/hundreds-wild-horses-relocated-louisiana-military-base-north-texas-adoption

Making Sense of Fort Polk Wild Horse Plan

as published on The Washington Times

“ideally there would be a way to find space for the horses within the 40,000 acres that the Army does not use for training.”

FORT POLK, La. – Horse advocates continue to raise questions and concerns about whether removing horses from Fort Polk is necessary, and about how it will be done.

fortpolkwildhorsesOne such group of advocates is the Pegasus Equine Guardian Association (PEGA). Its vice president, Pinckney Wood, said that “the goals of Pegasus are to preserve the wild horses that range on Fort Polk lands, and to prevent any of the horses from ending-up in the ‘slaughter pipeline.’ We have sought to do (this), while at the same time respecting the mission of Fort Polk and the Joint Readiness Training Center.”

Some of PEGA’s ideas to meet this goal include using herd management techniques to keep horses away from training areas, and fertility control methods to reduce the population.

In response to PEGA’s questions surrounding the number of horses on the Army base, which they think seems drastically inflated, Troy Darr, Public Affairs Officer on Fort Polk, said, “last year the estimate was 700 horses, so we assume it is a slightly higher number this year.” He pointed out that there had been a scientist on staff to perform the task of estimating how many horses are actually living on the land at Fort Polk. This type of assessment generally involves counting a measured part of the population, and then extrapolating the approximation of the entire population from that count.

PEGA has suggested that “ideally there would be a way to find space for the horses within the 40,000 acres that the Army does not use for training.” This solution includes using pens and fencing to keep horses away from training areas.

Of this, Colonel David “Gregg” Athey, Garrison Commander, said, “the land that we train on is very large; it’s very vast.” He pointed out that Fort Polk “just went through land purchase for 45,000 acres. “This was done to expand our training area,” he said, “because we have a deficit. The brigade combat teams we train are much larger than they used to be, therefore they require much more land. We also have our own brigade here and we have the responsibility to provide them with the training they require to maintain their readiness.”

Creating a horse sanctuary “would be taking a huge step backwards by giving up property that we just got, as authorized by Congress. It would be cost prohibitive,” stated the Garrison Commander.

PEGA has raised questions about sterilization of hours in the wild herd and suggested the horses could be relocated within the Kisatchie National Forest.

When asked about herd management via fertility control, referred to as “sterilization” in the PEGA blog, Col. Athey explained that the Army has partnered with the LSU Agriculture Department to assist in these endeavors and assure that they are taking proper care of the horses while administering a form of contraception called porcine zona pellucida, commonly known as PZP.

The American Wild Horse Preservation has pointed out that the FDA, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and animal care committees all carefully review protocols for PZP use, and more than 20 years of data, carried out under these sets of rules, clearly show that wild horses are neither injured by the drug, nor do aberrational behaviors occur as a consequence of its application.

HSUS assures that the vaccine is used only to slow reproduction and may not be used for the extermination of entire herds. PZP is designed to bring about short-term infertility and is reversible, if not used beyond five consecutive years.

“The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) sees this type of fertility control as a way to reduce horse removals, to place fewer horses in short- and long-term holding facilities, and to achieve budgetary savings,” said Don Glenn, Acting Group Manager of the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program, Washington.

During the past two to three months LSU started utilizing PZP fertility control treatments on the Polk horses by “darting the females.” Athey explained that “the initial stage of this process was LSU coming to study the herds and identify behaviors. They advised us the best way to go forward is to treat the mares because if you sterilize the stallions it breaks down the social networks within the herds.” He said this is the first part of the implementation of the Course of Action (No. 7) selected by Brig. General Gary Brito to eliminate the horses from the post.

If horses must be removed in order to achieve the Army’s primary mission of providing superior training at Fort Polk, PEGA would like to ensure that the horses will be treated humanely and will be placed into caring hands, as opposed to being sold for slaughter, or other such inhumane treatment.

The horse advocates pointed to an article by Jerry Finch, a senior correspondent for Habitat for Horses, where he writes that horse slaughter schemes are often covered by a “set of fronts and organizations that make a monetary profit out of defending the existence of horse slaughtering, either directly or indirectly. It’s not about equine welfare, humanity, professionalism, or reliability.”

The worry is that a nonprofit may be a front for someone who feigns love of horses, but rather intends to sell them to slaughter for personal, monetary, gain.

The Garrison Commander said “this month we will be bating these animals into pens and that will start the full cycle.” This part of the process brings up PEGA’s interest in wanting to know what will happen next for these horses.

The Army’s chosen course of action determines that “the horses will be adopted, given away, sold, and relocated.” Specifically, in partnership with LSU, 25-35 horses at a time will be corralled into approximately two-acre lots. They will then be offered to 501(c)3, nonprofit organizations, who will take possession of the horses and administer an adoption program for private individuals.

One such group which has come forward to take some or all of the horses is the Humane Society of North Texas (HSNT), the largest and longest-standing nonprofit animal rescue and adoption organization in North Texas.

It serves over 25,000 animals annually through its various programs. HSNT’s mission, according to its website, is to “act as an advocate on behalf of all animals and ensure their legal, moral, and ethical consideration and protection.”

Col. Athey said HSNT “thinks they may be able to accommodate all of the horses and they will identify the right families to take them. That is what they do, and this is just a bigger project for them.”

PEGA has expressed concern regarding the intentions, and documented history, of inhumane behaviors of some organizations who have also expressed interest in participating in the process of removing horses from Fort Polk. Athey said, “if there is significant credible evidence supporting this kind of thing, we are going to do what’s right.” He said, if there is evidence, such as court documents, of potentially questionable treatment of horses by a nonprofit group, “we will present it to the Commanding General who will make the decision.”

From the point when the nonprofits take over, the Garrison Commander stated, “we count on these organizations to do the vetting” of individuals who intend to adopt horses.

Troy Darr said that HSNT “adopted out 700 horses last year and 600 horses the first half of this year.” Fort Polk is going to try to make available 200-250 horses per year.

Any horses which may remain will be offered to the general public on a first-come, first-serve basis. PEGA wants to ensure that whomever the horses end up with have good intentions for them, and that it can be guaranteed they will not be sold for slaughter or treated inhumanely in any way.

Darr explained that these individual citizens, who may or may not have an opportunity to take horses from Fort Polk, depending on how the process evolves with the nonprofits, “are not vetted. They are Americans who will have all the responsibilities and advantages of owning a horse. It’s not within our purview to supervise horses owned by the American people. We don’t have the legal authority to tell somebody what they can do with the horse. If someone breaks the law, once they’ve got the horse, that’s up to the sheriff, or the state police, or the FBI, and horse advocates” at that point.

PEGA also raised questions about whether it is ethical to remove “wild” horses from this land. Amy Hanchey, PEGA President said, “wild or not, we are humans and we are expected to be humane. The Army has a responsibility to the surrounding community and other people around the country.” She continued, “human life is paramount, but the horses also have a right to be treated well.”

Wood presented a 2004 joint resolution of the Louisiana House and Senate. Of this he said, “resolutions don’t have the weight of law. However they express the will of the Legislature, and as such, they ought to be taken seriously.” He continued, “it addressed the horse situation at Fort Polk, and was authored by State Representative Warren Triche during the 2004 Regular session of the Louisiana Legislature.”

To summarize, the joint resolution states that “there are hundreds of unclaimed, unbranded horses living in free-roaming bands on the pubic lands of … Fort Polk Military Reservation.” It continues, saying “the U.S. Army has effectively managed these wild animals for decades and has and should retain the authority to continue to do so in a manner that is best for the well-being of the animals.”

One portion of the joint resolution mentions that the Environmental Assessment (EA) developed by the Army must regard “the wild horses that roam freely on the lands in Kisatchie National Forest used by the Army as training areas;” Col. Athey said Fort Polk does not own or train on National Forest land.

There has been no DNA testing done on these particular horses on Fort Polk, but Col. Athey said “we rely on what the courts have already determined,” and that is “these are not protected animals. These are feral animals and they have been abandoned,” which is why they have been deemed “trespass” horses.

Horses which are qualified and determined to be labelled as “trespass,” are not protected under the Wild and Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971.

Colonel Athey said the nonprofits, mainly the Humane Society of North Texas, will begin claiming horses at the end of this month. He stated that they “are doing this in manageable numbers.” It is expected that this process will take about two to three years, within continuous reassessment of the process, with adjustments made as needed.

Athey reiterated that “removing the horses from Fort Polk is for the safety of the soldiers and horses, the maintenance of the integrity of the JRTC program, and the prevention of damage to equipment.”

PEGA and other horse advocate groups maintain an important role in this process, ensuring that the horses have advocates who will speak for them and work to ensure that they are treated humanely in any and all contexts.

Whatever They are Called, Fort Polk Horses are Wild

as published on the Beauregard Daily News

“There are in fact several unique herds of truly wild horses that are of value both environmentally and culturally, especially to the inhabitants of the area, but also to all Americans. …”

Regarding the articles about the Ft. Polk Horses:

The title of the most-recent article, “Making Sense of Fort Polk Horses Plan”, implies that the plan makes sense.

fort-polk-horsesWhile it is true that there are abandoned horses at Ft. Polk, there are also in reality herds of Wild Horses on the Fort Polk / Kisatchie lands, regardless of the label “trespass horses” that Ft. Polk placed upon all of the horses, not just the abandoned ones. Ft. Polk spokespersons always accentuate their claim that all of the horses are “trespass horses” by pointing to a court decision that happened about 15 years ago.However, the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971 was implemented for the purpose of preservation and protection of wild horses, Congress uses the term “unbranded and unclaimed” in reference to what distinguishes wild horses on the ranges where they existed prior to 1971. Unfortunately, an appeal from a humane organization to have the wild horses recognized as “wild” under the 1971 law resulted in an unfavorable decision by the court, in part because of misinformation from the government’s side and insufficient evidence to the contrary. However, today there is sufficient evidence based upon historical documentation, physical appearance, location, and behavior of the herds of wild horses.

There are in fact several unique herds of truly wild horses that are of value both environmentally and culturally, especially to the inhabitants of the area, but also to all Americans. They should be preserved and protected. Wild horses are wild horses by their nature, regardless of what label some want to put on them. The wild horses that survive today may be regarded as “feral” by some, however, the fact that horses were domesticated before they were reintroduced back to the North American continent matters little from a biological nor welfare standpoint. Regardless if the horses are abandoned, Generationally Wild or otherwise Wild, their welfare is at stake.

Pegasus would like to express the difference between herd management methods when discussing Wild Horses vs. Domesticated Horses. The domestic horse mentality uses the term “Sterilization” which implies gelding of stallions and/or ovariectomy of mares. These methods of sterilization have been shown to be detrimental to the health and nature of these horses, and are never recommended as solutions for Wild Horses. So what can be done?

Fertility Control is an option that can be successful, if administered responsibly, using methods and practices that are consistent with its recommended use to perpetuate healthy herds with genetic viability and diversity.

There is a significant likelihood that horses being removed run the risk of being sent to slaughter. We have received several statements that both federal and state officials have actually reached out to known Kill Buyers offering to make deals for removal. This lack of serious concern will surely result in the horses going to slaughter.

Slaughter is what happens to the majority of “unwanted” horses in this country as shown by the Animal Welfare Institute, 2015 Horse Slaughter Statistics, approx. 125,000 American horses were sent to a brutal, inhumane, terrorizing death last year. The term, Kill Buyer, is a commonly used term to describe those who profit from buying and selling horses for slaughter and these individuals are fixtures at horse sales (commonly referred to as Auctions, Sale Barns or Feed Lots).

“The journey to this cruel death is preceded by horrendous handling and transport methods. This process often includes the horses being shipped from auction to auction, in scorching heat or freezing blizzards and are deprived of food, water and rest. They are not separated by gender, age, size, or degree of aggressiveness. These trailers, designed with lower ceilings for cattle, prevent the horses from holding their heads upright during transport, which often causes them severe head, neck and limb injuries. During transport and at the slaughterhouse, eyes are often poked out on unruly horses. In some Mexican regional plants, horses are not rendered unconscious during the killing process but are merely immobilized by being stabbed repeatedly with a sort of dagger called a “puntilla” in the back of the neck to break the spinal cord. The excruciatingly painful, horribly bloody stabbing neither kills nor renders unconscious; it merely incapacitates the horses, making them the equivalent of tetraplegic, before they are hoisted, whereupon their throats are slit and their bodies are dismembered. During the entire process, the horses in Mexico are fully aware. [The foregoing paragraph is from an article by Jerry Finch, Habitat for Horses.] Since we know that the horse market is already flooded with healthy horses, we can assert that the minute the horses enter the horse market their risk for ending up in auctions and eventually slaughterhouses increases substantially.”

– Jerry Finch, Habitat for Horses. [Please see: http://humaneheart.org/horses for Internet links to the 5 article series on horse slaughter.]

While we applaud attempts by organizations to assist, we have serious concerns. It is difficult to believe that the Humane Society of North Texas, an organization that says they would take all of the horses, could have placed, with success, 100 horses per month so far this year, as the article indicates. In comparison, many of the BLM placed horses ended-up at slaughter, and the BLM has taken serious precautions to prevent it (e.g., freeze branding horses in a conspicuous and unalterable way). The BLM has approximately 55,000 horses and 11,000 burros that they have been taking from public lands and have been keeping (for years) in holding facilities awaiting adoption.

“In light of the thousands of wild horses and burros that the federal government wants to remove from the range in Nevada and elsewhere, it would be irresponsible for the Department of Defense to move forward without a long-term, humane management plan for the Ft. Polk horses. We respectfully urge the Army to partner with local organizations to create and implement a humane management plan, using safe, proven fertility control, to reduce the number of horses over time..”

– Neda DeMayo, nationally known wild horse expert: President, Return to Freedom (Wild Horse Preservation, Education & Sanctuary); and Founder, American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, a coalition of organizations dealing with current wild horse crisis issues.

The article concluded with a paragraph that implied everything will be “OK” because animal advocates will be looking out for the horses. This is very misleading. Ft. Polk has already said they will be doing nothing with regard to following-up on the horses that leave Ft. Polk. The end result is that the horses will be in jeopardy as a result of the Ft. Polk “plan”.

Pegasus would like to see a partnership between governing organizations, wild horse preservation groups, advocates and citizens. It is believed many of the Military’s safety concerns could be addressed as well as acting in the best interest of the horses and enhancing public relations. We feel the Army’s plan falls short. Here are some examples of what horse welfare advocates would like to see; a horse registry, low-stress handling, and non-permanent fertility control while maintaining the uniqueness of the Wild Horse herds. Also their plan has no mention of what governing authorities will do about the in ability to enforce basic animal abandonment laws, which is a problem that will only continue unless addressed. It is important to realize that partnerships like this do exist and are successful; for example North Dakota Badlands Horses in Theodore Roosevelt National Park is an excellent example for Louisiana to follow. Please check them out. http://ndbh.org/

So If you feel the same sense of concern as we do, you should make those concerns known to Fort Polk as well as Local and Federal Government Officials. Pegasus hopes to encourage citizens to find ways to preserve the wild horses, and take a sensible & low-stress approach to managing the unique horse herds in Kisatchie and Fort Polk.

Hanchey can be reached through Operationcowgirl@gmail.com