The American Association of Equine Practitioners' Bureau of Land Management Task Force released on Aug. 30 its evaluation and recommendations for improving the care and handling of the nation's wild horses.
BLM asked AAEP in June 2010 to evaluate the handling, health care and welfare of the horses and burros at BLM wild equine gathers and holding facilities, the AAEP announcement said.
Beginning last fall, the AAEP BLM Task Force visited multiple BLM sites during a six-month period to observe gathers and evaluate conditions at short-term holding and long-term pasture facilities. The task force's data collection was limited to the safety, health status, health management, care, handling and welfare of equines in the BLM program.
"The task force concluded that the care, handling and management practices utilized by the BLM are appropriate for this population of horses and generally support the safety, health status and welfare of the animals," said Dr. William Moyer, AAEP president and a member of the task force. "However, the task force did see areas that can be improved."
Key recommendations include:
* During gathers, all contract helicopter pilots should adopt conservative flying patterns that allow a safe buffer distance between the helicopter and the horses and between the helicopter and the ground.
* Areas of solid footing should always be provided in short-term holding facilities to allow the horses a place to lie down. In addition, resident horse numbers should be adjusted as needed seasonally within short-term holding facilities to avoid overcrowding when extreme weather is expected or present.
* Biosecurity standards and protocols should be adopted at short-term holding facilities in order to reduce the spread of the bacteria Streptococcus equi equi, commonly known as strangles, and minimize outbreaks of this and other infectious diseases.
In addition, the task force's 35-page report emphasizes that controlling the reproductive rate of the wild horses on the range is a central issue for all discussions involving the care and management of the wild horse population, AAEP said.