BLM sets up corrals for incoming wild horses
Nevada Appeal News Service
FALLON – Traveling north on Indian Lakes Road, you might be consumed by the snow-covered Stillwater Mountains to the east and overlook the number of corrals and horses nestled in the desert landscape miles away.
Once inside the Indian Lakes Road Facility, contracted by the Bureau of Land Management to be a holding facility for wild horses, it is hard to miss the 30 large holding pens – each 70,000 square feet – housing 1,193 horses as of Friday.
The BLM is removing 2,500 excess wild horses from the Calico Complex northeast of Gerlach in complying with the provisions of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. After horses are sent to the holding facility on 320 acres about 10 miles northeast of Fallon they will receive a check-up before the BLM will eventually place the horses for adoption.
Examining the horses
This will not be an overnight process. The BLM’s contract for the Indian Lakes Road facility is for five years.
“The BLM’s contract requires space for 2,800 head of horses,” said Dean Bolstad, operations lead with BLM’s National Wild Horse and Burro Program. “The contractor has designed this for a total capacity of 3,000 horses. Our standards are 700 square feet per horse.”
As of Friday, the BLM had transported 1,193 horses to Indian Lakes including 119 horses (49 studs, 48 mares and 22 weanings/foals) that arrived on Thursday. The facility can hold a maximum of 2,850 horses.
Gathered from the Calico Mountain Complex north of Gerlach, the horses are transported by 18-wheelers to the holding facility in preparation for adoption. A veterinarian, who comes to the facility usually two to three times a week, examines the horses and vaccinates them for eight horse-related diseases including eastern and western sleeping sickness, rhino pneumonitis, influenza, tetanus, West Nile, strangles and rabies.
The Coggins test, which is required for interstate transport, checks for Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) antibodies in the horse’s blood. They are also de-wormed and prepared for interstate transportation.
Bolstad said the animals are freeze marked – a branding process – on their neck with a group of numbers. The first two number indicate the animals age, the others are for reference purposes including from where the animal came.
“The veterinarian will be here and estimate the age of the horses, give them their vaccinations and do all of the preparation work,” Bolstad pointed out.
According to Bolstad, handlers introduce the horses to grass hay to help them convert from their diet of range grasses and shrubs. Eventually, the animals feed on grass hay and alfalfa hay.
“Most animals readily adjust, some of them take a little longer,” Bolstad said, adding grass hay isn’t as high in protein and resembles the range grasses.
Usually, Bolstad said there are not any health-related problems unless the horse hasn’t chewed on good forage to receive enough nutrition on the range. Those animals require more care during the adjustment process.
“The animals aren’t sick, but their body condition is that they aren’t carrying a good layer of fat,” Bolstad said. “Most of these horses that have been here about three weeks have put on some more weight and are looking a lot better.”
Bolstad said the stallions seem to be in the best condition. The mares don’t fare as well with many not in as good of condition as the stallions.
“A lot of the mares are pregnant, growing a new foal, have a suckling foal by their side, and they have nursed the foals all year,” Bolstad said.
Availability for adoption
Once the horses have received their shots and examinations, they will be held at the Indian Lakes Facility and maintained until they are made available for adoption. Bolstad said the horses will be shipped to adoption events across the nation, but some of the older animals will be transported to contract holding pastures in the Midwest, where they will spend the rest of their lives.
Bolstad wanted to make one point clear in response to a number of rumors and blogs.
“The BLM does not sell horses for slaughter. We have not, we don’t intend to and we will not, Bolstad stressed. “The Secretary of the Interior has made it very clear that we are not going to do that. The Wild Horse and Burro Act does state that animals, for which there is no adoption demand are to be destroyed. We have not done that. The American public is very much opposed to that and it’s a very contentious issue that some assert that we are doing but we do not, we have not and we will not do that.”
The demand for adoption has decreased steadily during the past 10 years. About eight years ago, Bolstad said the BLM had about 8,000 adoptions per year. By 2009, however, the number had dropped to about 3,500.
“It has become very expensive to maintain a horse,” Bolstad said. “People are into computers now. Folks who live in the city don’t have the opportunity with a couple of acres or five acres in their backyard to keep a horse. So with the economy the way it is, folks that are able to sometime opt not to adopt animals.”
To counter the decline, the BLM has made efforts to increase its marketing and advertising in an attempt to inform more people about the opportunity to adopt a horse. BLM’s also working with the Mustang Heritage Foundation, which holds make-over training completions. Trainers receive 100 days to work with the animal and show what they have done at different sites across the country. Then those horses are made ready for the adoption process.
“These horses are wild when they come off of the range, but they readily adjust to captivity,” Bolstad said. “Once you gain their trust, they will train out just like any other domestic horse. It’s kind of a magical experience when you begin to gain the animal’s trust in the training process.”