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MEMORANDUM DATE: November 9, 2009 TO: Paul Steblein, Robin West, and Damien Miller FROM: Marla Bennett

SUBJECT: Horse gather observations and suggestions Per Paul Stebleins request, here are my recommendations to make horse gathers and processing more humane. If you use the contents of my memo for any purpose, I request that you inform me of their use. These few observations and suggestions are based on the fall 2009 gather on Hart Mountain, past gathers at Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, and BLM gathers at Devils Garden, Beatys Butte, and the Jackson Mountains. I am using the term wild horses instead of feral horses because my comments apply to all horses that have not been domesticated, including BLM horses. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to express my thoughts. To help the reader better understand the impacts on wild horses of gathers and the attendant handling, I am including a background section describing gather methods, horse behavior, and the effects of gathers on horses. Background Summary of helicopter horse gather methods Traps are constructed entirely of portable pipe panels at least 6 tall and connected to one another with metal pins. A trap is set where the animals cannot see it until they are very close, such as over the brow of a hill or around a corner. Traps are designed to contain several small corral compartments. A narrow alleyway runs through the center of the trap through which the horses are sorted and loaded into trucks or trailers. The alleyway is divided by gates into several small compartments large enough for 1 adult horse. Gates at the end of the alleyway access pens into which mares, stallions, and foals are sorted. Wing fences, made of T posts driven shallowly into the ground and hung with jute cloth, lead from the mouth of the trap. Most traps have 2 wings approximately 100 to 300 m in length that form a wide V into which the horses are driven by the helicopter. Many gather contracts state that horses cannot be taken farther than 10 miles to a trap because of the stress on the animals. The helicopter may bring the horses somewhat slowly for a few miles, but then usually runs them the last few miles to tire them, ensuring that they will be weary enough to enter the trap instead of evading it. As the wild horses near the trap, the contractor releases a domesticated Judas horse which runs in front of the wild ones leading the way into the trap. Once in the trap, gates are slammed, enclosing the horses. If a horse evades the trap, the helicopter usually chases it until the horse is exhausted enough that cowboys can ride alongside the horse, rope it, and bring it to the trap. If young colts cannot keep up with the herd and get left behind, cowboys ride out, rope and hogtie them, and return later for

them with a horse trailer to load them up. Horses that will not willingly enter the trailer are thrown and hogtied, and dragged into the trailer on a plywood ramp by neck ropes run through the trailer rails by pulley action of horsemen on either side of the trailer. Sometimes hogtied foals are forgotten or unable to be found again. Captured horses are separated to ensure that foals are not trampled and that stallions do not fight over mares. Horses are individually moved down the alleyway and separated into corrals containing stallions, wet mares (mares that have nursing foals), weanlings, foals, and dry mares (mares that did not foal this year or whose foals are already been weaned). Horses may be left in the trap from a few hours for up to 2 days, but then are loaded into a semi truck or horse trailers, and trucked to a larger holding facility. Mares and nursing foals will be reunited at the final holding corrals. All other horses will remain segregated. Horse behavior1 Horses are social herd animals. Most wild horses live in stable harem bands consisting of mares, their immature offspring under 3 years of age, and 1 dominant stallion. Band member fidelity and kin recognition are strong, even between fathers and sons. Bachelor stallions form their own bands with shifting membership. Whenever 2 or more horses are together a dominance hierarchy will be established. Usually each band of horses has a well-established, clear linear order of rank among all members. The social structure of horse bands is thought to rival that of wolves for complexity. Horses display an elaborate repertoire of communication devices which seem to clearly express to other horses the details of identity, social status, mood, reproductive state, and present or intended movement. Communication is given by postural, vocal, behavioral, tactile, and olfactory signals. Because horses are prey animals, their main defense is flight. Horses are insecure when separated from each other and when they cannot see the broad landscape; even domesticated horses are fearful of tight quarters. Horses depend upon each other to watch for predators, and allowing them the security to sleep and feed. Gather effects on horses Confining horses used to open range in small corrals produces incredible stress. The instinct to flee is high, so some horses crash against corral panels and each other trying to find a way of escape. Horses confined in close quarters with horses not of their own bands must establish a dominance hierarchy. This is manifested by kicking and biting, which is exacerbated because of the stress of confinement. Some panicked horses kick at every nearby horse, but because space is limited, victim horses cannot escape. I have seen yearlings and foals lamed and run over as terrified adults fought. Horses try to hide behind each other to get away from humans, shoving and crowding each other to become buried inside the group.

Contents of this section are from: Keiper, R.R. 1986. Social Structure. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Equine Practice 2(3):461-480.Feist, J. D., and D.R. McCullough. 1976. Behavior patterns and communication in feral horses. Z. Tierpsychol., 41: 337-371.

Wild horses become fearful when separated from their family members. In the Hart Mountain 2009 gather, the stallion of a band with which I am familiar, ran at the corral panels and called frantically each time one of his band members was driven through the alleyway. Separated mares and foals call to each other while mares of the same band crowd together. Flapping flags and intense pressure are used to move horses through chutes and corrals. The animals have never been confined in a space just the size of their bodies, have never been proximate to noise and humans, and become frantic with the effort to escape. Horses often try to run through or leap the panels, turn around in the small enclosure, or jump over the top of other horses. The current method of loading and sorting forces a horse to act immediately instead of giving him time to deal with what he is experiencing. If a gate opens and a horse doesn't instantly move ahead, he is flagged, jabbed with the end of a whip or hot-shotted, and yelled at, which renders him terrified instead of sensible. Adoption agencies report that wild horses traumatized by overly aggressive handling do not make good adoption prospects. Observations of abuse The following are actions that I personally have witnessed at gathers that could have been prevented if the contract had specifications for humane treatment or if a government official had been willing to intervene to enforce the contract specifications for humane treatment: A mare was run by the helicopter until she literally dropped of exhaustion at the mouth of the trap. The black horse was totally covered in dried, white sweat. The contractor, Greg Cook, said that he thought she had completely sweat out all the water in her body. He said that he could tell by her breathing that shed die soon. The mare laid there still but alive for hours until the contractors went home for the day. Although the horse desperately needed water, he would not leave her a water trough because he said she was too weak to drink. I came back to check on her 2 hours after everyone had gone. She was not there. A yearling colt was run off a cliff in the pilots effort to keep the horse from escaping the band. A weanling colt was pursued by the helicopter for over 45 minutes. When the colt got near the capture site, the horseback cowboys roped and drug it toward the corrals. About 50 yards from the corral, the colt stopped moving. Two of the cowboys got off their horses, bent the colts tail over its back to try to force it to move forward. Finally the colt laid down, absolutely spent. The cowboys proceeded to kick the colt in the head and body until it floundered to its feet. If they would have let the colt lay for 3 or 4 minutes, it would have gotten up on its own. Young foals got separated from their mothers in the rush to get the band into the trap. In the hurry, the cowboys rode out, roped and tied up the foals and left them lay. The cowboys went back several hours later to untie, rope, and drag them to the corrals. I overheard a cowboy comment that they had nearly forgotten them. Only helicopter

observers and wranglers are aware of young horses left in the field, so these vulnerable animals cannot be protected by agency people, unless they are allowed a radio to monitor what is reported by the helicopter pilot. The contractors cowboys were trying to unload horses from the semi truck and into the Dufurrena holding corrals. The last few horses were afraid to go down the steep loading ramp. Cowboys yelled and flagged, and the horses became increasingly afraid and would not go. After 10 minutes or so, each of the 4 cowboys got a cattle prod and climbed on top of the semi. They reached down through the openings in the side of the truck and shocked the horses relentlessly. The horses became so terrified that they ran at the sides of the truck and into each other. This continued for over 45 minutes. Contractors pushed horses along a path the horses did not want to go. The horses broke away and ran over the horizon at least 3 times. Because the contractors did not want to go to the effort to move the trap, the helicopter chased the same band for hours. The horses finally gave up and entered the trap. Not only were the horses exhausted from running well over 30 miles, but some horses left bloody footprints because they were missing part of the horn of the hoof. One filly lacked 1/3 of one of her feet and large portions of other feet. Most of the horses in the corral (well over 40) had damaged feet that were worn to the quick. At the 2009 Hart Mountain gather, the contractor did not have enough water troughs because some were being used elsewhere. Although the horses in the stallion pen had been run for miles and were exhausted and thirsty, the 30 stallions were given one 30gallon water trough. The water was instantly consumed, and most of the horses did not get a drink at all (a horse at leisure is thought to consume over 5 gal/day; I personally know 5 horses at leisure that drank 100 gallons on a hot day). Although the horses had been gathered in the morning, they had to wait until the next morning to receive more water. By that time, all the animals were severely drawn up in the flanks. A mare did not want to load into the semi truck. Cowboys whipped her from both sides. After over hour of her resistance, they roped her around the neck and ran the ropes up the loading chute and through openings in the truck to pulley her up the steep ramp and into the truck. She resisted and was choked by the rope. Her breathing was so loud that I could hear it over 100 yards away. She fell into the entrance of the loading chute, unable to breathe. The cowboys kicked her in the head and sides to get her to her feet. She couldnt stand. They winched her up the ramp over the sharp footholds by the ropes around her neck as she lay on her belly with legs underneath and head outstretched. The rope choked her for so long I thought she may have been dead. It was one of the worst things I have ever witnessed. The contractors erected a trap near an old fallen-down barbed wire corral. They assured me that they would pick up all the wire before running the horses. Later in 2 separate events, horses got tangled in the wire that they had not picked up. Three stallions ran into the fallen wire and their feet became entangled. As they fought the wire, they ran into large snaggley loose rolls of barbed wire. Two horses bodies were entirely wrapped

with wire. When they finally freed themselves, their entire bodies were wire cut, especially the legs. Contractors used an old barbed wire fenceline to direct the horses into a trap. The horses did not want to follow the fenceline, but were constantly forced toward it by the helicopter. Finally, a group of 4 tried to run through the barbed wire and were badly cut. Suggestions Slow down the process Injuries and deaths would be significantly reduced if handlers employed a slower, quieter approach. Horses should not be exhausted or footsore when they reach the trap. During processing, horses need time to assess each situation they face; this will greatly reduce irrational and dangerous behavior. The horse that died in the Hart Mountain 2009 gather was under intense pressure to go forward. She was in the small alleyway, and horses behind her were trying to jump over her. Wranglers were attempting to separate the horses by yelling and flagging the horses in their faces, but in all the chaos, she jumped ahead and ran into a closed gate, breaking her neck. To my knowledge no one has challenged Cattoors or Cooks, the only helicopter contractors in the business, to change their methods to accommodate horse temperament. Agencies minimize trauma to wildlife that are captured, processed, and transported, to the greatest extent possible. Wildlife are blindfolded, handled quickly and quietly, and communications around them are as quiet as possible. Stress reduction should be the standard for handling all wild animals, including horses. Be an example I want the FWS to be the agency that requires humane treatment in the gathering and processing of wild horses, and that no longer accepts methods that have become normal to other agencies and to the contractors. I also feel that making a clear, strong case for more careful and thoughtful treatment of horses would give a message to the public that the FWS does care about horses. I have attended gathers where BLM employees suffered through gathers feeling that they could not speak their concerns. In each case, they were afraid to interfere with a contract or with egregious, but accepted, practices. A higher standard for horse treatment by the FWS may embolden other agencies to require better treatment of horses as well. Penalize the contractor for horse deaths Although some horse deaths will occur through no fault of the contractor, the vast majority are human-caused. The terrified reaction of a wild horse to inconsiderate treatment is what most often leads to the death of a wild horse. I recommend that for each horse killed for any reason, the payment to the contractor be reduced by 1 horse. Although it may not seem fair to reduce payment when a horse dies through no direct fault of the contractor, I believe horse treatment would improve overall, and injuries and deaths would decrease as a result. Do not contract with KG Livestock Greg Cooks company, KG Livestock, is responsible for the worst contractor treatment of horses

that I have seen or heard of. Do an experiment FWS staff has learned how to process horses by observing gather contractors. I recommend that the FWS do an experiment using only experienced wild horse handlers from outside the gather industry and the agencies to process horses at the Dufurrena corrals for 1 gather. I am confident that using only people who understand wild horses and who employ quieter, slower means would prove the adage attributed to the world-famous horse trainer, Ray Hunt, The fastest way to move horses is to go slow. It is likely that some horsemen would volunteer their services to participate in this experiment. Gather contracts The amount of pressure put on horses during gathers is directly related to the stipulations of the contract. Contract elements, such as time deadlines and the specification for a complete gather, will prompt the contractor to do whatever it takes to accomplish those goals, even if it means employing strategies that would be considered inhumane. The contractor does not want to harm horses, but will do his utmost to fulfill the contract. This applies to both helicopter and horseback contractors. The contract manager should be intimately acquainted with what occurs at gathers; if he/she isnt, he/she needs to be guided by people who have the experience and knowledge to help write and implement the contract. The agency is responsible for writing clear and precise contracts. The contract should: (1) require slow gathering, processing, and loading times (2) require sufficient water and feed be available at all times (3) specify what treatment is humane and what is not (4) specify what type and level of pressure/force is acceptable and what is not (5) detail the penalty for each horse that dies (6) detail the extent of the agency representatives authority over gather events Contractors should not be allowed to interpret the contract language, but should be guided in the field by an agency representative with the authority to challenge actions that appear unsafe or inhumane, and who will ensure that the terms of the contract are honored. Thank you for considering my observations and comments.