Wild Horse Education

BLM Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board, Part One

Broken Arrow wild horse warehousing in Fallon, NV. Copyright 2012 Laura

Broken Arrow wild horse warehousing in Fallon, NV. Copyright 2012 Laura

On Monday March 4 and Tuesday March 5 the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board will meet in Oklahoma City, OK. Information can be found in the BLM press release here: http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/info/newsroom/2013/february/nr_02_05_2013.html

The public may address the Advisory Board on Monday, March 4, at 3:30 p.m., local time.  Individuals who want to make a statement at the Monday meeting should register in person with the BLM by 2 p.m., local time, on that same day at the meeting site. (Be prepared to be limited to two or three minutes depending on the number of people requesting to comment).

The BLM will stream the meeting live at this link: http://www.blm.gov/live/

Palomino Valley. Foal born the week after the Antelope roundup ended... died in facility. His death counts in no statistic. copyright Laura Leigh 2011

Palomino Valley. Foal born the week after the Antelope roundup ended… died in facility. His death counts in no statistic.
copyright Laura Leigh 2011

Interesting information about the Advisory Board

Over the next three days we will post a series of articles and videos about the BLM “advisory board.” We will raise a list of serios questions about the conflicts of interest demonstrated by those appointed to the board and questions surrounding the purpose of the board in 2013.

Below is a guest piece by Bonnie Kohleriter. Members of the advisory board have been making claims that hysterectomies and ovarectomies done on wild horses in a field environment are a safe and viable option for a supposed over population problem.



In April, 2012, Gary Zakotnik suggested at the National Advisory Board Meeting “ovariectomies” be done on our wild mares.  It was the year of anti-human women attacks leading up to the election, so why not attack mares as well?  Gary Zakotnik sits on the board as a cattle rancher and brand inspector in the state of Wyoming.

Following this suggestion nobody on the Board provided knowledge or information on the nature of this procedure with its risks, though Ed Roberson, the Assistant Director of the BLM WHB Program, commended the Board members for their comments.  A committee of three was set up to investigate the use of  ovariectomies as a way to limit the wild horse herds.  Boyd Spratling, the livestock representative on the Board of the Nevada Department of Agriculture, James Stephenson, a wildlife vegetation manager for his wife’s Yakama Tribal Nation in the state of Washington, and a proponent of slaughter and Tim Harvey, a horse trainer from the East were seated on this committee.

On October, 2012, this committee, namely Tim Harvey as the spokesperson, reported to the Board, on ovariectomies and recommended it.  In the previous Board meeting Boyd Spratling said he had performed an ovariectomy.  James Stephenson said, when on a break, he had spoken with one vet regarding this procedure, and Tim Harvey boasted he had conferred with a famous horse racing vet who saw no problem with performing ovariectomies…as if racing horses were like wild horses…well, perhaps they do share some similarities…used, then abandoned, abused, and secretly slaughtered.  Strikingly alarming in this committee’s report was a lack of information and discussion on the nature of and the positive and negative aspects of ovariectomies  for wild horses.  Yet the full Board, excepting Dr. Robert Bray, who was absent, voted to recommend ovariectomies for our wild mares.

Between the Advisory Board meeting in April and again in October, 2012, this author spoke with six local veterinarians  regarding ovariectomies all of whom were negative on this procedure for our wild horses.  So it was with distraught that I listened to the lack of knowledge and information presented on this procedure but yet a proceeding with ovariectomies was recommended.

Veterinary Universities, teaching hospitals, are known to have the latest, most informed, thorough, and up to date practices in veterinary medicine; and so it was to the top ten veterinary schools this author turned to seek more information and knowledge on ovariectomies for our wild ones.  Each surgeon had some minute differences in approach, in the use of tranquilizers and numbing agents, and in timing, but a high degree of similarities was presented.  The following surgeons and veterinary universities and hospitals were contacted:

UNIVERSITY                                                                   SURGEON

1.Cornell University, Ithaca, NY                                 Drs.Walker or Ness

2.University of California, Davis, CA                          Dr.Carolyn Craig

3.Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO           Dr.Eileen Hackett

4. North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC       Dr.Jay Newman

5. Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio                 Dr.Margaret Mudge

6. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA        Dr.Janik Gascorouski

7. University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wis.                 Dr.Sabrina Brownts

8. Texas A & M University, College Station, Texas    Dr.Lauren Lamm

9. Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich.     Dr.John Caron

10.University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minn.               Dr.Dane Tarniuk

11.Pioneer Hospital, Oakdale, CA                                 Dr.Brad Jackman*

*Pioneer is a well-respected veterinary hospital in Northern California

The latest, most used procedure for “ovariectomies “is laparoscopic surgery.  This surgery is done in the hospital because of the equipment utilized, the needed use of skilled surgeons and anesthesiologists, the sterility required, and the possibility of complications necessitating the use of other procedures, drugs and/or equipment.  The surgeons contacted, uniformly stated, this procedure cannot be done on the range or at a ranch.

This surgery is normally performed to deal with ovarian masses though it may be done to deal with hormone behavior problems as well. Use for hormone behavior problems is controversial, as it may not resolve the problem and may bring on other behavior problems.  This surgery may also be done to avert pregnancy though rarely used for that purpose.

Not a lot of ovariectomies are done. In the Southeast, Dr. Newman said 5-6 had been done at North Carolina State University.  A high degree of training compared to geldings is required for this procedure.

The procedure can be done at any age of the horse.

The horse is expected to walk into and stand still in a stock for two to three hours during the surgery.  An IV drip is set up in the horse.  A sedative such as detomidine or morphine or a combination of like drugs as well as numbing agents such as an epidural or lidocaine  at the incision and ovarian sites are given.  A high degree of skill in sedation is needed so that the horse remains cooperative, does not become explosive, and does not expire.

If the horse is not a suitable candidate for standing during the surgery, then it has to be turned upside down and incised through the abdomen or incised through the vagina both of which pose far greater risks to the horse.

A 1-2 cm cut is done in the flank during the laparoscopic procedure. A camera is inserted into this incision as well as CO2 to enhance the view.  An additional 2 cm cut is done on either side to insert the equipment to cauterize, cut, and dissolve or remove  the ovaries, or to make a further incision in the vagina to bring out the ovaries through the vagina.  In some procedures a Morcellator is used to dissolve the ovaries.   The horse is then sutured.

With the surgery the horse is observed for colic, for peritonitis and cellulitis, for an allergic reaction, for infections, or for the sutures not holding.  Feeding which has been withheld 24 hours prior to the surgery is resumed following the procedure.  Usually the horse goes home the day after the surgery .  At home it is to remain in a small stall and kept quiet for 2-3 weeks to insure appropriate healing internally and at the incision sites.

After that time the sutures are removed by a local veterinarian.

The horse may be given Bute or Banamine for pain as well as an antibiotic such as TMS for infection prevention.

Dr. Pielstick, a veterinarian from Bend, Oregon,  has done ovariectomies on wild horses within the Sheldon National Reserve in Nevada, a part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  In 2012 the National Academy of Sciences Committee studying wild horses and burros in the BLM queried about followup reports on these horses but followup was not available. Was this just an experiment?

The BLM Wild Horse and Burro Management Handbook  H 4700-1- Spaying Mares section states, “Spaying mares involves major abdominal surgery, is risky, and requires good post-operative  care.  Spaying mares could be considered in the future if safe, effective, and humane surgical methods and post- operative care procedures can be perfected for use on wild horses.”


Laparoscopic surgery is the least invasive, least risky, and least demanding for post-operative care.  However, it poses drawbacks for its use on wild horses.  It requires mares to be hospitalized for their safety.   It requires wild horses to walk into and stand still in stocks for 2-3 hours.  How likely are they to walk into a stock and stand still?  If the horse doesn’t stand still, it can cause injury to itself or to humans…broken legs, broken arms, broken necks.  Sedatives and nerve blocks are used to sedate the horses.  As a wild horse is sedated it may fear a loss of control  and it may explode again causing injury.  Or it may come to during the operation and explode. The effect of sedatives on wild horses isn’t the same as on domestic horses.  Following the surgery, the horse has to remain quite still and confined for about three weeks in isolation in a small stall to insure the wounds will heal properly and the sutures won’t come out. Is the BLM ready to observe each mare done, for complications, in isolation, for about 3 weeks before it removes the sutures?


Both abdominal and vaginal surgeries are more invasive, more risky, and more involved.  In vaginal surgery the risk of opening an artery or of a part of the GI tract coming through the vagina is possible resulting in major complications or death.  Anesthetics are used in these surgeries requiring a higher skill of the anesthesiologist administrating these drugs.  The potential for more complications is presented and a longer period of post-operative care is required.

The mares in any of these surgeries can’t be let out on the range after a day as the possibility of complications is prevalent and the healing process needs to take place to avoid death.  In releasing a mare too early a stallion may mount the mare and cause death from bleeding.

The behavior of a wild mare on the range following an ovariectomy isn’t known and doesn’t appear to be documented.  Yet it appears to be important to know as, wild horses on the range need to act in concert together with designated roles for survival.

The Advisory Board Committee provided almost no knowledge or information on the considerations, risks, and procedures for ovariectomies.  They as such provided no basis by which to recommend “yes” or “no” on ovariectomies.  In other words, they voted to recommend ovariectomies based on ignorance, wishes or opinions, not on fact.  It is questionable to what extent the members on the advisory board have first-hand knowledge and information on wild equine physiology and behavior.  It is also questionable if they should be making the decisions in these areas. Likewise, it is also questionable to what extent they have first-hand knowledge of the various aspects of the BLM Wild Horse and Burro program having done independent observations and research.  Have you seen them at round ups or at short and long term tours?  Is it, these Salazar choices, who should be advising on decisions regarding our wild horses and burros?  Or should it be people who have academic and science based knowledge and information about wild equines and about program management and financing?

Not only is the knowledge and information base of the advisory board  members questionable as the basis to make decisions, but also their interest in, energy, and genuine caring for the wild horses and burros on the range. Six out of nine members do not have a primary interest in wild horses and burros. Rather their interest lies in such matters as cattle and wildlife.  At the last advisory  board meeting, Paul Durbin  was cited as a quiet person, but as a person who was a doer. When he was asked to speak he gave a long list of projects he had done for wildlife.  His list was laudable and admirable…but what has he done for wild horses and burros on the range.  Isn’t this an advisory board that has to do with wild horse and burros?  Would a person on the Board of Safari  International give his accomplishments to do with cattle or with mining extractions?   It is proposed people on the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board need to have a knowledge base about wild equines or know where to find it.  Equally as well, people on the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board need to have a primary interest in our wild horses and burros on the range and to be engaged in projects that will help to manage and protect them on the range.  The charter of this Board needs to be changed.

Why should we as taxpayers have to pay for advisory board members junkets…hotel rooms, meals, airline tickets… when they don’t demonstrate a knowledge and information about wild equines and programs on or off the range and when they don’t have a primary interest in the wild horses and burros?

Perhaps a Django is needed to make the changes for our voiceless and to give them their freedom and rightful place on the range they deserve.  They are equally as important as the cattle, extractions, and wildlife on our public lands and we need people who will work for them on our public lands.  The gravy train,  Roberson,  Bolstad, Thomas, Wade, Spencer,  Guilfoyle need to go.  The Cattoors,  Sun-J, the short-term and long-term owners, the eco sanctuary owners  need to go.  The “greedy” cattlemen and extractors need to go.  The sneaks and enablers who would send wild horse and burros to slaughter for a buck need to go.  With so few wild horses and burros left, with so few viable herds left, we need to return to managing and protecting them on our public lands investing our taxes in that place. And perhaps we need to invest more money into fertility control treatment as the BLM told Congress it would do rather than planning for geldings and ovariectomies which will permanently extinquish our wild horses and burros in the future.


Exhausted foal carried limp back to the trap by wrangler. Later the foal had to be carried off the trailer.

Exhausted foal carried limp back to the trap by wrangler. Later the foal had to be carried off the trailer. Owyhee Complex, subject included in legal action.

Tomorrow we will continue our posts on the BLM’s Advisory Board. Wild Horse Education will make their written comments public on Monday.

WHE is currently working on the Federal court case heading for a hearing on Preliminary Injunction on the ten-year BLM plan to continue to remove wild horses from the Owyhee Complex in Nevada.

A ruling on the First Amendment case is expected in about thirty days.

We are awaiting a ruling on Discovery Motions in the Triple B case, pending a hearing date.

MUCH is coming on the range this summer and data is being collected to address massing issues.

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Additional pieces by Wild Horse Education on the Board meeting:

Part One: article deals with lack of info used by the Board and a detailed piece on hysterectomies.http://wheblog.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/blm-advisory-board-part-one/

Part Two: article deals with various conflicts of interest sitting on the Board (but not all) and inaccurate information used by BLM officials including the investigation WHE did with Dave Philipps on the 1700 wild horses going to slaughter.

Part three: article deals with several of the topics on the Boards agenda. Adoptions, Eco-sanctuary, the so called “animal welfare program,” population control, herd area reintroduction.

And a piece by WHE VP Marta Williams:http://wheblog.wordpress.com/2013/03/04/wild-horse-and-burro-advisory-board-note-from-whe-vp/

Categories: Wild Horse Education