The Range Creek roundup in Utah continues. You can view roundup update reports from our volunteers HERE.
Roundups in July and August are particularly hard to watch from the standpoint of welfare of wild horses. Anyone that truly cares about wild horses finds roundups hard to watch any time of year. At the end of February and in July our disgust at the lack of fact used to create BLM policy goes through the roof, it is foaling season.
Foaling season in wild horse populations begins mid-February, hits peak in June, and continues through August. September through January you still see births, but this is not the normal and most often occurs in populations that have been disrupted. Those disruptions include massive roundups (breaking family structures) and areas where BLM has done some form of fertility control but has failed to make any effort to retreat the population causing “out of season cycles.”
The paragraph above could be a lead in on many subjects, but we are going to stick to the subject of foals and roundups.
When horses are born, and forming in utero, the sharp little hooves are covered with a deciduous hoof capsule to protect the mothers uterus and birth canal.
Often referenced as “feathers,” this amazing structure protects both mom before and during birth from sharp edges on the hoof. The soft little feet begin to harden as they become capable of carrying the newborn over the ground. The “squishy fingers” dry out and fall off as the foal begins to move around revealing brand new baby hooves.
The integrity of that foot lays the foundation for the horses entire lifetime. What happens to those feet, and baby limbs, will effect any horse throughout their life.
A horse hoof at birth is shaped a bit like a cone. The pointy end (toe) is where a newborn carries their weight. Over about 4-5 weeks the weight bearing shifts as the hoof begins to grow downward.
The foot and limbs of baby horses have a wide variety of what is considered “normal,” as much of what you see is based on position in the womb and the pass through the birth canal (much like head shape of a newborn human; some look pretty normal and some look like cone heads). Some babies have lax tendons at birth that make travel through the birth canal easier, they tighten in the first two months of age, but can show an appearance of dropped fetlocks (some as low as ground level) or being “toed out.”
Can you imagine being stampeded by helicopter in the first month of life and the damage that can do to baby legs and feet?
Stress fractures of the tibia, founder and other issues can arise in domestic foals when they are pushed before they are old enough to handle stress. Founder is a very painful condition affecting the feet of horses. Technically referenced as laminitis, founder occurs when there is inflammation of the laminae (folds of tissue connecting the pedal bone to the hoof).
A baby run for miles over rough terrain (or an adult for that matter) can easily experience inflammation in the laminae. The inflammation can cause the bone in the foot to drop (the traditional “founder foot”) and take years to repair.
If that inflammation becomes extremely severe, the laminae tear. When the laminae tear the hoof falls off (called sloughing). Sloughing of the hoof does happen after roundups. Knowing how often is a huge challenge. BLM does not release even the simplest of facility veterinary reports anymore without a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Even then, BLM hardly answers FOIA requests over the last 4 years; WHE has requests that are over 287 days old awaiting any single document, besides excuses for the delays.
Torn laminae, BLM determining lax tendons (after the stampede) and then euthanasia, tibial fractures and other injuries to spine and legs, all cause foal fatality during capture and in the first few weeks after capture.
If the foal survives? the damage can last a lifetime. We receive emails every single year from people that inform us of lifelong damage done to the legs and feet of the wild ones they adopted that were captured as tiny babies.
We are not discouraging you from adopting foals, far from it. Every one of those babies will become “just a number” with the rest of their herd. They will get shuffled from facility to facility and sit awaiting decisions from Congress on their fate. Yes, those that seek mass roundups, and the resulting overflow of facilities, are also seeking the ability to kill the “unadoptable” again that sit in holding. If you can adopt? please do.
BLM needs to stop rounding up wild horses by helicopter in July and August. The Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy (CAWP) was a start, but it is far from comprehensive.
Our work continues to fight abuse on range and during capture. CAWP is a policy BLM utilizes to attempt to follow a mandate. If the policy fails by being unenforced, or inadequate, BLM is supposed to revise that policy. If BLM fails to do so? it then falls to the courts. Our teams are busy.
We expect the Range Creek operation to end today. Yet, BLM has multiple operations set to hit the schedule this summer. Those roundups will be funded by the (pending) infusion of $21 million into the budget.
YOU can help stop that funding. (please read the article, understand the action, write a letter and, most importantly, make a call. HERE)
We are awaiting an answer from BLM on “what are they doing about CAWP?” But we wont wait much longer (we actually have to give it some “wait” time to meet a hurdle of litigation, just so you understand “why” we are doing that. In colloquial terms the legal hurdle is translated as: “give them the rope for a noose”). We will have more details for you soon.
Our roundup team is back in the field today.
Categories: Wild Horse Education