The following text was received from Barbara Eustis-Cross, author of "The Wild Horse, an Adopter's Manual" and handler of countless BLM horses in the Ridgecrest, California area on the subject of the recent AP reports of alleged widespread wild horse abuse:
I am familiar with the current controversy on the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program and would offer the following personal opinions and observations. These are based on being involved with the adoption program since 1971 (prior to the Adopt-A-Wild Horse or Burro Program begun in 1976 under the direction of the BLM). I am also CEO for the LIFE Foundation which has an extensive equine protection program. My family has also owned wild (feral) horses since 1956.
The BLM adoption program requires that an adopter be at least 18 years old, a resident of the United States and have no convictions for inhumane treatment of animals. Each horse or burro must have a minimum of 400 sq. ft. corral, 6' high for horses over 18 months and 5 1/2' for horses under 18 months or burros, with appropriate shelter. The adopter must provide proper feed and health care, including foot care. No person can receive Title to more than 4 horses or burros in a single year. The adoption fee is $125.00 for a horse or $75.00 for a burro. At the end of one year the adopter may apply for Title (ownership) of the horse or burro. Webmaster's Note: The fees have been raised since this article was written. Please see the adoption information on our Wild Horse and Burro Page for details.)
A reduced fee may be offered for those animals which have medical problems, are aged, or for some other reason are less desirable and might not be adopted at full price. This is a reasonable policy considering that the horse or burro may incur additional costs. I adopted a young colt that required care for an umbilical hernia under a reduced fee.
An authorized BLM officer, a person who has received compliance check training through the BLM, or a professional person such as a veterinarian, trainer or farrier must certify that the animal has been well taken care of and is in good condition on a Application for Title before ownership of the animal is given. It is a Federal Offense to falsify this report. Once Title has passed the horse or burro is no longer protected by The Wild Horse and Burro Act and is considered a domestic equine.
Many horses including former BLM horses do go to slaughter, not only old, sick or injured horses but young animals. Although equine rescue has become vogue in the last 5 years or so, the sad fact is that no group or organization can guarantee that they can protect a horse for it's lifetime if it leaves their care. If a group adopts out as few as 100 horses a year, in just 3½ years they will have to do inspections at a rate of one every day to check on all the horses. Having been involved in equine rescue for 17 years, I know this is impossible. How many of you know where your first horse is?
The BLM certainly needs to offer a stronger support system to adopters, through pretraining of adopters, counseling and hands-on training during the gentling process, and offering of more gentled horses. This is done in many BLM districts but not all. The use of volunteers to do compliance checks and other support programs is being done but more is needed. Some of you who are concerned that former BLM horses are being sold for slaughter might help prevent this by volunteering for one of the adopter support programs which the BLM offers.
I found the Associated Press article lacked understanding of the BLM program. Although I agree that there are many changes that need to be made, some of the areas which the article attacked made little if any sense. It stands to reason that if you work at Mervyn's Department Store you would likely purchase their clothes, and the same logic would follow involving people working in the wild horse program.
So it is certainly reasonable to assume that those working in the BLM program, who see exceptional horses every day, are likely to adopt some of these animals. I know one BLM wrangler who adopted his first wild horse in 1976 and he still has it. Another wrangler who has adopted horses for his children and grandchildren. He knows where every horse he has every adopted is today.
"Fritz" who was returned by the adopter, and again returned by a prison training program as untrainable, was adopted for full fee by a BLM wrangler and is now so gentle and dependable he was shown at the Excalibur in Las Vegas and in several parades. He is also used as one of the wrangler's string of other former BLM horses used on gathers. Most of the BLM wranglers have 6 or more horses in their string which are used for wild horse and burro gathers (roundups).
I happen to know one of the wranglers who was mentioned in the AP article, Vic MacDarment. Vic is a Native American who besides being a fine hand and an artist, is a very private person and a man of few words. Although I view the slaughtering of horses as a very serious subject, when I read the quote from Vic, "I don't keep track" (referring to where each of the horses he adopted were), I had to laugh. First, I was surprised that he said that much and second it would most likely not occur to Vic that it was his business to ask a buyer to tell him if he sold the horse again. I am not saying this is right or wrong, it is simply a personal observation which I hope puts a realistic and common sense look at this article.
I would also like to point out that anyone can go to any BLM Holding facility and adopt any horse once it is given it's shots, wormed and branded. At most facilities where horses of certain markings such as paints are in a high demand, a waiting list (paint list, buckskin list etc.) is made so when your number comes up you have the opportunity to adopt that specific type of horse. BLM employees must follow the same rules as everyone else in this regard.
A BLM Wild Horse and Burro Holding Facility is only a short walk or ride from my home which has given me the opportunity to adopt several horses which I have gentled and after title has passed have sold to good homes at a profit. Is this immoral? Of course not.
If I can help by answering any other questions, let me know.
It shoud be noted that Barbara died in January, 1999, so we have removed the link to her email account that appeared here. There are many, however, who follow in her footsteps and continue to monitor and work for the welfare of America's wild horses and burros.
In my few personal contacts with BLM personnel, I have found them to be very concerned with the welfare of these animals. Many of them have observed the herds for a number of years, watching the new foals grow to maturity, and they try to direct them to good adopters.
Rules are in place to discourage "buy and slaughter" adoptions, however as with any situation, there are those who will try to take unreasonable advantage of the rules, or ignore the rules altogether inorder to make a quick buck. If you are concerned with the ultimate disposition of adopted wild horses, you can support not only the application of BLM's current adoption rules, but help the BLM strengthen the regulations by urging your elected officials to support upcoming changes which will be brought before them. Also, as Barbara pointed out, increased involvement of volunteers will help prevent unscrupulous adopters from using the BLM Adopt-A-Horse program as a cheap source of horses to be bought and sold solely for profit.Willis Lamm
This is not a BLM operated or BLM sponsored site. It is run by private wild horse and burro enthusiasts.
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