KBR Wild Horse and Burro News

Story date: April, 1998

News Flash!
Ft. Riley adopts "Riley"
at Wild Horse Workshop '98


The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has been grappling with the issue of excess wild horses. More and more of these animals are accumulating in excess of the numbers being successfully adopted and it is becoming a nine million dollar problem.

There are several schools of thought regarding these animals. Proposals range from artificial birth control (this concept has a number of drawbacks) to euthanasia. A number of wild horse and burro enthusiasts have been pursuing options which would increase the number of wild horses which are removed to approved programs and improving the efficiency of public adoptions, thus alleviating some of the wild horse population pressure.

Unfortunately the BLM has gotten pretty gun shy in recent history. Exaggerated reports of wild horses being diverted to slaughterhouses appears to have made BLM officials a bit wary of entertaining any adoptions or transfers of horses other than through the conventional adoption program.

Recently Deanna Aikin, a private wild horse enthusiast, presented a proposal to the United States Army to use BLM wild horses. Deanna spent countless hours developing a practical proposal. The Army showed interest and the concept proceeded. Unfortunately the BLM has appeared reluctant to cooperate taking more or less the position that if the Army wants BLM horses, they can go to the public adoptions and compete for them like anyone else.

This logic hardly makes sense. The Army has a modern, humane horse training program that has experience with "off the range" horses. They can handle older horses that many private parties would be reluctant to handle. They need horses of uniform size and markings so it is not practical for their representatives to show up at adoptions all across the country in hopes of finding a single horse her and another horse there.

We believe that partnerships between BLM and the armed forces, law enforcement agencies, programs for handicapped and at-risk youth and other legitimate agencies and organizations can only help reduce wild horse overpopulation and improve the image and understanding of America's wild horses and the Wild Horse & Burro program. We would hope you would study the Ft. Riley proposal which appears below and express your opinion in favor of or against to the public officials listed at the bottom of this web document.

Thanks in advance for your concern.

Webmaster's Note:

To put this activity into proper perspective, any involvement with a major Federal agency is a reality check. There are many good people wanting to help, folks at other levels who have never heard of the project being attempted and don't know how to hande it, and procedural snags. When one attempts to start something like this, it does require some perserverence. This accounting is not intended to discourage anyone from advancing new and innovative proposals, but just to have realistic expectations. The Ft. Riley proposal will be successful, but as you will see, the large agency has to have time to come to terms with the idea. This web document is intended to become a roadmap which showed the route that Deanna took so that others can similarly be successful.

By Deanna Aikin

I. Goals
  A.  Primary - Placement of Wild Horses
  B.  Secondary - Promotion of WH&B Program
     1.  Develop a continuing relationship between Army & BLM
     2.  Publicize event through local media and within BLM Wild Horse
     3.  Produce video documentary on the contemporary BLM Wild Horse for
         international broadcast & distribution

II.  Fort Riley
  A.  Needs - Sgt. Atwood
     1.  Type of Horse
     2.  Meeting
     3.  Viewing
        i.  BLM facility - wild horses available
        ii.  Private Citizens - adopted horses
     4.  Adoption Terms
     5.  Adoption Logistics
  B.  Public Relations - Deb Skidmore
     1.  Media approval
        i.  press releases
        ii.  filming
           a.  local television
           b.  local radio
           c.  network
           d.  PBS
        iii.  magazine articles

  A.  Public Relations - Janet Nordin
     1.  Initial Contact - Monday, March 16
        i.  History of contact, Army's needs & intentions
        ii.  Determine contacts
           a.  arrange telephone appointments
        iii.  Determine Plan of Action
        iv.  Arrange meeting
        v.  Arrange viewing
        vi.  Beg to be allowed to continue involvement
     2.  Follow up Contact
        i.  Following day
           a.  status update of initial contact
           b.  arrange next contact time
        ii.  Subsequent
           a.  status update
           b.  arrange next contact time, if warranted
  B.  Management Contact
     1.  B. Babbitt?, P. Shea?,  Maitland Sharpe - cc on all correspondence
     2.  Further contact to be determined during contact with Ms. Nordin
  C.  Staff Contact
     1.  Winnemucca District - Tom Seley
        i.  availability of required type horse in this summer's gather
        ii.  current availability of required type horse
     2.  James Crabtree Correctional Facility - Shane
        i.  hosting meeting
        ii.  availability of required type horses
        iii.  arranging viewing of required type horses
           a.  ungentled horses
           b.  started horses
     3.  Oklahoma Resource Area - Jack Albright
        i.  co-hosting meeting
        ii.  arranging viewing of local individuals' adopted horses matching
             required type

IV.  Media
  A.  Local NBC Affiliate - Tom Christiansen
     1.  local news coverage of adoption & BLM Wild Horse program
     2.  coordination of affiliate coverage including interviews with local
     3.  develop network interest in national coverage
     4.  contact for producing documentary

V.  Wildhorses List - involvement to be determined by list members
  A.  Reference / referral sources of contact for Sgt. Atwood
  B.  Share Learning Experience
     1.  develop approach for this and future promotions
     2.  keep me from making mistakes
  C.  Media Contact
      1.  Contact local NBC affiliates to carry story

VI.  Deanna
  A.  perform as liaison between Army & BLM as long as needed & allowed
  B.  progress toward goals
  C.  seek guidance from List members
  D.  keep List apprised of status
  E.  document process (i.e.., keep journal)

By Deanna Aikin

Here is the Ft. Riley 4/2/98 Update in a more positive view.

Ft. Riley Qualifications:

Facilities: 1st Sgt. Mark Atwood has developed a wonderful facility at Ft. Riley - heated stable, safe wash stalls, secure turnouts, both 30 and 60 day quarantine areas far over 200' from each other and over 500' from the main stable, an injury recovery paddock, fences are 6 to 8 foot chain link, one large round pen for groundwork - another is under construction utilizing a most ingenious design developed by the Sgt. (will be shared in a future message), miniature steeple chase course, exercise grounds, riding trails, and parade ground.

Care & Training: Veterinary care is provided by Kansas State University. Quality feed is utilized and all horses health, maintenance & training is recorded daily in their individual logs. The Sgt. has worked with Mustangs before. He prefers the wild horse because it comes without human problems. He professes there is no untrainable horse, that a horse's so-called problems are human problems. If I remember correctly, every horse on Ft Riley was a rescue horse. You would never be able to tell that by the horses' appearances & demeanors. The Sgt.'s training methods, combining many of the trainers this list respects as well as his grandmother Sally Kunz, are exemplary for both soldiers and horses.

Sgt. Atwood, a respected trainer, holds horsemanship certifications from reputable institutions. In my humble opinion he would be considered a Master Horseman.

So...the Ft. Riley end of this partnership is rock-solid. The horses will receive the best of care. When they retire they will be donated to qualified handicap riding programs.

The problem to resolve is BLM's (lack of) interest in the success of the project.

BLM appears to lack any enthusiasm for this project. BLM appears to be blind to the historic significance of the US cavalry as an adopter and supporter. BLM appears to completely ignore the overwhelming potential of positive PR this adoption will effect. As Ed and others have put it: "It almost seems someone at the top doesn't want adoptions to succeed so the WH&B program will fail and can be junked." None of us wholeheartedly believe this is true, but BLM has got to wake up, become more aware of its client base, and become proactive instead of doing just enough to get by. Maybe they are trying. I have seen no evidence of an attempt, only vague talk.

Ft. Riley History: 1st Sgt has contacted BLM twice in the past. The Army anticipated enthusiastic cooperation from BLM not only due to the publicity the color guard would provide the wild horse, but also as fellow government branches. Both contacts were unsuccessful because BLM failed to attempt to provide the army with first choice of gathered horses meeting the army's requirements (bay, stallions (army gelds them), 4-8 years old, over 15 hands). Instead the Army was told to go through the regular adoption process just like the rest of us peons.

My History: It has taken me over 20 long distance phone calls and countless man-hours to get nowhere with BLM. It's like being in a round pen with your nose to the ground, chewing, licking, begging & submitting, but that wicked creature just won't let you come in.

Yes, the Reno office agreed to send out applications. Not here yet. Yes, the Reno office said they sent out e-mail messages looking for holding facility horses meeting requirements. One or two could be located. Yes, Ft. Riley agreed to wait for the June/July gathers. Yes, Reno said it would send out e-mail telling the HMA's what horses were needed in the June/July gathers. No, there has been no confirmation of the Reno e-mail such as a letter of commitment or any type of follow-up from BLM. There has been no acknowledgment from DC.

Thank goodness NBC has been kept at bay with my simple story that we are taking our time to organize while waiting for the spring gather. I hate telling such a lie, but I'm not prepared to be the catalyst for more negative publicity about the WH&B program. Not at this time. If it turns out to take starting a fire to get something done, so be it.

The reason for BLM's failure is unknown to me. I can only surmise that such an undertaking could not be allocated the man-hours necessary to culminate in a successful adoption. It is my understanding that BLM does not maintain a detailed database of gathered horses that could be used in locating desirable horses. These things I cannot change from outside BLM - they are internal re-engineering/ process improvement issues. However I can work around them.

Therefore, I propose to do the following, bearing in mind the limited resources of all parties involved (financial & man-hours):

Goal - To successfully complete the Ft. Riley Adoption by the end of the July Gathers.

Plan of Action

  1. Obtain permission from BLM management to coordinate locating desirable horses. To accomplish the coordination I will need to obtain

      a. a memo of introduction from DC to each HMA manager;

      b. a list of HMA managers & their ontact information; and

      c. a letter of commitment from Messrs. Babbit and Shea. (Ft. Riley will provide a commitment letter in return)

  2. Utilizing #1. above items, I will contact each HMA by letter or e-mail to arrange a telephone appointment to discuss the availability of desired horses in the June & July Gathers.

  3. Information gathered in 2. above will be compiled to analyze availability by location.

  4. Provide compilation from 3. above to BLM & Ft. Riley. Assist in determining the most efficient and cost effective adoption point(s). Either horses from different areas could be shipped by BLM to one or two holding facilities such as Susanville and Palomino Valley, or Lindsay, OK and Elm Creek; or, if BLM policy allowed, the army could select and pick up the horses at the HMA holding pens near the ranges if the search were confined to a physically manageable contiguous area.

  5. Inquire with BLM as to the possibility of a joint BLM/Army/Wildhorse List gather if a herd can be located with sufficient numbers of candidate horses to yield the desired 6 or 7 adoptees.

  6. Coordinate and confirm a scheduled date and backup date for the adoption.

  7. Coordinate and maintain a continuing dialog between the BLM/ Army/ Wildhorse List regarding the status of the impending adoptions. This will be followed by periodic updates as to the progress of the horses and the promotional effects on the WH&B adoption program.

Now, the problem to solve is how to get BLM to buy into this; to acknowledge the need to treat Ft. Riley as a VIP adopter; to either take over my part in the project or give me the resources to move it along bringing the project to timely fruition. Then we can start again with another group - hopefully one that will focus on even older horses.

I guess the place to start is by sending this letter to Messrs. Babbit, Shea, Sharpe, Cribley, and Pogacnik. If this weren't so long, each of us could forward it to the above asking them to support the project as outlined or to communicate any qualms /reservations.

All input is welcomed and appreciated.

Here is Maitland Sharpe's response to Deanna.

Here is a Progress Report.

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