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OPINION: Elements relief and a hot debate on horses in holding


At the BLM’s Palomino Valley Wild Horse and Burro Center outside Reno, a sprinkler attached to the panel of a large wild horse pen sprays water while horses eat in the distance.

By Monika Courtney

Surely, the hot weather is getting to some of us. Dangers of hot temperatures affecting seniors and warnings of heat accompany our daily routines. While I am happy that my basil grows better than any other summers, I do think about the sweltering heat in which the formerly wild horses at government holding facilities must endure the long summer days. With growing public concern for the corralled horses who no longer can seek shelter, the Bureau of Land Management has offered a workshop to receive input from the public in striving for a solution for relief.

Now more than ever could be a turn point in reform in holding, if the public comes to aid in a strong unified voice to lend support so we can see this to fruition. A door is open and we must keep it this way. Horses do benefit from shade and it is hoped that BLM experts will figure out an immediate, feasible way to improve facilities as weather changes and increased heat pose a challenge to the animals in their care. Responsible and humane animal husbandry includes the provision of shelter for formerly wild horses now corralled, with input from dependable sources and engineers BLM can find a solution for rapid remedy as more heat is coming. Erecting structures to move PVC into a new standard from when it was built years ago; is a goal to prioritize for BLM. The public wants to see reform for the horses in holding and on the range, more humane treatment for all wild horses and this is a start.

As I have done some research to see which holding facility may have provision of shelter/relief from elements, I found the Ridgecrest, CA. facility to be an example of adequate humane standard by providing shade with a canopy, to which the equines are drawn according to photos and common sense. As a horse owner, I believe that wild horses do seek shelter/shade when having a choice on the open range, as stud piles were found in pinion-junipers.

Any horse seeks relief from elements within the environment he is living. In open areas that accounts to rock formations casting shade/wind or snow protection, or trees offering a cooler environment with shade tops, thus also providing partial shield from insects. Wild horses seek cover and shade in thickets of riparian habitats and dense brush, wooded areas or canyon lands. Since horses’ health can be compromised in high temperatures, even wild horses’ internal body temp’s rise, and if so at 104F. or higher, his metabolic system may not function properly. At 105F his organs are affected and circulatory collapse or death may result. While wild horses are adapted to ample challenges in a harsh environment, they nonetheless seek out relief to protect their vitality. The foal that died two weeks ago at PVC is “undiagnosed”, yet I believe the extreme heat caused her to stop perspiring due to high heat stressing her system and having no escape thereof. If corralled horses have no cooling in form of shade or temperature reducing misters, they are subjected to serious health risks, dehydration and sunburn; prevention thereof would move the program forth with implementation of shelter, such as Ridgecrest canopy or similar sturdy roof structures and proposals for misters, as have been submitted to the Bureau in recent weeks.

Misters help greatly to reduce temperatures as I found one system in Los Angeles that is portable, and giving 250 ft. of relief. (That guy would gladly fly to PVC and show the staff the potential and how it works, on his own dime and is very willing to adapt price). Also, adding electrolytes to some water troughs in the pens would help prevent dehydration. Horses under high heat with no availability of shade can suffer heat exhaustion and that is serious. The sprinkler installation at PVC is allowing horses to facilitate cooling evaporation, offers a bit of enrichment to alleviate boredom, but shade certainly would increase the quality of life all together.

Surely the planning and approval of budget in this task requires effort, but as we all experience the increased heat patterns, so do horses and they may adjust to great extents, yet comfort and humane responsible care must come from the humans that put them there in the first place. A joint effort of partnerships by those who are in charge and those calling for reform in holding, can lead to visible results for not only horses in pens, but to move forth in progress of a broken program and restoring faith for the American public, while making the lives in those pens more bearable for horses who have lost their homes, their families and their spirits. Until the snow flies… there is much to discuss, and it is my hope that the Bureau of Land Management will act sooner than later to make the lives of the corralled horses a better reality.

Submitted by:
Monika Courtney
Evergreen, Colo.

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