The ~Texas~ Mustang Project's Blog

Working for better management options and cohabitation through compromise and communication for the American Wild Mustang

Remedial Math…

Posted by Texas Mustang Project on July 17, 2010

“Foaling period” – as defined by the BLM handbook – is March 1 thru June 30, meaning that 6 wks prior to March 1 is when foaling has the potential to begin and 6 wks after June 30 is when it is most likely all foals have been born. Essentially, this definition states that wild horse foals can be born from January 18 until August 14 with the birth rate at its peak between March 1 and June 30. By their own definition, BLM conducts gathers of wild horses utilizing helicopters at times of the year when there is potential for newborns to be involved.

The kicker here is this:
A foal is considered (by most Equine Specialists, and certainly this one) to be a “newborn” from 0-3 months. Age 3-6 months is a colt, 6-12 months a weanling, 12-24 months a yearling, so on and so forth.
August 14 plus 3 months would be November 14. That would leave November 15 thru January 17 – a few days more than 2 months – for BLM to gather wild horses without newborns. However, breeding season also begins from approximately March 1 to June 30, depending on the geographical location of the herd due to different dates for the spring season change to begin. This is also the reason for the wide range of potential birthing dates.

So if they gather from November 15 to January 17 there is potential to have pregnant mares included in the gather. First and second trimester pregnancy viability would be plausible, dependent upon the mare’s health. Third trimester pregnancy viability would be at a greatly increased chance of loss due to the growth spurts of the foal during this time – 65 to 67% of the growth occurs in the third trimester. This places the mare’s own body under a very heavy strain, requires up to three times the amount of caloric intake, and induces a physiological and biological state of conservation.

This state of conservation is an intentional reduction in the amounts of energy expended in order to preserve energy on the part of the mare. She is already at a disadvantage because of the winter climate change reducing the amount of forage available to her on the range. Therefore her conservation must be very well guarded. A gather is contradictory to this state of conservation. The consequences of such a contradiction have already been seen and proven.

Bottom line: gathering wild horses with a helicopter – or any other means that places the Equine under increased stress – no matter the time of year is going to consequences. These consequences can range from simple lameness that resolves itself over time to the death of an Equine. There is no time of the year that is not going to cause a Wild Equine to have negative physical, psychological and pathophysiological effects.



6 Responses to “Remedial Math…”

  1. Tracie Lynn,

    I think you’re right on target.

    One thing we need to remember is that these BLM handbook guidelines shouldn’t be construed as eliminating the need for people conducting field operations to use good judgment. Foals can and do appear outside the main “foaling season,” sometimes months earlier or later. Those persons conducting gathers, even outside foaling season, have to be mindful when they come across bands with tiny foals.

    Occasionally we’ll be asked to go out and recover an orphan foal that is running with a band and is too young to survive on grass alone. The easiest way to rescue the foal is to follow the band on horseback. Usually in less than a mile, and this isn’t at any speed at all, a really young foal will not keep up and we can rescue it.

    I am not at all convinced that a really small foal can keep up during a long distance helicopter gather unless pressed to extremes. For this reason “in the old days” BLM often told contractors to ignore bands with really tiny foals. Some common sense was applied to the operation. Unfortunately common sense seems to be less common nowadays.

    “:O) Willis

  2. Roxy said

    BLM has published a “new” handbook – after this roundup began – and, which moved the foaling date back.

  3. I personally think that Tracie Lynn’s main argument is that just because a gather is conducted outside the published foaling date it does not mean that BLM or any other horse management agency can be cavalier about running horses in. Heck one of the Pilot Valley mares had a foal last night in Fallon and it’s July 18th.

    My point is that the handbook will discourage BLM from running horses in during the peak foaling period, but any time of the year you can have young foals, heavily pregnant mares, older horses in weaker condition, not to mention horses weakened by weather conditions, lack of feed or water. So the gather “design” has to consider all the factors with respect to the condition of the animals actually being brought in and the actual environmental conditions at the time of the gather.

    “:O) Willis

    • Exactly. You can never tell 100% what Mother Nature is going to do. You can estimate it, but you can’t be certain. Therefore, you don’t ever take anything for granted and just go at it “gung-ho” based on what your estimation tells you. Especially dealing with horses, you have to take extra care and precautions because they are sentient beings that do think and feel, and they are way smarter than what some think they are!

    • Wild horses do not adhere to handbooks and are still foaling into the last week of August in Twin Peaks and Litchfield Corrals. The use of the helicopter and the manner it is handled has everything to do with wether or not these horses with foals or in late stage pregnancy should be running scared. Time to end the reign of copters over wild horses, bison and wolves. mar

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