The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) yesterday issued a BLM Task Force Report, with recommendations for best practices to ensure equine health and safety during the controversial wild horse roundups conducted by the government agency in many of the western states.
Teams made up of three to four equine veterinarians monitored multiple BLM facilities and operations during the six-month period from October, 2010 to March, 2011. In addition to visiting two long-term holding pastures in Oklahoma, the equine practitioners were present at four roundups, including those conducted at the Antelope Complex HMA in northeast Nevada, the Pine Nuts HMA near Reno, and the AdobeTown/Salt Wells Creek HMA in southern Wyoming.
Some of the AAEP veterinarians also observed castration, feeding, immunization, and husbandry practices and procedures at four short-term “preparation and maintenance” facilities, including those at Rock Springs, Wyoming, Broken Arrow and Palomino Valley in Nevada, and Salt Lake City. According to data supplied by BLM, there were more than 10,000 wild horses being held in these short-term facilities as of June, 2011.
With regard to the way in which wild horses are herded by helicopters, the AAEP Task Force said:
“All contract helicopter pilots should adopt conservative flying pattterns that allow a safe buffer distance between the helicopter and the horses, and between the helicopter and the ground.”
During the current Triple B Complex roundup in Nevada, at which more than 1200 horses have been captured to-date, Laura Leigh of Wild Horse Education filmed one horrifying instance, on August 11th, 2011, in which the pilot working for BLM contractor Sun J blatantly violated this AAEP advisory. He relentlessly pursued an obviously exhausted horse up a hill (away from the trapsite), and appeared to actually shove the horse with the skids of the chopper when the horse could move no further.
This episode of documented cruelty was offered as evidence in the Wild Horse Freedom Federation’s recent motion for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to stop the Triple B roundup because of the inhumane way in which wild horses were treated during their pursuit and while they were held captive. After viewing Ms. Leigh’s video, Judge Howard McKibben granted the TRO on August 30th, preventing the Sun J pilot from “striking horses with the skid or flying the skid or part of the helicopter being dangerously or unreasonably close to the horses during the remainder of the first phase of the roundup at the Triple B Complex,” which was scheduled to conclude today.