Caring for Horses in the Navajo Nation

Navajo officials hope to reduce the surplus feral tribal horse population with roundups and veterinary management.
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This is a synopsis of a presentation to veterinarians during The American Mustang session at the 2014 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 6-10 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Feral tribal horses walk the streets within the Navajo Nation. They’re outside restaurants. In people’s yards. There are just too many horses, and the Navajo government is working to change that. It started in 2013 with community roundups and a veterinary management program.

Scott Bender, DVM, works as tribal veterinarian with the Navajo Nation Veterinary Program and is a USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service consulting veterinarian. At the 2014 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 6-10 in Salt Lake City, Utah, Bender shared the challenges faced when managing feral horses within the Navajo Nation and results of tribal equine population management efforts.

The Navajo Nation is located in the southwestern United States, with territory spanning Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico. The reservation comprises 18 million acres and, said Bender, an estimated 75,000 to 96,000 horses. The tribe permits 12,000 livestock owners, with the majority of permit holders having one to five privately owned horses. Under tribal law, all unbranded horses within the Navajo Nation are tribal property, Bender explained. That leaves the tribe with a lot of horses

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Michelle Anderson is the former digital managing editor at The Horse. A lifelong horse owner, Anderson competes in dressage and enjoys trail riding. She’s a Washington State University graduate and holds a bachelor’s degree in communications with a minor in business administration and extensive coursework in animal sciences. She has worked in equine publishing since 1998. She currently lives with her husband on a small horse property in Central Oregon.

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