The American Association of Equine Practitioners’ (AAEP) Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Task Force today (Aug. 30) released its evaluation and recommendations for improving the care and handling of the nation’s wild horses. The report comes at the request of the Bureau of Land Management, which asked the AAEP in June 2010 to evaluate the handling, health care, and welfare of the horses and burros at BLM wild equid gathers and holding facilities.

Beginning last fall, the AAEP BLM Task Force visited multiple BLM sites during a six-month period to observe gathers and evaluate conditions at short-term holding and long-term pasture facilities. The task force’s data collection was limited to the safety, health status, health management, care, handling, and welfare of equids in the BLM program.

"The task force concluded that the care, handling, and management practices utilized by the BLM are appropriate for this population of horses and generally support the safety, health status, and welfare of the animals," said William Moyer, DVM, AAEP president and a member of the task force. "However, the task force did see areas that can be improved."

Key recommendations include:

  • During gathers, all contract helicopter pilots should adopt conservative flying patterns that allow a safe buffer distance between the helicopter and the horses, and between the helicopter and the ground;
  • Areas of solid footing should always be provided in short-term holding facilities to allow the horses a place to lie down. In addition, resident horse numbers should be adjusted as needed seasonally within short-term holdin