Secure in the trees

Secure in the trees

As previously posted WHOAS has two wild horse population management proposals before the ESRD.  Both of these took a considerable amount of time to be put together, refined and then submitted to the government for their approval.  Both of them would allow for a much more humane way of dealing with management of our wild horses, than have gone on in the past.

One of these proposals was an adoption program which would allow WHOAS when and only if necessary remove horses from their natural environment.  This would involve older horses and younger that found themselves in trouble having strayed on to private land or being abandoned by their herds.

We are progressing well with getting things into place in order to accomplish this.  As you can read from other posts, this year we have had to work with more horses than ever before, to gentle and then re-home them.  Although it would be nice if this never had to be done, unfortunately it does and will continue to happen.  We hope to have a permanent facility up and running by late fall.

Probably the most controversial one that WHOAS is supporting is a contraception program that will target a number of wild horse mares each year, using a drug called PZP.

What is PZP and how does it work?  A non-cellular membrane known as the zone pellucid (ZP) surrounds all mammalian eggs.  The ZP consists of several glycopprotiens, one of which is ZP3, which is the molecule which permits attachment of sperm to the egg during fertilization.  PZP, a vaccine, not a hormone, is derived from ZP protein of pig ovaries.  When this vaccine is injected into the muscle of a target female animal, it stimulates her own immune system to produce antibodies against the vaccine.  These antibodies then attach them to the sperm receptors on the females own eggs and thereby block fertilization.

A few points here is the process used to obtain this is quite extensive and is done at the Science and Conservation Center in Billings, Montana.  A team of three individuals working under strict conditions process the pig ovaries in order to obtain the PZP.  One thing also to point out is that no additional pigs are slaughtered to obtain the ovaries that are used, as they come from animals already destined to be processed.

How is PZP administered? WHOAS will be using a remote delivery method to inject the targeted mares.  The dart gun we will be using is operated by CO2 and has a range from 8-60 yards depending on the settings used.  The vaccine itself is mixed with an adjuvant and then inserted into a 1.0cc barbless dart.  The dart, when it hits the animal, injects the vaccine and then falls out.  For the most part it will be like a bite from a horsefly to the mare.  It causes no injury or harm to the animal. It has no debilitating side effects.

If the mare is already pregnant, she will be able to carry through with her pregnancy with no negative effects.  Following her foaling in the spring, she will not be able to be fertilized by the stallion if she is bred.  Furthermore, her female foal will be unaffected and able to reproduce herself upon maturity. For the mare not carrying a foal within her, the vaccine will act as it is supposed to and just prevent fertilization of her eggs by the stallion’s sperm.  Breeding will occur but not fertilization, thus the dynamics and functioning of the herd remains intact.  This is one of the biggest bonuses of using this vaccine.  Herds will not be torn apart and the lead stallion and herd mares will continue to maintain stability of each harem.  This in itself assures that indiscriminate breeding of immature mares by young stallions most likely will not occur.

A booster shot will be administered to each mare targeted within the next year.  This will then give the mare a pregnancy break of up to three years.  This vaccine if used in this manner does not make an animal sterile. This pregnancy break has been proven to allow a wild horse mare to build up her body reserves and therefore in the future able to produce healthier foals.

Since the vaccine is a protein it breaks down easily and therefore cannot enter the food chain and will not have any negative effects on animals that may prey on a wild horse. It is completely safe for the environment and WHOAS will assure that all darts used are recovered and disposed of properly according to veterinarian protocol.

We have heard that some people are concerned that our wild horse genetics would be lost and that this contraception program will negatively affect these. Research done by leading geneticists has shown only the strongest genes are passed on to the next generation as our Alberta wild horses have evolved to survive in their environment. Where rare gene lines are no longer relevant to these horses, they are discarded over time. So the genetics that our Alberta wild horses carry now are the ones that allow them to survive and become the unique and beautiful animals they are today. Isn’t Mother Nature fascinating!

As we move forward with this program, WHOAS will not be going into any given area and applying the vaccine indiscriminately. Only a few mares from each area that have already proven their reproduction capability will be given this pregnancy pause. Therefore, again, allowing the social structures and behaviours of our wild horse herds to remain intact.

Some opponents want the horses just left alone but that is unrealistic considering all the factors that play a part in the management of all creatures living along the Eastern slopes. Many other stakeholders including ranchers, forestry and recreational users, have to be considered when determining the best method of assuring that our wild horses can and will remain on the landscape. In wild horse herds throughout the United States, even the BLM is abandoning the wholesale capture of their wild horses in certain locations and allowing the contraception program to manage the numbers. In Europe, including the Danube River estuary, where there are over 1,000 wild horses, the PZP program was adopted to allow the survival of the herds but control the numbers. This very humane method works and will prevent, in the future, if given a chance, previously used inhumane methods of removing the wild horses for population control.

WHOAS asks for your support in these endeavours to protect your wild horses for future generations.

Bob

 

 

 

The wildie foal, Sunset

The wildie foal, Sunset

WHOAS is so happy to let everyone know that all our rescued wild horses now have new forever homes to go to.  The little filly “Sunset” will be going to a new home in northern Alberta, “Timber” to a home close to Calgary, “Rex” to one near Warner, Alberta and our old mare “Angel” will be going to one close to Lethbridge.  It is inspirational to see individuals who love the wild horses as much as we do, step up and take on the responsibility of giving these wonderful horses a loving home.

Treed up and getting away from the swarms of flies

Treed up and getting away from the swarms of flies

Our last few trips out west we have found most of the herds in the heavy timber in attempt to escape the onslaught of black flies and nasty biting horse flies.  You will also find a few small herds in the clearings that are exposed to the winds trying to do the same.

Swishing tails

Swishing tails

In the clearings they stand in tight groups allowing for the swishing tail of another horse to keep the flies away from their face and front shoulders.  They are constantly moving in tight circles and throwing their heads to try to help.  This little boy tucked under the tail of any of the mares that were close to him.

This time of the year you will also find that several harems will band close to each other.  They find areas that give them security but also protection from the bugs and heat.  Close by there will likely be a mineral lick and/or mud hole too.  The stallions are tolerant of each other as long as the other herd stallion does not cross that magic line.  We can sit for hours and watch the antics and behaviours of these magnificent creatures.

On our last ride we started to ride past one of these harems and we had six groups come flying out of the trees at full gallop. There were 42 horses all together and they came thundering by us. On horseback I could not get to my camera quick enough and our horses so badly wanted to join in with the fun, so we just enjoyed the moment. They only ran a short distance and then broke into the individual herds as they started to feed.

The life of a wild horse is not easy and this summer many foals born in the spring are no longer with their herds. Weather and sickness do play a role in this as this also affect the older horses. Predators also take many horses. Wolves usually only take down the sick and injured. Grizzly bears, if they have an opportunity to ambush a wild horse, will take one down, even a very healthy one. Cougars, however, take more wild horses than the other two predators combined. Over the years we have seen many horses that have survived and carry the scars of such an attack. It is hard to tell whether some of these survivors eventually succumb to their injuries.

Larry Semchuk, a WHOAS member, author and photographer of the wild horses, sent me the following photographs of a young stallion that had survived a terrible attack.

 

The lone young survivor

The lone young survivor

Here is the first photograph of this stallion who was by himself close to a mineral lick the horses and other wildlife use. You can see the skin that has been torn from his flank.

Horrific open wound

Horrific open wound

Larry’s photograph here shows some of the terrible wounds that whatever predator attacked him left.

Right rear flank

Right rear flank

Even though there are some wounds on this side, you can tell the attack came from the left. This leads us to believe that it was probably a bear as cougars usually attack from above onto the neck and shoulders of its prey. Also since the attack was from the rear, and the stallion survived, he probably left his attacker with wounds from his hooves. Since he is young, strong and appears healthy still, we hope that he will heal. And some still say the wild horses have no natural predators!

Bob

 

Learning about a box stall

Learning about a box stall

Well the gentling process for all the wild horses in our care is progressing very well.  A decision was made to wean little Sunset, the filly, early from her mare.  The old girl, Angel, even though she was getting lots of excellent hay and had a high protein molasses tub in her pen, was not getting her body condition back very well at all.  We hope that by removing the drain of having to nurse the foal, she can pick up more quickly and put more weight.

Sunset is losing her baby coat and once she was haltered and tied in her box stall, she certainly enjoyed the brushing along her back and hips to remove more of the hair.  This is also gives assurance to her that everything is okay.

Very adorable

Very adorable

Sunset settled into her box stall very well where she is out of the bugs and the hot sun.  We had quite a few of our members around and she is learning quickly to get use to all the different people and sounds. She loves her hay too and did not hesitate to start munching away while tied.

First taste of "Browns" foal  milk replacer

First taste of “Browns” foal milk replacer

Here she is being introduced to her first bucket of milk replacer.  This is still very important to assure that she gets the proper nutrition she needs.  Still a little shy about it,  the bucket had to be held up to her muzzle.  In a short time and as she gets to like the taste she will start to drink it all up.

 

Angel wandering alone last fall

Angel wandering alone last fall

This is the story of the mare.  Last September we were back to close to Lost Lake which is north of Williams Creek. Then as we came over a hill we noticed a lone white horse wandering down a logging road.  As we got closer we could see that it was a mare and that she was alone with no other horses close by at all.  We thought that she may not be a wild one and we also felt that the odds seemed stacked against her being able to survive.  So we tried to approach her, getting to within 8-10 feet before she moved away slowly.  We tried several times to get close enough to get a rope on her but that would not happen.  Finally she wandered off, but we knew we had to come back and try to find her.  We did make several trips back there throughout the fall without success.  Late December we saw her close to main forestry road but still inside the forestry.  the snow in this area was extremely deep and survival for even a healthy horse had become a struggle.  Even though she had lost a lot of weight she had survived, although she had become very elusive.

Then in late April we noticed that she had given birth to a foal and was still in this small area.  Here she had lots of protection in the trees, she could find feed and she was also probably safe from any predators since it was so close to the  main road. She was doing okay even though her body condition had deteriorated quite drastically due to giving birth to the foal and the overall struggle to survie such a harsh winter that claimed many other wild horses.  All things seemed okay until it was noticed in May that she was now on private ranch land next to the area where she had lived all winter. The reason she got onto this land was that some fool had cut the ranch fences thinking that this would help her. We worried about her and her foal for many reasons, including the fact that two young grizzly bears had moved into the same area.

Then in June, WHOAS received a phone call from the ranch asking if we wanted to purchase her due to the fact that they could not keep her after bringing her into their corrals.  This is what we did and she was then brought into our temporary facility at Dan’s and Karen’s ranch to join a couple of the other wildies we had rescued.

 

Rescued

Rescued

Since then she has received lots of hay and received minimal gentling as we wanted the mare to get into better condition and also to allow the foal to grow. This initial gentling process was just touching her and being around her. Then as mentioned it was decided more had to be done to help the old girl out, thus the foal was removed from her. At the same time that this had to take place, Dan and the boys managed to get a halter on her. At first she did not like being restrained at all. But as the day progressed, she started to yield to the pressure of rope and halter.  As we watched, we felt so sorry for her as she was trembling with fear, but what we were doing was so necessary in order to properly care for her. We continued at this point to softly talk to her trying to reassure her that we meant no harm. The soft approach and voice began to calm her.

Starting to accept that we are okay

Starting to accept that we are okay

Here she has calmed down and started to take hay from Dan’s hand. WHOAS hopes that we have now given her a chance for a much better life. We believe we have found a forever home for Angel where she can peacefully live out the remainder of her life.

Loving the touch

Loving the touch

Timber, pictured here, has been gelded and will be shortly moving to his new home. He has come so far in his training and will still require some work which we know he will get with his new owner.

4 year old Rex

4 year old Rex

Rex too has been gelded and is leading very well, likes to be brushed and is ready to go to a forever home. He will make an excellent horse as he is intelligent and willing to learn which continually shows through when handled. We hope to find him a home quite quickly now as we believe he is ready.

WHOAS only charges a $300 adoption fee to help cover the costs of board, feed, vet bills as well as initial training. These older horses do take a lot longer to gentle than the younger ones we have worked with in the past. Sunset too will soon need a forever home. Please contact us if you would like to adopt either of these two beautiful horses.

Bob

 

 

The welcoming committee

The welcoming committee

One of the great joys we have is taking our own horses for rides out in wild horse country. Just going for an enjoyable ride is great, but riding out here is fascinating when you come upon a herd. It was no different this past Friday when we took our two boys out west. Driving down the back trail to where we wanted to unload, we were met by this group sunning themselves around a mud hole.

Getting ready for the trail

Getting ready for the trail

Just after unloading we could hear some crunching in the bushes and looked up to see four young studs peering through the bush at us.

Curious neighbours

Curious neighbours

Unafraid and very curious they came in to within 30 feet of us to see what we were doing. They stayed in the immediate area while we saddled our horses and were still there as we rode off down the trail.

Wyley, the wildie, and our Akitas

Wyley the wildie, and our Akitas

One of our horses is Wyley who was rescued many years ago and has turned into an exceptional trail horse. The most amazing thing about him is that he will always let you know when there are other “relatives” of his around. His calmness and trail sense now makes it a joy to take him back into the country he was born in. We had a great ride under ideal conditions. Then upon returning to our trailer this was our greeting.

A large contingent to welcome us back

A large contingent to welcome us back

As you can see by this picture, there are no yearlings in these three herds. It is a fact that not only us, but many others have also noticed and are taking note of this. The other distressing point is that a large number of foals born this spring are no longer with their herds. That is the case with the herd in the middle of the above picture.

Just gone

Just gone?

This is a little filly that was with the herd just five days previous. Leaving our horses tied to the trailer we went for a walk around the herd to see whether it was just lying down. Unfortunately it was no where to be found and had succumbed to either sickness or predators.

WHOAS strongly believes and will be pushing the ESRD not to have any capture season this coming year due to the large number of horses lost this past winter, that there are very few yearlings left with the herds, and now the loss of a large number of foals this spring.

Wandering through a grassy hillside

Wandering through a grassy hillside

One of the things we noticed on this ride was the abundance of grass growing throughout the whole area we rode.  This is a key point because not only were there lots of wild horses but also a large number of deer in the area. The only trails we rode on were ones made by the horses and they were all in good shape and not torn apart by overuse.

A week ago, we were riding down in Sandy McNabb, which has an excellent equestrian campground, horse facilities and trails. This area is used extensively by not only equestrian riders, but also hikers. What we found was that the cattle which had only been allowed in there for approximately 10 days, had decimated many of the lower trails. Also all the small creeks in the valleys were running brown from the disturbance caused to the banks by the cattle (there are no wild horses down here). So when people bring up the argument about horses destroying the environment, anyone would just have to witness what we and many others we spoke to had. Many of the other equestrian campers were upset with the cattle being allowed in this area and the damage they were doing. The individuals and so called experts  that make these claims against the wild horses would not be able to substantiate any of that nonsense if they had been able to witness this damage. Don’t get me wrong I do not begrudge the cattle leases or allotments as long as these cattle ranchers stop blaming the horse for their perceived problems on our public lands and recognize that their cattle have more of a negative impact on the environment than any other creatures do.

Sunset and Angel coming along well

Sunset and Angel coming along well

WHOAS had to take in more wild horses this summer  than we ever had to in previous years. This is due to several reasons but it is still part of our mandate. However, we are limited to the number that we can take in due space and financial considerations. It is expensive caring, as any knowledgeable horse person will tell you, for a horse. Add on the time that has to be devoted to the gentling process to make these horses adoptable, it can become onerous. We are doing the best we can right now. Hopefully when we have our own facility up and running, and our charitable status, we will be able to work with more rescues as needed.

Angel and Sunset will have to remain with us for a period of time yet to allow the filly to be properly weaned and the mare to get back into proper condition. This costs money, but we are not complaining but welcome any support. And for those that have donated, WHOAS and our foster charges thank you.

A new treat - black oil sunflower seeds

A new treat – black oil sunflower seeds

We had a good laugh as Timber walked up to taste what was in the bucket. We made sure he did not get too many as he took an immediate liking to this delicacy! He is doing extremely well and loves to be bathed with the hose. It is nice to know that he has a home to go to as soon as he is gelded, which will be soon. He leads well, goes into the barn calmly to a tie stall, and does love to be scratched.  The saddling process is just a short time away.

Rex and Dan

Rex and Dan

Rex too is coming along very well, becoming socialized and accepting of humans and all the steps he is put through to make him adoptable. WHOAS is still looking for a forever home for him. He still has to be gelded. He displays his wild horse intelligence and willingness to learn. This is what makes a wild horse such a good mount and such good trail horses, just like Wyley.

Coming in on the run to check us out

Coming in on the run to check us out

WHOAS continues to look for the support of those who love the wild horses as much as we do and wish to help us in our efforts to have all wild horses afforded a better life.

Bob

 

Mesa 1

Mesa 1

This is a photo of a young wild horse from the Mesa Butte area, west of Millarville, called Mesa.  Last year a couple were riding out there and came across a foal without a herd.  As they rode off the little guy began to follow their horses looking for company.  When they got back to their trailer he was still with them and acting out of kindness they loaded him with their horses and took him home.  They cared for him over the summer and then noticed he had a hernia.  The people this spring took him to Moore and Company where the vets there determined that although the hernia will not affect his health, it was inoperable.

Mesa 2

Mesa 2

As you can see the hernia is large but you may also see it has not affected his growth or health as he is a yearling now.  The people who took him in had hoped to make him a riding horse but now that is impossible and so they are just looking for a new home for him where he can just live and grow.

Mesa 3

Mesa 3

If you would like to give Mesa a new home send me an email and I will put you in touch with his humans.

Bob

 

Halter is on and I'm okay

Halter is on and I’m okay

We just wanted to bring you an update on what has happened in one weekend to our two young stallions. This boy was named Rex. Working as a team, although it was a little bit of a struggle, Dan and Jack introduced him to his first halter. Here he is tied to teach him about what a rope is.

A soft touch

A soft touch

Part of the initial training is using a soft bristled broom to touch the new student all over. This lowers the stress on the horse and lessons the chance that one of the handlers could be injured. Rex was quite calm as Jack worked the broom over his face and neck.

There's treats in the bucket

There’s treats in the bucket

Dan has a bucket of oats with him as he allows Rex to become accustomed to his scent and that he is not a threat. The boy will soon learn of how delicious this treat can be! All this aides the horse in learning to trust humans.

Getting used to company

Getting used to company

This young boy is named Timber by his new owner. He will however remain with WHOAS as he is gentled further and later gelded. Here he is standing beside Jack with a young visitor looking on. As you can see Timber has progressed extremely well and is not fazed by any of this.

And you are who?

And you are who?

Another little friend

Another little friend

Timber has made two new friends and is quite curious about these little people. Seemingly unafraid he came right up to sniff at their hands much to the delight of both of them and Jack.

Afternoon snooze

Afternoon snooze

Unstressed by all that has happened to him in one weekend, and still with lots of people around him, Timber closes his eyes.

Angel and Sunset

Angel and Sunset

The mare and her filly also gained names this weekend as Mom is called Angel, and her baby is called Sunset. As Jack and Dan need more time with the boys, the gentling of these two will come later. They are both happy in their own pen and the mare is starting to put on some weight.

Close to Mom

Close to Mom

The mare is very protective of her foal.

Bob

A new life

A new life

On Tuesday June 24 another meeting of the ESRD’s stakeholders wild horse group was held.  This one took place west of Sundre as we learned about how the agrologists for the ESRD evaluate the status of rangeland health.  We first met at the Sundre Museum where a presentation was done on this information.  It was somewhat  satisfying that the wild horses are now listed  in the consumptive demands for the range.  Unfortunately they still rate the cattle as number one, followed by wildlife and then the horses.  Cattle also far exceed the number of horses on the range and probably the wildlife ungulates also. The legislation that dictates cattle stocking rates was put in place in the 1970′s and is still in effect now. Considering the vast changes that have taken place since then, sustainability should take precedence over this policy.

We travelled into the forestry and attended two assessment sites where we were shown the techniques used by Rangeland Management  to come up with the AUMs for each of the 10 grazing allotments in the Sundre zone.

I found the day informative, but still have questions in my mind about how this information is used to try to determine the number of horses that the range may sustain without negative impact.  The trip reinforced that there are many factors affecting rangeland health which must be managed, not just the horses. The wild horses continually move throughout the range including the areas we visited, rather than overgrazing one area.

The other  point was that the clearcut blocks and the grass within them are not counted in these equations.  We were given a map of the clear cuts throughout this area of the eastern slopes which shows such a very large area of clear cutting that has and continues to happen in our forests.

Even in this presentation it was pointed out that the wild horses prefer the cut blocks for grazing.  WHOAS agrees with this point and believe that it should be taken into consideration when determining wild horse populations.  Even though it was stated that the horses prefer these areas, only the negative aspects of the horses  being in these cutblocks were presented.

1/ The horse will eat tops from the seedlings – scientifically disproven in several other jurisdictions.  We also question what other species inhabit these same areas that do or will eat pine seedlings (e.g., moose).

2/ That the wild horses cause damage by stepping on and damaging the seedlings. However, Dr. Irving’s research here in Alberta shows that this impact from horses is extremely small. It was pointed out that the timber companies are legislated to reforest.  I then wonder about the recreational users, (quads, muddders and dirt bikes), who do far more damage, why it was not brought up.

My biggest objection to using this argument against the horses, is the record that the forestry industry has in what they are doing to the forests in our eastern slopes. There are many positives of having the wild horses in the cutlblocks that were not brought up. One being that they do eat the grass from around the seedlings, lessening the competition for nutrients and helping with the seedlings growth. It was also learned that day that the forest companies do not reseed for grass and it is up to natural cycles for these areas to come back, which includes the reseeding by wild horses through their droppings.

On a oil lease road through a clearcut to get out of the flies.

On a oil lease road through a clearcut to get out of the flies.

WHOAS however is very appreciative of the input we are allowed to give the ESRD in regards to wild horse management.  We continue to work with them toward some solutions that will be beneficial to all stakeholders, but especially the wild horses.  We have two proposals currently before the ESRD and the Minister in regards to this.  We hope to hear back soon on being able to proceed with our ideas for wild horse management.

As indicated previously, one is a contraception program that will target eligible mares within certain areas where horse numbers are a concern.  We would sincerely like to see this program operating by early fall this year.

The other one is the adoption program in which WHOAS will only when and if necessary, move into certain areas to remove young wild horses.  Using proper sorting pens we would only remove one or two youngster from a given area.  Any other horses would be released, thereby keeping the herd dynamics intact. By doing this the mature stallions and mares do not allow for indiscriminate breeding therefore lowering the reproduction rates in the overall population. This fact has been proven to be a key to managing the numbers of wild horses in many other jurisdictions throughout the world.

These young horses would then be taken to our handling facility to be gentled and then adopted out to forever homes.  We would love to see them all remain free and wild, but with the policies that are currently in place within government, we may have to do this.  At least they will be alive and loved. WHOAS feels that it is for the betterment of your wild horses that we continue to work with the ESRD instead of against them.

Our three year old stallion.

Our three year old stallion.

We hope to have our rescue facility in operation later this fall. One of the reasons is that in the last 3 weeks, we have had to take in 6 wild horses that had strayed onto private land. Current regulations do not allow us to relocate these wayward wildies. This boy here was taken in 3 weeks ago and we hope to start soon on the gentling process for him. As with all the stallions and colts we take in, he will be gelded by a veterinarian prior to leaving to his new forever home. The good news for the boy is that he already has a place to go.

Muddy

Muddy

This 3-4 year old was just taken in this past week and as it had rained a lot, he is covered with mud.

Oh, that feels so good!

Oh, that feels so good!

This is the reason he is not shiny and glossy in presenting him to you. Again the gentling process is just about to start and we hope to have a home for him soon too.

Pretty lady

Pretty lady

A young black beauty

A young black beauty

These two were rescued in the Bragg Creek area. The mare was 5-6 years old and the boy was only about 2 years old. They were causing trouble for the domestic horses that were on the property and therefore WHOAS stepped in to resolve the problem, operating under a permit from the ESRD. The good news about these two is that they both have a new home and are doing extremely well being gentled by their new owner.

White angel with her filly

White angel with her filly

Many people had seen this mare just inside the forestry boundaries and worried about her for a period of time. She had migrated onto private land and unfortunately the alternative for her was for WHOAS to step in and rescue her and her baby. So along with her, the filly and the first two stallions, we have four horses we are babysitting right now.

All these horses are being sheltered at one of our member’s home property. So this highlights the reason that WHOAS needs to have their handling facility up and running as soon as we can possibly do it. We hope to get support from all wild horse supporters to enable us to do this. You can buy a membership to help.

Bob

 

Grass and yuch lots of bugs

Grass and yuch lots of bugs

With tails swishing and heads bobbing we found these three boys in a lush, green clear cut meadow  trying to ward off the swarms of flies and mosquitoes. With lots of rain and some warm temperatures the grass is growing thick and tall and of course along comes the insects. The bugs seem especially abundant this early in the year. In order to alleviate some of the stress of enduring these pests, you find the wild horses rolling in the mud and in areas where the wind can keep some of them away.

High on a hillside

High on a hillside

In our travels yesterday we put on hundreds of kilometres checking on the status of the wild horses and the rangeland that they inhabit. No matter where we went we found vast tracks of untouched grass with only a few deer and the odd horse. This disputes the claims that the horses are decimating the range prior to the great number of cattle being turned loose to graze on their summer leases and allotments. To us it also shows that no matter what there is adequate forage for all. Don’t forget that the grasses are the fastest growing and yearly renewable resource out there.

Elk making a comeback

Elk making a comeback

One of our other observations is the increase in the elk herds that we are coming across. In finding a lot of these elk they are intermingled with the horses sharing the same range. In one small area there was close to 150 head of elk with numerous calves. The University of Alberta has students conducting research on these elk populations. Maybe one of the reasons they are moving lower is that in one of the prime calving grounds that we know about, has been taken over by dirt bikers who conduct races throughout this area. This activity has not only disrupts the elk, but other wildlife including the wild horses.

No Mom, but company

No Mom, but company

One of the things we also noticed was how few yearlings there were around. We came across these two – the yearling on the left and a three-year old boy resting in another clear cut area. It is obvious to those of us who spend a lot of time out west that this past winter severely affected the herds. This also is pointed out in the number of mares we see right now that must have aborted their pregnancies in order to survive themselves. This is nature. We also know that this spring mares have died giving birth and foals that were born have not survived.

Normally this yearling would still be with its mother. What happened to her? We can only assume she perished in the harshness of winter. Sadly this is proven by the number of carcasses of dead horses we and others are also finding.

Companioned up

Companioned up

Here is another young boy that should be with his mare and herd but he only has his buddy, maybe a three-year old, with him. He was such a curious young fellow, that when we were taking pictures of him, he walked right up to within 8 feet of us. Certainly a heart grabber!

The "nursery" at rest

The “nursery” at rest

On the positive side we are finding some of the herds, but not all, have foals with them. In some cases it may be only one, but here in Thor’s herd, we have 3 healthy young foals. With the grasses and warm weather coming it is hoped that they will grow strong along with all the other babies born.

Cheering for the arrival of green grass

Cheering for the arrival of green grass

This young fellow seems to be indicating how happy he is that sunshine and abundant feed has finally arrived.

Bob

 

Galahad

Galahad

This is a photo of the four year old stallion that WHOAS rescued in the harshness of this past winter.  Here Jack is explaining how the boy has progressed and how to handle him.  We had transported him to his new home where WHOAS has placed new panels, on loan to his new owner, in order to provide a good handling/training pen for “It’s-All-Good”, aka Galahad.

Softness of the eye

Softness of the eye

As with all of the wild horses we have dealt with over the years, Galahad is an extremely intelligent horse.  He listens to the softness of the voice and responds  to it as he gains his trust of us humans.

Looking like a champion

Looking like a champion

As with all colts and stallions WHOAS gentles down and handles, Galahad has been gelded in order to make his transition to having a human companion, a little easier for all involved.

He is in for a very good life.  The training he is about to undergo is going to be excellent for him and other wildies.  This journey is being documented by his new human companion and we will shortly put a new link on our site so that you can follow also.

At home on sweet green grass

At home on sweet green grass

The next one to update you on is the mare that was with Galahad. Being an older mare, it took quite a bit of extra time for our 2 horse gentlers, Dan and Jack, to take her to the point where she could be handled safely. Awaiting this stage in her training was the person who adopted her. Patiently he would await our updates on her progress. In early May her new human companion drove all the way up from the Lethbridge area to pick her up.

 The mare, "Chance"

The mare, “Chance”

He had fallen in love before he laid eyes on her as she was going to allow him to relive an earlier point in his life. Then when he saw her he was totally enthralled and the lady was give the name “Chance.” Here she is in her new home having put on considerable weight.

Paying attention

Paying attention

Chance is responding well to her training and has adapted well to her new environment.

The third rescue was a little filly who was named by her new owners, Gracie. She was the foal of Chance.

Who's smiling more?

Who’s smiling more?

Here is Gracie with one of her new human companions who have put in lots of time working with her to gain her trust and eventually one of their riding mounts. She ponies along with their other horses on the trail. She is happy to have a saddle on her back as part of her training.

Gracie under saddle

Gracie under saddle

Although she is a baby still and is a long way from being old enough to be ridden, she is responding happily to all the new things being introduced to her. Again this shows the intelligence that is prevalent among our Alberta wild horses.

No sooner had we delivered Galahad on Tuesday to his new home, than WHOAS was asked to take in another young wild stallion. This boy too had got into a group of domestic horses on private property which was causing trouble.

The new arrival

The new arrival

This young boy again typifies our Alberta wild horses and is only about three years old.

Showing off

Showing off

Untouched by human hands so far, he is about to embark on a new journey. He will be gentled and gelded and then placed in a forever home.

Sizing the humans up

Sizing the humans up

The process of gentling this boy will take some time. WHOAS is hoping that we can attract younger people who would be willing to learn about the gentling process necessary for wild horses. This will become increasingly more important in the future as we progress with our plans for a proper handling and educational facility.

Checking out the new neighbours

Checking out the new neighbours

Bob

 

 

The culprits

The culprits

Several times during a year WHOAS receives reports of wild horses that for one reason or the other wander outside the boundaries of the forestry reserves. One of the activities we have actively pursued over the years is helping land owners or even just the wild horses move them back to safety. This was the case on a beautiful spring day, May 6th, minus 2C with snow flurries! Spring? We had received word that there was a small group of these wayward horses that were wandering out on a busy roadway west of Sundre. Due to the heavy snow and fallen trees on fence lines they had found an opening onto the road. Desperate was their search for feed.

The team of volunteers has arrived

The team of volunteers has arrived

WHOAS responded to this and issued a call for volunteers to help move these beauties back onto the forestry land. There were four horses altogether. We found these two beside the roadway and the other two just in the trees behind some broken fencing. The land they were on was private land thus the reason for moving them. Often we just have to repair the fence but in this case that would not suffice.

The herding has begun

The herding has begun

Using volunteers on foot and in vehicles aided by the mighty Badger, we started moving to where we knew there was an open gate leading into the forestry. It was about a mile and a half that we slowly pushed them along trying not to get them too upset. Ahead we had more volunteers waiting to make sure they turned into and through the gate.

Almost there

Almost there

It seemed the horses recognized where they could go and be safe because without hesitation in they went. Right away there was some exposed grass for them and they began to feed. This made us feel relieved that they were off the road and had obviously not undergone much stress.

Yummy green grass

Yummy green grass

The stallion even took time to have a good roll and shake himself out. It made us smile.

Oh that felt good

Oh that felt good

What remained to assure that they now stayed safe was to repair some fencing right at this area. Armed with our fencing pliers, fence stretcher, barbwire and fencing staples, the crew set about securing the fence.

Crew at work

Crew at work

Once this was done we observed them for awhile before we left them free and safe. As you can see, winter is not over for the wild horses. There was at least six inches of fresh snow blanketing the ground out here. We travelled a little bit farther into the forestry and found these two young mares with no stallion seeking out food.

So thin

So thin

Usually by this time of the year, the wild horses have begun to rebound. Not so this year as you can see by the condition of these two mares.

I need more green grass

I need more green grass

Let’s hope it warms up soon for all the wild horses and other wildlife. WHOAS is proud of our volunteers and the work such as this that we do to save your wild horses. Thanks to all of our supporters.

Bob