Free-roaming Horses

Need Managed

Free-roaming horses need managed says it all.  Free-roaming horses need managed.  It is backed history, real world experience, and science! 

Todays Wild Horse Program is based on emotion, misinformation, and myths which explains why after 50 years it is still failing.  It does not matter how good your critical thinking skills are because junk in equals junk out.  To responsibly manage the free-roaming horses in the American West and create a successful Wild Horse Program, not only good critical thinking skills are needed but solid information is equally import.  Solid information is the base for critical thinking and horse sense.

I am not able to force you use good critical thinking skills or horse sense but can present the solid information needed for a well-managed Wild Horse (and Burro) Program.  I have handled free-roaming horses and is where my experience is from.  Burros and the range they run on are important but are not my strong point, so I will address horses, not burros on this web site.

v  Without management free-roaming horses have a growth rate of 20% and may quickly become resource-limited.

v  On rangeland that is resource-limited not only do free-roaming horses suffer needlessly, so do other species and the range itself.

v  Free-roaming horses need managed to maintain a thriving natural ecological balance on the public lands they run on.

v  A successful Wild Horse Program needs an outlet for all the excess horses produced just as other livestock producers need a market for what they produce.

v  Free-roaming horse need managed for their genetic health.

Below are clips from the National Academy of Science report, “Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program. A way Forward  showing why free-roaming horses need managed.

Consequences for Management

The committee’s conclusions that there are substantially more horses on public range[1]lands than reported and that horse populations generally are experiencing high population growth rates have important consequences for management. Population growth rates of 20 percent a year would result in populations doubling in about 4 years and tripling in about 6 years. Thus, if populations were not actively managed for even short periods, the abundance of horses on public rangelands would rapidly increase until animals became resource-limited (see Chapter 3). Resource-limited horse populations would affect forage and water resources for many other animals that share the rangelands with them and potentially conflict with the legislative mandate that BLM maintain a thriving natural ecological balance. They would also increase the possibility of conflict with the multiple[1]use policy of public rangelands (see Chapter 7). Thus, BLM should diligently monitor and manage free-ranging horse populations to meet the numerous congressional mandates in the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 and the Public Rangelands Improvement Act of 1978.

Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program. A way Forward,  page 56



Large herbivore populations are influenced by density dependence, density[1]independent factors, and predation. Most large herbivore populations show some degree of density-dependent limitation, particularly when predation is low. Likewise, many wild equid populations exhibit density dependence. Density dependence has operated in some free-ranging horse and burro populations in the western United States and elsewhere. The primary way that populations self-regulate, or self-limit is through increased competition for forage at higher densities, which results in smaller quantities of forage per animal, poorer body condition, and decreased natality and survival rates. Behavioral mechanisms can also contribute to density dependence, particularly increased dispersal, and increased agonistic interactions and decreased band stability may interfere with foraging and reproductive success.

Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program. A way Forward,  page 84

A managerially important finding was that free-ranging horse populations are often limited by removals to levels below food-limited carrying capacity, so population growth rate could be increased by the removals through compensatory population growth related to decreased competition for forage. Thus, the number of animals that must be processed through holding facilities is probably increased by management.

Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program. A way Forward,  page 87




Genetics and Population Viability   . . .   It was originally thought that an effective population size of at least 50 was necessary to avoid short-term inbreeding depression, but empirical work suggests that if maintenance of fitness is important, effective population sizes much larger than 50 are necessary. Theoretical studies suggest that the figure could be closer to 5,000 for several reasons.

Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program. A way Forward,  page 149


I hope this website is used and leads to better managed free-roaming horses. 

Horse Sense for Free-Roaming Horses



Contact  whinfo@hors-sens.com

Copyright © 2021 Gerald Miller. All Rights Reserved.