Processing Wild Horses

Here is video of the Bureau of Land Management processing horses from the Tobin herd. (scroll down for Horseback Magazine Article)

“Processing” wild horses is a term used to encompass vaccinating, branding, aging, gelding… any procedure that prepares or separates horses out of inventory toward adoption or long-term holding.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), has a protocol in place to process populations that is designed to minimize risk to both horses and people. Equipment is designed with that in mind. If you look at the video you will see the “snake” chute that is designed with no sharp curves and is narrow enough to attempt to create a single file process to prevent injury. The squeeze that restrains the horses is also designed with this in mind. There is still room for improvement, yet the basic tools required to safely process animals are in place.

This video shows that processing can be witnessed by the public close-up. These images were recorded on my cell phone. The layout and equipment being installed at the Fallon Facility is exactly the same as that at Palomino Valley. Anyone that handles horses on a regular basis and is familiar with basic veterinary procedures (not just a DVM), could participate as an observer, close by, without a major safety issue.

BLM explanation of the limited public access to processing at Fallon.

*personal note:

My brain reads  “Once preparation for adoption is completed, and the animals have fully transitioned to a diet of domestic feed and hay” as, “we have extraordinary diarrhea because we transitioned way too fast to cheap alfalfa and we don’t want you to see it until we do our Sunday muck.”

However the greater question does not involve “processing.” The greatest question is should these horses be gathered and processed at all?

Should horses be gathered when range data, lease numbers, population counts, etc. etc.  to support the round-ups in the first place are inconsistent, contradictory, or outright lies?

Go to Equine Welfare Alliance to learn about the United call for Moratorium.

Horseback online

The Big Story

Emmy Award Winners Blast BLM For “Hiding” Process From Press and Public

EWA Releases Video Inside Wild Horse Processing Center by Laura Leigh

COLORADO SPRINGS (Cloud) — The Cloud Foundation objects to the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) severe limitations placed on viewing of the wild horses captured in the controversial Calico Wild Horse roundup.

Despite the enormous cost to the American taxpayers and the controversial nature of the roundup, the BLM and the Department of Interior (DOI) are denying requests for independent humane observers during the processing of nearly 1900 mustangs over the next few months in preparation for their long term holding or adoption.

During this dangerous time for the mustangs, the public will be denied an opportunity to view BLM running the animals through alleyways and into chutes where they will be freeze-branded, inoculated and neck-tagged.

“I’ve been watching the processing of mustangs on and off for 15 years. What is the big deal this time?” Asks Ginger Kathrens, Volunteer Executive Director of the Cloud Foundation, “There’s something very wrong when it’s easier to crash a party at the White House than go view our wild horses being freeze-branded in Nevada. Makes you wonder if there’s something to hide out in Fallon?”

Forty-nine horses have died as the result of the roundup. This does not include the 30 plus mares who have aborted their late-term foals in the feedlot style corrals in Fallon, Nevada. The four percent death rate is over eight times the BLM expected level for a helicopter roundup. Foals are now being born in the pens and the public is not permitted to confirm young, sick and old animals are being humanely treated in a timely fashion.

BLM says that the shut down of the facility is a safety issue due to the horses being continuously in facility alleyways during the preparation process. Given the high level of interest The Cloud Foundation asks BLM to figure out a way to safely allow the public to observe.

“Processing our wild horses in secret does nothing but promote suspicion on the part of the public who simply request to have independent representatives present to verify that our horses are being treated humanely,” said Craig Downer, wildlife ecologist and Nevada wild horse advocate. “Denying American citizens the right to watch over their horses is a very disturbing trend, and simply throws fuel on a spreading fire.”

All 1922 wild horses were captured in the 40-day dead-of-winter helicopter roundup which stopped weeks early and over 600 horses short when BLM discovered fewer wild horses than anticipated in the huge 500,000 acre Calico Mountains of northwestern Nevada. The horses are now being housed at a cost to the taxpayer of approximately $75,000 per week while the death toll continues to rise. One stallion was euthanized on Monday, however, vet reports are now being withheld so the official reason for killing the stallion is unknown.

Despite Wild Horse and Burro Chief Don Glenn’s promise that the public is welcome “anytime” to view the roundups, the BLM conducted the Calico roundup with limited access.

Now BLM has repeatedly denied official requests from the Cloud Foundation and others to allow even two members of the public to be present during processing of horses which began February 15.

Ed Roberson, Assistant Director, Renewable Resources and Planning with the DOI told The Cloud Foundation in an email last week not to worry about the horses as “we have a licensed vet on site during the prep work to ensure humane treatment.” Given BLM’s reticence to release vet reports from Fallon this is no consolation to the concerned public.

By disallowing access to any independent humane observers, BLM’s “bunker” mentality appears to have trumped any requests for transparency. “If American citizens are willing to travel to Fallon, Nevada to check on and observe wild horses that have been removed from public lands against the public will by a federal agency, why is this access being denied?” asks RT Fitch, Texas author of the popular book “Straight from the Horses Heart.”

Meanwhile the captured Calico wild horses, many still with swollen joints and injuries from being run over sharp volcanic rock by helicopters, stand in pens without windbreaks. “Topography credited by the BLM as a natural wind break is a joke. I’ve been to Fallon and I’ve seen the conditions these horses are exposed to—no cover, no windbreaks except for some of the ‘hospital’ pens”, explains Terri Farley. The celebrated children’s author of the Phantom Stallion series, based on the Calico mustangs, visited the holding facility on February 11th with a professional photographer whose photos will soon be posted at

To combat the continuing roundups of America’s wild horses and burros, Nevada is planning two protests in coming days to gain the attention of a visiting President Barack Obama.

On Thursday, February 18th, protestors will unfurl over 50 banners along Las Vegas Boulevard calling for a stop to the roundups which will remove half of Nevada’s wild horses this year. On Saturday, February 20th the public will gather in Carson City, Nevada to further protest the tax-payer funded destruction of America’s Wild Horses and Burros.

According to Wild Horse and Burro Chief, Don Glenn, the facility is charging the government around $5.75 per day/per horse. That amounts to over $10,000 taxpayer dollars per day to house the mustangs. The cost of the Calico roundup alone was at least $1 million and holding of horses will cost taxpayers additional millions.

While nearly 2,000 Calico mustangs languish and die in Fallon, thousands of privately-owned cattle still graze the Calico wild horse herd areas, bringing in revenues to the BLM of around $40,000 per year. The cost to administer the grazing program for the Calico area is six times this amount based on the national average for the program as calculated by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The GAO reported that yearly revenues from the national public lands grazing program are $21 million per year, while the costs to administer the grazing program are $144 million per year, resulting in a yearly loss to the American taxpayer of $123 million. This taxpayer subsidized grazing program is often referred to as “welfare ranching” due to the small fees charged to livestock permittees. The rate is currently the lowest allowed by law—$1.35 per cow/calf pair per month.


9 thoughts on “Processing Wild Horses

  1. Thanks for this and no we do not want BLM or contractors handling these horses any more. It has gone too far. The nation knows. We are not backing off… that is a promise. mar

  2. Why are wild horses handled this way? Because cattleman have been having their way too long. mar

  3. LOUIE COCROFT says:


  4. You would think a member of the public would be allowed to witness the processing of public inventory… wouldn’t you?
    An inventory where vet reports do not even identify pieces of “public property” in any verifiable fashion.
    Seems rather outrageous.

  5. It would help all our perceptions if we had a schedule that reflects the work all involved at the Fallon facility are actually doing on a daily basis, weekly, etc. I would like to think the horses are central to activity and not just on some days. Everyday. How many people work there and what are their jobs? How often are horses fed and are their water tanks cleaned out regular to keep down infectious disease? Details are important. mar

  6. How many vets are available for all these horses and why do they not figure out ways to keep horses alive? The excuse is they are wild. A horse with colic needs to keep moving and be watched and kept from going down. If down it needs to get up. Can’t individuals be separated and when in a pen alone, someone keep that horse moving? What is so hard about that? A horse with colic needs someone there. mar

  7. I’ll forward your questions and post if I get an answer.
    : )

  8. Barb S says:

    Here is what I found about Pigeon Fever by Utah vets
    seems hornfly is the vector and they lay their eggs in fresh cow manure(surprise)
    Never heard of this disease before here in the east–how much more do these poor animals have to endure?

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