Pigeon Fever at Broken Arrow

The horses gathered by the Bureau of Land Management from the Calico Complex in Nevada are currently held at the privately contracted facility named the Broken Arrow in Fallon Nevada. Observers have been allowed to monitor the horses through a two-hour window each Sunday. No observers will be allowed in this weekend due to the holiday.

Pigeon Fever at Broken Arrow this past Sunday (photo Craig Downer)

The presence of Pigeon Fever among the population was observed nearly two weeks ago.

Processing and sorting of horses has continued “business as usual,” with no change in protocol despite the highly contagious disease.

John Neill, currently the manager at the Broken Arrow for the BLM said, “Yes, there is pigeon fever but only a handful of cases.”

When asked if the cases were confined to the horses gathered from a specific area and isolated in the pens sorted by area gathered he replied, “No, we’ve been moving horses around.”

Many of you have sent me questions that seem to confuse Pigeon Fever with strangles. This is not a strangles outbreak.

*** I also need to add that Pigeon Fever does not come from pigeons. It is not a disease associated with “cities.” (Sometimes I don’t know where this stuff comes from.) It is called Pigeon Fever because the most common form causes abscesses that develop on the chest that give a resemblance to that of a pigeon.

What is Pigeon Fever?


Clinical signs: Early signs can include lameness, fever, lethargy, depression and weight loss.

Infections can range from mild, small, localized abscesses to a severe disease with multiple massive abscesses containing liters of liquid, tan-colored pus.

External, deep abscesses, swelling and multiple sores develop along the chest, midline and groin area, and, occasionally, on the back.

Incubation period: Horses may become infected but not develop abscesses for weeks.Animals affected:The disease usually manifests in younger horses, but can occur in any age, sex, and breed.

A different biotype of the organism is responsible for a chronic contagious disease of sheep and goats, Caseous lymphadenitis, or CL. Either biotype can occur in cattle.

Disease forms: Generally 3 types: external abscesses, internal abscesses or limb infection (ulcerative lymphangitis).

The ulcerative lymphangitis is the most common form worldwide and rarely involves more than one leg at a time. Usually, multiple small, draining sores develop above the fetlock.

The most common form of the disease in the United States is external abscessation, which often form deep in the muscles and can be very large. Usually they appear in the pectoral region, the ventral abdomen and the groin area. After spontaneous rupture, or lancing, the wound will exude liquid, light tan-colored, malodorous pus.

Internal abscesses can occur and are very difficult to treat

Note: There is a low incidence in foals.It has also been diagnosed in cattle, and a similar disease affects sheep and goats. The disease is not transmissible to humans, although humans can carry the infectious agent on shoes, clothing, hands or barn tools and transfer it to another animal. Although the disease is considered seasonal, with most cases occurring in early fall, a number of cases have been confirmed during winter months and other times of the year as well..

Treatment: Hot packs or poultices should be applied to abscesses to encourage opening. Open abscesses should be drained and regularly flushed with saline.

Surgical or deep lancing may be required, depending on the depth of the abscess or the thickness of the capsule, and should be done by your veterinarian.

Ultrasound can aid in locating deep abscesses so that drainage can be accomplished.

External abscesses can be cleaned with a 0.1 percent povidone-iodine solution

Antiseptic soaked gauze may be packed into the open wound

A nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug such as phenylbutazone can be used to control swelling and pain

Antibiotics are controversial. Their use in these cases has sometimes been associated with chronic abscessation and, if inadequately used, may contribute to abscesses, according to one study.

The most commonly used antibiotic for the treatment of this condition is procaine penicillin G, administered intramuscularly, or trimethoprim-sulfa.

In the case of internal abscesses, prolonged penicillin therapy is necessary

Care required: Buckets or other containers should be used to collect pus from draining abscesses and this infectious material should be disposed of properly.

Consistent and careful disposal of infected bedding, hay, straw or other material used in the stall is vitally important.

Thoroughly clean and disinfect stalls, paddocks, all utensils and tack.

Pest control for insects is also very important.

Recovery time: Usually anywhere from two weeks to 77 days.

The BLM is moving forward with preparation toward an adoption event of Calico horses currently scheduled for May 15th and 16th at the Palomino Valley Center in Nevada.

Pigeon Fever at Broken Arrow (photo Craig Downer)


Rob Pliskin

I first met Rob Pliskin at the Society for Range Management Conference in Reno a few months back.

Rob Pliskin with Duster and Mel (photo Tracy Gantz)

The conference is supposedly a dialogue toward solutions to issues surrounding the management of public range land. The conference provides continuing education credits for Bureau of Land Management employees. If you have the extra money order a copy of the event, it is pretty interesting. It has little gems on it that include Bud Cribley (last minute substitute for Bob Abbey) of the BLM admitting that the Salazar plan was created because of fear of ROAM. Repeatedly they express a lack of confidence in any Congressional legislation… often to laughter from the audience. A priceless statement to the credibility of the event, Sue Wallis was the Ethics speaker at the conference (OK, stop choking). But I’m getting off track.

I was told to look for Rob that he might have some questions. He sat next to me for the entire second day. (Three day conference). I watched Rob become increasingly vocal and passionate.

Rob Pliskin is a volunteer for the BLM. You may differ in opinion on some of his positions, you may not. In truth we all have subtle differences that in the big picture wont amount to anything if current protocol does not stop now.

I asked Rob if he would send me a copy of his speech from DC and a photo.

These are Rob’s words….

Rob Pliskin (photo by Mom and Tom)

(First, let me say, don’t ever introduce yourself as “just a volunteer.”  Like “hi, I’m Rob Pliskin, I’m just a volunteer for….”  You people who volunteered to come here are the most important horse people in the world today.)

(Now, look behind me.  What do you see?  I see the powerful flanks of the horse that General Lafayette rode in on, helping to bring a positive change to a new America that needed some help.  Remember that, because in a few minutes I am going to ask you a question about the horse we Americans rode in on.)

Since 1998  I have had the privilege of my life. To be a volunteer for the Bureau of Land Management Wild Horse and Burro Program, gentling wild horses and burros at BLM corrals, in adoption events around the west, and in workshops that teach the public about gentling them. Here is my BLM Volunteer I.D. badge right here.  I am wearing it throughout our events.   I say this is the privilege of my life, because on one level or another, every one of these horses let me meet them where they live, and some of them despite their superior size, strength, speed, agility, and brains, even trust me enough to put their heart in my hands.

Ironically to some people, this privilege came to me from President Richard Nixon in 1971 when he signed the Wild Horse Annie act into law, protecting our American wild horses and burros.  It’s he, and all the good BLMers I know, because there are some, who I can thank for this badge.  It’s hard for me to tell you this right now, I used to wear this badge proudly, but today I just can’t.  I can no longer look at this badge, without seeing that it is terribly tarnished.

Today, while I still wear it, and these horses still courageously give me their hearts, the BLM lets men and women with steel and dollar signs in their eyes and blood in their throats remove wild horses from their own federally protected lands.  And we pay the BLM to do it with our tax dollars.   Some of these same men and women will tell you, you know, out on our western lands, we have a real horse problem.  Right there is where I stop listening.  Because in my experience, a lot of what you learn in horsemanship from the horses, you can apply to the rest of life.  And you know what?  People don’t have horse problems. Oh no.  Horses have people problems.  And our wild horses have people problems too, with the govt. that is supposed to protect them.

We can ask important data based questions about this.  Like, why did the BLM take away over 19 million acres of wild horse areas and let even more cows and sheep back on some of them, but no horses?   Or, why did our BLM management team have to kill 79 wild horses and cause 39 mares to abort their foals in the recent Calico Complex roundup, and pay a contractor over 697 thousand dollars to help them do it?  If you had a nice big ranch and 118 of your horses were killed by your own crew in just a few weeks of work, would your manager still be working for you?  Would you have paid them 697 thousand dollars and just gone on business as usual?  Or would you be saying hold everything, we need to take a serious look at how we do things around here, and nothing moves until we do.

Make no mistake, Federally protected lands in the Great Basin are YOUR ranch, the wild horses that live there are YOUR horses, and YOU pay the BLM with YOUR dollars to do what they do with YOUR horses every day.

There are too many questions like these whose answers the BLM offers just make this badge dirtier and dirtier.  They betray the horses they are supposed to protect and they betray the American people.  Doesn’t a horse just want a leader who is honest, kind, and effective?  BLM, if you want to lead, then you need to start telling the truth.

Let me close now with that one question I told you to remember I was going to ask.  In the words of Deanne Stillman, author of Mustang, why are we, a cowboy nation, destroying the horse we rode in on?   President Obama, I ask you why?  Secretary Salazar, BLM Director Abbey, Wild Horse and Burro Program Director Glenn, why are we killing our horses and removing them from their own ranges when we are supposed to be protecting them?   And what’s the name of the agency charged with this duty to protect?  The U.S. Bureau of Land Management.  And what does U. S. spell?  It spells US.  It is up to us, all of us, to protect our horses.  It always has been up to us.

Richard Nixon described wild horses as America’s living legacy, which deserved protection “historically.”  Instead, the history our president, our Congress, and the BLM write today takes wild horses away to the tune of millions of our dollars every year.  So I ask you, in closing, please, pray for the wisdom we need to write a different history.  I ask you as a citizen or a leader to act with that wisdom, and protect our horses.  If in your native language,  you have a horse song, I ask you to sing it for the horses.  So that they may be protected.  So that we may all act rightly.  So that one day, this badge – this badge – will be redeemed.  If you believe in Change for America, then believe in Change for America’s Wild Horses.  Thank you very much.

P.S. Rob just sent me this:

Tonight is Erev Pesach, the Eve of Passover — an old festival celebrating freedom from captivity.  Tonight, let’s remember the wild horses and burros.  We can’t celebrate freedom with them yet.  So we continue to work towards their modern day exodus, repairing the world in their name, until we can. They can’t say Let My People Go, so we will say it for them.
Here is the March 29 reading from Joyce Sequichie Hifler’s A Cherokee Feast of Days. Imagine that it was written for the horses and burros and us as their voice this night. (Stanzas mine)
Nothing ever quite remains the same —
But a time comes when we have to
Follow new guidelines and think new thoughts
And do new things.
It does not take a superhuman,
But it does take a believer —
A worker with ears to hear and eyes to see —
Not just the physical but the spiritual.
We cannot take for granted that any other human
Can have accurate perception and spell things out
For us.
The miracles are not all in other heads, other hands,
Other methods.
There must be a burst of inner fire that sparks a miracle,
That opens a door to a greater life,
A greater calm.
We are never so blind as when we close ourselves off
By our critical views, our hardened hearts, our failure
To perceive the greatness of gentle things.
O friend, look away from lack and need and pain.
Alter your vision and it will alter life.
O, great blue sky; see me roaming here.  I trust in you,
protect me!
As if they could talk, and all of us could listen,
Rob Pliskin

Then the “Cavalry” rode in…

I have spent the day attempting to construct a way to convey to you all that happened in DC.

There is so much to share. The meetings, James Kleinert’s film Desperation Valley, more meetings, the rally, more meetings… and so many wonderful people.

So many wonderful moments.

Hope Ryden and Ginger Kathrens (photo Laura Leigh)

Like when Hope Ryden took to the podium with a small box in her hands. I wondered if they were letters she had saved from children during the fight years ago that helped inspire our legislators to action in 1971? Then Hope passionately removed the contents from the box, held it up and pounded it on the podium. It was a mustang hoof! “You could pound nails with this!” she exclaimed as she extolled the virtues of our mustangs. (I have to admit I did not see that one coming). It was something I wont forget.

So many wonderful people, some I have known for years but never met. I often refer to Vicki Tobin as “the best friend I never met,” I can’t say that anymore.

But there is a single event that best sums up the “feeling” I have after DC. There is a real sense that our voices are beginning to be heard. A real sense that if we continue to raise our voices and unify as a group… we will see change.

I had meetings to attend the morning of the rally. The day was hectic and there was not even time to change clothes. Un-tucked my shirt, grabbed my cowboy hat and headed down the street, 10 minutes late, to meet the others already walking to Lafayette park.

We listened to amazing speaker after speaker as the crowd continued to grow.

Then we marched to the Department of Interior to hand deliver a letter to Secretary Salazar. The crowd stretched for blocks as we made our way through the streets of our capitol. When we reached our destination we chanted, held up our signs and delivered that letter.

And then it happened….

Coming down the street toward our group were four members of the mounted patrol. Aboard mighty steeds the officers moved in and took their position across the street.

The "cavalry" arrives! (photo by Vicki Tobin)

What a beautiful sight they were. This symbol of what the horse means to our country and to the history of the entire world of man. Those horses represented every horse that stood in battle with us, plowed our fields, carried our burdens and inspired us.

Our group cheered and gathered around the horses.

(photo Vicki Tobin)

In an excerpt taken from an article by John Holland from Horseback Online:

I told him that if they were looking to intimidate us, they picked the wrong crowd! I said I face three times that many horses every morning for their feed. He said “We are not here to intimidate you.”

Perhaps they were there to support us? Because that is what they did.

Our “cavalry,” our symbol, our horses stood there as we raised our voices with words they can’t speak. But their presence is something we can never truly express, only allude to.

So they came and stood with us. They spoke as only they can.

Louder than words (photo by Mom and Tom)

I have a renewed sense of Hope.

I was also able to use the example the next day in my meetings at the Capitol. Horses have always been an integral part of our history… and they still play an essential role in our present. This is an important issue for us as a country. At a time of restructuring our economy, health care… our country, the symbols of what it means to be “American” can aide and inspire us to become a greater nation.

March for Mustangs (photo Vicki Tobin)

Video by RT and Terry Fitch to the amazing voice of Maria Danes.

March for Mustangs 2010

DC Rally (post 1)

So much happened in DC. meetings with Representatives, the protest, great media coverage.

But the piece that stands out the most in my mind are the advocates themselves. I have several stories I want to share with you. I will post them this afternoon.

But for now I am going to share stories written by others and a link to the wonderful coverage by CNN.

Jane Velez-Mitchell report on CNN here.

RT’s great story about the DC rally

Cloud Foundation Update

I spoke with Vicki Tobin just a minute ago and she is working on an update for Equine Welfare Alliance.

EWA photo Elyse Gardner

Here is a picture from the rally of some of the EWA folks Elyse Gardner sent to me last night. Left to right… RT Fitch, Craig Downer, John Holland, Vicki Tobin and myself… and the “support” troops standing behind us.

It says so much that when we as a nation need to make a “statement,” we send in the mounted patrol.

Need to add this release from Sen. Landrieu:

WASHINGTON. (Laudrieu) – U.S. Senator Mary , D-La., today joined the call for a better federal plan for the treatment of wild horses and an end to the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) unnecessary wild horse roundups.

The international March for Mustangs, a public protest against the inhumane treatment of wild horses, took place today in four cities across the globe: London, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. Led by celebrity activist, Wendie Malick, in Washington, D.C., the protest comes in reaction to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar’s attempts to persuade Congress to provide more than $42 million to move animals from the West to the East.

“I have repeatedly called for an end to these inhumane roundups until a more sufficient plan is set in place by the BLM,”said Sen. Landrieu. “There is a civilized way that we can handle these horses, by providing for their adoption or their relocation to a sanctuary. But the cruel and horrific roundups, such as the recent Calico roundup that resulted in painful injury and even death for some horses, cannot continue.”

Last year, Sen. Landrieu fought to protect wild horses by championing language in the Interior Appropriations Bill to prohibit the BLM from using taxpayer dollars for the destruction of healthy, unadopted horses and burros. At Sen. Landrieu’s urging, the Senate directed BLM to develop a new comprehensive long-term plan for wild horse populations by September 30, 2010.

Sen. Landrieu also supported language that encouraged all federal agencies that use horses to acquire a wild horse from the BLM prior to seeking another supplier. In addition, Sen. Landrieu supports the BLM developing an expedited process for providing wild horses to local and state police forces.

As a result of the recent 40-day BLM Calico Roundup, at least 79 mustangs have died and nearly 40 females have aborted their late term foals in the Fallon, Nevada holding pens—where the death toll rises daily as a result of the winter roundup.

Currently, the wild horse and burro population in the United States is about 69,000, and there are 36,000 horses in short-term and long-term BLM holding facilities.

DC Rally quick update

I have lots to share about the DC rally. I will be back at the keyboard tonight with pics and news.

Just want to let you all know that the turn-out was good. The spirit of the community of “voice” is strong.

Keep calling… run those faxes at the Whitehouse until the printers run out of ink!

We need your voices!

Video distribution info will be posted as soon as I return from DC.

Calico Retrospect

As I prepare to head off to DC to join other advocates to raise our voice for the wild horses and burros I am putting the finishing touches on many projects. The one I am most proud of is a new video of the Calico Complex gather. The pride stems not only from the piece itself, but from the process of creating the piece.

This effort came together very quickly. It required fast communication and a real cooperative effort from many people. The process truly speaks of the effort that is needed to be that voice for our horses and burros. This is an effort made by “just people.” People that devote their time and resources to stand for something they believe in.

In that space personal differences become meaningless… self transcends into a collective space of “voice.”

The complete DVD will have a short film and history of the gather as well as personal statements by those that contributed to the piece. Distribution information will be available within the next 24 hours.

Once more I want to remind you that even if you can’t make the trip to DC set the 25th of March aside and contact your local media, set up a table with brochures, wear a ribbon, a t-shirt… start a conversation… for our wild horses and burros.

More Spin than Maytag

Wanted to add this before Horseback moves on to the next story.

If you read the other three… here’s the next soap opera installment to “How the Horse Turns…” Or “Days of the BLM.”

The Big Story

BLM Spins as More Horses Die

Photo by Laura Leigh

By Steven Long

HOUSTON, (Horseback) – The federal Bureau of Land Management’s Washington spokesmen, Tom Gorey, is one of the best in the business. He’s able, articulate, savvy, and to use a term often bandied about in the nation’s capital, a master of the fine art of spin. On Thursday, he spun a web worthy of the fictional Charlotte herself.

For the better part of a week, Horseback Magazine has featured a series of articles on the missing credentials of two veterinarians attending the captured horses of Nevada’s Calico Mountains. Thus far, at least 115 have died, including miscarried foals. Horseback has repeatedly asked for the credentials of the vets who have set such a dubious record of death on their watch. Gorey finally complied, albeit in a round about way, dodging five questions drafted for the magazine by a physician and academic veterinarian and submitted to the agency.

The vets in the spotlight are Dr. Richard Sanford, the vet in charge of the BLM holding and processing facility at Fallon, and Dr. Albert Kane who is not licensed in the State of Nevada.

“Between them, Drs. Kane and Sanford have more than 40 years of experience
as equine veterinarians and over 30 years of that includes working with
wild horses,” Gorey wrote. “They each have all the qualifications, credentials, and
licenses that are appropriate or required by law. The BLM is fortunate to
have such experienced and dedicated professionals working in the agency’s
Wild Horse and Burro Program.”

But you didn’t answer the questions, Tom. Medical and veterinary professionals have questioned the sudden dietary switch from sparse desert grasses to rich hay in captivity as a likely cause of the deaths. In fact, the BLM’s published reports frequently mention the gastrointestinal condition, colic.

“The diagnosis for most of the Calico mares that have died at the Indian
Lakes facility is hyperlipemia characteristic of metabolic failure
attributed to re-feeding syndrome, he continued. “This condition is a result of the very
thin body condition of some of the horses because of starvation conditions
on the range, in combination with the late-pregnancy status of some mares.”

Horses in hundreds, if not thousands of photos shot by activists show fat healthy horses, not animals on the brink of starvation as BLM continues to spin.

The pregnant mares Gorey mentioned were stampeded for miles in the dead of winter by a roaring helicopter hired from a government contractor. Two foals were put down after painfully shedding their hooves after the stampede, which Sanford earlier acknowledged was caused by the chase.

“What Tom is conveniently neglecting to recognize is how the actual stress of the helicopter roundups and subsequent confinement and change in diet, placement in truly overcrowded conditions, etc. pushed these wild horses over the edge,” said Craig Downer, a famed wild horse expert on assignment for Horseback Magazine.

“Diagnostic and other information on the horses has been posted to the BLM’s
Website at http://www.blm.gov,” Gorey continued. “The BLM will continue to post updates on its Website under the Calico gather links as the horses continue to improve and
are readied for adoption.”