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Would we want our children or grandchildren to see how America's horses are treated by our public agencies?

Alliance of Wild Horse Advocates'



Issue: The Calico Mountains Complex wild horse roundup.

Update: 1/2/10 on-site observation of the new contract horse holding facility in Fallon, NV

Persons present:

Sharon Lamm, LRTC
Chuck Matton, Wild Horse Preservation League
Betty Retzer, Let 'Em Run Foundation
Willis Lamm, LRTC (report author)
John Neill, BLM, Manager, Palomino Valley Center
Rich Sanford, DVM, BLM holding facility veterinarian

Note: This report was reviewed for accuracy by the other observers prior to posting.


The purpose of this visit was to observe the new contract facility, get a sense as to the most current designs being used for holding and preparing BLM horses, and to ascertain the overall condition of the horses removed from the Black Rock East HMA, Calico Mountains Complex.

Note: All but about 19 of the horses gathered from Black Rock East had arrived at the facility, with the remainder in transit. The gather at Black Rock East has concluded and it was reported that the trap site was being dismantled.

Facility Observations:

As we expected to find in a brand new facility, the design was modern and the layout was spacious. The primary holding areas consisted of multiple 70,000 square foot (1.6 acre) corrals connected by a network of wide alleyways. The facility has the capacity to theoretically hold up to 3,000 horses.

Straw used to insulate concrete pads was left in the corrals. Several of the horses used the straw to paw out "beds" to lay down on, although all stood up and were watchful when we approached.

On the south side of the corral complex were a number of smaller special use corrals for horses that for one reason or another were being kept separate from the larger populations. In this instance one of the smaller corrals was used for two mares with nursing foals and the orphan from the debilitated mare that was euthanized at the trap site. Another corral held three saddle horses that were work horses at the facility.

Near the front of the corral system was a vetting and preparation area that was somewhat similar in design to the one used at Palomino Valley Center. Workers were still installing some of the equipment. A portable vetting squeeze was on hand in the event any of the horses present at the facility required veterinary attention.

Horses in the larger corrals were fed through feeding panels. (When horses have to reach through the panels to eat they cannot easily try to bite each other nor are less dominant horses going to be pushed off their feed by more dominant horses.) The feeding panels were set on a ten foot wide strip of concrete. The concrete will facilitate cleaning the area and help prevent the horses from ingesting dirt or sand. The feed provided was oat hay.

Hay, heavy equipment and other materials were stored on what appeared to be another 160 acre parcel adjacent to and behind the corral system.

Horse Observations:

Our horse observations started at the mare and foal pen. Two of the youngsters were still nursing and were in with their dams. The orphan foal appeared to have socially bonded with one of the nursing mares and her foal. The first two photos show the orphan foal on the left and the third shows interesting markings on one of the nursing foals.

The stallions from Black Rock East were all placed in one corral. They appeared to be in relatively good flesh. What was interesting was that the corrals had not be graded flat or natural vegetation removed, so the horses had some contour and some natural vegetation.

The mares were in the next of the large corrals and appeared to be in nearly as good condition as the stallions. (A slight difference would be expected since most of the mares had either nursed foals, were gestating foals, or both.)

Foals old enough that they were weaned or old enough to be weaned were located in the next large corral adjacent to the mares. Hay had been scattered about throughout the pen and the foals were divided into social groups, for the most part snuffling hay.

Each of he horses was marked with a red dorsal stripe that identified them as coming from the Black Rock East HMA. Since the groups of horses from different HMAs are not combined until after the animals are freezemarked, distinctive color markings prevent horses that may be removed from their pens for one reason or another from being inadvertently placed with horses from another gather location.

Other notes:

BLM Personnel confirmed that these horses would likely be rested a couple of weeks before being freezemarked and vaccinated. Horses coming in from other HMAs associated with the Calico gather would be similarly rested.

It was confirmed that the horses would not likely be moved or made available for adoption until well into spring. Historically some of the horses from this region come in with upper respiratory conditions. The crew had no reason to expect anything different this year and the horses would likely all need ot be cleared before the veterinarian would allow them to be removed for adoption and/or long term holding.

The contract for this facility did not include accommodations for public adoption, however BLM staff will be working on a plan to facilitate some form of local adoption opportunity for the Calico horses prior to their being assigned out to other districts for transport to satellite adoptions. By law (the Burns stealth rider) the older horses will be hip branded and assigned to sale authority / long term holding. Since it could be months before the horses are cleared for release, John Neill asked everyone to be patient and indicated that BLM would publicize when the horses will be available.

Gary Snow's expired holding contract has been extended for up to 90 days. Some of the horses at Snow's will be sent to long term holding. Adoptable mares are expected to be sent to the Canon City program. The geldings have been taken for placement by the Mustang Heritage Foundation.


The facility was modern and in keeping with, and in some instances exceeded, customary design standards. We observed no safety issues.

The sorted horses gathered from the same HMA were kept in pens that were adjacent to each other.

The horses appeared to be in better condition than we would have expected from that particular winter range. I have to add the disclaimer that the horses were in winter coat and might have appeared slightly better in condition from a distance than one might discern from close inspection. However those horses that did come relatively close to us looked healthy and the horses generally behaved in a robust manner.

A couple of horses moved about as if they were sore footed but we did not notice any visible injuries or profound lameness.

We didn't try to count the horses, but the estimated population present appeared to represent the numbers of horses BLM reported as being trapped and removed.

While we would prefer greater emphasis on management strategies other than permanent removals of horses from the range, considering that these these horses have been removed, they have been placed in a facility that is more than capable of providing good care.

Follow up notes:

John Neill reported on Jan. 7th that "Cal" the orphan foal is regaining strength. He has been moved to a pen adjacent to the mare and foal pairs as is on a special diet of oat hay, alfalfa and specially compounded foal pellets. BLM promised to keep us posted as to this foal's progress. This foal was not the foal that was euthanized due to chronic hoof absesses and hoof wall sloughing.

Continue to January 23 Update

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