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18 AMY DUMAS


the horses or burros at a very slow pace, a walk or trot, until they are pushed into what we call a trap. A trap consists of a jute wings about a quarter-mile long that form a funnel that lead into a corral. When the animals are in the funnel, the pilot pushes the horses at a faster pace, like a canter, so the animals don’t turn around. When they enter the cor- ral, we shut the gate and allow them to setle. At the trap, we sort the foals into their own pen, so they don’t get hurt at the pen or on the trailer. We ship the foals in their own compartment with their dams in the adjacent compartment. Then, we’ll take the animals to a holding facility where we sort through them more thoroughly. The mares and stallions are separated. The mares are joined with the foals. We determine which animals we will remove and offer up for adoption, and which ones that we’ll turn back to the wild to continue reproducing and making the next generation of wild horses or burros. These gathers are open for the public to


watch and anyone can contact a local BLM to find out when gathers are occurring.


HT: What factors determine whether one is going back to where it came from… or to a litle girl in Perris, California?


AMY: Those decisions are made by local specialists. Sometimes those decisions are based on historical characteristics of the herd. It could be based on conformation, temperament — things like that that people select for.


HT: A horse that gets turned back — is it turned back for conformation for selection?


AMY: It could be. I’ve talked with specialists, and as you know, every horseperson has their own opinion. I’ve talked to people who have been in the program a long time. One said, ‘if the horse stood quietly in the chute, we turned it out.’ So he was selecting for quiet horses. I’ve seen people pick for size — they think adopters want big horses, for example, so they would pick the larger, bet- ter-conformed horses, or the beter-behaved horses. Sometimes they’ll select for color if the herd is known for its color.


HT: It’s almost like they are selecting the best of the breed. And they are going to take the other ones out and quite possibly will end up gelding them and puting them up for hopeful adoption.


AMY: Exactly.


HT: Once horses are selected for adoption consideration, what gets them to the next level?


AMY: At the gathers, once we have the hors- es sorted into pens, and then we load them up on the trucks, straight-deck trucks, and we ship them to our preparation facilities. In California we have two of those — one in Litchfield outside of Susanville, and another one in Ridgecrest. There, the animals are


“Our job is to make sure that these animals do not suffer and always have a place to live in the wild.”


vaccinated, dewormed, the boys are gelded, and we put a freeze mark on them using liq- uid nitrogen. Every animal that the BLM has gathered


has a freeze mark that consists of eight characters and a ‘U’, which is our registered brand on their leſt neck. Each one of those characters is an alpha-angle system — it stands for a number, zero to nine. So, each animal has its own unique freeze mark num- ber. Our facilities are open to the public to visit or adopt an animal. We ask that people make appointments to adopt animals. We want to ensure that the adopter gets excel- lent service when choosing their animal. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Because of COVID, cor-


rals are currently closed for adoption, but should be opening soon. BLM personnel are still working and can be reached via phone or email to find out dates of re-opening.)


HT: You said on a flat-deck truck. A lot of people think they get hauled in a dou- ble-deck, which is a catle truck, but that’s just not the case, is it.


AMY: No, that’s not the case. Straight deck trucks and stock horse trailers are what we use to move the animals.


HT: As I understand, the freeze brands are large enough well they can be seen by the helicopter in future gatherings. Is that the case?


AMY: When we turn horses back, we some- times will put a freeze mark on its hip with a leter or a number that lets us know that that animal has been gathered at a certain time or place. But not every horse that is turned back is freeze-marked. Only the animals that we bring in for adoption are definitely freeze-marked on their neck before they go out for adoption. Once the animals get to our preparation


facilities, they are usually kept in a pen. And when I say a pen, we are talking about a pen that is acres big — we’re not talking about a litle 12x12 stall where they are singularly housed. Our horses and burros are kept in big social groups in single sexes. Mares and jennies that have foals or are due to foal are kept in their own pens, what we call our “foaling pens.”


HT: That’s just one of the things that I had heard, like so many other rumors that float around about the BLM and the Mustang round-ups and such. I didn’t know what the facts were on that one.


AMY: If you ever hear rumors, call the BLM. We can answer your questions.


HT: What happens to the ones that are not adoptable?


AMY: If a horse is deemed “unadoptable” — maybe because it is too old — we have con- tracted pastures that are thousands of acres in Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and that’s where we ship the horses that are unadopt- able. They live in single-sex pastures and they just live out their lives there.


HT: Can I go?


AMY: You can! Let me put a freeze mark on you...


HT: Let’s move on to the adoption. What is that process? Who are the lucky ones who get that? How do you become a lucky one?


AMY: How you become a lucky one is you get a great adopter. Once the horses are ready to go to an adoption – they’ve had their vac- cination protocol, the boys are gelded, they all are freeze-marked, dewormed and ready to go — the horses or burros can then be shipped cross-country to one of our adop- tions — for example, back east. We have adoptions all over the country. In California, we may come to a local city in the state some- Continued on page 20


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