Guest blog by HMI Certified Educator Tim McGaffic
Note: For three years Tim McGaffic, Whit Hibbard, and Mesa Verde National Park wildlife manager Nathan Brown have been coaxing a herd of wild horses into a specially designed corral through a low-stress bait-and-trap method. This band of horses will then be trained and adopted. To learn more about his story read the article in the Durango Herald.
I have been working on the issues regarding wild horse capture and helping with horse training over the last few years. As part of that work, we developed a video series to demonstrate that horses can be captured and then trained in more ethical ways that generally results in horses that trust people. That trust and training makes them more adoptable.
One of my focuses is to help destock the rangelands so they can recover and do so using more ethical procedures. These include the disciplines of ethology, Learning theory, innate tendencies all under the umbrella of Behavioral Science.
We know the range is overstocked. BLM numbers show the wild horse population should be around 27,000 horses and is termed the Appropriate Management Level or AML. Currently the number of horses on the BLM alone is estimated at 82,000 horses, thus an overstocking of 55,000 horses. The resulting costs are enormous and consume half of the BLM’s budget.
The BLM manages one out of 10 acres of land in the United States. These figures do not include the horses on National Forests, Reservations, and other areas not controlled by an agency. Getting the numbers down to what I would term carrying capacity would go a long way to stop environmental degradation.
In that way we are proposing a system that is sustainable in terms of keeping the numbers at those levels once they are reached and doing so in an ethical manner. We are often using and proposing Bud Williams stockmanship methods as we believe they are not only effective but adhere to Equitation Science principles.
To reach AML the use of helicopters seems like the only tool that can cover such vast distances and bring the numbers down in a timely manner. With that in mind we will be issuing videos outlining the better use of the helicopter using Bud’s principles. To get those techniques we have had to consult pilots in Australia that were trained by Bud and will develop videos in the future. I have used the Holistic Management framework to help shape policies and procedures with this issue that can create on the ground results while holding on to key ethical principles in the handling of these horses.
The following videos show the potential of the work we are doing.
- Trailer for the Bait and Capture video by Patricia:
- Trailer for the Bait Trapping with Michele Bell
- Bait Trapping video 1st in a series of explanations