September 7, 2009 – Gather Day 5

Today was a pretty tough day. It was cool and windy this morning, and so this prevented the helicopter from leaving early on. Horses that were to be removed who hadn’t yet been prepared and processed were taken care of. This is where I think it got tough. The horses just seemed a lot more nervous going through the chutes today compared to previous days. There were those incidents earlier on with the young males jumping out of the chutes, and there have been some other times when the horses would bang around and rear up in the chutes. Today, though, there were a few that were actually trying to climb out of the top of the chutes.

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I’m not sure if they could possibly succeed, but I really don’t want to know. It just was not a good situation with these horses doing this. Fortunately, someone was usually there to keep them from doing this; and so the later incidents were not as scary as the first one was. This first horse to do it up here was the young bachelor Hunkpapa. The only signs of injury I saw on any of the horses who did this were some bloody lips, but otherwise they seemed to be physically okay.

As the day progressed, the helicopter went up and was soon down with the first horses. The first group to come in was Morning Star’s harem. Today I was able to actually watch the horses come in with the helicopter for my first time. On the other days I was back in the chutes, and I couldn’t really see much besides the helicopter. While I was down there, they explained to me how this all worked. Apparently, the helicopter pushes the horses down; and the horses are often allowed to set their own pace. The helicopter just keeps them moving in the direction he wants them to. When they get to this final area here, the helicopter starts to speed up to get them moving faster through the wings toward the trap area. I’m sure you’ve all seen the domestic horse that is released around this time too. This horse runs down the trap to lure the wild horses in that direction. It is for this reason that these horses are called Judas horses (they are also referred to as Prada horses).

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Morning Star’s family was put through the chutes to get hair samples for the DNA analysis and to give some of the females PZP. Meanwhile, the helicopter had gone back up to get some more horses that he had pushed partway down the mountain. Soon we were alerted that he was close, and we went back to the traps. He brought two harems in fairly close together. The first was Cloud’s harem, which I know was very hard for many of the people watching. In this photograph below you can see the Judas horse running along the wings with Cloud’s harem running along with him.

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A short while later, the helicopter brought in the second group. This was Jackson’s harem.

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Once they were in, we headed down to double check that each member of his harem was there and that they were in good shape. As we came close to the trap, the workers there had us stop and not come any further. They said that one of the mares was shaking, and they called for the veterinarian. They said that she had been tied up, which means that her stomach muscles were bound up. The group was very slowly taken down to the chutes so that she could be treated by the veterinarian. The mare was Brumby. After she was treated, the group was put into a pen so that she could recover. The veterinarian watched her closely for the rest of our time there, and by the end he said that she was recovering very well. This was one of the first really big incidents in which a horse was not doing well during this gather. From the moment that the workers told us not to come any closer to the end when the veterinarian was sitting there watching Brumby, it was pretty apparent that all of the workers were taking their jobs very seriously. They were very concerned for Brumby, and they did everything they could for her.

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Another group was brought in a while later. This was Duke’s harem. Duke has one of the newer foals in his harem; she was born during the week of July 19. The foal seemed to be doing well as did the rest of the harem. While this was going on, some of the horses were loaded onto trailers so that they could be released.

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These horses were Admiral and Sitting Bull’s (pictured above)  harems as well as the bachelors Fiero and Exhiliration. They were taken to the Sykes Ridge Road entrance of the range to be released as this is an area these horses live in. I didn’t get to go watch them be released, but I was told they were out of sight very quickly once the trailer doors were opened.

Toward the end of the day, I had someone come and ask me about the horses that are in the stallion pen. Apparently there had been some discussion that a mare was in with these stallions. There hasn’t ever been a mare in there with those stallions. When these horses are being sorted, the workers are asking and re-asking me if the horse is a male or a female so that it can go to the right place. They are obviously figuring this out on their own as well. It’s something that everyone cares a lot about. The stallion pen is right behind the chutes.

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I hope that this is only a temporary arrangement for these stallions, and I hope that they can be more separated when there is space available in the other pens. I hope this all because this isn’t an extremely stable situation. Trigger and the young males from his harem definitely have established their area in the pen. In fact, a second watering area had to be added as they wouldn’t let anyone else there. These horses are in the bottom of these photos. In this photograph is Trigger, Great Star, Hipshot, Holster, and Itasca. Putting Conquistador in the pen with these other males definitely added more tension to this situation. Conquistador joined Bo, Shane, Floyd, and Hickory. They are in the top photo. It isn’t uncommon to see these stallions having confrontations with each other, and so hopefully they can be split up soon.

Also, I saw that there were some inquiries as to why some people were allowed in the chutes while others weren’t. From what I understand, it came down to people not wanting to sign volunteer agreements with the BLM. Without these agreements, the BLM shouldn’t allow people back in these working areas. We did sign a volunteer agreement to help with this gather, primarily through horse identification.

There were 36 horses gathered today. I think that there are tentative plans for the gather to be done by the end of Wednesday. I’ll post more tomorrow.

Published in: on September 7, 2009 at 9:43 pm  Comments (21)