Wild Horse (mis)Management: Gelding

The wild horse world is small, so most of you may know by now that I enjoy respectful discussion regarding the issues surrounding wild horses. Most of the time I have a clear idea of my response, but sometimes I am left speechless. (No, I’m not sure that’s possible if these conversations are online, but I digress.) One such topic is that gelding horses is an appropriate management tool. In this blog post I hope to outline why gelding horses is not a viable option.

Since I read someone’s comment saying every stallion, but the band stallion should be gelded I think it would be helpful for me to first explain how wild horses society works. Wild horses live in small bands made up of a stallion and his mares. When colts reach about two years of age they are kicked out of their natal band to prevent inbreeding. Once on their own, the colts form bachelor bands where they compete to win mares. The point I am trying to make is wild horse life is volatile. The stallions that lead bands now will not always lead them. It’s not either you’re a band stallion or a bachelor. At any given moment a band stallion can be challenged by a bachelor and their roles could be reversed.

For the purposes of this blog post let’s pretend I am considering this option. With that there are questions to ask. What happens when a bachelor becomes a band stallion? Would the semen somehow be saved to AI the mares later or will the BLM just say, whoops, I guess this stud doesn’t get to pass on his genes? If the latter wild horse society would change, it would not be natural, and it would not be appealing for people seeking to use the horses for ecotourism.

Regardless of if semen is saved how would the horses be gelded? Realistically the horses would need to be removed, then given time to recover before being released again. If so much trouble was taken to geld the horses why not just remove them? Considering that the BLM takes the heat for their spending I would think they would not only go for the system they are used to, but also the one where they make a slight amount of money. With all of these variables why round-up horses just to geld a select few? Out of the horses gelded who are we to assume we know which horses deserve to have their genes pass on?

If I have not convinced you by now that gelding should not be used let me make one more point: gelding is permanent. If humans must interfere with natural selection then reversible methods need to be used. The birth control PZP is one such method. If horses are going to me managed in areas where there is a finite amount of space then adaptive management needs to be used. Gelding horses is not adaptive, nor is removing horses. It is time for people to work together and find management solutions that keeps the horses on the range, so as always all thoughts are welcome.

The kids grow up fast.

London and Knight are young bachelors now, but are maturing fast. Soon they will have bands of their own.



  1. Tina Kush Said:

    Livi, I really love looking at your pictures, they are awesome! Thanks for posting them.

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