I am writing in response to comments made by Rocky Mountain House MLA Ty Lund regarding the Nov. 19 Advocate news story, headlined Trainer says free-roaming horses are an indigenous species.
In the article, Lund states, “It’s impossible to tell whether a horse running in the bush is descended from a wild herd or if it came from domestic stock that either escaped or was turned loose.”
Having personally studied and photographed wild horse herds west of Sundre for the past 11 years, as well as adopting one, I can definitely point out the difference between a domestic horse turned loose and running around out there, from the wild ones naturally living there from generation to generation.
Case in point, in 2008, my husband Bob and I rescued a domestic horse that had been dumped out west of Sundre, like a bag of trash.
The old black mare was in a partially fenced area beside Coal Camp Road. She was in effect trapped in a meadow with a wild herd because of that fence line.
This herd did not accept her because she was not one of them, in the sense that she probably looked and smelled alien to them, with the human scent still lingering on her.
Just as a pack of wolves or coyotes will not accept a domestic dog into their group, the wild herd did not accept that old domestic mare.
An oilfield worker, who works in the area, called us, as he was very familiar with the wild herds and realized immediately that she did not look like a wild horse. He also observed the other horses ganging up on her, trying to drive her out of the area.
This mare was also unable to find a water source and the grass was still a bit sparse being early spring.
Between the lack of food and water and being constantly wounded by the wild horses, this mare would not have lived long. Hence Bob and I went out there with a bucket of oats and a halter and she very willingly dropped her nose into the halter and anxiously followed behind me to lead her to the awaiting horse trailer.
The mare acted as though she could not wait to get out of there, because she loaded herself into the trailer with no urging on our part.
We reported her to the Livestock Investigation Service and after a month of the LIS advertising for her owners to come forward, they seized her and brought her to auction, as the law dictated that they do.
Bob and I followed them to the Innisfail auction and bought her, the only other bidder was the meat buyer. We brought her home again and found her a new home within 24 hours, where she happily remains today.
She looked and behaved nothing like a wild horse, which was pretty obvious to those of us who have observe wild horses for years as well as their domestic counterparts.
The wild horses west of Sundre have some very unique features. Firstly is that they generally have a Roman nose, usually stand only between 14 to 14.2 hands, have a short back, feathered fetlocks, and in older horses an unusually long mane and tail. Another common mustang characteristic is a lighter coloured muzzle, which many of them display.
Now if these horses were some kind of Heinz 57, they would come in all different shapes and sizes and vary in features, just as the Arabian looks substantially different from a quarter-horse.
In regards to the horses being a road hazard and causing three accidents, I believe Lund was referring the horses in the Hinton area.
How many other large animals are hit by vehicles in a year in Alberta? I would guess it would be more than three.
We also have a wild horse that had been hit by a truck as a yearling, left for dead by the driver, and abandoned by his herd.
Spokesperson for the
of Alberta Society
Mountain View County