Having no personal stake in this issue, I am approaching this as a disinterested observer. The recent issue over the capture of feral horses in the West Country has me wondering about the subject in general.
On the commute into Red Deer, we pass a couple of quarter sections that have a few dozen horses on them. One would have to infer that there is a very sizable population of ‘domesticated’ horses throughout the province.
Since it seems that there are a number of people rabidly against horses being used for meat, there has to be some reason behind so many people keeping horses for no apparent purpose.
In this age where the spectre of food shortages is predicted in the near future, it makes little sense to keep animals whose sole purpose is to mow pasture land to the nubs during the growing season, to then be fed hay throughout the winter.
Aside from being kept as glorified pets, very few horses are actually used for working purposes. Except for those who adhere to the ‘traditional’ cowboy lifestyle to preserve their heritage — or to thumb their noses at modern life — horses will never again become a ‘green’ alternative to wheeled transportation.
As to the issue of feral horses in the West Country, it would seem that this is a problem easily solved if you look at it logically and leave your emotions at the door.
I use the term feral rather than wild because these animals are not a native species. They were introduced to the area by man. Therefore, it is man’s issue to solve.
Since we seem to have counts of every species of animal, fish and bird in this province, it should be possible to determine what the optimal number is for a feral horse population that would restore the natural balance in the area. You have to remember that some predators and scavengers now depend upon the horse population for part of its survival.
The issue then becomes a matter of determining how many of these feral horses will have to be captured and relocated.
Most of the time it isn’t a problem for horse lovers to put their money where their mouth is, but in this instance it seems that few are willing to do so.
Surely their own pastures could hold a few more horses — problem solved.
As was suggested by one of the people involved in the issue, the feral horse herds could be a good tourist draw to the area. To offer tourists a chance to be a part of a conservation effort would provide financial capital and stewardship capital at the same time.