What do we do?
Rescue and Rehabilitation Work
Over the years WHOAS has been able to help relocate wild horses that have ended up on private property and push them back onto the forestry and crown land. Very young foals that have been abandoned or injured have been rescued, gentled and adopted out to forever homes. In 2015 WHOAS found homes for 28 of the wild horses that were captured.
What does “gentling the wild horses” mean?
Experienced volunteers have developed a safe and kind process to start wild horses who have never had a human hand touch them. There are several steps to get them to the point where a halter can be put on them, they learn to be tied, then safely led into a barn stall so gentle brushing can begin. At every stage, good feed is provided and the horses soon learn this is a very good thing! All stallions are gelded before they leave to go to a new adoptive home. All potential adoptees must submit an application which is vetted by our team.
WHOAS operates totally by a group of committed volunteers. Over the years many visits to schools have occurred where presentations are made to students about the wild horses. Other groups interested have been young people from 4H groups as well as students from First Nations Schools. Several groups from other equestrian disciplines have also been interested in finding out about the wild horses.
WHOAS has participated, and continues to do so, in seasonal fairs throughout southern Alberta talking to interested persons about the wild horses and what they can do to ensure that these magnificent animals remain in their natural environment.
Assistance to Private Land Owners
The wild horses live on crown land which belongs to all Albertans. However, there is private land which borders the forestry boundary and there have been occasions where the wild horses have moved onto this property causing conflict with private stock. WHOAS has assisted these land owners by purchasing fencing equipment as well as providing volunteers to help them repair their fences so that the wild horses remain on crown land safely away from human interaction.
Support for Scientific Research
WHOAS is supporting scientific research on the wild horses with University of Calgary professors. Dr. Jocelyn Poissant, post-doctoral fellow, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, has a project to collect samples to study the DNA of our wild horses as well as parasite studies. This past summer he and a student have collected close to 150 samples. Other professors from the university are providing population management data to guide our team working on wild horse mare contraception, a long term study to show wild horse populations can be safely and humanely managed. This project is led by our veterinarian and a team of trained WHOAS volunteers and photographers. The Science and Conservation Centre, Billings, MT, provides the training for this project.
We recently participated with the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Ecosystem and Public Health, in a field day which included 4th year veterinary students from across Canada and beyond. This was part of an elective course for the students to work on several cases involving animal, human and environmental health. The students spent the day with WHOAS volunteers at our site learning about WHOAS and our objectives and programs. They then went into the field to study the horses in their natural environment.