Lately it seems that horses are often in the news, and horses have become the unwary targets of the clash of human land use versus their simple animal existence. Any time horses become magnets of such attention, they frequently do not fare well. Information coming from the U.S. Army on Aug. 12 and 13 has riveted attention on about 700 “feral” horses roaming on thousands of acres in Louisiana on lands used by the army during training exercises. The horses are increasingly considered “nuisance animals” because they may pose a kicking or biting danger or leave random piles of manure.
Fort Polk spokesperson Kim Reischling says that the intense military training of troops has to pause until the horses are “shooed away.” They leave behind horse manure in the areas used by soldiers. The training area is about 90 miles northwest of Lafayette, LA, and around 20 miles from the Texas state line. Most of the horses are located on 48,000 acres of the 90,000 acres of forest land that are used for training purposes.
Plans were to hold a meeting on Aug. 13 about how to deal with the horses, considered trespass horses, to get input from locals and animal rights groups.
The origin of the horses is unknown. Some claim the animals descended from cavalry horses while others believe they originate from farm and ranch horses. And as often is the case, others claim these are unwanted horses cast off by people that could no longer afford to feed them.
According to Jim Caldwell, spokesperson for the Kisatchie National Forest, the horses “vary from being pretty untamed to coming up and eating potato chips out of your hand.” He believes some of the horses have recently been abandoned.
Caldwell claims that roundups are problematic because the horses are predominantly in the forest. Besides presenting a nuisance for the soldiers, the horses interfere with local hunters. They find and eat wildlife foods that are planted to draw deer and turkeys and young sprouts planted to control erosion.
According to Reischling, in 1993 a roundup caught 41 horses that were adopted by two local ranches, and in 2000, eight horses were rehomed to several owners. Then in 2007, a number of horses were rounded up, tested for diseases and turned back out after being sterilized. Reischling says that sterilization does not work for controlling the horse population.
With animals migrating in from other properties or being dumped, it’s been determined that the sterilization process will likely not even stop growth. And in any case, it would take years.
It is apparent that these 700 horses have a questionable future.