February 9, 2011
As I attended the horse auction Tuesday at the Kamloops stockyards, the thing that struck me most was that the feral horses didn’t seem all that different from the tame ones — at least not to my untrained eye.
They were thinner, of course. And the wranglers in the pen area had to be a little more persuasive to get them to move along. They seemed to be constantly on the move.
The main difference, from what I understand, is in their innate ability to be trained. A lot of time and effort would be needed to bring a feral horse to the point where you could actually ride it, or even just have it around as a pet.
One rancher bid low on one of the ferals with the idea of making a “project.” But when the bids went higher, he decided it just wasn’t worth it. He was thinking with his head instead of his heart, to be sure, but let’s remember that these guys have to be businessmen.
On the other hand, it should be kept in mind that feral is not the same as wild. These horses are descended from tame ancestors, so a charitable group likely would have some success in rescuing them.
We really should start rethinking this whole issue and come up with innovative solutions. In the U.S., where it’s illegal to slaughter horses, they have been forced to find a workaround for the problem of feral horses overgrazing in cattle areas. Would putting out bales of hay for feral horses do the trick? If it worked, it would be easier and cheaper than rounding them up.
I’m sure we could come up with other good ideas, but it will involve compromise and a willingness to be creative.