Observing a Wild Horse Gather
What Can I Expect While Observing a Gather?
You’ll have to get up early! Horse gathers typically start at sunrise, so BLM must ensure all observers are at the observation point by the time gather operations begin. This is for the safety of the observers and the horses.
Please understand that the contractor chooses the trap and observation sites, therefore once the contractor chooses the observation site, there is no other location to view the gather. Contractors choose the most humane trap site for capturing the animals and sometimes, these sites do not provide the best viewing opportunities. Contractors must consider the safety of the horses and observers, therefore observation sites are often a good distance from the trap site.
Some trap sites are more suitable for public viewing than others. This is considered when a site is selected, but the welfare of the wild horses is the first and most important consideration. Please keep in mind that different trap sites provide varied viewing opportunities, so one cannot always expect to be situated close to the trap site. Wild horses can see and hear very well, so observers must stay hidden and quiet during gather operations. We just want you to be aware that you may not always be able to get good, close pictures when the horses are being brought into the trap.
Observing the Saylor Creek gather in August, 2010
Observers must stay in the designated observation areas for the safety of the horses and everyone involved.
Potential observation areas may not be suitable for large numbers of observers. If that day’s number of observers exceeds the capacity of the observation area, a lottery system will be implemented to randomly determine who will travel on to the observation area. Every effort will be made to accommodate those unable to attend that day’s gather activities the following day.
The BLM designates a meeting location, which will be posted on a website and/or recorded on an information line. After an introductory briefing at the meeting location, the group will be escorted to the gather location by BLM employees. Observers will drive their own vehicles to the gather location.
Please be aware that horse gathers are flexible operations. Unpredictable factors, such as inclement weather, a gather location inaccessible to the public, or lack of gather operations on a given day (trap moving, equipment problems, etc.) will cancel the observation outing for that day. Cancellations will often not be known before the 6:00 a.m. meeting time.
Because of the fluidity of gather operations, be prepared for the possibility of waiting at gather locations for hours without seeing any actual wild horse gathering.
Before You Go
BLM Idaho Conditions & Safety Requirements
- There are no facilities, including restrooms, in the HMAs.
- Cell service is very limited or nonexistent in much of the HMAs. Plan to be out of range for most of the day.
- You must bring your own lunch, water and snacks.
- You must provide your own transportation. Government vehicles cannot be used to transport you to the gather locations or temporary holding facilities.
- Arrive at the meeting place with a full tank of gas.
- Roads are rugged and rocky. A high-clearance, four wheel drive vehicle is strongly recommended. Your tires must be in good condition and you should have a fully inflated spare and tire changing equipment.
- Be prepared for weather extremes. Check the forecast the night before to ensure that you are prepared and dressed appropriately.
- Wear sturdy boots for hiking in rugged terrain. There is no shade.
- Bring a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses and other appropriate protective clothing.
- Parking will be limited at many gather locations. Be prepared to hike into some observation locations. Some hikes could be arduous involving steep and rocky terrain. Hiking requirements will be explained at each morning briefing.
- Binoculars and a camera with a telephoto lens are strongly recommended.
- Please dress in earth tones. Brightly-colored clothing can distract the horses.
- If possible, bring light, compact, portable chairs you can use at the observation site.
Observing the Black Mountain gather in November, 2010.