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November 19, 2009

Hitch a Ride in Wild Horse Country

Thanks to a Certified Pre-Owned Land Rover LR3, the Cedar Mountains aren't quite so intimidating

The Humane Society of the United States

  • The Certified Pre-Owned Land Rover LR3 is the vehicle of choice for The HSUS. Kayla Grams/The HSUS

  • The HSUS is working on a humane approach to controlling the wild horse population in the Cedar Mountains. Kayla Grams/The HSUS

  • The Certified Pre-Owned Land Rover LR3 can handle any terrain. Kayla Grams/The HSUS

Editor's note: Kayla Grams is a Wild Horse Field Technician with The Humane Society of the United States. She developed the strategy for the Wild Horses Program, which involves documenting and monitoring the demographics of the population as part of the Immunocontraception Project. Thanks to the all-terrain vehicles that Land Rover donated last year, this project is off to a successful start. This is one of her accounts from the field.


The Cedar Mountains are situated in the Utah desert, in an area the locals refer to as Skull Valley. An old lake floor, this desolate valley is now a large, white salt flat where sagebrush and cedars grow abundantly.

These mountains are home to more than 300 wild horses—a stunning, but overwhelming population that the government has been trying to manage for years. Previous attempts to rein in these free-roaming horses proved largely unsuccessful, indicating that a more humane and permanent solution is needed.

Over the last few years, The HSUS and researchers have teamed up to test the efficacy of an immunocontraceptive vaccine, which will be administered to the females in the herd, in an effort to control the growing numbers. Last year, the vaccine was administered to 70 female horses using a sophisticated dart technology, and plans are underway to revaccinate those mares again this year.

Perspective from the Field

As part of the research team deployed by The HSUS to locate herds of these wild horses, my work as a Field Technician involves identifying and documenting individual horses—their color, sex and markings. Most of my time is spent trying to get close enough to take a picture, hoping they do not smell or hear me. They are easily alerted and quick to run away when they sense an unknown presence. These horses are truly wild.

Having identified most of the horses over the last year and a half, I am now focused on locating and establishing groups, discovering new individuals, identifying foals, gauging the health of the herd, and watching and recording their behavior.

HSUS and Land Rover

In this mountainous countryside, the terrain can be treacherous, and the desert rains torrential, creating flash floods and gullies that can make navigating the landscape difficult. Thankfully, Land Rover generously donated two Certified Pre-Owned Land Rover LR3s to The HSUS last year to help with this project. Well equipped and ready to handle the worst conditions, this vehicle gets the job done. The four-wheel capabilities are fantastic.

Our work with the wild horses takes us into isolated—and at times dangerous—environments, and without the Certified Pre-Owned Land Rover LR3, we would have a difficult time tracking and vaccinating these wild horses, and ultimately giving them the chance to stay on the land they call home.

Thank you Land Rover, we could not have done this work without you!

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