Proposal to Protect Heritage Horses at Louisiana Army Base – Fort Polk

Proposal to Protect Louisiana’s Heritage Horses

In response to a 2016 Environmental Assessment regarding the Army’s proposed elimination of our Louisiana Heritage Horses a copy of a proposal submitted by Pegasus Equine Guardian Association to the US Army at Fort Polk Army Base on June 16th, 2016. 

JRTC and Fort Polk, Public Affairs Office
Attention: Public Response
7033 Magnolia Drive Bldg. 4919
Fort Polk, LA 71459

To whom it may concern:

Members of Pegasus Equine Guardian Association (PEGA) would like the opportunity to address and assist in the issues surrounding the presence of free-roaming horses in the Fort Polk/Peason Ridge areas and including, but not limited to, Kisatchie National Forest. PEGA is a Louisiana based group, for that reason we can actively participate with Fort Polk in doing what is in best interests for the entire Fort Polk community.  We have gained the backing and support of an internationally recognized organization, Animal Legal Defense Fund, ALDF.

Our recommendations in this proposal are focused on mitigating any negative impacts that may be precipitated by the horses’ presence while retaining the positive values that the horses can bring to the area.

Objective:

This group would respectfully request that you work with us to form a board consisting of representation from Fort Polk, the Peason community, local / state law enforcement, Kisatchie National Forest Services, PEGA, and other equine advocacy groups, as well as equine veterinarians from accredited veterinarian schools to manage the free-roaming horses. We believe members appointed from each of these groups would provide fair representation for the military, the community, Kisatchie Forest, and providing a much needed Voice for the horses. Management decisions about the horses would be evaluated and decided by the members of this board and ALDF other national based organization

Proposed responsibilities of the board:

  1. Address road and other safety concerns for military and civilian persons, as well as safety concerns for the horses.
  2. Ensure treatment of horses in humane and ethical ways that would exclude mass roundups, or individual roundups which will result in injury and death to the horses and possible kill buyer destinations for those horses that are captured.
  3. Establish ways to control and preserve the horse herds long-term in their homelands of FortPolk, Peason Ridge and Kisatchie National Forest, allowing them to peacefully co-exist with Fort Polk military and civilians of the local areas such as Peason, and the rural communities near Kisatchie National Forests’ 604,000 acres and Fort Polk. Military lands now approach 100,000 acres. Surely remote areas can be provided that will allow the horses to remain free, yet not endanger the valuable military training exercises that the soldiers participate in. We seek to find those ways together.
  4. Determine what organizations are best suited to assist in any and all future Environmental Assessments and long term management of the horses and work with those organizations.
  5. Work closely with a veterinary school such as LSU Vet School or Texas A&M to develop a NON-Permanent birth control program suitable for the horses that will prevent the herds from increasing in number.
  6. Explore, develop, and implement fund raising programs and that will benefit the management of the horses. Seeking sponsorship from suitable donors.

PEGA would like to form and maintain a cooperative working relationship with the US Army at Fort Polk, the Kisatchie Forest Service, and local authorities and citizens to create and implement the appropriate protocols by which to manage the area for the benefit of the community, recreation, the environment, free-roaming horses and future generations.

We believe we can provide a win/win solution for all parties involved; including the horses as a protected natural resource.

Our approach will be from a conservation point of view. We believe this is the best way to support a positive image and reputation of the Fort Polk base, Kisatchie National Forest, the outlying areas, and the State of Louisiana as a whole.

We believe that our plan, if accepted and implemented, will bring about a positive impact to not only Fort Polk Base, but USFS at Kisatchie and surrounding parishes as a whole. In doing this, Fort Polk would set a precedent of protecting its soldiers and their training exercises while paying tribute to a longstanding herd of wild horses, perhaps descended from military cavalry horses and homesteaders of the area who lost their homes, horses, and other livestock when they were seized by the military to support the World War II effort on behalf of our country.

Choosing to protect both the soldiers and the horses can become a tremendous positive image builder for the military — and especially Fort Polk — nationwide. Imagine, for a moment, the good will that can be brought about (and publicized by the media) of a military base that trains soldiers for protecting our country and also has compassion for horses whose ancestors and heritage families have already given so much to our country.

This area of Louisiana is especially rich in national heritage and is known for its love of freedom, love of country and love of kin. Louisiana and this central Louisiana area are hugely patriotic and supportive of the military.  We are also proud of our history and our heritage. These horses are an important part of the history, culture, and heritage of this area.

Please join us in developing a plan to improve and protect the quality of life for all concerned: the brave soldiers who serve our country, the civilians who live in the area, and the free horses that also have made their home on these vast acres for the past 75 years.

Horses have been shown to have profound effects on people, often life changing as seen from the Wounded Warriors Equestrian programs already established at other bases.

Consider, for example, an article published in 2012 on www.army.mil.

JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. (June 12, 2012) — Approximately 175 post traumatic stress disorders have been treated by a unique form of therapy, called the Wounded Warriors suffering from physical wounds, traumatic brain injuries, and Therapeutic Riding Program. The Therapeutic Riding Program, or TRP, uses soldiers and horses from the U.S. Army Caisson Platoon, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), to provide equine assisted therapy for Wounded Warriors and military veterans. Those soldiers enrolled in this program groom, conduct ground work, and/or ride horses.

“When we started this program in 2006 on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia, we did many studies on the effects of this treatment. The facts don’t lie, this is a great program,” said retired Command Sgt. Maj. Larry Pence, co-founder of Caisson Platoon Equine Assisted Program.

“The physical, emotional and therapeutic benefits for these Wounded Warriors are great as they continue in the process of their rehabilitation.”

“If I had the power to take all the 300,000 or however many soldiers who suffer from post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury and put them in formation in an arena and snap your fingers to heal them all I would, but you can’t do that. It is a process and sometimes a long one, but as long as we are helping one Soldier, then it is all worth it,” said Pence. “For me, it is a pleasure to watch the character and courage of these young men and women in this program. It is really remarkable.”

Our group believes a possible move in this direction could generate positive outcomes for soldiers: past, present, & future as well as the community, bringing positive attention and investment in the Folk Polk base. This can be accomplished by partnering with PATH International; The Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.)  which promotes safety and optimal outcomes in equine-assisted activities and therapies for individuals with special needs.

In conjunction with Wounded Warriors Equestrian Program, this program is the place where Veterans and Service Members come to train, learn to train, and be with horses of all disciplines. All money raised supports Therapeutic Riding Facilities and Horse Rescue Farms across the United States. Come be a part of something great in working with Professional Military members and Professional Horsemen giving back to their communities through their love of horses.

Our multi-pronged approach to horse management would be to assess and determine which horses are suitable for becoming a therapy horses. These horses could be part of an outreach program partnering with the previously mentioned, well respected, successful entities. This approach would all make it possible to allow adoption of horses, burros, etc. from the herd, if the management group agrees.  This would be a function of this management group to determine if certain animals are adoptable, and to work carefully to ensure that people meet certain adoption criteria (such as vet. references), experienced horse owners, even therapy groups such as Old River Horse Farm in Natchitoches.  We would be in favor of adoption as a way of managing the herd and keeping total size of herd down.  We cannot allow them to keep multiplying on to infinity.  Adoption is one management tool to control herd size.

While we realize that this would address only a portion of the issues surrounding the free-roaming horses, the true wild horses can add value to USFS at Kisatchie & Fort Polk Army Base. The value added by maintaining the wild horse herd(s) would positively impact all parties involved. By protecting, preserving and managing the Fort Polk’s Historic Horse Herd, please consider the following value and benefits:

  • -Recreational Value
  • -Aesthetic value
  • -Ecological value
  • -Financial value
  • -Tourism value
  • -Emotional/Psychological/Physical health value
  • -Historical and cultural value
  • -Educational value
  • -Scientific value
  • -Genetic value
  • -Evolutionary value/uniqueness of the Herd
  • -Value of their lives

The board would work closely with Fort Polk to obtain resources needed for additional boundary implementation and boundary repair to restrict the horses from dangerous areas that would interfere with military training with the input, cooperation and guidance of US Army, USFS, and local authorities.

This would also allow us to address the concerns of the hunters by assessing and tracking the natural movement and location of the free-roaming horses, providing relative and timely communication with USFS Kisatchie, local law enforcement and Fort Polk officials. There are great strides in technology, such as GPS tracking systems that may assist us with this aspect.

We will also gladly work with all relevant parties to address and solve the ongoing horse-dumping issue, which has only exacerbated the population issues. Without addressing the horse dumping issues, we know the problem will only continue.

We implore you to finally accomplish what so many before have struggled to do; devise and execute an ethical and humane solution to the equine presence in Kisatchie / Fort Polk / Peason Ridge that allows the military, the civilians of the area, along with the free-roaming horses to peacefully and safely co-exist.

No other animal in history has served our country as horses have. Horses helped write our nation’s history. Please protect the free-roaming horses of Fort Polk, Peason Ridge and Kisatchie. Please do not let this be another example of the destruction of what America and patriotism mean to us. We respectfully request that you join us in an initiative to preserve our heritage, protect our free roaming horses, protect our soldiers, and the patriotic members of the areas where the horses roam.  This situation deserves professional assessment by multiple organizations and serious consideration for safe sanctuary.

As shown by the public support we gained with upwards of 5,444 social media followers as well as the online petition to Congress that has generated over 6,000 letters and e-mails to Congress highlighting the public opinion on the matter. This number is steadily growing.

We hope you will hear the message of all these people who want the horses to be saved and protected on their homelands — not eliminated or eradicated or removed. Primary partnering organizations are Louisiana and regional area based groups, for that reason we can actively participate with Fort Polk in doing what is in best interests for the entire Fort Polk community.  

In closing we would like to echo Col. Charles Hancock Reed, 2nd Cavalry Group (Mech.), Commander, 1945 explaining his decision to save the Lipizzaner horses in “Operation Cowboy”

“We were so tired of death and destruction; we wanted to do something beautiful.”

Please echo his sentiment and give us the opportunity to do something beautiful together.

(Excerpt From: Menyhert, Renita. “Ernie Pyle Was My Hero.” Xlibris, 2012-09-07.)

Sincerely,

Pegasus Equine Guardian Association


 

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