Wild Horse Scientists

6 01 2013


Behind the scenes and out of the public spotlight – the way they like it – are a number of people – scientists – working to improve wild horse management. A new book by Kay Frydenborg, Wild Horse Scientists, published in November by Houghton Mifflin, looks at a couple of these scientists: Dr. Jay Kirkpatrick and Dr. Ron Keiper.

Dr. Kirkpatrick is director of the Science and Conservation Center in Billings, Mont., where PZP is made and darters are trained. His work has proved especially invaluable with the wild horses managed on Assateague Island National Seashore. Dr. Keiper came up with a system of identifying the Assateague Island horses when research and fertility control started there around 25 years ago.

The book is aimed at children 10 and older, but given the myths and misconceptions I still hear about fertility control and wild horses, it’s likely appropriate for all age levels. Also, the idea that science IS being applied to the management of wild horses – particularly on Assateague, where the population is controlled only by the use of fertility control and a roundup hasn’t been conducted in many years (?) – is important and has applications that readers of all ages can appreciate.

Hoping to get more kids aware of the mustangs of Spring Creek Basin, our National Mustang Association/Colorado chapter and Disappointment Wild Bunch Partners are working with the Telluride Institute to get schoolkids to the basin. This book could become an important part of their unit about good, in-the-wild management of these horses.

For more information, see Kay’s website: http://www.kayfrydenborg.com/

From her website:

“Dr. Ron Keiper and Dr. Jay Kirkpatrick have both, in their own unique way, made the wild horses of Assateague Island, Maryland their lives’ work. Experience Dr. Keiper’s handwritten notes—taken over countless watchful hours in the field—which are both a diary and a scientific log that chart the lives of his equine subjects, some of nature’s greatest survivors. And follow Dr. Kirkpatrick from the lab to the field as he works tirelessly to find a way to manage the horse population with a birth control vaccine, and helps keep the precarious balance of Assateague’s ecosystem intact.

“Descriptive prose meets solid science as author Kay Frydenborg offers a rare glimpse into the wild herds of Assateague, sharing beautiful photos of the Assateague herds in their island home and of both of the scientists at work—some of them never seen before.”

Also visit the website where Houghton Mifflin promotes authors, photographers and conservationists who highlight all kinds of topics to get kids interested in science: http://www.sciencemeetsadventure.com/

Find the book on Amazon. I just ordered mine.



3 responses

6 01 2013

Hi TJ, if the book discusses the wild horses of Assateague, then I assure you a roundup happens annually and foals and yearlings are removed and sold. The horses, however, are so attenuated to humans and have done this small roundup throughout their entire lives, it’s more like a small ranch drive and there are few dangers presented to the horses and/or foals (short of not being able to swim and those foals have always been rescued). This might have been more believable if portrayed from the Corolla horse perspective where an annual drive is NOT done (to my knowledge). But PZP is regularly used. Maybe the Assateague horses were limelighted due to most everyone knowing of ‘Misty of Chincoteague’. I don’t know of any books on the Corolla horses. 😦

6 01 2013

It’s the Chincoteague ponies that are owned by the fire department and sold to raise funds, not Assateague, which are managed by the National Park Service.

6 01 2013
kay frydenborg

Thanks, TJ, for mentioning my book! puller9, TJ is correct that there are two separate populations of wild horses/ponies on the island of Assateague, and they are managed very differently. The roundup of which you speak takes place on the Virginia portion of the island; the horses on the Maryland side are managed by the National Park Service, and no roundups have been done since the Assateague National Seashore came into being. Population management is solely with PZP; PZP is not used for the Virginia horses, whose population is controlled by means of the annual roundup and foal auction. This is very confusing and many folks are unaware of the distinction. More about this soon, as TJ has kindly asked me to clarify! There’s also much more in my book 🙂


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