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Loose, Wild and Feral Horses of Alberta

Observations of the loose, wild and feral horses on the eastern slopes of Alberta

We continue to receive valuable information on the loose, wild and feral horses on the eastern slopes of the foothills in Alberta. Following is an update of recent observations from an informed horse person.

Background – When in high school in Sundre (1970 – 1972), my best friend’s father was a resident-ranger in the same area, so I saw the wild bands on a regular basis. In the early 70’s there was one particularly eye-catching stallion that appeared to be a liver chestnut with a flaxen mane and tail, and I recall him having a band of at least 15 mares. He was only observed from a bit of a distance as he did not allow his band too close to humans (in vehicles or on foot).

Recent Observations:

  • The bands are considerably smaller than I recall (a single mare, her foal plus a two-year-old filly in one case, and the largest I observed had about 6 or 7 mares)
  • There were not as many foals as I would have hoped to see
  • There were several bachelor groups (2 to 8 per group)
  • In some horses the recent influence of domestic breeds was evident (Clydesdale, Percheron, Quarter Horse) in coloring/markings and body type
  • Two horses (one bachelor stallion and a youngster in a band) were dark brown with light manes and tails, making me wonder if they were descendants of the stallion mentioned above
  • The horses seemed much more accustomed to vehicles on the road and to humans in their vicinity. One chestnut stallion from a bachelor group of four actually approached me in such a manner that I wondered if he had been a domestic horse.
  • All were in good flesh (good growing season this year)
  • Two bachelor stallions seemed to be part of a herd of cattle
  • Where the cattle were grazing seemed to me to be an area that the horses would usually reserve for winter and spring foraging as well as foaling. I wondered if those areas being grazed down by cattle forced the horses further up the mountains (harsher environment, more severe weather conditions and an increase in predators) during the winter and kept them higher until well into spring and foaling season.