Stress + Snow = Strangles

Freedom Lost & Hell Begins (Photo © Cat Kindsfather, all rights reserved)

Freedom Lost & Hell Begins (Photo © Cat Kindsfather, all rights reserved)

Protect Mustangs™ is against winter helicopter roundups especially because the extreme stress of the whole ordeal weakens the mustangs’ immune system and makes them vulnerable to upper respitory infections such as strangles (equine distemper).

“You can’t chase wild horses with a chopper, trap them in the freezing cold while they are covered with sweat, terrify them for days and expect them to resist an outbreak in a crowded facility,” explains Anne Novak, executive director of Protect Mustangs™. “I’d like to see the mustangs’ welfare come first for once.”

The San Francisco Chronicle reports on the strangles outbreak in Rock Springs:

Here is some information about strangles:

Wiki on strangles:

American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine consensus statement on Strangles


Equine distemper due to stress and chill from winter roundups.


Stallion & Sweaty Mustangs Trapped at Calico Roundup (Photo © Cat Kindsfather)

Winter roundups often result in the upper respiratory equine illness called strangles (equine distemper) because the helicopters chase the terrified horses in freezing cold temperatures and the horses catch a chill in the traps. You can see the steam coming from the horses in the trap site photo here.

Strangles is highly contagious–spread from horse to horse contact and spread from horse to human to horse contact.

Strangles is inevitable during winter roundups–putting all the wild horses at risk who are forced to live in close quarters for months in short term holding.

Strangles got its name from having difficulty breathing as if being strangled. Horses can die from strangles.

There is a vaccine for strangles but it is less than 50% effective and dangerous to give to horses already exposed to strangles. The illness shows up some time after exposure. It spreads quickly in holding facilities during winter. So the vaccine is not the answer. The answer is to refrain from sweating wild horses in the chill of winter which translates to no helicopter roundups in the winter.

Wild horses get strangles from living in confinement after being chilled not from living freely on the range. In freedom they are very healthy.

For more information on strangles visit wiki: