May 8, 2021


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Protect the welfare of wild horses

2 min read

Sarah Low ’03 studied architecture at MIT, but now she spends most of her days in the operating room or outside as a vet. His area of ​​interest is free-range horses, a growing population in the United States: The number of federally managed mustangs in the western states is expected to reach 2.8 million by 2040 if no action is taken. ‘is taken. “They compete with other really wild species and destroy a lot of habitat,” Low says. “It has become a crisis situation for the management of federal lands.” The current strategy is to take them off the land to own them or adopt them by the private sector. There are some 50,000 horses in federal detention facilities, she notes, and their lifelong care has historically cost taxpayers about $ 48,000 each.


Contraception is a long-term goal for federal management, but administering a contraceptive vaccine typically involves chasing horses into traps with a helicopter. It scares them so much that it is difficult to collect them for the necessary boosters each year, and it can lead to injuries and separated families. Low’s nonprofit, Humane Horse Handling, is testing a low-stress method using the approach and withdrawal of a drone to produce a “curious alert” response, prompting entire herds to follow.

Low’s love for horses began in childhood, when her mother took her for pony rides at Griffith Park in Los Angeles. She then took horseback riding lessons near Del Mar Racecourse, where she would go by bus after school. “The barn has become my sanctuary,” recalls Low, who described himself as a kid with a key. “It was a place I could go instead of being alone.”

At MIT, she joined the equestrian club and, between classes, took jobs training rats (in a neuroscience lab) and an African gray parrot named Alex (at MIT Media Lab, working with the famous cognition expert animal Irene Pepperberg 69).

She took a detour to television after graduation, including a stint as an assistant editor on MTV. Pimp My Ride. She trained horses sideways, landing a wild horse trapping job in Hawaii – and that got her to vet school.

Now living in the countryside of Blacksburg, Virginia – with three horses of her own, plus husband Ellis Low ’98 and their daughter – she provides veterinary care at low cost through Mountain View Humane. But since co-founding Humane Horse Handling in 2018, she has worked to ensure that horses in the wild are treated with compassion, not only by federal authorities, but also when placed with private owners. . “It’s really about preserving and fostering the human-animal bond,” she says.

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