Monday, December 29, 2014

Wild Horses of the American West

These lucky "Three Strikes" geldings have found
the end of the rainbow at the Deerwood
Wild Mustang Sanctuary where they
will safely live out their lives.
Last week I shared some of my galleries from my travels to the wild horse management areas in Colorado and Wyoming. While there is a lot of controversy surrounding the BLM and their management of the mustangs the facts are that many horses are being removed from public lands every year. Right now there are approximately 49,000 horses and burros on BLM land, but this does not account for horses on non BLM land: state land with wild and feral horses, Indian ponies that run wild on state land, domestic horses that have been turned loose and now are feral and often reproducing. It is a very complicated and emotional issue with no easy answers or solutions. Many of these horses do not have access to adequate forage or water, especially during times of drought.

The horses that come off the ranges in the BLM gathers are held in short and long term BLM holding facilities such as this one in Rock Springs, Wyoming. Ironically, the White Mountain HMA literally overlooks the Rock Springs holding facilities.
The long and short term holding facilities house around 50,000 wild horses and burros, with only a small percentage of these being successfully adopted.
 In 2012 I visited the Palomino Valley Wild Horse and Burro facility north of Reno and wrote the following entry in my blog after my visit there.

A lovely mare awaiting her
fate at the Rock Springs,
Wyoming BLM corrals.
One of the many
quality horses
available at the Mantle
Ranch, Wheatland,
The sad fact is that there are more horses in the holding facilities than there are people willing or qualified to adopt them. The BLM holds adoption events around the country as well as online adoptions, however I find that they are not well publicized and many potential adopters are sometimes not even aware of them. Raising awareness and getting the word out about adoptions and available horses is critical.

Horses that have been at three adoption events and have been passed over are then considered unadoptable and tagged as three strikes horses. These horses have special brands that designate them as three strikers and are then shipped to long term holding facilities in the mid west, or to sanctuaries that have room for them.

Trainer Steve Mantle at his ranch in Wheatland.
While the facts and the future look bleak for the wild horses there are many programs and people working to find solutions in both the care and management of the three strikers as well as making the horses more adoptable. The Mustang Heritage Foundation has launched a trainer incentive program (TIP) to bridge the gap between potential adopters and the mustangs in addition to the very popular Extreme Mustang Makeover gets horses into the public eye.

There are also many pages and groups on facebook such as The Modern Mustangers who network to get horses seen, adopted and shipped. Please check my link list below to visit the many sites and pages that are all working to help the horses.

In August of 2014 I spent a day with Steve Mantle at the Mantle Ranch in Wyoming. Steve is one of the original trainers to work with the BLM to gentle and train mustangs and get them adopted. I also visited the Deerwood Ranch Wild Horse EcoSanctuary in Wyoming where three hundred three strikes geldings live together on 4700 acres. There are also other sanctuaries such as Cimarron Sky Dog, Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, Return to Freedom to name a few. These places usually welcome visitors and can always benefit from donations to support their work.
Often overlooked,
don't forget there
are also burros available
I found these in the Rock Springs,
Wyoming BLM corrals
The BLM also has a program that works with prison inmates to gentle and train mustangs.

From what I have seen during my travels and learned from the people who are on the front lines I feel that the best we can do to help the wild horses is to work on networking to help the horses that are in the holding pens, as well as support the sanctuaries. I would also like to see more use of birth control as well as gelding the older stallions and then turning them back out to live out their lives in freedom. The older stallions that wind up in the pens have a very poor chance of being successfully adopted and with the life span of 30 years that is a long time for a horse to live in the pens if he is not lucky enough to wind up at a sanctuary. While the sentiment to "let them all run free" is a nice one it is not realistic. Instead of demonizing and attacking the BLM and their practices we all need to work together to help the horses most at risk, and those are the ones that for whatever reason, be it too old, not pretty enough or just slipping through the cracks have now become an "unadoptable" three strikes horse.

Please visit these links to learn more and get involved. Thank you for reading and helping!
A stallion enjoying his freedom on
the White Mountain HMA, Wyoming

BLM Wild Horse and Burros
BLM Adoption Schedule
Wild Horse Inmate Program

Mantle Ranch, Wyoming
Deerwood Ranch Wild Horse EcoSanctuary, Wyoming
Cimarron Sky Dog Sanctuary, New Mexico
Return to Freedom, California

Mustang Heritage Foundation
The Cloud Foundation
Wild Horse Preservation Campaign
Canon City Mustangs

Facebook Pages
The Modern Mustanger
Adopt a living Legend
Wild Horse Mentor Program
Mustang Classified
Full Moon Rising Badlands and Nokota Horses
Mustang Meg
Canon City Mustangs

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