2 Years After Rescue, A Rare Happy Ending for Captured Nevada Wild Horses

Many people are aware of the wild horse roundups that take place every year by the Bureau of Land Management. These are horses that have made their home on public land that the government also leases out at below current land values to wealthy cattle ranchers to graze their thousands of head of cattle on there. It is referred to as "Welfare Ranching".

The government claims that the horses are too numerous and destroying the environment when in fact it is really just the opposite. The roundups are extremely hard on the horses with some dying during the roundups and others at the holding pens. They are then kept in tight confinement until they can be relocated to adoption events that are held by the government in various states.

Just over two years ago a similar fate happened to some wild horses in Nevada. 170 horses survived the roundup and were sent to the Fallon Livestock Exchange, located 60 miles east of Reno. There, they faced a terrible fate. Normally the wild horses living on BLM and U.S. Forest Service Lands are protected under the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act. But a BLM/NDOA decision to classify the Pilot Valley horses as “estray” stripped them of any federal protections. This allowed the agencies to dispose of them at a livestock auction, where they more than likely would be sold for slaughter. Men called Kill buyers bid on horses, stockpiling them in feedlots until they have enough horses to fill their trailers. Then they are trucked across the border to slaughter plants in Canada or Mexico.

But this time the fate of these beautiful wild mustangs would be different. Horse advocates, led by Jill Starr of Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue and backed by Ellie Phipps Price, a lifelong horsewoman and owner of the prized Durell Vineyards in Sonoma County, California, also attended the auction. Four hours after the auction began the horse advocates had outbid the kill buyers for every horse. In the end, 170 were saved from slaughter. But that was almost the easy part. Now they had to determine what would be done with the horses.

As Ellie Price describes it, “When we undertook this rescue, I didn’t really know what it would take to care for this many wild horses. All I knew is that it was wrong for the BLM and the Nevada Department of Agriculture to dump these horses at a livestock auction where they would be sold for slaughter. More than half of these horses had come down out of federally protected Herd Areas, and they should have been given protected status. When I heard about their plight, I wanted to save them. Ironically, we found ourselves doing what the BLM does when it removes horses from the range, and real cost of taking them from the wild and managing them in holding pens became clear.”

The cost was high for both the rescuers and the horses. As the search for a long-term solution went on, the horses were kept on the feedlot, where feeding them alone cost $10,000 a month. But in the end, Price secured a ranch in northern California where the horses will now have a home for life. On a bright and sunny day, under the expert guidance of ranch manager Mike Holmes, three truckloads of horses safely make their way from Fallon, Nevada to their new home on the range in California. Their story is a rare happy ending in the ongoing saga of America’s wild horses and their struggle to survive.

On the two year anniversary of the rescue, Ellie Price reflects on her experience and what she has learned. “Caring for wild horses takes enormous resources and involves many challenges. I have a much better understanding of what the BLM faces when horses are removed from the wild. I am more committed than ever to finding a good way to manage these horses on the range where they belong.”

“These wonderful horses have brought great joy to my life, and the experience of releasing them out onto the range again was deeply gratifying. I am lucky to have had the resources to save these horses, but I also feel strongly that there is a better way. I would like to see the BLM more actively using fertility control to manage wild horses on the range and stop rounding them up and removing them from the wild, a practice that is inhumane and unsustainable.”

Responses to "A rare, happy ending for Wild Mustangs rescued from pending slaughter"

  1. Unknown says:

    This makes all warm and fuzzy inside!!

  2. cheshire says:

    thanks from the hearts of animal lovers

  3. Anonymous says:

    God bless you for saving our Wild Horses

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much. I love these horses.

  5. Anonymous says:

    YAAAAAAAAA !!!!!!!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Happy moment between all tiresome and desperate petition signings.:)

  7. Anonymous says:

    So beautiful to see in this world of cruelty big thank you these animals are far to important keepng the blood lines alive :)xxxx

  8. Anonymous says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, for saving some of the voiceless ones whose very existence depends upon us....we are the same ones who have stolen their niche in life, who have taken their free lands and their free lives. Each horse, each life is precious, and I am humbled by your generosity. I wish I had the money to do the same.

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