KBR Wild Horse and Burro News

Saving horses that had run out their time!

Story date: April, 2004
Carson City, NV
The Nevada Department of Agriculture is responsible for the largest contiguous horse herd in North America; the wild horses of the Virginia Range. The herd roams Storey County and along the edges of neighboring Washoe and Lyon Counties as well as the combined City and County of Carson City.

These are the horses that Velma (Wild Horse Annie) Johnston first set out to protect. Ironically, since these horses don't roam Federal lands, they are not protected under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses & Burros Act.

The Nevada Department of Agriculture manages these horses with virtually no budget through a consortium of agreements with non-profit horse groups. The Virginia Range Wildlife Protection Association of Storey County provides most of the "on the ground" monitoring of the horses. VRWPA responds to injured horses and provides emergency feed and water through activities approved by the state. A small number of participating non-profit groups have been approved to arrange and supervise adoptions of the horses that are gathered off the range.

Nevada is the fastest growing state in the country with northwestern Nevada being the fastest growing area in the state. But even with urban intrusion into the wild horse range, state interference with the herd is minimal and is primarily confined to gathering animals that become public nuisances or road hazards in populated areas.

Horses crossing US-50 during the morning rush hour.
(Can you spot the gray horse on the center line?)
The state runs what best can be described as a "horse pound." While it's a pretty decent operation and the horses are well kept, it is not either designed or funded to hold horses long term. The animals have 60 days for the adoption groups to either find homes for them or to "hold and place" (where the groups take and hold the horses in Foster Care until they can be placed with adopters.) After the 60 day period at the state facility has elapsed, the state has little choice but to send horses that have run out their time to the livestock sale if the adoption groups can't come through.

The state also operates an Inmate Training Program at the Warm Springs Correctional Center. The program's trainer and the inmates do a stellar job gentling and training wild horses, however the program has the capacity to take in only a limited number of animals.

In March, 2004, the state notified the horse groups that the state corrals held a backlog of studs and pregnant mares that would run out their time on April 1st. Arrangements were made to place the horses at a large farm in Oklahoma. A couple of days before shipping, the person responsible for receiving the horses became seriously ill and was hospitalized. The plan folded at the 11th hour.

The state stretched the deadline while the horse groups scrambled to work out alternate plans. Nobody could absorb that many horses in the time required to ensure their safety. The state demonstrated great patience as the groups scrambled to find solutions.

Now the mares were dropping foals almost daily which further complicated the situation! Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue of Lancaster, CA, was aware of the problem. Still at full capacity from the Fish Creek Rescue, Lifesavers didn't have room for 30 more studs, pregnant mares and foals. But Lifesavers did agree to bankroll the costs associated with boarding the horses at the state facilities and in Foster Care until they could be safely disbursed to qualified adopters.


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