Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary
Freedom for the wild horses is what we are all about.
Dateline: 2005 There are new mustangs on the sanctuary. We can thank the Ford Motor Company for stepping in at zero hour to save them from death at a mid west slaughter plant. Ford sent them here and for the tired, confused animals it was the end of a long journey. They were captured in Nevada, spent months in feed lots, and made the rounds of various Bureau of Land Management adoptions. The cream of the crop found homes; the rest, considered too old, too plain, too frightened, were rejected time and again. The final rejection came at the hands of Native Americans at a South Dakota Reservation, who obtained them from the government then traded them to a horse broker who sent them to a slaughter plant.
Actress and animal friend, Stephanie Powers alerted Ford officials of the plight of these wild horses. Due to Ford’s long association with wild horses through their vastly successful Mustang automobile, the company wasted no time in paying the broker for fifty two of the horses and sending them to our 11,000 acre Black Hills Sanctuary to run wild and free for the rest of their natural lives.
The animals thundered out our gates to freedom, then skidded to a stop at the first grass, and lowered their heads to graze in knee high grass. It was as though they feared that the open gate was a mistake, and we humans would charge out to capture them again. Soon they had drifted off in small groups of friends to explore the great canyons and grassy plateaus of the back country.
Freedom for the wild horses is what we are all about. The BLM tries its best but not all adoptions of horses by the agency are successful. While some younger horses settle readily into a life of captivity, some do not. This year we accepted over fifty head of wild horses that were loved by their adopters but did not adjust, Some had buffaloed their adopters, developed attitudes and become dangerous. At their own expense, the folks sent them here to be returned to freedom.
A group of nineteen mares were remnants of a California state park herd that had run out of groceries in a canyon near the Mojave Desert where they had run for over fifty years. One of the saddest groups I have ever seen, it has been a challenge to get them healthy and shiny again. We get frequent phone calls from Californians who want them back, but the horses have come to love this land and will leave here only over my dead body.
We wish that we could provide homes for all the wild horses that need homes, but we have to maintain the condition of our own ranges and can accept more horses only as we are able to raise funds to acquire adjoining lands.
The new horses float like oil on water amongst the existing herds. They are bonded together by shared experiences as well as a failure of the old mustang hierarchy to immediately absorb them. Yet, like some people, there are individuals who tip toe unnoticed into established herds, where others try but are immediately challenged by a boss mare, or the herd stallion. Ears laid back, yellowed teeth bared, whirling, kicking, biting, squealing, weaving toward the newcomer with head lowered, they drive them out of the herd.Some newcomers persist as outcasts grazing unobtrusively at the edge of herds until they become part of the band; others drift off to try for acceptance elsewhere with other lonely newcomers with whom they can graze without rancor. Horses are such sociable creatures that loneliness often overcomes fear. Many a mustang, separated from its band, has jumped fences to join a rancher’s domestic herd.
Some of the Ford horses were recently gelded by the Indians. They prance up to each newcomer, neck bowed, sniffing noses and flanks, squealing insults, or rising on their hind legs, manes flying, to box an opponent, or push in with their chests, trying to seize the enemy’s foreleg with their teeth. Some will even attempt to gather a band of mares, but soon, whatever traces of testosterone they have in their bodies desert them and they desert the mares for a love affair with good grass.
While we would like to accommodate more wild horses in their time of need, we get no help from the State or Federal government and must depend for help from folks who care. Our funding comes from tourism, sale of surplus wild or registered foals,grants and donations, and bequests from those whose contributions to wild horses will continue long after they have passed to another world.
As with many other worthwhile charities, we have suffered greatly from calamities such as 9-11, Tsunami, New Orleans hurricanes, and earthquakes in Pakistan, but our commitment to the horses is to keep trying. The situation makes us even more appreciative of all our volunteers who, like Susan Watt and I, work without pay to keep this great project running.
Autumn is a time of reality, a time when we have to ask for help from our friends.Despite world disasters, our responsibility to our five hundred or more wild horses here on the Sanctuary goes on. The wild horses need your help. Faced with a long winter, we will have to raise eighty thousand dollars to buy hay and the necessary supplements to feed our wild horse herds until the green grass starts next Spring. In simple terms that is two tons per horse or 1000 tons at $80 per ton. Won’t you please help? Your donation of $100 will help feed a wild horse for the Winter. Please purchase one ton of hay or a hundred to feed these great animals who remain so dependent upon our friendship. Thank you for your support!–Dayton O. Hyde