North Fork Times
Saturday August 01, 2015

When Spanish conquistadors left their horses behind, herds of mustangs grew. Those horses and their offspring were wild and free.

Still today bands of horses run wild on Native American lands, Forest Service lands and BLM lands.
According to Beth Keenan and Vee Stockdale of Spirit Wind Horse Rescue in Crawford, mustangs are endangered by federal agency round ups. Many end up at sales where they are sold to owners who take them outside the United States. There the mustangs can be slaughtered and used as food sold to other countries. The USDA estimates that over 90 percent of the horses going to slaughter are healthy animals.Other mustangs are purchased by people wanting a horse but who have no idea how to train a wild horse.
In 2012 the Forest Service did a round up of mustangs in Nevada. The Forest Service had captured 146 mustangs in their first round up and another 100 in a subsequent round up. An organization that had been watching the herds of mustangs for years intervened. They raised enough money to purchase all the mustangs that were brought to the Nevada sales barn.
“What happens when they are rounded up, families get dispersed,” Stockdale said. “In the wild you have family bands and they are very bonded. They will have a lead mare and a stallion. When they are rounded up, they are thrown into different pens at the auction house.”
A family of three horses and a sorrel were adopted by The Wags and Menace Foundation who asked Spirit Wind to keep the horses in Crawford. This band of horses will remain on the ranch for the rest of their lives. “We want to get them to the point where they are gentle and able to wear halters,” Stockdale said. It’s unusual for horses that have been rounded up to be able to remain together.
Mustangs are not like domesticated horses, and Spirit Wind recommends that people only get mustangs after they have been trained. “They  are very smart animals. They are used to being free, so they are very untrusting,” Stockdale said. Mustangs can’t be trained in just 30 days or pushed during training. “You have to take the time and be extremely patient.”
Keenan said younger mustangs may be more able to adjust to their new lives and surroundings. They may be friendlier.
Spirit Wind has older horses that they halter trained, trimmed their hooves, gave them their shots and de-wormed and then let them be free in the pasture to “just be horses.”
Spirit Wind has about 72 horses at this time. Some are permanently adopted and will remain with them. Both Stockdale and Keenan have mustangs they have adopted.
“We never thought we would take a mustang, but when we realized the crisis going on with the mustangs and how volatile the situation is, we decided they are part of the West and the American heritage. It’s something we should be proud of and we feel the mustangs belong to everybody,” Stockdale said.
Keenan said they started with the horse sales in Delta County, but now they have expanded to include the mustangs from other states. They are continually called by organizations around the country asking if Spirit Wind has space. The mustang crisis has caused organizations that care for horses to be stretched. So, Spirit Wind is taking on more and more horses.
They do have horses available for adoption to qualified people. Contact Spirit Wind Horse Rescue at 921-5646 for more information or to make donations.

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