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Some of the horses available for adoption at the Lucky Horse Rescue Corral in Dayton have been waiting for a long time to find a home. Photo by Karen Woodmansee
Some of the horses available for adoption at the Lucky Horse Rescue Corral in Dayton have been waiting for a long time to find a home. Photo by Karen Woodmansee
Groups Have Different Ideas on Saving the Horses

HORSE WARS: This is the fourth in a series on issues related to Nevada’s wild horses. This story provides of the various horse groups and their relationships with each other and the state of Nevada.

By Karen Woodmansee
Virginia City News
Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Since the early ‘90s until the Gibbons Administration, numerous wild horse advocacy groups have worked with the state Department of Agriculture to manage the horse herds of the Virginia Range.

For the past few years, however, there has been little cooperation between the department and advocacy groups.

An attempt at an agreement failed when state Veterinarian Phil LaRussa attempted to get Lucky Horse Rescue Corral operator Shirley Allen to sign an agreement on her own, without any cooperation from the president of her chief financial benefactor, Least Resistance Training Concepts Inc.

Allen taped the conversation, which included a threat by LaRussa to “dispose” of an orphan foal, and posted it on Youtube, causing the Department of Agriculture and the state Attorney General’s Office to launch investigations of the incident and the Attorney General’s probe is still ongoing.

Nevada Department of Agriculture executive Director Tony Lesperance said  there were  no existing agreements active with any of the major wild horse advocacy groups.

He said his department’s in-house investigation into the taping incident led him to cancel all agreements.

He said he was open to working with them if possible as issues arise, but was not interested in a formal memorandum or agreement.

“We have no working arrangements at this point in time,” he said. “I’m not interested in having a memorandum. Our AG has advised us to go very carefully because some of the experiences we’ve had in the past have been not good.”

He said the only memorandum of understanding the department has now was with the Storey County Sheriff’s Office, which has enlisted volunteer Jim Stewart of the Virginia City Highlands to deal with horse issues.

He said he would be interested in pursuing similar agreements with officials in Washoe and Lyon counties, but so far has had no takers.

At one time, there were MOUs with the Virginia Range Wildlife Protection

Association; Least Resistance Training Concepts; Wild Horse Foundation; Mustang Spirit; Lifesavers Inc; Hidden Valley Wild Horse Protection Fund; Wild Horse Safe Haven; Mustangs of America Foundation; and National Wild Horse Center Inc.

The most recent agreement was with Hidden Valley Wild Horse Protection Fund, signed in March 2009.

Lesperance said all agencies had been sent letters canceling the agreements, though some groups say they have not received them.

Some groups are interested in keeping horses wild and on their current rangeland, with no feeding or other human interference. Others actively rescue horses which have been rounded up, or foals whose mothers have been killed or driven off. Still more are working toward a sanctuary in the Virginia Range, where the horses can remain.

VRWPA’s mission statement states it acts on behalf of free-roaming horses and wildlife in the Virginia Range, north of Virginia City, Nevada.

VRWPA has participated in horse counts, birth control efforts and range management studies to ensure the horses’ safety and habitat. It’s president, Jeanne Gribbin, said she believes in leaving the horses to the wild, fencing them off of property and for the most part, leaving them alone.

Nevada Horsepower’s main activity is distributing funds raised by the wild horse license plates available at the DMV. They funded helicopter horse counts and educational efforts, among other things.

Another group, the Wild Horse Preservation League in Dayton, believes in leaving the horses alone, and work to educate residents about the horses.

It’s leader, Bonnie Matton, has created a Wild Horse Adventure brochure advising visitors where they can go to see the horses, while educating people not to feed or interfere with them in any way.

Least Resistance Training Concepts, which funds the Lucky Horse Rescue Corral, works to find homes for horses that have been rounded up, or foals that have been orphaned or abandoned. Shirley Allen has gone as far as keeping newborn foals in her bedroom, providing round the clock care until the animals are old enough to be adopted.

Country singer Lacy J. Dalton’s Let ‘Em Run Foundation also disburses donations and funds, often raised by sales of the “Wild Horse Crossing” CD produced in the late 1990s.

Dalton, aware that the horses’ habitat is dwindling, dreams of a sanctuary for some horses, while leaving a manageable herd in the Virginia Range. Tourists would be able to visit the sanctuary and learn about the horses,  similar to the Island of Chincoteague in Virginia, which attracts hundreds of thousands of horses annually.

Lesperance’s view is more in line with Dalton’s, but both face the fact of limited funds for such an endeavor.

Another group, the Wild Horse Preservation League in Dayton, believes in leaving the horses alone, and work to educate residents about the horses.

Some groups work together, others have had disputes that have led to legal action, but all believe their way is best for the wild horses.

Reader Opinions
Karen Woodmansee comstockwriter@yahoo.com
JAN 03 • OK, folks, I now have to ask you all to please keep your posts civil. Referring to others' opinions as stupidity or mentally ill is unnecessary. Adults should be able to disagree without being disagreeable.
JAN 02 • Interesting article. The biggest flaw in thinking is with the people that think the pests can be left as is. Well, unlike Elk, Deer and other critters, there are no tags issued to take horses each year hence no real predators. And with that, it is common that the herds multiply past sustainability and begin to die off by the dozens. And then, you wild horse nuts ask for oodles of tax dollars to "save the wild horses". What a circle of stupidity!
Bonnie Matton
JAN 01 • You quoted me as saying "...believes in leaving the horses alone." I, as president, and the members of the Wild Horse Preservation League - want the wild horses of Nevada, as well as the ones across the nation - to remain on public land. But, as they have few natural predators, need proper and effective management. This is something that's never been done - neither by the Nevada Department of Agriculture, nor the Bureau of Land Management. It's time for governmental and wild horse advocacy groups to work together so all wildlife existing on our open range can live together. Thank you, Karen, for publishing such a good series on the Wild Horses. Bonnie Matton