National groups join forces to spare park horses

Farm Forum

MEDORA, N.D. (AP) – National organizations working to save mustangs are trying to help find homes for wild horses that will be rounded up at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota and sold at auction.

The Cloud Foundation, based in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Legacy Mustang Preservation, based in Louisa, Va., have joined forces in Operation Badlands Mustang Rescue, with volunteers spreading the word of the Sept. 28 auction in Wishek, N.D., of more than 100 horses in a campaign to spare them from slaughter, The Forum newspaper reported.

The groups have pledged to buy as many as 24 of the horses.

”We’re just trying to provide the safety net so none of these animals get bought by the kill buyers,” said Ginger Kathrens, executive director of The Cloud Foundation.

Horse advocates earlier started Facebook campaigns in the hopes of placing the horses with caring buyers. Advocates have tracked the park’s herd for years and keep a registry of each horse and its lineage. They say that after the last roundup in the park, in 2009, eight of the 77 horses auctioned off ended up at slaughterhouses.

The park maintains a demonstration herd of what it calls feral horses to commemorate the wild horses that roamed the badlands when Theodore Roosevelt ranched in the area during the 1880s. Park officials say the herd has grown to more than 200 animals – beyond the ideal size for the park of fewer than 100 – and must be thinned. The park also plans to launch a horse birth control experiment during the roundup. The involvement of the two mustang organizations will add significantly to the social media campaigns working to find buyers for the park horses, said Marylu Weber, who has tracked the horses in the park for almost 15 years.

”It is a huge deal,” she said. ”Ginger Kathrens is probably the face and the voice of wild horses in the world because of what she’s doing for wild horses.”