Many Lame After More Than a Fortnight
HOUSTON – Tonight a yellow Mustang with the unlikely name of Cloud limps in a meadow on top of Montana’s Pryor Mountain, 18 days after he was released injured from a hasty Bureau of Land Management “gather.”
Fifty-seven friends and relatives of the stallion were sold Saturday, never to return to the only home they have ever known, including the 19-year-old stallion, Conquistador. The Pryor Mountain Horses, recognized as a separate breed by the authoritative Horse Breeds Standard Guide, were taken by the BLM over Labor Day week. Most were stampeded 5,000 feet down the mountain from their meadow home to holding pens where some of the mares were made infertile before returning to the mountain.
Many of the horses remain injured 20 days after the stampede down the rocky mountainside, according to documentary filmmaker Ginger Kathrens. She returned to the mountain to observe their condition immediately after the auction. What she found was disturbing.
“We don’t know what happened to Cloud,” she said. “We really looked closely at his fetlock on the right front leg. He seemed to be licking that from time to time, but we obviously couldn’t get close enough, but through binoculars we could see that it was either clotted, or there was mud there, or maybe he had been cut, we really don’t know but he’s off on his right front still.”
“Cloud was run down on Labor Day the seventh, as were other Mountain Horses and they did that on Tuesday the eighth when the were really hurting them – that’s when we saw the limping foals, the horse that colicked, and the “tied up” horse (they ran us out before we could see her), they also left a foal and it’s mother, alone, without the herd because they could not keep up,” said author R.T. Fitch, an eyewitness who spent six days on the mountain during the gather.
“He’s lame,” Kathrens said of Cloud. “It’s not so pronounced you can see it at the walk, but when he walks briskly he is definitely off on his right side.
Other horses are showing signs of lameness as well, Kathrens said. If the horses were in private hands 20 days after an injury, they would likely have already been under the care of a veterinarian. However, the agency that captured them doesn’t consider sore feet an injury.
“The black mare, Pococeno, from Cloud’s band who is the mother of Boulder, has got what looks like a stifle injury,” she said. “It’s really stiff on her back right, and then Cloud’s four year old daughter is really lame in her left hip. That could be from the shot, I don’t remember her being lame right away.”
“Jasmine, Cloud’s youngest daughter is still lame,” she said.
Kathrens challenges the BLM definition of lameness in horses.
“When you walk with a limp, you’re lame regardless if whether that is a pulled muscle or feet that or sore, lameness is lameness,” she said. “Not calling it an injury is humorous. “I guess it also wasn’t an injury when Cloud’s daughter Rain colicked and Grumpy, another mare, tied up, or when the smallest baby couldn’t walk, I guess that’s not an injury, huh?”
Conquistador was sold for $2,500, bought by The Cloud Foundation which was determined to return the aging horse to the wild. But activists were stunned to find themselves in a bidding war for the horse, Kathrens said.
“It was a person from Colorado from a rescue, would you believe,” said the Emmy Award winning documentarian. “He said he wanted a ‘notable’ stallion for his sanctuary.”
But Conquistador will remain in Montana in the Pryor Mountain area. The stallion was one of 57 horses sold at the auction. He was captured on U.S. Forest Service land and trailered down the mountain and was not part of the stampedes.
“He’s much happier as we speak,” she said. “He’s back with Cavalita, his black mare.”
Members of Conquistador’s family won’t return to the wild with him.
“His’s three offspring were auctioned off,” Kathrens said. “But he and his mare are back in the foothills of the Pryor Mountains together. “He’s in the neighborhood, and boy it’s a beautiful neighborhood.”
Currently the horse and his mares are in large paddocks on the property and will be released on the 3,000 acre wilderness pasture after an acclimation period in about two to three weeks.
“We were also able to adopt the four-year-old blue roan bachelor stallion Floyd who had been badly abused in the corrals.
Kathrens had high praise for residents of Billings who came to the auction to help out. “It was a pretty stressful day because we were really working hard with the help of these wonderful people, mainly Laura Pibonka, Mike Temple who is former deputy director of the BLM nationally, and Trish Kirby who’s been watching this herd ofer 20 years. With their help we were able to negotiate for a property that was fabulously beautiful.”
Kathrens challenges news reports that have claimed that Texas billionaires Boone and Madelaine Pickens adopted a Mustang at the sale.
Kathrens said that by keeping many of the horses in the Pryor Mountain area with luck advocates will be able to protect the genetic viability of the world famous wild herd despite BLM’s reduction of its size below the level of viability.