Equine Rescue

Horses suffered at the Hands of Self-Proclaimed Cowboy, Jason Meduna


Meduna dances and spins in court in effort to justify his killing of dozens of wild horses

One over 70 Mustangs found starved to death on Jason Maduna's ranch

BRIDGEPORT – A former Morrill County rancher presented himself as a “true cowboy” but instead starved the horses and burros he claimed he was giving sanctuary to, Morrill County Attorney Jean Rhodes told a jury Monday.

The cowboy claim was posted by Jason Meduna on his Web site for the 3-Strikes Ranch that he operated in northwest Morrill County. Meduna, 43, faces trial on 149 felony counts of animal cruelty. A jury of six men and six women heard testimony for the first day in a trial expected to last five days.

In a quote on Meduna’s Web site, Prosecutor Jean Rhodes said, he said, “A true cowboy will feed his horse before he feeds himself.”

It was a quote used often by media covering the case after Meduna’s April arrest and Rhodes used the presentation of former 3-Strikes ranch owner as a “true cowboy” when introducing the case against him during opening arguments Monday.

When law enforcement arrived at the ranch on April 18, Rhodes said they found no hay stacked for the winter and horses were left to grazing, irrespective of poor range conditions at the ranch. Seventy horses were discovered dead on the ranch as officials searched it in the following days. More than 200 horses and burros were removed from the ranch by law enforcement and animal rescue organizations that volunteered to help.

While Meduna had gathered supporters through his Web site and other Web sites for Mustang aficionados, he didn’t let board members and supporters onto the ranch. Rhodes implied in her arguments that he was hiding the deteriorating condition of the horses from his supporters, while still getting cash donations from them.

In charging Meduna, Rhodes said prosecutors focused on specific animals, such as a 3-year-old roan filly seized by the Bureau of Land Management, horses specifically identified by their owners and dead horses found on the ranch. More than 90 counts have been charged based on horses and burros classified as in poor condition after they were seized and examined by veterinarians.

As custodian of the horse, Rhodes told the jurors, Meduna was responsible for the horses he had taken in from the Bureau of Land Management and private individuals.

“He failed to provide proper feed, water or care,” Rhodes said, saying the state intends to prove that he acted intentionally and recklessly.

In his opening argument, defense attorney John Berry contends that Meduna didn’t intentionally starve the horses and the prosecution will fail in proving its case. At the conclusion of trial, he said, defense attorneys will be asking the jury to acquit him of the charges.

Instead of a person who intentionally or recklessly starved his horses, Berry painted a picture of a man who loves horses and was saving ones that the Bureau of Land Management was unable to adopt. Most of the animals on the ranch were “3-Strikes horses,” which the Bureau of Land Management was unable to adopt after three tries and sold for about $10 each.

Meduna had been around horses his whole life and his grandfather taught him to train horses, his lawyer said.

He dedicated his life to mustangs, Berry said, because “mustangs were a challenge.”

“Jason wasn’t alone in his vision,” he said. “… He gained support along the way” and those supporters helped him build a better Web site, promote his business and form a corporation.

The Bureau of Land Management also continued to allow Meduna to adopt horses, and Berry said, conducted periodic inspections. “Things were going well until about February 2009,” he said.

Berry said Meduna began to run short of hay and funds to purchase additional hay. Supporters helped him apply for a hay grant and sent him online donations. While Meduna thought things were turning around, he was suddenly plagued by sick horses and consulted with supporters online for opinions and advice.

It was from those opinions, and because of contentious relations with neighbors, that Meduna began to feel his horses were being poisoned. One supporter, who is expected to testify against Meduna, even recommended a health supplement that Meduna believed had improved the health of his horses.

Starvation claims were circulating at a conference for wild horse rescue groups before Meduna’s arrest, Berry said.

“Interest groups were waiting to get their hands on Jason’s horses,” he said, and law enforcement became involved. Out of concern for his horses, Meduna signed them over to the rescue groups, but continued to investigate potential causes of their ailments, including rumesin poisoning from cattle feed that Meduna alleges neighbors may have used to poison his horses or arsenic poisoning from a lake on the ranch.

Meduna didn’t have any motive for poisoning his horses or destroying the mustang sanctuary he had dedicated his life to, Berry said. Without that, he said, the state couldn’t prove its case. It’s clear that the horses needed help, he said, and Meduna cooperated by turning them over to rescue groups.

“You don’t have to decide if the horses got sick of arsenic poisoning, rumesin poisoning or if they died of starvation,” Berry told jurors. “You just have to decide if the state proved 149 counts that he acted intentionally or recklessly (in the care of the horses and burros).”

Testimony during Monday’s proceedings centered around establishing foundation, with Morrill County Sheriff John Edens and Deputy Cheree Conway testifying about photos taken at the ranch, at the Morrill County fairgrounds where the horses were moved after being seized and other photos that showed the poor condition of the horses and the ranch.

Edens also testified about Meduna reporting a horse from the ranch stolen and voicing that he believed neighbors were poisoning his horses.

Testimony in the case will resume at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Morrill County Courthouse in Bridgeport.

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27 replies »

  1. Starved horses that die are skeletal, poisoned horses that die are in good condition, just dead. Duh!! I get so frustrated with this whole 3 Strikes scenario, and that it was allowed to go on for long enough that 70 horses died! I think people who abuse animals should be treated in exactly the same abusive manner! But I’m just a lifelong horseman, what do I know?!


  2. This image haunts me, you can see where this poor thing struggled in the dirt. This man needs to be punished severely, slowly and over an extended period of time.


  3. What they dont tell you, and correct me if I a wrong, but this is the mare that had a foal standing over her while she struggled and died!!! Disgusting … I really did not need to see that image, I had been told about, I hope they throw the book at him, good Lord 70 horses dead!!!!! Unimagineable.


    • I agree with you 100% on that, I did a reserch on the endangered mustangs a while back an dthis is close to one of the worst cases. Why would you want to do such a thing, obvously he wasen’t a “true cowboy”.


  4. If there was arsenic in water on the property the horses should have been fenced away from it. But it sounds like Meduna is trying to give excuses for what was done on this so-called ranch. He’s trying to get his worthless A out of it. This man needs at least ten years in prison. I wish I was on that jury it would be many years before he saw the light of a free day.


  5. So this is the better life the BLM is giving our wild horses, because they say they are starving on the range? At least on the range they would serve a purpose to feed other animls, wouldnot hve had to go throughthe roundup and all the other horrors, would have died wild – the little baby (what happend to it?) would have possibly found another mare to feed it.

    If he really thought they were being poisoned why didn’t he call a vet?

    “While Meduna had gathered supporters through his Web site and other Web sites for Mustang aficionados, he didn’t let board members and supporters onto the ranch. Rhodes implied in her arguments that he was hiding the deteriorating condition of the horses from his supporters, while still getting cash donations from them”

    Is this anyting like BLM not allowing anyone to see the horses they have in holding? While still collecting “taxes” from us for their care?


    • PS, in any event, I bet he has several rifles and lots of ammo – as he was watching this animal suffer, and deciding not to call a vet, he could have at least shot it (I don’t care if gun shots aren’t always accurate and it took 10 shots to end this suffering). This animal did not make these groves in that soil in a few minutes, maybe not even a few hours, maybe days!


      • No kidding a horse wouldent just make marks after a couple miniuts it would have taken a few days. How could you just watch all your horses suffer like that.VERY SAD


    • Roxy wrote: So this is the better life the BLM is giving our wild horses, because they say they are starving on the range? At least on the range they would serve a purpose to feed other animls, would not hve had to go through the roundup and all the other horrors, would have died wild – the little baby (what happend to it?) would have possibly found another mare to feed it.

      Anne comment: the pix with this comment shuould be broadcasted over every media;

      ‘well said ! what a terrible pix; like the lady said; this baby suffered a while; you can see the groove marks; to BLM: are YOU putting Horses on illegal Ranches ?!


      • Yes tolltaly I agree why were the horses given to those ppl who just kill them and all they want is for them to die so they have more land.


  6. (per Merriam-Webster)
    Main Entry: cow·boy one having qualities (as recklessness, aggressiveness, or independence) popularly associated with cowboys: as a : a reckless driver b : a business or businessperson operating in an uncontrolled or unregulated manner

    Sorry boys but this sums up Jason Meduna


  7. Mar, I agree, it takes a while for a horse to die from starvation,things got out of hand because he had too many horses, however, had he reached out to people, he would have gotten help for the horses. HE needs to be starved to death. his “poisoning” defense is a travesty, How this defense attorney can get up before a courtroom full of people, and with a straight face, give this defense, w/ all the damning evidence, is unreal, he should be punished as well.


  8. I was an animal control officer for nearly a decade here in my county in the commonwealth of virginia. I have been on cases exactly like this. and yes, it takes DAYS for a horse to finally die from starvation. awful. what I would like to know is out of the 70 dead, were any his own personal riding horses, or were all the dead ones just the BLM ones? and, in our state, if you are giving care to an animal, i.e. like a boarding stable, then you are wholly responsible for the animals health and well being. it is hateful that we are in such a ‘disposable’ society, looking at how these animals were treated, look at the numbers of dogs/cats are treated the same way, or put to sleep in shelters – when they become inconvenient, they are disposed of. arghhh!


    • Sorry if I was a little off topic replying to Vicki, but I couldn’t find anywhere else to put the info out there.

      We have had a number of NM cases where defendants have gotten off with the proverbial “slap on the wrist”, pleading damage to their reputations and lack of knowledge. Considering what’s posted on his own website, this guy has no excuse. I hope the court won’t let him off easy!

      I wanted to add this message to Meduna and anyone else who abuses animals:

      There is an old Indian legend that says:
      “When a human dies, there is a bridge they must cross
      to enter into Heaven.
      At the head of that bridge waits every animal
      that human encountered during their lifetime.
      The animals, based on what they know of that person,
      decide which human may cross the bridge…
      and which will be turned away.”

      Abusers like Meduna might want to consider what side of that bridge they’ll find themselves on come Judgement Day!


  9. So sad …


    Animal Lovers,

    I ask all the animal lovers around the area to join our animal rescue forums. Our message board are/is dedicated to discussing everything pet related, but our major emphasis is pet rescue.

    Anyway, thanks for the blog post, it was a good read 🙂


  10. Good morning everyone. You want to know what is really sick? The RUMOR I’m hearing is that they (Mudnas) have purchased a small amount of land by Torrington or Lingle, WY. And they have horses. Someone told me he put an ad on Craig’s List that anyone with unwanted horses could drop them off, no questions asked. I DO NOT KNOW if that’s true, haven’t seen the Craig’s List ad, or know if it’s really him that put it there. Anyone live by that area?


    • Haven’t search Craig’s List but I saw this first hand:
      “TIMES ARE TOUGH – CAN’T AFFORD to feed your livestock? No worries. Free pick up and no questions asked. 505-XXX-XXXX.”
      This is the text of a display ad published in two locations of “American Classifieds” (under “Livestock”, and the general ads) in the December 10,17,24,and 31,2009 issues for Farmington, NM, and the Four Corners Area (Page 2 has the complete list of where they deliver – WOW!).
      I have omitted the full phone number, but the paper, including back issues, is available online if you want to check it out. I viewed the January issues, and the ad is no longer there, but the information remains on the Web.
      “Free pick up and no questions asked”?!? Since horses are still considered livestock, you can draw your own conclusions as to where these animals could end up. Has anyone seen similar ads in their area?


    • Oh thats horrible why would you have an animal if you were just going to kill it. i havent ben on craigs list yet but if that is true someone should figure out what is going on there.This is really getting out of hand everybody killing all their animals and livestock which i see them as my family.


  11. Thanks for the heads up Linda–I don’t regularly check Craig’s list but I think I will be placing my own post if I see anything like this.


  12. Proud to report that 3752 now Canon Girl, 2602 now American Beauty, and the infamous “Baby Blue” now Lazarus, are all loving life on my far West Texas Ranch.
    I have documented this herd of 26 survivors that arrived at Lifesavers Wild Horse rescue on Mother’s Day 2009 and all it took was food, fresh water, and a watchful eye of good people that rehabilitated this herd, by summer they were shining. Meduna never knew what he was doing, my family knew him and his family long ago, he was a joke then and still is a joke now. But this time I am caring for 3 that survived him AND his breeding program. Idiot.

    Like his website stated last year “A real cowboy will feed his horses before he feed’s himself” wow is that serendipity or what! Poser!

    Rachael Waller
    Equine photographer
    Owner of The Firelight South Ranch


  13. BARB Young, I feel for the horses also but Posion can cause weight loss if taken in small doses over time, posion does not leave the body for some time and will continue to build up in the body. I have seen horses poisoned with arsenic at training barn from a mad client, It is a horribal death.Something know one wants to see. Im not saying that this guy is guilty or not. But it is possible , the horse if survives will eat and still lose body weight. It affects the kidneys,liver,blood cells,nervous systom and everything else. Horses that do survive have a long recovery. Like i said im not sticking up for this man I just wanted to clear the poison statement up.

    ARSENIC POISONING may be acute or chronic, depending on the amount consumed.

    In acute poisoning, a form frequently encountered, the symptoms may include intense abdominal pain, salivation, a diffuse diarrhea, depression, weakness, incoordination, and posterior paralysis, and a subnormal temperature. These symptoms terminate in convulsions and death within a few hours, or the animals may linger for 3 or 4 days. Some eventually recover.

    The chronic form of arsenic poisoning in animals is hard to diagnose because the symptoms may be obscure and much like the symptoms of other diseases. Some of the common symptoms are loss of flesh; a bright-red coloration of the mucous membranes; digestive disturbance, with slight to marked diarrhea, irregular pulse, and depression.

    Animals poisoned with arsenic usually have taken such large amounts that treatment is of no value.


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