Horse News

800 Montana Horses Head to Auction Block

story by Jan Falstad of the Billings Gazette

Crow Tribe Seize Horses for Trespassing

Some of the nine new colts wait with their mothers in the maternity pen as more than 800 horses are sorted, banded and readied for sale this weekend. The horses used to belong to James Leachman of Billings, whose horses were seized by Bureau of Indian Affairs for trespassing on tribal lands ~ photo by Larry Mayer

One of Montana’s largest horse sales from a single ranch in modern times is expected to begin this weekend.

“Unless there is a court action, I feel pretty confident the sale will start at 10 a.m. on April 2 and run the 3rd and probably the 4th,” said Allan Hanley, a U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs rangeland management specialist.

A meeting between the BIA and the Northern International Livestock Exposition to finalize all the details, including the parking, is scheduled for Tuesday.

Bands totaling 829 horses, including nine newborns, that formerly belonged to James H. Leachman of Billings will be auctioned at the Home Place ranch 16 miles east of Billings along Highway 87 East. Buyers can preview the horses on Friday. Auctioneer Rick Young of Absarokee is expected to handle the sale.

Hanley is expecting 3,000 to 10,000 people at the sale, given all the interest surrounding one of the biggest cases of alleged horse abuse in recent Montana history.

“Most of them will just be tire kickers coming to see 829 horses in one spot,” Hanley said. “…I think about 300 will be serious buyers.”

All the Leachman horses, save nine newborn foals that will be sold with their mothers, had their brands inspected last week in a three-day effort that ended Saturday at 4 p.m.

About 30 people, including employees of the BIA, the Montana Department of Livestock and the NILE, as well as Crow Tribal members, identified and tagged the horses. A dozen workers lined up along the chutes to shave butts, shoulders, flanks and faces to check for brands. Then they attached white butt tags and placed blue plastic identification bands around the horses’ necks.

NILE Executive Director Justin Mills said the spreadsheet identifying the horses, including their new identification numbers, age, sex and brands, if any, was turned over to the BIA. That list will serve as the catalog for the sale, Mills said.

“I’ve taken calls from Idaho, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and the East Coast,” he said.

Hanley also fielded calls on Monday from interested bidders in a handful of states, including Texas.

On March 22 and 23, members of the Crow Tribe rounded up most of the horses in a large pasture and neighboring ranches where they were trespassing and drove them into pens that used to hold cattle for sales at the former Leachman Cattle Co.

In late December, Shepherd veterinarian Jeff Peila warned that hundreds of Leachman horses in one pasture were near starvation.

Since mid-January, the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office and NILE officials fed about 150 tons of donated hay to the horses, so most of the animals are in pretty good shape now, Peila said. Seven horses were found near death, and, at Peila’s recommendation, Yellowstone County Sheriff Lt. Kent O’Donnell destroyed four of them.

In January, Leachman was charged with 14 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty, and last month four additional charges were filed. Seven of the 14 counts are primary counts, and seven are alternative counts.

Leachman has pleaded not guilty. His jury trial is set for June 3, and he faces a maximum sentence of seven years and $7,000 in fines.

The BIA, which seized the horses for trespassing on tribal lands, published the required legal notice Friday, giving Leachman five days to pay the trespassing penalties, as well as the costs of rounding up, processing and selling the animals, which are mostly American Quarter horses.

BIA Superintendent at Crow Agency Vianna Stewart said the bill will be substantial.

“We’re pretty close to six figures or $100,000,” she said Friday.

The tab was still being figured Monday to account for all 25 hours that it took to identify and band the horses.

Leachman has until 5 p.m. Tuesday to redeem his horses, Stewart said.

Click (HERE) to view Billings Gazette Video

44 replies »

  1. I’m not sure how I feel about this. I envision kill buyers lined up foaming at the mouth with this many horses in one place. Hopefully I’m wrong and they end up in good homes. Any chance the BIA will publish a list of buyers?


    • Billings Livestock showed up at the slaughter summit to speak for the slaughter of horses..don’t kid yourself where these horses are going..its not that far to the Canadian border from there


      • I was told at least 7 kill buyers will be there. They will be attempting to prevent those folks attending from getting that bargain priced horse. That is what they do at all the auctions. They will turn their money over… But a family or horseperson today will not bid very high because they will be supporting the horse there after. I have no idea if any rescues have the ability to help up that way after all the other horses that have been helped this winter already. mar


  2. Christy, let’s hope they do. This just turns my stomach – how can someone be so
    cruel and ignorant. Ugh!!


  3. Yes I too am speechless. Do know how I feel since they are wild not wild. Wish we could keep the KB’s from buying them but I’m sure like you said they are foaming at the mouth.


  4. I agree with Christy. I would shudder to think that these horses which have survived starvation would be sent off to slaughter. I praise the Crow tribe for being the watch people over their horses. Couldn’t they adopt some of them and spare them from a greusome outcome. I would appreciate any news on this. Thanks everyone! Just some information. Palomino sent out an email saying that people who have pets at home may not be able to treat them and would be subject to a fine/law if they did so. The bill is STOPPING S B 697 and to call your representatives about this. She is off to some work in Sacramento with HB. Just passing on the information!!!


  5. Is there NOTHING we can do???????? This makes me ill…………………… I wish I could turn them all loose back to where they belong !!!! FREE………………….


    • Not that it matters to the horses or me, but these are quarter horses, not mustangs. I don’t think setting them free would be appropriate. I’m not being belligerent, because I do wish the mustangs were free, but these are horses which have been bred through the centuries for a different purpose and would not be as hardy as mustangs, and therefore would not thrive as feral animals, as the mustangs do.


  6. This Really Upsets Me!!!!!” Poor Innocent Precious Lives.. They are GODS Creations, with an UnCertain Future. May GOD and Nice People Bless these Amazzzzing Animals..


  7. I think it’s rather disgusting that he’s been charged with so few counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty charges.
    It seems as though charges aren’t laid unless animals die. Animal cruelty doesn’t have to result in death.


  8. I am ashamed about this and all transgressions against the horse and all animals, they bring to us, beauty , unconditional love, wisdom , pride , trust, and show to us freedom in such a way it is the most beautiful thing you will ever see, throughout our daily lives it is so easy to forget all these things, they remind us to be humble and appreciate what we have…………… they never kill to be cruel…………………the horse is the perfect example of all good things all rolled up in one…………….. he stands before us perfect in his creation, he stands before powerful , yet demure, He stands before us showing to us family is the most important thing in our lives , he is willing to die to protect his, he can take away your stress in a heartbeat, he is a healer, no drugs from him……. yet he is fragile, and needs us to be his caretaker, what a small price to pay to sustain such a wonderful ally, what he has done , what he will do in the future is unmistakable, to not be able to see his total worth is to be blind………….. And for those of us that are that blind , Iam Ashamed……… It is true that the breezes of Heaven blow gently between a horses ears…. All this is NOT MOOT>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>


  9. I have not heard of any rescue planned. Just wish we could keep the KB’s out to give them a chance to find homes. Sure wish I could get one. If anyone hears of a rescue attempt please let us know.


  10. Hey everyone, I just called the Bureau of Indian Affairs in DC and was transfered and transfered. Here are some numbers which may be of help. The Crow Agency 406+638-3700 (I just called and no answer) and of course the BLM’s main numbers 800-370-3936 and the Mountana Office 406-896-5013. I don’t know if this will help. I just can’t sit here and twiddle my thumbs. I want to help some how even if it is form far away.


  11. with that many people in attendance, hopefully, the kill buyers will be forced to work hard for their pound of flesh!


  12. The Crow Reservation is 2,226,000 acres, so it’s really disgusting the Crow don’t have it in their hearts to let these horses stay. Their ancestors are probably rolling in their graves. Maybe it’s because the Crow are doing a lot of coal mining. If the Crow let these horses go to slaughter, then the American taxpayers should ask for a refund on the $1,926,909 in FEDERAL FUNDS (that’s your tax dollars) that were given to the Crow Reservation for ABANDONED MINE LAND RECLAMATION FUNDING (contamination clean-up). (Also, in 2006 in the Federal Register, the Crow were expanding their active coal mine, the Absaloka mine, by 1,600 acres).


    • I agree with you Debbie-lets not romance the reservations part in this..according to the original story-leachman had crow res. land leased as well to run his horses on…3 parties failed along the way..leachman who lost his ranch, the people that bought the ranch, and the crow nation who KNEW those horses were out there on their lands one is innocent in this except the horses..who are going to pay the ultimate price..the crow nation will get the blood money for their slaughter


      • I am not going to defend leachman..but if all he cared about was the money..he would have rounded those horses up when he lost the ranch and sent them to billings for slaughter and put the money in his pocket..I don’t think he wanted them slaughtered. And he according to law-had x amount of time to redeem his ranch


      • how did Leachmans 400 horses turn into 800????? sounds like the Crow took this opportunity to rid their lands of a few extra.

        Everyone is making $$$ on this deal! $45,000 to round up is not chump change! and, the Crow make a big deal about the humane round up, done on horse back.

        Yes, this was the humane way to do it, but the end result is less than humane….certain trail to the slaughterhouse!


    • I contacted the Crow Nation and they gave me the telephone number of the Bureau of Indian Affairs 406-638-4411 and speak with Kathleen. The woman whom I spoke with at the Crow Agency – Jamie said that the Indian people keep their horses and that none of these horses belonged to the Crow Nation. I don’t know if this was just a statement or generalization. I dolt her that I didn’t want to think that any of these horses were going to slaughter houses and she said that she thought that all of these horses were going to horse people. Also, that the bidding were starting at $5.00 per horse. That sort of sent my stomach into turning upside down.


  13. Have you ever noticed the timing on these things? Almost seems as though someone is hoping to get us off track. BIA is under the Department of the Inferior.
    Let’s show them that we can save Horses at both ends–KEEP ON CONTACTING CONGRESS for the next two weeks to STOP THE FUNDING FOR ROUND-UPS.


  14. I would love to see Mr Leachman’s counts turned into felonies. But provided he’s found guilty he’ll go bye bye for a few months at least. i’m not even sorry that he lost his ranch since he’s acted so irresponsibly.

    I don’t know what to say about kb’s. It seems so likely that this is their fate.

    I just had a thought. Has anyone notified Madeleine? She has property that she can have horses on. Those two ranches that don’t include grazing lands. She have horses there and no one can say NO to that. Perhaps this is a good place for her start. She can show everyone the stuff she’s made of, what she has in mind. A living breathing example. Then the BLM would have a tougher time saying NO.

    My understanding is that most of these horses were gentled at one point or another; as in there wild. Perhaps they could be used for horseback rides or some such.

    Just a thought.


    • The biggest thing is to stop the KB’s from getting them and also from driving up the prices so good people can’t get them. Too bad many of the good people there can’t get in their faces when they try to get in. Wish they would be banned from this kind of sale. Maybe the Crows would jump in and tell them the can’t bid. Yeah right! They don’t care what happens to them either. Meat or happy forever homes they don’t care as long as they get their money.


  15. The more I read, the sicker I get about this. I just read Fugly and she was actually pretty kind. You all know how she can get. This stupid, so called human, really needs to suffer for every horse that does not find a home. This guy needs to pay the people of Montana back too. I sure hope his neighbors give him nothing but HELL and turn their backs on him. Most of these horses will be going to slaughter and its all because of him. I hope he has nightmares for the rest of his life. There is no reason for this kind of thing. I only hope they go to Canada and not Mexico. Sad day for all these horses.


  16. I just called the Crow Nation Agency and spoke to a woman named Jamie 406-638-3700. She said she didn’t know if there was any plan as of yet and said that she would get back to me. Let’s give it till tonight and if not, then I will call again. I don’t know if I am getting a snow job, but, I did tell her that I am interested with other people who want to help so that the Crow people can keep their horses on native lands. I don’t know, What does anyone else think?


  17. I think there may be a few misconceptions here. My understanding is that the Crow Tribe agreed to round up these horses, which are NOT mustangs, and to sponsor and host the auction. The round-up was filmed, and the Crow wranglers, who pride themselves as talented, gentle horsemen, were very careful and responsible in their handling of these horses. They were checked for brands on hip and neck to be sure that there were no mustangs among them. These are all privately owned [abandoned] horses that were bred by a very irresponsible rancher. There aren’t horses that carry the wild horses genes, so we actually don’t want them turned out into the wild to breed with indigenous wild horses. The Crows intend to monitor the sale of the horses, discouraging kill buyers, and want to keep and train for sale horses that don’t sell to individuals for private use. Of course kill buyers will be there, but the Crow tribe loves and respects horses, and isn’t focused on selling horses for meat- although some of that may happen anyway.

    I think we need to be careful to not be alarmists when it’s not called for, as that diminished our credibility when crying out in alarm IS called for.

    I send wishes for good luck and a long life to each and every one of these 800!


  18. Athena, you were wise to go to the Source. It would be good to know the entire story so that everyone understands what is going on. It is always good to get at the TRUTH.


  19. Sorry for my ignorance but I really don’t understand this particular situation. I thought Indian Tribes were all about the Great Horse Spirit and making them part of their lives and making sure their children learn from the horse. Does this only go for wild ones? Thanks.


    • I think it all depends on the tribe. The Crows did a fabulous job gathering these horses. The BLM needs to take some lessons from them. These horses are NOT wild but domestics, (Quarter horses of course) that have not had any handling.

      The Native American Chief that attended the Horse Slaughter Summit said that their children don’t want anything to do with horses anymore.(That was the reason he was calling for horse slaughter). They want ATV as they are less work. Can you believe that? But from what I’ve seen this attitude is rare. Most do stand up for the horse, wild or the ones they breed. But the economy is hurting everyone.

      But I know the Crow tribe has always been on the forefront to save the wild horses. They even took part in a protest ride last year.


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