Horse Health

Feel Good Sunday: “Where the Wild Things Are: Shannon County’s wild horses captivate locals, visitors”


We hope you’re having a great 3 day weekend and enjoying time with your family and friends.  It’s heartwarming to see that many people appreciate horses in the wild.  Keep getting the word out about the wild horses in the West, and keep the faith.


Su_D01_PulseMain1_0831.jpg Heather Gentry/Courtesy

Heather Gentry’s horse, Rainey, grazes with her favorite goat.  The Ozark National Scenic Waterways’ enabling act requires that the wild horse herds’ numbers stay at or below 50, so the Missouri Wild Horse League rounds up and adopts out yearlings.  Rainey was one of these horses.

They might not have the renown of the mustangs of the American West — they do, after all, have a sports car named for them — or the fanfare of the Chincoteague ponies — they inspired a series of beloved children’s books — but the wild horses in Eminence, a river town in southeast Missouri, still are something special.

Jim Smith, who owns Cross Country Trail Riding and is a charter member of the Missouri Wild Horse League, said there are five bands of wild horses that roam the area.

Some might quibble over the “wild” designation. Because their ancestors were domesticated animals — according to local lore, they are descended from horses set loose by their cash-strapped farmers during the Great Depression — “feral” is a more accurate term.

But even so, they live just like the wildlife native to the area.

“They’re wild-wild,” Smith said.

For longtime residents of the area, the horses are part of everyday life.

“My granny lived to be a little past 100. All my years of growing up, she told me stories,” Smith said. “They ran their stock outside, and the wild horse herd would come by and pick up their horse. Sometimes it would be a month or two before they got it back,” Smith said.

John Mark Brewer, secretary of the Eminence Chamber of Commerce, said the horses are a favorite part of the scenery for visitors and locals alike. He likens area residents’ backroading to find the horses to city dwellers’ taking a Sunday drive to look at “the nice neighborhoods.”

As evidence of their farm-horse ancestry, these wild horses are compact and sturdy, and many bear the coloring of an appaloosa stallion that escaped and joined the herd decades ago.

“A lot of them will be born black as a crow, maybe with a blaze face or a white foot, but then as they get a little older, they’ll go to graying out, and they’ll turn plum white,” Smith said.

Though small — the most recent census data put Eminence right at 600 people — the town’s location on the Current and Jack’s Fork rivers makes it a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Brewer said on weekends there might be between 10,000 and 20,000 visitors who come to float the rivers, hit the trails and camp along the many creeks and gravel bars near the rivers. And for many, the sight of the horses is a special bonus.

“They’re a majestic symbol of freedom people search out because it gives them the feeling or the notion of that freedom. It’s one thing to see a horse in a field, fed and watered all day. It’s another to see a domesticated animal in the wild,” Brewer said.


15 replies »

  1. When I found my theme on WordPress there was a really interesting blog about wild Spanish horses in Spain and opportunities to survey and research their wild behaviour. Guess if feral they still create a herd in the same way as wild ponies.


  2. Kind of nice to read about several bands of wild horses that are cared for – NOT managed! I do find fault with “feral”. If they have lived wild for several generations – seems to me that makes them wild!
    Watching the videos that Geri posted from 3 years ago – I believe Little Books was one of the areas that has had roundups in the past 3 years. Looking at the stallion that went thru a period of being really poor but then came back & looked good again – all I could think was if the BLM saw him when he was so thin – he would be one of the first to be put down! Certainly proves that these horses if left alone can survive!


  3. Wow. Just watched the propaganda video put out by the BLM, “The Story of America’s Wild Horses and Burros” on YouTube. What a load of bullshit that was. They would have you believe that they are the biggest horse lovers on the planet and everything they do is to help the horses. They never run the horses too hard or injure them with their helicopter roundups (REALLY?!!). They work very hard to make sure that the horses have enough food, water and shelter, as well as vaccinating and worming them to keep them healthy. They spend a lot of time and resources to ensure an adequate count of the wild herds and consult with the scientific community to provide the best management options (REALLY?!!). It might be a somewhat entertaining piece of fiction if it wasn’t so tragically misleading and such outright lies. Even though a man by the name of Craig Downer points out in the video that the sheep and cattle are given 82% of the allotted forage on HMA’s, and the wild horses, burros and all other wildlife get what’s left, this is never addressed by the BLM. And of course, all of the rangeland damage is the fault of the horses. I’m so angry that they would put out this garbage, over 55 minutes of it, making themselves out to be such staunch advocates for the wild horses. Sorry, I know this is supposed to be Feel Good, Sunday, but I just happened across this video today and was appalled at the blatant lies and false concern shown in this video.


  4. This article didn’t make me “feel good”, we live in Shannon County on the Jack’s fork river and know this Jim Smith. He is the Jim Smith that owns the Cross Country Trail ride and brings in thousands of riders several times a year to trash the rivers and trails. He was also conspiring with Elmer Beachy and David Rains to kill all of these wonderful wild horses. He was pushing to get the horse slaughter house open in Gallatin, Mo. and wants the horses gone so that it won’t interfer with his business. He is the biggest liar and as deceptive as any of the BLM people. We want our wild horses free not “Managed” (which means slaughtered). Mark my word they will kill all of the wild horses in Shannon County for the sake of money.


  5. It would be good to know how these herds are managed and genetically viable so we can all learn. I was just out in Wyoming observing the wild bands of the McCullough Peaks region where they are using PZP, a reversible birth control method that allows the mares to give their genetic input into the herd when they are about 3 or 4 years of age. This costs tax payers $106 a horse versus the insane amount of money the BLM has gone through these past couple of years. I just don’t understand why they want to wipe these bands out so completely! Are they truly that ignorant. Why can’t they see a viable solution that is cost effective and humane. Who or what is truly driving this assault? Frustrating.


    • Welfare ranchers, oil and mineral interests, possibly timber interests, and of course the BLM themselves are driving this assault. They all stand to make money in one way or another from this assault on the wild horses and burros. And the BLM advisory board for the wild horse and burro program is mainly composed of people who have some involvement in livestock ranching. But they would have you believe that there is no conflict of interest there. Horse advocates believe that they are truly ignorant (about wild horse management and healthy range management), but they are probably smart as foxes when it comes to figuring out how to make money by using taxpayer money to bankroll their illegal activities.


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