Horses should not be “at fault” for trying to survive wherever they are. Special interest/human actions endanger horses, and these actions are the bigger “problem.” – Debbie
SOURCE: Lexington Herald Leader
Horses roam free on old surface mines in several Eastern Kentucky counties. Here, a mare and foal stand near a road. Photo courtesy of Kentucky Humane Society.
By Bill Estep
Horses have roamed free for decades on old surface mines in Eastern Kentucky, but with unchecked breeding and owners apparently turning out more mares and stallions in recent years, the population has increased to the point of concern, according to animal-welfare advocates.
The horses can endanger themselves and drivers by wandering onto hilly roads, and face untreated health problems and potential food shortages in the winter.
“There’s a problem that is growing,” said Lori Redmon, head of the Kentucky Humane Society. “There are some sites that are currently not able to sustain the horse population.”
The horses roam on mined, unfenced areas in several counties, including Knott, Breathitt, Leslie, Martin, Magoffin, Perry, Floyd, Harlan and Bell.
In surface mining, companies blast the tops or sides off mountains to uncover coal seams, then plant vegetation in reclaiming the sites. That has created tens of thousands of acres of relatively level land where horses can graze.
It’s not clear how many horses there are on mined sites in the state’s eastern coalfield. David Ledford, head of the Appalachian Wildlife Foundation, said he’d heard an estimate of 3,000 to 5,000, but noted there have been no formal surveys. People working with the Kentucky Humane Society saw more than 500 horses in five counties during a count in March 2014, according to its website.
Some of the horses have owners who see to their needs and collect them to ride. Some are tame and readily approach strangers.
In other cases, however, owners are taking advantage of free grazing, with no agreements to let their horses run on reclaimed land, animal advocates say.
Some of the horses were turned out by owners who could not afford to care for them or no longer wanted them. Many younger ones were born on the mines and have never been handled by humans.
Frank Clemons, a deputy sheriff in Breathitt County, said there is a misconception that all the horses on mined sites are abandoned.
Clemons said horses on a large reclaimed mine near his home have owners who take care of their animals and have agreements with landowners to let the horses roam the site, Clemons said. “The horses back there are as fat as mine,” Clemons said.
It’s true that many of the free-roaming horses are healthy, but some suffer from malnutrition and untreated health problems.
Karen Gustin, head of the Kentucky Equine Humane Center in Jessamine County, estimated 30 percent of the horses she has seen on reclaimed mines don’t look to be in good shape. And even some of the ones that look good could have damaging parasites, Gustin said.
The center cares for abandoned or surrendered horses and tries to find homes for them. It has taken in more than a dozen horses from Eastern Kentucky the last three years, Gustin said. Gustin said some of the free-roaming horses are emaciated, and many lack vaccinations and proper care for their teeth and feet. “They can be in horrible physical condition,” she said.
Many of the mined sites have adequate grass for the horses in the summer, and year-round in cases, but there are concerns about shortages in the winter at some sites.
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