Equine Rescue

Hay Donated for Starving, Captive Wild Horses on South Dakota Ranch

as published on The Rapid City Journal

“Given the ranch’s estimated population of more than 600 horses, Watt figures the two truckloads amount to only three days of feed…”


Donated hay bales are showing up at a South Dakota ranch where numerous wild horses have reportedly died of starvation-related causes.

The horses are at the rural Lantry ranch of the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros, in north-central South Dakota about 110 miles northeast of Rapid City.

According to a former employee who went public last week, a lack of control over the ranch’s ballooning horse population taxed the organization’s pastures and finances to a crisis point.

The former employee, Colleen Burns, said 30 or more horses have died since June for lack of grass, hay and veterinary care. Her photographic evidence shows badly emaciated horses, some dead and some dying, and some with overgrown hooves or grotesque injuries or wounds.

Representatives of several other wild-horse organizations are now stepping in to help, including Susan Watt, executive director of the Hot Springs-based Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary. Watt said $6,000 in total donations from her and from representatives of Return to Freedom and Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue, both in California, enabled two truckloads of hay to be dropped off at the Lantry ranch by Monday morning.

Given the ranch’s estimated population of more than 600 horses, Watt figures the two truckloads amount to only three days of feed. She encouraged anyone wishing to donate money, hay or pasture space for the ailing horses to contact her at 605-745-7494 or iram@gwtc.net.

“Let’s make a happy ending to this story,” Watt said Monday.

Watt said she’s willing to accept the donations or put contributors directly in touch with a hay seller. She’s also working to establish a website where people can donate to the cause, she said.

Additionally, the Dewey County Sheriff’s Office announced Saturday on its Facebook page that the state’s attorneys of Dewey and Ziebach counties are working to set up a fund for the feeding and care of the Lantry horses. The sheriff’s office said it would share further information about the fund when it becomes available.

Dewey County Sheriff Les Mayer said last week that he has investigated the ranch and turned over his findings to the two state’s attorneys. One of them, Dewey County State’s Attorney Steven Aberle, declined Friday to comment on the status of the case. A veterinarian for the state Animal Industry Board has also investigated the alleged neglect of the horses and is advising the state’s attorneys, according to State Veterinarian Dustin Oedekoven, who was interviewed Monday by the Journal.

Burns, the whistle-blower who alerted authorities to the dire situation on the ranch, was fired last week by ISPMB President Karen Sussman after Burns went public with her concerns. Burns was originally given two weeks to vacate a house on the ranch that she said was part of her compensation package; since then, Burns said, she has been told to vacate the home this week. Burns is mulling options for her future and said she hopes others will step in to help the horses once she’s no longer able to observe them.

Watt said she hopes to be part of the ongoing solution, helping not only with hay but possibly with veterinary care and with assistance in formulating a long-term management plan to get the ISPMB back on stable footing.

Burns said she’s not convinced the ranch can be turned around.

“If the organization itself is not completely restructured with basic business management functions like a budget and especially with a focus on herd and ranch management,” Burns told the Journal, “I’m not sure this won’t happen again.”

20 replies »

  1. Hocus-Pocus. There is limited land for these horses and far too many on that land. There is no forage to be had in the middle of a South Dakota winter.


  2. Its a matter of moving on now. I hope that enough people get involved to aid at the farm and provide food and vet care for them. It may not be too late for some. I will try and help.


  3. The only happy ending will be to place all these horses in different homes, geld all those stallions, and shut this place down.


  4. Im still Angry. The fact this should have been a public issue stands. Before anyone reaches the disaster point say when horses have no hay before they lose weight….shout for help. The future has to be where people Ask for help BEFORE THE CRISIS….YELL FOR HELP BEFORE ITS THIS BAD. The real failure was when it first began so lets take this as a warning to ask Before it gets bad. She could have asked any organization to give advice or assist
    You cannot run a life saving service if you dont know when to recognize you Must change to survive. Remember Farm Aid? People we knew lost everything but those who begged and pleaded and banged on doors until help arrived stayed where they were to change. and make things better. Sussman is not alone. Many ranchers have been in binds but you have to see when it isnt working Before its too late. Lets create an environment where people can admit its failing and we can rebuild anew or disband and get a new perspective. These horses should not have died….Lets make certain other advocates and people can ASK before its too late and accept it just didnt work out instead of allowing death to occur.


      • One board member did speak up and it seems was either ignored or overruled (the minutes should be public information for a 501 c 3) and then resigned, according to the whistleblower’s report.

        I agree this whole sad situation was too far advanced either with or without board knowledge, and though some outreach was made it was insufficient in scope to save those horses, and probably more are too far gone now. Why, for example, was there no article on this site until it was a death report? I check this one often since it seems to have the most current information about our wild horses.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Of course it’ll happen again. The fact they fired her for announcing the problem says they don’t care. If they cared they’d have been out there asking for help. Clearly the people in charge have to go. They do not have the animals welfare at heart and that is supposed to be what the place is about!


  6. I’m still having a problem grasping what happened to 30 of ISPMB’s wild horses and Karen Sussman’s responsibility in the horses’ demise. Ms. Sussman always appeared to be in full control and confidence of the fate of the horses she loved. She presented the beautiful animals on her web site pages and informed the reading public of their ancient history on our continent, as well as research into horse behavior which informed us all. She is an authority to be respected along with others. But now, this is a shocker.


  7. This should not have happened!! If I was there I would have made so much noise no one could have ignored me. Shame on anyone who let this happen! Everyone please help.


  8. I guess a story about 600 horses at ISPMB NOT starving wouldn’t attract much attention especially with a video to prove that???


  9. I have no idea what is the truth is here. They (ISMBP) sent out an emergency e-mail plea for donations for hay, and I did send what I could afford to benefit the horses in need. I have never heard anything negative about this org. in the past… But MANY HUGE THANKS for the other equine non-profit orgs. who jumped right in to provide much needed hay, & $$$ for emergency vet care. Heroes For The Innocent Horses, NO DOUBT!! I sincerely hope that this situation is not similar to the THREE STRIKES RANCH…… but we must be a voice for the innocent ones, who have no voice…. many tears here……


  10. From FB, conflicting information on starving horses at ISPMB. The new photos all look good, but no explanation is offered about the source of photos of starving horses, or the location of the pit, or any necropsy results. Are “none” starving since they already died or were euthanized by staff, or are the photos and testimony of three people on site (including a board member) false? Ms. Burns earlier article is still up on the ISPMB home page, too. Much to be alarmed about it seems, from all quarters.


    Wilderness Mustangs
    Yesterday at 3:30pm ·
    The herds at the I.S.P.M.B.(The International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros) are some of the most important herds in America; for reasons unknown financial hardships have come to a head and there are animals starving from the inability to keep the organization afloat on a lack of public donations or other problems. Please remember what the I.S.P.M.B. has DONE for the preservation of these Wild Mustangs and Burros since 1960…we have them to thank for their dedication and personal sacrifices in saving America’s Wild Horse Breeds that would have been gone forever without them. Thank them and help out with a donation, charity that comes from the heart and a thank-you for all they have done for so many years. ❤
    DONATE HERE: http://www.ispmb.org

    International Society for the Protection of Mustangs & Burros ISPMB Thank you, Wilderness Mustangs!
    2 · October 5 at 4:07pm

    Amy Winkler So are all these pictures in response to the reports of the horse's not being taken care of properly? The pictures are beautiful.

    International Society for the Protection of Mustangs & Burros ISPMB Thank you Amy! We have NO starving horses but we have wonderful horses to adopt and we would love for you to have one!
    1 · Yesterday at 11:53am


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