Horse News

Castrated, Captive, Former Wild Horses Now Roam Power Ball Winner’s Land

Unedited story by Seth Tupper as published on

“The BLM’s propaganda war against wild horses and burros continues in the unedited article below.  It contains inaccurate numbers, hints on sending the horses to slaughter AND the livestock company “Spur Livestock” who managed this move were caught by Wild Horse Freedom Federation selling wild horses to known kill buyers, click (HERE), which the Feds swiftly swept under the carpet.  If you are still a little qweezy from watching last night’s presidential debate, reading this article first thing in the morning is not going to improve the status of your upside down stomach.  Let the reader beware.” ~ R.T.

photo - Chris Huber

photo – Chris Huber

NEWELL | As an illustration of the lengths the federal government must now go to manage all the wild horses under its care, it doesn’t get much more telling than this: In South Dakota, a Powerball jackpot winner is now getting paid to let the government’s horses roam his land.

On Tuesday, officials of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management showed off the roughly 50 square miles of grassland where a herd of 917 newly transferred wild horses will graze for years to come.

The land is about 25 miles east of Newell, or about 75 miles northeast of Rapid City. The property is owned by Neil Wanless of South Dakota, who bought it with the proceeds of a $232 million Powerball jackpot he won in 2009 (he opted for a lump-sum payment and took home $89 million after taxes.)

Wanless, who is preternaturally averse to media attention, did not attend the tour that was staged for the media Tuesday. His ranch manager, Adam Karrels, attended in his stead.

“He likes his privacy,” Karrels said.

Wanless’ privacy is further protected by his private arrangement with Spur Livestock LLC, which has a registered address in Midland and is owned by South Dakota ranchers Jim Reeves and Lyle Anderson. The government pays Spur Livestock a varying rate of around $2 per head, per day, to ensure that the horses are fed, watered and kept relatively wild and free-roaming. Spur Livestock, in turn, has a private deal with Wanless to keep the horses on his land.

Spur Livestock has another contract for 400 BLM wild horses kept on land near Eagle Butte. During the past fiscal year, the company was paid a total of about $1 million by the federal government, according to the government website

The pastures managed by Spur Livestock are known as “off-range pastures,” because they are home to excess horses culled from the free-roaming herds on vast BLM ranges in places such as Nevada, Wyoming and Oregon.

The BLM has about 67,000 horses on wild ranges, which BLM officials say is 40,000 more than the ranges can support. Some of the excess horses are adopted, but those that are not adopted must be kept somewhere. Increasingly, those horses are being sent to off-range pastures.

There are now 32,000 wild horses in 28 off-range pastures like the two operated by Spur Livestock, and the BLM is adding five more off-range pastures this year. Another 12,000 excess BLM horses are waiting in holding corrals, bringing the total number of off-range horses under the BLM’s care to nearly 45,000.

During the 2015 fiscal year, the federal government paid the owners and operators of all those off-range corrals and pastures $49 million.

The BLM has little choice but to keep all of its horses alive and well, because of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act approved by Congress in 1971. The law grew out of concern about the widespread roundup and slaughter of wild horses in the American West. It now prevents the killing of wild horses on BLM land and some other federal lands in all but a few limited circumstances, such as when horses need to be euthanized because of their old age, lameness or sickness.

Some wild horses on non-BLM federal lands are not protected by the 1971 law, and when those horses grow to unsustainable numbers, they’re often adopted or rescued by private sanctuaries. That’s how the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros near Lantry accumulated many of its 810 horses, which were impounded recently by county authorities after allegations surfaced of starving horses on the society’s ranch. BLM officials on Tuesday’s tour stressed that there is no connection whatsoever between the private Lantry sanctuary and the BLM wild-horse program.

The BLM is trying to stem the growth of its wild herds with ongoing research into population-control methods, including a fertility control vaccine. Meanwhile, the agency has few options but to keep culling wild horses from the ranges and expanding the off-range pasture program. In September, when a BLM advisory board voted to recommend selling or euthanizing some of the off-range horses, it sparked a public outcry and led the BLM to issue assurances that it would not act on the recommendation.

The Wanless land is one of the newest off-range pastures. The wild horses that occupy it were formerly kept on a large ranch near Fort Pierre until the ranch was sold and Spur Livestock lost its lease. Reeves and Anderson needed a new home for the herd and connected with Wanless, who issued a statement through the South Dakota Lottery after his 2009 Powerball win that said, in part, “I just want to go home and ranch and ride horse and check cows.”

There are still some cattle on the Wanless ranch near Newell, but 33,000 of the ranch’s 42,000 acres are now available to the wild horses. They will be moved around to various parts of the ranch throughout the year to avoid overgrazing, and they’ll drink from dams and from a system of pipes and tanks that Wanless installed to bring water from the Belle Fourche River.

Other than that, the horses will basically live free until death. The average age of the horses on the Wanless land is 15 to 17 years, and some are as old as 34. As older horses die, more horses will be brought in, up to a maximum of 1,022 horses at any given time.

All of the horses are geldings, having been castrated upon their removal from the wild ranges. Some other off-range pastures contain only mares, and none have studs.

Not everyone has welcomed the horses. A neighboring landowner to the Wanless ranch, Sharon Herron, has appealed the BLM environmental assessment that allowed the herd to be transferred. That appeal will be heard by the federal government’s Interior Board of Land Appeals and could result in anything from a rejection to an order to remove the horses.

The BLM has tried to address one of Herron’s concerns by installing double-fencing along her border with the Wanless ranch, thereby providing extra insurance against wild horses roaming onto Herron’s land. But she has expressed numerous other concerns, including the cost of the wild-horse program to taxpayers. She thinks policies should change to allow some wild horses to be sent to slaughter.

“The underlying problem is that the USA does not have a slaughter plant to properly dispose of live horses and to market horse byproducts,” Herron has written.

One affected party that seems greatly pleased with the move to the Wanless ranch is the horses themselves. As reporters looked on Thursday, the animals spread across Wanless’ sweeping, scenic grassy and treeless plains, some of them becoming barely visible specks after crossing only a fraction of their new home. About 40 miles to the southwest loomed the unmistakable form of Bear Butte, and behind it stretched nearly the entirety of the Black Hills, with mountaintops such as Crow Peak, Terry Peak and Black Elk Peak clearly visible.

Debbie Collins, an Oklahoma-based national marketing and outreach specialist for the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program, marveled at the landscape.

“It’s not such a bad place to hang out,” she said, “if you’re not on the range.”

17 replies »

  1. It makes me sad and angry that people like Herron exist! I would love to watch wild horses interact from my patio or deck. I can only imagine the thrill in the spring as new foals are born and start their journey at life. But that is a dream. The truth is they are under seige. We are suppose to be the care takers, the stewards to watch over them. Instead we have greedy people looking to make money off of them dead or alive. These horses belong to ALL of US whether they are on public or private land. But to me any connection to a livestock company is RED flag to me! Well, we all know what they do best. Each and every horse should be catalogued and accounted for. This is the will of the American people not the minority like this Herron person. The bottom line still is to FIRE those at the BLM!!Relieve them of their duties and send them back to their private pastures. On the brighter side the horses are still alive. But even private land there should be visitation of the Horses other than the BLM employees. Again, the worry is who will head this out if control Dept of our government? Start thinking very hard and make YOUR recommendations if you have any. The time is right now not two or three months down the line. Wouldn’t it be nice if Catherine headed the Advisory board and was surrounded by like minded people. To all the Horse Warriors out there let’s not let this opportunity slip away from us. The Wild horses, young and old and the little Burros that graze on the lands are depending on US. We must never ever give up!! But be their Voices!!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Here are some possible names to consider for recommendations, from some 2005 legislation authored by R. Grijalva (I don’t know any of them, am just bringing this to light for consideration):

      H.R.3166 – Multi-Use Conflict Resolution Act of 2005 109th Congress

      Sponsor: Rep. Grijalva, Raul M. [D-AZ-7] (Introduced 06/30/2005)
      Committees: House – Resources; Agriculture; Armed Services
      Latest Action: 07/26/2005 Referred to the Subcommittee on Readiness. (All Actions)

      Multiple-Use Conflict Resolution Act of 2005 – Establishes a voluntary grazing permit and lease buyout program for commercial livestock operators on federal land. Sets forth land priorities if funds are insufficient to meet all buyouts.

      Provides for: (1) voluntary donation of grazing permits; (2) county transitional payments; and (3) permanent retirement of grazing allotments which have no valid grazing permits or allotment leases.

      States that a permittee or lessee shall maintain a lease for the remainder of its term in instances of voluntary nonuse or less than minimum use.

      Sponsor: Rep. Grijalva, Raul M. [D-AZ-7] | Cosponsor statistics: 11 current – includes 7 original

      * = Original cosponsor
      Cosponsor Date Cosponsored
      Rep. Woolsey, Lynn C. [D-CA-6]* 06/30/2005
      Rep. Moran, James P. [D-VA-8]* 06/30/2005
      Rep. McDermott, Jim [D-WA-7]* 06/30/2005
      Rep. Kildee, Dale E. [D-MI-5]* 06/30/2005
      Rep. Lee, Barbara [D-CA-9]* 06/30/2005
      Rep. Davis, Susan A. [D-CA-53]* 06/30/2005
      Rep. Blumenauer, Earl [D-OR-3]* 06/30/2005
      Rep. Marshall, Jim [D-GA-3] 07/18/2005
      Rep. Napolitano, Grace F. [D-CA-38] 07/19/2005
      Rep. Pallone, Frank, Jr. [D-NJ-6] 07/27/2005
      Rep. Kucinich, Dennis J. [D-OH-10] 07/29/2005


  2. Here are some notes from a few years ago (Not saying this is happening at the new Wanless facility but any “management” that involves Spur Livestock/Anderson Construction is highly questionable) :

    BLM keeps things hidden but from what I have found, Spur Livestock (also known as Anderson Const.) has two long-term holding facilities for our wild ones that BLM has contracted with – Mission Ridge and Whitehorse, both in South Dakota with a combined capacity of 1,400 wild horses.
    Per FOIA documents of the Twin Peaks and the Calico BLM wild horse captures of 2010, at least 38 of these wild horses at the Mission Ridge facility ALL DIED ON THE SAME DAY. Of course these and many others were actually sold – as Ms. Coffey proved with the documents and her investigation.
    Then add in other wild horses from other HMAs that were shipped to Mission Ridge/Whitehorse that must have “died” that I do not have data on but I have no doubt that there were many others that were sold and reported as “died” and this has been going on for years. Our wild ones are sent to BLM approved holding facilities where they are sold by the truckload and then the BLM sends them more and on and on – very convenient for BLM and profitable for the facility owners and absolutely deadly for our wild ones.
    If anyone believes that BLM sends our wild horses to facilities to live out their lives in a pleasant retirement pasture – then they are only fooling themselves. BLM has been doing this “disappearance act” with our wild ones for many years, Don’t fool yourself into thinking that the top of the pile BLM employees don’t know what happens because it is thanks to them and their facilitation of these wild horse and burro “disappearances” that it happens at all.
    Why doesn’t the Department of Justice file charges against the BLM for these illegal activities? Because the majority of the BLM Wild Horse and Burro program employees would all be in prison … from wranglers clear on up to the highest paid executives.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. If only we could believe this! But – NO 1 – all geldings – no family groups anymore. No. 2 – Spur Livestock? Really? No. 3 – NO OVERSIGHT at all. ON & ON & ON!
    GG’s comment above of 38 wild horses dying on the same day? Come on , folks – how naive are our bureaucratic “representatives”? Oh wait – thats not being naive – thats being practical PER THE BLM.
    Actually – the thought of the BLM majority of employees going to prison? Not exactly a nightmare, is it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Maggie, it occurred to me that 38 horses is about one semi load, if some are youngsters and foals.

      I’m also curious if anyone ever learned about any horses dying in these two holding areas during the massive blizzard in SD a few winters back. I searched but could find out nothing, despite these being publicly owned horses. Since many died in that storm even at ISPMB it would be hard to believe none died in these LTH areas.

      Liked by 1 person

      • A semi load? Well, it makes sense (blm sense) then. How many “deaths” are no more than another truckload sent to slaughter!
        You’re right – I remember hearing about lots of cows after that blizzard – and many horses or foals at ISPMB – strange there was never anything put forth about the horses in those holding pens. But then – unless someone (advocate) sees something – we probably never would know, right?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Maggie, the LTH areas are pastures, not pens, as I understand it, but again, when they are on private property there is no or very restricted public access so we cannot know what happens there. In the case of that blizzard it is highly probable a lot of LTH horses also died but I could find nothing on this. How simple and inexpensive it would be to require game cameras in LTH watering or feeding areas! This small step would go a long ways towards restoring some trust all around.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Icy, I realize the LTH are pastures – but remember the feedlot disaster when they removed horses from one of the LTH pastures & stuck them in an actual feedlot setting? I guess the last count was 75 or 80 horses dead – sounded mainly like there was very little caretaking going (surprise!) & the quality of feed was not good. I really find it hard to believe all of the LTH wonderful pastures are actually that wonderful. But then have become much more pessimistic over this whole mess. Incidentally, read Karen Sussman’s letter on wild horse & burro site. So what IS the real truth – if we havent heard it already?


  4. They need to go retrieve HORSES from KILL PENS TO HELP THEIR #’s _ SAVE OUR WILD HORSES! WHY ARE YHEY STIL LYING bout#’s?????THEY’VE BEEN CAUGHT! Jig is up! Busted! Srill plan to kill MORE WILD HORSES!!! Plez test the water & plant trees4 them!! IF he doesn’t REALLY CARE about HORSES then THEY shouldn’t be trusted THERE Dont assume they will b cared for properly! When did WILD AMERICAN HORSES become livestock????*LIVESTOCK ALL GOES TO SLAUGHTER!!!! NOT OK 4 THESE AMAZING TREASURES2B cared for the same CUZ they AREN’T!!WE CANT TRUST LYING BLM B4. OR. NOW!!! Trust that

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Notice the difference in privacy protection policy

    This notice was canceled, BUT….notice the Terms of the Contract.

    ISSUED 7/11/2013
    Document No. L13PS00528 Document Title Long Term Holding Page 15of 58
    L13PS00528 Long Term Holding
    4. Restriction on disclosure and use of data:
    Offerors that include in their proposals data that they do not want disclosed to the public for any purpose, or used by the Government except for evaluation purposes shall mark the title page with the following legend: “This proposal includes data that shall not be disclosed outside the Government and shall not be duplicated, used, or disclosed, in whole or in part for any purpose other than to include in contract award.” Other pages should reference title page statement. Or any other restriction.

    BLM Seeks Public Comment on Environmental Analysis for Wild Burro Gather in Central Utah

    Before including an address, phone number, email address, or other personal identifying information in any comments, be aware that the entire comment-including personal identifying information-may be made publicly available at any time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Seriously, how many subcontractors for the government are able to privatize their information – from us or the government! But the BLM just hands that privilege right out at the beginning. THEN we have to be aware (!) that any comment for PERSONAL info we give will be made public at any time! Lets see – we, the taxpayers, dont have the right to keep out info private BUT these contractors – who are entrusted with OUR wild horses & burros – DO have that right!! Sounds like the same “rules” that apply or dont apply to grazing allotment leasors!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Isnt it interesting that the horses & burros are too many to be on PUBLIC land – but yet all this private land is available (at a price) where they can “live out their lives”! Only if they are separate – either mares or geldings – and their real families gone forever. No place for comments on that ariticle, I guess.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Maggie, it probably pays the private landowner more to keep wild horses on their own land and get paid 12 months a year per head than to run their own livestock there. Getting paid by taxpayers to keep wild horses while getting taxpayer subsidies to graze livestock on public lands looks like a pretty tidy business model.

        Liked by 1 person

      • True – if only all of us had the available land for these animals – wonder – would the government pay US to care for them?? Of course I’m being sarcastic. Look at the mess Madeleine Pickens has now!


  6. Maggie & Icy-
    I think you are aware that not all BLM long term holding facilities are “pastures”. Take a look on google earth at the Bruneau facility in SW Idaho. From what I can find, it is a feed-lot owned by Simplot (the McDonalds french fry potato billionaire family) who up until they made their deal with BLM – actually had cattle in that feed-lot facility. So, not only is it a filthy feed-lot, but you and I pay about $5 per head to keep our wild horses there and as of August there were over 2,000 wild horses reported there and the ultimate capacity is 3,500 on only 80 acres. That life (if you can even call it that) is no place for our wild horses to be. And when Bolstad repeatedly whined about the cost of holding facilities he knew EXACTLY what we are paying Simplolt/Bruneau and he also knew EXACTLY the conditions they are kept in. I imagine you have seen (and smelled!) a feedlot before but many people have not. Disgusting and so so sad.
    Take a look on google earth about 3-4 miles west of the town of Bruneau, Idaho.
    The coordinates are 42 degrees 52′ 52.11″ N by 115 degrees 51′ 46.58″ W


    • Agreed, GG. I guess anything fenced could be called a pen when the forage runs out, really.

      What a sad irony to see the Bruneau pens are just a scant few miles west of the Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument, an internationally important reservoir of America’s horse fossils, and none too far from where the bones of Kennewick Man were found. I visited there a few years back specifically to explore the evolutionary roots of our horses (and thus all others).

      One supposes now you could make a grand tour which included the fossil beds, the small museum in Hagerman, then a nifty side trip to see 2,000 political prisoners held in a modern-day concentration camp because they are believed to be non-native species. Worse, anyone can visit the fossil beds but access to the living horses we all own is restricted to non-existent. Unbelievable.

      Known mostly for its fossils from the late Pliocene epoch Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument contains one of the world’s richest known deposits of fossil horses, Equus simplicidens, thought to be a link between prehistoric and modern horses.

      In 1988, the Hagerman horse became Idaho’s state fossil and Hagerman Fossil Beds became a national monument. The Monument contains the Hagerman Horse Quarry, a national natural landmark, recognized as one of the six most important sites in the world regarding the fossil history of horses.


Care to make a comment?

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.