How our wild horses ended up being sent overseas to Germany

While the BLM has still refused to make arrangements to let Carol Walker and Ginger Kathrens go to take photos (for free) of wild horses to help facilitate the needed adoptions of over 1,000 wild horses on private property at Axtell, Utah, the BLM shells out millions of dollars a year to Mustang Heritage Foundation to facilitate adoptions, including, for the first time that we know of, shipping wild horses overseas.  Over 2 months ago, Wild Horse Freedom Federation filed a Freedom of Information Act to find out who actually applied for and bought these wild horses, so we’re happy that, coincidentally, the BLM finally came out with the PR piece below on their Oregon facebook page.  While the BLM continually touts Mustang Heritage Foundation activities as saving money, remember that the wild horses & burros would cost nothing grazing on the 22 million acres of their federally protected public lands that have been taken away from them. ( And, if Sandra is a TIP trainer, they get about $1,000  for training each wild horse.)  And, don’t get me started on subjecting wild horses to a 9-hour-long international flight. –  Debbie

Source:  BLM OREGON facebook

Homeward bound: America’s wild horses arrive in Germany
Bureau of Land Management – Oregon· Thursday, January 25, 2018
Saying goodbye at the airport is always the hardest part for Sandra Clark.
After the final embrace with each loved one, often a soft pat or rub of the head, she waits for the plane to take off and waves from the ground.
Clark, though, is a private horse trainer from Germany who now runs a ranch on the East Coast. She is waving farewell to American wild horses bound for new homes in Europe.
“It’s always emotional, I always cry like a baby,” said Clark by phone from her ranch about two hours inland from Savannah, Georgia.
“You’re the first human who touched them, you’re the first human they trusted,” explained Clark, who grew up in Bavaria and moved to the U.S. about a decade ago.
The mother of three is the main reason why wild horses removed from the overcrowded rangelands managed by the BLM are being sent to qualified owners in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.
For wild horses in Oregon, 2017 marked the largest overseas transfer in the history of the Bureau of Land Management.
Wild horses run at Rackettown Mustangs, Sandra Clark’s ranch near Savannah, Georgia, that is leading the way in finding overseas clients for the animals. Photo courtesy Rackettown Mustang
Wild horses 101
“People want wild horses,” said Wendy Rickman, the BLM wild horse facility manager in Hines, Oregon.
She should know. Rickman has 26 years of wild horse experience and was the first female wrangler for the BLM, she said.
“There’s lots of homes out there if you just open up the doors,” wrote Rickman via email after a weeklong hunting trip. “Maybe it’s not in America.”
Whether that new home is in America or Deutschland, there are also lots of wild horses.
There are 73,000 wild horses and burros living on publicly owned land across 10 states in the West, according to a 2017 BLM estimate. For a healthy rangeland, that number is supposed to be 27,000.
Another 46,000 animals taken off public land are in long-term corrals and pastures. The BLM spends $50 million every year feeding animals in off-range facilities.
“We don’t want them to go to long-term holding,” stated Rickman.
Every single horse that is transferred into private ownership represents a savings to the federal government and subsequently the American taxpayer.
The trick is reaching that willing wild horse owner.
A wild horse from the Beatys Butte herd in southeast Oregon arrives at the Frankfurt International Airport in April of 2017. Photo courtesy Victoria Shamraeva, Equus Photography

Meeting Maximus

The first wild horse Clark ever met was from Wyoming and named Maximus.
Back in 2013, a nearby friend asked her to drive over and meet the horse.
Maximus bucked off a previous owner and generally didn’t trust humans, Clark said.
“When I walked in, he pinched his ears, turned around and walked away,” she recalled, “And I said, ‘yep, I want him.’”
Clark, who started riding lessons twice a week as a 5-year-old, thought she knew all there was to know about horses but quickly learned that wasn’t the case.
With Maximus, her first strategy was to let him free in a 30-acre pasture. She knew the horse didn’t want to be with her, so she had to express her understanding of that and build trust.
Part of why she was initially drawn to the challenge of working with wild horses was to become “a better horse person,” said Clark, but also “because my heart and soul is into it.”
Eventually she could feed Max from a bucket, and then walk with him, and finally, ride him with no issues.
Now he’s a 14-year-old best friend from Wyoming that lives at her ranch.
“He would never hurt me,” Clark said confidently.
This was all just the first act for Clark, who since 2015 has adopted dozens of wild horses, mostly from Oregon.
The entrance sign for the BLM wild horse corrals in Hines, Oregon, Jan. 31, 2017. Photo by Greg Shine, BLM

A new front for wild horses

When it comes to adopting or purchasing a wild horse, it is the opposite of the lawless Wild West.
It takes time, money and strict accordance with the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971.
In the case of adoptions, the BLM even holds onto the horse title for a year, giving the agency time to check on the animal and ensure it is receiving proper care.
Animals that have already been put up for adoption three times, or those that are 10 years or older, are available for outright purchase.
Clark has used both methods — adoption and purchase — and in 2017 she took in 25 Oregon wild horses.
The large-scale acquisition is only possible via a new program called Storefront, a partnership between the BLM and the Mustang Heritage Foundation that caters to elite trainers.
The initiative is aimed directly at increasing adoption rates by making more gentled wild horses available to potential adopters.
There are 14 Storefronts in the U.S. and Clark’s is the only one sending wild horses overseas, according to Casey Graham, program director with the Mustang Heritage Foundation.
Graham called Storefront an “exclusive program” only available to “qualified, vetted trainers.”
Capacity and location are also large benefits to the Storefront program, said Robert Sharp, a manager of the BLM wild horse program in Oregon.
Every Storefront needs to be able to handle at least 10 horses and serve as a pick-up, drop-off location for other trainers. In the case of Clark’s ranch in Georgia, called Rackettown Mustangs, it is much closer to her German clients than the BLM corral in southeast Oregon.
“I think it’s a great program because it exposes these horses to easier physical access for the general public looking to adopt,” said Sharp.
“It’s pretty neat hearing what these mustangs mean to them in Germany,” he added.
Krystal Johnson manages the BLM wild horse program for the entire eastern half of the country. She has two teams to cover 31 states.
A Storefront like Rackettown Mustangs, with an established trainer and a facility big enough for a semitrailer full of horses to turn around, is huge for reaching more local markets, she said.
“It takes a certain person to really have the experience and the facility to be successful,” said Johnson.
A trainer with a wild horse from the Beatys Butte herd in southeast Oregon after performing at the first German Mustang Makeover in August of 2017. Photo courtesy Sylvia Hengelein, Photography-SH

Mustang Makeover, German style

Oregon wild horses live in some of the most remote places in America.
From the quiet, desolate range where they were born, it is hard to imagine that these symbols of the West would one day be sold for thousands of dollars, sent on a 9-hour-long international flight and finally be performing in a packed stadium.
Lena Walter was one of the approximately 15,000 people to attend the first German Mustang Makeover last summer.
“I just fell in love,” said Walter via telephone from Rackettown Mustangs last fall, where she was choosing her own Oregon wild horse to adopt.
Walter is from Giessen, a community about 30 miles north of Frankfurt in the middle of Germany, and said her heart helped her pick a 4-year-old black mare from the Beatys Butte herd in Oregon.
“Her eyes have touched me a lot and I want to give her a good home in Germany,” she wrote later via email.
The German makeover show was modeled after the popular Extreme Mustang Makeover events in America, where trainers compete for prizes and get 100 days to go “from wild to mild” with a horse.
A trainer with a wild horse from the Beatys Butte herd in southeast Oregon after performing at the first German Mustang Makeover in August of 2017. Photo courtesy Sylvia Hengelein, Photography-SH
Fifteen of the 16 wild horses used in the German Mustang Makeover were from Oregon.
Horse lovers like Walter need an expert intermediary trainer like Clark to acquire horses legally and get them fit to fly without compromising their wild characteristics.
“The challenge was to have them still wild,” said Clark, who retains a small German accent but also peppers her English with Western slang like “y’all” and “I reckon.”
“I will help everyone who wants to adopt, regardless whether here or in Germany,” she said.
Michael and Silke Strussione, creators of the German Mustang Makeover, said “people went crazy” for the Oregon wild horses.
The couple partnered with Clark and explained via email what it was like for the new German trainers to receive their horses from the animal lounge at the Frankfurt Airport. “You see them, you love them — they feel it, you’re a team,” wrote Michael Strussione. Preparations for the 2018 German Mustang Makeover, including the selection of new Oregon wild horses, is already well underway, said Strussione.
A wild horse from the South Steens herd in southeast Oregon runs near Frenchglen, Oregon, May 23, 2017. Photo courtesy Chuck Martin

From Europe, to Europe

Some American wild horses are descendants of domestic horses brought over by European explorers in the late 15th and 16th centuries. Over the last 500 years or so, the horses successfully adapted and become part of Western culture, hence the 1970s act of Congress protecting them and the immense overseas interest in these living, breathing symbols of America. “I think there is a certain kind of fascination with the great American West,” said Madison Shambaugh, aka Mustang Maddy, the professional horse trainer and wild horse advocate who was a featured guest at the German Mustang Makeover. “It’s expansiveness, beauty and wilderness is captivating, and to many, the mustang is a representation of this magical place,” added Shambaugh. The overseas interest in American wild horses isn’t necessarily a brand new concept, either. One ranch in Baker City, Oregon, has been sending wild horses to Denmark for at least a decade.
The team at Mustang Heritage Foundation said they have received interest from people in New Zealand and Argentina.
Also in the summer of 2017, a 5-year-old mare from Beatys Butte was trained in California, exhibited at an Extreme Mustang Makeover event outside Seattle, and purchased by a famous dog musher in Finland. “Oregon horses have been popular for years and years,” recalled Rickman of the BLM. “This is just the first one that is this big – this amount of horses,” she added.
Sandra Clark trains a horse at her ranch in March of 2016. Photo courtesy Rackettown Mustangs

Now it’s y’all’s turn

Back at the airport tarmac, as the cargo plane carrying Oregon wild horses to Germany was taking off last year, Clark streamed her farewell wishes live on Facebook. “I did my part, now it’s y’all’s turn in Germany!” she said. “Here they come!” The long process to get wild horses into good homes, or “forever homes” as Clark likes to call them, can take years. First the horses are gathered and given a medical inspection, then the adoption process begins, which in Oregon includes an online video showing each horse running in the BLM stables. The popular videos, viewed by thousands in Europe alone, coupled with the new Storefront program, are creating a digital marketplace of sorts and exposing new potential horse owners to wild horses.

Sandra Clark poses with Maximus, a wild horse from Wyoming, at her ranch in November of 2016. Photo courtesy Rackettown Mustangs
Then Clark’s phone rings and the work begins. “She’s one of those people – she’s not just a trainer, she actually cares for the horses,” said Rickman. “The work that she’s done has been huge in helping us,” said Johnson of the BLM Eastern States Office, adding that Clark’s international connections have “opened up more people’s eyes for the potential of the animals.” It’s all about that “forever home” for Clark. She will train a horse as much or as little as her clients want, as long as she knows they will go to a good home. “That’s why we’re doing this – to know that these horses will have a loving home,” she said.

10 comments

  1. 18 U.S. Code § 641 – Public money, property or records

    § 641.
    Public money, property or records

    Whoever embezzles, steals, purloins, or knowingly converts to his use or the use of another, or without authority, sells, conveys or disposes of any record, voucher, money, or thing of value of the United States or of any department or agency thereof, or any property made or being made under contract for the United States or any department or agency thereof; or
    Whoever receives, conceals, or retains the same with intent to convert it to his use or gain, knowing it to have been embezzled, stolen, purloined or converted—
    Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; but if the value of such property in the aggregate, combining amounts from all the counts for which the defendant is convicted in a single case, does not exceed the sum of $1,000, he shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.
    The word “value” means face, par, or market value, or cost price, either wholesale or retail, whichever is greater.

    https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/641

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As always, it’s about money. Whatever happened to letting wild horses just be wild horses? It’s shameful what this administration is doing. The BLM at Hines, OR also wanted to spay wild mares who were also very pregnant until the advocates relentlessly called, wrote them and U of Oregon a few years back. Thank you for all the work in getting this information through FOIAS.

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  3. And right now – for past week or so – the BLM is running heavily pregnant mares & newborns in Nevada! Removing mares when they might possibly have newborn babies hiding! Apparently the Nevada roundup is always at this particular time of year – when mares are close to dropping foals. They have been warned that this is the case – but continue with helicopter roundup!

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  4. Is there any followup on the lives of these exported horses? I’ve known some horseowners in Germany who came to the states and were shocked how much room we allow even domestic horses. Theirs often live only between their stalls and (very large) indoor arenas, only rarely being ridden outdoors or allowed galloping room in any pastures. Since US adoptions come with many contingencies and witholding of title for at least a year, what (if any) followup is done for these horses? Can they be resold again once exported, including for slaughter since horsemeat is a delicacy there?

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    • There are no compliance checks once wild horses are SOLD and titled. The BLM sale log indicates 21 of these wild horses were sold to American Mustang Germany. It has been the policy of BLM not to give title to a horse until a year after adoption. But it also seemed to be a policy not to sell wild horses overseas, so their policies seem to be changing. I know that many PMACA (Private Maintenance and Care Agreements) have poor, if any, compliance follow up. It seems that the public doesn’t know specifically what Mustang Heritage Foundation is doing, or plans to do, until after it happens.

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      • Thanks, Debbie. Does this mean American citizens who adopt must jump through all the hoops and wait for one year to obtain clear title, while German citizens do not?

        Rough calculations show that using a BLM expenditure of $60,000,000 for horses in holding (which is a conservative estimate of costs) and spread over 50,000 captive horses, this comes to $1200/captive horse/year. Roundup and processing costs of course are additional, but what this suggests is any adoption fee to non-citizens (read: non taxpayers) should at least attempt to recover these costs. Meaning fees for adopters in other countries should be $1,200 per horse MINIMUM, plus any monitoring costs following their adoption. Surely these branded horses could also be microchipped before shipping overseas, and a requirement for regular scanning reports added.

        Do you know what the fees actually are for adoptees in foreign countries? For US citizens it is usually $125 and comes with all the restrictions mentioned.

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  5. We had a Killer buyer who in the 90s used to come to Danville Sale Barn when it was the horse sales years that All the notorious killers frequented. Now since closed to All horses being sold since the plant closure. The fact is……there was a specific female killer buyer who would buy horses to sell to……..GERMANY! There was a picture of her and a not on the back that said don’t sell Out of Country horses to her, they SHIP to slaughter. She would buy the horses at the sales and directly from breeders by claiming Not to be a KB and they would get homes. A contact in Germany confirmed she sold Directly to slaughter there with only 3 percent of the horses finding a home in their country. Now I know Not every horse is going to slaughter but the killer buyers are sneaky. Simply put Kentucky has gotten around the ban from China stopping live equine shipments by simply changing the term from pets and livestock in their state to livestock only to circumvent China’s own law against pet shipments to China being banned. They simply find other sneaky paths.

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