Coming in with a first place ribbon was wild horse advocate Terry Fitch’s photograph of “Dueling Band Stallions” capturing the top honors for the People’s Choice Amateur award. The photo was actually placed in fourth position by the judges in the category of “Extreme Action” but public demand and interest rocketed it to a solid first in “People’s Choice”. Dueling Band Stallions was shot last year in the Pryor Mountains of Montana where Fitch was visiting the herd of wild horse stallion “Cloud” made famous by Emmy award winning cinematographer Ginger Kathrens.
Over the past several days a dreadful news story has broken about one of the largest Equine Rescues in the world, the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, willfully and without explanation allowing the care of some 1,000+ horses deteriorate to the point of starvation and death. Well funded but grossly mismanaged the organization unraveled with the horses, who were promised a comfortable and painless retirement, getting the bitter short end of the stick.
There aren’t a lot of wild horses left in Colorado, but a small herd of mustangs fifty miles north of Grand Junction just got a reprieve. Besieged by legal challenges of its plan to relocate “excess” horses from public lands to private holding facilities and pastures, the Bureau of Land Management has abruptly withdrawn its latest proposal to remove the West Douglas herd — an isolated but hearty group of a hundred horses near Rangely that’s been targeted for decades.
Before I took a trip to the Habitat for Horses the morning of Jan. 29, my heart broke as I read about 500 to 700 malnourished horses on a foreclosed Montana ranch.
Five years after a cow dubbed the “Unsinkable Molly B” leapt a slaughterhouse gate and swam across the Missouri River in an escape that brought international acclaim, the heifer has again eluded fate, surviving the collapse of the animal sanctuary where she was meant to retire.
Fourteen hours after leaving Missoula, Montana, my plane landed in Houston’s Hobby Airport. None of the locals thought the 50 degree weather they were experiencing was warm, but I stood happily outside in shirt sleeves waiting for the shuttle. I doubt that I will ever complain about the cold weather of South Texas again, even on the rare day that it reaches freezing. Walking through frozen pastures at -10 is enough to convince me that the South is a place to call home.
Back home in South Texas, when the thermometer reaches fifty degrees, the ice, if there ever was any ice, disappears off the roads. Back home at fifty degrees, folks are wearing heavy coats and gloves, shivering before they walk into the mall. Western Montana is different. For two days now, with close to fifty degrees by mid-afternoon, the roads up in the mountains have turned into thick slush ice, the pastures are the same, and every step of man and beast is threatened with the possibility of a major fall, but the people are showing up without coats and in a few cases, in shorts. Things are different up here.
Hot Springs MT (SFTHH) – Eighty horses are receiving much needed veterinary care at a foster location while volunteers continue to move 650 llamas, two camels, several pot bellied pigs, donkeys, bison, cattle, goats, and sheep to safe locations for veterinary evaluation and future adoption campaigns.
High winds and drifting snow, laid over the top of pure ice. That’s Western Montana in the winter. The mountains, the trees – it all looks so wonderful from the inside of a warm car. The beauty fades away quickly when the car door opens and the first steps are taken, but those first steps are necessary to get the job done. It’s being pretty self centered when those steps aren’t taken and the beings that are living outside don’t have a way to feel warmth or enjoy life.
To look at the website – http://www.mtanimalsanctuary.com you’d almost think that these animals found a little piece of heaven, and I’m sure those who sent their animals here believed it also. Beautiful mountains, a flowing river, forever views and it what now seems like a far too typical caretaker – employees that flat out don’t give a damn about animals in pain.