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Horses Looking for Hope Bring Hope to Others
 By mosquito   •   16th Feb 2010   •   2,708 views   •   4 comments
Rescue HorseMustangs are part of America’s heritage, but they weren’t meant to be. They aren’t native to America. Beginning with runaways from the Spanish Conquistadores, and with centuries of mixing with other escapees from early settlers and horses let loose on ranches, their ability to survive has helped them carve out a niche in US history. At times, thousands of wild horses roamed across western America, from Oregon to the Mexican border.

But not everyone loves mustangs. For centuries settlers and ranchers waged a war with these horses. They distracted their own horses and lured them away. The competed for limited water and grazing with cattle and sheep. They tore down fences to preserve their own unmarked territories. As a consequence, mustangs were routinely rounded up, and for many years they were slaughtered for pet food.

Now, the 30,000 or more remaining mustangs still struggle, but they have some powerful voices speaking for their preservation. They roam free on Bureau of Land Management properties, protected by being the property – technically – of the US Government. To keep down the arguments with ranchers, their numbers are carefully controlled, but now it’s done humanely through a program of roundups, auctions, and adoptions.

But things are still tough for these horses. Without the space they used to have, foraging for food and water is a constant battle. With less room to move, herds come into conflict more than they used to, resulting in more fights among colts and stallions for mares and territory. Increased tourism exposed these horses to dangers from trash, overused trails, and a lack of the privacy they crave. Their reputation as being difficult to handle has made adoptions slow to get going and still hard to manage – in short, there’s always more horses than homes. More than 6,500 mustangs need a home every year.

The BLM has found a creative solution to the problem, and to a few other problems too. Mustangs form roundups across the western states are being sent to a few selected prisons, where the prison inmates get an opportunity to start the horses’’ training. When the horses are ready, they go to a public auction, ready to handle and ride. Prisons in Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Oklahoma, and hopefully California take in over 3,000 horses for training every year.

The program had its skeptics when it first started. Would the horses be safe? Would the prisoners get hurt? What if the men had no experience with horses? How could this possibly work? Well, it does. A core group of experienced trainers take each horse, and the inmate it is paired up with, through a carefully managed training program using natural horsemanship methods. Using natural horsemanship means the horses feel more comfortable, the inmates are safer, and a bond can grow between each man and his horse. Each partnership can last up to three months, while the inmate and the horse learn to trust and respect each other, and the horse is ready for a new home.

It’s not just the horses that are getting training this way. Natural horsemanship helps the prisoners learn respect for the horses, and in turn respect for the world around them. They form a friendship with their horse, and for some of them it’s the first time they’ve ever had a true friend. The results are amazing. Studies show that 68% of prisoners reoffend after they are released only 34% of the prisoners in the mustang program do. Why do they relate to the horses so well? Some say it’s because they both know how it feels to lose your freedom, and the inmates respect that for the horses, it’s through no fault of their own.

There are other benefits too. Once the horses are trained, not only is it easier to rehome them, they can cost more money. Part of the benefit of the prison program is that the inmates go a way toward earning their keep by raising the adoption fee for the horses from $150 for an untouched animal to $3000 or more for a well trained one. Many of the horses go on to other programs too. One of these is the Assurance project in New Mexico, where the former prison horses are handled next by troubled teenagers in a program to prepare the horses to move on to a therapeutic riding program for the disabled. Others are moved to a program to teach them how to be search and rescue horses in the wilderness, others join police and patrol services.

The program works. The horses find a future, instead of spending years in BLM adoption centers waiting for a home. The system saves time and money. The prisoners too find a new way of seeing the world, one that will help them stay out of trouble in the future. One inmate in the program talked about what his horse had taught him: “Out there are always personality conflicts, small- mindedness and hot tempers. In here I learn about patience and consistency. I learn to blow out a candle instead of causing an explosion.”

Want to know more? Check out www.blm.gov, and www.mustangs4us.com/prisonhorses.htm
Horse News More In This Category:  Horse Stories      Horse News More From This Author:  mosquito
PuddleDuck  
I watched a show about this once, I think it's a great idea. This article was very well written too.
  Feb 16, 2010  •  1,933 views
 
WillowTree  
I think the BLM is corrupt. They are planning to remove 14000 horses this year, which equals about 45% of the total wild horse population in America. Sure the numbers need to be kept down so that the land can support them, but BLM is going about it the wrong ways. They lie to the media constantly.
  Feb 16, 2010  •  1,930 views
 
Welsh Paradise  
I think it's a fabulous idea. I love my mustang, they are amazing horses.
  Feb 17, 2010  •  4,602 views
 
Uphill Climb  
Mustangs are great horses. I lease a 5 year old mustang mare. It is a lot of work to maintain her with her needing daily riding or lunging. She is just a sweet heart. It good for Inmates to train a horse, It teach responsiblity, someing hard to find in today's kids and teens
  Feb 18, 2010  •  1,927 views
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