In West Virginia and surrounding states, many thousands of horses are turned out onto former and active mine sites or just into the mountains. Through the winter, many will die or come near death. Some weather through. Some are born feral, but the bulk are friendly, domestic horses.
This is not a problem only found in West Virginia. It is found in VA, Ky and Ohio, as well.
Heart of Phoenix has been documenting this issue extensively since the Spring of 2011. Back then,
the denial about this issue was insurmountable, really.
We are trying hard to find a long term solution to solve this problem most people nationwide has no idea exists.
Horses are being turned out in herds across former and active mine sites in West Virginia where they are suffering from far too little food, no vet or farrier care and horrible management.
Often, they are turned out by those who cannot afford them, but other times, they are being purchased cheaply locally or at auction and put on these mine sites because the horse traders lack space to hold them.
They are generally kept in herds of 9-15 mares with a stallion. The mares breed yearly, usually keeping very poor condition in the state of West Virginia (Those in the lusher lands of Kentucky sometimes look relatively good in the spring and summer months) through pregnancy, birth and lactation.
The breeding is indiscriminate except that the traders will shoot, otherwise kill or remove/auction/sell the colts or stallions they do not wish in the herds.
This is a problem so massive, it will require firm local control of the horses being brought in and out, as well as many organizations nationwide, legislative changes at the state level and cooperation of the land corporations and mines.
We are talking about thousands of horses, despite the denials we still hear on the matter (though the denials come far less often these days)
Sadly, the citizens in communities with large feral horse populations regard the horses highly, despite the fact some of the horses are in poor shape and starve through winter, they resent most efforts to remove the horses. Some claim ownership but often have no way to give needed care, some just enjoy riding ATVs out to see the herd, though the conditions are poor, the local communities do not seem to always realize this.
Currently, no rescue organization is legally allowed to go onto these lands and just round up the horses in the state of West Virginia.
Horses are killed and injured via gun shots and on the roadways. They starve through the winter and they continue to breed and inbreed year after year, all while allowing unethical traders / dealers to purchase at auction, turn out and manage horses they feed into the auction pipeline (and undoubtedly the slaughter pipeline, by defult).
We are hoping to keep pushing legal changes to levy heavy fines on those found dumping, claiming or managing horses on these lands at the state level. For horses abandoned on these sites, we would like to see a gelding program where colts and stallion are re-released in the short term, while mares and foals are rescued, as groups are able.
The numbers are too great to control in just a few years’ time, but this is a problem we can and must solve, as the suffering and potential long term harm to the equines is too great to ignore.
There are rare occasions we are asked to help when horses come into towns or populated areas by the local law enforcement teams. The HOP horse known as Rudy is one such example. You can see Rudy’s story on our Youtube Channel.
To Attend any future Meetings on this issue, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Watch the video below for our complete plan. Sign the petition for action HERE!
The photos below are just come I’ve taken or been sent through the years. Notice in the photos where the horses looks decent or healthy, it is summer (though you can see often in Summer, they still do not thrive)
The Feral, Abandoned and Managed Herds of Horses of West Virginia and Kentucky
Raising Awareness and pushing for change since 2011