The Feral Horse Situation: Beyond the mines, beyond West Virginia


This is very graphic. Please do not scroll to the bottom UNLESS YOU are ready to see something that will infuriate you and break your heart beyond belief.



Today, a HOP officer who lives in Kentucky spent 10 hours trying to get a feral mare help.

She does not own a firearm able to have given this mare relief, so please, as you read, keep that in mind.

She has seen horrors over the years watching a local feral herd try to survive, and she says today, “Do not talk to me about the romantic notion that it is okay to get a bunch of horses who are capable of reproducing and turn them loose on 90 acres.”

This herd has an “owner,” though the person does not rate that title, folks.

As this HOP officer drove by where they are turned out, she saw the mare pictured in this piteous state.

She called the sheriff, but by the time he arrived, the mare could no longer be found.

Our volunteer and her daughter went out again to look for her. These photos show what they saw when they found her. She says, “What you see there is a dead foal, part of the amniotic sac, and her rectum (bowels) pushed outside of her.”

There was no chance of doing anything for this mare besides a humane end, as she was not approachable and the bowels had been out and twisted for too long. They were covered in dirt and damaged.

While they located the mare, the sheriff finally tracked down the land owner who lives in another state and leaves this herd there to see what she wanted done.

Yes, that is outrageous to us, but this is beyond our control.


The mare pictured had broken her leg several years ago and went unassisted until she healed in some cobbled fashion.

No one has been able to get these horses help, though our volunteer has tried many times.

The sheriff came back, and after many phone calls were placed, a veterinarian FINALLY came out.

But again, this herd is entirely feral. It has been generations since they have had real human contact, and this 5 year old mare (who was born here and was carrying her own sire’s dead foal) could not be approached.

The sheriff, the vet and our volunteer tried.


The vet loaded a dart gun with a tremendous amount of drugs. This had no useful effect.

Finally, an appropriate caliber gun was brought out, and the veterinarian gave her the only decent thing anyone could have. . .an end. Fortunately, this vet had been trained in humane euthanasia by this method, and he did an admirable job.

Feral horses are beautiful when running free. They are abandoned domesticated animals.

Our volunteer writes: “In the 5 years I have lived here, one foal has died of a broken leg, this mare broke her leg two years ago and it was left untreated. Another foal died because his first time momma would not let nurse. Had she not been feral, we could’ve haltered her and held her until her paranoia subsided, but it wasn’t possible. Another foal was lost due to a diarrhea type illness. The herd stallion ran through a fence and had a horrific, gaping wound on his chest that went untreated. They are sunburnt every year to the point of being bloody on 50% or more of their bodies. They are inbreeding over and over again.

They are pitiful.”

She adds what echos so true to me, to many others, “Rescue takes more courage than the average person realizes. The horror that we encounter sometimes is beyond imagination.

So today, I and some others, cleaned up someone else’s mess that NEVER should have happened.”

Feral horses exist across the country, but the epidemic in Kentucky and West Virginia and surrounding states is a vast problem.

These horses often are on mine sites, both active and reclaimed, but they exists on all types of lands. . .and sometimes have what some might call “owners.”

Owners are never really charged, like in this case. . .

And time passes while the rescue community, as a whole, does nothing. . .
Most know little about what is going on, and we feel almost powerless when the scope is so vast and the powers that be aren’t really on our side.


2 thoughts on “The Feral Horse Situation: Beyond the mines, beyond West Virginia

  1. Omg this is heartbreaking and infuriating at the same time.. Makes me sick that people left these horses to fend on their own..Owners need to be fined and all animals removed from their ownership

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