The Truth about the so called “Wild Horses” of West Virginia and Kentucky mine lands is stark and sad. Graphic Images, so proceed forewarned. . .

The images below are extremely harsh. Scroll on having been forewarned:

In West Virginia and Kentucky (sometimes beyond), thousands of horses have been and continue to be turned out onto former and active mine sites.

The locations are typically remote, difficult to access and are made up of continuous mountainous acres, winding roads, cliffs and coal trucks.

Through the winter, many will die or come near death. Fact is, they can starve even in the summer because reclamation on mountains isn’t intended to support countless equines.

They are hunted for sport or population control. . .bullets, arrows or 4-wheelers running them down.

They come down to lick salt from the roads, as their bodies cannot get what they need on the mountains, and they are hit by vehicles routinely or cause horrible accidents as people swerve to miss them.

Mares give birth year after year. Births go wrong in ways a simple human hand could have prevented, ways adequate nutrition or care to the breeding could have stopped. Inbreeding is rampant. Being domesticated animals for thousands of years, these previously owned horses do not thrive. Some weather through, but it is just for a season, generally.

Of these abandoned horses, some are born feral, but many are friendly, previous trail, show or companion horses left to attempt to make do in ways they were not breed to in areas that cannot sustain them.

All are denied basic feeding, farrier care or vetting and used often to fill the overseas meat market when locals randomly lay claim to some; making a few quick bucks by rounding them up to take to auctions like Sugar Creek for slaughter.

In rural areas of Appalachia where there are few economic opportunities, we have seen these horses marketed of late as tourist attractions:

“Come ride ATVs and look at Wild Horses”

I guess, to some, it sounds compelling, but the truth is much darker and more grim than a moonlight ride with the mustangs of the East.

These are not wild horses. They are abandoned. They are not mustangs. They are domestic horses left without care. They are someones’ discarded equines, used to being blanketed in winter, raking out a poor life on geography unable to sustain them at all.

They are not a tourist attraction. They are a crisis of epic proportions in need of help.

The images below are extremely harsh. Please scroll on, having been advised what you will see may be very upsetting, but these are simply what our horses face in Appalachia when discarded.

They deserve better, West Virginia and Kentucky.

To learn about the details of the Abandoned Horses of Appalachia, click here

(The initial horrifying birth photo was a herd in Ky where a volunteer was made aware of her plight. A vet came on site. The mare was feral-first generation born out there, untouched. The vet eventually, being trained to properly euthanize via firearm, was able to shoot the mare and put her out of the her unspeakable, 9 hour long, misery. Many abandoned horses that end up like this are not lucky enough to have a human call a professional to their aid)


Some words from a lady who has long observed some of these herds and took some of the images shared above:

In the two short years I have seen more dead horses than I ever have 
in my other 25 years of life combined. The part of this post that begs 
not to romanticize these feral horses is something that cannot be 
reiterated enough.

They're not magic unicorns living wild and free. They are abandoned, 
they are struggling, they are dying.

This (one photo) is a foal that was still so young it had not lost 
it's slippers, and yet it was dead and had already been eaten by a 

(Another photo above shows) The skull of a mare called Letty, the 
mother of the colt in the second photo who was stunted and died. 
Behind her is Rosie, an abandoned pony who was pregnant with the 
loveliest foal I have ever met. Behind her stands Dom, their faithful 
and brave stallion who was beginning to starve.

These are only a few of the ones suffering and lost in a small range 
of 70 or so.
There is nothing wonderful about the feral horses. 

It is tragic.

(Another photo above show) A 2 year old colt the size of a yearling 
because he was so stunted from malnutrition. I found his body a couple 
weeks later.


A quick overview, if you’re short on time, of the issue:


Now, What can you do right now?

  • Try to raise awareness and contact your WV, Kentucky and Ohio legislative representatives to request more humane action for these horses in terms of funding to help rescues geld or rescue them and ask for changes to reduce the stray hold times (in WV), as well as large penalties for those dumping or claiming these horses. If in WV, recommend they work with Heart of Phoenix for solutions over the long term on this problem.


  • You can also support rescues working to help the horses by donating, if you’re able.
    If you want to offer a home to a former abandoned mine horse, email and give us your information. When round ups do occur, as long as your references and facility are suitable (send this information), we will contact you to make you aware of the need for homes right away. You will always need to provide transport on your own.

If you have 45 minutes, please watch this presentation:

14 thoughts on “The Truth about the so called “Wild Horses” of West Virginia and Kentucky mine lands is stark and sad. Graphic Images, so proceed forewarned. . .

  1. Bless all of you for caring so much.. This is horrendous and my prayer is all are rescued and removed from this horrible life. I would like to see casino proceeds provide care and round up and processing homes.. the state needs to supply money and heavy fines for the continued abuse and abandonment of these animals

    1. the land is only required to be planted to sustain the natural wildlife. That means the largest thing it is meant to nourish is deer. What you see as “green” is mostly not actually grass, it is native plants that the local wildlife is known to eat.

  2. Where do I start?

    I was wondering what data you have to support some of your statements and if that data involves just West VA. Statements such as “Through the winter, many will die or come near death”. What percentage of the horses are you referring to? When you say “many” is that 20%? 30% etc? We certainly don’t see that kind of death rate here. But we watch over them in the winter.

    “Fact is, they can starve even in the summer because reclamation on mountains isn’t intended to support countless equines.” what does “Countless” mean? If horses are starving it is a matter of what ratio of animals to acres available which have been planted in grasses. What ratio are you using, and what statistics do you have for summer starvation cases?

    “They are hunted for sport or population control. . .bullets, arrows or 4-wheelers running them down.” How often does this really occur? Here in KY we had one horrible shooting case, but it is uncommon. The local people here love the horses, visit them frequently and feed them.When one evil, mentally unstable person shoots horses, that does not make it a routine occurrence that forces the end of free-roaming.

    “they are hit by vehicles routinely”. This statement makes it sound like it is a daily or weekly occurrence. How many horse-vehicle accidents were there in 2019? What numbers do you have to justify the use of the word “Routinely”?

    “these previously owned horses do not thrive. Some weather through, but it is just for a season, generally.” REALLY? So you are claiming that most horses which are free-roaming survive for just a year?? Come to KY and we’ll show you horses that have been there for 4-5 years at least.

    “and used often to fill the overseas meat market when locals randomly lay claim to some;” So you say OFTEN and also that if it happens it is LOCALS. What statistics or evidence do you have on those statements? Yes it happens. But to use the word OFTEN makes it sound like a common occurrence. Those of us who work with the horses, including the LOCALS, quickly stop or report illegal taking up of the horses.

    “These are not wild horses. They are abandoned.” Let me correct you on that… many of them, I would say over 50% where we are from, are truly wild or feral since they were born on the mountaintop and have not been handled. They have not been abandoned.

    “They are a crisis of epic proportions in need of help.” There is a crisis only in the stallions running free. Solve that problem and the herd sizes stay manageable. I would not call that “EPIC”. It’s easy for people to read a facebook post and say “Poor babies” then go about their way. This weekend we had a hands-on skinny horse roundup (6 mares out of a 300-400 head herd) and our LOCALS gave up their Saturday to corral, trailer and foster these horses needing help. Ask people to do that.

    I am Executive Director of The Appalachian Horse Center, we have been watching over and helping herds in KY for 4.5 years, working with LOCALS and having on site presence. No, things are not perfect here. But the horses situations are better now, they get hay in winter, salt blocks and get picked up (with Animal Control approval) to foster when they have an injury, are too skinny, or are in the wrong place (road, someone’s yard, etc.). Yes, we do tours. The money from the tours buys the hay, grain, vet care, etc. We are honest with our guests about both the good and bad of the situation.

    1. I don’t know where you live but I have seen more than one shorting incidence in the last couple years and more horses treated like garbage in this state, than I have seen any where in the US. Kentucky has some of the worst animal care laws in this country and it shows. Kentucky is supposed to be proud of its horses, it most certainly does not show.

  3. so horses are “suffering and dying and need emergency care” but if those “references” arent “suitable” those “suffering dying” animails can continue to “suffer and die”?

    move on boys and girls.

  4. I hope the horses get well care and ppl who are putting them in harms way are fined and not allowed to own a horse again. That’s my opinion.

  5. How could anyone just leave these beautiful horses out there to fin for themselves, to me these people don’t have a concussion, they have to know there’s a real possibility of them starving, they should never be able to own animals again my heart breaks for them , God bless you all for helping these helpless animals.

  6. I grew up in McDowell County WV, Gary (USS) #3 and #14 mines. I recall the horrible screams from large draft horses. They were used to drag logs from old grown forests.
    I witnessed a handler striking a horse, probably because the animals were struggling with the weight. Maybe it was the first time I had witnessed extreme cruelty and knew I was helpless to change the situation. Several of the older mines (may have been independent) still used mules inside. These animals bore witness to cruelty in long, silvery scars across their backs and hine quarters. My parents tried to show me that these practices were necessary for my dad’s job and so, for my warm home and food. It made me sick as a kid and still today. I’m glad there are others who know and are trying to help.

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