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 predator. (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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.