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Horses victims of bad economy

Karen Woodmansee
Nevada Appeal Staff Writer

As the economy slips and the cost of caring for horses rises, some owners are turning their animals loose, hoping they will survive in the wild.

But Wild Horse Preservation League President Bonnie Matton said domestic horses left to fend for themselves will likely end up hit by cars, killed by predators or dead of starvation.

“They have no survival skills at all,” she said. “They’ll graze, but they won’t have the protection of the bands.”

Darrell Peterson, brand inspector for the Nevada Department of Agriculture, said he has picked up six domestic horses in the past few months that were turned loose.

Rather than being adopted by wild bands, domestic horses are often attacked.

“It’s not very often that you find a domestic that is not being torn up or kicked out of the herd,” he said. “They can’t compete for food; they’re not used to that.”

Peterson said he can spot a domestic horse ” its behavior sets it apart.

“If you drive up and a horse heads for your truck, chances are it’s a domestic horse looking for something to eat,” he said.

Unclaimed domestic horses are sold at the livestock auctions in Fallon and could become saddle horses again or end up being transported to Mexico or Canada to be sold as meat.

Peterson said horse owners who can no longer afford the animal should contact a wild horse advocacy group rather than turn it loose, which is illegal and can result in a fine of up to $1,000.

A $500 fine was assessed to one man who turned his horse out at Carson River Park in February, according to Jeff Engle, animal regulation officer for Carson City.

“He said he couldn’t afford it anymore,” Engle said. “If someone can’t take care of their horse, we don’t want them to just dump it. It is probably not going to survive very well out there.”

A 4- or 5-year-old gelding that was found roaming the streets of Carson City is being held at the animal control division while the city looks for its owner.

The bay horse has white hooves, a blaze down its nose and a two-inch scar under its left eye. He was friendly and approachable, Engle said, and the shelter will try to find its owner.

“If it is livestock, there is a lot of paperwork,” he said. “It’s not like a dog, where you keep it four days and then adopt it out.”

Engle said Carson City horse owners who have to find homes for their animals should contact the shelter, and they will work with the horse rescue groups to find a home.

“The economy is bad, people have to move and can’t take an animal,” he said.

The cost of caring for a horse is a lot more than its feed, said Stan Kolvus, owner of S&W Feeds in Carson City.

“You’re probably going to spend anywhere from $200 to $300 a month just on feed, another $75 to $85 on supplements, and another $30 to $40 a month on shots and worming,” he said. “And then there’s the farrier,” which can cost $45 for trimming hooves and $90 for shoeing, Kolvus said.

Boarding can cost $150 a month and up, he said.

Matton, of Mark Twain, said she has been contacted by people who want to find homes for horses they can no longer afford.

Her group has found safe haven for several horses, and said there are other rescue groups out there that can help owners who can no longer keep their horse find a new home for it.

Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at kwoodmansee@nevadaappeal.com or call 881-7351.

Here are some estimates of the cost of keeping a horse, according to Stan Kolvus of S&W Feeds in Carson City.

FEED: $200-$300 per month

SUPPLEMENTS: $75-$85 per month

SHOTS-WORMING: $30-$40 per month

FARRIER: Trim hooves – $45 every 6 to 8 weeks. Shoeing – $90 every 6 to 8 weeks

BOARDING: $150 per month and up.

PRICES

HAY: $15.95 a bale

ALFALFA: $15.95 a bale

OATS: $12.95 for a 50-pound bag

STRAW: $7.95 (bedding – not feed)

Most horses go through several of each during a month

HORSE ADVOCATES

For help in placing or adopting a horse, call:

Least Resistance Training Concepts: 246-7636 or 720-2044 or http://www.whmentors.org

Virginia Range Wildlife Protection Association: 881-2288 or http://www.vrwpa.org

Wild Horse Preservation League: 775-220-6806 or http://www.wildhorsepl.org