Forest Service’s troubling record of wild horse sales and transportation

(August 20, 2020) In an attempt to dump horses at the Double Devil corrals, the Modoc National Forest (MNF) is continuing its reckless sales and transportation practices that began on January 10, 2020 when the Forest Service announced that all of the Devil's Garden wild horses at its facility after the 2019 roundup were available for sale for $1 each.

Then, the Forest Service began providing free transportation across the country to anyone who had an approved sales application and could put together a “load” of horses – which could range from 10 to 35 horses – to a particular region.  According to the MNF, because the cost of shipping horses prevents many people from purchasing Devil’s Garden horses, free transportation is a way to “open up markets” for them.   

These federal “giveaways” – along with the MNF’s insufficient screening of potential buyers – not only undermine the Congressional prohibition on sales without limitations on slaughter but also call into question the Forest Service’s irresponsible placement of Devil’s Garden horses and use of taxpayers’ money. 

Recently, for example, the MNF sold and transported 19 horses, including several foals, to a private couple who is partnering with the nonprofit Love Wild Horses for a rewilding project on 60 acres of property in remote northern Colorado.  

Welfare concerns about this project include inadequate fencing, forage, and shelter; lack of access to deliver supplementary hay in the winter; and regular monitoring of the horses and fencing. 

Since the horses arrived, Love Wild Horse has been “emergency” fundraising for foal proof fencing, surgery for a foal with an umbilical hernia, and vet/farrier care to trim the horses’ hooves because they are overgrown. 

Before the sale of these horses, the MNF did not conduct a site visit because it did not have the funding. Instead, it used Google maps or other GPS tools to confirm the location and size of the property. 

Questionable sales and transportation of Devil’s Garden horses just in July include the following:

  • After 14 horses were delivered to private individuals in northwestern Pennsylvania, several crashed through the corral fencing and escaped.  To date, four horses have reportedly not been caught, and, according to the MNF, it will not assist with capturing them because after title has been granted, the Forest Service has no further jurisdiction. 
  • Another load of 23  horses, ranging in age from 11 to 18 years old, were shipped to northern Florida for the 2020 Devil’s Garden Challenge, a privately-organized competition intended to show that older mustangs can be trained.  One 17-year-old gelding died from colic a few weeks after he arrived.  Participants will be given around 120 days to work with their horses before the in-hand competition, and those who don’t want to keep their horses can sell them. 

About 20 horses still remain at the Double Devil Wild Horse Corrals, and hundreds from the 2018 and 2019 roundups are available at the Litchfield BLM corrals.