Operation Fish Springs Rescue: Complete

(February 28, 2020) The Fish Springs wild horses live on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land near Gardnerville, NV. They are beloved by the community, considered an important ecotourism resource and followed on social media by tens of thousands of people across the world. 

SamsonLast year over Thanksgiving weekend, Fish Springs wild horse supporters were devastated to learn that one of the most iconic bands in the herd had been trapped and removed. The band, led by Samson, a beautiful and respected red roan stallion, included Samson’s brother Jet, and four generations of horses. The BLM trapped the horses on private land after the property owner complained and requested their removal.

In December 2019, the community learned that 15 more wild horses from Fish Springs had been captured by the BLM in October. Beloved and well-known stallions, Rocky, Shadow and Rusty, and their families were no longer free. They were incarcerated at the Palomino Valley Complex holding corrals outside of Reno where Samson and his family had also been taken.

Rocky and Fam

Rocky and his herd, Photo by Nancy Florence

While work continued behind the scenes to encourage the BLM to release these beloved horses back to their home on our public lands -- and over 140,000 citizens signed a petition calling for their return -- a plan was also hatched to secure the horses’ future in the likely event that the BLM would not return them.


Rusty and his herd, Photo by JT Humphrey

When the BLM scheduled an online adoption auction that included the Fish Springs horses, a coalition of groups and individuals came together to ensure that the horses would stay together with their families. It took a village -- and a coordinated bidding strategy -- to secure all the horses in the auction. AWHC worked in partnership with the Pine Nut Wild Horse AdvocatesFreedom Reigns, Montgomery Creek Ranch, Skydog Sanctuary, and a local family to successfully adopt the horses for placement in sanctuaries.

This week, Operation Fish Springs rescue was complete when the horses headed for their new forever homes:

  • Samson and Jet (full brothers from stallion Blue and Valentine), Old Momma, Apple, Dumplin’ and Dumplin’s colt Sam will live out their lives at Skydog Sanctuary’s beautiful 9,000-acre ranch in Oregon.
  • Rocky (son of Socks and Old Momma) and his family Luna, Luna’s colt Jimmy and the beautiful mare Elisa (read the moving story of her namesake here) are together forever at Freedom Reigns Equine Sanctuary’s gorgeous 4,000-acre sanctuary in California.
  • Rusty (son of stallion Blondie) and his band Belle, Belle’s offspring Luke and Amber, and Cinnamon (daughter of Dumplin’) are will also stay together at Freedom Reigns.

  • Shadow (also the son of Blue), a gorgeous blue roan stallion (now gelding) will also live at Freedom Reigns.  Because the BLM deemed him "dangerous" following a fight with Rocky, the agency would only allow a sanctuary to adopt him. 

  • The beautiful mare Camille and her offspring Fury and Jackson are being given sanctuary by a private family with property not far from the Fish Springs Range.

The removal of these treasured families has devastated the local community and over 60,000 supporters worldwide. Although their loss on the range is felt daily by residents and the international community of followers, these horses now have a future with some amazing sanctuaries where their stories will be followed as their lives unfold, never to be captured and removed from their home again.