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National groups join efforts to spare horses

FARGO - National organizations working to save mustangs are lending a hand to find caring homes for wild horses that will be rounded up at North Dakota's Theodore Roosevelt National Park and sold at auction.

Wild horses
Stallions vie for dominance to lead their own bands in the wild horse herd at Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Special to the Forum
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FARGO - National organizations working to save mustangs are lending a hand to find caring homes for wild horses that will be rounded up at North Dakota's Theodore Roosevelt National Park and sold at auction.

The Cloud Foundation and Legacy Mustang Preservation are two groups that are joining forces in an effort called Operation Badlands Mustang Rescue, made up of volunteers who have been spreading the word of the Sept. 28 auction of more than 100 park horses in a campaign to spare them from slaughter.

"We're just trying to provide the safety net so none of these animals get bought by the kill buyers," Ginger Kathrens, executive director of The Cloud Foundation, said Friday.

In partnership with the affiliated Legacy Mustang Preservation organization, the groups have pledged to buy as many as 24 of the horses, if no other private owners step forward, to save them from being sent to a slaughterhouse.

The Cloud Foundation, based in Colorado Springs, Colo., works to save mustangs removed from public lands in Western states. It has raised money to transport horses it buys.

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Legacy Mustang Preservation, based in Louisa, Va., will train the horses and find adoptive homes on the East Coast.

The involvement of the two organizations, each with a network of supporters, will add significantly to social media campaigns striving to find buyers who want to buy and train wild park horses, said Marylu Weber, who has tracked the horses in the park for almost 15 years.

"It is a huge deal," she said. "Ginger Kathrens is probably the face and the voice of wild horses in the world because of what she's doing for wild

horses."

Kathrens has made several documentary films about a pale palomino stallion named Cloud from the Pryor Mountains of Montana that aired on PBS "Nature."

The Cloud Foundation is working to make removal of horses from public lands unnecessary, through better management practices including birth control, and rescue removed horses.

Western mustangs are popular among horse lovers on the East Coast because they are smart, sure-footed and hardy, Kathrens said.

The horses from the badlands of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, descendants of Plains Indian ponies and pioneer stock, also have an appealing history, she said.

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The National Park Service should be actively working with wild horse supporters to prevent surplus horses from ending up in the hands of "kill buyers" working for slaughterhouses, Kathrens said.

"Their responsibility doesn't end with the rounding up of the horses," she said, adding that the park should bar kill buyers from the auction.

"Our purpose is to get the horses that nobody wants to bid on except kill buyers," Kathrens said, adding that her organization will not bid against private buyers who want the horses as companion animals.

The horses are slated for sale at the Wishek Livestock Sales in Wishek, N.D., starting at 11 a.m. Sept. 28. The community is hosting meals and events in connection with the sale.

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