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Copyright 2010 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor;


Thirteen Yearlings Abandoned in Wyoming

By Dorinda Troutman, RMR Staff Writer


June 2009 Issue


     Are thousands of horses across the nation being abandoned due to the closure of U.S. horse slaughter plants and the downturn in the economy, as news sources, politicians and internet blogs report?

     There has been a verifiable increase in neglect cases and in owners seeking to give up their horses at little or no cost to individuals or sanctuaries. Some of the increase is due to the increase in the public’s awareness and reporting of neglect, and of pressure on authorities to act on neglect.

     According to veterinarians interviewed, there has not been a large increase in numbers of horses euthanized (see article this issue on cost of euthanasia and disposal).

     It has been very difficult to verify most horse abandonment rumors. Many news reports have not had names, places and dates in them, and articles have quoted previous articles without verification. In one case, a widely quoted 2008 news story about horses being abandoned in Kentucky was proven to be untrue.

     In our April issue, we asked readers to let us know of any verifiable horse abandonments in the eleven states that RMR is distributed in. The following two stories are the result of that query.


     Howard White, who lives on a ranch outside of Pinedale , Wyoming , called on May 4 to tell us about thirteen abandoned horses that he had seen for a week or more in the fall of 2008 on BLM land one mile south of Daniel, in west-central Wyoming .

     “They were young, thin and unbranded,” White says. “I called the local brand inspector.”

     Tawny Roberts, Wyoming brand inspector, went to take a look and to see if she could find out who the owner might be.

     “They were all in pretty poor condition, with one worse than the rest,” says Roberts, who owns a number of horses that she and her husband use on their ranch and in an outfitting business. After ascertaining that the horses had no brands, and that the owner could not be proven, she called her boss, Gary Zakotnik, the district brand inspector.

     Zakotnik contacted the Pinedale BLM office. Jessica Pattee, Range Manager Specialist with the Pinedale Field Office, says that they got the report that the horses were in the Rye Grass area on BLM land. They were considered “estray horses,” and so she then went through the usual impoundment process, which took about a week to ten days.

     According to Pattee, the BLM did not wish to take custody of the horses due to the many wild horses they were already responsible for, and so an agreement needed to be ironed out with the state. After that was accomplished, a capture plan was decided upon, and the horses were caught and immediately turned over to state brand inspectors.

     “Most were young and not in great shape,” says Pattee. “One was white, two were black, a couple were paints and the rest were bays with blazes.”

     Both Roberts and Pattee say that these were the only horses that they personally knew of that had been abandoned, although Roberts says that she has only been on the job since July 2008. Lorraine Keith, Public Affairs Specialist with the High Desert BLM District that takes in Wyoming and Nebraska , says that she too, knows of no other horse abandonments on BLM land in the district.

     According to sources, both agencies believed that they had found a probable owner of the abandoned horses, but they could not prove it.

     Zakotnik, the district brand inspector supervisor, took the horses to the fairgrounds in Rock Springs to hold them before selling them as estray horses under Wyoming law. He says “we were lucky that the annual horse sale was only a week away, so we entered them in the sale, and all were sold.”

     When asked if he had seen an increase in abandoned horses in his district in the last year, Zokotnik says that he had. “There have been about ten to twelve abandoned horses in our area. One brand inspector in my district came home to find two horses tied up in his yard. According to other brand inspectors, there have been a case or two in Eastern Wyoming , where people have left their horses when they’ve moved away. I’ve got two to three horses running with wild horses right now in my district that I haven’t been able to follow up on. One stud that is currently running with a band of wild horses on BLM land has a roached mane.”


Estray Horses

     According to Wyoming [and many other states] law, “estray” means “any animal found running at large upon public or private lands, fenced or unfenced, unbranded, and whose owner is unknown or cannot with reasonable diligence be found, or that is disputed, neither party holding a bill of sale.

     “A person gathering unclaimed horses from the range must obtain a permit from the owner of the property and that permit must be presented to a brand inspector. Unclaimed horses shall be sold.”


We hear lots of rumors about abandoned horses, but few verifiable facts.

If you know of horses turned loose on public lands, or abandoned on private property and sale yards, please contact:

Rocky Mountain Rider Magazine with the details

Call 800-509-1537 or 406-363-4085, or email


Back to 2009 Articles Page      Back to 2010 Articles Page

Copyright 2010 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor;



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