Room to Roam: 200 Wild Horses on 2,000 Acres
The herd is in sight as we crest the hill. One horse looks up, alert -- then five, then twenty, then all ears are on us. They start to move, making the decision to leave in an instant. In unison, like a school of fish or a flock of birds, they head out at an easy trot or a full gallop. They move with purpose, communicating subtly in their own way, with the twitch of an ear, the glance of an eye, a snort, or toss of a head.
There's nothing like wild horses moving at a full gallop. It's something worth seeing, worth hearing, something that you can feel inside of you, something you never forget.
The main herd of over 200 wild horses roam the rolling hills of Montgomery Creek Ranch. The herd is comprised of several distinct groups.
Pilot Valley/Toano Herd
This is the original herd of 170 horses at MCR. They originated in the Pilot Valley/Toano Herd Management Area in southeastern Nevada. We also call them the Winecup horses, as some of them are descendants of ranch stock that had mixed with the local mustangs. They make up the largest group of horses at MCR. Mostly duns, sorrels, and grullas, this herd has some older horses, but most are between the ages of six and fifteen years. They are very handsome horses -- the younger ones have been easy to start in training, and many have found good homes already. The older horses are happy to live out their lives in sanctuary at MCR.
This group of horses originated on and around the Ft. McDermitt Paiute -Shoshone Reservation in northern Nevada. They were captured in a controversial round up by the tribe in August 2013. The tribe sent 450 horses to a livestock auction in Fallon, Nevada. Legal action saved 150 unbranded horses from the auction. (Sadly, 200 branded horses were sold in lots by the pound at the auction; most ended up going to slaughter in Canada.)
The McDermitt herd at MCR includes 25 unbranded stallions (now geldings) that were pulled from the auction, and 13 branded, pregnant mares with foals by their sides, purchased by Ellie after the auction from a local kill buyer in Fallon. The McDermitt horses have beautiful color, from paint to palomino, buckskin, grey, bay and black. They are tall with refined heads and show the influence of the quarterhorse and thoroughbred lines used in the tribal breeding programs. The McDermitt yearlings and weanlings comprise the majority of our young horses now available for adoption.
Deer Run Horses
These horses were rounded up by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) near Dayton, Nevada after they wandered out of their protected range in the Pine Nut Herd Management Area (HMA). The local community, in coordination with the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, organized an effort to keep the family together and found a home for them at MCR.
These horses are smaller than typical mustangs. The Deer Run family is led by Luna, who is now 25, and her daughter Diva. Side-by-side, the two white mares have kept their Deer Run family of 10 together at MCR.
Virginia Range Horses
This group includes 12 horses who were captured by the Nevada Department of Agriculture from the Virginia Range located in and around Reno, Nevada. These horses are descendants of the horses that inspired Velma Bronn Johnston, aka Wild Horse Annie, to launch her successful national campaign to pass legislation (Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971) that established legal protection for America's wild horses and burros.
The Virginia Range horses at MCR are all handsome bays. Although they arrived in separate groups at different times, they quickly found each other and are always together, forming their own band within the big herd. These are the friendliest "wild" horses on the ranch. They love carrots and will readily take them from your hand.
The ranch is home to a diverse group of BLM mustangs. They all have the distinct freeze brand on their neck and originated from a variety of situations. Our two most famous BLM mustangs, Bravo and Echo, were featured in AMERICAN MUSTANG The Movie. Some of the others were rescued from adoptions that didn't work out when the horses had difficulty adjusting to domestic life.
There are 50,000 BLM mustangs that have been rounded up and removed from the range and are currently stockpiled in government holding facilities. Their fate is uncertain.