What Happens When a Mustang Comes Off the Range

By Ellie Price

Photo of horses awaiting the chute, by Tara Arrowood

Photo of horses awaiting the chute, by Tara Arrowood

When I first got involved in the wild horse issue and heard about the way the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) provides hoof care to the over 50,000 wild horses and burros at its holding facilities I was horrified. That's because the BLM trims the horse’s hooves while they are flipped on their sides in a hydraulic chute.

My perspective changed when I started taking care of over 200 mustangs at Montgomery Creek Ranch (MCR) and became the proud owner of a hydraulic chute myself.

Caring for Wild Horses

Horses in the wild will travel many miles each day for water and food. The terrain is usually harsh— rocky and expansive. Even though MCR’s 2,000-acres is a lot of land, it's not large enough or rough enough for the horses in our care to wear their hooves down naturally like they would in the wild.

Twice a year we bring the MCR horses into the pens to trim their hooves. Recently we posted a video of our horses being released back out onto the ranch after the trim. We received thousands of questions about why and how we were trimming the horses’ hooves, so I’d like to explain.

Our team rides out on horseback to bring in our 200+ mustangs. They are sorted into small groups and eventually, one by one, each horse is loaded into the chute that squeezes them and flips them onto their side while three farriers nip and grind down their hooves with electric sanders and saws. Every horse has a microchip and some have BLM and other brands. Our team identifies each horse, administers the vaccines and dewormer, while a vet stands by on-call. Each horse takes about 7 minutes to do, and we try to make a stressful process as easy as possible for the horses and ourselves.

It’s an all-hands-on-deck operation that takes several days.

At MCR, we celebrate every mustang that we can save from a kill pen or government corral. While they have lost their freedom and their families, they retain their resilience and their wildness. To see them running free at MCR, forming new bands and making friends — just being horses — makes our work worthwhile. While we continue to fight for better protections for the wild herds still roaming on our public lands, come October our team will be ready to bring our horses in for the Fall Trim at MCR. For a video of our process, please click here.