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PHOTOS: Wild horses come home for the holidays

The wild horse herds that were removed from the Pahrump Valley earlier this year are finally home, and just in time for Christmas.

“Over several weeks and then months, the continuous effort made by private individuals, the Liberty Projects, Oatman Burros Rehab and Recovery Sanctuary and the BLM made many people’s hopes and wishes come true! They are home!” Victoria Balint told the Pahrump Valley Times this week.

Balint said it was a massive team effort with many different individuals involved and it certainly wasn’t an easy task but the goal of bringing the horses home has officially been accomplished. They are now being housed in safety and comfort at private properties around the valley.

Detailing the background of the situation, Balint explained that the roundup was focused on wild horses that had become permanent residents of the town. This included two horses that regularly hung around the Walmart area, the four which made up the Calvada Eye herd and several others from what was known as “Fred’s” herd on the north side of town.

“For many years, animals have moved into Pahrump during cooler months of the year but would remove themselves to the mountains once desert temperatures began to rise. But due to numerous private properties offering feed and water, they began residing permanently in town over the last four or five years,” Balint said. “This removal happened due to the number of private property damage reports and vehicle strikes happening on Highway 160 and other town streets.”

After the horses were removed, many citizens voiced their concern and their desire to see the horses returned to Pahrump. However, finding a solution was very challenging.

“The situation was desperate and seemed hopeless,” Balint recalled. “Everyone agrees, wild horse and burro management is a very passionate topic and it is sometimes easier to lay blame on others or government entities, but pointing fingers would not bring the animals back.”

Balint eventually connected with fellow resident Anne Swanke, who started a GoFundMe page to raise money to assist with the costs of bringing the animals home and caring for their needs. She also reached out to the BLM and was directed to Wild Horse and Burro Specialist Tabitha Romero, who provided knowledge and support throughout the process of returning the herds to the valley.

While researching local properties for sale that could potentially be used to provide sanctuary to the gathered horses, Balint was then able to connect with JP Hoffman, president of the Liberty Projects and that was when things really started moving. Swanke and Balint became board members for Liberty and developed a business plan and model, assessing the existing and future needs not just of the horses gathered this August but of all future mustangs and burros.

“Recruitment of key stakeholders with professional and team building skills led to all of us working toward our goal,” Balint explained. “It took trusted professionals working with our BLM lead Tabitha to bring our horses home.”

The process started with Fred and Rosie, two of the best known of the gathered horses, who needed medical attention and were ultimately transferred into the care of Oatman Burro Sanctuary.

“Kathy Jenkins, owner/operator of Oatman, stepped up to provide for the care and needs of Fred and Rosie, which fulfilled the requirement with BLM for their placement,” Balint said. “Ms. Jenkins has run point on Fred and Rosie, doing a tremendous job on Pahrump’s behalf. Numerous volunteers, too many mention, have been instrumental in the fundraising efforts to help with the cost of Fred and Rosie’s care needs, so please visit the Facebook page ‘Fred’s Posse - Pahrump Horses and Burros’ to see all the new and exciting events they have planned.”

Residents can keep apprised of Fred and Rosie’s doings through the Oatman Burro Rehab and Recovery Sanctuary Facebook page, where live feeds are provided of the two beloved horses.

With Fred and Rosie settled, it was then time to turn the focus on the more than a dozen other horses that had been gathered.

“In hopes to secure the whole herd and prevent Fred’s family and friends from going on the BLM’s Internet Adoption via the Online Corral, JP and I drafted an unsolicited proposal which JP submitted to the BLM. With the cost of hay these days, along with proper maintenance for possibly pregnant mares, geldings and several colts under one year of age, this was definitely a bit nerve-wracking,” Balint described. “Thank goodness for Anne Swanke’s GoFundMe! A final team of experienced equine professionals was formed, experienced in training and transportation to bring our horses home. The call came from BLM that the requirements had been met for private placement locally and within a few days, we were on the road.”

The effort may have resulted in the return of the valley’s horses but there is still much work to be done, Balint continued. She said Liberty Projects’ next goal is to establish a wild horse and burro off-site holding facility in Pahrump, which will undoubtedly take plenty of hard work and collaboration between various entities.

“I sincerely thank everyone at the BLM who assisted in this process, JP with Liberty, Kathy with Oatman and most importantly, our local Christmas elves and the ‘Might 6 Shadow Riders’,” Balint concluded. “Special thanks to all the Santas in our business community, including Death Valley Market Place and Tractor Supply for their support and especially to Dr. Adam Hadland, our veterinarian who has been such a help. This was a monumental task and could not have been successful without each of you. The herds are back and residing in forever and sponsorship homes.”

The GoFundMe page for the horse herds has been closed and the funds left after the adoption, transportation and placement process have been deposited into a Well Fargo account dedicated to the local wild horses and burros.

“Should you like to sponsor the needs of a local wild mustang or burro, you can Zelle to FredsFamilyandFriends@gmail.com or stop by Wells Fargo with a check to deposit to the Wild Horse and Burro account set up for FredsFamilyandFriends,” Balint said. “Accounts are also opened at H&M Feed Store and Shadow Mountain Feed, if you would like to contribute. Thank you for your support!”

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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