Horse advocates raise thousands to purchase 30 horses, calling it a holiday miracle
WILLIAMS, Ariz.—Molly Wisecarver is a firm believer in Christmas miracles—not the kind with golden wings, but four hooves, long manes, and sullen brown eyes.
Nine miracles in all.
And each one is a holiday blessing—a survivor and a true testament to the goodwill of people like Wisecarver who love wild horses and want to see them alive and well.
Wisecarver considers it a miracle the horses—three adult stallions, two mares, and “four babies”—survived in the wild despite the wrath of unknown hunters and found shelter on her ranch, nestled among the pines in Williams, Arizona.
She said that owning the 150-acre ranch is a miracle in itself because it means she gets to do what she enjoys: raising four quarter horses, 60 sheep, and “more dogs than I care to mention.”
And now—nine wild horses.
All Wisecarver knows is that the lead stallion is named Eagar, like the town in Arizona. The other remaining nameless horses gathered around a giant metal cistern, munching peacefully on amber hay.
Wisecarver smiled, watching them from a distance, draping an arm across the metal fence surrounding the 100-by-200-foot pen enclosure.
“I can sit on the log [inside the pen], and they’ll eat close. You come back in a month, and I’ll bet you they’ll be eating out of my hand,” Wisecarver said confidently.
Wisecarver agreed to keep the horses until April. But who knows? She said that she might decide to keep the babies when it’s time for them to leave.
The horses were among 30 captured by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service and sold online on Dec. 12.
The Forest Service legally considers the horses “unauthorized feral livestock” based on professional assessments of the herd. As such, they receive no protection under the 1971 Wild Horse and Burro Act.
Instead, they are subject to periodic roundup and removal within the 3-million-acre Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests in eastern Arizona. Afterward, the Forest Service puts them up for sale at online auctions, often selling them for pennies on the dollar.
The Salt River Wild Horse Management Group (SRWHMG) in Prescott disputes the Forest Service’s unauthorized livestock definition. The group considers the horses a historical lineage and believes there’s sufficient proof they date back to the Spanish explorers of North America.
SRWHMG president Simone Netherlands said the group’s greatest fear is that some of the horses will end up in the hands of a “kill buyer” and sold at slaughterhouses south of the border at a profit.
Wild horse advocates say the remaining horses in the herd remain at a legal disadvantage without state and federal protections. They now feel their last resort is to buy up the remaining 160 horses and place them in good homes.
Just before the Dec. 12 auction, a coalition of wild horse advocates, led by the SRWHMG, raised $14,000 and successfully bid on all 30 horses.
Netherlands said the group submitted winning bids totaling $1,500 for 20 horses. Start-up animal sanctuaries purchased the remainder.
“The rescue market is so saturated. We can’t possibly find them all a good home,” Netherlands said.
Netherlands believes it was a Christmas miracle, having received 240 individual donations—and offers of homes—at the last minute.
“That’s what we called it—literally—a Christmas miracle. We were hoping for a Christmas miracle to be able to save all 30—and we did. They could’ve been on the slaughter truck instead of in these nice homes,” Netherlands told The Epoch Times.
“It’s just good-hearted people who want to give these horses a second chance.”
Of the 30 horses, most went to an animal shelter in Seligman, Arizona; four went to a sanctuary in Wilcox, and Wisecarver agreed to take nine.
“At first, we thought we’re never going to do this. That’s why we thought it was a miracle. We found a good home for all of them,” Netherlands said.
The SRWHMG has used donations to purchase 140 horses since the online auctions began months ago.
The highest price for a horse was $975—the cheapest was $50.
“We find the homes. We help them out. And—hopefully—they take good care of them forever. We’re looking for many good homes to save them all,” Netherlands said.
On Dec. 21, a truck pulling a large trailer arrived at Wisecarver’s ranch.
Wisecarver said the horses trotted out calmly, and it’s been equine bliss ever since.
Even so, no good deed goes unpunished, she said.
Wisecarver has received several phone calls from people telling her that harboring the horses was terrible or that they would jump over the fence and escape or attack her.
“I’ve only had them three days, and the opposition is way higher than the people for it,” Wisecarver said. “I’ve had people contact me, telling me what a terrible thing I’m doing. A lot of people believe that the horses are destroying the forest.”
Wild horse advocates have discovered the remains of 43 horses shot and killed by unknown hunters inside the Apache forest since October.
Such passionate hatred can only produce negative results, Wisecarver said.
“And I hate to take passion away from anyone. But when it’s harming an animal—or a person—then your passion is misdirected.”
Wisecarver said taking nine horses was a good decision and the fundraiser a Christmas miracle “by far.”
“I don’t want to get too emotional [but] it is a Christmas miracle—and we even have snow on the ground. It’s a blessing for the horses. It’s a blessing for me. I feel blessed with this place. What’s better than to give back?” Wisecarver said.