A home for horses

Local animal lover’s equine sanctuary takes shape

Several dozen wild horses from northeastern Nevada are now corralled in Corning.

Several dozen wild horses from northeastern Nevada are now corralled in Corning.

PHOTO courtesy of tracy mohr

To learn more about The Mustang Project or to make a donation, visit www.themustangproject.org or www.facebook.com/themustangproject.

Last Wednesday (Sept. 10), Tracy Mohr watched as 35 wild horses were unloaded at a Corning property and into her possession. The animals are among the last equines the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is rounding up from the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Nevada.

Mohr had been working for many months to help preserve a small portion of the Sheldon Refuge’s herds by providing a sanctuary for some of the horses. She hit a major snag last month, though, when a private landowner who’d agreed to lease her property for the sanctuary backed out of the deal just weeks before the horses’ arrival in California.

That left her scrambling to come up with an alternative site. After going on many “wild goose chases,” Mohr secured a drop-off spot for the equines, along with a longer-term, temporary home, just three days before the animals were scheduled to arrive.

“It was amazing to see them come off the truck,” Mohr said this week. “I just love the variety we have.”

She noted that some of the horses have the look of lanky thoroughbreds while others are stout like draft horses. They very likely come from the three distinct herds that long roamed the Sheldon Refuge, she said. According to a Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman, the entire population of an estimated 450 horses and 100 burros is being rounded up.

Mohr is the animal services manager for the city of Chico, and is used to working with sick or injured pets, primarily dogs and cats. In the case of the horses, she agreed to take them sight unseen, and she also agreed to take the unadoptable ones—older and injured animals. One of the horses is missing an eye, she noted. There’s a 30-year-old in the bunch. There also are a few with bad knees.

“What happens to the old ones or the ones that have a bum knee? Those were kind of the horses we wanted to take, so that they didn’t fall through the cracks and end up in a bad place. They would be the ones most at risk,” she said.

She’s agreed to take another 36 horses this fall, when Fish and Wildlife is expected to seek homes for the stragglers.

For now, Mohr and her husband, Gary, are doing triage on the animals, separating them into groups based on their needs—the thin ones, for example, are put into a pen where they’re fed extra. The couple hope to move the horses in the next few weeks from the current staging area in Corning to a 200-acre facility in Stonyford that will serve as a longer-term temporary home. Before they can do so, however, the horses will need to be vaccinated. At $30 per horse, that’s going to cost more than $1,000. Mohr is seeking donations for that expense, and she’s also looking for sponsors to help pay for the horses’ care indefinitely.

In addition to preserving the herd, Mohr has a goal of establishing a complementary program that would allow kids, at-risk teens in particular, to help gentle mustangs, though not the ones from the Sheldon Refuge. She calls the plan The Mustang Project and has already created a nonprofit in that name. The idea is to give kids a sense of accomplishment and self-worth and to instill empathy toward animals and people.

Her vision for the sanctuary and the youth program will require that The Mustang Project secure its own property, which would allow the site to be open to the public. To that end, Mohr is keeping her eyes peeled for the right acreage—ideally it would be donated to the organization.

“The goal is to have our own property. The whole point is we want the horses to live out the rest of their lives,” she said.