Keeping up with Mustang Maddy |

Keeping up with Mustang Maddy

Mare, tag #9615, waits at a BLM facility to be adopted. She’s got a tattoo on her neck. No one wants her. Photo © C.J. Hadley/RANGE

In a news exclusive, RANGE magazine reveals that some of the horses kept by Madeleine Pickens at one of her ranches in northeastern Nevada appear undernourished and in poor condition.

Pickens paid nearly $6 million for two cattle ranches and is advertising that her much-touted “Eco-sanctuary” tourist center will be up and running in spring 2013. However, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) says it will be September 2013 before its paperwork is completed and a decision made regarding federal feral horses and Mrs. Pickens’ plan to take care of them on federal lands. The lands she wants to use are currently permitted only to run livestock.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Pickens bought 500 head from the Pyramid Tribe in northwest Nevada in late 2010 – horses that are not technically “wild horses” because they did not come off public lands. They also don’t fit the federal definition created by the Wild Horses and Burros Act of 1971.

When asked about the condition of some the horses at Warm Creek Ranch, project manager Clay Naninni remarked, “We aren’t going to pamper the horses.” Naninni is the realtor who sold Pickens the ranches and stayed on as manager. That sentiment is puzzling given the emotion-laden passion of Pickens and her wild-horse advocates.

To protect the federal lands and keep them healthy, and if she gets approval to do so, Pickens will probably have to limit the number of horses on her Warm Creek Ranch to 200, according to BLM documents. In cattle-speak, horses eat differently than cattle. Horses have top and bottom teeth that rip forage closer to the ground, and, with only one stomach to the cow’s four, they need far more food to survive than a cow. Horses are simply much tougher on the land, water sources, and plants than cattle, according to range experts.

Because of the government restrictions, Pickens must feed her horses hay, which is very expensive and in short supply due to drought and wildfires. The dire situation leaves ranchers across the West, who do not have deep pockets like Pickens, begging for grazing land, or if they can’t afford to pay the going price of more than $200 per ton, they must sell off their stock, which means their livelihoods could be jeopardized.

Some wonder if Pickens will be able to continue paying the high price for her horse sanctuary given her pending divorce from husband multi-billionaire T. Boone Pickens, which was confirmed Oct. 2, 2012, by the U-T San Diego.

See link to a special report:

Author and Nevada rancher Hank Vogler wrote in a companion piece, “Whoa, Dammit, Whoa,” in the Winter 2013 issue: “We should be ever vigilant to prevent cruelty. Nothing is crueler than watching an old horse devolve into a pain-racked miserable hulk of its former self. Neither horse sanctuaries, holding corrals or long-term holding contracts are the answer. Humane harvest and inspection comes the closest. What is also cruelty is the bilking of money from people under false pretenses.” F


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