Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Running Free in the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary – SD

Article published in WorKamper News, July/August 2013, page 39

During the summer of 2012, Bob and Michelle Hazlett spent three months volunteering at the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary in Hot Springs, SD. This is an 11,000 acre sanctuary for rescued Mustangs. The herd is over 500 horses rescued from many places, the majority from Bureau of Land Management land.

The ranch proper sits in a box canyon and the horses freely roam the surrounding hills

Our duties were primarily feeding and watering the horses. Bob also participated in ranch “fix-it” chores and Michelle worked in the Visitor Center Gift Shop.

How do you feed and water WILD horses? With a truck of course. Our job was to disperse what could be considered nutritional supplements to the primary food source which is grazing on the natural landscape. We hauled water to 700 gallon water troughs located at various places in the hills around the ranch.

The Feed Truck is a familiar sight to the horses ...

... and they come running as soon as they see it

Hauling water can be an endless task in the heat of the summer especially in drought conditions like we experienced throughout the US in 2012

The horses could easily empty several of these 700 gallon water troughs in a day

While doing our chores, we always kept a sharp eye out for horses that had been injured. While we were there, one horse was bitten on the nose by a rattlesnake. She had to be caught and transported to the ranch for treatment. Horses always travel in pairs, so her friend had to be rounded up and brought along. A few weeks later we watched an obvious celebration when those two horses were released back into the herd. There was no mistaking the joy being felt by all the horses at the return of their comrades.

One day we saw a young horse limping badly. Close inspection revealed a nasty cut on her right front ankle. For the next two weeks we carried a bucket of feed mixed with medication. It took a couple days to get her to come close and eat from the bucket. From then on she expected the special treatment and came running to us every time she saw the feed truck … and of course we had to have a bucket for her friend.

Many of the horses have been given names by the ranch hands.
This is Bella who we medicated for about two weeks for a nasty ankle wound.
We became best friends.

All God’s creatures – two legged, four legged, slithering and flying – fear fire. The summer of 2012 was a bad time for fire in the western US. High temperatures and no rain made places like the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary a tinder box. Dry lightening caused many fires in the hills around the ranch.

This fire in July 2012 was on the ranch and almost caused an evacuation

Both Bob and Michelle are city folk. "We have no ranching experience in our background. WorKamping adventures like this give us a way to experience completely different lifestyles. We look forward to many more".

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