KBR Wild Horse and Burro News
Archived story from 2003

Western Wild Horse Groups Working Together


Story date: May 18, 2003

California and Nevada wild horse groups have teamed up to mitigate the plight of around 144 pregnant mares, their foals and some 82 yearlings that have became stranded at Fish Creek, NV.

These horses were part of the infamous roundup forced by the BLM on the Western Shoshone Dann sisters. The overall gather has been known by various names including the Dann sisters roundup, the Western Shoshone roundup, the Crescent Valley roundup and "The 980 Project," named for the original estimate of the number of horses being brought in.

A number of the animals were disbursed through a consortium of horse groups and individuals. The final disposition of the animals varied according to who received them. Some found good adoptive homes. Others found themselves at Texas slaughter houses. The majority of horses went to Buellton, California rancher Slick Gardner.

One group of mares was in particularly poor condition when gathered. They were concentrated in a large corral, ostensibly until they were strong enough to ship to Buellton, California, to be put out on property leased by Slick Gardner. For reasons that have never been clearly understood, these animals were not adequately maintained and their condition declined.

The general condition of the horses in the holding corral. Most are pregnant mares.
LRTC, one of the groups working on this project, issued the following report on May 16th.

There have been discussions and concerns regarding a group of mares, yearlings and foals from the Dann Sisters' roundup that are currently at Fish Creek Ranch in northeastern Nevada.

Through the assistance of Jim Connelley, Director of the Division of Livestock Identification and Investigation, Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue has taken legal custody of these animals and is financing their proper rehabilitation and relocation. Least Resistance Training Concepts (LRTC) has agreed to handle logistics with Shirley Allen of Carson City as project lead. Arlene Sillings of the Virginia Range Wildlife Protection Association (VRWPA) has assisted in the on-site inspections and investigation. Deannana Hazen of Mustang-Spirit has pledged that organization's support as needed when the horses are ready to relocate. Betty Lee Kelly of Wild Horse Spirit has provided specialized transportation and rehabilitation assistance for the sick foals. The Doris Day Animal League has made a $2,000.00 cash contribution to aid these horses.

Jim Connelley and his staff at the Division of Livestock Identification and Investigation have been immensely cooperative in helping get this relief effort coordinated. The Eureka County Sheriff's Dept. and Animal Services Personnel have also provided support and assistance within the areas of their respective jurisdictions. Luke and Jean Weis and their crew at Fish Creek Ranch have provided whatever they have been asked for in our efforts to resolve these matters.

Currently the situation is stable, the animals are recovering and they will be relocated to more appropriate facilities when the participating veterinarian determines that it is safe and appropriate to do so.


As in most of these situations, rumors are much bigger than life. To further complicate matters, this situation is so loaded with intrigue, lies and nefarious characters that it could well have been an Alfred Hitchcock movie. The following are our observations based on on-site inspections and interviews with public officials and a number of private parties.

RUMOR: All the horses were starving to death

FACT: These horses were described as originally being too poor to be shipped long distance, which is why they stayed in Fish Creek. It appears that the weakest ones of the group were crowded away from hay by the stronger or more aggressive ones. One mare did die and several foals were either aborted, still born, died or were killed. (The matter of foals being killed is discussed later in this report.) Valid concerns have been expressed with regards to the quality of hay these animals were fed and that ordinarily they should have improved, rather than declined, after being gathered.

RUMOR: The horses belonged to Slick Gardner and he abandoned them.

FACT: At the time they were placed in the corral the horses did legally belong to Slick Gardner and Mr. Gardner has indicated that he takes full responsibility for their condition. Gardner claimed a lack of someone trustworthy in the area to manage the animals and certain individuals interfering who had their own agendas. Our investigation so far shows Mr. Gardner to be at least partially correct. So far Mr. Gardner was cooperative in our efforts to mitigate this situation however it is appropriate to mention that he was under increasing pressure by state and local authorities to do so. On the other hand Lifesavers settled a number of accounts in the area that Mr. Gardner had left unpaid.

RUMOR: The horses still belong to the Danns (or several other people depending on whom you talk to.)

FACT: The state recognizes Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue as the legal owners of these horses.

RUMOR: There are numerous bills owned by Slick Gardner on these horses.

FACT: Lifesavers negotiated with creditors in an effort to pay valid debt claims associated with these horses. (One of the loudest complainers about being owed money failed to produce any documentation and in fact changed his story several times as to how much he was due.) All parties producing valid claims for payment have been paid by Lifesavers.

Regarding the issue of horses being killed.

Witnesses reported and identified two men who entered in the corral during the week of May 12 with a video camera. They stampeded the mares which resulted in two foals being trampled to death. The next day the dead foals were represented as showing the continuation of abuse and neglect at the hands of Mr. Gardner. We should further point out that the person claiming that the foals had merely expired had in fact previously received some Dann horses and shipped them to Texas for slaughter.

We know a number of foals have died. Some showed signs of being stepped on. With the exception of this one witnessed event, we have no way of knowing whether they were trampled to death or whether they died due to premature foaling and/or lack of proper nutrition and were later inadvertently stepped on. Our opinion is that the continued debilitated condition of the animals directly contributed to the death rate.

The bottom line in all of this is that there were a number of people with their own agendas who appeared to have interfered with the proper care and rehabilitation of these animals. With the assistance of the Sheriff's Department and the Nevada Division of Livestock Identification and Investigation, those adventures were stopped and these animals have started to receive proper care.

This feature is continued in Part Two

Adopt a Fish Creek Horse!

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