Remaining neglected Mustangs find homes (Montana)

The final six Spanish mustangs from a herd of 76 that were part of a nonprofit effort to protect the rare horses will leave a ranch west of Browning today and head to their new home in Dodson.

Glacier County Attorney Larry Epstein gave rescue groups until the end of the week to remove the horses after he filed felony animal abuse charges against Robert Bedard, the founder of the Blackfeet Buffalo Horse Coalition.

The Helena-based Montana Horse Sanctuary coordinated the volunteer effort to find new homes. Jane Heath, the organization’s executive director, said she has been flooded with calls this week from horse lovers across Montana who hoped to save the animals from slaughter.

The lion’s share of the horses will stay on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation with the hope of restarting the program, she said.

Bedard started the nonprofit in the early 1990s, with the goals of raising mustangs on the Blackfeet Reservation’s open plains and starting programs where students could interact with the horses as an avenue to avoid drinking and drug use.

Bedard, who does not have an attorney, denies allegations of animal cruelty. Horse care slipped out of his control after he sustained near-fatal injuries in an all-terrain vehicle crash a year ago in Montana, Bedard said Thursday from Cumberland, R.I., where he now lives with his mother.

Bedard, 57, said he continues to recover from those injuries.

Friends and associates did their best to aid his herd of more than 100 horses while he recuperated, he said, but were limited in what they could do, particularly when heavy snowfall earlier this year cut access to the ranch.

“We lost about 13 horses last winter,” Bedard said.

A former coalition member said neglect was a problem before Bedard was hurt.

“I don’t think it was deliberate,” said Abigail Hornick-Minckler, who was formerly on the Blackfeet Buffalo Horse Coalition board. “I just think this person got in over his head.” Full story at Great Falls Tribune >>

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