Who is responsible for the Leachman horses?

Leachman Ranch Horse Found Starved to Death. Photo LARRY MAYER / Gazette Staff
Turk Stovall looks for the brand on a dead horse owned by Jim Leachman. The Stovall family bought the Leachman Home Place ranch last July at a foreclosure sale. Photo LARRY MAYER / Gazette Staff (Click to Enlarge).

The Great Falls Tribune reports:

    The American Quarter Horse Association is asking people to help the more than 450 starving horses on a ranch in southeastern Montana near Billings.
    The AQHA and Tractor Supply Company have donated water tanks for the horses and hay was airlifted in earlier this week, according to the Associated Press.
    In a comment to this article, “medtran” writes:

Here is my question: This land was lost in a foreclosure sale last year. Why is the former owner of the land STILL responsible for these horses? Why is the bank who foreclosed not responsible for them? Or the buyer who purchased the property in the foreclosure sale? If the former owner is to be held responsible, why has he been barred from the property by the bank? Seems like a no-win for the horses and their owner.


James Leachman is charged with animal cruelty. Is that because Leachman abandoned these horses when his property was foreclosed on? Or were they part of the sale, and its new owners responsible?

ABC News reports:

A helicopter airlifted 20 tons of hay, and deputies hauled even more to a sprawling southeastern Montana ranch where hundreds of horses are starving.

The horses belong to James H. Leachman, who pleaded not guilty Friday to 10 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty in an initial court appearance in Billings. Leachman was supposed to remove the animals last July when his business, Leachman Cattle Co., lost the ranch at a federal foreclosure sale.

Leachman said little during the hearing. But in an interview with The Associated Press, he blamed the horses’ problems on the family that bought his ranch. He said the horses had survived Montana’s harsh winters for years on natural forage, but this year were confined by the new landowners to areas that already were overgrazed.

“There’s only been one side told,” Leachman said. “They put them in a pasture that had no grass.”

At the hearing, the Judge also forbid Leachman to enter the property to attend to the horses unless he made arrangements with authorities.


Montana News Station, KFBB Channel 5, reporting on the Montana Horse Sanctuary includes this information:

Jane Heath says that while the current situation of an estimated 800 in-crisis horses in Billings is not a rescue at this point, she has offered the assistance of her organization if needed.


We applaud the great citizens of Montana who have responded to these in-crisis horses and all who have supported them. Their joint efforts have gotten hay and water to the starving Leachman horses so more do not suffer and die while authorities and the Court untangle this mess. We take it that the Stovall family who bought the Leachman Ranch in the foreclosure sale are equally grateful.

In the meantime, it appears that James Leachman has been a very naughty boy, and the AQHA aware of his less than honorable dealings, according to this Complaints Board:



Related Reading:

— “Leachman charged with animal cruelty,” by Jan Falstad, Billings Gazette, Jan. 22, 2011

16 thoughts on “Who is responsible for the Leachman horses?”

  1. My last comment also is God Bless all who intervned to save the Lives of the Horses…………….


  2. I just watched the airlift drops of hay for the Leachman-Stovel horses, isnt it amazing that helicopters can do some good wow, i was impressed , by the expertise shown by these pilots, certainly a far cry from the People or so we call them Sun J pilots…………….


  3. If leachman s statement is correct The Stovel Family must assume responsibility, not that Leachman is not accountable here also !!!! Another thing is the Stovels knew the Horses were there that is another accountability also, now if you were buying a foreclosed property and knew damn straight there were horses there wouldnt you first think being that there are horses there that you would then by purchasing the property you must take care of the horses because with purchase you then become their caretaker, would you then move them to grounds that have no foilage knowing full well that they will starve their????? OmG this is pure inhuman…………….What in Gods name is also wrong with those people, they knew living breathing innocent Mustangs were there, and they chose to let them starve………….?????? If this property was being foreclosed on they got it for a song ………..To let these horses starve is Criminal on their part, they could have asked for help also???? But no they moved them where they would surely die !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! No Question in my mind Criminal !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    1. OK. I know this will not be popular but face it, there is no longer a market for horses and that is essentially what caused this. If there was a market for horses and somewhere to go with them, Leachman could have liquidated his herd upon foreclosure. Leachman is the classic example of a breeder whose populations have exploded and he was the one that failed to control his populations as a result of the downfall in the market. He is ultimately to blame here. I believe in the golden rule of animal care….if you can’t afford them, don’t breed more.
      According to news reports, Stovall’s had been in touch with authorities. Why are they responsible for taking care of livestock that was left behind by a previous owner? They were encouraging authorities to make Leachman accountable by either removing the horses or having them seized by the local authorities. Cattle ranching is the Stovall’s lively hood and their resources will go towards feeding their own cattle. That is how they feed their family and it is their business. It costs at a minimum $5 a day per animal to feed. Do the math. Why should they be responsible for this cost when all they legally purchased, was the land.
      This is akin to a renter leaving behind a pet when they move. Who is responsible? Usually, the homeowner has the choice to call the pound or find a home for the unwanted animal. Imagine….having to find homes for 800 of them.
      It is easy for good intended liberals to sit in their apartments or suburban homes and point the finger. Until you are ready to adopt one of these animals and pay the cost of feeding it….don’t judge. Horses are livestock. That is something this country has forgotten. When lawmakers make it so people can not sell livestock at a market place, it leaves them helpless. This is a great reason to castrate your colts and leave your mare unbred! This is going on all over the country and it is a shame that it took 800 of these poor neglected horses to bring light to the situation.


      1. They are also accountable , they full well knew there were horses there upon purchase…………………even if all they were interested in was their steal deal………………… Upon purchase they designated themselves as the new caretakers of the horses………………….. regardless !!!! They should have made it a stipulation if they did not want to be responsible……………………to have them removed first !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Not all Laws are written !!! some are shear commonsense !!!! and have morals !!!!!!!!!!!!!


      2. Chris, I take all of your points, most of which are well made and I appreciate your taking the time to comment. What I don’t understand is the constant presumption that people who advocate for responsible horse ownership and treatment are bleeding heart liberal city folks. I find these types of statements condescending and unfair. Many of our advocates are horse owners and live in all parts of the country in a mixture of urban, suburban and rural communities. Horse neglect and abandonment stories are sadly not new to us, and certainly did not take this one to highlight the callousness and irresponsibility of some horse breeders and their total lack of stewardship.

        I moved into a house once where the previous owner left a mother cat with newborn kittens inside, no food, no water, no litter box, nothing. Because they were abandoned by the previous owner, and would cost me money to care for them, I did not throw them out into the streets to starve, but found homes for them and alerted authorities. Obviously the scale is completely different, but it does illustrate the point that you do not abandon animals to starve because they are “not yours” but find a solution. Many, many caring people have stepped up to the plate and donated to help these horses from all walks of life.


        1. Yes, I agree. It is not all a liberal cause.
          I too have taken in unwanted animals and it breaks my heart that they were unwanted in the first place. I can’t stand there however and allow people to bash the people that bought the foreclosed property legally. The real criminal here is Leachman. He is 100% responsible in the fact that he continued to breed and keep animals he obviously could not care for. Instead of abandoning these horses expecting someone else to take on his responsibilities, he should have taken care of the situation when he found out that he would no longer be in control of the property. Shame on him!


          1. No intent to bash the Stovels , just stating my opinion on who is responsible, both !!!!!!!! If I would have bought that land i would have been thrilled and honored to have the Horses there……….. I would have thought of it as an extra bonus……….And would have made every effort to keep them safe…………………………and fed !!!!! Just knowing they were there is responsibility enough sorry !!!!


            1. From the shocked look on the face of Turk Stovall in the picture him with the horse starved to death on his property, it may be he actually thought the horses could survive where they were. This is just a guess, and a big one, but Leachman might have even led him to believe so, and now being caught out, is saying he warned Stovall the part of the ranch they were on was overgrazed. Of course, we could go back and forth all day on this, so this will be my last comment. I am so impressed and grateful with the response of everyone who intervened on behalf of these horses, air dropping tons of hay and providing water, because they couldn’t do it any other way because of the snowy conditions at the time.


  4. And as of the date of foreclosure the bank became the new owner… any responsibility there? Did they know the horses were on the property? Did they hire qualified management to oversee the property and the living things on it? (That last was tongue in cheek; we all know the answer.)
    Poor horses. Once again, victimized by the so-called humans who took it upon themselves to “care” for them. They’d have been better off had they been turned loose to run wild — unless, of course, the BLM managed to get sight of them.


  5. There are so many fingers pointing in different directions, they’ll be lucky if someone doesn’t end up with their eye put out.

    “Concern” from members of the AQHA is overwhelmingly about problems with registering horses they bought from Leachman. Surely there must be at least a few members who actually care about horse welfare, and could ask the AQHA Foundation to kick in some bucks.

    Much of the AQHA money is tied to a 501(c)3, so it would be a writeoff, plus good PR re: their “compassion” index. And they can certainly afford it – 2009 Annual Report Financial Statement:

    Click to access AnnualReport2009.pdf


  6. The issue is that when the property “sold” if it was “as is” then the new owners are to blame 100% lock, stock and stolen. For you city folks a “stolen” is “a run of grass” when means if they indeed locked them away from forage then its time to wake them up.

    On abandon property once the feds put it in foreclosure and removed the owner and pending a sale its the federal government or bank that is resposnible for the care and maintaince of the land by law. So technically the foreclosure people were just as responsible as the former owner and new owner.

    Major issue is that the Sheriff can’t house 2,3,4,5, or even 1000 horses, he doesn’t have the budget or resources. Now cattle the Sheriff can take all day.

    What’s been screamed in congress for some time is that when a non-profit takes in a large group of animals, not cats and dogs but livestock, equine, sheep etc.. large animals it is not the fault or financial responsibility of the non-profit when there laws that protect these animals and then the law should pay for care, feed and vet costs while finding a home.

    Tax payers already pay for enough stupid ridiculous programs from congress and this would be a program that both non-profits and congress could benefit from.

    Someone needs to approach the local state congressman for finanical assistance, he direct access to emergency funds for this type of inhumane disaster.

    When America can’t afford to take of animals then thats the time we see we can’t afford to take of ourselves.


    1. So Ray. What exactly are you saying?

      Everyone is responsible?????

      And I’m not sure about what you mean about non-profits. You’re saying that if an animal reaches a certain size, the government should pay, but below that size someone else has to take responsibility for them since there are no laws protecting them??? How do the laws about cattle and sheep differ from those that govern cats and dogs apart form the obvious factory farming element?

      Please elaborate.


  7. If Leachman is telling the truth, then the Stovall family has to take part of the blame. It smacks of ignorance to try to winter-graze horses on land that is overgrazed. Why didn’t they put them on fresh pasture? Sounds like they don’t know what they’ve gotten themselves into.


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