The Leachman horses of Montana, who were rescued from starvation, now need rescuing again — this time from slaughter for human consumption.
This is yet another example of how irresponsible breeding and management of horses can result in a brutal and terrifying death, profiting the owners when the horses go to slaughter and ending up on someone’s dinner plate.
The tragic tale has more twists and turns than a Texas tornado, especially when trying to arrive at just who owns these horses.
Jan Falstad has reported in detail on the fate of the Leachman horses for the Billings Gazette. She is the source of all linked content below.
In an article on January 22, 2011, Falstad tells us:
The Yellowstone County Attorney’s Office on Friday filed five primary misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty and five alternative counts against James H. Leachman of Billings.
But the legal action may have come too late to save many of the estimated 450 horses starving to death on a ranch east of Billings.
Leachman, who bred cattle in Montana for nearly four decades and turned to horses when his cattle empire collapsed, faces a total maximum of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
To the rescue road local residents airlifting hay and providing water to the starving and thirsty horses, abandoned out in the frozen tundra of the foreclosed property, some spilling over onto other properties looking for food and water, including Crow tribal lands.
More than 100 horses have broken through barbed-wire fences and are roaming on neighboring ranches or on Crow tribal land where they have a much better chance of surviving the winter, said Peila.
It was Shepherd veterinarian Jeff Peila who first warned that hundreds horses trapped in one pasture of the Leachman (later found to be Stovall) property with no grass were on the verge of mass starvation in late December.
The same article mentions:
All ranchers lose a small percentage of stock running on the range, but this death could have been avoided, Peila said.
“It’s poor livestock management to band the horses and turn them out into the damn wilderness,” he said.
No one yet knows how many horses are roaming the vast range, including deeded and Crow tribal lands near the Pryor Mountains. What is different about this winter is that these horses cannot roam freely to find grass because Leachman doesn’t control the land anymore.
After telling a bankruptcy judge last winter that he had no income after the collapse of the Leachman Cattle Co., and a price collapse in the horse markets, Leachman said he would hold his annual fall Hairpin Cavvy sale.
That didn’t happen.
“I planned on having a sale this fall, I just couldn’t have it. Sure, I could have it if I wanted to sell my horses for 200 bucks,” he said in December.
In mid-February, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a Department of Interior agency (also responsible for the Bureau of Land Management), moves in on the horses.
In an article dated February 15, 2011, Falstad tells us:
As 14 round hay bales were dropped by helicopter Tuesday morning to hungry horses east of Billings, the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs was moving closer to rounding up the horses and moving them off the Crow Indian reservation and possibly selling them this spring.
The BIA has solicited bids to capture, treat and transport hundreds of Jim Leachman’s horses ranging over 20 miles of private and tribal lands east of Billings on the former Leachman Cattle Co. Home Place Ranch.
Yet, at the same time:
Yellowstone County Sheriff Mike Linder drove the tractor Tuesday and loaded the large round bales into the helicopter nets. During the last cold snap, the sheriff’s office and other volunteers fed the horses by truck and tractor, but many of the pastures are getting too wet, so another airlift was scheduled.
As required by the court, Leachman called the sheriff’s office to ask permission to check on the horses, and Saturday he took away about five horses, Linder said.
The Crow tribe have now rounded up 700 horses for sale in late March or early April. Numbers from various reports do not add up, so presumably the Leachman horses are only a fraction of the horses going to the block.
In an article on March 21, 2011, Falstad reports:
In a colorful roundup on Monday morning, about 50 Crow horsemen spent the day gathering about 700 horses in bands of 80 to 200 and driving them through a gap in the rimrocks toward their last home before they are sold.
The mares and colts trotted, galloped, snorted and whinnied, but willingly followed the lead rider into the wooden pens.
Jay Stovall, 71, who grew up on this land and now owns the former Leachman Cattle Co. ranch 16 miles east of Billings, said the sight was thrilling.
This is the same Stovall that Leachman claims fenced the horses he left behind out with no forage or water to die.
The sad story unfolds further:
With the help of two months of eating 150 tons of donated hay, the horses came back from the brink of starvation last winter. Leachman has pleaded not guilty to 14 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty, carrying a maximum penalty of seven years and $7,000 in fines. His jury trial is scheduled for June 3.
Beginning Thursday, the horses will be sorted by age and gender, identified and have temporary neck bands attached.
The BIA impounded the horses in early March after serving Leachman with a legal notice that his horses were trespassing on tribal lands and neighboring ranches.
The BIA is paying the tribe $45,000 to round up the horses and feed them until a March 31 sale that could be moved to April 2 and 3.
Memories of the roundup will stay with Jason Shigley, who was shooting video for the Crow Tribe to document the day.
“This is a historic event,” he said. “The Crow people are horse people. Everything that has to do with the horse is in our makeup.”
Including selling them to slaughter?
In comments to the March 21st article, montanavoter says “There will be seven slaughter buyers there according to the people we have talked to.” countrgirl4life states “So all this hay and money was donated so we could round up these horses and kill them in inhumane and cruel ways?”
— Who is responsible for the Leachman Horses?, Tuesday’s Horse, Jan. 31, 2011 >>