Wild horses make historical arrival in Canada: Newcastle woman key in their finding Canadian sanctuary
by Jennifer Stone
As printed at www.durhamregion.com - February 28, 2006
CLARINGTON -- You'd never know, to watch the two mustangs eat from Richard Rock's hand, that the horses were wild.
Only their timidity, a mild skittishness when strangers approach, belies the fact that the two pregnant mares have had little human contact until their arrival on Canadian soil in late February.
Now, at home in the north Clarington barn, they are growing more accustomed by the day to their surroundings. Soon, they'll be ready to be turned out into a field at the Shiloh Hill Farm, to explore further their new home.
The animals are among 33 brought into Canada by the Wild Hearts Horse Fund, co-founded by Newcastle resident Ilse Kreimes, and a partner in Alaska. Almost all of the 33 have been adopted out, many in Durham, all within a 100-mile radius, said Ms. Kreimes. She acted on a phone call she received just over a month before the horses were to arrive, to find safe homes for them.
The horses were recently rounded up from different herds in the wild and various holding centres in the U.S. and have been deemed un-adoptable or "excess" animals.
They were "slated for disposal in the most economical fashion," said Ms. Kreimes, who declines to elaborate on what that could mean.
For years, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the U.S. has been responsible for managing wild horses on public lands, mostly in Nevada, Oregon and Wyoming. In 2004, the agency's mandate changed, with the BLM being told to sell those more than 10 years old or those that have been passed over for adoption more than three times.
Ms. Kreimes, who has her own mustang, adopted from the US three years ago, believed some of those horses could find a home here.
"The Bureau of Land Management has adopted out 175,000 wild horses since its inception. Why couldn't we do the same for 33 in Canada?" she thought.
She and her organization put the word out that the horses were available. Free delivery from the US was negotiated, and prices were set in such a way as to discourage those seeking horses to be used for meat. Soon, the majority of the horses were placed, including the two taken in by Mr. Rock and Diane Williamson at Shiloh Hill Farm.
They had some experience with mustangs, having kept Ms. Kreimes' horse, Goldie for a while. Initially, they were just thinking of the horses, said Ms. Williamson.
"Ultimately, it was to save the life of the horse," she said.
"What I didn't expect to get out of this was the personal satisfaction. It's amazing to get to know their personalities."
Already, Mr. Rock has seen a change in the horses.
"There's very substantial change over a period of time," he said. "It takes about 12 to 20 hours to get them to do something, and then there's kind of a break-through."
It took about four days, he said, of coming out at fairly regular intervals and coaxing them to eat from his hand. Suddenly, they did it.
They seem "very intelligent," he said. "I think they're going to be great horses."
There are no plans to ride the mares, said Ms. Williamson. They will only gentle them enough to move them between paddocks and work with them in that way.
Soon, though no one can be entirely sure how soon, they will foal, and that brings with it more intrigue.
"There's a chance to domesticate a totally wild animal, in terms of instinct and intelligence," he said.
There are more horses that could come here. And eventually, Ms. Kreimes said Wild Hearts would like to open a wild horse sanctuary and mustang education centre in Canada. In order to ensure genetic viability for a herd, there would need to be about 150 horses on a large tract of land, noted Ms. Kreimes. As it stands, the species has absolutely no protection, and that's something she'd like to see change.
Donations for the sanctuary and education centre are being accepted through the Wild Hearts Horse Fund through CIBC Branch 02843, Account No. 0974331. More information is available by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Those who have adopted have a variety of reasons for having taken in the horses, said Ms. Kreimes.
"Many don't even want to gentle the horses. They just have some property" on which the horses can live, she said.