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Saved From Slaughter: They got the pit bull.  We got the mustangs. Now they're all living happily ever after

by Gail Swainson, Toronto Star
As printed in The Toronto Star - March 4, 2006


This is a story about amour: of a girl for horses -- wild mustangs -- and for the romance of the cowboy life, now long gone.

It's about a threatened species struggling for survival against all odds and a Durham Region woman -- that girl of long ago -- rescuing 33 wild American mustangs facing certain death.

"I wanted to help conserve a species, to make sure wild horses survive," said Ilse Kreimes, co-founder of Wild Hearts Horse Fund, which brought the mustangs to Canada two weeks ago. Now the 33 mustangs, mostly pregnant mares rounded up last month from ranges in Nevada, are calling a dozen southern Ontario farms home.

They were spirited out of the U.S into Canada after they were declared surplus. This meant that, unless adopted immediately, they would be on their way to the slaughterhouse.

Kreimes has had a long love affair with the mustang. When she heard of the situation, she had to spring into action.

"How could I turn a blind eye to their plight?" she said. "Somebody had to do something to help these horses."

Depending on whom you talk to, between 8,000 and 36,000 wild mustangs still roam the ranges in the U.S. In Canada, there are about 200. But many say the remaining herds are under serious threat after recent American legislation that allowed older wild horses to be sold for slaughter.

After hearing their story, Kreimes partnered with Janet Burts, an American living in Alaska, to try and save some of the animals.

The women contacted the American Bureau of Land Management, which is responsible for the care, culling and selling of wild mustangs.

After much negotiation, BLM officials agreed to ship the rescued horses to Canada at their cost, in order to ensure their survival.

Kreimes spread the message that the horses were on their way, interviewing dozens of prospective owners.

The price would be only $250 per horse, not even enough to cover out-of-pocket expenses, she said.

"It wasn't about making money, it was about saving horses," Kreimes said. Kim Deriet, who runs Magik Morn farm in Janetville, north of Newcastle, has six of the rescued mustangs now in residence.

Deriet has adopted three and is caring for the remaining three until suitable homes can be found.

The horses -- three mares and three geldings -- are settling in, but still are very suspicious of close human contact.

Deriet and husband Bill already own 27Arabians, Arabian crosses and Canadian sport horses, so six more she didn't need.

"But we have the facilities and someone had to step up to the plate," said Deriet, who sits on the board of the Ontario Equestrian Federation.

Kreimes is not ruling out bringing more rescued mustangs into Canada, if it will help preserve the breed.

"Maybe if I do my part, then my grandchildren will still someday be able to see a mustang in the wild," she said.