Equine advocates and elected officials from both sides of the aisle recently joined forces on Long Island to brainstorm how best to address the crisis facing America’s wild horse population in the West.
The CANA Foundation, an East Norwich-based nonprofit horse rescue organization, sponsored the First Annual Hampton Classic Legislative Panel on the topic September 1, the last day of the Hampton Classic Horse Show in Bridgehampton, to raise awareness of the issue.
“This is really an issue of horses and habitat and humanity,” said former U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), CANA advisor and panel moderator. “This is a good example of one of the bipartisan elements that exist in Congress right now – and that is Democrats and Republicans working together to protect horses, to protect our heritage.”
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) estimates that there are 47,683 wild horses and burros in captivity as of August 2018; most of those animals are on pastures. Polls show 80 percent of Americans oppose either euthanizing or sterilizing the animals. Opinions vary about how to best manage the horses, which advocates say have been driven from their native rangelands by the oil industry and agricultural interests.
“We believe rewilding is the answer to many environmental problems … and to the wild horse crisis,” said CANA founder Manda Kalimian, who defines rewilding as “putting things back to the original state of being.”
The group is seeking people willing to adopt wild horses and “find lands to rewild,” she told attendees. The group is “cautiously optimistic” that Suffolk County legislators may help them place wild horses on the North Fork, she told the Press.
“This is something we have to work together on,” said U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford). “There may not always be easy answers. But the main goal should be to preserve and protect as much as possible when it comes to wildlife and wild horses.”
“Horses saved my life,” said Moses Brings Plenty, an actor and CANA advocate who was born on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Now, he’s looking to return the favor.
Also on the panel was author Roberto Dutesco, Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.); and equestrian show jumping rider Kelli Cruciotti.
CANA Foundation is recruiting volunteers and donors for its #RewildOurWorld movement. More info can be found at canafoundation.org.