Wide nostrils never stretched by pain,
Mouths bloodless to the bit or rein,
And feet that iron never shod,
And flanks unscarred by spur or rod,
A thousand horse, the wild, the free,
Like waves that follow o'er the sea,
Came thickly thundering on...
~Lord Byron, XVII, Mazeppa, 1818
I have a passion for all types of animals, especially horses. I grew up in Langley, known as the Horse Capital of British Columbia.... a mecca for horse riders and for equine enthusiasts, and thus I have a special attachment to these magnificent animals. The joy and pleasure of being with horses is that it brings us in contact with the extraordinary elements of grace, beauty, gentleness, spirit, and strength all in one. They are truly poetry in motion...
The famous wild horses of Alberta's western foothills are a beautiful sight and they have become symbols of the wild frontier of Western Canada. It is believed the "free-ranging" horses are descendants of domestic horses that were used in logging and outfitting operations throughout the vast and unpopulated foothills region in the early 1900s. They roam the thousands of square kilometres of heavily forested Crown land that hugs the eastern slopes of the Rockies in western Alberta. The horses, which can be quickly identified by their unkempt, flowing manes, travel in herds of between four and 20. But, the Wild Horses of Alberta Society estimates that as late as 1985 there were more than 1,000 feral horses while today that number is believed to be less than 200.
These wild horses have been are facing a deadly threat... an unknown killer has been ruthlessly killing these horses for the past two years. Sixteen horses have been shot within the last two years and left to rot in forested land about 130 kilometres northwest of Calgary. The most recent include two foals and a mare found shot in the head a few metres from a gravel service on New Year's Day west of Sundre. Mr. Henderson, the founder of Wild Horses of Alberta Society, said he and his wife were horrified to discover they had photographed the two dead foals, which they had nicknamed Double Trouble, romping in a pasture this past October.
In 2002, the Hendersons helped found the Wild Horses of Alberta Society, a non-profit group that works to protect and conserve the animals. They spend most of their free time in the back country keeping tabs on the wild horses, and have discovered most of the slain horses. Frustrated by the lack of progress in stopping the killings, WHOAS is offering a reward that has climbed to $4,500 this week thanks to supporters from across Canada. It is believed that the same person, or people, are responsible for all the killings in Alberta over the past two years -- all of which took place within about two kilometres of each other.
"We have a beautiful, wild, living symbol of our past running free in our hills. In my own heart, I don't know who would be so ruthless to do something like that," states Bob Henderson
My heart breaks when I hear horrific stories like this... these grand, spirited, and most inspiring horses deserve to continue to roam the land and live freely.
A horse loves freedom, and the weariest old work horse will roll on the ground or break into a lumbering gallop when he is turned loose into the open. ~Gerald Raferty
*more information via Canada.com and CTV