Home off the Range

Got Milk! Doesn’t take long for young foals to adapt to new surroundings and support.

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In these dark times, many of us have have been seeking that ray of sunshine that casts light on humanity. We’ve seen it with healthcare workers, grocery store clerks, and with those who serve and protect. But if you investigate the small niches of society, we can find a bright light that lays hope to change in many charitable groups that are run by humble-minded people with enormous hearts.

One such organization is Chilly Pepper — Miracle Mustang, Equine Rescue & More. In conjunction with Dustin’ Time Rescue, these noble rescuers give all they have to provide second chances to wild horses forced off the range. They primarily specialize in critical, neonatal care to injured and orphaned foals.

Every non-profit organization has a back story that brought about a need for awareness and change, and it’s often not a very pleasant one.

Like many rescues, Chilly Pepper’s is one of heartache and triumph. The organization was formed under the 501c(3) umbrella of WIN (Wild Horses in Need), which was founded in 2004 out of necessity to save hundreds of horses from horrific conditions and human cruelty inflicted by a rancher in Santa Ynez Valley, CA. They are dedicated to protecting the Western Shoshone Indian Wild Horse and all other wild horses that are in need. Branching out, Lauri Elizabeth Armstrong (AKA Palomino) formed her foundation after rescuing a little miracle mustang named Chilly Pepper who was found orphaned in the snow, frozen and hungry for two days alone alongside her deceased mother. Although she barely survived her first couple of weeks in captivity, the little filly has since grown into a healthy horse. Palomino, who is from Nevada, gave it her all to make the little fighter would pull through. Since then, she has devoted her life to saving other orphans like Chilly Pepper.

The reign of terror begins in these young foals’ lives when the roundups, designed to control the mustang population, begin in areas such as Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. Newborn to weaning foals are chased with their bands by helicopters. Many are emotionally crippled, killed, or hurt so badly they cannot survive. Those that do make it often are separated from their moms and inevitably become orphans. Even so, Nevada officials have ordered these orphans to be destroyed or else they are left behind in bewilderment to fend for themselves. Survival is a far reach.

Although Chilly Pepper had a rough start, life got better for her. She had the opportunity to work with Terri Farley, author of the Phantom Stallion series, and her rescue has brought about awareness of her heritage as well as the horrors that wild horses face with some of the harsh decisions being made by man.

Since her plight to save these small lives, Palomino’s rescue has spent endless hours finding forever homes for the foals and gathering resources to save more. They raise funds for the costly care of these foals, including milk supplements, placement, travel, and medical expenses. She has also made efforts to provide equine therapy for battered or disabled women and children.

“It is a wonderful chance for broken and hurt souls to heal one another in a safe and peaceful environment,” said Palomino.

Chilly Pepper, Dustin’ Time, and a number of associated equine rescues keep their social media pages updated with the latest rescues, adoptions, and foal progress. You may see a lot of comments on their sites as to how BLM could round up these baby’s mothers and leave them behind to die and why. The unfortunate truth is that most of them are sent to kill buyer pens for slaughter, generally to be used as a dog food ingredient.

Although BLM has adopted methods for safer round-ups and has certain restrictions in place, they do not sell mustangs to slaughter houses. They have an adoption program, but after the horse is titled (a year after owner possession) there is no control over what happens to them.

The more concerning issue is that Indian reservations have not adjusted to such allowances. As a result, Palomino has found herself making frequent 11-hour trips from Nevada to Washington to save these foals. Dustin’ Time Rescue travels the same distance from Pocatello, Idaho to team up for the cause. With some help of local shippers, they can usually get the horses straight off the feedlots.

Desperate for help, Palomino writes frequent pleas on her Facebook page with similar messages like this: “Another phone call — ANOTHER 911. Shipper called and there are babies on the feedlot and more coming this week. We need to get them asap or it will be too late. I am packing the trailer tonight and heading out in the morning. WILL YOU HELP ME SAVE THEIR LIVES?”

This past month has been particularly difficult, as two foals died after inguinal hernia surgeries and one had to be euthanized due to a severe head trauma injury that likely incurred during roundup. Still, the rescuers give their heart and soul to saving as many equines as they can.

As of March 1, 2020, the BLM estimates the wild horse and burro population to be 95,114 nationwide (up from 88,090 in the last fiscal year). Chilly Pepper initially started with ten to twenty rescues a month, but has grown substantially during the past twelve years. Palomino’s team has saved as many as sixty foals in a month. During the past forty-five days they have rescued forty-nine orphaned foals, an older mule, two mares, a pregnant mare, and two mares with foals.

There are a handful of individuals who frequent the livestock feedlots each month in attempt to save what they can before truck loads of equines endure the long, grueling trips to the slaughter houses. Whether born in the wild or owner surrendered, only a handful get a second chance.

Rescues like Chilly Pepper — Miracle Mustang, Equine Rescue & More have been successful in their endeavors to give foals and other equines a second chance by placing them in good homes, but they are always in need of more support. As the demand is often greater than the means, they are always on the lookout for people willing to open their hearts to adoption. Likewise, they are always in need of supplies, milk replacers, or funding to continue their cause. If you would like to learn more about orphaned foal rescue, you can visit chillypepper.org or go to Dustin’ Time Rescue on Facebook.

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