Sunday, March 27, 2016

Susan W. Watt, Executive Director IRAM Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary

Archived Freelance Interview
1st Publication February 2016
An interview with Susan W. Watt, Executive Director IRAM
Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary
by Gina McKnight


Susan W. Watt is the Executive Director of South Dakota's Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary. Watt writes, “I have been at the Sanctuary almost twenty years assisting Mr. Dayton O. Hyde, IRAM President.  IRAM’s Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary is home to ‘America’s Luckiest Wild Horses.’ Our organization was founded in 1988 by our President Dayton O. Hyde and is a 501 c 3 non-profit organization registered in the state of South Dakota. IRAM is an 11,000 acre privately owned land dedicated to range preservation and balancing the ecosystem. The Sanctuary is home to over 600 unwanted wild mustangs. Most of these wild horses were born in other areas of the United States and were removed from their homes by the state or federal governments. Many of our mustangs have Bureau of Land Management neck brands on the left side of their necks.
"Our Sanctuary is a true melting pot of America’s wild horses that have all come seeking a new home of freedom. There are bands of American Mustangs, Spanish Mustangs, Choctaw Indian Ponies, Curly Mustangs and American Paints and Quarter horses.
"IRAM is supported by donations from kind caring individuals and from a Tourism and Education Mustang Sponsorship Program. No State or Federal Funds are received to support our program as we are an independent non-profit organization and are not connected in any way to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or other Government entity.
"The only connection is that some of our mustang originated in the Herd Management Areas of the BLM, were went through the BLM Adoption Program and then the system failed them and the mustangs ended up in rescues, other sanctuaries, or even wandering for years in the hills of Tennessee. All of the Sanctuary Mustangs were in need of a permanent sanctuary when they arrived.”

IRAM Overview:
"It has been twenty seven years since Dayton O. Hyde first saw masses of wild horses standing in boredom in government-sponsored holding facilities, and persuaded Congress and the Bureau of Land Management to let him put together a large tract of quality horse range and set these wild horses free.  He left his ranch in Oregon to pursue that dream. With an abundance of enthusiasm and a dearth of fiscal resources, he managed to set up, in the Black Hills of South Dakota, a private sanctuary for America’s unadoptable and unwanted wild horses.

On an early fall day in September 1988 the first load of wild horses straight from the BLM arrived at the newly fenced IRAM property in South Dakota. Since that day many mustangs from all over the United States from rescues, state governments and parks have come into the program."

Welcome Susan!

What are your views on current BLM laws and regulations in regard to the Mustangs?
As a private nonprofit organization we do not have any public views on BLM laws or regulations. However in 2015 we granted permanent sanctuary for 10 older BLM mustangs from the recent round up in Wyoming. These mustangs were members of the same band in the Adobe Town HMA and we wanted to try and unite them with some of their original band members and give them a new life of freedom outside of a BLM holding facility.

And your views on the current slaughter debate?
As a Sanctuary that holds life in high esteem, all life is precious and we do not support economic gain for ending the life of any being. 

Do you travel to feedlots, etc., to rescue Mustangs?
Most of our mustangs were rescued and transported to the Sanctuary by our donors that are trying to find permanent homes for America’s unwanted mustangs. Some had already been sold to slaughter buyers and the mustangs were purchased by a donor and shipped here to the Sanctuary for a permanent home of freedom.

Photo by Karla R. LaRive (c)
How many Mustangs come through your sanctuary on a weekly basis? 
The Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary is not a rescue organization; we are a permanent home for the resident mustangs that live here. They do not arrive on a weekly basis.

Does the US Government/BLM subsidize your work and care of the Mustangs?
IRAM receives no state or federal aid all of our income comes from grants, donation, tourism and sponsorships from our kind caring donors. All of bills are paid by the income from IRAM’s programs to support the mustangs that live on the Sanctuary.

Do you have a favorite Mustang related anecdote to share?
In August of 2006 a shipment of 17 BLM and State of Nevada wild geldings had just arrived in the early afternoon. One of the tour drivers told me there was a problem over at the corrals that I needed to check on so I ran over.  One of the new arrivals, a little bay Nevada mustang gelding with one white back foot, had kicked back at another horse and got his hind foot caught in the chain between the two panels.

I saw quickly that this job needed the help of Dayton Hyde that I could not break the chain. So I ran to his home and asked him to come quick. Not even explaining the situation, I grabbed a crowbar and Dayton and ran over to where the gelding was upside down.

The sky had not blessed us with rain all summer and just then the lightning started striking the ground around us and the rain poured down. As we approached the metal panels we were soaked and trembling with fear that we would get struck by the lightning. Dayton quickly freed the gelding.  The frightened mustang lay on the ground for a minute just getting his bearings. After catching his breath the gelding jumped up unhurt and just a little sore. He walked over and joined the other new mustang arrivals standing nearby.

Dayton looked up at me and said, “When did this horse get here?”
I said, “About an hour ago.”
“Anything else you need to tell me?” Dayton said. 
“No sir," I said.

After that group of geldings were given their freedom, that little bay Nevada mustang gelding would come over to me whenever I was out with the herd, and look directly at me with the kindest eyes as if he was thanking me for rescuing him from the panel and giving him freedom!

Do you train and find homes for rescued Mustangs?  
Once an unwanted mustang comes into the Sanctuary program they are granted a lifetime of freedom here and they do not go to a new home.

What can we do to help protect the Mustangs?
Sharing the knowledge that wild horses originated in North America millions of years ago and they are a native species worth saving and protecting. It is very important to educate the public about mustangs and encourage contributions and support of rescue groups and sanctuaries that work to give the unwanted mustangs a home. Caring and doing are the most important ways to help protect the mustangs.

Connect with Susan at the IRAM, Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary
 Photo by Karla R. LaRive (c)

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