There are many people in Breathitt, Knott and throughout east Kentucky who love horses but have limited space on their own properties to keep them due to the mountainous terrain.
At the same time, there are many large landowners and coal reclamation sites that could provide lots of grazing area and ideal pastureland.
In the past, there has been a wonderful relationship between local horse owners and large private landowners to free-range one’s horses on someone else’s property. These horse owners would check on their horses, make sure they were in good health, and either bring them home during the winter months when food was scarce up on the mountain or take both hay, grain and salt blocks to the horses when needed. And there was an unwritten code that no stallions were to be free-ranged. But that is no longer the case.
There is a growing number of horses up on reclamation sites. Some are there with permission, but more and more are being dropped off without permission by people who may or, in many cases, may not even live in the county. And these individuals have no intention of checking on their horses, providing health care if they should get hurt or ill, or for that matter, ever reclaiming them. These horses have been abandoned.
Some of these horses are old, some are in poor health, but a large majority are in good shape and will live for years.
But it is not just the horses being dropped off that are a problem. Stallions have been let loose on the reclamation sites and are now impregnating the mares whom, unchecked, may birth colts who grow up into studs and impregnate more mares — and the numbers just keep growing. If one questions this, go to Mill Creek, Raven, Jones Fork or a number of other reclamation sites throughout the county and count the number of pregnant mares and the growing number of yearlings. This unchecked growing population of horses has now put into jeopardy the relationship the responsible horse owners once had with the landowners.
A group of people are attempting to inventory all the free–ranging horses in Knott, Breathitt and surrounding counties to determine which horses are owned and which ones have been abandoned. That way, if horses have already been identified and they end up somewhere they shouldn’t be, like the seven horses last week that ended up down on Ky. 80, six horses noted in the article on this page, or have ventured on still bonded reclamation sites, they could quickly be identified and their owners contacted before any permanent damage is done. If the horses causing problems have been identified as abandoned then they would be available for immediate adoption to someone that would take responsibility for them.
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