Sky Mountain Wild Horse Sanctuary envisions a world where all wildlife live free and thrive within healthy ecosystems. The sanctuary works to create healthy ecosystems for wild horses and to give sanctuary for vulnerable mustangs where they live free. The band of mustangs who are the inspiration for the sanctuary and all its endeavors have much to teach each of us in the Sky Community and beyond about habitat loss, ecosystem health, and what this means for wild horses and for all species, including the human animal. As truly wild places are lost, wild horses and all wildlife they share these lands with are pushed off what has been their home. The health of the lands they still roam is increasingly threatened as forage and water sources decline amidst climate change and ever-growing human activity.  Starvation is a slow, cruel phenomenon ~ as the health of the original mustangs of the Sky Band so clearly illustrated.

Humanity, Science, & Technology in Action for Wild Horses

Sky Mountain Wild Horse Sanctuary is growing to give freedom to additional mustangs in ways that align with the sanctuary’s whole ecosystem approach to sustaining the Sky band’s health and the health of the sanctuary for them and the wildlife they share it with. The sanctuary’s deep commitment to wild horses, wildlife, and wild lands within and beyond its boundaries has led to exploration of different paths by which more wild horses stay free on their home lands in numbers that are healthy for them and the land. In 2009, a ground-breaking effort with sanctuary partners Mount Taylor Mustangs and the Carson National Forest led to the first-ever immunocontraception treatment for wild horses from a U.S. Forest Service-managed territory in the country.  Protecting the freedom of wild horses by treating them with the immunocontraceptive Porcine Zona Pellucida, or PZP, is a marked shift in the paradigm of how wild horses are managed. Prior to 2009, wild horses on Forest-managed Wild Horse Territories were rounded up from their home lands to keep herds at numbers that were deemed appropriate, or when water and forage for them was running out  - round up and removal was the only method used to manage herd numbers. Mustangs who are rounded up and removed from their land face an uncertain future that at best results in freedom lost for most of them. Using PZP to limit reproduction provides a path for keeping wild horses free on the lands they roam in numbers that are healthy for them and the land.

The first mares from a U.S. Forest Service Wild Horse Territory receive PZP treatment ~ March 2009, New Mexico.

The first mares from a U.S. Forest Service Wild Horse Territory receive PZP treatment ~ March 2009, New Mexico.

What PZP Is

PZP is a vaccine against conception ~ an immunocontraceptive. Made from porcine ovum, it stays out of the reproductive stream in the body. This means that PZP prevents pregnancy with little side effects, some mares develop a lump at the injection sight that goes away on its own. Over thirty years of research has demonstrated that PZP is safe for mares, pregnant mares and their foals, and for the environment. PZP is 90 - 95% effective, is reversible, and comes in two forms. Native PZP is the vaccine that provides one year of protection against conception. PZP-22 is the multi-year form of the vaccine. Entire wild horse herds are kept free and healthy on their lands in numbers that are sustainable for them and these lands by treating mares with PZP.

PZP-22 ~ Innovation & Research

The next adventure in freedom for more mustangs was treating mares with PZP on a second wild horse territory in the Carson Forest. Project partners treated mares with PZP-22, or the multi-year immuncontraceptive, out on the range by darting these mares using air-powered dart guns. This marked yet another innovation - the first treatment of wild horses in the country with PZP-22 by darting on the range. Tufts University veterinary medicine students followed the treated mares for two years, and documented a 79% reduction and a 35% reduction for treated mares in years one and two, respectively. This research contributes to freedom for more mustangs, particularly those in elusive herds, by demonstrating another management method and the efficacy of darting herd members with a multi-year immunocontraceptive. Research results are forthcoming in the journal Wildlife Reproduction.

Carson Forest Mustangs ~ photo by Dan Elkins

Carson Forest Mustangs ~ photo by Dan Elkins

The Sky Band Makes Their Big Screen Debut in Roaming Wild
Members of the original Sky band ~ Sun, Moon, Fire, Luna & Starlight ~ showed the power of freedom restored in the award-winning documentary Roaming Wild, by Sylvia Johnson. The film has been described as a modern day Western  about wild horses in the center of an age-defining controversy where the demands of modern development are colliding with the needs of the wild. Gorgeous wild horses and stunning cinematography interwoven with diverse perspectives illuminate key challenges facing wild horses, as well as paths forward for protecting them and their freedom.

Today in Autumn  2019

The Sky band is romping amidst the golden colors and crisp mornings of fall with the scent of sage in the air of their mountain sanctuary. Sky Mountain Wild Horse Sanctuary continues to work for freedom for more wild horses by funding and delivering PZP treatment for them on the Carson National Forest. The sanctuary had the privilege of collaborating with partners to treat horses with PZP on a tribal nation earlier this year, and is collaborating with additional partners to expand this effort for the health and freedom of these tribal horses and the health of their range. A new research project is in development with key scientist partners who bring keen intellect and a deep caring for wild horses to advancing immunocontraception for keeping more mustangs free on the range.  The sanctuary is also hard at work on securing more wild land to restore freedom for additional vulnerable wild horses. Immense gratitude for all in the Sky community for holding a vision of freedom  and for working together to create healthy ecosystems for wild horses and sanctuary where vulnerable mustangs are live free. Blessings!


Why Wild Horses, Why Now?

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