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Thank you to everyone who responded.  You guys are great!  I see from some
of the posts on what to do about the stray's behavior that I really did not
explain the situation very well.  A lot of his problem behavior is caused, I
think, by the confusing way I've dealt with him.

I'm basically a transplanted city girl (three generations down from my Texas
rancher stock).  When, one dark, dark night, as I was going down to feed I
discovered the stray and a mule buddy of his in the unfenced part of my
pasture, I paniced--worried they would get into the road and get hit by
cars.  (Not impossible, deers do it every day.)  So I called the Sheriff.
Whoever was on duty told me to lock them up.  I did and the next work day
called animal control.  Animal control was very helpful about the
mule--called up the usual suspects, located his owner and got the guy to
pick the mule up within a week.  Unfortunately, the mule's owner swore he'd
never seen the horse before.  So---I called all the neighbors, announced it
in my Backcountry Horseman meetings, put an ad in the local paper (it's
true, found animal ads are free), told all the local vets and even had some
out to see him, told the post office.  Anyway, by Christmas I was meeting
people for the first time who were saying to me, "You still got that horse?"
    A lot of people on Ridecamp are aware of the "open range" laws.  I
wasn't, but, surprisingly, neither were a lot of locals here.
    Anyway, I kept the horse locked up for a couple of weeks waiting for the
owner to show up.  Meanwhile several people, who have better facilities than
I do, offered to take him until we could find his owner, but Animal Control
said I couldn't do that because of the open range laws.  They said, "Turn
him out, don't feed him, he'll go home".  Well, you guys know horses--they
don't always know if they've been sold, stolen or just locked up by mistake.
The stray thought he was home!  He'd bonded to my guys--the mule had left in
a trailer a week or so before.  So--the stray stayed.  And was major pissed
that I stopped feeding.  It wasn't that he was hungry--it was the principal
of the thing.
    Now I admit to being a wuss--but there were two other reasons I didn't
try the longe whip thing:
    1) unlike city dark, country dark is serious dark--smothered in a black
felt blanket dark.  I need to see the target to effectively use a lunge
    2) we are talking stumbling across gopher pitted pasture with buckets of
beep pulp (bute and antibioltics for the guy with the hoof abcess)--no extra
hands for even a flash light.  Now, one time, when the stray charged me, I
did swing at him with the buckets.  He turned around and got ready to kick.
    Anyway, now I give hay--the stray feels vindicated, I feel safer.
    Abigail, a new ridecamper, gave me a good idea:  that maybe this stray
did not get to take my good fence down.  Imagine how I hated him liberating
my guys.  So I called the local Sheriff back and they have agreed to come
get him.  Their plan--to take him two counties away and sell him.  Hold the
money for a year if the owner shows up.  If not, it goes to the County.

    My concern over all this is:
    1)  I don't think the horse is wild.  He's easy to halter, knows about
carrots and bran mash, and has always been in good condition.  Basically a
friendly guy, who doesn't plan to have folks change the rules on him.
    2)  If he was stolen, there doesn't seem to be anyway to trace his
    3)  If my horses were stolen, where would I turn if the Brand Inspector
isn't interested?  Some people suggested talking to the State vet.  I
haven't had a chance to do that yet, but I think I will at least try to find
out what the rules are now for stolen horses.
    4) Several of you talked about the problem with bad neighbors.  Boy, I
sympathize, but fortunately for me--I don't think that's the case.  I do
wonder if someone didn't just drop him off for free feed, but I don't think
it was an immediate neighbor.
    5)    The whole "open range" thing seems to me to need some work.  I
live in a rural area, but not an area of hundreds of thousands of unfenced
acres.  For livestock to wander around here means that, more often than not,
they have to walk on the roads--dark roads, sometimes icy roads, littered
with the carcasses of unfortunate deer-car encounters.  I'm just not sure
that an "open-range" law that encourages people to turn their horses and
cows out for the winter is still viable.
    Of course, the other thing that could happen is that the horse gets hurt
on your property.  Legally, you're not liable, but ethically, can you watch
a horse die, because you don't have to call the vet.  And, even if you did,
would he, legally, be able to treat it?


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