Concerns Over Conditions at Palomino Valley Wild Horse Center


John Potter – 2News – July 17, 2013

UnknownFor years we’ve seen Nevada’s wild horses chased by helicopters, rounded up and forced into captivity. It began in 1971, when Congress directed the Secretary of the Interior to “protect and manage” them. Post-roundup, the horses are taken to holding facilities like the one 25 miles north of Reno, the BLM’s Palomino Valley National Wild Horse and Burro Center.

During a tour outside and inside the horse pens, Assistant Facility Manager Jeb Beck told me there are about 1,600 horses being held at his center, for an average term of 5 months or more. They will stay here until moved to sanctuaries in the Midwest, and while the BLM tries getting them adopted…but that goal is getting tougher. Horses are expensive to own, and when the economy turned bad, adoptions went way down. They never came back.

Of the BLM’s annual budget, about half of it goes to holding centers like this, and the cost of holding and feeding the horses is, as many prospective adoption candidates found, expensive. The BLM’s cost to care for them is over $4 a day per head. In the Palomino center alone, that’s over $6,700 a day.

Horse advocates have always called keeping the horses in captivity cruel and unnecessary. But they have new complaints about how these mustangs are treated once they’re in custody, primarily based on protections against Nevada’s brutal summer heat. Ever since the big heat began, Cold Springs resident Nancy Leake has been spending a lot of time on high ground, parked on the ledge overlooking Palomino Valley facility. She hates what she sees. She told me that she “saw horses lying down in the dirt, not moving, having a hard time breathing….distressed.”

imagesShe was so upset, she began keeping a photo record and sending the pictures…to me. Several, taken on July 7th, show horses laying prone on the dirt. She told me they were “heat exhausted. You could see that the heat, the sun was just baking them. And that’s what I put down for you, is that they were baking.”

Back inside the facility, I should the pictures to Jeb Beck. His reaction: “I see a horse laying down sleeping. That’s typical foal or horse behavior…not in distress at all. After they feed in the morning they will go rest, whether it’s lying down or standing.”

Still, from what we saw inside the pens, the horses are penned up on bare ground with no grass to lay on…no trees or vegetation for shelter from the hot sun, especially from the very high temperatures that are coming this weekend. They do have sprinklers set up in each pen, but most of the horses avoided them. Beck told us, “With proper care, proper feed, proper water and access to continuous water, these animals are able to self- regulate. They’re at rest. They’re not working.”

Nancy, who doesn’t own horses or belong to an advocacy group, says he’s lying. She doesn’t believe the horses she saw were sleeping…she is sure these horses are suffering in the heat. Nancy and many like her say these horses need more than sprinklers…they need shade. But Beck says a shade structure could create more problems than it’s worth…any unfamiliar structure can harm them, and horses traditionally stay away from them because he says they attract flies. He also said there are wide expanses in the wild where horses live well without shade. We asked, is the treatment at the Palomino center humane? Beck told us, “Yes sir it is.”

images-1Back on the ledge, Nancy is not convinced. She’s worried: the triple digit heat is coming back this weekend. She doesn’t think the sprinklers are enough. She and many others like her don’t like the idea of roundups in the first place, but says if the horses must be in captivity, they shouldn’t be harmed or in peril. She tells me she has seen horses near death at the center. One, she says, “You could actually see the baby’s hip bone showing. That foal is gone. There were other horses too, their ribs were showing.”

We did not witness any horses in that condition. Nancy believes “they might have taken them” because they knew we were coming. In response, Jeb Beck told us, “We have not had any noted cases of animals dying because of the heat.”

Read more and see video at 2News – Click HERE 


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AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
  • Barbara

    Go to the TV’s Facebook and comment please. Beck is full of BS.

    July 18, 2013
  • Donna E Wise

    I know it is a good idea to have shelter but on the other hand these are wild horses and they would normally be out on the plains looking for grass and should have some sort of resistance to the weather. They do have misters and that is a help and if they were hot enough that is where they would stand. They are not the stupid animals some think they are. I am not thrilled with the BLM but for much worse things than this. I do have horses and they will lay stretched out in the dirt soaking up the sun. They do have shady places and grassy places but they seem to choose where they like to roll, for napping.Not trying to put this lady down as some of what she is true but people that are not horse people really do not know what is normal. We do have more important issues for the best interest for horses in general (which includes these horses). Horse slaughter is not the most humane end for a horse and some of these maybe headed there. We know there has been a lot of drought the last couple of years and feed and hay are very expensive but we need better alternatives. It is the cattle ranchers who lease public lands that are causing these horses to be rounded up. I feel they are making money using tax payer land. I can go on and on but this issue upsets me to end !

    July 18, 2013
    • BlessUsAll

      One does NOT — I repeat NOT — need to “own” horses to know the difference between a horse choosing to nap in the sun and being so weak that he is unable to move and is baking to death.

      There are plenty of so-called “horse people” who starve their horses to skin and bones and yet “see” those horses as “healthy”!

      Anyone who knows one smidgeon about the BLM, as you obviously do in your closing comments, Donna, can be sure that every word uttered by any BLM employee for the record — that is, for public consumption — is the exact OPPOSITE of the truth.

      So please stop defending their lies by way of questioning this intelligent, observant, rational, and diligent woman, who clearly knows the difference between right and wrong, been normal and abnormal, between healthy and ill, and who is doing everything she can do legally to monitor the wretched conditions these poor equine prisoners are being forced to endure. She is a hero in my eyes.

      Maybe you’d like to go back to previous posts both on this blog and on R.T. Fitch’s blog, “Straight from the Horse’s Heart,” found at

      July 18, 2013
      • sherriey

        i’m with you, BlessUsAll….i have horses and this last week its been in the 90’s +…and all of mine prefer the run-ins and shade trees. they are refusing to go out into the pastures to eat b/c its so hot out there with no shade. we are feeding hay up by the run-ins until this heat goes away. those wild and penned up horses don’t have a choice of shade or no shade. as for the sprinklers…being wild horses these man-made devices may not be as horse friendly as they were intended to be. btw…even tho mine are domesticated…they are still out 24/7 and should be “weather resistance” too….don’t ya think? so i don’t buy that line at all! i saw the video….and those horses are in heat distress!!!!

        July 18, 2013
  • Robynne Catheron

    Well said, BlessUsAll. Horses in the wild most definitely will find shade during the hottest times of the day, whether it’s a grove of trees or a deep valley. I challenge you to send me a video of a horse laying down on hot ground simply to nap after standing in the sun all day long on that same hot ground, and then standing back up. I’ll lay you odds the temperature of the ground under the horses at PVC is in the high hundreds, probably higher. If they’re laying down, it’s because they’re too weak from heat exhaustion to stand. Could you do it? Would you willingly lay down for a nap on that hot sand after standing in the sun all day in 100+ degree heat, baking yourself to a crisp on both sides at once? Neither would those horses.

    July 18, 2013
    • Robynne Catheron

      Sorry, I should have stated that my comment was in reply to Donna E Wise.

      July 18, 2013
  • LNorman

    Wild horses in the wild, do seek shelter from blazing sun and extreme temperatures and they know where to find it. Palamino Valley is a hellhole for wild horses. Not only do they not have shade, but recently there have been strangles, warts, and other maladies observed at this holding facility. In the past, hundreds of horses have suffered miserable dehydration deaths here because blm employees did not fill water troughs. The horses were buried in a mass grave. This year alone, hundreds of horses/foals from this facility have been sent to rendering plant. Isn’t this the same facility where rednecks in trucks were chasing the horses around in the pens? The humane society needs to investigate this hellhole, quarantine the sick and free the stolen wild horses.

    July 18, 2013
    • sherriey

      ….”stolen wild horses”….i like that and it fits to a “T” on what the BLM has done.

      do they still hang horse thieves….????

      July 18, 2013
  • Nancy Leake

    I know what I saw were horses in distress. My husband and I were there for a good 2 hours. We followed that foal for a good 20 minutes. It was lost.We drove around the whole facility. The water sprinklers were not on.We took the picture of the foal July 7th.I was in contact with the reporter all week. He said he had to let Jeb Beck know they were coming.I said they will spruce up the place.He asked if we would go back and get more pictures.We went back July 14th. The foal and horses in that corral were gone. That corral was next to Jeb Becks office. In the news clip.the sprinklers were on. They weren’t on both times we were there.So where did that foal go? I felt I did the right thing.Thank you for posting this to your website. Nancy Leake

    July 21, 2013
  • Nancy Leake

    where was the picture of the awning taken?
    this was not at PVC, unless they put them up after the story aired? Thanks

    July 21, 2013
  • Nancy Leake

    0038190000BLM Nevada News
    Nevada State Office No. 13-26
    For Release: July 19, 2013
    Contact: Heather Jasinski, (775) 861-6594,

    BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program Looks to the Reno Community for Ideas at Upcoming Public Workshop

    Reno, Nev. – In light of recent public concern over shade at the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Palomino Valley National Wild Horse and Burro Center (PVC), the BLM will hold a public workshop in coming weeks to provide an open forum and allow for information sharing, suggestions, and ideas on how the BLM can best provide for the horses at PVC with available resources and within constraints.

    In addition to the workshop, the BLM is consulting with animal welfare experts Dr. Carolyn Stull, Ph.D., and Dr. Kathryn Holcomb, Ph.D., of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine who are scheduled to visit PVC to assess environmental conditions. Dr. Holcomb has conducted research to determine if horses prefer and benefit from shade and Dr. Stull is known for her animal welfare work with agricultural animals.

    “Although PVC doesn’t typically have triple-digit temperatures for prolonged periods of time, as is the case in other areas where shade is provided for the animals, we know this summer in Reno has been especially hot,” said Joan Guilfoyle, Wild Horse and Burro Division Chief. “The well-being of the wild horses and burros under BLM’s care is important to us, both on and off the range, and we’re interested in constructive input and dialogue with the public.”

    The PVC facility has been an important part of the BLM’s wild horse and burro adoption program for many years. Horses and burros there have a continuous supply of water and are fed daily. A veterinarian regularly visits the site and sprinklers were installed in late June to three large outside wild horse pens and five mare/foal pens to help keep the animals cool on warm days. No evidence exists that any animals being held at PVC are experiencing life-threatening conditions as a result of high temperatures.

    The Center is the largest BLM preparation and adoption facility in the country with a capacity of 1,850 animals. It serves as the primary preparation center for wild horses and burros gathered from the public lands in Nevada and nearby states. Visitors wishing to adopt are encouraged to call the Center prior to arrival at (775) 475-2222. Public hours for visiting are held Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. and on the first Saturday of each month from 8 a.m.-noon.

    Photo caption: At the BLM’s Palomino Valley Wild Horse and Burro Center outside Reno, a sprinkler attached to the panel of a large wild horse pen sprays water while horses eat in the distance.


    July 22, 2013