Wild horses in Eastern Kentucky face threats

Horses have roamed free for decades on old surface mines in Eastern Kentucky, but with unchecked breeding and owners apparently turning out more mares and stallions in recent years, the population has increased to the point of concern, according to animal-welfare advocates.

The horses can endanger themselves and drivers by wandering onto hilly roads, and face untreated health problems and potential food shortages in the winter.

“There’s a problem that is growing,” said Lori Redmon, head of the Kentucky Humane Society. “There are some sites that are currently not able to sustain the horse population.”

The horses roam on mined, unfenced areas in several counties, including Knott, Breathitt, Leslie, Martin, Magoffin, Perry, Floyd, Harlan and Bell.

In surface mining, companies blast the tops or sides off mountains to uncover coal seams, then plant vegetation in reclaiming the sites. That has created tens of thousands of acres of relatively level land where horses can graze.

It’s not clear how many horses there are on mined sites in the state’s eastern coalfield.

David Ledford, head of the Appalachian Wildlife Foundation, said he’d heard an estimate of 3,000 to 5,000, but noted there have been no formal surveys.


  • Louie C

    Here are a couple of old articles that give more information and also bring up more questions as to WHO wants those Horses removed and WHY?

    Kentucky Humane Society And Sequoia Energy Embroiled In Land Dispute Over Wild Horses
    Posted: 12/05/2012

    A Humane Society chapter in southeastern Kentucky says it is locked in a dispute with a coal company that wants to shoo a pack of wild horses off a former surface mining site.

    Messages left with Sequoia’s parent company, Southern Coal Corp. of Roanoke, Va., were not returned on Tuesday. Southern Coal is owned by West Virginia billionaire Jim Justice and his relatives.

    Grazing animals like horses and cows have caused problems on other mine reclamation sites in southeastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia, said David Ledford, a biologist who has worked with coal companies in restoring land and wildlife to surface mining areas.

    Harlan County Humane Society President Marcella Chadwick said Sequoia Energy wants the horses moved off the land, but Chadwick said her group and the landowners who leased the coal rights to the mining company want the animals to be left alone.

    “Just leave the horses alone, that’s all we want out of it,” Chadwick said Tuesday. There are about 80 to 100 horses in the area, and the animals have been around there for decades, she said.

    “It’s rampant. It’s very common in eastern Kentucky in the coalfields,” said Ledford, president of the Appalachian Wildlife Foundation in Corbin. “There’s probably several thousand horses out there that are walking around these reclaimed coal mines.”

    November 22, 2015
  • Louie C

    MORE questions

    Dozens of wild horses missing, one dead in Harlan County, Ky
    August 23, 2014

    From: Local 8 Knoxville TN
    HARLAN, Ky. (WVLT/WKYT) — Workers with the Harlan County Humane Society says 37 of the wild horses that they care for are missing. They say one has been found dead.

    The workers typically care for more than 100 horses, but as of Friday afternoon, 38 of those were missing.

    Kentucky State Police found one horse dead. They say they’re expecting the same result for the other 37.

    Troopers are working with the Humane Society to try to piece together what happened.

    Humane Society workers say that if criminal activity is behind the horses disappearance, they are committed to bringing those responsible to justice.

    The humane society is trying to find out who’s responsible for shooting the horses.
    A $4,100 cash reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest and prosecution.

    Anyone with information in the case is asked to call the Humane Society at 606-573-0016. They can also call Kentucky State Police in Harlan at 606-573-3131.

    November 22, 2015