Metro's Mounted Unit Has New Opinion of Wild Horses - 8 News NOW

George Knapp, Investigative Reporter

Metro's Mounted Unit Has New Opinion of Wild Horses

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At this point, it looks like Forever Steel is going to make the cut and join Metro. At this point, it looks like Forever Steel is going to make the cut and join Metro.
"Sometimes this will take 3 to 6 months to teach a horse this. Took him about a week," said Metro Sgt. Bruce Harper. "Sometimes this will take 3 to 6 months to teach a horse this. Took him about a week," said Metro Sgt. Bruce Harper.
Most of the horses end up warehoused in government corrals. Some have been sent to slaughter. A facility in Ridgecrest, Calif., has an admirable record of finding homes for horses through outreach programs. Most of the horses end up warehoused in government corrals. Some have been sent to slaughter. A facility in Ridgecrest, Calif., has an admirable record of finding homes for horses through outreach programs.
"They represent a symbol of the west and our country, we believe strongly it's our mission to manage and protect those wild horses," said BLM's Juan Palma. "They represent a symbol of the west and our country, we believe strongly it's our mission to manage and protect those wild horses," said BLM's Juan Palma.
"There's a responsibility that goes along with gathering that many horses and it's part of the law, part of the program. You've got to place those horses," said wild horse advocate Jerry Reynoldson. "There's a responsibility that goes along with gathering that many horses and it's part of the law, part of the program. You've got to place those horses," said wild horse advocate Jerry Reynoldson.

The Bureau of Land Management says it wants to round up another 250 wild horses from ranges in Southern Nevada and that roundup is prompting howls of protest from wild horse advocates who think the BLM wants to get rid of the horses altogether.

Thousands of horses are stockpiled in government corrals after being rounded up in Nevada and some are questioning if there is a way to find them a home.

BLM has a tough job in managing the range. They've said before, if everyone doesn't hate us, we must not be doing our job.

Well, if that's the standard, maybe they are doing their job, because when it comes to wild horses, the agency is pretty much despised.

Is there a better way to manage wild horses? Maybe so.

There's something about a cop on a horse that grabs people's attention. Metro's mounted unit, made up of six officers and a sergeant, is used mainly for crowd control and patrol work such as on New Year's Eve, and it takes a special kind of horse to handle the interaction.

"Number one we look for disposition. We look for a calm horse, one you can walk about if a kid grabs its leg, it won't react, a horse with a good mind that won't blow up in traffic if we have a problem," said Metro Sgt. Bruce Harper. 

By those standards, you wouldn't think a wild mustang could qualify for police work. After all, by definition they're wild. But the Metro team has a new opinion based on the past several weeks they've spent with this guy, nicknamed Forever Steel, adopted from a government pen on a trial basis to see if he measures up to Metro's standards. So far, he does, on every level.

"Notice his ears are back. He's listening to me. If I give him a cue, he wants to know, what do you want me to do," Harper said. 

Forever Steel has grown accustomed to most of the challenges he might face on a crowded street, odd colors, objects on fire, and loud noises. He's even taken to pushing his weight around.

"Sometimes this will take 3 to 6 months to teach a horse this. Took him about a week."

At this point, it looks like Forever Steel is going to make the cut and join Metro. That's encouraging news for other horses still warehoused in government corrals.  If it works for Metro, it could work for other police departments, thus encouraging more adoptions.

The BLM is the point agency for managing wild horses. In Nevada, at least, that primarily consists of roundups.  A national policy study conducted for BLM recommends standard marketing techniques for increasing adoptions.  Otherwise, horses stand around in government pens, eating their way through tax dollars.

"We support gathering horses where you need to gather horses," Jerry Reynoldson, wild horse advocate.

Even wild horse advocates like Jerry Reynoldson recognize that roundups are sometimes necessary. What they can't understand is why the Nevada BLM does almost nothing to encourage adoptions as well.

California has increased horse adoptions 40% through active marketing. The Las Vegas BLM has proposed gathering another 250 horses from the Cold Creek area but has no plans to adopt out any of them.

"There's a responsibility that goes along with gathering that many horses and it's part of the law, part of the program. You've got to place those horses," said Reynoldson.

The BLM's Juan Palma says the reason for so few adoptions in his district is that volunteer groups haven't done enough. He does not explain why BLM itself hasn't done more but strongly refutes the suspicion that BLM wants the wild horses gone from the range.

"They represent a symbol of the west and our country, we believe strongly it's our mission to manage and protect those wild horses. Everything we do at BLM is to address that issue," Palma said. 

It would take a lot of convincing for Palma to convince the wild horse community that he is sincere. And the suspicion is probably mutual.

Just once, maybe, BLM will have to take fewer than the maximum number of horses that it can during a roundup, and follow it up with an adoption event that BLM initiates on its own rather than waiting for volunteers. That could be step one on the road to cooperation.

Jerry Reynoldson is a longtime wild horse advocate who recently founded a non-profit group Wild Horses 4Ever, which is still in the formative stages. The phone number is 702-398-7799.

Jerry is very knowledgable about wild horse issues and has offered to help anyone who is interested in adopting a wild horse, even if it means driving to the Ridgecrest facility in California.

Eyewitness News will keep you posted on the progress of Forever Steel.

Send your feedback to Investigative Reporter George Knapp at gknapp@klastv.com

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