The Virginia Range is just East of Reno, and if you grew up watching Bonanza you’ve seen it “with your own eyes.” 50% of all the wild mustangs that lives on our continent lives in Nevada.
The mustangs that roams the hills of the Virginia Range are among the easiest to see, if you would like to see a wild horse. The city of Reno, Carson City, and the surrounding suburban areas are constantly growing, for the wild horses that means that the hills that they’ve been roaming are somewhat taken from them. The water sources are scarce in the desert, and they are forced to use the water sources that are available, even if they now are in populated areas. The debate of the right to the land is not a simple one. It’s sad to see horses get killed by traffic while they are trying to get a ”snack” from someones lawn. The desert is mostly sage brush, very lean grass, and rocks, when the horses see all the green lawns in the neighborhoods it’s challenging to resist them. I’ve also seen people feed them treats from their cars on many occasions. It is illegal to feed wild horses. I’m sure people mean well, simply not understanding the damage they cause by doing it, (causing horses to colic, founder, and get killed in traffic.)
These horses are not on BLM land, and therefor not protected in the same way as mustangs on BLM land. The Virginia Range Horses are classified as stray/feral livestock, when they cause nuisance (gets into neighborhood, highways etc) they get rounded up, and loose their freedom. They are sometimes sold at auctions. When any horse is sold at an auction it’s a really bad thing, they are often bought by kill-buyers, that transport the horses under cruel circumstances, to a cruel end in Mexico. If you do want to know the fate of these horses, look it up on Youtube, (don’t do it if you want to sleep at night.) Those videos are very graphic.
All these horrible facts aside, the Virginia Range Horses are beautiful. I enjoy watching them through my telephoto lens higher up in the foothills, away from the the cities. Up there the horses are wild. (Near the cities these horses occasionally walk right up to people, since they are used to be given treats.) The Virginia Range Mustangs are on the shorter side, usually around 13-14hh. They are believed to be the mixed offspring off early pioneer’s horses, with a touch of Shetland pony (sometimes used for working the mines.) I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know a few of them, that lost their freedom, and been sold at auctions. The ones that I’ve met had all the potential in the world to go in any direction as a riding horse; brave, surefooted, lots of endurance, and extremely loyal to their person. Wild horses that lost their freedom are used to being dependent on their herd (their family) for safety, they bond very closely to one person, that becomes their herd. If you gain the trust of a mustang you have a faithful partner that will do anything for you. My humble experience is that if you dedicate enough time to a mustang, the bond gets stronger than with most domesticated horses. In the wild their life depends on being close to their family, not only physically, but also mentally. They are masters of body language. Using body language as much as possible is recommended in any, and all interaction with a wild horse.
Mustangs are extremely intelligent, and I often feel that they’ve read my thoughts before I even was aware of them myself. I hope you enjoyed this visit to the Virginia Range. These horses taught me so much, and will always own a part of my heart.
PS. Prints of the photos of the wild horses in today’s post are available. Click on a photo you are interested in to see available art prints. I’m using Fine Art America‘s high quality prints, and safe online payment service. Order soon to receive your prints before Christmas. World wide delivery. Gift options available at checkout!