|"Virginia Range Foal"|
5 by 7 mixed media
by Linda L Martin Artist
Mike Holmes, wasn’t just your average mustanger coming into the job of full time Virginia Range Estray Manager . He had experience with horses . Enough experience to know that he had to learn the difference in handling wild horses and those horses who had been domesticated from birth. His many years in the construction business and ranching also gave him the people skills to understand how to work with people.
Among his skills was a fair and honest method of understanding people and being diplomatic, as well as respectful, while clearly stating his case to make the point. He didn’t just go out and “manage” wild horses he also tried to learn from those who knew about them.
When asked who probably influenced him the most as he developed his management style, this is what Mike told me: “ Dawn Lappin , she was the person I went to when I needed to know something about wild horses. She knew and worked with Velma Johnston.” According to Mike, Dawn understood wild horses almost better than anyone he had met. She had also worked with Mrs. Johnston to help get the pass the laws protecting the Virginia Range horses on both a state and federal level.
“Those were the precise horses that were left out of the Wild Horse and Burro Act. Dawn fought alongside Velma to get them protected. No one ever worked to treat those horses well before Velma came along. “ Mike said.
Velma Johnston of course is also known as Wild Horse Annie. “There was just something wrong that the Federal Government managed to protect so many wild horses but the Virginia Range was left out.”
Dawn Lappin was also the person that knew enough about wild horses to help with orphan or injured foals. “ I always brought the foals to her when we found one orphaned. She would nurse them until they were old enough, then we would adopt them out. “According to Mike, Dawn also took orphans and injured foals from Nevada BLM Sources. Mike also cooperated with the BLM on a lot of the management issues. “ It was good to work with everyone and share resources. It was better for the horses that way.”
Dawn Lappin’s program is WHOA or Wild Horse Organized Assistance . You can read about the work of that organization here: http://www.mustangsofamericafoundation.org/index.html
“I worked with several different legitimate non-profits who helped us place and train the horses that we had to take from the range.” Mike added.
Jill Star and Life Savers helped with a lot of adoptions and placement in sanctuary. Their web page address is http://wildhorserescue.org/about/history-of-lifesavers/
And LRTC or Least Resistance Training at http://www.whmentors.org/ Helped with the saddle training program and adoption auction held each year to help offset costs of the management and help place some better started animals in home for easier adoption.
“We had a yearlong waiting period for adopters .“ Mike said, “ I would sign the title over to the non-profit that helped adopt them and they would release the horses’ titles once it was proven that the adopter had the horse for a year and the horse was being taken care of. The non-profit organization would decide if it was a good fit and mentor the new adopters if need be.
Unfortunately, the program that Mike Holmes started in managing the Wild horses of the Virginia Range was de-funded in 2009. As a result Mike lost his job as Virginia Range Estray Manager. Although he doesn’t work in Nevada any longer, he is still a wild horse manager on a private ranch.
“There is a lot of difference between wild horses and domestics” Mike stated. “ You have to move slowly and steady around them. You can’t rush in and run at them like you do with a domestic. They will go straight over or through a fence if you do. They think you are chasing them to eat them. A wild horse will not follow a domestic horse in, you have to gently push them forward from behind. This is the way you can move them from place to place safely.”
“We have 2000 acres here and run about 134 wild horses.” According to Mike, some of the horses were nuisance horses from the Virginia Range. Others were some that had over run a ranch and were too old to adopt out.
I asked Mike what advice he would give to anyone who wanted to become a Wild Horse Estray Manager. He answered: “ They need to keep in mind that they are a public servant. They are holding these horses in trust for the people. If they can work with everyone they will be successful. The main thing is to do the right thing by the horses.”
A special thank you to Mike Holmes for taking the time to speak with me and share his incites about wild horse management on the Virginia Range in Nevada.
Thank you to Mikel Hettrick for the reference photography.