How Dry We Are: US Drought Affects Wild Horses, Too

American horseowners are starting to feel the “ouch!” of rising prices for hay and grain, particularly in the West. But imagine if your hay bill was not just for your own horses…but for an entire herd.

That’s the problem faced by South Dakota’s Karen Sussman, founder of the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros, an organization with the mission of saving wild horses threatened with elimination and slaughter. Sussman cares for more than 350 horses on her 680-acre ranch near Lantry, South Dakota.

I interviewed Karen last week when she was elated; it was raining!

She said that last year no hay had been baled within 100 miles of her farm. She is now paying more than double the normal cost of her 1400-pound round bales. They are now $125 per ton, compared to $50-60 a ton in pre-drought times.

Not only does hay cost more in a drought, but you must feed more of it, since pastures are unlikely to provide enough grass. In Karen’s case, it means feeding hay to her #3 herd, which usually can live on grass. She is also having to fill her horses’ water tanks with her town’s water–and pay for it–since her own well went dry last summer.

“Imagine watching grass going yellow in June,” she mused. “And imagine feeding hay to over 300 horses for six months when you weren’t expecting to feed hay at all. And that’s at double the price.”

I hope you will take a minute and look out the window. What colors do you see? In many parts of the world, green is missing from the color palette.




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