Wild horse fertility control works on Nevada’s Virgina Range

The American Wild Horse Campaign has been able to run a game-changing fertility control program on Nevada’s Virginia Range for the past four years. Today, we’d like to tell you the story of one of the many wild mustangs who have benefited from the program, a beautiful pinto mare named Saddle Shoe.

Photos by Deb Sutherland

Saddle Shoe was born in 2012 to the Canyon Phantom, a striking and well-known black and white stallion. Her mother was a stunning buckskin mare named Broken Hinds. In 2015, Saddle Shoe found love with the beautiful dark bay stallion, Two Socks, and the pair started a family, welcoming foals Natalie, Jasleen, and Adelaide to their herd over the next few years.

On Nevada’s Virginia Range, where Saddle Shoe and her family reside, AWHC operates the world’s largest humane management program for wild horses, proving to the world there’s no need for mass roundups, crowded holding corrals, dangerous and permanent sterilization or slaughter.

The cornerstone of this highly successful program is the remote darting of wild mares with the scientifically proven fertility control vaccine known as ‘PZP’. This vaccine has allowed countless wild horses to continue living free and wild with their herd where they belong, and it costs just $30.

Saddle Shoe is now 11 years old and likely will not have any more foals. Thanks to our PZP program, she gets to live her life as a wild horse should – wild and free – and her bond with Two Socks (now one of the oldest stallions on the range) has remained unbreakable.

Unlike most wild horses in the Western United States, who live on federal public lands, Saddle Shoe’s herd resides on the outskirts of metropolitan Reno, Nevada, where urbanization has gradually chipped away at their habitat. It’s essential that their populations remain a healthy and manageable size so that the Nevada Department of Agriculture, the entity charged with their management, does not roundup and remove them. Without federal protections, these beloved horses have no protection from slaughter, and if removed, could be sent directly to auction.

Nevada’s Virginia Range horses played a crucial role in the defense of wild horses when Velma “Wild Horse Annie” Johnston campaigned for their protection in the 50s and 60s, which resulted in the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burros Act. Despite their historical significance, however, this legislation did not include protection for this beloved herd