Tails of survival

Family saves baby wild horse, forms 'amazing' bond

May 13, 2013 at 11:23 PM ET


Video: There is a battle brewing over America’s wild horses: Are they in need of protection, or a menace costing taxpayers millions of dollars every year? NBC’s Lisa Myers reports on the crisis within the government’s wild horse program.

Jazz, a wild horse adopted by a family after a Bureau of Land Management roundup.
Courtesy BLM
Jazz, a wild horse adopted by a family after a Bureau of Land Management roundup.

On Oct. 5, 2011, a little foal who became known as Jazz was born at the BLM holding facility in Delta, Utah. His mother had been brought there after a roundup of wild horses in Nevada six months earlier. But a week after giving birth, she died. Jazz became an orphan.

Western showdown over government's wild horse roundups

Fortunately, Eric Reid, the facility's manager and a wild horse and burro specialist, spotted Jazz's mother as he was closing for the night. He knew he had little time to save the young horse, who needed milk every 3 hours. So he called his wife, Lisa, and asked if she would care for the foal until a foster home could be found.

That evening, as Eric pulled in to the drive, Lisa and their two girls hurried out to see what was in the trailer.


They saw a frightened little foal, red with a big white blaze covering his face.

Cruel or necessary? The true cost of wild horse roundups

"He looked at us and we looked at him, sizing up each other on what the weeks ahead had in store," Lisa remembers. She made a bottle, while Eric built a small pen in the backyard by the door.

"Little did I know that having a young foal would require as much attention as a young baby, feeding every three hours, regardless!” Lisa says. “Your mother mode automatically kicks in wondering is the baby hungry, is he cold?"

Jazz, a wild horse adopted by a family after a Bureau of Land Management roundup.
Courtesy of Bureau of Land Manag
Jazz, a wild horse adopted by a family after a Bureau of Land Management roundup.

Worried about how Jazz would feel his first night without his mother, Lisa retrieved her old horse's winter blanket from the barn. The family quickly settled into a routine, with someone feeding Jazz every 3 hours. Still worried that the horse was cold at night, Lisa dug through her closet and found a new sweatshirt, cut an opening in front, and draped it over his body.

Then, the challenge became to find a name for what Lisa calls "the little horse who so easily stole our hearts."

Controversy over roundups of wild horses roaming the ranges in 10 Western states is reaching a boil, with ranchers, horse advocates and even the government itself in agreement that the Bureau of Land Management's Wild Horse and Bureau Program is "out of control." Click to view photos of the horses in the wild, and during and after the BLM roundups.

"Thunder? Secretariat? Blaze? No, Jazz," Lisa recalls. “He had the cutest jazzy personality and willingness to please that it just fit him well.”

The hardest decision, Lisa said, came when Jazz was healthy enough for the family to follow through on finding him a foster home. But by the end of October, she had found a family and the perfect home.

Video: Opposed to the roundups: Carole King

"They couldn't believe how small yet so precious he was," Lisa says. "I cried as I handed over his lead rope to his new foster parents. It's just amazing how much my family and I had bonded to this beautiful little soul in such a short amount of time."

In their own words: Opposing views of wild horse roundups

BLM is hoping to get more Americans to adopt wild horses, especially the youngest horses captured during the roundups. You can learn more about the program here.

Video: In support of roundups: Joan Guilfoyle

Lisa Reid, a public affairs specialist for the agency, says: "I do this job because I love these horses and all that they stand for. One person, one horse at a time, can make a difference."

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