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Local nonprofit moves its wild mustangs to greener pastures

If you want to help

The Sunshine State American Mustang and Burro Association has many needs including donations of feed, cash to pay for veterinarian bills, temporary foster homes for horses and volunteers.

To help, contact Jennie Sloan at (813) 463-3298 or [email protected] or Kevin Howe at (813) 244-1408.

LITHIA – A year-old nonprofit that rescues and cares for mustangs that once roamed the West has moved to much larger quarters.

The Sunshine State chapter of the American Mustang and Burro Association has relocated to a 20-acre ranch off Powerline Road. The leased property is four times larger than the group’s former home.

“We found that there are so many horses in need that we needed more space,” said Jennie Sloan, who helped found the chapter. “We couldn’t care for all the horses that needed our help.”

Most of the ranch’s dozen mustangs ended up there because their former owners adopted the horses and couldn’t or didn’t want to care for them any longer. Some were neglected or malnourished, she said.

“We’ve become more of a rescue organization than I anticipated,” she said.

The mission remains the same: to advocate for the adoption of horses that the federal government has rounded up to trim wild herds. The chapter takes in mustangs, gets them used to human contact and tries to find permanent homes.

Sloan, a Keysville resident, quit the nursing job she had in Plant City to care for the animals full time at the ranch, which she personally leases. Sloan offers boarding and training of all kinds of horses to help keep the chapter afloat.

Kevin Howe, who was recently elected chapter president, said the new home has room for more than 30 horses. With more land, the mustangs can graze on grass and cut down on the feed bill, he said.

“It’s really been a dream come true,” for Sloan and other founders, said Howe, who occasionally works as a freelance photographer for The Tampa Tribune and Plant City Courier.

Sloan said she spends six days a week caring for the mustangs. Several volunteers pitch in to help, including Tiffaney Henry of Brandon, who loves caring for and training mustangs – an enduring icon of the Old West.

“I just find it thrilling to be able to interact with a living legend. And I just love horses,” she said.

Kyle Braxton, another volunteer from Brandon, said he also is a horse lover who doesn’t mind spending time caring for mustangs.

Wild mustangs descended from domestic animals that were set free or escaped. The roots of some herds originated from Spanish explorers hundreds of years ago.

The federal Bureau of Land Management estimates that approximately 33,800 horses and 6,800 burros roam rangelands it manages in 10 Western states. The agency regularly rounds up animals due to overcrowding and sends them to short-term corrals or long-term pastures to await adoption. More than 230,000 horses and burros have been adopted since 1971, the agency said.

Sloan said the horses are surprisingly easy to train – if you approach them with a lot of patience and gain their trust.

Sloan is grateful for the new quarters, but she’s dreaming of a day when she can have access to more land. She’d like to one day have about 200 acres where she could let mustangs that aren’t adopted live out their days.

“The need is there and it will continue to grow,” she said.

Twitter: @dnicholsonTrib

[email protected]

(813) 394-5103

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