Wild horses untamable problem in northern Sask. community

People living in a northern Saskatchewan community say they are trying to deal with a growing group of wild horses that have been damaging farm land and property.

RAW: The wild horses of Canwood

8 years ago
Duration 1:29
Ranchers complain of nuisance horses turned wild in northern Sask.

People living in a northern Saskatchewan community say they are trying to deal with a growing number of wild horses that are damaging farm land and property. 

Colin Hughes, Reeve of the RM of Canwood, told CBC News most of the horses are coming from a couple of neighbouring First Nations in the Big River area, though he admits no one is fessing up to owning them. 

"They've tried to keep some of them in, and they have, but some of them say they don't know whose horses they are, and nobody wants to admit whose horses they are, so they're at large," he said. 

Hughes said the RM, which is located about 70 kilometres northwest of Prince Albert, captured 56 horses in 2013, which eventually ended up being sold on the meat market. 

He said he'd like to see the horses adopted by new owners, and possibly used by facilities that offer riding therapy.

In Saskatchewan, municipalities don't receive any help from the government, so it falls to local officials to deal with the problem. 

Hughes has met with people from the nearby First Nations who have told them they realize the horses are out. 

"If there is a stallion running around or a boar pig, any farmer — if they're on your land and bothering your livestock — you can shoot them," he said. 

Hughes added that he doesn't know the identity of anyone who has shot a wild horse, but does know the odd stallion has been shot. He's also heard of horses being "gut shot", which forces the animals into bushes where they retreat to die. 

Wild horses a problem, rancher says 

A rancher in the RM of Canwood says some horses are dying due to the harsh winters, while others are being shot to control their population growth. (CBC)
Cody Lockhart, a rancher near Big River First Nation, moved from Alberta a couple of years ago. 

He said a group of about 30 horses that came into his yard, and ate bags of his oats and hay. 

"That was all kind of tolerable, but then I had a [newer Ford F350] and it was covered in road salt, and they are very salt deprived, so they came in one night and started licking it, and then the licking led to biting, and eventually the whole truck was covered in one-inch to three-inch scratches," said Lockhart. 

"So that was kind of the last straw; no more charity feed for the horses." 

Lockhart said he put out a salt block in his corral, and the next morning about 25 horses were gathered around it. 

He sold the animals back to their owner to help pay for the damages, and said he received more money than he would have by selling them for meat. 

"It's kind of a unique situation out there," said Lockhart. "I mean, they [First Nation people] are kind of linked to their cultural things still, so at a powwow, people will give people horses, and that's very generous, but the person receiving the horse doesn't have any facilities," he said.

"They don't have corrals or a water bowl or hay, so what becomes of the horse? It just gets turned loose."

He said the past two winters have been tough on the animals, with many ending up dead. Lockhart said many also end up being shot. 

"People do shoot them," he said. "In fact, there's almost a policy in targeting the studs to try and control the population a bit more."

"There are some people, if they see a stud, they shoot it all the time."