Sitting here in the Silver State of Nevada, high in the Sierras, I feel obliged to comment on a bull market of a different sort.
The Western US has found a new wrinkle in the housing collapse, where homeowners are desperately struggling to cut living costs to meet the next doubling of their adjustable rate mortgage payments on their underwater houses.
Raising horses can cost more than children, so Nevadans are turning them loose to join herds of wild mustangs, to dodge the $30,000/year it costs to board and care for these voracious animals. Local populations are exploding, eating local ranchers out of house and home, who depend on public grazing lands to feed commercial livestock.
Recently, the Bureau of Land Management held hearings on where to place 25,000 excess animals. Mustangs are the feral descendants of horses which escaped the Spanish conquistadores, and there are now thought to be 30,000 running wild, down from a 19th century peak of 2 million. The BLM has another 30,000 in pens, and is making 10,000/year available for adoption at $125/each.
The problem is that many adopt “pets” who then flip them to Canadian slaughterhouses, which cater to the odd French taste for horseflesh. To see how this works, watch Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, and James Dean’s last film, The Misfits.
Madeleine Pickens, the wife of famed oil trader T. Boone Pickens, has offered to take the BLM’s entire herd and put them out to pasture at their exclusive ranch in Northwestern Nevada. They are now offering luxury dude ranch weekends where guests can ride out and watch herds of these wild animals, spending nights in a souped up Indian teepee (click here for her site Mustang Monument).
I have frequently run into majestic and beautiful mustang herds over the years while camping in the remote desert (no, I don’t go to Burning Man). Reminding me that there is still some “wild” in the “West”, I will miss them when they are gone.