Wild Horse Sanctuary closed to public, opening to veterans for rehab services
HOT SPRINGS, S.D. – Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary in Hot Springs says they are officially closing their doors to the public. They have decided to expand their mission to include help for veterans.
The non-profit, providing a home for wild horses removed from public lands, officially announced their closure in January this year, with the intention of becoming a place of rehabilitation for veterans.
“For 50 years, the two people I was closest to were veterans,” said Susan Watt, President for the Institute of Range and American Mustang. “I felt there was a great need to keep them busy and happy and keep them occupied because that’s what helps humans. I could see how the horses helped me and how the horses helped people.”
When the organization was founded 33 years ago, tourism was the way to make money.
But the president and vice president say with the support of donors and with 100 new acres of property, they will suffice without tourist dollars.
“We feel very confident that as we get more of our plan in place and on paper and budgets put together and such, that we will be very successful finding grant funders and private donors that are willing to invest in our veterans and our horses,” Melinda Kerstein, Vice President of the Institute of Range and American Mustang.
As soon as next summer, they hope to be able to improve roads, facilities, and add a bullpen to the sanctuary.
The space will allow veterans a place where they can heal past trauma through working with and around the horses.
They’ll be using a program called EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association ) with professional instructors that have been helping them in these early stages of budgeting and planning.
The non-profit would like to remind the public that the horses will still receive the same care and respect as always. Only horses that are comfortable around people will be a part of the program.
Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary also hopes to work with The Department of Veterans Affairs and their local hospitals as this project is meant to be about and for the local community.