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Opinion by Colleen Gillings

Horses are vital to Wyoming by: Colleen Gillings 

Not so many years ago, I came to Wyoming for a change in my life and, oh brother, what a change it has been. My decision was made based on two criteria – horses and cattle were a must. 

While I would like to say it was all roses here in Wyoming, I can’t. Having come from a law enforcement and animal control background, I began seeing below the surface and found great need for a voice to be heard. Starving animals, particularly horses, and irresponsible owners blight this state. Thanks for the few that have enough compassion to sell horses they could no longer take care of. Sometimes, this isn’t a good ending for the owners either, but at least horses aren’t standing in corrals with no food or water till they die in unexplainable misery.

But the horse industry in Wyoming is seeing much more than just negative impacts. 

More recently, the Wyoming Horse Council, Wyoming All Breed Association and Wyoming Horse Racing have pushed hard to have House Bill 25 passed and signed by the Governor. The bill went through, after lots of effort by its champions, and we now have pari-mutuel betting on historic horse races. The sorely needed monies realized through this bill will boost the horse industry in Wyoming. 

Responsible ownership, getting involved and speaking up when there is a need are all necessary actions to take so the horses and livestock of Wyoming can stand on the level they deserve – on top. Change takes effort and time. The more people we have pushing that car, the faster it will go. It doesn’t matter whether you are a trail rider, racer, rodeo or just love the horses, get involved.

A great place to get started is at the Big Wyoming Horse Expo, held in Douglas on April 19-21 this year. The Expo is a yearly event to showcase the equine industry in Wyoming and the surrounding region. With a focus on education and entertainment the event appeals to all equine enthusiasts regardless of discipline. In conjunction with the Expo there will be a sanctioned Ranch Sort and Barrel Race on April 20. I hope to see you all there.

The horse is as integral to Wyoming as the Tetons and sagebrush. Philip Armour of American Cowboy Magazine says it very well. “What’s a cowboy without a horse? A foot-bound manual laborer. The physical and emotional bond between a cowboy and his horse is greater than the sum of its parts – otherwise he’s missing the mystical link with the animal kingdom that gives him wings. Only horseback are we cowboys. Linked up and united by effort and intention, rider and horse are in a state of grace. And ideally, both are having fun.”