Horse survives 6 Weeks in Wyoming Winter

Valentine survives six weeks of Wyoming Winter
Valentine was found 6 weeks after she collapsed on the trail and was left behind.

Valentine, a six year old horse, collapsed on a 16-mile trek off a mountain last fall. Wranglers from Swift Creek Outfitters were leading a train of horses out of a base camp for hunting and fishing excursions, racing against a winter storm. When the mare lay down and couldn’t get up, they left her there in order to get the other horses down. When the owner,┬áB.J. Hill, went back for her the next day, she was gone. They searched for several days but she had vanished. After the snow began to fall there was no way to trace her.

Valentine being led home via snow mobile
Valentine was found by a park worker and led home through the deep snow by her owner, using a snow mobile.

Six weeks later, Valentine was spotted by a worker grooming snow trails in the Bridger-Teton National Forest spotted Valentine and called the U.S. Forest Service. Hill, his son and a park worker were able to lead Valentine home through the deep snow, using a snowmobile — it took 9 hours to bring her out.

Valentine came through the ordeal just fine. She didn’t even need veterinary care. But her story has sparked a lot of debate. Some people feel that not enough was done to find her. Some people think that she should have been humanely destroyed when she collapsed — although Hill said the men leading the horse train had no fire arms — rather than be left to deal with the harsh conditions and the predators. Swift Creek Outfitters is now being investigated for the incident, although there has never been a complaint against them in the past for the care of their horses.

Honestly, I’m not sure what else they could have done. Since there was no obvious cause for the mare’s collapse, euthanizing her (even if they had the means to do so) seems an extreme response. I also understand why they left. Certainly, putting the rest of the horses at risk (and the wranglers) would have been a worse choice.

The fact that Valentine came through the tough winter conditions in such good shape reminds me that horses are pretty good at dealing with winter conditions. Just because my horses are wrapped up in blankets when it snows doesn’t mean that they would freeze to death without one.

What do you think was the right thing to do in this situation?




3 thoughts on “Horse survives 6 Weeks in Wyoming Winter

  1. I’m sure they are looking at how they can avoid a situation like this in the future. Carrying a fire-arm or medication to euthanize a horse if it were to sustain unsurvivable injury seems appropriate for the next trip.

  2. She survived! While I agree having some means to euthanize an injured or sick animal is a good idea, especially when horses are being used as Valentine and her herdmates are, the fact that she made it tells me they did the right thing. She may have been tired and just couldn’t go on at that time. She would’ve done anything to stay with the herd.

    1. I agree that there should be some means to end the suffering of an animal who is truly in distress — such as a broken leg. However, I’m glad that Valentine survived with no ill effects. I do wonder why she couldn’t get up.

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