A group of equine enthusiasts are setting their sights on a herd of wild horses that have been largely overlooked in the past.
The herd began with two horses owned by Ralph Morash and, 40 years later, some say they've seen up to as many as 20 horses roaming free along the Wentworth Road property owned by Fundy Gypsum — and beyond.
Problem is, Ralph Morash, now 75, is no longer able to maintain the fencing that once contained the horses to the land Fundy Gypsum has allowed the herd to roam on for several years.
The Municipality of West Hants is receiving complaints that the horses are becoming a nuisance and the gypsum company is asking that the horses be moved elsewhere.
Warden Richard Dauphinee says the herd became a public safety issue when the wild horses started running out onto busy streets, including Highway 14, and becoming frequent visitors to nearby homes.
He says the municipality is concerned the horses may cause a serious car accident or “trample” somebody.
“We don't want them running around people's properties,” he added.
Gary Cochrane, the deputy warden for the Municipality of West Hants and a Sweets Corner resident, says the horses eat his grass, punch holes in the ground, sleep on his lawn and leave piles of manure loaded with tape worms scattered throughout his Cochrane Lane area property in the spring, summer and fall.
He says three to four coal black stallions were the most recent visitors to the neighbourhood.
“We can't let our grandchildren play after dark anymore cause you turn around and the horses are right in front of ya, grazing on our lawn,” he said, noting that he worries that his dog or neighbouring animals, including domestic horses, could get sick from the droppings the feral horses leave behind.
Cochrane says the problem has escalated in recent years.
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“Ralph used to actually come and round them up, but now that his health isn’t so well, once they come here, they're here for the summer.”
Jackie Morash, a friend of Ralph Morash who happens to have the same last name, started the Facebook group entitled “Save Nova Scotia's Wild Horses” on Jan. 1 to encourage people to become a part of the solution. By Jan. 6, the group had 1,340 members.
“I’m quite surprised how many people have jumped up and volunteered their time.”
She says Ralph Morash has dedicated decades of his life to these horses, and he would be devastated if it ever came to the point that the animals were destroyed.
“The poor man, it breaks his heart when he sees anything hurt and these are horses that have evolved from horses he has rescued from the slaughterhouse or from injuries from being worked,” the fellow horse lover explained.
“He farms all summer to make hay so he can feed them all winter.”
She says her friend's desire to see these horses live on has inspired her to do what she can to help move the herd to a piece of land owned entirely by Ralph Morash.
“It’s very well suited for the conditions they are used to living in and will still allow them to be free animals,” she said.
Jackie Morash estimates there are about 14 to 17 feral horses that will have to be moved. The horses have never been haltered or put in a trailer.
“It’s pretty much looking like we are going to have to go in on horseback and physically relocate the horses that way.”
This will be an extremely difficult task considering the rough terrain and wild nature of the horses.
She says representatives of the Municipality of West Hants and the gypsum company have both agreed to give them time to devise a plan that will result in the safe relocation of the horses.
“The poor man, it breaks his heart when he sees anything hurt and these are horses that have evolved from horses he has rescued from the slaughterhouse or from injuries from being worked.” Jackie Morash, a concerned friend
“The plan is in the spring when the ground clears a very large fence will have to be erected to corral them because the plan right now is to geld all the stallions and hopefully find homes for some horses.”
Bob Williams, a spokesperson for the Canadian Gypsum Company, confirmed that the company is willing to back efforts to have the horses removed from the Fundy Gypsum property.
“We think that the horses can be relocated to Mr. Morash’s property in two to three months, and until then the horses will be fed regularly reducing the likelihood that they will roam and cause problems for local residents,” said Williams, in an e-mail.
Jackie Morash says the property they hope to move the horses to is accessible to trailers, leaving room for more options in the future.
“If we could do this safely for everybody, and we can save the horses, that just goes to show what kindness can really do.”
Cochrane says the people affected by the wandering horses thus far want to see a long-term fix.
“I worry they will be relocating the problem to further down Wentworth Road. The herd is only going to grow as these horses continue to interbreed,” he said.
Cochrane cautions that even if the relocation efforts are successful, someone will have to be prepared to care for the horses when Ralph Morash can no longer tend to the herd.
“If anything happened to him tomorrow, those horses would probably starve to death unless somebody came along,” Cochrane said.
Ralph Morash could not be reached for comment as of press time.