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January 15, 2023 – Wild Horses of Missouri Field Update

It was a beautiful and mild winter morning today, so I set out to try and find the Shawnee Creek herd. This herd has behaviorally changed significantly;y over the last year, and they are no longer as easy to find as they have been in previous years.

The main herd has 11 members, with two foals at this time. The two old ladies and the visiting mare and foal from Broadfoot don’t integrate with the main herd but share the same geographical area. All of this continues to evolve and change over time. More details are directly below.

It all started in the summer of 2022 when several mares visited the Broadfoot herd and mated with the stallion. A few of the mares tried to hang around and blend in with the herd at this time, but the boss mare of Broadfoot wasn’t having any part of that idea. She defended her territory and family and continued to run the visiting mares out of their area.

See the photos of the visiting Broadfoot mare and foal directly below. Notice that the mare is blind in her right eye because of a huge cataract. Click on the photos to view them in the lightbox for a better viewing experience.

All images and text on are the © of Timothy P. Layton and Tim Layton & Associates, LLC 2000-2023. Please review the copyright notice.

Eventually, most of the herd assembled back at their regular area near Shawnee Creek and Jacks Fork River, but from that point forward, the dynamics of the herd changed.

It was quite a while before I saw most of the herd back together in a single group; many of them were nowhere to be found. I know a lot of hiding places, but I still couldn’t find them.

At the same time, the two oldest mares, “the two old ladies,” started not to follow the main herd as they roamed the landscape. Eventually, within a month or so, the two old ladies stopped following the main herd altogether and mostly hung out at the main Shawnee Creek area.

The best way to stay up to date on everything happening with our wild horses is to be part of the Wild Horses of Missouri Facebook Group, where I post my latest photos, videos, tips, and news.

Then, another dynamic thickens the plot.

A mare and foal from the Broadfoot herd appeared at the main Shawnee Creek area. For the first few weeks, the two old ladies and the visiting horses from Broadfoot kept their distance from each other. Over the course of a few weeks, I watched them slowly integrate and finally become one working unit. They were physically close to one another, and each took turns monitoring for threats in their environment. It was like turning the page on a best-selling novel as all of this unfolded.

I share all this because I feel fortunate and blessed whenever I find the wild horses of Missouri. They always lift my spirits, and I walk away learning something new and being reminded of the importance of family and community.

If you would like to know about simple ways that you can help me ensure our horses remain free, take action today and make a difference.

Click on any photos below and open them in the lightbox for a better viewing experience.

All images and text on are the © of Timothy P. Layton and Tim Layton & Associates, LLC 2000-2023. Please review the copyright notice.

Wild Horses of Missouri History

Shannon County is home to a beautiful herd of wild horses in Southeast Missouri in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways on public land about 130 miles from Springfield and 150 miles from St. Louis.

Ozark National Scenic Riverways is the first national park area to protect a river system and the only state where wild horses still roam free. It hasn’t been an easy path for the wild horses over the last 100 years, and it would be foolish to think current conditions couldn’t change and put them back in danger again.

During the 1980s, the National Park Service announced a plan to remove Shannon Counties’ wild horses, and people were outraged.

In 1993 the U.S. Supreme Court denied a final appeal to protect the horses and gave the National Park Service the right to remove the horses from federal land. The national park service started removing the wild horses in a profoundly upsetting way to residents and horse lovers around the country. The people of Shannon County and horse lovers around the country rallied together, and the Wild Horse League of Missouri was formed.

Luckily, by 1996 the Wild Horse League of Missouri, which was formed in 1992 to save the wild horses, received help from the people of Shannon County, congressman Bill Emerson, Senators Kit Bond, and John Ashcroft.

Their tireless efforts paid off, and President Clinton signed a bill into law on October 3, 1996, to make the wild horses of Shannon County a permanent part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, with conditions. You can read more about the law.

Reading and understanding the law referenced above is essential because these wild horses’ freedom relies on compliance with the law. The national park service or any entity at any time could claim the horses are causing harm or being a nuisance, and the removal process could start again.

People worldwide visit Shannon County in hopes of seeing these majestic wild horses.

In accordance with the Ozark Wild Horse Protection Act, the Missouri Wild Horse League works with the National Park Service to capture some horses when the herd exceeds 50. The captured horses are taken into care and evaluated before being adopted by loving families for permanent homes.

If you want to support and protect the wild horses of Shannon County, Missouri, the best thing you can do is donate to the non-profit Missouri Wild Horse League. Your gift will be tax deductible and go a long way to helping ensure we have resources to protect the horses in the future.