Building a Refuge
A dream without a plan is just a dream.
While the dream of a refuge homeland for the Kigers is desirable, a step by step plan is required to make the dream a reality. Here is an outline of steps we propose to secure a future for the Kiger Mustangs.
- Built a nucleus of top-rate Kiger horses ready to populate a larger range area when one becomes available. This step was initiated in 2011 when Steven Polinger brought home eleven Kigers from the BLM auction in Burns, Oregon. The gather from the Kiger HMA ranges that year had yielded an unprecedented group of excellent Spanish Mustangs. Steven selected eleven of the best Kigers to begin the refuge program. Now with the addition of several more from the 2015 gather and auction, the small group is beginning to grow into a herd. Steven, with his growing band of Kigers, is anxiously exploring every avenue that will eventually lead to securing enough land to move form the confines of the small "rancho" in Tucson to a spacious, safe homeland that will secure a sustainable future for the Kigers. The horses are ready - step one.
- Obtain non-profit status for the organization so that the integrity of the program will not be questioned and contributions for supporting the horses and developing rescue and rehoming programs can organized. This has been done. The Kiger Mustang Refuge, Inc is a non-profit organization dedicated by charter to these goals:
- To establish a permanent third Kiger homeland that will supplement the BLM's two management areas — a private homeland — where the Kiger Mustangs can be secure and free.
- To establish long-term breeding programs that will insure the fidelity of the Kiger bloodline.
- To rescue and rehome Kigers that are in a situation where owners of the horses can no longer care for them.
- To provide educational services that will make the story of the Kigers available to a wider audience and to offer training programs for new owners.
- To bring together by consensus all the greater Kiger community with respect for our common goals.
The rescue and rehoming aspect of the program has successfully placed a number Kigers in trouble with more suitable owners. The search for acreage to become the homeland range continues. The breeding program is taking place under the watchful eye of Steven Polinger with several foals on the way for spring of 2016 delivery. Educational opportunities are mostly one-on-one visits to the Tucson rancho at this point. Steven is anxious to show off his Kiger court and tries to accommodate interested visitors who want to meet them.
Kiger Mustangs in the BLM corral
following the 2015 gather
- We thought this one would be easy, but so far the most challenging step we have faced has been trying to bring together the various Kiger breeders and registries to establish a united and professionally organized voice to serve as advocates for the Kigers — a group that could put aside personal bias or economic interest to form a "Kigers first" vision. Unlike other breeds that all have established registries, the Kigers suffer by not having one united voice to promote their interest. The community of breeders and owners have a long record of disagreement. They even disagree about how a Kiger should be defined as well as who is entitled to represent them.
As a backdrop to all this bickering, the recent armed takeover of the Malheur Wildlife Reserve, just a short distance from the Kiger HMA, points up the fact that the BLM Kiger land may be in jeopardy. Through no fault of their own, we can't depend on the BLM to guarantee a homeland for the Kigers any longer. Only when the Kigers are running free on a private refuge, away from the politically charged, ranching/public lands controversy, will the "preserving of a legend" become a reality.
We have offered to build a "Kiger Heritage Database" to not only preserve accurate records going forward but also to make public the pedigree of all Kigers - in so much as records are available. The Kigers need to be legitimized with a united registry to keep their lineage records accurate and trustworthy. It would help the public understand why the Kiger HMAs must be preserved and why the BLM wild horse program must be maintained.
The Oregon BLM has done an exemplary job with their nineteen Herd Management Areas. As a result of their enlightened management, most all their horses are desirable. They have managed to preserve genetic identity while maintaining the health of the horses in general. But the political winds are changing. Indifference to wild horses in general and even objections to BLM segregated management practice for the differing groups is being heard. It is time for individuals to insure the future of the Kigers and indeed all the other horses at risk.
Steven Polinger — Founder and President of Kiger Mustang Refuge, Inc