LC Van Savage
Save The Horses
There are two men who live out in Linton, North Dakota named Frank and Leo Kuntz, and they love horses. Probably all horses, but the ones that touch their hearts the deepest and most tenderly are a breed called the Nokota, a combination of North and Dakota, a name they created because these wild animals had no name.
These magnificent, strong animals roamed wild with the antelope and buffalo for centuries and have been traced back to horse herds owned and cared for by Sioux Chief Sitting Bull.
"Native Americans were very good to their horses," says Frank. "They carefully bred them and were proud of them. Horse stealing was a sport between tribes back then. Fun. However, when the thieves got caught, nasty things were done to them, and yet the games continued." Nokotas not only survived being occasionally purloined, but have survived indescribably brutal North Dakota winters, slaughters, hunters; those on foot, those from aircraft, and predators. Largely thanks to the Kuntz brothers, these animals are still with us today, and need our help.
Frank and Leo Kuntz and many Nokota horse enthusiasts began the non-profit Nokota Horse Conservancy in 1999 after falling in love with the breed. The seed money needed to begin this worthy project is given by both Kuntz brothers from their Vietnam disability checks. Leo was wounded in that war, and both Frank and he now suffer with prostate cancer brought on by Agent Orange. What better way to show their dedication to, and passion for this cause?
"These wild horses that probably came here via the Spanish but perhaps even from the French and English, roamed the Little Missouri Badlands which became the Theodore Roosevelt National Park," says Frank, "but because of prejudice and stupidity, they were removed from the park and sold in the 1980s and '90s because they were not native to the Northern Plains. What's left are Shire and Quarter Horse studs with maybe a little Nokota blood in them." It has become the brothers' passion to save the remaining animals by keeping them on the Kuntz Ranch near Linton, ND, no easy task. There have been many times when the brothers considered giving up the cause. The expenses never lessen.
"These animals have suffered a lot. They've been shot and snared, their feed has been poisoned, cowboys would rope them on ice when they could not run, all to get them 'out of the system.' Fortunately Art Link (later Governor of ND) heard of this and stopped the slaughter with the help of Rev. Floyd Schwieger.
Yes, we sell the horses," says Frank. "but we make sure they go to good homes. They're very adaptable, good horses, kind, athletic and can be trained to do just about anything."
The brothers raise much of their own feed and manage the farm and pastures, ranch and all the equipment. Most donations are spent on these efforts. They can also doctor the horses, but money is always desperately needed. Shelly Hauge, Frank's wife, handles all the clerical chores amongst many others.
To learn more about these gorgeous creatures and how you may donate to help in keeping them healthy, strong and here, please visit the website of the Nokota horses, www.nokotahorse.org or call Frank Kuntz directly at 701-254-4302.
There are so many worthy causes out there from which to choose, and there are those who would argue that to donate money toward the welfare of horses they'll likely never even see is folly, but this is nonsense. We must pay attention to these strong, important animals. After all, were there no horses, it might logically follow there would be no cars. Our nation became what it is today because of horses like the Nokota. Sitting Bull rode them. They survived the Battle of The Little Bighorn. They deserve our compassion and respect. After all, they are American history on the hoof.
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