Sutter, a 31-year-old palomino stallion who lives at Return to Freedom’s American Wild Horse Sanctuary near Lompoc. Calif., will become the first horse born wild on the range inducted into the Horse Stars Hall of Fame.
The EQUUS Foundation selected five inductees – including Sutter — “for their inspirational and life-changing impact on people.” US Equestrian selected an additional five honorees based on their athletic achievements.
Sutter was captured and removed from his home range on the Calico Mountain Complex in northwest Nevada in 1987. He was marked for destruction after being deemed “dangerous” and returned to the Bureau of Land Management adoption program by his first adopter.
Sutter now serves as an ambassador for other wild horses and specifically stallions, who are so often misunderstood.
“We’re pleased that the EQUUS Foundation recognizes the special place that wild horses hold in the hearts of Americans and the way that Sutter has touched so many hearts and lives,” said Neda DeMayo, Return to Freedom Wild Horse Conservation’s founder and president.
“Sutter’s story is emblematic of the suffering so many of America’s wild horses have endured as a result of the struggle over the use of our shared public lands, water and grazing resources. It’s also a tribute to the resiliency of these amazing horses and what’s possible when they’re treated with patience, respect and in the right environment.”
Ten horses will be inducted into the Hall of Fame during the Old Salem May Horse Show in North Salem, N.Y., a two-week even that precedes the Empire State Grand Prix on May 21. Established by the EQUUS Foundation and US Equestrian in 2013, the Hall of Fame celebrates the “extraordinary talent of horses and the magical bond between horses and people.”
Born in northwestern Nevada, Sutter was captured from public lands when he was barely 2 years old. He was adopted to a private party through the Bureau of Land Management. Sutter subsequently endured abuse, including being whipped, left tied under a hot tarp, and deprived of food and water in an effort to break his spirit.
Deemed “dangerous,” Sutter was returned to the BLM and marked to be destroyed. Fortunately, he was rescued from the pen by RTF’s colleagues from the Heritage Discovery Center in central California.
For months, Sutter remained so traumatized that if anyone even walked nearby his enclosure, he would slam himself into walls, attempting to free himself. Given patience and time to build a bond with humans who treated him with loving care, Sutter learned to trust humans, appearing in documentary and educational films, historical re-enactment and at venues including the Rose Bowl Parade twice, where he safely carried a novice rider.
In 2002, when HDC was forced to move and downsize, the organization contacted DeMayo and asked her if she would become Sutter’s permanent guardian.
Since then, Sutter has resided at Return to Freedom’s American Wild Horse Sanctuary where his presence and story continue to educate the visitors of all ages about natural horse behavior, developing the bond between horse and human, and the wild horses who deserve our promised protection. Sutter has given liberty exhibitions at RTF’s programs and has been a teacher in many clinics, workshops and appeared in documentary and promotional films.
This is the second major award bestowed upon Sutter in the past year: In November 2016, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals named him Horse of the Year during that organization’s annual Humane Award Luncheon in New York City. That event recognizes animal heroes who have demonstrated extraordinary effort as well as individuals who have shown great commitment to animal welfare.
Sutter is believed to be the first wild horse to receive that honor, as well.