On January 18, 2018, Dent County resident Cindy Dooley photographed a newly born foal in the Shawnee Herd of wild horses along the Jacks Fork River. She returned to the herd throughout the year to follow the filly’s growth and capture her interactions with the other wild horses. When the foal was put up for adoption this spring in order to keep the herd below 50 horses, as required by federal law, Dooley adopted her. Shawnee Girl is her name and she is now the subject of a book, “Shawnee, Wild and Tame, the True Story of a Missouri Wild Horse.”
Kathy Love, former reporter for The Salem News, learned Cindy’s story and decided it was a perfect way to tell the world about the wild horses that live along the Current and Jacks Fork rivers within Ozark National Scenic Riverways.
“When most people think of wild horses, they think of the mustangs out west, or the wild ponies that live on islands off the east coast,” Love said. “But the Missouri horses’ reputation is growing. They attract visitors from many states who come to admire and photograph them. Cindy’s story is a way to provide factual background information in a simple, sweet narrative that will appeal to readers of all ages.”
The horses are descended from animals that were abandoned in the 1930s-1940s, when the virgin pine timber had all been logged, the Depression hit and World War II lured people away from the area to jobs in the cities. The wild horses ranged along the rivers, which are managed by the National Park Service.
In 1992, park personnel became concerned they were causing erosion and competing with native wildlife for food. They decided the horses had to be removed. Horse lovers formed the Missouri Wild Horse League and enlisted the late congressman Bill Emerson to help write a bill that would allow the horses to stay. The bill passed, with the stipulation that the herd be limited to 50 horses. Every year, five to 10 horses are rounded up and offered for adoption to keep their numbers in check.
“Shawnee, Wild and Tame,” is a 56-page hardbound book with color photographs and illustrations of the wild horses. It can be purchased for $25 at the Ozark Cultural and Natural Resources Center or on Etsy.com by searching for HaystackValleyArts.