Sutter

(1987 – )
Owned by Neda DeMayo
Inducted: 2017

Photos

Photo courtesy of Meg Frederick
Photo courtesy of Karen Asherah
Photo courtesy of Bristol MacDonald
Photo courtesy of Melony Smith
In 1971, the United States Congress recognized that "wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West, but Sutter’s life as a free roaming wild Mustang began without promise. When he was barely two years old, the stunning palomino stallion was captured and removed from public lands in northwestern Nevada. He was adopted to a private party from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) where he subsequently endured abuse, including being whipped, left tied under a hot tarp, and deprived of food and water.

Deemed "dangerous", Sutter was returned to the BLM and marked to be destroyed. Fortunately, he was rescued from the pen by Robin Collins Keller, the founder of the Heritage Discovery Center (HDC) in central California. For months, Sutter remained so traumatized that if a person so much as walked near his enclosure, he would slam himself into walls, attempting to free himself.

With time and loving care, Sutter learned to trust humans and made an amazing transformation, eventually becoming a wild horse ambassador at the at the Return To Freedom (RTF) American Wild Horse Sanctuary near Lompoc, California. He later appeared at venues, including the Rose Bowl Parade, where he safely carried a novice rider, in educational documentaries and at clinics. When HDC was forced to downsize in 2002, RTF President, Neda DeMayo, agreed to be Sutter's permanent guardian, and provide him with a forever home.

“Sutter is a beautiful soul… inside and out. He has a remarkable passion for life, and he can ignite passion in everyone that encounters him. He has touched so many lives over the years it is not possible to count them all,” said Keller.

The wild horses and burros at RTF have a variety of personalities and temperaments--some are understandably wary of people--but Sutter allows visitors an altogether different experience, many of whom had never seen a wild horse before Sutter. His natural curiosity and gentle nature have allowed visitors of all ages to get up close to a stallion born wild on the range, who still carries the Bureau of Land Management freeze brand, hear his story from RTF staff, and recognize in Sutter's eyes an intelligence, inquisitiveness, and social nature that they're unlikely to forget.

Through his story, visitors learn about how America's wild horses are routinely captured and taken from the home ranges in helicopter roundups, separated from their family bands, and, more often than not, transported to long-term government holding facilities where they live out their lives.

In 2016, Sutter's many years as a wild horse ambassador were recognized by the American Society for the Protection of Animals (ASPCA)), which named him Horse of the Year. Sutter's personality and story have opened a window to the world of America's iconic wild horses and burros, and the challenges that they face as a result of the struggle over the management of our shared public lands.

"Sutter's is a survivor's story with a happy ending," said DeMayo. "His suffering is emblematic of tens of thousands of nameless and faceless wild horses. His story is a tribute to what's possible when the right environment and treatment prevail."