About 50 horsemen from the Crow Tribe in Montana gathered about 700 horses that belonged to a man charged with animal cruelty after the animals were found wandering tribal lands and nearby ranches without adequate food and water.
Crow Tribal Vice Chairman Calvin Jefferson said the roundup Monday went smoothly, and people will be camping out to guard the horses that were herded into pens.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs condemned the horses on March 1 because they were trespassing on tribal land. The BIA is paying the tribe $45,000 to round up the animals and feed them until they can be sold.
The proceeds will be used to pay for damage the horses did to the land and for the cost of the roundup.
BIA regional director Ed Parisian said the owner, James Leachman of Billings, has five days to redeem his horses, if he can pay the costs of care and roundup and the rangeland damage.
Leachman filed for bankruptcy and a judge ordered his two ranches sold to help satisfy his debts. In April 2010, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Ralph Kirscher gave Leachman 14 days to deal with the hundreds of horses grazing on his property.
Leachman has said he had the horses sorted out last fall to sell them but decided against the sale, in part because of a price collapse in the horse market.
In late December, a veterinarian warned that hundreds of the horses were trapped in a pasture with no grass and were on the verge of starvation. Seven horses were found near death and four were shot on the recommendation of veterinarian Jeff Peila of Shepherd.
Leachman has pleaded not guilty to animal cruelty. His trial is scheduled for June 3.
The Northern International Livestock Exposition in Billings collected about 500 tons of donated hay and more than $55,000 and has been feeding the horses for two months with the help of the Yellowstone County sheriff's office.
On Monday, Peila said there was only one mare that needed his help and was limping, apparently with a hoof abscess.
"But there would have been a third of them dead and the rest wouldn't have been strong enough to sell if they hadn't been fed," Peila said.
Jay Stovall, who now owns the former Leachman Cattle Co. ranch east of Billings, said the sight of the animals being rounded up was thrilling.
"I've never seen (this) many horses running out here," said Stovall, 71. "This is something to see. What is important is that the Crow Tribe is handling those horses and doing a wonderful job."
Memories of the roundup will stay with Jason Shigley, who was shooting video for the Crow Tribe to document the day.
"This is a historic event," he said. "The Crow people are horse people. Everything that has to do with the horse is in our makeup."