Minnesota group's attempts to market Badlands wild horses halted by judge

A judge's decision Tuesday to temporarily block certification of national park feral horses slated for auction this week could affect sales, a local auctioneer said.

Wild horses
Press Photo by Lisa Call Feral horses run through an open field in Theodore Roosevelt National Park's South Unit near Fryburg after being rounded up by helicopter during Monday morning's horse roundup.
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A judge's decision Tuesday to temporarily block certification of national park feral horses slated for auction this week could affect sales, a local auctioneer said.

In an effort to control populations, Theodore Roosevelt National Park officials are rounding up and auctioning off about 90 feral horses Friday afternoon in Dickinson.

Amid this week's horse roundup in TRNP near Fryburg, U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland has issued a temporary restraining order blocking the Nokota Horse Association, Inc. from registering or promoting park horses as "Nokota."

A hearing has been scheduled for Oct. 29 at 1:30 p.m. in Bismarck.

The NHA, based in Minnesota, recognizes the horses as a unique breed and works to support and preserve the breed through registry and observation.


The restraining order stems from a long-standing conflict on the Nokota name and registration requirements.

Founded in 1999, the Nokota Horse Conservancy, Inc. also tries to preserve the breed.

The Conservancy was using the Nokota moniker before one of its original board of directors, David Bernhardt, trademarked the Nokota identification in August 2004, according to court documents.

The trademark was then transferred to the NHA in April 2009 for breed registry sales, according to the document.

"The fact he (the judge) ruled in our favor though, is a very favorable thing for the Nokota Horse Conservancy and the horses," said Frank Kuntz, NHC's executive vice president.

Dave Robson, NHA member, said he feels the restraining order will not affect horse sales.

"That's our sole purpose, to promote and protect the horses from the park and the Kuntz's do not want us to do that, and in turn, they filed an injunction," Robson said. "I think we are probably going to continue ahead."

Other horse market members feel differently.


"If they are not able to (label the horses) it will definitely affect the market," said Larry Schnell, manager of Stockmen's Livestock Exchange in Dickinson, the horse sale venue. "For those that it means something to, they won't pay what they will if they register them."

The livestock yard is receiving a lot of calls concerning the horse sale, but none specifically concerning Nokotas, said Schnell.

Sean Neary, spokesman for Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said the senator is aware of the concerns surrounding the park horses and their historical significance and future outlook and is looking into it.

"If there is something that can be done, we'll definitely try and do it," Neary said.

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