- Associated Press - Monday, December 1, 2014

LINTON, N.D. (AP) - A group working to preserve North Dakota’s official horse is struggling to survive.

The Linton-based Nokota Horse Conservancy has about $150,000 in annual expenses but only about $20,000 in the bank, the Bismarck Tribune (https://bit.ly/1z8cF3Q ) reported. Since the 2008 recession, donations to the nonprofit have declined.

The group is now struggling to pay land rent, fuel and hay production costs for its 100 horses.

“Our head is above water, but we’re flailing. It’s not easy,” director Shelly Hauge said.

The conservancy has turned to the crowdfunding website www.indiegogo.com to raise money. So far, the campaign has raised $5,000.

“It’s so humbling to ask for help,” Hauge said. “But it’s not for us; it’s for the living history of these horses. We don’t want to let it slip away.”

The conservancy has talked about dissolving, but herd manager Frank Kuntz said he hasn’t given up on his dream of creating a sanctuary for Nokota horses. The horses come from Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Some believe they are descendants of ponies owned by Plains Indians, while others dispute that.

“There are only about 700 or fewer of these horses left in the world. The northern Plains natives picked the strongest of the strongest, and it’s a good, tough, hardy horse,” he said. “I always say I liked them for the strong body and bones, but I grew to love them for their brains and intelligence.”

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, https://www.bismarcktribune.com

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