Sutter the Mustang Named ASPCA Horse of the Year


Sutter was born wild in northwestern Nevada. He was rounded up by the Bureau of Land Management at age two. His good looks and golden Palomino coat must have made him a standout in the herd, and he was quickly adopted. But that’s where his story takes a sad turn.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Sutter endured cruel treatment at his first adoptive home, being subjected to abusive “training” methods and deprived of food and water. This treatment caused him to behave erratically, and he was marked as dangerous and returned to the BLM where he would have been considered unadoptable.

A group called the Heritage Discovery Center stepped in and with time, patience, and careful handling, Sutter slowly learned to trust humans. He even started making appearances in educational clinics and was ridden by novice riders twice in the Rose Bowl Parade in California.

In 2002, Sutter got his forever home with Return to Freedom at its American Wild Horse Sanctuary in Lompoc, California. There, he continues to serve as an ambassador for wild horses, interacting with the public and teaching people about America’s wild horses.

Sutter’s role as an ambassador and educator for wild horses earned him the title of 2016 ASPCA Horse of the Year. He and other animal heroes (and humans who help animals) will be honored a the ASPCA Humane Awards Luncheon in New York City on November 17, 2016. Find out more at

Learn more about Sutter and the other horses of Return to Freedom at

Leslie Potter is a writer and photographer based in Lexington, Kentucky.

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Leslie Potter is a graduate of William Woods University where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Equestrian Science with a concentration in saddle seat riding and a minor in Journalism/Mass Communications. She is currently a writer and photographer in Lexington, Ky.Potter worked as a barn manager and riding instructor and was a freelance reporter and photographer for the Horsemen's Yankee Pedlar and Saddle Horse Report before moving to Lexington to join Horse Illustrated as Web Editor from 2008 to 2019. Her current equestrian pursuits include being a grown-up lesson kid at an eventing barn and trail riding with her senior Morgan gelding, Snoopy.


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