Dr. Alderman Travels to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

What does Sung Oyate and the Horse Spirit Society do?

Written By: Lauren Alderman, DVM, CVA, CVSMT

Written By: Lauren Alderman, DVM, CVA, CVSMT

The Sung Oyate (Horse People) is a group of veterinarians, veterinary students, farriers, and veterinary technicians that travel each summer to provide veterinary care to the equines on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is in Kyle, South Dakota, and is the site of the Massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890. Each year, hundreds of horses, donkeys, mules, and ponies are vaccinated, de-wormed, and castrated. Many horses also receive dental examinations, wound care, lameness consults, and hoof trimming. Below I have included our mission statements for clarification:

Mission Statement of Sung Oyate: Sung Oyate is a non-profit group of veterinarians, farriers, veterinary students, veterinary technicians & many other kindhearted people who donate their time to bring veterinary & farrier care to the horses of the Horse Spirit Society and those who donate their time to HSS on the Pine Ridge reservation.

Mission Statement of The Horse Spirit Society: Horse Spirit, a non-profit organization located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Pine Ridge South Dakota, provides healthy equine activities to encourage children to actualize self-awareness through increasing their self-confidence and self-reliance by gaining strength and self-esteem through learning about horses utilizing traditional Lakota language, values, culture and ceremonial practices to enhance healthy proactive lifestyles through a healthy diet and positive physical and mental activities to enhance individual identities, family relationships and community empowerment.

Why is this service work so important?

The people of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation experience equal strife to those living in a developing country. As many as 20 family members may live in a one bedroom house or a trailer; food and clothing is scarce. We have chosen to serve the people of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation by caring for their horses because horses are the cornerstone of their society. Not only are the natives culturally and spiritually connected to horses, but most families make their living by breeding, raising, training, and selling horses, and using horses to manage herds of cattle. It is often very difficult for families to arrange and afford veterinary care for their horses. By helping keep the horses healthy, we are able to support the foundation of the natives’ community, culture, and way of life.

How can I help Pine Ridge Indian Reservation?

The Sung Oyate is always looking for donations of used tack and equipment. Most natives on the reservation cannot afford bridles, saddles, brushes, hoof picks, halters, or lead ropes, yet depend on horses and riding as their only way of life. Any donation, including old saddles (Western Only, please), bridles, and halters, and even just working parts (such as a bit, a cinch, etc) would be an invaluable help to the people of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Who will be receiving the tack donations?

Horses waiting to receive veterinary & podiatry care at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Horses waiting to receive veterinary & podiatry care at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

The tack donations will be given to a local leader, Percy Whiteplume, to distribute to native horsemen in need, and to help support Percy’s community riding program, The Horse Spirit Society. Percy trains trail horses and organizes many community rides which celebrate sobriety, reconnect children with their culture and with horses, and provide support for those experiencing bullying and depression (I’m sure we have all felt the soothing effect of being connected with horses!).

How else can I help?

We generally see several hundred horses during our trip each year, and we rely heavily on donated medical supplies from generous manufacturers. Monetary donations are also incredibly vital and go toward the purchase of veterinary supplies.

How do I donate?

You can contact Dr. Lauren Alderman with questions regarding donations: Lalderman@irongateequine.com

Monetary donations through the Equitarian Initiative are tax-deductible. Checks can be made out to “Equitarian Initiative” – please add a note stating the donation is for the Pine Ridge Project in South Dakota. Donations can also be made online at equitarianinitiative.org – Be sure to add a note stating the donation is for the Horse Spirit Society.

Tack donations needed

  • Scrap leather (in good condition)

  • Saddles (Western Only, please) or parts of saddles

  • Saddle blankets

  • Girths and cinches

  • Breast plates

  • Bits (mostly snaffle)

  • Headstalls

  • Reins

  • Halters

  • Lead ropes

  • Cowboy boots

  • Lassos