Montana rancher wrangles up missing horse statues

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — Three life-sized horse sculptures rustled from a herd of 39 displayed on a hillside in southwestern Montana have turned up on a nearby ranch with only minor damage.

Broadwater County Deputy Brandon Harris said a rancher checking on his cattle south of Townsend late Tuesday afternoon spotted some tracks in the snow in an area not normally traveled. He followed the tracks and spotted the steel sculptures of two horses and a colt, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle (http://bit.ly/1cRtfvv ) reported.

Harris said the rancher, who did not want his name released, did not know the artwork had been reported missing until he spoke with friends in town later that day. The rancher also declined a $3,000 reward offered for the return of the sculptures, which weigh between 250 and 450 pounds and were valued at $50,000 or more.

Belgrade sculptor Jim Dolan said Wednesday the recovery of the sculptures was a relief.

Dolan said it took him 15 months to build the sculptures, which he installed on Wheat Montana Farms property in September as a gift to the people of Montana.

The horses were made of recycled steel and painted blue and black. Manes and tails were created out of nylon rope. Bearings on some of the horses' shoulders allow their heads to move with the wind.

The sheriff's office received many phone calls and tips after word of the theft got out Tuesday. In fact, as Dolan was driving the sculptures back to Belgrade on Tuesday night, a woman driving behind them called to report that she had seen them.

He said he plans to make some minor repairs and return the sculptures to the hillside near Three Forks.

Harris said there are no suspects in the theft and the case is still being investigated.

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Information from: Bozeman Daily Chronicle, http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com