Wayne Andrew insists he's not the bad guy.
This reporter has repeatedly called out the Mount Currie resident as the one responsible for horses that keep escaping their grounds and heading to the festival property, creating hazards for motorists on the highway. Two horses were killed on Feb. 17 after collisions with motorists. One died on impact. The other had to be shot.
Andrew, a rancher who lives close to the Mount Currie rodeo grounds, called Pique last week to help set the record straight about the horses. He has been identified as the owner of most of the horses that keep trotting into Pemberton but he denies vehemently that he's the "horse abuser" he's made out to be.
"I'm not some horse abuser, I love horses," he said in an interview. "I was a bucking horse rider all my life and I won't even support bucking horse riding because that's what it does is abuses the horses."
Andrew said the horses keep getting out of his property for a number reasons. Chief among them is that someone keeps coming by his property, opening the gates and trying to steal the animals. The gate is left open and the horses are able to easily escape into Pemberton. He said seven of his horses were stolen last year.
Andrew also said that cars have repeatedly crashed into his fence and he doesn't have the money to fix it.
"Nobody pays for our fences," Andrew said. "A car crashes at the side of the road and nobody helps us. Nobody. I'm just going to fix a fence near the road that a vehicle smashed through the fence and you know, I've got to do that on my own!"
There are also a number of reasons why the horses keep going on to the festival property. On one hand, some of the old stock horses take the property as their winter grazing grounds and the younger horses follow them. Another problem is that the property doesn't have a sufficient fence to keep the horses out.
That's been the case since ownership of the property changed hands some years ago, according to Andrew.
"Whoever owns it, they make all this money and take off and leave the land the way it is and now they abuse us with it," he said. "They don't even fence it! Now our animals go on there and now I have to go over there and chase animals back. They go back over there again and you write down that it's RCMP doing it.
"They help me! I can't do it without them!"
Sgt. Eric Rochette of the Pemberton RCMP confirmed that Andrew had brought up with him the issue of someone stealing his horses.
"He mentioned that, I think last year, one of his horses went missing or stolen or whatever," Rochette said. "He was told, if it happens again, or if you have proof, if someone's damaging gates or a fence or whatever, just call Tribal Police and they'll investigate just like any other complaints and go from there."
For now, Rochette said that Andrew has corralled most of his horses on to his property at the rodeo grounds and that the situation has been "pretty good lately."
Horses could, however, still be escaping from Mount Currie. At a Pemberton council meeting on March 19, Councillor Ted Craddock said he saw five horses on the road at the turnoff to the industrial park.
Andrew, meanwhile, said the struggle to keep his horses contained has made it difficult for him to start up a riding business that he hopes to have in place soon. He claims to have been the first to start up such a business in the Pemberton Valley and now he wants to start a new one.
"I'm just trying to start up my own business and then this whole thing is slandering me," he said.