Preserving a Symbol of the West
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Preserving a Symbol of the West

August 12, 2019


Yeah, without the horses and mules we would never have been able to expand as quickly across the country. And that’s how the west was won, on horseback. The horse means to me spirit, freedom, the tremendous freedom that we all have in… in this country. And I think that the mustang represents a very important part of that. My dad and I got horses when I was in junior high and we used them for pack trips and elk hunting. And then I started with the Forest Service in 2003. So I like riding horses. I like the fact that they can move on their own without being steered all the time, limited control. I love packing a string of horses down the trail. It’s like driving a train with a brain in every car. The wild horses are overpopulated out on the range, so we have to remove them to protect the land. So in order to protect the future of the horses in the southwest, we need to make it sustainable and realistic. We like the fact that all these horses are going to go to a home. Some of them will be gentled by a contractor, some of them will be gentled by a nonprofit group. We’ll do a little bit of work here with them. Jicarilla Mustang Heritage Alliance is a nonprofit organization to help one mustang at a time be able to find a forever home. So within the Forest Service program, to bring the horses in they have a beautiful holding facility. I think that there’s tons of opportunity for the public to see the horses, to select the horse that’s best for them. And obviously through our partnership, they have an opportunity to decide if they want to take a horse that’s ungentled, or whether or not there’s an opportunity to pick up a horse that is gentled. I wanted a baby horse. I looked at a lot of horses, and then I went to his stall and he was just like sitting in the corner like, “Hello, what’s your name?” For me, it was almost like cheating, because I got him home and he pivoted and did all these nice maneuvers in hand right away. What they’re doing is really wonderful. They come in and they slowly assimilate them into domestication. Others get adopted right out of the pens to a home that wants the challenge of a fresh caught, wild horse. I’ve always wanted to get a wild horse, and I love horses, and I’ve always wanted to work with one. Like straight from the wild, and just try to rescue one. Just draw a little diagram of your corral. They need to have a pen that’s that secure enough to hold them, we like 20 by 20 feet or bigger. We hope to have a little bit of a shelter provide them, approximately 20 pounds of hay a day. We have to make it clear to people when they come, that they’re not just getting a cheap horse, they’re getting a responsibility to take care of it. It is only $125, but it’s not trained. It’s wild! After they’ve had it for a year, and the horse is in good body condition and the hooves are trimmed, they can get a title. Well since I’m the Wild Horse Coordinator for the Carson National Forest, I felt that it was appropriate that I ought to try to do one myself. This is Clover. She’s from the batch that we got out of Canyon City. She was the last one left over at the end. She’s the smallest one, but by bringing her here, spending the winter with my horses, she realized she’s part of a little family, or a little band. We brought Coppertone home like the day after he was caught. When we went on our hunt, I think he had, it was probably the best time he’d had. When they’re finally to the point where you can take them on the trail to the mountain, that’s when you start making huge breakthroughs, because they start to realize that it can be really fun. It’s definitely worth it to do it. I’ve been to the big holding facility in Canyon City. When I went there, there were 3,000 horses in there, just living out their life in a big pen, nameless. These horses are really very, very capable. They make awesome endurance horses, they’ve been awesome dressage horses. There isn’t anything that the mustang can’t do. I think they’re more loyal and they depend on you more, because you’re like the other horse that they depended on in the wild. It’s almost… it’s like adopting a dog from a shelter in a way. When they bond with you, they really have a deep trust. They definitely can’t be left out on the range, you know. I’m a range ecologist first, and that’s, there’s no doubt about that. Scattering them out across the country to all the citizens to help us is the obvious answer. I know that anyone can do it. I know that horses and people are meant to be together. I know that they can make it happen

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  1. Whatever they have to do to get these animals out of the wild. Why anyone is advocating for preservation of a non-native, destructive, large mammal simply because it's a symbol of white expansion into the west is beyond me, however.

  2. There is more to a Wild Horse than being a Use. The best way to understand a wild horse is to give them the land to be uninhibited by man's manipulations, to be a wild animal as they are intended and naturally selected to be. It surprises me how so many range ecologists have such small minds and are biased — (Eg: they see millions of acres affected by drought, yet they get called to only look at the area horses are that share with livestock, encroachment etc and oh its the horses that caused this) Horses are only on 2% of fed. land. In NM they have already zeroed out 90% of the horses, why are they still after the last of the Native (NM native are specialised by natural selection to live in a desert environ.). It is not because of damage. If that were the case we would of seen damage in the 30's when there were 100,000 or in the 40's when there were 50,000 or even in the 90's when there were 5000, but now when what 1000 throughout NM exist???

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