ScottsdaleCC’s Julie Begonia on Salt River Wild Horses
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ScottsdaleCC’s Julie Begonia on Salt River Wild Horses

March 4, 2020

Hi, thank you for joining us today. We’re here with Julie Begonia from Scottsdale Community College, um Julie, tell us a little bit about yourself. I’m Julie Begonia with the Scottsdale Community
College Equine Science Program. I’m currently the Acting Director of the Equine Science
Program. I’ve taught here in the program for over eight years. I do believe this is probably
the best program there is. We like the opportunity to help students and community members as
well to learn more about horses, and to better manage their own horses, and to provide an
opportunity for students to pursue studies in equine science so that they can continue
into either higher education or into the workforce. Tell us a little bit about the Salt River
Wild Horse Country. Where is it? What is it? Well the Salt River Wild Horse Country has
certainly come into the news just in the last few days. At the very first part of August,
the Tonto National Forest declared that they were going to remove a hundred of these horses
from the horse country. Now to take into account where that location is, the Tonto National
Forest is the base area for these horses. But they also are bordered and some of them
spill into the Fort McDowell Yavapi Nation, as well as the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian
Community, and they are part of that area as well. While the Yavapi Nation and the Salt
River Pima Maricopa Indian Community lay no claim to these horses, they do wander into their
area. But the bulk of them is located in the Tonto National Forest. Are they unique to Arizona? These horses are unique to Arizona in light
of the fact that they did not fall under the 1971 Wild Horse and Burrow Act, and so they
have no protection from the Bureau of Land Management, for management purposes at all
and so they’re a little bit outside of this, and for that purpose that’s why the federal
government is wanting to remove them from the Tonto National Forest because they have
no protections. The only protections that they have right now is that there is a non-profit
Arizona group that serves to essentially manage these horses to a certain degree. And that
group is called the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group. It is a volunteer group,
non-profit and what they do is they maintain a count of the horses and inventory of the
horses’ births and deaths, and a couple of other things. If there’s a horse that’s seriously
injured then they will attempt to provide aid for that horse. Where is Scottsdale Community College located?
How does it connected to the wild horses in the Salt River? Well Scottsdale Community College is, we are
located on the Salt River Maricopa Indian Community Reservation, and we are here at
Chaparral and the 101, and this is where we are located. In light of that, we have a very
good and strong connection with the tribe here, and since these Salt River wild horses
are part of the issue, and we’re also the Equine Science Program, then this is certainly
something that we are interested in as well as any horseman or any member of the public
for that matter. Are there any specific laws or people other
than the non-profit organization that can protect the horses? There’s no-one actually protecting the horses
because they fall outside of the law. There are many groups who are opposing the existence
of these horses in this area, the Autobahn Society, several other environmental societies,
are also working to find out what can be done in order to help save the riparian area because
the horses tend to be a little bit damaging in those areas and so they’re also jeopardizing
some of the other wildlife that is available in that area. While we talk about the wild
horses, the truth of the matter is these are feral horses. And why have we been hearing so much about
Salt River Wild Horses in the news recently? Well we’ve heard a lot about these horses
in the news recently because at the first of this month the Tonto National Forest decided
that they were going to remove all of the horses from this environment. And as a result
of that, there was a huge outcry amongst the public of allowing those horses to remain
there. To a certain degree there are many people that like to go out and observe those
horses. If you’ve ever been tubing down the Salt River or kayaking or been out in that
area, you’ll find that oft times you’ll be floating along and you can look over and there’s
a group of those horses that are there and it’s quite interesting to watch their behavior. And can anyone see these horses or observe
them, and if so does it cost anything? Absolutely. Anybody who’s interested in watching
horses in their natural environment is certainly welcome to go out and observe these horses.
The only thing that we will need to do is you’ll need to buy what they call a Tonto
Pass in order to get into the Tonto National Forest parking facilities. Now, I advise you
to get this pass because otherwise you’ll have to pay a pretty hefty parking fine for
that. This will allow you to park in their parking area which is located near a convenient
area where you can observe these horses. So the truth of the matter is, it really costs
nothing except for the Tonto Pass for you to go there. We do ask, and many people in
dealing with these horses in the wild, what we do ask is that you not disturb them, that
you don’t feed them, you keep your distance, you don’t chase them, don’t throw rocks at
them, after all you’re just there to observe them. And can you tell us a little bit about what
equine science means, and tell us a little about the program here at Scottsdale? Absolutely, the Equine Science Program here
is a unique program here at Scottsdale Community College for the entire Maricopa County Community
district. And we have the privilege of having the only equine science program in the district.
Accordingly, Scottsdale is a really big horse area, and it has been for many, many decades,
and so logically we would be at Scottsdale Community College. But it is an academic program,
and so we oft tell our students this is not equine “fun”, this is equine science, and
so you’re going to have to crack the books and you’re going to have to study. And just
to give you a little bit of an idea of what some of our classes are like is we offer an
introduction class which is a general overview of our entire program. Anatomy and physiology,
and if any time you’ve ever studied anatomy and physiology you know you need to study.
We also offer a course in health and disease, equine reproduction, equine nutrition, and
equine behavior. We also offer some practicum courses for hands-on handling of horses from
the ground. Just to make it clear, we don’t offer any riding classes. We’re teaching people
how to handle horses and how to work with horses, so when they graduate from our program
they’ll be prepared to enter the equine industry on various and sundry levels. And, say I graduate with a degree in equine
science, what type of job could I get? Well you’d be amazed at how many jobs there
are. As a matter of fact, the equine industry in the entire United States, just the industry
itself, is a 31 billion dollar industry. If we take into account all of the secondary
kinds of things, feed stores, clothing stores, all those different kind of things, it will
go up to over 100 billion dollars is generated by horses and people who like horses or use
horses. Also there are hundreds of jobs available. Most people think, “Well gee, if I get a degree
in equine science I can be a veterinarian, I can be a farrier or I can be a trainer.”
We talk about those being the Big Three, there are hundreds of jobs. You can be a designer
of barns, you can be a journalist, you can sell pharmaceuticals, you can be an auctioneer,
you can work in breeding barns, you can be a lawyer, there are many kinds of jobs. Some
jobs have daily contact with horses, some jobs have infrequent contact with horses,
and some are simply supporting the equine industry. But all of these jobs have to do
with horses. And is there anything else you wanted to tell
us about the program? We just want to make sure that the community
and the students know that the Equine Science Program just as all the community college,
we are always welcoming any community member, whether you want to pursue a degree or certificate,
you’re always welcome to come take courses in our classroom on equine science. Our goal
is to help students obtain degrees in equine science and certificates, but one of our goals
also is to help horse owners become better and more responsible horse owners even with
their own personal horse in their backyard. Thank you so much, if anyone has questions,
tweet us @scottsdalecc or @mcccd. Thank you again to Julie Begonia at Scottsdale Community College
Equine Science for talking with us today.

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