Save the Herd!

WILD HORSES OF ALTO (WHOA!) disclaimer: this blog is in no way associated with the group WHOA (Wild Horse Observers Association). This blog has actually become like a vertical file in the library where important past documents - like newspaper articles - are filed and kept for research when needed. It has become almost a lesson in librarianship for me.

WILD HORSES OF ALTO (WHOA!) The herd of wild horses in Alto, N.M., are the offspring of estray horses that roamed Sierra Blanca on Mescalero and National Forest land. Today the herds roam the same territory as well as dropping in to visit some of the subdivisions, such as Enchanted Forest, Sierra Vista, Sun Valley, LaJunta, Little Creek and occasionally Alto Lakes Golf & Country Club. For the most part, the herds are loved and welcomed. But sometimes not.

At this time, it is being decided in a court of law whether the horses are wild or domesticated (and therefore estray). At present, the horses fall under the auspices of the N.M. Livestock Board. We are trying to save all members the herd and other herds that exist in the area. We do NOT want to deny the horses the freedom they have known in the past and the comradeship the herd provides them.

To institute change in the policy and protect the future of our magnificent Wild Horses of Alto herd, we have a petition at, a fundraising site for lawyers and feed/care at, an account set up at City Bank-Ruidoso for donations to the "Wild Horses of Lincoln County Trust Fund" and an ongoing facebook group "Bring Ruidoso Horse's Back". Click on the Stallion's photo to go directly there.

PLEASE SPEAK UP, sign petitions, give to the trust fund for the horses. Sign up to this blog to get continual updates and to also post your own comments.

We LOVE our horse herd.

HELP save the Wild Horses of Alto (WHOA!) herd

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Court Hearing on the fate of our Wild Horses of Alto!

Wild Horses of Lincoln County/WHOA vs NMLB
COURT DATE: November 16th 2017
1:00PM at Carrizozo 12th District Court

Spent some time today with our captured herd. They are so undeserving of what is being done to them by the TRO & the court case. Hopefully there will be a decision on the 16th & this nightmare will end for them. We are in need of donations to continue caring for them. There have been so many caring people in the community, around NM & out of state that have dug deep in there pockets to make sure these horses are given the best care possible & it has been GREATLY appreciated. Hopefully we just have to get them through the 16th & this nightmare will be over for them. So please if you can donate please do so. Call Peggy Annen-Schoemann @ Little Bear Feed @ 973-2388. We now are starting them on alfalfa so the bales are a little cheaper.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

From the Ruidoso News: WHOA president submitted a statement on her organization's position and participation.

While a dozen or more members of a horse herd that roamed the Alto area are confined to fenced pens awaiting their fate, individuals who voiced support for the horses in the past seemed to have split into different sides with different goals.
Saturday, several of the original supporters who sounded the alarm after the horses were rounded up by a homeowner and later hauled to Santa Fe by the New Mexico Livestock Board, and five who signed on as official caretakers of the horses when they were returned, called a meeting to discuss the equines’ future.
But when members of the Wild Horse Observers Association arrived, the story gets hazy with both sides contending the other was disruptive and intimidating. WHOA is a nonprofit Placitas-based organization that filed for a temporary restraining order to prevent the state from selling the herd at auction.
Ruidoso Police Chief Darren Hooker said his officers were on stand-by to ensure no major problems developed at Wingfield Park in Ruidoso. Although a permit for use of the park pavilion had been obtained by Barbara Yates, one of the meeting organizers, the individuals decided to regroup at a local real estate office.
“I told the officer that our message is not about fighting, our message is about truth and facts,” Yates said Monday. “So we decided to leave to help the officers keep the peace.”
She emphasized that most of the local people at the meeting were not members of any organization, but individuals who still are committed to the welfare of the horses.
One of the major criticisms by those at the relocated meeting was their contention that WHOA is not contributing financially toward the physical care of the horses despite collection jars in the county stating that purpose. They urged that donations for the horses be paid directly to Little Bear Feed in Capitan, where an account is established. They said if anyone is concerned about past donations, they can request the charities investigation arm of the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office to look into the finances.
Another criticism is their contention that a resolution is needed to ensure the future care of the horses, who now are in limbo awaiting a judge’s ruling on a motion for summary judgment in favor of WHOA and a motion by the state attorney general’s office on behalf of the livestock board that when WHOA filed the suit, it had no standing on the issue, because it did not have a county resident on its board.
Yates, Melissa Babcock and Robbi Davis among others point to an agreement by the Livestock Board that depending on the judge’s ruling, caretaker signers for the horses would have first option to adopt and that any other applicants would be screened. If any horses from a roaming herd are penned in the future, the board would consult the community before taking action, an element missing in the original situation.
Yates noted that while an informal similar agreement was struck before, the new agreement would have force of law with court action.
Ari Biernoff, the lawyer who represents the livestock board from the attorney general’s office and was at the meeting, said that the agreement was worked out when he met earlier in the year with the nine signers who are responsible for the horses while they are confined.
The individuals at the meeting seemed convinced the horse herd could not be released to roam the Alto area again. Yates explained that “public land” where the horses could be “allowed” is practically nonexistent and does not include the national forest. Defining the term “public land” was one of the issues Bryant wanted to research before ruling on the two motions, she pointed out.
“We all love these horses and want them to stay on our mountain and be under the local care and control of the community, because that’s who been watching out for them all along,” Yates said. “The livestock board has said they are not interested in rounding up wild horses. That’s not their job. But if (WHOA) keeps us in court as (WHOA president) Patience O’Dowd has done in Placitas, these horses are in legal limbo and it’s not fair to them. They are living breathing creatures and to me that is cruel. I’m not saying they are not getting proper care, but they can’t halter break them, they can’t even do simple things like farrier care without all this drama and stress on the horses. It’s not right.
“We all were told 120 days (and the horses’ fate would be settled) and it is way past that.”
O’Dowd stated her position in a prepared statement submitted to the Ruidoso News:
“The community of Ruidoso and Alto are overwhelmingly united for the freedom of these majestic wild horses. This is clear from the over 94,000 signatures for freedom, and wild horse tourism, also from the 95 (percent) of the Enchanted Forest community in a door to door petition filed with the court. This support for freedom also includes three of (the) signers, one being a life-long horse professional as well as WHOA/Wild Horses of Lincoln County experts.
“All money raised for the Alto horses from within the community and from outside the community has been spent, and will be spent, on these horses for their care and their freedom. There are no salaried WHOA board members. WHOA has spent over $15,000 for feed and care of the horses and continues as able while the opposition increases costs by delay. This documentation (is) available. 
“WHOA has not delayed the courts. The courts scheduling order stated that motions should be filed by April 10, 2017, and WHOA respectfully filed its last motion for Summary Judgement on that date. However, since that date, the NMLB has filed four motions, all long after the requested end date for motions. Each motion requires a minimum of six weeks to allow both sides to respond, and allows for three extensions for each side. Hence, each motion can delay court resolution for two months or even more. Each motion also increases costs for attorney's fees for freedom and hay costs for internment. WHOA has respected the courts scheduling order.
“WHOA has not changed sides and has stayed true to the Mission Statement, which is freedom. WHOA has replied to the motion to dissolve the Temporary Restraining Order and adopt out all the horses. This is a question for the courts and the experts. WHOA opposes this motion.”
Although one herd's ultimate disposition is unresolved, at least two other horse herds still roam the Alto and Ski Run Road area.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Stallion sightings both sides of Hwy 48

Using an old photo, but The Stallion can be seen just wandering around neighborhoods all by himself.  It is as if he is going by checking all their stomping grounds.  Are they here?  Photo by Shannan Dobbs-Gabaldon

Wild horses still protected under prevailing law

Head of the Wild Horse Observers Association offers some comments about bills

With the dust finally settling on the New Mexico Legislature’s 2017 session, most of the bills and memorials dealing with wild horses died in committee.
The dead include House Bill 446 called Wild Horse in Statute and the accompanying House Memorial 102, Protection of Wild Horses. Also among the dead were House Joint Memorial 17, Protection of Wild Horses, and Senate Bill 126 introduced by Republican Pat Woods from Broadview, that would have changed livestock and wild horse definitions. That last bill was opposed by many local wild horse advocates as an attempt to eliminate the existence of wild horses in the state by classifying horses as livestock, but supported by some who contended the bill’s provisions protected property owners as well as horses. A second bill introduced by Woods, Senate Bill 184, Disposition of Trespassing Wild Horses, also died in committee.
The only survivor among the passel of proposed legislation was House Bill 390, Equine Rescue and Shelter Right of Refusal. The bill gives registered equine rescue or retirement facilities the first right of refusal to purchase an unclaimed horse classified as estray, or those that have been cruelty treated or caught while trespassing. If an owner doesn’t claim an estray equine within the allotted few days after the last publication of notice, a rescue or retirement facility will be given the chance to purchase the horse. If neither action occurs, the state livestock board has the right to sell the horse, which would include buyers with the intent to slaughter. If no bids are received, the board can order the horse to be humanely euthanized.
Patience O’Dowd, who heads the Wild Horse Observers Association, the group that interceded after the roundup of a dozen members of a wild horse herd in Alto, offered some observations about the bills considered in the state legislative session that ended earlier this month.
She said the insertion of exemptions for horses of Spanish colonial origin in Wood’s SB126 was not pushed by her organization, it was another group that works with the livestock board.
“It was a shill,” she said. “All it did was make a bad bill look good. It did not improve things at all.”
Thankfully some legislators were educated enough on the issue not to be fooled, she said. They correctly understood the rule of law.
“WHOA had two very successful years in the legislature in 2006 and 2007,” O’Dowd said. “In those two years we passed SB655 and three memorials.”
The senate bill was the basis for the successful court cases and was codified in state statute, defining Spanish colonial horses, requiring them to be relocated to horse preserves, allowing for adoption and providing for the control of wild horse population by means of birth control.
During the 2017 legislative session, three lobbyist organizations attended every committee meeting speaking for SB126, O’Dowd said.
“They all were ganging up to support 126, which is a bad bill for wild horses and would remove their protection as wild horses,” O’Dowd said. “So we had a stream roller coming down on these wild horses while we’re in the middle of (the) district court (case) and they were attempting to basically play legislative favoritism and roll over our judicial branch of government.”
WHOA previously received a temporary injunction against the sale of the Alto herd after it was rounded up, and is challenging in district court, the jurisdiction of the New Mexico Livestock Board insistence that wild horses are estray livestock.
People just didn’t bother reading the bill when they saw that an animal protection voters group backed it, O'Dowd said.
“Luckily there are people in roundhouse who know how to read for themselves,” she said. “Luckily, a new fiscal analysis was written at end that admitted to legilslative favortism and a clear attempt to overturn all financial investment and time of the people and the court and the previous legislature."
Under SB126, few if any horses would have been considered wild and pass the test for protection. The bill also contained nothing to stop the livestock board from declaring a wild horse an estray livestock. The board previously has never declared any horse “wild,” not even the Spanish colonials, despite the board’s own genetic testing showing the Placitas horses at 91 percent to 96 percent Spanish markers, significantly more than the 80 percent probability required, according to WHOA’s web presentation on the bill. The other problems with the amended bill were that wild horses would have to originate on public land, they could be classified as livestock and would have preempted federal law by removing the requirement that livestock be domestic or owned. The bill would have placed the wild horses under a board that never has recognized their existence as wild, the website stated.
Senate Bill 126 wasn’t taken down for lack of time, O'Dowd said. “It was taken down because of those issues. We did everything every step of the way we could under the law."
“Because of that, the wild horses prevailed and they are still protected and we still have a viable court case and we will still be there in court for those horses," she said. "We would have anyway, because we would have taken further action. The horses have nothing to hide from. The truth and law are on their side. Since 126 didn’t pass, the horses remain under the same protection that they had from existing laws 10 years ago.”
While HB390 was “a decent bill” in its original form, amendments changed that, O’Dowd said.
“For the horse rescuers, HB390 gives them first right of refusal, so they don’t have to compete with kill buyers or the public,” she said. “They have to pay $100 or $200, which is what they usually pay now, sometimes less. It just gives them first opportunity, so it will protect a few estray livestock equine from kill buyers. But those not bid on in the first round and that the rescue groups don’t take, the kill buyers will take them in the second round. That second option wasn’t there in the (original bill).” According to testimony, the livestock board and industry requested the amendments and the sponsor allowed them, she said.

Several wild horse bills debated in legislature

As the New Mexico Legislature prepares to close its session, debate still boils over how to protect wild horses and private property

With the 2017 session of the New Mexico Legislature drawing to a close Saturday, people on different sides of the “wild horse” debate in Lincoln County and elsewhere in the state are pushing for passage of bills or memorials they hope will clarify the status of the herds that roam the Alto and Ski Run Road area.
One side is focusing more on protection of private property rights and the other on protection of the horses and their freedom.
The latest proposed legislation is House Memorial 102 introduced by State Rep. Joanne J. Ferrary, a Democrat from District 37, with input from Patience O’Dowd, head of Wild Horse Observers Association. Her organization won a temporary injunction against the sale of a dozen members of a “wild” herd hauled away and then returned to Lincoln County by New Mexico Livestock Board. The case is pending in district court. The memorial acknowledges the role of the conservation division of the state Department of Game and Fish in “protecting, maintaining and enhancing wildlife habitat,” and requests the division conduct an interim study and to provide recommendation for the protection, maintenance an enhancement of wild horse herds and habitat in the state.
The memorial notes that the state has not managed the population of wild horses by immunocontraception in the last 10 years despite public policy, and contends management more likely would occur if a specific state agency had jurisdiction. Several tribes and pueblos already are managing wild horse population by immunocontraception and officials with two nongovernmental organizations as well are trained to administer the drug by darting, the memorial states. Fewer than 300 wild horses are on federal and state grazing lands in New Mexico compared to half a million cattle, it contends.
A long list of stakeholders in the well-being of wild horses included artists, outfitters, horse rescue groups, rural economic development organizations and the state tourism, the memorial states.
The New Mexico Livestock Board has exercised control over the wild horses of the state, considering them to be estray livestock subject to capture and disposal by the board, but the conservation services division is better suited to determine the status, needs, habitat requirements and issues of human interaction with wild horses than the board, according to the memorial. After tangling with the livestock board over horses in Alto and Placitas, wild herd advocates also seem to lack trust in the livestock board's intentions, a significant impediment.
The legislature’s website listed the memorial Tuesday as referred to the House State Government, Indian and Veterans Affairs Committee.
O’Dowd insists that advocates for the well-being of the wild horse herds can no longer support Senate Bill 126, introduced by State Sen. Pet Woods, a Republican from District 7, if they claim they are against the slaughter of horses. The amended bill passed the Senate 32-2 and was sent to the House State Government, Indian and Veterans Affairs Committee.
The bill classifies horses as livestock, but defines a wild horse as unclaimed without obvious brands or other evidence of private ownership determined by the board to originate from public land or federal land or to be part of, or descended from a herd that lives on or originated from public land. Excepted are horses that are subject to the jurisdiction of the federal government pursuant to the federal Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act and those determined to a Spanish Colonial horse.
Captured horses could be relocated to a preserve, adopted or humanely euthanized. A herd could be removed from a range, if the range improvement task force of New Mexico State University makes that recommendation after evaluating the condition of the rangeland in response to a request from the livestock board.
One of the key players in the situation with the Alto herd contends whether the horses there came from the reservation or from the wilderness area of the national forest is irrelevant, because both are federal land.
“So that gives the so-called wild horses special dispensation,” she said. “It does not mean that if they are found wandering on private property, stallions threatening mares or the well-being of private land or person that the private landowner doesn’t have the right to call the NMLB. This bill gives that protection to private land owners.”
She contended it is “highly unlikely” anyone is going to complain about horses on public land unless someone is injured on the highway.
She also noted that the state fence-out law does not mean that a person must have a fence, but if an owner does not put up a fence, and cattle or other livestock enter the property and cause damage, the owner then cannot register a legal claim for damage reimbursement.
Genetically verified Spanish Colonial horses are considered valuable by breeders, she said. Few have been verified in New Mexico. Senate Bill 126 also addresses testing to determine if a captured horse is of Spanish colonial heritage and if it is, to relocate it to a state or private wild horse preserve created and maintained to protect Spanish colonial horses.
“If not, (the bill reads that) it shall be returned to the state public land, relocated to a public or private preserve or put up for adoption by the agency on whose land the wild horse was captured,” she said. The livestock board is the proper agency to manage wild horses and livestock, she contended.
Other pending legislation includes House Bill 390, introduced by State Rep. Nathan Small, a Democrat from District 36, which would allow an equine rescue group first chance to purchase an unclaimed estray horse or it will be euthanized, later amended to allow public bid. Advocates contend that bidding would include buyers headed to a slaughter house. The amended bill was passed by the House 50-17 and referred to the Senate Conservation Committee. The initial aim of the bill was to prevent cruelty to livestock, advocates say.
House Bill 284, also introduced by Woods, hasn’t moved from the Senate Conservation and Senate Judiciary Committee referral. That bill deals with trespass on private land by horses, giving the Livestock Board jurisdiction and clarifying procedures to be followed when wild horses come into the custody of the board, including adoption, relocation to a preserve or euthanasia.