Save the Herd!

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

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. IF I have missed an important article that should be archived here, please email me at

Friday, October 7, 2016

Many ways open to help support the wild horses in Alto

Many avenues of support open for donors who want to help the wild horses of Lincoln County
    People who want to continue their support of the Wild Horses of Lincoln County can contribute to their care in many ways.
    A bank account is available for direct donations at any of the City Bank of New Mexico offices and the GoFundMe account for the herd remains open.
    But Robbie Davis said several other opportunities also are available.

    “In about two weeks, calendars will be available with photographs of members of the wild herd for each month,” she said. They will sell for $10 each.
    Raffle tickets are on sale for two original works of art by local artist Barbara Yates, who donated the works to benefit the herd returned to pens in the Alto area until the court decides if they fit the definition of wild horses or estray livestock.
    The first drawing on Nov. 1, will be for “Fighting Spirit,” a portrait of a herd member advocates say is no longer being spotted. The second drawing will be for “Hilltop Grazing,” the portrait of a mare and her foal. Tickets are $5 each or $20 for five.
    Signed prints also are being sold of horses in a field with the mountains in the background by artist Victoria Mauldin, who formerly lived in Ruidoso. The prints sell for $50 and Davis said only a few are left to purchase.
    For those who prefer experiencing horses, not just viewing them, a custom-made saddle is being raffled Nov. 6, with tickets priced at $5 each or five for $20. The size 16 saddle comes with breast collar, silver embellishments and was made by Canyon Rock American Tradition Saddlery.
  To purchase tickets or the signed prints, make checks payable to Wild Horses of Lincoln County and mail to Robbie Davis, P.O. Box 1854, Ruidoso, NM 88355.

One of two original works of art donated by artictt Barbara Yates to help the wild horses is entitled "Fighting Spirit." (Photo: Courtesy)

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Alto "wild" horse herd comes home

The Alto "wild" horse herd was delivered quietly back to Lincoln County Tuesday, ending a month’s battle to see them returned.

With no fanfare, the "wild" horse herd of Alto came home Tuesday

The Alto "wild" horse herd was delivered quietly back to Lincoln County Tuesday, ending a month’s battle between herd advocates and officials with the New Mexico Livestock Board.

The return of the horses to pens prepared on land owned by Shelley McAlister was arranged Monday, but advocates said the livestock board didn’t want a crowd waiting for the equines. They were told that the noise and commotion might upset the steeds, advocate Teeatta Lippert said.

McAlister said her notice wasn’t from board officials.

“Someone in Carrizozo saw the truck and asked if they were the horses going back to Alto,” she said. “They told a woman, who called me. We just happened to be here working on the security cameras and packing up the house.”
“I am really grateful for the way it worked out,” Lippert said. “Trying to sort them with people hollering or calling names or screaming would have made our job a lot harder and would have stressed them out.”
Unloading went swiftly over a 10 minute to 20-minute period, she said. None of the adult horses acted up, but some of the foals were frisky. The foals now are in pens with their mothers and one even began nursing immediately, she said.
“My biggest advice to the community is that our stance is that these horses are wild,” Lippert said. “They were born wild. They are wild, so we must keep our distance. If we brush them and pet them, and get them use to us, then our standing in court that they are wild goes out the window, because they are officially domesticated. And it would be inhumane at that point to release them back in the wild.”
The battle won’t really be over until a district judge decides whether the horses fall under a definition of wild or are estray livestock under the jurisdiction of the livestock board. Working under the latter assumption, board officials hauled away the 12 mares and foals after they were penned by a property owner as nuisances. The action spurred rallies and community meetings, as well as litigation by the Wild Horse Observers Association asking for a restraining order on the sale of the horses by the livestock board. The order was granted and while the court drama plays out, an agreement was reached to allow the horses to come back to Alto as the responsibility of nine volunteers. The horses must stay in isolation for 21 days and then, if the case remains undecided, could be transferred to larger secure pastures.
Lippert said she was impressed with how the community handled the issue in a peaceful manner.
“We achieved more than shootings and riots and bombings and fires,” she said. “And our children can see that a small town can make a difference. I was raised to have hope and that if you send it out there and you stand your ground and pray, it if it is meant to be, Jesus will answer you.”
But the executive director of the livestock board said not everyone exhibited stellar behavior. “I’d like to thank the staff of the New Mexico Livestock Board for their professionalism during this emotional issue,” William Bunce said Tuesday. “Their courtesy extended to others, while being maligned for holding to the letter of the law, is exemplary.  Chapter 77 of the livestock code as well as the applicable Lincoln County Ordinances spell out very clearly that a legal process must take place. Those who expect this agency to operate otherwise, will continue to be disappointed. The vulgarity, insults and accusations thrown at our employees via telephone, email and various social media venues is nothing short of reprehensible.  As this issue is currently in litigation, any further discussion should be limited to the legal counsels representing both sides.”
With Aspenfest parade scheduled for Saturday, Lippert and several others said they hope to celebrate the return of the horses with a banner.
Augie grown up

This big fellow should be happier one of these days

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Artwork inspired by the Wild Horses of Alto

"Wild Horses of Lincoln County"      
Victoria Mauldin Art Studio/Gallery
842 Vista Patron
Bernalillo, New Mexico 87004



These prints will be part of a fundraiser.


Return of Horses "a matter of days"

Contracts signed covering responsibility for Alto wild horse herd while court case is decided

                           The return of 12-members of a horse herd hauled away from Alto last month by the New Mexico Livestock Board after being penned by a private landowner as nuisances seems down to a matter of days, advocate Mellisa Babcock said Thursday.
Nine people signed an agreement accepting responsibility for the horses on their return.
A hearing on litigation filed by the Wild Horse Observers Association against the livestock board was conducted on Sept. 8, and 12th Judicial District Judge Dan Bryant indicated he wanted the order to reflect his exact wording, attorney Freda McSwane said Thursday. McSwane and Steven K. Sanders represent WHOA, which received a restraining order banning the sale of the horses by the livestock board while the judge decides whether the horse are wild, and not under the board’s jurisdiction, or are estray livestock.
The day after the hearing, a Friday, McSwane requested a copy of the hearing tape with the offer to drive over and pick it up. However, the tape was mailed and when it had not arrived by the following Tuesday, she requested another copy and it was driven to her office after work hours, she said.
“So we got it late Tuesday night (Sept. 13) and we began transcribing the tape on Wednesday, getting it in the final form,” she said. “We presented it to the attorney general’s office last Friday (Sept. 16). We’ve been communicating back and forth, because in the meantime, the attorney general’s office and the livestock board worked out the language on the contract the way they believed it needed to be and submitted it to us.”
Minor revisions were made. Nine people accepted the responsibility jointly for all of the horses and she began last Friday securing the signatures of those people.

“We were able by the end of the day, Monday (Sept. 19), to get the last one,” McSwane said. “Those nine people also had to sign certificates to be filed with the court saying they would follow the court’s order.”
The contract was signed and sent back to the attorney general's office, where at about 4 p.m. Wednesday, it was approved and signed by Assistant Attorney Gen. Ari Biernoff, she said. As soon as she had word it was signed, her office filed the nine certificates the court requested. Each one contained an attachment of the contract entered into by the parties and the livestock board.
“This morning I received back from the attorney general’s office some requested revisions to the (court) order,” she said. “We’ve gone back and forth and have agreed to an order. I’m expecting an approval any moment and as soon as we get that, it will be electronically sent for the judge’s signature and filed with the court. Once filed, we are going to set up a communication between the livestock board and the attorney to discuss the logistics of how quickly they can transport the horses back down here and be received by those nine individuals on that property.”
The property consists of 10 acres with reinforced pens located on Fort Stanton Road to be used as an isolation area for a 21-day period.
“The livestock board I believe is as anxious for us to take responsibility for them as we are,” McSwane said. “All we’re waiting on at this particular moment is (Biernoff’s) signature on the court order. I don’t know his schedule today, but he has been good at being responsive, so I anticipate he’ll try to sign as quickly as possible and I’m hoping we can get it to the judge today.”
Biernoff indicated to her that the return of the horses should be a matter of days, not weeks, McSwane said.
“We anticipate a smooth return just as quickly as we can get the logistics worked out,” she said. “If we get the order signed, I will try to get a conference call this afternoon (Thursday) between the livestock board and the attorney. We are pressing as much as we can. We would love to get them returned tomorrow. We would certainly receive them even Saturday (if the livestock board was willing).”
Babcock said the nine people who signed to care for the horses primarily came from a sign-up list at a second town hall meeting on the plight of the mares and foals that were taken to Santa Fe in late August, but others came from Facebook.
“I want to stress the nine who stepped forward are not assigned to a particular horse, more of a group responsibility that will end when the court case is over,” Babcock said. “This is not an adoption.”

Wild herd advocates wait for word on equines return

Advocates hope to hear Wednesday about the return of the Alto horse herd

Attorneys for the New Mexico Livestock Board and the Wild Horse Observers Association signed off Friday on documents connected to bringing the wild horse herd of Alto back to Lincoln County.
Advocate Melissa Babcock was in Taos Monday, then moved to Santa Fe Tuesday hoping to hear that the 12 mares and foals might be transported back home. She planned to follow the transport on its mission, if word about the trip arrived in time. It was her understanding that 12th Judicial District Court Judge Dan Bryant already had reviewed the mutually approved arrangement.
“I’m waiting for a call,” she said. “It’s definitely going to happen. They signed off on it, but it may be a matter of who draws the short straw and has to bring them back. I understand that there was one more person (on the livestock board side) they were waiting on to sign. We were hoping for (Tuesday), but I'm beginning to doubt it, because it is getting later in the day."
The horses will be isolated for 21 days in pens on Fort Stanton Road owned by advocate Shelley McAlister that were mowed and reinforced last week by volunteers. Later, they may be moved to pastures while waiting for a decision by the court on their designations as wild horses or estray livestock. That designation will spell out the jurisdiction of the livestock board over their fate and whether the board was correct in hauling them to Santa Fe last month after a private owner penned them as nuisances.
Advocates hope to see them turned loose as wild horses. The alternative is to sell them to private owners at auction. The 12 members were microchipped and now can be identified as coming from the herd, if they are rounded up in the future.

Preparing land for Alto herd's return

       Preparing land for Alto herd's return

Work underway to prepare home for the Alto wild horse herd for a 21-day isolation period while waiting for a court decision of their designation

   About a dozen volunteers showed up by mid-morning Wednesday at the 10-acre site where 12 members of the Alto wild horse herd are expected to be penned for a 21-day isolation period when they are returned to Lincoln County while awaiting a court ruling.
   Land owner Shelley McAlister said she expected the pens to be ready with extra fencing and water troughs added, and then the only addition needed would be installation of multiple security cameras.  The property should be ready for its guests by Friday (Sept. 16), she said, pledging to make sure the community is notified of their arrival time at 384 Fort Stanton Road in Alto.

   “They (the New Mexico Livestock Board) want us to get them back in the next few days,” McAlister told about 50 people attending a public meeting Tuesday for updated news about the herd.
William Bunce, executive director of the livestock board, said  Wednesday that his agency’s attorney as well as the attorney for the Wild Horse Observers Association were contacted that morning by McAlister.
   “I’ve not seen any final documentation,” he said. “(But we were) made aware that the volunteers were getting a site location ready to go. Everyone is working intently to ensure a legal procedure and positive outcome.”
   “This has never been an isolated ‘group,’ this has always been a community (fighting for the horses),” Teeatta Lippert said during the Tuesday meeting. “Obviously, we are all here and are all concerned. This is all of our effort, all of our hard work, all of our noise leading to the judge granting the temporary restraining order at this point.”
   That order stopped the sale of the horses until a court decides their status as wild horses or estray livestock, which also ties to whether the New Mexico Livestock Board has jurisdiction.
   “(The judge) said he saw how if he did not grant this that the ball would just keep rolling down the hill and without stopping it before these horses disappeared, there would be no conflict and with no conflict, there’s no horses and with no horses, no trial,” Lippert said. “There are a few things we have to follow and one is that we have to stop calling the livestock board. They have agreed to give them back. We have to stop harassing them, even though they did what they did. They are complying with what the judge told them to do and they got back to us as soon as possible.”
   McAlister was contacted at 3 p.m. Monday about the return of the horses, she said.  “So we will do everything as a community to make sure these horses are safe and cared for,” Lippert said. “Everything the judge signs off on, we are going to comply with 100 percent. We give (the livestock board) absolutely no reason to ever come here and do this again.”
   McAlister said the livestock board offered to bring the mares and foals back by transport truck. But they also left open for volunteers to pick them up. A quick vote of those at the meeting determined that the livestock board should bear that responsibility and expense, because it took the horses away.  They also voted to use McAlister’s property for the isolation period and then evaluate any offers of more land with pastures that could allow the horses to be less dependent on human care and to feel more wild. The owner must be horse savvy and there must be adequate fencing.
The isolation requires fencing that will not allow “nose to nose” contact with other horses. A veterinarian is on board to treat them, if anything is needed.
   “The money we raised will take care the vet bills,” Lippert said. “If people want to volunteer to help take care of them, to feed them or do whatever is needed, we have a sign up list and will set up a schedule. Anyone who wants to be involved, can be.”
   The stallion was spotted that morning and reportedly visits some local homes every evening to graze on overgrown grass. He cannot be allowed into the pens with the herd. “The court order says he can be around them, but he cannot be let in with him, because technically then, we are capturing him and he is subjected to the same stuff,” McAlister said. "With a double fence, he can come around and he will know they are there and be happy hanging around them.”
   That’s why using land in Alto is important, because he probably will find them, she said. “When they bring them in, they are going to start talking because they will know where they are,” McAlister said. “He’s going to find them.”
   The ultimate goal is eventually to turn them loose as wild horses, she said. The case brought by WHOA against the livestock board for taking possession of the herd should require no more than 120 days to resolve, she said the judge estimated. If the ruling is against release, then adopted homes will be found for the horses, she said.
   Seven people will be needed to sign papers accepting responsibility for mare and foal pairs, one mare and one filly. “At the end, if it turns out in our favor, that goes away,” McAlister said. “If it doesn’t, the person signing takes them home. If too many people want them, we can devise a selection process.”
   While they are responsible, those signing will bear the liability that exists with having any horse, she said. The livestock board was denied a request to have bonds posted covering the horses and those signing will not be charged for the expense of caring for the herd since it was taken to Santa Fe, McAlister said.
   People who donate fencing panels, water troughs and other equipment will be able to reclaim the items after the time of isolation.
   None of the colts were gelded, they were too young, McAlister said. But all of the horses have been microchipped and vaccinated. “When the livestock board or anyone picks them up, those horses will show as wild horse, so it is not a bad thing, it is a good thing,” McAlister said.
   “They will know they have to let them go and can’t do something silly as they did in the past,” Lippert said, referring to a herd member two years ago that may have been sold for slaughter after being picked up by a brand inspector. “All of the numbers are there, so we will know who they are.”
   The horses are in good health, but one filly was run off by the stallion two months ago and has to be kept away from the others, even in transport, she said. That horse probably will have to be adopted, because of her special mental issues and because the other horses abuse her.
   Some attending the meeting worried about the agency bothering the stallion or two other wild herds in the area, but McAlister and Lippert said they doubted livestock officials want to get mired in another situation like the existing one.
   The court decision in the Alto case should set a precedent for how other wild horses are handled in the future, she said.
   “They are following this in Montana, so what we do and how we act, how we treat this, our community is the base for how they go forward with every other case in the country,” Lippert said.    “We will be referenced. That’s why it is so important that we follow everything that this judge is asking us to do. (The case) is a stepping stone for every other case going forward. They are kind of holding us to a higher standard” with other judges watching.
   Everything decided at the meeting including the isolation site and those who will sign for responsibility to care for the horses must be submitted to the attorneys and the judge for approval, McAlister said.
   People who want to pay for or donate feed for the horses can contact Harvey’s Feed, and donations also can be submitted at any City Bank branch made out to the Wild Horses of Lincoln County. Donations are tax exempt. To date, the fund sits at about $27,000. Lippert said while the “gofundme” account has been good for people to use from out of state, the entity takes a 7.9 percent cut to cover its expenses and a transfer fee for when the money is moved to a bank account. That cut can be avoided with direct donations to the bank.
   The attorney working on the Alto and Placitas cases, Steven K. Sanders, has been paid $5,000 from money collected, Lippert said.
   If the herd is returned to the wild, some additional attention may be needed in the future to control its population, possibly darting mares with birth control mixtures that will last one year, McAlister said.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Alto horses may be home Friday

Photo by Mark Stambaugh

Alto horses may be home Friday

Twelve members of a wild horse herd from Alto may be returned Lincoln County and  a temporary holding site on Fort Stanton Road as
early as Friday.
   During a community meeting Tuesday, about 50 people voted to use 10 acres owned by advocate Shelley McAlister as a temporary site for a 21-day quarantine period and supporters agreed to allow the New Mexico Livestock Board to transport the horses back to the area where last month they were penned and then hauled away to Santa Fe.
   The horses have been microchipped, but Teeatta Lippert and McAlister said that will be a good thing for their future, if the court eventually declares them wild. Then if any of the horses are picked up, they can be identified as from the herd and returned.
   McAlister, Lippert and Melissa Babcock, who early in the situation managed to channel the emotional response of supporters into positive actions, prepared signup sheets for volunteers to help in various aspects of the care of the horses until the court case that resulted in a temporary restraining order against the sale of the equines is resolved. McAlister said she will need volunteers at 9:30 a.m. today (Wednesday) at her property at 384 Fort Stanton Road to improve fencing, install water troughs and till up the ground. She already has pens, which will make any dispensing of medication easier.    The horses will be fed, because there is no pasture. But once the quarantine expires, advocates hope to move the animals to a larger pasture area and and are looking for a suitable offer of property with fencing.
   District Court Judge Dan Bryant last week issued a temporary restraining order to stop the sale of the horses and urged a return of the herd to Lincoln County pending the outcome of a lawsuit to determine their status as estray or wild.
  “With Judge Bryant’s ruling, the bid process has stopped,” William Bunce, livestock board executive director, said Monday. “The horses are fine, and discussions regarding acceptance of the horses by others are occurring.”
   We didn’t know if they would make contact with us directly or through attorneys, but he called Shelley McAlister,” Babcock said Monday. The two women were among the first to organize efforts to save the horses and to focus attention on providing a safe refuge for them, if needed. “Per the judge’s encouragement, they have agreed to release the horses to someone in Ruidoso. There are some stipulations to that agreement, which is kind of what we said at the beginning of the (public) meeting (Aug. 29). They have to be kept together per the judge’s order. But the livestock board’s conditions are obviously, we can’t just let them loose.
   “They have to remained penned. There is a quarantine period. They are supposed to be faxing us the conditions, but one is a quarantine. What we were wanting to do was let everyone know that, and that the livestock board has asked people to stop calling. We want to let people know that’s kind of where we are until it goes through court.”
   Group members find themselves almost at the point they were with the horses and livestock board on Aug. 29, when livestock board officials indicated McAlister or some other landowner with appropriate property could take custody of the horses, she said.
   “We want people to feel the decision is everyone’s decision,” Babcock said. “Shelley has 10 acres, but wherever we put them first, they definitely have to stay for the quarantine period. Then if there is someone else in the community with more land, but keep in mind, it is not just a matter of saying you can use my land. You have to take legal responsibility for them and it is a huge deal. One of the conditions from the livestock board is that it can’t just be someone with land, it has to be someone with land and experience with horses.”
   Babcock and McAlister want to brief supporters and see who may step forward with an offer of land, she said.
   “Shelley is fine with them staying there, but she doesn’t want people to think she’s the one who gets to make that decision,” Babcock said. “We don’t want anyone to think it was just the committee of six that was making all the decisions. We want to make sure people feel like they have a say and opinion. There are some things we can’t change and their opinion wouldn’t change, such as (the horses) must be kept. They cannot be turned loose.”
   Money still is being raised to cover veterinary bills, food and other upkeep of the herd until the court renders a decision. The livestock board didn’t mention a minimum acreage size, she said.
   “We’re open for people to make suggestions,” she said of the move after quarantine. “Forty acres would be nice, because we need as much secure space as possible to keep them in an environment that feels wild, so when we win this, they will be ready to bring them back to where they were picked up or close by and release them.”
  Herd advocates don’t want to foster dependence on humans any more than absolutely necessary, she said.
   One of the advantages of staying on McAlister’s 10 acres is that it is in Alto and there’s a possibility the stallion, Big Boss, may find his mares, Babcock said. “We’ve had (offers of land) from Nogal and all over,” she said. “That’s great, but being somewhat close would be nice for feeding.”

Ruidoso News Sept 13 article

News analysis: Lawyers to debate what makes a wild horse wild

   As the lawyer for the New Mexico Livestock Board stood before him last week, District Judge Dan
Bryant asked what is sure to be a key question if the lawsuit over the future of the wild horses of Alto goes to trial.
Photo by Lynda Blaney
     “How does the Livestock Board distinguish this herd from the Placitas herd in the Court of Appeals case?” Bryant asked Asst. Atty. Gen. Ari Biernoff.
   The judge was referring to a case in which the appellate court ruled last year that the Board shouldn’t have treated a free-roaming herd of wild horses near Placitas as if they were “estray” livestock, just as they tried to do with the Alto herd.
   To those who love Lincoln County’s free-roaming horses, the answer is self-evident. There’s no difference at all between the Alto horses and the Placitas horses, and the Livestock Board is wrong again.
   The horse advocates may be exactly right. But that doesn’t mean lawyers won’t find plenty to argue about as they belabor what may look to equine-loving eyes like the obvious, if and when Bryant takes the bench to preside over Wild Horse Observers Association (WHOA) v. New Mexico Livestock Board.
   Here are some of the legal and factual points a trial may raise:
  1. The Court of Appeals opinion accepted WHOA’s claim that the Board “took the auctioned Placitas horses directly from public land before auctioning them.” But the Alto herd was penned up by a private landowner who summoned the Livestock Board to collect them.
   We’ll discuss later why it might matter a lot where the Board picked up the horses. But one side, or maybe both, may argue that the Court of Appeals was misinformed about where the Placitas herd was picked up and by whom.
   Corrales attorney David G. Reynolds, an attorney for one of the private landowners who intervened in the Placitas case on the Livestock Board’s side, told the News last month that the herd was actually captured on private property just like the Alto herd.
   The point was never hashed out in court because 2nd District Court Judge Valerie Huling dismissed the case. The Court of Appeals sent it back to her for trial, but last week Huling dismissed it again because the Placitas horses are all gone and there’s no longer any herd to argue over. As lawyers say, the case is “moot.”
   But since Bryant may have to decide whether the Court of Appeals ruling controls the outcome of the Alto case, he might hear arguments or evidence that the relevance of the appellate court opinion should be discounted because it was based on incorrect facts.
      2. The New Mexico Livestock Code defines a wild horse as “an unclaimed horse on public land that is not an estray.”
   The wording of this statute is the reason it might matter where the Board picks up any given group of unclaimed horses. The Court of Appeals ruling never says what an unclaimed horse on private land might be, because it presumed the Placitas herd was on public land as the statute appears to require.
Biernoff told Bryant last week that this is a “critical” difference between the Placitas and Alto cases.   But even if the facts show that both herds were actually taken by the Board from private land, the Board may still argue that the Court of Appeals ruling doesn’t apply to the Alto herd.
   Bryant could end up scratching his head over how much the extensive reasoning in the Court of Appeals decision depends on where the horses happened to be picked up.
   He also may be asked to consider whether the legislature really intended to say that a wild horse suddenly stops being wild whenever it strays or is lured or led from public land onto private land.
   Reynolds told the News a wild horse on public land turns instantly into “a large packrat” on private land in the eyes of the law. Since neither the statute nor the Court of Appeals ruling says anything about a free-roaming unclaimed horse on private land, he said, such a beast has no more legal standing or protection than a varmint.
   But Albuquerque attorney Steven K. Sanders, who has represented WHOA in both cases, told the News last week before the hearing that this would be “a travesty” and could not have been what the legislature meant the law to say.
       3.The Livestock Code says "public land" does not include federal land controlled by the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service or state trust land controlled by the state land office.
   When you take all that away, plus all private property, an awful lot of Lincoln County is off the table as the kind of land on which a free-ranging horse can be considered legally wild, if the statute means exactly what it says.
   Bryant ruminated aloud about that in court last Friday, even though nobody had asked him to. He seemed to conclude that in dealing with this case he will have to decide whether the Alto herd could have spent significant time on “public land” as the Livestock Code defines it.
   It’s hard to say how important that will be to the case. But if Bryant was already thinking about it on his own in a preliminary hearing, a smart lawyer would probably have to consider it very important.
      4. The only other definition in state law of a “wild horse” besides the one in the Livestock Code doesn’t seem to fit the Placitas and Alto herds.
   The Court of Appeals opinion cited a New Mexico Administrative Code section that said a wild horse is a feral horse in an “untamed state having returned to a wild state from domestication.”
That doesn’t describe the wild horses in these cases, which everyone seems to agree have never been owned by anyone in their lives.
   But it’s still possible the code section may come into play anyway. Read on.
     5. State law defines livestock as “domestic or domesticated animals.” WHOA says that means the Placitas and Alto herds can’t be livestock. The Livestock Board begs to differ.
   Biernoff indicated in last week’s hearing that the Board may try to portray the Alto herd as domesticated.
   “We’ll have testimony about how this herd was living,” Biernoff told the judge. “We believe that the horses were being fed, having social interaction with people. We might need more evidence on this.”
   Biernoff questioned some of Sanders’s witnesses about the Alto horses’ docile behavior. Then he called Caroline McCoy to the stand. McCoy is the property owner who penned up the 12 Alto mares and foals for the Livestock Board to take away. She described how she led them easily into an enclosure while riding her all-terrain vehicle.
   Finally Biernoff called a Lincoln County rancher named Ashley Ivins to testify. His main goal with Ivins seemed to be to have her describe her familiarity with the kind of mustangs found on federal Bureau of Land Management ranges and how different they are from the Alto horses.
   “They’re true wild horses,” Ivins said. “They’re mean and wild. They won’t eat out of your hand or be near people.”
   So the definition of “domesticated” may be among the points Bryant will be asked to consider. And even if he agrees with the Board that the Alto horses have displayed domesticated behavior, he would have to weigh that against the fact that they’re also unclaimed and free-roaming.
   Not many cases give a district judge the chance to address important gaps in the law left by both the state’s legislature and its second highest court. The novelty of the judicial opportunity could have been one reason Bryant put a stop to the Livestock Board’s attempt to auction the Alto herd.
   But the judge was clearly troubled by the possibility that the Livestock Board is finding it easier to win wild horse cases on the auction block than in the courtroom, especially after the Placitas judge concluded that if the herd is gone, the case goes away too.
   Bryant asked Biernoff during the hearing how a court could ever get a chance to review the Livestock Board’s actions and decide the legal issues surrounding New Mexico’s unclaimed, free-roaming horses if the Board were allowed to keep selling them off as soon as it gets its hands on them.
   Biernoff uttered some words in reply to the judge’s question, but they didn’t contain a good answer. That’s because there probably isn’t any.