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

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Senate committee passes horse as livestock bill

Senate Conservation Committee passes bill that eliminates the classification of domesticated horse and lumps equines as livestock with specific exceptions

Local advocates for wild horse herds in New Mexico piled into a bus at 3:30 a.m. Thursday and headed to Santa Fe to voice their views on an amended version of a state senate bill they fead would lead to the elimination of wild horse herds that roam the Alto area north of Ruidoso.

Despite the efforts of advocates, they reported that members of the Senate Conservation Committee passed the bill in less than five minutes.The bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.  A series of hearings before the conservation committee led to modifications of the original bill submitted by State Sen. Pat Woods, a Republican from Quay County, that eliminates the classification of domesticated horse.

While under the amended version horses still would be lumped into the broad definition for livestock that fall under the jurisdiction of the New Mexico Livestock Board, specific exceptions were included for Spanish colonial horses and for a “wild horse” defined as an “unclaimed horse without obvious brands or other evidence of private ownership that is 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 originates from public land; but does not include horses that are subject to the jurisdiction of the federal government pursuant to the federal Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act.”

Public land does not include federal land controlled by the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service or state trust land.

Under the amended version, a wild horse captured on private land in New Mexico at the discretion of the livestock board “shall be” humanely captured and relocated to state public land or to a public or private horse preserve; adopted by a qualified person (for an adoption fee); or humanely euthanized provided the option is the last resort when the horse is determined by a licensed veterinarian to be crippled or otherwise unhealthy or cannot be relocated to a public or private wild horse preserve or adopted.

A new section throws in another wrinkle for the future of “wild horses” such as the herds in Alto. That section in the amended bill provides when requested by the board to determine the viability of a specific New Mexico wild horse herd on the range they occupy, the range improvement task force of New Mexico State University will evaluate the range conditions to determine the number of wild horses that the range can support while maintaining its ecological health.

The task force will report the results of the evaluation to the board. “If required, the board may cause control of the New Mexico wild horse herd population through the use of birth control and may cause excess horses to be humanely captured” and relocated, adopted or euthanized.

A second bill introduced by Woods, SB284, which has not yet been heard in committee, specifically deals with trespassing horses on private land. It gives the livestock board jurisdiction over any horse trespassing on fee simple private land and charges board representatives to attempt to determine ownership and simultaneously to notify animal rescue organizations.

“If no owner can be identified after five days, the horse shall be offered to animal rescue organizations. If no animal rescue organization assumes ownership after two days, the board may auction the horse,” SB284 states.

“These people apparently are hell bent on getting rid of the wild horses,’ one wild herd advocate said.

Noting that the incoming president of the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association backed the bill, contending it provided a remedy for a private land owner beleaguered by trespassing unowned horses, a Santa Fe attorney with government background said, “My question is, if a deer or elk eats her trees, does she had a remedy? If a skunk sprays her dog, does she have a remedy? If a coyote eats her cat, does she have a remedy? Is the state required to provide a remedy at taxpayer expense for every intrusion of wildlife onto private property?” The attorney also questioned if any data exists showing that overgrazing by wild horses has occurred on private land and how that data compared to grazing by other wild animals.

Local wild herd advocates mobilized in large numbers after the livestock board in August 2016 hauled away a dozen members of a herd in Alto that had been penned by a private land owner.  A lawsuit was filed by the Wild Horse Observers Association that resulted in a temporary restraining order against the sale of any of the horses in the herd. Under an agreement approved by the court, the horses were returned to the county until the court decides on the status of the herd as wild. That case still is pending in the 12th Judicial District Court.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Update on Legislative Bill - info from ZozoCommunity news

As I understand it, a proposed New Mexico Senate Bill 126 ("Wild Horse Kill Bill 126") will re-define ALL horses in the state as "livestock".  This will mandate authorities to round up and place feral horses into a system which can include capture, removal, possible adoption, and possible slaughter.  Other, humane protocols are being developed, and this law will block that.  This would directly impact the "Alto Wild Horses" still awaiting a legal judgment.

There will be a Committee Meeting Thursday morning, and our voices must be heard before then to prevent this bill from proceeding.

PLEASE contact each senator below. Simply click on their email address and write " I object to SB126 ". It only takes 5 minutes -- or call and leave a brief message.  (you can also add each of their addresses to the same email)

We need to take a breather and consider what is best for the horses. This really is important.

Background  The New Mexico Livestock Board (NMLB) is in court for allegedly abducting and selling protected wild horses illegally at auction, and to kill buyers.
Senator Pat Woods and the Attorney General are trying to change the law midstream to enable wild horses to be considered livestock and disenfranchise the people and the judicial branch of government.
This bill as amended, states livestock does not have to be domestic or owned, which is required by federal law, and weakens the status of our wild horses.
- This definition would conflict with the federal definition of livestock
- Allows road kill of many animals to be defined as Livestock
- Allows exotic animals in captivity to be defined as livestock!
- Conflicts with the NM State Wild Horse protection statute
- Endangers federally protected wild horses

Lastly the unintended consequence of passage of this bill by removing federally required domesticated language would be to allow non-domesticated feral or wild equines and exotic animals to be slaughtered or sold for food in New Mexico.

Editor’s Note:  I realize this was an inflammatory issue before, but I’m not sure the changes posed are really going to help.  If you think this is important, please send the email.  If not, don’t do anything and just see what happens. 
Senator Joseph Cervantes (Chair)
Capitol Phone: (505) 986-4861
Senator Pat Woods (Author of Bill 126)
Capitol Phone: (505) 986-4393
Senator Liz Stefanics Capitol Phone: (505) 986-4377
Senator Ron Griggs Capitol Phone: (505) 986-4369
Senator Richard Martinez Capitol Phone: (505) 986-4487
Senator McSorley Capitol Phone: (505) 986-4389
Senator William Payne
Capitol Phone: (505) 986-4703
 Senator Bill Soules
Capitol Phone: (505) 986-4834
 Senator Peter Wirth Capitol Phone: (505) 986-4393

you can subscribe to the electronic newsletter: ZozoCommunity News by emailing with subject "subscribe to

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Taking care of those in need in the herd

Motion filed for adoption of two horses with medical issues

Releasing either of two horses with medical issues back into the wild with others rounded up last year would be cruel, livestock officials contend

photo showing bay colored horses (photo by Mark Stambaugh in 2015)
    A motion was filed Thursday in the 12th Judicial District Court to modify a temporary restraining order on the sale of members of a herd of “wild” horses in Alto that would allow two of the horses to be adopted for medical reasons.
     The motion comes from the defendant in litigation filed last year by Wild Horse Observers Association Inc. against the New Mexico Livestock Board. The board is asking the court to modify its orders of Sept. 8 and Dec. 5 to permit the two horses to be adopted by local residents. In the motion, Attorney Gen. Hector Balderas, who represents the livestock board, wrote that despite repeated requests, the attorney for the association has not provided a substantive response and he presumes the association opposes the motion.
     However, Patience O’Dowd, who heads the association, said Monday, WHOA has not been allowed to see all the veterinarian’s reports or to send in another veterinarian.
     “Attorney Gen. Balderas and the (livestock board) are opposing WHOA’s 2007 passed legislation in court, which currently is the only legal avenue to adoption of any of New Mexico’s wild horses, including these two,” she said. “This motion is just look-good noise.”
     The 2007 legislation, Senate Bill 655, says that a wild horse captured on public land will be tested and if it is not a Spanish colonial horse, “it shall be returned to the public land, relocated to a public or private wild horse preserve or put up for adoption by the agency on whose land the wild horse was captured.”
      Public land is defined basically as all land except federal land controlled by the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service or state trust land controlled by the State Land Office. A wild horse is defined as an unclaimed horse on public land that is not an estray.  The bill was signed by the governor and codified in state statutes the same year it passed.
In the motion filed Thursday, Balderas wrote, “In the course of caring for the herd, the responsible residents have observed that two specific horses …have pressing medical conditions that require prompt attention and demonstrate that these two horses, regardless of the court’s disposition of other issues in this case, should remain in the care of a responsible human being and not be turned loose to fend for themselves.”
       The horses are under the care of veterinarian Becky Washburn, who agreed the horses need to be placed in private permanent homes, he wrote.
example of a sorrel color (photo by Mark Stambaugh, 2015)
The first horse is a sorrel filly who has been cared for separately from the herd because she was expelled many months before the board took possession of the horses in August 2016. The mares of the herd have attacked her, even trying through the fencing that separates her from them, he wrote.      The horse was described as having a twist in her spine and in her rear right leg that can be seen when she walks. In cold weather, it is harder for her to lie down and she has a rocking motion to help herself stand. A tremor or muscle spasm also has been observed. She would not be a good prospect for release back into the wild, “It in fact, would be cruel to subject this filly to release,” according to the responsible residents.
     The second horse is a bay male who was kept by a private individual for five months before the 12- members of the herd were picked up and he was brought into the case. He suffers from undescended testicles, which puts him at risk of developing testicular cancer. Washburn recommended possible surgery. He was expelled from the herd previously and shows signs that he is fully domesticated, Balderas wrote in the motion.
     “The board agrees that the residents who have cared for the herd of horses are in the best position, along with a licensed veterinarian with whom they have consulted, to assess their welfare and their needs, and therefore, the board supports their desire to adopt these two specific horses,” Balderas concluded in his motion.

Latest on wildhorse status - Ruidoso News, Jan 27, 2017

Substitution bill submitted after effect on future of wild horses questioned

Details of substitution bill to define horses as livestock and protect private property rights not available except to legislators

The introduction of a bill in the 2017 session of the state legislature that would redefine livestock in New Mexico, in effect, eliminating the classification of “wild” horses, has some local herd advocates concerned and contacting their legislators. By Monday, a substitution bill had been submitted and the Senate Conservation Committee moved a hearing on the issue back two days to 8:30 a.m. Thursday.
     State Sen. Pat Wood, a Republican from Quay County, submitted Senate Bill 126, which was scheduled initially to be heard Tuesday in Santa Fe by the Senate Conservation Committee on which Woods is the ranking member. He said Friday the bill was aimed at protecting private property rights. Others saw it differently. A copy of the substitution bill was not online Monday and details about the changes were not available. "The only ones to get to see it are the legislators," a committee spokesman said.
     “The proposed amendment to the definition in the livestock code is very significant,” a Santa Fe attorney with experience in government said Friday about the original bill. “The effect is to completely abolish the category of wild horses. It would have the effect of overruling the opinion of the court of appeals.  It would have the effect of designating all horses found anywhere in the state as ‘livestock’. That means no more wild horses and possibly no more personal horses. It also means that all horses whose owner is unknown shall be considered estray. The changed definition of livestock would automatically apply to estrays. The New Mexico Livestock Board disposes of estrays, which means it would now dispose of formerly wild horses.”
     Last year, advocates for several wild horse herds that roam the Alto and Eagle Creek area of Lincoln County came to verbal blows with officials from the state livestock board when the livestock staff rounded up about a dozen members of one herd and hauled them to Santa Fe. Trying to keep the horses in a “wild” definition to be released again, litigation was filed challenging the board’s jurisdiction over the herd and asking the court for a temporary injunction to stop the sale of the horses. That case remains in the 12th Judicial District Court. The horses were returned to the county where they are being kept together as a “herd,” with as little human interaction as possible.
     The Court of Appeals ruling was produced as a result of litigation over some wild horses in Placitas filed by an advocacy group known as the Wild Horse Observers Association (WHOA). Patience O’Dowd, who heads that group, was concerned Friday about more than the effect of the bill on wild horses. She contended it also could impact safeguards on meat for food consumption.
     “I would have hoped to see either the attorney general’s office or the New Mexico Livestock Board in doing the fiscal analysis would have highlighted the issues this (original) bill raises,” she said. “The definition of livestock at the state level goes against the definition on the federal level and does not make it stricter, but looser. I am quite surprised.
     “At the federal level, livestock is defined as domestic and owned, which gives some control over what we end up eating. The way they have it written, how do we know it is not road kill?”
      “(Livestock board officials) have gone into court and the appellate court ruling let them know clearly that all horses are not livestock,” she said. “The attorney general’s office is (the livestock board’s) lawyer and they should be clear on that decision. Even if they pass this law, all horses will not be livestock in this state, because there are federal horses in the in Cibola National Forest in Socorro. So again, they are going against federal law and the state does not have that right. They can make stricter laws, like if they wanted to say horses are wild in forest, but stop helicopter round ups. But especially involving food safety, it’s almost an insult to New Mexico. What do they think we are?”
     During a short break in the legislature’s session Friday, Woods told the Ruidoso News that his bill had nothing to do with conflicting state and federal laws about wild horses.
     “After reading some articles in the newspapers and talking to some brand inspectors, I began to wonder if a private landowner had a horse that strayed on him, who does he call,” Woods said. “Who takes jurisdiction over that horse when (the property owners) has something impacting him that is not his and he’s wanting to get it off his property. I think the courts kind of left that up in the air. What I intended to do with my bill is simply give the livestock board jurisdiction over horses. That way that guy out in the country wherever in New Mexico has one place to call to let them deal with a stray horse.”
     Woods said he’s been contacted by people who are concerned about the wild horse herds, “But really, that’s got nothing to do with the bill I’m running. What I’m trying to do is protect private property rights.” The senator said the livestock board seemed to him as the logical agency to handle such horses, but others point to state Game and Fish, which operates wildlife refuges across New Mexico.
     “This has nothing to do with federal lands, it has nothing to do with any of that, it’s just to do with private property rights,” Woods said. “They want to bring up the fact that there are federal and state laws that deal with wild horses. I’m not talking about any of that stuff. I’m talking about what a private property owner, and what does he do.”
     In an analysis of the (original) bill, the AG’s office stated that SB126 “will assist the livestock board in the successful enforcement of existing laws regarding the health, ownership and transportation of livestock in the state by eliminating inconsistencies in the statutory definitions.” The AG’s staff noted that it may be worth investigating the legal implications of adding “carcasses” to the definition of livestock to persons who trade in animal carcasses, among them butchers, whose job is to remove meat from carcasses, and people who traffic in hides.
     However, Department of Game and Fish officials asserted that to remove “domestic or domesticated” from the state law could create ambiguity in the management authority between two statutes, one for protected wildlife species and game fish, especially as it pertains to the management authority of certain species of poultry, sheep and goats.
     In the Legislative Finance Committee’s analysis of the bill, no fiscal impact was noted. In the bill’s synopsis, the authors wrote that existing language includes domestic animals used or raised on a farm or ranch, but the amendment would remove that wording. “Language including the carcasses of animals covered in those definitions, as well as exotic animals in captivity, is added,” they note.
     Former state senator Steve Komadina weighed in on the original bill in a letter supplied to the Ruidoso News dated Jan. 27, and addressed to the conservation committee chairman. He pointed out that legislation on a state level could not preempt federal law and also had to be compatible with state law.
       "This SB126 is fraught with legal issues as it conflicts with at least four laws and regulations at the same time risking food safety in New Mexico," he wrote, adding that the bill appeared to have been "hastily written and hastily reviewed." The attorney general caught neither the issues put forward by game and fish nor those he noted, Komadina wrote. He also disagreed that no fiscal impact would be involved, noting that the state already spent thousands of dollars fighting horse slaughter since 2013. "The unintended consequences of passage of this bill by removing domesticated language would be to allow nondomesticated animals feral or wild equines to be slaughtered for food in New Mexico and jeapardize our food source."
        The bill "would raise further ethical issues of disenfranchisement, judicial branch interference and even malfeasance," he wrote. Komadina noted that wild horses are a big tourism draw. He asked that the bill be tabled for the 2017 session of the legislature.
Reviewing the court of appeals decision, the Santa Fe attorney who ask not to be identified, cited several conclusions of the court finding that wild undomesticated horses are not estray, because they are not livestock. State code defines a “wild horse” as “an unclaimed horse on public and that is not an estray,” and livestock is defined as “all domestic or domesticated animals that are used or raised on a farm or ranch and includes horses” and a list of other animals.
     The association contended the Placitas horses were not livestock, because they never were domesticated or used or raised on a farm or ranch, a definitional requirement. The livestock board and intervenors contended that the “plain and unambiguous definition of livestock means and includes all horses everywhere in New Mexico.” They argued that carving wild horses out of the definition of livestock would be illogical, impractical and unfeasible to implement, because wild horses would be exempt from cruelty, sale and transportation provisions of the livestock code.
     The court wrote that it agreed with the association and concluded that livestock does not cover the five undomesticated animals in Placitas that were the subject of the litigation. The judge wrote that other animals are excluded from the definition such as bighorn sheep and bison, turkey, deer and elk commonly found in New Mexico.
     “The board is required to search for the owner of estray livestock, publish notice of the impoundment of estray livestock and eventually, sell estray livestock for the benefit of the owner. Surely, the legislature did not intent to require that the board search for the owner of wild animals, including sheep, bison, turkey, deer, elk and other wild animals that are not domesticated, impound them proceed to publish notification of the impoundment and then proceed to sell them,” the appeals court wrote. The judge went on to conclude that to avoid an unreasonable result, “we interpret the definition of livestock to include only domestic or domesticated animals, while game animals includes only wild animals, thus we reject the argument that all horses anywhere in New Mexico are livestock because horses are included within the definition of livestock.”
      O’Dowd urged those opposed to the proposed changes to the existing language defining livestock or seeking more information to contact the chairman of the Conservation Committee Joseph Cervantes, a Democrat from Dona Ana County, at 505-986-4869 or 505-986-4393, and Attorney General Balderas at 575-490-4060.  Lincoln County is represented in the Senate by Sens. William Burt, a Republican from Alamogordo, in District 33 and Elizabeth Stefanics, a Democrat in Santa Fe from in District 39.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Wild horses photos posted on Facebook page

Love these shots of Blaze and RockyJr. hanging out together.  This is just way too cool in my book.  You know that Blaze IS Rocky Jr.'s grandfather?

from Wild Mustangs Inc (Bruna's pages)

Photo by Barbara Yates
Photo by Barbara Yates

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Alto herd now allowed to mingle Oct. 28, 2016

Mares are allowed to mingle again as a herd while waiting for an answer from the court

Alto herd advocates continue to wait on the court system to grind out an answer on the future of 13 horses that used to run wild, but were rounded up by a resident as nuisances and hauled to Santa Fe by state livestock board staff.
The horses were returned to Lincoln County while a judge decides whether they are wild and do not fall under livestock board rules or are estray livestock and must be put up for sale. That decision could come by mid-November.
The horses, mares with their foals, were kept in pens for 21 days of isolation after their return, then the mares were released into a larger area to meld back into a herd. However, the younger horses were weaned and separated from the mares, although they can interact with each other, Teeatta Lippert said.
"We took the gates of the quarantine area, but the mares are pregnant and one colt was biting its mother," she said. "When the new foals arrive, the colts would be mean to the new babies. They had to be separated."
One mare, who has been estranged from the herd, also is kept separate, but in a spacious confinement, Lippert said.
Although the stallion who led the herd has been spotted by many residents of the area, he apparently has not yet located his returned mares.
The signers (who are responsible for the horses in an agreement with the livestock board worked out through the court) are doing everything under instructions from the veterinarian (Becky Washburn), but I worry (the colts) are being treated like domestic horses and will not know how to be wild horses,” Bruna Campos, who has been involved with several wild herds n Alto for more than two decades, said.
Some supporters advocated for transporting the herd to a larger pasture off Ski Run Road, but that area is the territory of another smaller group of horses headed by a stallion, she pointed out. The road becomes icy and clogged with traffic during ski season, presenting a danger to drivers and horses, especially if the smaller group acted aggressively with the invasion of its territory, she said. Lippert said the nine signers of responsibility for the horses didn't feel it would be in the best interests of anyone or the herd for the horses to be moved to Ski Run Road.
Supporter Lorri Burnett said Patience O’Dowd was in Ruidoso Monday and visited several classes under Ruidoso High School art teacher Heather Kinney, to tell the story of the Alto herd and of the fate of wild horses in Placitas and other areas. O’Dowd through the Wild Horse Observers Association filed litigation against the livestock board that stopped the sale of the Alto herd and threw the decision into the lap of 12th Judicial District Judge Dan Bryant on whether the horses meet the definition of “wild.”
“We spent the entire day with all classes,” Burnett said, and a future art competition is planned based on the story of the horses. “It was wonderful meeting with them. Heather Kinney is the art teacher who invited us. The kids will decide what projects they will be doing. We are looking forward to working with them and are excited to see what they come up with.”
Robbie Davis continues to head fundraising efforts for the horses through the sale of calendars featuring their photographs and raffles for other items, including a valuable custom saddle. Donations also can be dropped off at City Bank NM for the Wild Horses of Lincoln County account or submitted through gofundme.
"We sold out of the first shipment of calendars in four or five days," she said. "They sell for $10 if they are picked up and $12 if we have to mail them. We have a double shipment coming in next week. We also have T-shirts with an awesome logo and coffee mugs."

To order items, call 315-0807 and leave a message. One of the fund raising committee members will return the call. The items also will be on display and for sale at the Capitan Country Christmas Bazaar the first weekend in December.
Although supporters and donations have paid for six to eight weeks of food for the herd, supporters said the expenses will continue and more fencing panels are needed to expand the area where the horses can roam within the designated confines on Fort Stanton Road.

Fertility control vaccine promoted for wild horse control Nov. 8, 2016, Ruidoso News

Several articles and television features aired recently favoring chemical fertility control
2013 photo

The public and news media are beginning to catch on that humane fertility control is a better option than rounding up and killing wild horses and urban deer, officials with the Animal Fertility Vaccine Information Center said last week.
“This week saw a detailed story in National Geographic, ‘Can Birth Control Save Our Wild Horses?’ in which volunteer darter Nancy Kilian discussed how fertility control helps keep these iconic animals "healthy and free,’" they noted in a news release. “A video also recently aired on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation filmed about a group of Alberta volunteers, who are darting wild horses with the PZP vaccine to spare them from roundups and death.”
The coverage follows a recent story on fertility control in the Wall Street Journal and a string of court and policy victories for wild horses across the West, they pointed out.
“Over the past several months, wild horse advocates stopped a plan by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Oregon State University to subject wild horses to cruel and dangerous fertility control experiments; the BLM rejected the advice of the agency's advisory council, which recommended euthanizing thousands of horses now living in captivity; a federal court ruled that the Appropriate Management Levels the BLM uses to justify cruel, costly roundups aren't valid; a coalition of 40 advocacy groups, including the Humane Society of the United States, called on the BLM to increase use of humane fertility control vaccine as a way to reduce and end roundups.”
With AMLs in dispute and dangerous sterilization procedures, euthanasia and slaughter off the table, fertility control is the best tool we have to preserve and manage wild horses on the range, center officials contend.
“As we've noted, increased use of fertility control will help horses and save taxpayers money. It's effective, safe and humane,” they stated.