Wild Horse Mesa herd hit hard by drought

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This has been a rough winter so far. Because of the lack of snow, we are still buying water for the horses.

The water that is still in the pond is frozen solid, and the horses do not have snow to eat. Most winters we stop supplying water by October or November, and the horses eat snow until spring.

With the combination of hay and water, this year has been one of the most expensive in the 15 years that I have been watching over the horses. With 80 horses in the yard, we have already run out of large bales.

People ask why I feed the horses in the winter. The reason is to keep the horses off the highway and out of the ranch on the back side of the mesa. Twenty horses were killed on the highway in 2017.

Horses that have been captured and taken to slaughter were on the ranch on the east side of the mesa. In the summer months, the food is abundant on top of the mesa and they roam freely on the 26,000 acres.

The barn was damaged when hay was being stacked inside. Now we have to find a way to build a small barn before next fall's purchase of hay and get a Bobcat to stack the hay.

It would save money to not have to hire a tractor. We could also save money if we had a truck and water tank to haul it. It's $100 for 1,000 gallons of water. The horses can easily drink 500 gallons a day.

In the recent article in The Taos News, "Memorial on Wild Horses," slaughter is not the answer to the problem. Ecotourism is one solution.I have people from all over the United States and the world come to see the wild horses. Visitors spend big dollars on lodging, gas, food, etc. Market the wild horses for tourism.

Porcine zona pellucida, or PZP, birth control is another. It is not great, but it would help the situation so that the horses could remain free on their native land. If the horses remain free, the government wouldn't have the expense of the roundups, housing and feeding of the horses, saving millions.

Overpopulation of wild horses wouldn't be a problem if the Bureau of Land Management would not kill off the predators for the cattle ranchers. Where there are mountain lions and other predators, the numbers stay consistent.

In New Mexico there might be 1,000 wild horses left, but they have already been wiped out. I have worked on counts of the horses in southern Colorado. Government agencies kept saying there were 600 horses by the Rio Grande. We have proved there are only 200.

They are being managed to extinction. The slaughter industry is not an option. The kill buyers can pay as little as $10 a horse and make a profit of hundreds. The horses are cruelly rounded up and transported to Mexico.

Kill buyers are making money on our wild horses that belong to the American people, not the government.

If any school in Taos, Alamosa or San Luis would like to do a field trip to the mesa to learn about the wild horses, call (719) 588-7177 or email spirit.of.the.wild.horse@gmail.com to discuss. We have more projects in the works.

Any donations to help with food and water would be appreciated. All donations are tax deductible. If anyone has a travel trailer that could be used as living quarters for a ranch helper, or a truck that can handle a load of water, or a Bobcat that you would like to write off on your taxes this year,we would love to hear from you.

Donations can be mailed to Spirit of the Wild Horse, P.O. Box 100, Costilla, New Mexico 87524 or click on the donate button on the website: spiritofthewildhorse.com 501c3 39-2067927.

Judy Barnes is the founder of Spirit of the Wild Horse.

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