A healthy herd of wild horses roams near Camino Manzano in Placitas.
Bills to protect wild horses killed in judiciary committee
A significant number of people from Placitas joined others in a rally on April 7 in Albuquerque to protest the squelching of two bills intended to protect New Mexico wild horses. Senator Steve Komadina introduced the bills to the forty-seventh Legislature. The New Mexico Livestock Board and the Cattle Growers Association both openly negotiated to support these bills. They had been passed by all of the necessary committees in the House and the Senate. However, a last-minute letter written by a member of the New Mexico Horse Council caused the Senate judiciary committee to drop the bills for the session. Valerie Cole, current newsletter editor of the New Mexico Horse Council, stated her personal strong opposition to the bills in letters to pertinent senators.
The Horsemen’s Voice magazine (one of the major members of the New Mexico Horse Council) recently featured an article on the Wild Horse Observers Association’s horse-protection and tourism bills and ecotourism plan for the state. In it, Patience O’Dowd and Cindy King were lauded for their informed work in constructing the bills. However, Cole’s letters insinuated that the horse council had not been consulted and the general opinion would be against the bills. In truth, many attempts had been made to discuss the bills with the horse council (records of correspondence and e-mails are substantiated.) The Cole letter engendered enough doubt in the minds of the legislative officials that the current status of New Mexico wild horses continues to be dangerously precarious.
The April 7 protesters hoped to voice their concern as they carried signs in front of Cole’s home in the north valley and on the sidewalk in front of the forest-service building on Broadway. Although all the major news channels were notified of the rally, only Channel 4 showed—and then refused to air the story that evening. It is surprising that the Albuquerque media does not find this issue newsworthy, since two New Mexico attorneys general (current Attorney General Patricia Madrid and Tom Udall in 1994), the state livestock board, and the state cattle growers association all agree that New Mexico needs a definition of “wild horse,” and the discussed bills were addressing this need.
WHOA’s Joint Memorial would insure that two hundred horses on each of the three remaining preserves be maintained for genetic viability. The forest service is currently removing horses from Carson National Forest. The bills would ensure that Placitas, BLM, and forest-service horses be moved to preserves rather than be sold at auction, possibly for slaughter.
Twelve national wild-horse territories in New Mexico were designated by the 1971 Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act, which was hugely supported and rallied for by the American Public at that time. The law is still in effect and designates the BLM and Forest Service to protect, manage, and preserve horses. The original intent of the act has been lost. New Mexico burros (perhaps of the original Spanish line that had been living in Bandelier and on other BLM land) were eradicated in the ‘90s. Currently, wild horses are treated by government agencies more as nuisances than as national treasures.
Arizona film maker Len Johnson attended the Albuquerque rally and interviewed O’Dowd and others for his documentary The Last Spanish Mustang. His research showed that laws are overlooked that protect the wild horses from cruelty in captivity. Some southwestern wild horses had ended up in one of three foreign-owned Texas slaughterhouses as meat to be sold overseas.
Per the 2004 GAO Report to Congress on the Humane Slaughter Act, animals for slaughter were often not made unconscious by the captive bolt. It was found that some were awake while being hung by one back leg, suffering unlawful and repeated blows to the head while being butchered.
Although Placitas was not one of the wild-horse territories designated in 1971, O’Dowd and Cindy King have documentation that wild-horse herds were seen here four generations ago, which could qualify it as such a territory. Currently there are herds on Diamond Tail Ranch, in Placitas and on Placitas BLM land, and on Santa Ana, San Felipe, and forest-service land.
Many of us feel blessed by the grace and beauty of the various wild-horse herds in Placitas. Neighbors feel protective of “their wild horses.” They feel honored to have a herd bring new colts near their homes and enjoy seeing them on daily walks.
Development limits a herd’s ability to roam. Some residents become frustrated if horses disturb their gardens, but New Mexico has a law that people are responsible for fencing their land in order to protect it.
WHOA members are working so that the bills will be reintroduced this legislative session. If you have a chance, thank Senator Steve Komadina for his work.
Synopsis of Bill:
Senate Joint Memorial 41
This bill passed through the Senate and the House in less than two weeks. It sat for three days on the consent agenda and only lacked a full House vote.The Conservation Committee passed Senate Joint Memorial 41 six to zero.The Rules Committee passed it five to two.
SJM41 requests the federal government to develop the three existing wild horse territories in New Mexico and to open other national wild-horse territories in the state where herds currently exist. (Placitas could be considered one of these.)
To endeavor to maintain a minimum herd size of two hundred in each national wild-horse territory for genetic viability and for tourism, it asks to control wild-horse populations by use of contraception rather than sale and that excess animals be moved to other wild-horse territories or preserves after DNA tests prove that the horses are Spanish-line descendants.
It asks that helicopters not be used to round up wild horses, especially during foaling season.
It asks to honor the cultural heritage and history of New Mexico by maintaining Spanish-line and other wild-horse populations for New Mexicans and visitors to the state.
In addition, state government is requested to develop advertising and other tourist-related information featuring the wild horses of New Mexico.
State Bill SB 861 would define a wild horse for the state of New Mexico and also ensure that horses be moved to preserves or shelters, or euthanized, after testing their DNA for conquistador, rather than be sold at auction.