Crossing Paths: Ten Horses

Desert Traffic Jam

Desert Traffic Jam

Now that spring has sprung and the days are warming up I’ve switched to my summer schedule: hiking at sunrise and sunset, to avoid the heat and the rattlesnakes. The other morning, my early start was well rewarded with ten horses*. Well, nine horses and one donkey. I’ve been crossing paths with this herd for five years now and even though I haven’t seen them since March of 2012, they knew me. It’s always nice to be remembered by a horse, let alone ten.

The grey and the dun on the left are my favorites. And the big black. Ok, all of them!

The grey and the dun on the left are my favorites. And the big black. Ok, all of them!

Hello, Beautiful

Hello, Beautiful

My Old Friend, the dog-stomping chestnut.

My Old Friend, the dog-stomping chestnut.

These horses have quite a story: dumped out here in the desert over the years by people who couldn’t or didn’t want to care for them anymore, they banded together into a herd of 18. This desert, scraping through a drought, cannot support 18 large grazing animals and they’ve eaten everything to dust. A couple of years ago two neighbors created the Old Windmill Trail Farm Animal Sanctuary to raise money to buy the herd hay through the winter. So the horses now have a homebase, but this is open rangeland and they still roam freely, much to the chagrin of many of my neighbors.

Contact.

Contact.

Funny Face

Funny Face

Some of my neighbors want the herd fenced in to protect the land, but there is no legal recourse. This desert is zoned rangeland and animals are not required to be fenced in; homeowners are responsible for fencing them out of private property. As a horse lover and a desert lover, I’m torn. I love seeing the horses, as long as I can keep them from stomping my dogs, but I can’t overlook how they’re tearing up the ground and stripping the already meager plant life. I also don’t want any more fences out here, in all this wild open space. As usual, when dealing with issues of ecology, there are no easy answers. On this morning, I simply felt blessed to cross paths with old friends.

Moving On, Two Wary Chestnuts

Moving On, Two Wary Chestnuts

Until we meet again!

Until we meet again!

Read more about these horses in my previous post: Wilding Horses, which was published in the anthology Best Travel Writing 2011, and about a wild mustang auction in All the Pretty Horses.

* Update: I thought I counted nine horses but somebody just pointed out there are 10 in the top photo! :)

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently traveling the backroads from New Mexico to Alaska, writing and living out of a tiny Teardrop camper. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at www.marycapertonmorton.com.
This entry was posted in Cowboys & Horses, Hiking!, New Mexico, Photography, Uncategorized, Vagabonding 101. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Crossing Paths: Ten Horses

  1. wonderful story, wonderful photos and wonderful horses. Thank you.

  2. Kyle Kuns says:

    No easy answers indeed. Looking at the photos of the horses and trying to imagine a bunch of fences popping up; I can see why you’re torn.

  3. ritaroberts says:

    I love horses Mary. How nice they remembered you. Brilliant photo’s thank you. Have a great summer season.

  4. Beautiful horses!!!! Horse dumping – I don’t understand people sometimes…

  5. Although the reason they are out there is outrageous and sad, what a beautiful site!!

    http://ladychampagneblog.wordpress.com/

  6. Pingback: Me & My Shadows: Four Corners | Travels with the Blonde Coyote

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