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