Nonprofit strives to protect wild horse herd
Spirit of the Wild Horse is a Colorado-based nonprofit that protects the wild horses on Wild Horse Mesa at the New Mexico-Colorado border. The mesa is home to 150 wild horses who live wild on 30,000 acres of private land, according to Judy Barnes, the nonprofit’s founder.
“We are also working on a preserve overlooking the Río Grande River with Costilla County that will protect 200 Spanish mustangs,” Barnes said in a statement. “We work with wild horse sanctuaries, preserves and advocates all over the country, to protect and save horses on public land.”
For Barnes and a small cadre of volunteers, drought years and poachers are a challenge to protecting the horses.
“Most of the horses are doing well,” wrote Barnes in a recent email. “We have lost another 20-plus horses to poachers on nearby ranches. Because the pond was dry much of the summer, over 100 horses had moved to the valley by the lake.”
Barnes knows the horses well and names them, part of a system of tracking the herds. “The missing horses are a large band of bachelor stallions, most were Lightening’s sons,” she wrote. “The other band was Thunder’s band. Both are a big loss. In August we had to put down Rain, who was with Napoleon’s band for 12 years. She had fractured her knee and it collapsed, making it very hard for her to walk.”
It is a constant challenge to keep hay and water on hand. “We need help again for the winter with hay and water,” Barnes said. “Hay that I paid $50 for last year is now $100 to $150. The drought has been tough. One rancher that usually gives me 100 small bales each fall is now having to buy hay for his horses.”
Barnes thinks the wild horses can be an economic driver for the region along the state border. “One of our projects is ecotourism to show the Bureau of Land Management that the horses are very beneficial to the communities that are located near the public lands wild horse management areas. They bring in tourism dollars for the community. I have had people from all over the world come to see the horses.”
All donations are tax-deductible. Donations can be made on the website, spiritofthewildhorse.com or checks can be mailed to SWH, P.O. Box 100, Costilla, NM 87524
Trucker and Casanova, two of the horses cared for by Spirit of the Wild Horse.