So last night, the horsey people came out to play. You know, the badass group that saved the Salt River Wild Horses in 2015? Yeah, those guys.
When the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971 was passed, Arizona horses were not assigned a protected territory. Those in charge labeled the horses a nuisance and, in 2015, thought they should be “disposed of.” Six thousand, yep, six thousand press releases, testimony in Federal Court, pleas to both McCain and Flake and the subsequent public outcry saved Arizona’s wild horses from roundup and removal. Nice words for scare the crap out of them, separate families and slaughter most of them. Disposal.
What started as the grass roots organization of one woman, Simone Netherlands, a force to be reckoned with, ends up a gathering of hundreds last night in The Dale raising money to save the horses once again. This time it’s to build a center to house and educate. Part of the agreement to keep the horses is that the volunteers, Salt River Wild Horse Management Group, help to maintain the fences to keep wild horses off roads, remove safety hazards like downed barb wire and nails, monitor the health of the herd and study and keep records of each horse including birth and death rates.
They also provide rescue, rehabilitation and sanctuary as needed. Rescue and sanctuary were on full display as we ogled and cooed over an adorable babe.
There at the invitation of All Animal Mom Ms. K; our crew was treated to dinner, silent auction, a balladeer – yep the state’s official one, and awe at the majesty of a piece of Arizona’s history. The room was chock full with those grown up little girls who dreamed of horses and ponies and riding wild, kicking ass to keep wild horses safe.
We learned a thing or two. Arizona wild horses protect the ecosystem by fertilizing the sandy soil. I betcha didn’t know there are fewer than 500 wild horses left in the state or that they eat the eelgrass from the bottom of the river. I guess that’s a good thing. They also live in little families called bands with a stallion as leader and protector. They mourn when they lose a member of the band and the whole band mourns the loss of a baby.
Best of all, it’s easy to find them. You have a great chance of encounter anywhere along the trails near the Bush Highway. There are some guidelines: Stay a safe 40 feet away. Do not feed or try to tame. Be calm and quiet. Keep your dog leashed. Don’t use a flash on your camera. Slow down at Watch For Horses signs and take lots of pictures and share them. The more people know; the more they can help. The group invites you to post what you see on their Facebook page: Salt River Wild Horse Management Group.
It wasn’t all education. There were auction items, squee, yummy food and great company. Just when a girl thinks she can’t take one more bit of fun–there’s a country band. And dancing. And, for more than one of us, an obsession with long haired musicians shows itself once again. And we’re not even at the dive country bar.
Friends, horses, long-haired country guitar players. The stuff of girl fantasy.