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Reining in free-roaming horses

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Sandoval County administration is considering installing cattle guards on N.M. 165 in response to Placitas residents’ concerns about free-roaming horses straying on the highway.

County spokesman Sidney Hill said the county staff are assessing where it would make sense to install cattle guards to prevent horses accessing the highway.

The county could only install them in areas along the road where the county has rights of way, he said.

Hill did not have an estimate for how much it would cost to install guards.

Some Placitas residents have called for the county to take action, such as removing some of the horses, after an incident in April when a horse was struck and killed by a vehicle on N.M. 165. And an accident in June where a woman died after the vehicle in which she was a passenger struck and killed a horse running loose on N.M. 528 in Rio Rancho heightened the sense of alarm.

“The possibility of human fatality in a car/horse collision is no longer speculation,” said Placitas resident Mike Neas in an email on June 20 to Sandoval County commissioners, the county manager, state legislators, and heads of the state Livestock Board and state Department of Transportation, among others.

At a meeting on June 17 with state Transportation Department staffers, some Placitas residents questioned whether cattle guards, which consist of a grid of metal bars or tubes set in a roadway that is typically fenced on either side, would impede horses from accessing the road.

In an email to Transportation Department District Three Engineer Timothy Parker, Neas said cattle guards would keep the horses on private property, against the wishes of many Placitas residents.

State Department of Transportation spokesman Phil Gallegos said the department has put up speed limit and cautionary signs on N.M. 165 in Placitas but has no plans to do anything with the horses.

“We are not in the wrangling business,” Gallegos said.

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