RIO RANCHO, N.M. — The ongoing free-roaming horse dispute that has roiled the Placitas community has flared again.
A poster displayed Oct. 28 at the village post office bore the headline “Illegal horse round-up by Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District” and implied the animals would end up “in slaughter.”
The body of the poster contained copies of emails – including names and partial email addresses – between Placitas residents and some Coronado board members discussing options for getting equipment, and volunteer efforts, to help property owners corral free-roaming horses.
Coronado’s board approved a resolution in August saying the horses should be removed. On Oct. 1 the board passed a motion to look into securing necessary equipment for residents who want to remove horses from their land.
Board member Lynn Montgomery, who made the motion, said the board is not actively rounding up horses but could help landowners who wished to do so.
Coronado board president Will Ouellette called the poster headline “false, libelous and inflammatory,” in a statement issued Oct. 30.
The statement said state law authorizes the conservation district to conserve and develop natural resources, provide flood control and preserve wildlife, among other tasks. Following this mandate, it said, Coronado approved efforts of private landowners to remove free-roaming horses from their own property as long as they cooperate with the state Livestock Board.
The statement also said, “If concerned citizens wish to protect the horses from what they perceive is the threat of slaughter, they can take responsibility and adopt a horse.”
The horses have long been a flashpoint in Placitas, with some residents fiercely advocating for their right to roam free, while others claim they are damaging private property, endangering drivers and polluting local streams.
In June, the conservation district ordered the Livestock Board to round up the horses, but Livestock Board director Ray Baca said Coronado lacked authority to issue the order, a position the Attorney General’s Office supported.
Placitas resident Mike Neas shares the environmental concerns, and his name appeared as a recipient of one of the emails shown on the poster. He believes Coronado is doing a good job listening to residents.
“We have tried to get elected and public officials to do something, but they’ve declined to do anything,” Neas said.
Horse supporter Gary Miles was elected to the Coronado board this summer and voted against Montgomery’s motion. He strongly disagrees with Coronado’s position on the horses.
“They (Coronado) want the horses put in the same category as wild pigs. These guys are not qualified to round up horses. It’s not easy,” Miles said.
Miles runs Placitas Animal Rescue. He said he has removed 30 horses that were straying on Placitas roads. He arranged for the Livestock Board to microchip the animals, and he has claimed ownership of them while he tries to find adoptive homes.