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Placitas horse group may appeal judge’s ruling

The attorney representing the Placitas-based Wild Horse Observers Association in a lawsuit against the state Livestock Board says he’s planning to appeal a District Court Judge’s decision that ruled against the organization.

The Wild Horse Observers Association was seeking to stop the Livestock Board from picking up horses from private property in Placitas and asked the court to declare that the Placitas feral horses are wild.

But Judge Valerie Huling’s decision issued on July 16 said WHOA “failed to demonstrate that the horses at issue are not estray livestock and that the (Livestock) Board acted outside of its authority under the Livestock Code.”


Jordan Beckett, the Oregon-based attorney representing WHOA, said the organization is looking at appeal options, “Because New Mexico’s wild horse statute distinguishes between horses that are livestock and horses that are wild, and Judge Huling’s opinion fails to take into account this distinction that is inherent in the statute and she simply calls all horse in NM —where ever they are they are—livestock,”

If they proceed with the appeal, they would file it by mid-August, Beckett said.

David Reynolds, the lawyer representing a dozen Placitas residents who intervened to support the Livestock Board, called Huling’s decision a “victory for wildlife habitat in Placitas.”


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“It basically said that the Livestock Board has jurisdiction over the horses,” said  Reynolds.

Livestock Board Executive Director Ray Baca said he never had any doubt that the Board was following the law, but the ruling answered questions for Placitas residents who capture horses that stray onto their property and call the Livestock Board to pick them up.

The horses have long been a divisive issue in Placitas. The Wild Horse Observers Association has fiercely advocated for the horses right to continue roaming freely. Other Placitas residents claim the horse population has increased so much it outstrips the ability of the land to support them. They say the horses are damaging public and private land.

Since last summer, the Livestock Board has picked up more than 50 feral horses from private property in Placitas at the request of property owners.