Trying to tame Placitas horse controversy - Albuquerque Journal

Trying to tame Placitas horse controversy

At the risk of stepping in a juicy pile of fresh horse apples, I’d like to take this opportunity to revisit the “wild” horse quarrel that continues to rumble along in the village of Placitas. And, maybe, to find a little common ground amid the squabbles.

When we last visited the affluent bedroom community north of Albuquerque, the drought was in full fury and so was the fight over what to do with roving bands of horses – origins and ownership unknown – that were eating the landscape down to nubbins.

Some residents loved looking out their picture windows and seeing horses and wanted them to stay. Other residents, motivated by concern for their property, concern for the skinny horses or a combination of the two, took to calling the New Mexico Livestock Board to cart them away.

Meanwhile, the Placitas Animal Rescue in the person of Gary Miles mounted a rescue operation, picking up horses from roadsides, penning them on the north side of the village and feeding them.

And WHOA – the Wild Horse Observers Association – sued the Livestock Board, arguing that the agency violated state law by treating the horses as stray livestock rather than wild, a legal designation that affords special protections.

One of the wild horses adopted by Gary Miles of Placitas Animal Rescue. A horse costs a lot to feed (hay is fetching around $8 a bale) and getting people to adopt horses in this drought and this economy is a tough sell. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)
One of the wild horses adopted by Gary Miles of Placitas Animal Rescue. A horse costs a lot to feed (hay is fetching around $8 a bale) and getting people to adopt horses in this drought and this economy is a tough sell. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

That was a year ago. Tensions were high. Neighbors were feuding. Back then I described it as an uncivil war.

And now?

The horses are still there and the drought is still with us and tensions are still high.

According to a Sandoval County sheriff’s report, a disagreement between Miles and a resident who had corralled three horses on his property escalated from arguing to slapping to shoving. Both men were charged with misdemeanors in the July 3 tussle and are due in court soon.

The bigger court action came earlier this month when District Judge Valerie Huling ruled in WHOA’s lawsuit challenging the Livestock Board’s authority to impound the Placitas horses.

At the core of the case was the issue that has been at the core of just about every disagreement percolating around the horses: Are they wild horses that deserve special protection? Or are they simply stray livestock?

Huling rejected WHOA’s argument that, to be considered livestock and therefore under the Livestock Board’s purview, a horse must have been used on a farm or ranch, saddled and ridden. She looked to the state’s Livestock Code for definition, first citing the definition of stray livestock as “livestock found running at large on public or private lands … whose owner is unknown” and then citing the list of livestock, which includes horses.

The lawyer representing Placitas residents who have used the impoundment procedure and intervened in the lawsuit, said the decision “affirms that residents here can do more than simply stand by and watch helplessly as feral horses destroy their property and their environment.”

And WHOA disagrees and is contemplating an appeal.

So far, that’s a lot of horse apples. So where’s the good news?

First, rains have healed some of the land, although much is still beyond immediate repair.

Second, the census of free-roaming horses in Placitas has been reduced this year from approximately 160 to approximately 100. That has happened in a curious and inadvertent three-way partnership among adversaries that holds out some hope for the future.

Half of those 60 horses have been rounded up and penned by Placitas Animal Rescue, getting them off the roads where they can get hit by cars, off private lands where they don’t belong and, maybe most important, ensuring that they’re fed and watered and administered contraception. They’ve gone through the Livestock Board’s impoundment and estray process, which revolves around advertising them online to see if an owner crops up to claim them, then microchipping them and putting them up for sale.

The other 30 have been corralled by local residents, picked up by the Livestock Board and gone through an identical process. Mike Neas, who caught seven of the horses on his property, told me he simply set up a portable corral. “It’s not hard to catch a hungry horse,” he said. “Put hay in, wait for them to walk in, and close the gate.”

According to Ray Baca, the executive director of the Livestock Board, the buyer for all those horses has been none other than Gary Miles and Placitas Animal Rescue.

“He’s bid on everything. Every single horse,” Baca said. The horses go for bargain-basement prices of somewhere between $10 and $30.

As a long-term solution, this might not be ideal. As Baca points out, a horse costs a lot to feed (hay is fetching around $8 a bale) and getting people to adopt horses in this drought and this economy is a tough sell.

But for now, with everyone doing his part, there are at least 60 fewer horses eating their way through Placitas and those horses are safe and fed and watered, and with luck, headed for pasture somewhere through adoption.

A much better solution than yelling and slapping and shoving and suing.

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Leslie at 823-3914 or llinthicum@abqjournal.com. Go to ABQjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.

 


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

Nativo Sponsored Content

Ad Tango

taboola desktop

MORE ARTICLES LIKE THIS

1
Halyna Hutchins remembered as a gifted cinematographer
ABQnews Seeker
Ukrainian native called herself a 'restless ... Ukrainian native called herself a 'restless dreamer' and 'adrenaline junkie'
2
APS bus drivers get a pay boost amid ongoing ...
ABQnews Seeker
Board of Education OKs hiring, referral ... Board of Education OKs hiring, referral bonuses as rate reaches $18 per hour
3
City: Official not drunk in accident
ABQnews Seeker
Allegation was made by Gonzales against ... Allegation was made by Gonzales against COO in mayoral debate with Keller
4
Las Cruces educator named NM Teacher of the Year
ABQnews Seeker
Lorynn Guerrero will represent New Mexico ... Lorynn Guerrero will represent New Mexico in the national competition
5
Albuquerque's outdoors access lands it on a good list
ABQnews Seeker
Outside Magazine named Albuquerque one of ... Outside Magazine named Albuquerque one of its 20 top cities and towns to live in on its annual list.
6
Search warrant, 911 calls detail deadly incident on movie ...
ABQnews Seeker
Actor, producer Alec Baldwin shocked and ... Actor, producer Alec Baldwin shocked and saddened at tragic incident that left colleague dead
7
Governor to tout public works deal in DC visit
ABQnews Seeker
Lujan Grisham to visit the White ... Lujan Grisham to visit the White House, meet with congressional leaders
8
State GOP, district attorney settle records lawsuit
ABQnews Seeker
At issue was information focused on ... At issue was information focused on vandalism at party headquarters
9
Booster shots cleared for more NM adults
ABQnews Seeker
Getting first doses to the unvaccinated ... Getting first doses to the unvaccinated is, however, a priority