““Per the judge’s encouragement, they have agreed to release the horses to someone in Ruidoso…”
A discussion about returning 12 members of the wild horse herd of Alto is underway between officials with the New Mexico Livestock Board and members of a group that has spearheaded efforts to bring home the mares and foals penned by a landowner and hauled to Santa Fe by board employees last month.
A meeting to update supporters of the wild horse herd of Alto is planned for Tuesday. Details about time and place will be updated online as they become available.
District Court Judge Dan Bryant last week issued a temporary restraining order to stop the sale of the horses and urged a return of the herd to Lincoln County pending the outcome of a lawsuit to determine their status as estray or wild.
“With Judge Bryant’s ruling, the bid process has stopped,” William Bunce, livestock board executive director, said Monday. “The horses are fine, and discussions regarding acceptance of the horses by others are occurring.”
“We didn’t know if they would make contact with us directly or through attorneys, but he called Shelley McAlister,” Melissa Babcock said Monday. The two women were among the first to organize efforts to save the horses and to focus attention on providing a safe refuge for them, if needed. “Per the judge’s encouragement, they have agreed to release the horses to someone in Ruidoso. There are some stipulations to that agreement, which is kind of what we said at the beginning of the (public) meeting (Aug. 29). They have to be kept together per the judge’s order. But the livestock board’s conditions are obviously, we can’t just let them loose.
“They have to remained penned. There is a quarantine period of 15 days, I believe. They are supposed to be faxing us the conditions, but one is a quarantine. What we were wanting to do was let everyone know that, and that the livestock board has asked people to stop calling. We want to let people know that’s kind of where we are until it goes through court.”
Group members find themselves almost at the point they were with the horses and livestock board on Aug. 29, when livestock board officials indicated McAlister or some other landowner with appropriate property could take custody of the horses, she said.
“We want people to feel the decision is everyone’s decision,” Babcock said. “Shelley has 10 acres, but wherever we put them first, they definitely have to stay for the quarantine period. Then if there is someone else in the community with more land, but keep in mind, it is not just a matter of saying you can use my land. You have to take legal responsibility for them and it is a huge deal. One of the conditions from the livestock board is that it can’t just be someone with land, it has to be someone with land and experience with horses.”
Babcock and McAlister want to brief supporters and see who may step forward with an offer of land, she said.
“Shelley is fine with them staying there, but she doesn’t want people to think she’s the one who gets to make that decision,” Babcock said. “We don’t want anyone to think it was just the committee of six that was making all the decisions. We want to make sure people feel like they have a say and opinion. There are some things we can’t change and their opinion wouldn’t change, such as (the horses) must be kept. They cannot be turned loose.”
Money still is being raised to cover veterinary bills, food and other upkeep of the herd until the court renders a decision. The livestock board didn’t mention a minimum acreage size, she said.
“We’re open for people to make suggestions,” she said. “Forty acres would be nice, because we need as much secure space as possible to keep them in an environment that feels wild, so when we win this, they will be ready to bring them back to where they were picked up or close by and release them.”
Herd advocates don’t want to foster dependence on humans any more than absolutely necessary, she said.
One of the advantages of staying on McAlister’s 10 acres is that it is in Alto and there’s a possibility the stallion, Big Boss, may find his mares, Babcock said. “We’ve had (offers of land) from Nogal and all over,” she said. “That’s great, but being somewhat close would be nice for feeding.”