Visiting Arizona’s Salt River Wild Horses

Wild Horse Freedom Federation Meets Salt River Wild Horse Management Group

Left to Right, Terry Fitch, Simone Netherlands, Robin O’Donnell

It’s been a long time coming but finally the planets came into alignment and the circumstances coincided so that Terry and I could visit our long time friend, Simone Netherlands and many of her local friends and members of the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group.  We have been promising to stop by and visit the aquatic ponies for year and with a motorized trip across the U.S. things worked out perfectly for a day of wild equine observation.

Salt River Wild Horse Management Group members Destini Rhone, Simone Netherlands and Robin O’Donnell

With this short post I am not including any pictures of the horses, proper, because my main mission on such excursions is to take pictures of the photographers who are taking the real pictures (using my iPhone no less).  So with that said, I will be including Terry’s photos once we are static and no longer moving.

Terry and Simone…horses behind

While at the river, I had the opportunity to participate in a live feed with Simone on Facebook and posted on Salt River Wild Horse Management Group’s page, if you clink on the link/image you are free to view.

Click Image to view video on timeline

And with that said I will let the video and the pictures do the talking as we load up the Jeep for another day of adventure.

Many thanks to Salt River Wild Horse Management Group president Simone Netherlands and members Robin O’Donnell and Destini Rhone for donating an entire day to take the time to show us the beautiful wild equines that reside along Arizona’s picturesque Salt River…ya’all must go see for yourselves.

Keep the faith.

Amazing Recognition of Death in Wild Horses

reported by Salt River Wild Horse Management Group

“Sad, but beautiful. …”

“Many times I have heard our good friend, Ginger Kathrens, say that our fight for the wild horses is all about their Freedom and Family…this story speaks to the heart and verifies that Ginger is spot on in her description of what wild horses are all about.  Many thanks to all the great people at Salt River Wild Horse Management Group for sharing this poignant moment with us.” ~ R.T.

We did our very best today, to help a young wild mare who’s baby had gotten stuck and died during delivery. Our experienced field team had jumped into action and our vet was getting there as fast as she could, but sadly the mare went into septic shock and passed, the baby had simply been stuck for too long. She was a beautiful dun mare, just 2 years old, her name was Clydette, daughter of Bonnie.

But just as nature gave us heavy hearts and reminded us of how harsh it can be sometimes, it then immediately showed us how amazing it is also. So we’d like to concentrate on that, as it gave us all goosebumps.

Right after we moved away from her body, we witnessed how her band came and nuzzled her, after which the roan, her lead stallion, cried out for her very loudly. Shortly after that, they moved away from her body but stayed close.

Other bands heard that call and suddenly came out of nowhere and then knew exactly where the lifeless body lied, even while there were no other bands around when she passed.

What happened next was amazing; the other bands stood in line taking turns saying their goodbye’s. First one band, then another. Then the two lead stallions of those two bands got into a short power struggle. Then you can see how Clydette’s lead stallion comes running back one last time letting out a short scream in a last effort to protect her, or perhaps to tell everyone that she was his.

It takes a most highly intelligent species to understand and actually mourn death. We have seen bands mourn their losses before, but for other bands to come and mourn her death also was simply awe inspiring. These animals have evolved to have amazing survival skills and very close and protective family bonds. In this natural behavior, lies true scientific value.

This video was taken after her own band (with the powerful roan) had already said their goodbyes and walked on. This is approximately 30 minutes after she had died. We invite everyone to draw their own conclusions.

We thank all of the bystanders and public who were very considerate, helpful and respectful in particular the lady who called this in. Our emergency number is (480)868-9301

Rest in peace Clydette and little Tootie.

(Baby was named by member Destini Rhone who lost her aunt Tootie on this same day, rest in peace aunt Tootie also.)

Reward Increased for Information Related to Shooting of Salt River Wild Horses

by Max Walker as published on Arizona ABC 15

“…a matching donation from Animal Recovery Missions Investigations of Florida, has more than doubled what was previously a $12,500 reward.”

Click Image to View Video

Click Image to View Video

PHOENIX – Officials say the reward for information relating to the shooting of several wild horses living along the Salt River is now $25,000.

A release from the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group (SRWHMG) says a matching donation from Animal Recovery Missions Investigations of Florida, has more than doubled what was previously a $12,500 reward.

The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office is investigating after one horse was killed and two others were injured in a shooting on October 21.

As of Monday, SRWHMG officials said no tips leading to the suspect’s apprehension had been received.

MCSO says a witness saw a man wearing black shorts and a dark green shirt shooting horses along the Salt River near the Pebble Beach Recreation Area.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office at 602-876-1011.

Baby Wild Horse Killed, Mutilated along Salt River AZ, Suspects Sought

Story by Monique Griego as published on Channel 12 TV

“They’re like family and to see something like this happen it just breaks your heart,”

MESA, Ariz. – A family of Salt River Wild Horses went from 9 to 8 members after one of the band’s youngest foals, a 6-month-old horse called Kai by local observers, was chased down shot and killed.

knxv-salt-river-horse“This is absolutely horrible to us, these horses are our family,” said Simone Netherlands, the president of the Salt River Wild Horses Management Group.

SRWHMG is a non-profit that tracks and watches over the various bands of wild horses in the area.

Netherlands says shots from what’s believed to be a shotgun also injured two other horses, and the horrific brutality didn’t end there.

“We can’t imagine who would do such a thing and the most horrible part of it is that the genitals were removed off of the dead horse,” she said.

Volunteers say someone mutilated Kai after the baby horse went down from multiple gunshot wounds, some to the head and neck.

READSuspect allegedly killed, mutilated Salt River horse

Another wild horse, named Dotty, was shot and killed near the Salt River around this same time last year.

“An animal you’re not going to eat, it’s not bothering you, it doesn’t attack you,” said volunteer Jake Jacobson.

“They’re like family and to see something like this happen it just breaks your heart,” said Mary Ann Jacobson, another volunteer with the management group.

Volunteers tracked the band of horses Monday night to check on the two also injured. The good news is that they seemed to be healing on their own.

The suspect is only described as a man, wearing a dark green shirt and black shorts or underwear. Witnesses told investigators he was with two other people.

The Maricopa County Sheriff’s office said Monday night it was mobilizing a mounted posse to look for evidence and investigate the shootings.

“It’s getting out of hand, they’ve got to stop this guy whoever it is,” said Jake.

Anyone with information on the case is asked to call MCSO. A reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest.

The Salt River Wild Horse Management group is trying to increase the reward money with a GoFundMe page.

AZ Gov Officially Signs Wild Horse Protection Bill

Source: The Fountain Hills Times

“The Salt River horses are beautiful, majestic and a treasure to our state,”

Governor Doug Ducey has officially signed House Bill 2340, providing extra protection to the wild horse herd that makes the Lower Salt River and Saguaro Lake area their home.

Photo by Julie Bradshaw of Salt River Wild Horse Management Group

Photo by Julie Bradshaw of Salt River Wild Horse Management Group

The passage of the bill was announced during a press conference on May 11, featuring support from Representative Kelly Townsend, who reworked the most recent version of the bill, as well as Sheriff Joe Arpaio and advocates for the Salt River herd.

“The Salt River horses are beautiful, majestic and a treasure to our state,” Governor Ducey said in a statement. “Since last summer, we have worked to protect them and their ability to roam free.”

Last year, the Tonto National Forest Service announced that approximately 100 horses historically living near the Salt River would be “impounded,” as they had been labeled as stray animals, turned out by their owners.

Public outcry led to Tonto National Forest Supervisor Neil Bosworth postponing any decision involving the horses.

While a form of the recently signed bill was already passed by the Senate, it was argued that the wording did not fully protect the horses and needed to be reworked. To provide further protection, Rep. Townsend consulted with The Salt River Wild Horse Management Group in order to strengthen the bill, making it illegal to “take, harass, kill or otherwise interfere” with the wild horses.

That proposal was sent to the Senate and met with approval and, last week, returned to the House where it received a vote of 53-3. With Gov. Ducey’s support, HB2340 is now official.

“Many Arizonans were rightly outraged when the future of the Salt River Horse was put at risk, and I was clear then that I would do everything in my power to protect them from danger,” Ducey said in his statement. “Today, I am proud to sign a bill that paves the way [for] state, local and federal forces to work together to keep them free from interference or harassment.”

AZ Gov Signs Bill to Protect Salt River Wild Horses

by Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services as published on

“There’s rules now that we all are going to have to abide by…”

“Hats off to Simone Netherlands, the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group and all those who worked behind the scenes to make this happen.  Job well done.” ~ R.T.

A Salt River horse and foal graze at Butcher Jones Recreational Area in Tonto National Forest located near Mesa on Thursday, August 6, 2015.(Photo: Isaac Hale / The Republic)

A Salt River horse and foal graze at Butcher Jones Recreational Area in Tonto National Forest located near Mesa on Thursday, August 6, 2015.(Photo: Isaac Hale / The Republic)

PHOENIX — A herd of about 500 wild horses along the Salt River could soon get protection from everything from being removed by the Forest Service to being harassed by drunken tourists.

Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill that makes it illegal to harass, shoot, injure or slaughter a horse that is part of the herd. And even capturing or euthanizing a horse that is injured or is causing problems would require written authorization from either the state Department of Agriculture or the Maricopa County sheriff.

Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, who spearheaded the legislation, said this should end the threats to the herd that began last year after the U.S. Forest Service announced it would round up the horses in the Tonto National Forest and sell them to protect the environment in and around the river. Environmental groups sided with the federal agency.

But that provoked an outcry from horse lovers and even a lawsuit to prevent their removal.

The Forest Service agreed to back off, at least for the time being. This new law specifically authorizes the state to enter into an agreement with the federal agency where the state would effectively be in charge of managing the herd.

More to the point, Townsend said, it shields the herd from humans, well-intentioned or otherwise.

“We had some folks that would go down there and maybe had been drinking too much and wanted to ride a horse,” she said. “And the worst part is when the folks would be down there shining a light on a mare when she was foaling.”

All that, Townsend said, should come to an end.

“There’s rules now that we all are going to have to abide by,” she said.

Well, not exactly.

The language of HB 2340 says the provisions take effect only if an agreement is hammered out with the Forest Service by the end of next year. But Townsend said she is convinced that will happen, noting that a Forest Service official was at Wednesday’s signing ceremony with the governor.


Press Release from the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group

Forest Service to Withdraw Notice to Impound Salt River Horses!

12313600_924866857596073_1124541708679197515_nSalt River, AZ (December 10, 2015). . . . The U.S. Forest has informed the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group (SRWHMG) that it intends to withdraw its July 31, 2015, notice to round up and impound the wild horses that roam the Tonto National Forest along the Salt River.

The withdrawal comes within days of the expiration of the 120-day stay of the roundup that was negotiated by the SRWHMG shortly after the impound notice was published.

Since August, the SRWHMG, the local community, the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign and Animal Recovery Mission have worked toward the cancellation of the impound notice in order to allow time to negotiate an agreement for the long-term protection of the horses on Salt River.

Last Friday, the Arizona U.S House delegation led by Congressman Matt Salmon, sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack urging the Forest Service to move quickly to implement reasonable, humane solutions and protect the horses where they live. The letter encouraged the agency to work with the community and questioned why the horses could not be managed under the 1960 Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act.

Last week, SRWHMG president Simone Netherlands met with Neil Bosworth, the Tonto National Forest supervisor, and received assurances that the agency is committed to working toward a long-term plan for the humane management of the horses along the river.

“This is a big deal to us,” Netherlands said. “That notice has been hanging like a cloud over our heads all this time. We are grateful for this important step and will continue to do everything in our power to work with the Forest Service and other authorities towards the good of the Tonto National Forest.”…(CONTINUED)

Arizona lawmakers push for protection of Salt River Wild Horses

Source: Multiple

“Arizona fights to save their Wild Horses”

Salt River bachelor stallions just horsing around! Picture by SRWHMG photographer Robin O’Donnell

Arizona’s entire congressional delegation is calling on U.S. agriculture officials to look into an ongoing effort to protect wild horses along the Salt River.

Rep. Matt Salmon’s office says the state’s nine congressional representatives sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on Friday.

Salmon is  joined by an Arizona congressional delegation, made up of state lawmakers Trent Franks, Ruben Gallego, Raul Grijalva, Ann Kirkpatrick, Martha McSally, David Schweikert, and Kyrsten Sinema.

The panel wants Vilsack to find out why the U.S. Forest Service has not followed up on plans to consult with people in the state about a management plan for the horses.
“Our government is a government by, of, and for the people.  When the Forest Service decided to round up a valuable local resource, the people’s outcry forced it to halt its plans and promise to consult with our constituents. Sadly, it appears the Forest Service is treating this consultation as a token effort, as no new management plan has been introduced.  As we quickly approach the deadline for action, we want to reiterate our calls for the Forest Service to consult with the people directly affected by their actions before implementing any plan.”

Conservationists protested federal officials’ plans in August to remove and possibly auction up to 100 wild horses from the Tonto National Forest.

The Forest Service halted the round-up.

Officials said they hoped to work with the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group and other stakeholders on an alternative strategy.

Judge dismisses Salt River horses lawsuit




One horse rests in the shade, August 4, 2015  (photo:  Stacey Davis)

A federal judge has approved the dismissal of a lawsuit to protect the Salt River horses from a roundup by the U.S. Forest Service.

Simone Netherlands, president of the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group, said Tuesday that her group made a “strategic decision” to drop the suit after the Forest Service said it would seek to dismiss the case.

Since the Forest Service has no plan right now to move the horses, Netherlands said, there’s no basis for her group’s suit.

“Should the Forest Service make the wrong decision (on the horses), we will refile immediately,” Netherlands said in a phone interview from Prescott.

But she added: “We feel like their outlook has changed from definite roundup and removal to now being willing to look at all the options.”

Forest Service spokeswoman Carrie Templin said the agency is still meeting with stakeholders to find alternatives.

“We’re still trying to find a solution,” Templin said.

Back in August, the Forest Service was forced to back down from its plan to remove the herd of about 65 to 100 horses from their habitat along the Salt River near Saguaro Lake.

Hundreds of people protested the planned removal during an August rally at Saguaro Lake. Several top elected officials, including Gov. Doug Ducey and U.S. Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, also stepped in to block the move.

In the wake of the protests, Tonto National Forest Supervisor Neil Bosworth postponed any decision on the horses’ fate for at least 120 days, about mid-December.

In a sworn statement Monday that was filed with the court, Bosworth said: “Presently, the Forest Service has not formulated a plan for addressing the stray horses.”

But Bosworth also reiterated the Forest Service’s rationale for wanting to remove the horses:

–He said the horses “are not ‘wild horses'” under federal law, and he denied that a wild horse territory was ever created in the National Forest.

–He maintained that the horses are a safety risk in their Salt River habitat. The risk was heightened this year, Bosworth said, by private citizens placing water, salt and feed in the forest’s high-traffic areas.

Environmentalists have also called for the horses’ removal. They say the horses are ravaging the river habitat for several species of birds.

PREVIOUSLY: Audubon Society wants horses removed

Netherlands said the lawsuit was getting in the way of negotiations with the Forest Service and others.

“Negotiations are somewhat difficult when there is a lawsuit involved,” she said. “It’s in much better faith when you can talk openly and things aren’t going to be held against you in court.”

“it’s going to take a while,” she said. “It’s a very long, arduous process.”

Netherlands says her group is offering a plan for “humane birth control” that would limit the herd.

The horses have been at the center of a social media firestorm since plans to remove them were made public this summer.

Town Hall Meeting Addresses Plight of Salt River Wild Horses

By Erika Flores of

“many folks are still concerned about the Salt River horses…”

Click Image to View News Video

Click Image to View News Video

MESA, AZ (KPHO/KTVK) – The U.S. Forest Service originally wanted to round up and remove the wild horses roaming in the Tonto National Forest. But that plan has been put on hold for now.

However, the horses’ fate is still very much up in the air.

More than 100 people gathered for a town hall meeting in Mesa Sunday to voice their concerns and offer solutions.

Residents said the horses are crucial to this state because they are part of Arizona’s identity.

The goal was to discuss what’s next, after controversial plans to round up the wild horses were put on pause.

The U.S. Forest Service originally wanted to remove the horses from national forest land due to safety concerns.

Lawmakers got involved, a lawsuit was filed, and then the Forest Service backed down.

But many folks are still concerned about the Salt River horses.

“I don’t want the next generation to wake up one morning, and say, ‘Oh my gosh. They’re removing our horses in six days.’ We have to protect them now. Declare them wild and create a sanctuary for them,” said Laurie Walker, who was at the meeting.

“People aren’t trained to interact with wildlife. We need to train people,” said Sheryl Styles, who wants a permanent solution for the horses. “It’s learning and teaching people how to interact with wildlife not removing our wildlife from our beautiful areas.”

The lawsuit is moving forward and the group behind it hopes it will help prevent the feds from ever removing the horses.