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I don't want to see the Alto, New Mexico wild herd adopted out or slaughtered! I want them released back to their original home—to roam the heart of the Sierra Blanca mountain range, wild and FREE! Sign my petition if this is your goal, too!

I lived in Ruidoso, New Mexico, for many years and first learned of the wild horses from my father, who worked at White Sands Missile Range in the fifties. He said the old-timers told stories about the wild herds in the Mountains near Ruidoso, and we tore through a lot of miles looking for them in the mountains. We finally found them one day in the mid-eighties, and I’ll never forget seeing the mares circled around a foal lying on the ground in a patch of sunlight. I’ve held them in awe ever since.

I was so unhappy to hear that in late August of 2016, recent ancestors of this same wild herd were illegally baited and trapped on private land near Alto, by a woman who felt the horses were a nuisance. The Livestock Board immediately trailered the small herd over 3 hours away to a rudimentary pen near Santa Fe, leaving behind a lone wild stallion with a broken heart. 

Over that weekend, Lincoln County residents banded together and set up a GoFundMe account, a Facebook page and held a huge street rally and a town meeting to rally support for the wild horses. Determined to get our wild herd back, they contacted Patience O’Dowd, the founder and President of WHOA, (Wild Horse Observers Association, who brought in her attorney to represent the people. WHOA immediately filed an injunction and then later had to file a Restraining Order against the Livestock Board.

The courtroom was packed with supporters when the Judge granted us the temporary restraining order, and allowed for the Livestock Board to return the wild horses to a private property in Alto. They'd be held there until he could study the case, set a date for a trial, and make a determination as to the fate of our wild herd. The community was overjoyed.

The people of my old hometown quickly established a fund-raising committee and sold T-shirts, calendars, coffee mugs, and  auctioned professional paintings to raise awareness and money to support the wild herd. Dozens of people gathered fencing materials, security cameras, hoses, water troughs, buckets and grass hay to prepare the temporary pasture for the horses. Then we waited...

I’d avoided Ruidoso for years since I lost both of my parents in the recent past, and everything about the area reminds me of the loss. Despite my feelings, I wanted to learn what I could do to help, so I returned to my old hometown. I met up with the dynamic Lorri Burnett, who teamed with Patience O’Dowd, to explain the horses’ plight to Heather Kinney’s Ruidoso High School art students. I was impressed with the interest and concern the kids shared that the horses be freed—not adopted or slaughtered. They painted artistic versions of the wild horses and I was amazed at their talent. My visits serve to remind me of the powerful unity and sincere heart of this community.  Be sure to stop in to see the artwork displayed outside the main office in Ruidoso High School!

Finally, in late September, the Livestock Board trailered the horses to the quarantine pens the community had prepared. I wish I could’ve been there that day. Reports from the lucky few who were, claimed the horses “screamed with joy” when they were released from the trailer. The horses knew they were almost home. This gave me a sense of optimism, but still we wait for a court date, when we hope the Judge will grant them a release to return to the wild, their rightful home.

I’ve learned a lot from this awful situation. I know now that there’s a fertility vaccine called PZP that can be used to control wild horse populations, and that this could also be useful to ensure a safe return to the wilderness for the one mare with a back injury. There’s even a school in Montana where they teach students about the vaccine, including how to administer this safe and valuable tool. Check out their website if you're interested in the training program.  Wild herds create potential jobs for our youth!

I've also learned, through sites like, that wild horses benefit the ecosystem by clipping vegetation rather than pulling plants up by the roots as cattle do. Fewer fires break out on drought-stricken land due to the eating habits of wild horses, and their wide range allows them to access water sites without the devastating damage that cattle create.

In the winter, horses benefit other wild species by pawing through deep snow to expose vegetation, and they use their sharp hooves to break through frozen water, allowing easier access for the creatures that depend on them. Lincoln County is rich in wildlife and we want to keep it that way.

On one of my recent visits to Ruidoso, I saw a photograph of the wild herd on the cover of the phone book, as well as a “Wild Horse Crossing” sign on the road into town. I learned that their presence draws tourists and that there are viable business opportunities associated with promoting wild horse tourism; ripe for the picking if our wild horses are protected and reestablished in their natural habitat.

When the wild herd was stolen, an initial petition was circulated that acquired 6,413 signatures! However, now that we are winning in court, we want to clearly express our focus on the full release of all of our wild horses back to their Enchanted Forest, not adoption!

There’s something so sacred about a wild horse. Our goal all along, has been to return our herd to the wild…not to adopt them out! Not to sell out to a kill buyer to be slaughtered. Are you with me on this? Please sign my petition and share it.
We are their voice!

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Julie Yowell needs your help with “FREE OUR WILD HORSES!”. Join Julie and 2,524 supporters today.