BY MEDIA CHAIR ESTELLE KRAFT
Wild horses fascinate equestrians.With their pure beauty and freedom in the wild, we are drawn to their majesty.
The Salt River Horse Management Group (SRWHMG) has been managing and monitoring wild horses in the lower Salt River in Arizona for the past 20 years. With the goals of horse protection and preservation in the Salt River, theSRWHMG was founded in 2014. Founder and president Simone Netherlands has dedicated her time to the wild horses that have been on Arizona’s land dating back to the 1800s. Today, she and 103 volunteers work to improve public safety for the horses and to educate the community regarding the cause. The Salt River Horse Management Group has been working tirelessly for the past few years to pass a law repealing the round-up and removal of these wild horses in their natural habitat.
In July, 2015, a removal notice was issued by the Forest Service stating that the horses would be taken from their natural habitat as they were a safety issue near high traffic roads. The SRWHMG team rallied together to inform the local media of different ways this issue could be solved. In the hope of keeping the native horses wild, Netherlands and her team wrote a proposal that suggested management of the herd rather than rounding them up. In response, the state granted SWRHMG 120 days to prove that the horses have always been in and around the Salt River community. Even though the Forest Service continued to push the horses as a safety issue, roughly 65,000 emails from SWRHMG and its supporters showed the community’s love for the horses. As a result of their efforts, the state capitulated and the notice was officially rescinded. “It was like rolling a ball up a hill,” Netherlands said. “We didn’t sleep.” With this step in the right direction, SWRHMG continued with momentum.
Following the round-up and removal notice of 2015, SWRHMG created a bill in order to humanely manage the native horses. This bill clearly stated that the group wanted an established management structure for the wild horses, a policy which should apply to wild horses nationwide. After eight months of being opposed and amended, the bill was passed and became law in May of 2016. “[The state of] Arizona stood up for these horses and that’s the reason they are here today,” Netherlands said, while explaining what an exciting day it was. The law did not go into effect until January 1, 2018, but their goal was achieved. The Forest Service and State Agriculture Department came together in agreement for the management of the Salt River Wild Horses.
The SWRHMG is composed of over 100 volunteers dedicating their time to three herds of wild horses. These wild horses travel in bands between two different reservations with the SWRHMG overseeing between 150 to 200 horses at any time. Volunteers repair fencing along the road to keep horses at a safe distance and work with the government to place ‘horse crossing’ signs along the highway. With many horses to watch, there are always a few volunteers in the field ready to respond to any sort of emergency. The SWRHMG is an incredible nonprofit organization dedicated to the humane management of the Salt River’s wild horses.
For more information about the Salt River wild horses and for more information on the SWRHMG’s journey visit saltriverwildhorsemanagementgroup.org