Property destruction, trespassing, stalking, theft, illegal dumping, and one-finger salutes—welcome to friendly Placitas!
After a quiet winter, horses are now frequently being seen wandering neighborhoods along the north end of Camino de las Huertas. Overgrazing of what little vegetation is left in these areas continues. [2/14/15 update: adding together counts done by various residents in early February, it appears we still have at least 40 free-roaming horses in the vicinity]
Some residents have been putting up portable fence panels in hopes of corralling the horses to protect their property, Las Huertas Creek, and hilly upland areas from further damage and erosion. But in at least three instances in the last month, vandals have trespassed onto residents’ private property. They have dismantled fence panels, taken down and stolen driveway and pipeline gates, and stolen signs. (To be clear, we don’t know if free-roaming horse advocates are behind all the mischief).
All that’s left of one resident’s driveway gate.
And though we say it’s been a quiet winter until now, that’s relative. Several people tell us they’ve been stalked, tail-gated, run off the road, yelled at, honked at, and given the one-finger salute by free-roaming horse advocates for months. Other residents say they have been crudely berated for fencing their property, or for considering fencing it, to keep out horses and protect their pets (we’ve heard of at least two dogs that have been severely injured by free-roaming horses, one losing its eye).
Some residents have built corrals and taken in some of Placitas’ formerly free-roaming horses. That’s an admirable thing; taking care of horses is expensive and cleaning stalls and corrals is labor-intensive. But what to do with all that manure? We’ve heard from several people that piles of manure are being dumped on the BLM parcel known as the Buffalo Tract where it adjoins the Indian Flats neighborhoods. Someone has posted a sign notifying the dumpers that she’d be happy to take the manure for composting (Note to the person in the dark pick-up seen unloading manure: Please call her).
The latest acts of vandalism and theft are reminiscent of last year’s activities, when a few individuals repeatedly cut the fences surrounding the Placitas Open Space (POS) to allow feral horses in. Fences had to be repaired and gates had to be padlocked by the City of Albuquerque and BLM to prevent these individuals from herding horses onto the POS. The pro-free-roaming-horse folks’ response was to bash in the locks or fill them with super glue and add their own locks, which had to be cut off. Thanks to those few individuals, the gates to the POS have had to remain locked (with newer, stronger locks), and visitors now have to climb through the wire fence to get in.
Maybe the northern Placitas vandals are relative newcomers to the Southwest who have little understanding of arid, high-desert ecology. Maybe they have some romantic notion the feral horses are part of an historic wild mustang herd, rather than strays that migrated south from San Felipe Pueblo in recent times. Maybe they think, in spite of long-standing state laws and recent court decisions, that residents don’t have the legal right to gather up trespassing feral horses to protect their own land. Or maybe they’re just bullies, vandals and thieves.