We at Sky Mountain Wild hope this finds you well. I spent several days with the horses during rain storms at the sanctuary this summer and fall. The “fat happy mustang rain dance” is a sight. In the warmer weather, the Sky Mountain band often stays in the trees during the heat of the day to escape the sun and flies. Their heads start to come up as the sky darkens, and they are milling around by the time the first few drops of rain start. As the rain storms cool the air and them, they come running from the trees, galloping in circles, rearing, snorting, and giving chase to each other, their playful wildness showing in full force!
The fat happy mustang rain dance has now given way to the snow dance. I was up with the horses at dawn one recent morning, watching the sun rise in the mountains of the Carson Forest behind them. They were still and nickering in the early light, their breath steaming and coats wooly.
We have much to be grateful for again this year at Sky Mountain Wild Horse Sanctuary. Healthy, happy horses, wonderful and generous members, new and returning, and help from great friends. Our appreciation to Nan and Max, volunteers extraordinaire! Thank you to Sylvia and Jim Dulaney for significant help with accounting. We welcomed visitors, strengthened the organization, and have made significant progress on the Carson PZP project, which is detailed in an article by board Vice President Teresa Jacobs in this newsletter. We continue to raise funds for adopting more horses, to provide sanctuary for other “homeless” mustangs and to bring home friends for our two-year-olds Starlight and his buddy Moon.
It is with sadness that we note the passing of one of our founding members, Elaine Franz, mother of board Secretary/ Treasurer John Verheul. We remember her for her kindness to all creatures, and wish her family peace. We at Sky Mountain wish you and yours peace and joy this winter season and in the new year beyond. Thank you for helping us build a sanctuary for the horses!
The Carson National Forest PZP Project is on the Move!
Defrosting frozen vials of PZP in their armpits while tracking mares in the rugged terrain of the Jicarilla Wild Horse Territory is all in a day’s work for Karen Herman of the Sanctuary, and Dan Elkins of Mt. Taylor Mustangs. On October 5th, they mixed the PZP, loaded the darts, Dan took aim and achieved a first for the project – remote darting of wild horses with immunocontraception in the Carson Forest! As reported in our spring newsletter, Karen and Dan first treated wild horses that had been gathered and moved temporarily to holding corrals with the immunocontraceptive Porcine Zona Pellucida (PZP) this past March. These efforts marked the first successful use of PZP for wild horses on Forest Service lands in the country, and the first use in New Mexico. Since March, the PZP team - Karen, Dan, and Anthony Madrid of the Forest Service - has worked on numerous options for treating mares in the wild to reduce stress for the horses, account for the logistics of the wilderness of the territory, and to manage unique aspects of PZP such as the need to keep it frozen until use. Karen and Dan report that it is exciting to see mares that have been darted look up as the dart hits, buck or run a few steps, and then put their heads down and resume grazing. They developed a plan that allows them to identify, track, and dart mares in the wild without gathering and holding them when possible, limiting stress for the horses and adding significantly to the team’s options for successfully treating horses. The team will continue to dart throughout the winter, weather and conditions in the territory permitting. The beautiful dun mustang pictured here is one of the first wild horses darted in the territory.
There are other exciting developments in the PZP project. In an effort to further reduce the need to remove horses from the territory and to contribute to research on PZP, we have requested and received permission to treat fillies as young as 5 months old. Treating fillies born this year will increase population management effects and enable us to collect new data on reversal times for PZP as fillies this young have not previously been treated. We seek to increase understanding of the results and potential benefits of treating younger horses while contributing to national research on PZP and improving subsequent humane management efforts using PZP. Additionally, the Sanctuary partnered with the U.S. Humane Society, the University of New Mexico School of Law, and Animal Protection New Mexico to host a public educational forum on PZP in November. In keeping with our mission, we at Sky Mountain Wild will continue to work for the humane treatment of all wild horses through efforts such as the Carson PZP Project. For more information about PZP and to read previous newsletter coverage of the project, please visit our web site.
Contributed by Vice President Teresa Jacobs
Introducing…El Rito Fire!
El Rito Fire is a gorgeous dark chocolate mustang named for her place of birth in the Carson National Forest and the flame marking on her forehead. Sweet and shy, she is given to moments of boldness during which she walks up within feet of me to look me over with questioning brown eyes. Fire, as she is known around the Sanctuary, arrived at Sky Mountain Wild in the poorest condition of all the horses we have adopted. Mustangs usually foal, or give birth, in early spring. Foals then have the summer warmth to grow strong and mothers have abundant grass to maintain their strength while nursing new babies before winter arrives. Horses in the wild sometimes foal out of season for reasons unknown, and mother and foal may not survive the winter when this happens. Our best guess is that her colt, El Rito Moon, was born to Fire in early January. She was then left to nurse him through a harsh late winter on over-grazed range. Both survived, and when I first saw her in a holding corral, Fire appeared to be all sharp, jutting shoulder and hip bones and ribs.
Today, she is a sleek, beautifully muscled wild horse with a strong and wild playful streak. Fire is often found with Sun, our elder lead mare. You will see them standing nose to tail in the trees, off grazing, and sometimes taking turns rolling together in the grass. Her playfulness emerges when her foal Moon, now two, and our other two-year-old Starlight grab her by the tail or rear up and snort in front of her to start the wild horse games. She more often than not joins in and the three are off and running.
In my mind’s eye, I can still see her standing in the holding corral where I first met her, malnourished and future uncertain. Sky Mountain exists for these horses, to welcome those who are least wanted and to provide sanctuary for them to stay wild. Thank you for helping to keep Fire free.
Contributed by Karen Herman
Sky Mountain Welcomes and Thanks Our Newest and Current Members!
Welcome to our newest members:
Donna Whitworth Jai Lakshman
Anne Stauffer & Norton Francis The Mayhew Family
Judy & Paul Classen Sara Scott
Kent Chou Steven Bonadio
Rich Bauch William Blankenship
Our gratitude for continuing support from our founding members:
Nate & Grace Cannizzo Linda Laferriere
Sue & Pete Herman Lenore & Tom Lanka
John Daw Sylvia & Jim Dulaney
Copper Tritscheller Elinor Herman
Laura & Mike Henninger The van Stavaren-Lynde Family