Outdoor Adventures collaborated with Alternative Breaks for the first time over Spring Break 2015 on a trip designed for students to volunteer in Taos, New Mexico and Southern Colorado doing service designed to protect America’s wild horses. We weren’t sure what conditions we would be working under, or what exactly we would be doing once we reached the Wild Horse Mesa, located just North of Questa, New Mexico on the Colorado side of the border. We met Jim, more fondly known as Homeboy, at a gas station in Questa after a day of painting rusty panels blue, and before driving to the cabin (which is what we assumed would be a camp site). Approaching the gas station, the first thing we all saw was the port-a-potty strapped to a trailer of a navy Ford truck. The first good sign of the trip: we would have a place to go to the restroom. From there the living conditions continued to improve. Upon arrival at the cabin, Judy, the self-appointed mother of the wild horses on the mesa, told us that Stephanie had donated the cabin for our use, meaning it was now optional to brave the 20 degree nights in a tent. After the first night, only Albert Mitugo, director of Outdoor Adventures, was left outside. Nine girls, including myself and Samantha Reeve, the other Outdoor Adventures representative, all huddled in our sleeping bags on the floor in the cozy, 70 degrees of the heated cabin.
Throughout the day, we traveled with Judy and Homeboy around the mesa to survey the wild horses. We took notes on their coloring, age, band, and distinctive forehead markings. The goal was to create a database of all of the wild horses to prevent people from stealing them and taking them to slaughter on the other side of the Mexico border. Snow was still melting around the mesa, which made for muddy, soggy roads, none of which were paved. However, with Judy and Roy’s wild but expert driving, the trucks never got stuck. By the end of the week you couldn’t detect the blue paint under the thick layer of mud. Some of the bands were too scared of people to approach closely. We observed those bands through binoculars. On the first day in the field, we saw Maggie’s brand new colt, estimated to be only a few hours old. Claire Wilt named her Deja Blue, her last name taken from her father and lead stallion, Blue. Her mother protected her while she tried to learn to run.
After four day’s work, we had a working knowledge of the wild horse bands, and the dangers that surround them without any protective legislation thanks to presentations made by Homeboy, Judy, and Paul, a doctor who studies ecology and biology. We also had given Homeboy enough notes and photographs of the horses to create a database, which will hopefully help them in a legal battle to protect the horses from slaughter. By the time we returned home, a layer of dirt covered all of our clothes and boots, eleven strangers had become a family, and about 100 horses had become officially documented on the private mesa.
Karly Hanson- SMU Outdoor Adventures Trip Leader.