This weekend I was blessed beyond good fortune to encounter an ever increasing rarity in the Southwest while backpacking with my friend near Albuquerque, New Mexico.
My friend and I are hiking guides at New Mexico Enchanted Hikes, a guided hiking company located in Albuquerque. We set out on the hike for a fun Sunday adventure and to explore a less-traveled trail. We were heading back to the trailhead when two white wild horses greeted us in a partly-shaded, rocky ditch. At first, the horses seemed as surprised as we were to find them, but almost immediately one of them made a slow, lumpy approach towards me. I eagerly asked my friend if these were the wild horses that I’ve read so much about and seen at local sanctuaries but never in the wild. Yes - these were wild horses!
I reached out my hand and the horse stopped at my touch on its soft, velvety nose. There we stood together. I patted his head and stroked his mane while he nibbled my fingers. He looked at the ground and occasionally glanced at me out of the corner of his eye. I snapped photos of the beautiful creature to capture the moment. But I was most interested in etching these priceless moments into my mind so that I could recall the power of this experience.
There is an overwhelming rush by the powers that be to destroy the good and beautiful that nature has given us. Today in New Mexico, there are 600 wild horses, which is a scant 10% of the population 40 years ago. This sharp decline is due primarily to the round up and removal programs overseen by agencies appointed to squelch the mistaken problem of wild horse overpopulation. Nearly 30,000 horses are held in captivity, for which a few horses are adopted. But most of the horses are either kept in long-term holding facilities or slaughtered.
Sharing time with an animal that has been under attack for decades is precious. I opened myself to emotions that could only be felt and resonated in my soul. What could I take from this interaction to make the world a better place and myself a better person? What was the purpose of this chance meeting with a wild horse– why did I just happen to be on the same path and encounter him now?
One reason for our meeting is rooted in the mission of our guided hiking company, New Mexico Enchanted Hikes. We started the company to promote wildlife conservation and raise awareness about the plight much wildlife endures, especially wild horses. We support wildlife by contributing hiking proceeds to conservation efforts and educating our hikers by “Hiking for a Cause”, where a hike is combined with a visit to a locally-run wildlife sanctuary so that hikers can interact with these incredible critters.
Such wonderful creatures, like my wild horse friend, help us learn more about ourselves and have a more sensitive impact on the environment. Sharing time with wildlife encourages us to appreciate what we have, who we are, and what fantastic gifts we have been entrusted with to conserve for the enjoyment of future generations.
We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals... In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth. -- Henry Beston
Lace Up, Hike On, Go Off the Beaten Trail. Join New Mexico Enchanted Hikes to experience southwest wildlife and advance conservation. Call 505-433-1329 or visit http://www.NewMexicoEnchantedHikes.com for more information.