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Salt River's wild horses thrive with the help of loving volunteers

The Salt River Wild Horse Management Group works with the Arizona government to ensure the maintenance of freedom for each horse in the herd.
Credit: SRWHMG

PHOENIX — Wild horses on the banks of Salt River are a sight that visitors and Arizonans alike love to see when they go to the area on float trips or just looking for a good photo opportunity. 

The Salt River Wild Horse Management Group with the oversight from the Arizona Department of Agriculture takes care of the population and makes sure that each horse lives a humane life while maintaining their freedom.

"It's not humane to round up horses, it's not humane to separate them from their family and it's not humane where they would end up," Salt River Wild Horse Management Group President Simone Netherlands said. "So we have fought very hard to keep every salt river horse on the river." 

With the help of the AZDA, the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group has been able to begin a breeding system that includes safe and effective birth control for the females in the herd. 

"We have always said that humane management is attainable, it's affordable and it's just a win-win all around," Netherlands said.

Netherlands and her team have given birth control to over 200 mares. Had they not provided the birth control, there likely would have been over 100 foals born. 

By keeping populations at a manageable level, volunteers and members of the Wild Horse Management are able to keep track of the horses and ensure their well being. 

One particularly special horse, named after Governor Ducey, has proven to be a rarity for the herd. At the young age of only three-and-a-half, Ducey has commanded his own band. 

"It's very surprising to us that Ducey already has conquered his own family band," Netherlands said. 

A band is a family of horses comprised of a dominant male who has commanded a mare and assumes responsibility for protecting her and her offspring. 

Normally, a male horse doesn't command a mare before the age of five or six and because Ducey has made his band so young, he is a prized member of the herd. That, along with the fact that the management team has been tracking him since his birth. 

The volunteers that work alongside the Wild Horse Management Group keep track of horses like Ducey throughout their lifetimes to ensure that they are healthy and within the safety borders.