Home Community Letter to the Editor LETTERS TO THE EDITOR – lost horse in the forest?

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR – lost horse in the forest?

Do you know any who’s lost a horse? A trail cam picked up these images. This horse is wandering in the forest with other horses.

I am attaching pictures of the horse that was seen on a Game Camera located South of Heber/Overgaard. The pictures were taken on April 5, 2014. We hope this will help locate this horse’s owner. We are concerned that they may have been thrown from the horse but hopefully that is not the case.

Bruce's game cam 035

Regardless of how the horse came to be roaming the forest, it is an example of how some domestic horses have come to be on the National Forest. They are not true Wild Horses. Many came from the Indian Reservation. It is common for the boundary fence to be damaged during the winter snows and when the spring wind blows trees down.

Here are some of the facts on the horses that are near Heber/Overgaard available through this link www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprd3824057.pdf.
One of the key statements being, Question What is a wild horse? Answer: “Wild horse” is a legal status provided to unmarked and unclaimed horses and their progeny that were considered wild and free roaming on public lands at the time of passage of the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act (WHBA) of 1971 (see 36 CFR 222.60 (b)(13)).”

Pay close attention to the part that says, “at the time of passage.” The horses that are on the forest now were not there in 1971. Next it says, “Any horse introduced onto the Forest on or after December 15, 1971 by accident, negligence or willful disregard of private ownership is NOT a wild horse. Such horses are defined as unauthorized livestock. (see 36 CFR 262.10) Unauthorized livestock do not have the status of a wild horse under the Act.”
The next Question is, “What prompted establishing a Wild Horse Territory on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests? The answer provided is, “After passage of the WHBA of 1971, a Wild Horse Territory was established near the town of Heber for a small band of wild horses. A 1974 census of horses in the Heber Wild Horse Territory (HWHT) found only seven horses. Over the next 20 years the herd size remained very small. The last census of the Territory in 1993 found only two mares and it is believed that the wild horse herd no longer exists.”

The horses that are on the forest now need to be managed. There is a lot of propaganda being spread about the horses and it is a good idea to check out the facts instead of accepting the propaganda as fact.

Kathy Gibson-Boatman

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Kathy Gibson Boatman was born and raised in the White Mountains of Northeastern Arizona on a working Cattle Ranch. She is the sixth generation in her family to participate in agricultural endeavors in Arizona. One of her favorite pastimes is collecting Arizona History Books and documents. She is a photographer and the author of the cookbook "Cooking With Cowgirls". She enjoys writing about issues of importance and interest to Arizona citizens, rural communities and natural resource producers. You can reach Kathy at kathykg26158@msn.com.


  1. Hopefully somebody will be able to find the horse and either get it to it’s rightful owner if it has one, or take the halter and leads off so it can have it’s complete freedom again, whichever the case may be. I’m not sure what the author is implying when she said, “We are concerned that they may have been thrown from the horse but hopefully that is not the case.” Do people think there could be an injured rider still out in the forest? If this is a real concern, wouldn’t the concerned people be out looking for the rider? Wouldn’t a missing person have been reported to the police?

    There seems to be disagreement pertaining to the definition of “wild horse”. The US Forest Service definition does not match the definition in The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971
    (Public Law 92-195) The Act clearly states:
    “wild free-roaming horses and burros” means all unbranded and unclaimed horses and burros on public lands of the United States;

    From the US Department of Interior Bureau of Land Management:
    1. What is a wild horse or burro?

    A wild free-roaming horse or burro as defined by federal law is an unbranded, unclaimed, free-roaming horse or burro found on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or U.S. Forest Service (USFS) administered public rangelands in the western United States. Wild horses and burros are descendants of animals released by or escaped from Spanish explorers, ranchers, miners, U.S. Cavalry, or Native Americans.

    Federal law applies to both the Department of Interior and the Department of Agriculture.

    So yes, I agree with the author of the article that the propaganda needs to stop.

    Now back to this particular horse. When you look at the photos posted in the article, it is obvious the camera is not in the same position in both photos. That’s odd when you see the time stamps are only about 15 minutes apart. That would indicate that the person or persons who mounted the game camera were right there when that horse was walking around in front of it. Between the time the photos were taken they must have checked the camera and that slightly altered it’s position. So why didn’t they walk up to this “tame” horse and grab the leads? Or remove them? Was feed put down for the horses and that’s why they hung around there? Was this whole thing staged for some reason? Inquiring minds want to know.

  2. Thank you, Kathy, for bringing this horse to our attention, but I’m confused as to how spotting a horse with a halter and two lead ropes on a game camera in the forest provides any type of rational support to the idea that the horses that roam in and around the Heber Wild Horse Territory are “not true Wild Horses.”

    Personally, I’m not clear if these photos depict a domestic horse that escaped its owner or a wild horse that someone tried to capture. I think it would be prudent to remind everyone that these horses are federally protected and the potential maximum penalty is one year in prison and a fine of $100,000 for causing the death of a wild horse. I do not see any brands on the horse in the picture therefore fitting the description of “”wild free-roaming horses and burros” as it is both unbranded and unclaimed.

    In your letter, you state: “The horses that are on the forest now were not there in 1971.” I agree that it would be rare for a horse to live in the wild as long as 44 years and although you shared some interesting Q&A from the Forest Service website, I think we can also both agree that “It is believed that the wild horse herd no longer exists” does not mean the same thing as “It is a fact….”

    Finally, I also agree that it would be unwise to perpetuate any type of propaganda about the wild and free-roaming horses that live in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests near Heber.

    Jill Irvin
    TerraWind Ranch Eco-Action Group