Thousands were later rounded up for use in the Spanish-American War and World War I, and sadly their numbers continued to rapidly decline over time due to land use controversies, bad management, hunting, roundup and slaughter, poisoned watering holes, and other attacks on their range and well being.
By the 1950's, the population had dropped to an estimated 25,000 horses scattered mostly West of the Continental Divide. In my area, the Salt River wild horses have struggled to maintain at around 500 head for the past decade. Finally this year, Arizona's House Bill 2340 was passed to protect the remaining wild horses and their ability to thrive and roam free.
It appeared that Francisco was content to simply stand there in the shade so we could have a look at each other and get a good whiff. Yep, I was fairly sure that he was the herd stallion for a small band nearby, even though he seemed to be roaming on his own.
It's a common misconception that there's a herd mustang –– a single high-ranking alpha male –– dominating every band. Actually, it's usually a lead mare (along with other mares) that guide the herd to food and water, direct the daily routine and movement of the herd, and ensure the general well being of the other horses.
A herd stallion like Francisco typically stays on the periphery, usually at the rear guard, where they often have to fight off predators, drive straggling herd members forward, and keep the herd together.
He was obviously serious about his duty as he kept his eye on me, but I got the sense that he was more curious than threatened. Who really knows what he saw in me with his horse senses, but I suppose I saw a little something of myself in him.
After a few minutes, he finally turned east and headed for the open desert just beyond the tree line. I followed him quietly at a distance so I wouldn't cause alarm. About a quarter mile later, I caught up to him again after he had rejoined his small band consisting of the lead mare, another mare, and two more stallions.
It took some work and patience, but I was eventually able to approach within a couple of yards. Fortunately they were taking a cue from Franciso, so they calmly stood their ground, even lining up neatly in a single row at one point. After about 20 minutes of peacefully observing their behavior, I finally eased away and left the clearing for the river. Naturally, Francisco followed as far as the tree line, where he took up position again at the rear.
I had plenty of time to ponder the experience on the return trek. From the hard work and fruits of the early Catholic Missions in the Americas, to the current state of affairs... how our human population has increased dramatically since... but how the Faithful seem to have suffrered the plight of the wild horses with their rapidly diminishing numbers.
Oh, how much staggering loss of life there has been among our ranks! It's not so much the loss of life in bodies (although we continue to live with the horror of abortion, wars, drugs and other crimes)... but in the loss of Faith!
Honestly, it was not the kind of heartwarming contemplation I savor, because the creep of that sorrowful dismay sometimes leads to pointless griping, anger and outrage. Right about the time my griping was hitting full stride, I found myself back at the river on the edge of a great new fishing hole.
I wasn't expecting that. Neither was I expecting God's thunderous reply.
Oh, but it WAS thunderous! It was the 'thunder' of many hooves pounding the desert floor and echoing off the canyon walls –– a band of mighty horses charging down a wash just on the other side of the river. Moments later, a magnificent mustang broke into view, came to a sharp halt on a sandy point, reared up on hind legs, and let loose with whinny that ripped the air like a trumpet blast.
So much for the griping. Beyond my look of complete awe and wonder at that moment, all I could manage was one single word in silent praise: "Glory!"
Do you give the horse its strength or clothe its neck with a flowing mane? Do you make it leap like a locust, striking terror with its proud snorting? It paws fiercely, rejoicing in its strength, and charges into the fray.
-- Job 39:19-21
Main Blog Directory »