Mesa Verde National Park Wild Horses Arrive at New Mexico Shelter

by Sean Griffin
(Photo by Santi Visalli/Getty Images)

Last month, a band of wild horses were rounded up at Mesa Verde National Park. The horses, roaming the park, were in search of water.

“Some of these horses had learned to break into the ice machine at the park to get water, and they did find one of them in the bathroom at one time drinking water,” said Patricia Barlow-Irick, the executive director of Mustang Camp. 

However, this park wasn’t the best spot for an animal that can reach up to 1,000 pounds.

“Mesa Verde has a special mission of protecting its archeological resources and so if you just imagine a piece of pottery under that horse’s foot you’ll kind of get the idea,” Barlow-Irick said.

In total, 19 mustangs were captured, and the horses have responded very well to their new home.

Barlow-Irick said in her 13 years of experience, these horses are the friendliest wild horses she’s ever seen.

“These horses were trained right from the beginning while they were still wild to trust people there was never any pressure put on these horses that made them afraid of people,” said Barlow-Irick. 

So when they arrived at the Mustang Camp for training, they got the hang of things right away.

“Within a few hours we were able to hand feed all these horses and pet some of them even though they were really freshly wild,” Barlow-Irick said. 

Nine days later, they’ve been acting like pets, each one possessing a distinct personality.

“The biggest problem with this horse is not getting it to come to you, it’s getting it to go away,” Barlow-Irick said.

Mesa Verde National Park Horses Will Be Ready for Adoption by End of November

“By doing it with food rather than doing it with more pressure techniques the horses learn to love to engage with us,” she said. “So they do stuff for us of their own choice. We tell them what we want them to do and then they do it.”

Barlow-Irick added that these horses will be ready for adoption near the end of next month.

Whit Hibbard is a low-stress horse trainer who currently helps out at Mesa Verde National Park. He helped to corral the band of 11 wild mares and four foals.

This band of horses got trapped inside Hibbard’s corral. Now, their time as wild mustangs in the backcountry of the 52,000-acre park ends.

The park captured 19 horses in total, 16 on Sept. 24 and then 3 horses on Sept. 27.

The wild horses from Mesa Verde National Park will be adopted into a life of leisure. They’ll receive human care and attention they’ve missed their whole lives.

For three years, Hibbard, colleague Tim McGaffic and park wildlife manager Nathan Brown have been coaxing the herd into a corral. The corral is a specially designed corral with a low-stress bait-and-trap method.

The location of the roundup stays secret to protect the horses. Furthermore, it also prevents trespassers who could sabotage or threaten the project, park officials said.