Thursday, April 8, 2010

Preserving The Wild Horses

By John Severance

SOCORRO – For Carlos Lopopolo, it’s all about wild horses.
Lopopolo, the director of the New Mexican Horse Project, is committed to the preservation of these horses.
And with the help of
his biologist friend, Paul Polechla, a professor at the University of New Mex-ico, they are trying their best to do just that.
With the help of a $75,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, Polechla wants to produce a PBS documentary, construct a traveling museum exhibit and develop a web to chronicle the Spanish wild horses in the west from 58 million years ago until now.
“Did you ever see the movie Hidalgo?” Polechla asked an audience at New Mexico Tech last week. “It’s a great movie about horses but there is not an ounce of truth to it.”
Polechla said the New Mexican Horse Project works in conjunction with the University of New Mexico Institute for Social Research, PBS, Texas A&M, New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, Smithsonian Institute and Cambridge University.
Lopopolo and Polechla, who have been working with the wild horses since 1999, said there will be a conference at the Seveletta Wildlife Refuge on April 17 and 18.
“With this grant, it gives us a chance to bring all the individuals throughout the world who are working on wild horse management together in one place,” Lopopolo said. “This is the first conference of its kind in the world.”
Lopopolo said the preserves are in two locations – there is a 3,000 acre parcel Quebradas in the Rio Grande Valley and the other is a 30,000 acre spot is the San Pedro Land Grant located between Tijeras and Santa Fe.
“We try to put one horse per 125 acres,” Lopopolo said. “The wild horse needs some elbow space.”
The wild horses that are in the preserve have to adhere to some strict standards, according to the New Mexican Horse Project web site.
Lopopolo said “the horses on our preserves have been scientifically and historically chosen. Our concentration is on horses designated by Doctor Gus Cothran, the foremost equine DNA specialist in the USA. Knowing that we cannot, because of financial constraints, preserve every wild horse in the west, we concentrate on finding the horses of old Spanish decent.”
The New Mexico Horse Project also works with Cambridge University on Arceo-gentic samples of bones from various sites discovered by archeologists.
“The history of the horses is then traced through validated documentation, not hearsay, to establish the second phase of the lineage. Both sides must be validated before the horses can enter our preserves,” Lopopolo said.
“They are not the only “Mustangs” but they are among the oldest proven by science and history to be of the original lineage brought back to what is now the United States after an 8,000 year absence.
The New Mexican Horse project is dedicated to the protection and preservation of these descendants of the original Spanish mustang.
“We also never sell or adopt out any of our horses, and they always remain wild and free on their land.”
Lopopolo also debunked some popular myths through the project’s research the past 10 years.
“Most people think wild horses are ferocious,” Lopopolo said. “Nothing could be further from the truth. A wild horse is more like a deer that has never been harassed. Secondly, most people think wild horses are impossible to round up. That’s not true at all. It’s easy to round them up. You have to listen to them. It’s easy to tell if they have been harassed.”
For more information on the New Mexican Horse Project, call 838-3985 or 505-417-7005 or
to attend the conference, call

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