By Karen Carlson
Ramona’s original horses are thriving on the land they currently occupy in Ramona. In April 2013 there have been two new foals born, giving the herd a more viable future. Sired by two separate stallions of the remaining four in all of existence on earth, these little fillies contain the unique genetic material that will help keep the herd alive. Don, Juan, Bautista and Anza are the stallions of the Heritage Herd.
The distinction between wild mustangs and the Coyote Canyon Heritage Herd is their direct evolution from Colonial Spanish Horses, which were sequestered by local tribes since the late 1700s. The herd’s only known relatives are Utah’s Sulphur Spring herd. The Bureau of Land Management sent Sulphur foundation mares to California to enhance and ensure the Coyote Canyon herd’s genetic future.
The first foal of this crop arrived on April 5. The mist and fog hung over the hills and sank low into the shallow valleys of Ramona. The mare Carmel stood over the new arrival with all of the other horses waiting close by, encircling the mother and baby. As the little one struggled to her feet, all were patient and watchful. On wobbly legs the little red filly took her first steps and within minutes walked with confidence, ever wild, yet to be free.
The unique markings on this new herd member are prominent and show who she is. The strong dorsal stripe and obvious striped legs are reminiscent of those from the Spanish occupation, Native American ranching, and pioneering western settlement horses. She has her sire’s face; Bautista’s genes are strong in this filly. The last herd of Southern California wild horses was removed in 2003 from the Coyote Canyon area of San Diego County by a management plan oversight.
The second foal was delivered on April 15. Her grulla (grayish-blue) color is common among the mares. Her robust markings about her back and legs are her identity.
Her mother, Sombre, had her little one up and going as a coyote was chased off by herd mates. The sire, Juan, resides in Warner Springs as stallions and mares are held in trust, separately.
It will be important to return the herd to its native home, the land that was once their own at Beauty Mountain. Rising above the canyon, the Beauty Mountain ranges are subject to a Herd Area revision to provide the herd with a permanent home.
With the hurdles and obstacles that exist between the herd and freedom, your support is needed. Your words must be in strong support. Humankind has intervened in the lives of these unique and critically endangered creatures by removing them from their home in Coyote Canyon and the Beauty Mountain region, and only humankind can help them remain in existence.
With more babies expected in coming weeks and the genetic diversity coming to fruition through careful breeding selection, there is still much cause for concern for this herd. Where this herd will live is uncertain for the future. The land they currently occupy is not theirs, although it could be. Community support is the only way that they have a chance in maintaining residence and keeping this land under their hooves, and eventually back to the Beauty Mountain region.
Letters and emails in support of repatriating the herd and allowing the land in Ramona as a herd nursery may be written and sent to any or all of the following:
Dianne Jacob – Dianne.firstname.lastname@example.org
Ron Roberts – email@example.com
Greg Cox – firstname.lastname@example.org
Dave Roberts – email@example.com
Bill Horn – firstname.lastname@example.org
You can support the herd in many ways, including visiting the herd website www.heritageherd.com to learn more.
(Note: The first foal born to the herd, Filaree, arrived in 2012 and is thriving on the land with the herd, and we must acknowledge her as she is the first of the efforts to re-establish the herd.)
Karen Carlson, a Ramona resident, is past president of Ramona Trails Association and an avid trails advocate active with many agencies, organizations, and committees. For questions or comments, contact Karen and Cricket at email@example.com.