Landscaper loves wild horses, but not the extra work |

Landscaper loves wild horses, but not the extra work

Karen Woodmansee
Appeal Staff Writer

Blayne Eaton used to love seeing wild horses roaming the Santa Maria Ranch development while he worked putting in yards and landscaping for builders and homeowners.

“I love the horses as much as everyone else,” he said. “When I first started, I thought it was the most awesome thing there was.”

But then they started tearing up his work, costing him time and money when he went back, day after day, to repair the damage.

The band of seven horses at Santa Maria was successfully trapped and removed Wednesday to the Bureau of Land Management’s Palomino Valley facility, but the controversy about their fate remains.

Eaton said he’s stuck in the middle, between wild-horse advocates who want the animals to roam free and his customers, builders who don’t want to have to keep repairing damage to their property.

“It’s a major burden on us to go out there and take care of things for no compensation,” he said. “I’m not a money-hungry guy, but I can’t keep working for free. It costs us thousands of dollars to do the repairs.”

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He said horses’ hooves tear up the sod, the animals eat the plants all the way down to the ground and defecate. They leave the ground uneven and they break sprinklers.

Eaton is project manager for Down2Earth Landscaping, which offers 30-day warranties on maintenance for each landscape and a year’s warranty on shrubs, sod and sprinklers. Because of those warranties, much of Eaton’s time is spent repairing damage from wild horses. He has installed yards on 14 houses at Santa Maria.

“It’s on a daily basis I have to do repairs,” he said. “What I do is go to the job where we’re working, and I just go walking around every day. I’m not getting paid to do this.”

Eaton said one of the backyards he worked on was damaged before a fence could be put up.

Without landscaping of any kind, dust would be more of a problem, and Eaton said no matter what plants are used, the horses will cause damage.

“They say, ‘don’t put down grass,’ but whatever’s there, the horses are going to trample it,” he said.

Eaton, a 25-year Nevada resident, tried to explain his position at a forum in Dayton on Monday, but had the microphone pulled from his hand by wild-horse advocate Bonnie Matton. She cut him off because, she said at the forum, “I know what you’re going through as a landscaper, but we’ve designated the problem” as a need for fencing.

He said he was unhappy about the way he was treated at the forum, but says he still hopes to work with others to solve the problem.

“I still think there’s a fence out there that can be fixed,” he said. “I’m willing to put my time into it and have some of my guys help. I believe the developers, the builders and everyone needs to go in on it.”

Eaton said he would be willing to donate equipment and labor on weekends to join others in putting up fencing at Santa Maria.

“I just think there is a solution to it if the community gets together and does something about it,” he said.

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at or 882-2111 ext. 351.