Santa Maria horses to be removed today |

Santa Maria horses to be removed today

Karen Woodmansee

Appeal Staff Writer

The remaining wild horses at the Santa Maria Ranch Development will be rounded up today and moved back into the hills.

Mike Holmes of the Nevada Department of Agriculture said he would go out today and move the horses back.

“Tomorrow we’re going to try to pick them up and put them back in the hills where they belong,” he said.

But he also said at an emergency forum called for Monday night by the Alliance for Wild Horse Advocates that a long-term solution to the problem of wild horses entering subdivisions and damaging property could be found.

“I think that if everyone keeps their heads together and don’t lose their tempers, we can find a solution,” Holmes said.

He said the first solution is to remove the horses in the Santa Maria subdivision, the short-term is to let him know if some come back, and the long-term is to put up a fence.

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“If there’s a fence, it allows people to look at the horses from a distance, but not have to spend $7,000 to $10,000 on a yard and have a horse tear it up,” he said.

Most of the 125 people who attended the forum supported the horses and fencing the subdivisions, and had little sympathy for those who complain about the horses.

Ann Jones of Mound House said when she moved in 18 years ago, she put in a front yard and lost it to horses next day. “So we had a 4-foot fence put in the yards, and it kept the horses out,” she said, adding that new residents “should respect that this is country, it’s not city. I don’t think it’s too much to ask to put in a fence.”

The brouhaha began after Holmes was called in August to remove 22 horses from the Santa Maria Ranch area after damage was done to landscaping around the new homes in that subdivision.

Developers Gary Hill and Dale Denio were at the meeting and denied they called to have the horses rounded up. Holmes said it wasn’t the homeowners, either; it was builders and the landscapers they hired who made the calls after having to repeatedly repair damage done by horses.

One of those landscapers, who did not give his name, said he was part of that group.

“I’m not the bad guy,” he said. “The builder that hired me called because when all the damage was done to the yard, he hired me to put in. I have to go out there every day and clean up the mess the horses have made.”

Bonnie Matton of the Wild Horse Preservation League said the landscapers’ problems were understandable and could be solved by fencing, not removing horses.

“I know what you’re going through as a landscaper, but we have designated the problem,” she said. “We had horses destroy our lawns when we came here, so we stopped growing lawns.”

After Lyon County Commissioner Don Tibbals estimated that between 10,000 and 20,000 homes were coming to Dayton in the next five to 10 years, County Manager Donna Kristaponis offered to work with the horse advocates to write a fencing ordinance.

Of the 22 horses removed in August, Holmes said six went to Least Resistance Training Concepts for placement, another 10 went to the Virginia Range Wildlife Protection Association, and some were taken back to the high area south of the Carson River.

He added that the Santa Maria Ranch was not open range before it was developed; it was a fenced ranch that raised cattle and hay, so removing the horses was not depriving them of their habitat. But he agreed horses were being pushed aside for development.

Those who feed the horses helped create the problem, Holmes and Matton agreed.

“Horses are getting acclimated to people,” he said. “People feed and water and think they’re cute. They get used to it and come back. If you would run them off, they’ve go back to the hills where they belong.”

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