All about the Salt River Wild Horses

Here in Arizona lies one of the most beautiful, majestic horses of them all. The Salt River Wild horses. These horses are wild and un-domesticated. They live off of the land and depend on the herd to stay alive. They have many hardships and struggles, and for them life isn't a walk in the park. Throughout the years, these horses have been poisoned, killed, and shot. Their herd numbers have dropped low and almost come to a point of being wiped out forever. However with the help of many people and volunteers, life for the Salt River Wild horses has become easier and more possible. Here is how the Salt River Wild horses survive.

Their History

For a long time, life in Arizona was very difficult for the equines. It was common to see dead horses laying on the ground, or skinny horses having not eaten for days. The Salt River Wild Horses have roamed Arizona before the Tonto National Forest was created in 1902, so well over 100 years. Over the years the horses have been abused by millions of people. In 1850 ranchers and the Forest Service held roundups to kill the horses.

Around 1890 the horses were considered Native horses and livestock/feral. Nobody wanted them and many people called them useless.

The Forest Service put a standing order on its domain to kill every wild horse on site in Lander County, in 1908. In 1927, according to an article titled “Phoenix Concern Eliminating Wild Horses from State”, the Arizona Reduction Works were slaughtering halves of millions of wild horses. To survive the killings the horses likely survived by hiding along the river banks near thick vegetation. These killings went on for years, and life was becoming extremely hard for the Salt River Wild horses. After surviving like this for a long time, a miracle happened. In 1971 the Forest Service was mandated by the Wild Free Roaming Horse & Burro Act to establish a wild horse territory and count and protect these amazing animals. Life kept getting better when in 2016 Governor Doug Ducey passed a law classifying the horses as “not stray livestock”.

About their kind

The Salt Lake river wild horses are a very interesting breed of horse. They are not stray livestock/feral and they aren't native horses. They are now protected by State Law within the national forest and are unclaimed, unbranded, wild and free roaming horses. The majority of the horses are mustangs. Some horses are dumped at the Salt Lake River and overtime become as wild as the herd. This happens when people who can't take care or afford their horse anymore and they need somewhere for the horse to live. This method is not responsible, and they should turn to a horse rescue or put the horse up for sale.

Herds are divided into bands. Each band has a leader. Commonly the mare will be the leader of the band. Bands are formed based on similarities. You may see a bunch of chestnut horses in a band, and greys in a different one.

Health & Survival

Every day the Salt Lake River management group brings hay to the horses at night. The horses gather together and volunteers bring hay to each band. They spread the hay evenly so every horse gets something to eat. The management group depends on hay donations. Visit their website if you are interested in donating a bale of hay.

They drink from the river and at night sleep behind vegetation. If there is a sick horse or a colicking horse, the management group will bring the horse to their rescue sanctuary. When the horse is taken to the rescue sanctuary they are given food, a stall, and any medical help that is needed.

The management group also provides PZP birth control for the mares. They don't want the herd to grow too quickly because of limited resources. If the herd were to grow too quickly there wouldn't be as much grass or vegetation for the horses and the herd would be skinnier and in poor shape.

It is unhealthy for older mares to have babies so they dart the older ones, and the younger mares have the babies. They also use this because it doesn't influence their hormones, and isn't as expensive as gelding.

In conclusion, we need to protect and care for these animals. They finally have a steady life and we need to preserve and protect them. The Salt River Wild horses aren't just horses that live off land, they are a beautiful piece of Arizona. They represent wild life. Keep on learning about these horses, as they need to be respected and supported.


According to Salt River Wild Horse Management Group; SRWHMG (nd). Retrieved 1/19/21 from SRWHMG website:

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