If you’ve ever seen the Salt River Wild Horses, you know just how majestic and beautiful they are. These historic herds are the pride of our state. Photographers can’t wait for an opportunity to catch images of them. They are truly the icon of the American West and symbolize the wild and free spirit of the state of Arizona.
The history of the wild horses is not fully certain, but records point to the 1680s. Father Eusebio Keno came to the area as a missionary and established missions and stockyards. He left hundreds of horses and cattle at each mission. By the 1800s, settlers and explorers reported large herds of wild horses roaming the planes.
The Spanish word mustengo means “ownerless beast”. Once the original mustangs escaped confinement, they evolved without human influence to become the durable and tough breed we know today.
Wild horses across America have repeatedly faced threats of mass extermination for over a hundred years. When local photographer Billy Ristuccia took his first photo of the Salt River wild horses, it led him to research them.
“I found a Forest Service notice that announced their intent to round them up to remove them from their natural home. I posted my photo with the notice online which sparked the entire effort to get legislation to protect them.”
In May 2016, Governor Ducey signed the Salt River Wild Horse Act into law. The act establishes a management structure to provide humane management for the horses who reside in the Tonto National Forest. The management responsibility has been given to the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group.
Seeing the horses is an amazing experience. Some great places you can visit to catch a glimpse of them include Saguaro Lake, kayaking or tubing along the Salt River, Butcher Jones Recreation Site, Phon D Sutton Recreation Site, Granite Reef, and Coon Bluff.
For more information about this Arizona treasure, visit SaltRiverWildHorseManagementGroup.org.
PHOTO CREDIT: Billy Ristuccia