Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

Endangered horses now live in De Luz

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

Sandia Creek Ranch rescued seven “Spanish Barb Horses.” Turns out, they may be Pre-Spanish Barbs called Berbers that are considered critically endangered by the Equus Survival Trust.

The horses native to Spain were often interbred, and the quest for a “pure Spanish horse” now centers on the highly bred horses the Spanish explorers took to the Western Hemisphere and the descendants of those Spanish horses who ended up in the wild. Seven of these critically endangered horses are now in De Luz.

These horses were the foundation for many of the modern breeds. “We’re pulling DNA on them right now to make sure it’s exact,” said Kiersti Wylie, who is the president of the Sandia Creek Ranch Auxiliary Foundation.

A preservation effort by many key individuals who recognize the unique characteristics that the Barb horses naturally have, has been ongoing since the early 1900's. One of the most knowledgeable preservationists was Robert Painter. He dedicated his life to the breed and preserving it, keeping it as pure as possible. “This guy has been raising them basically his entire life and tracing them back to the purest Spanish line,” Wylie said.

Painter kept his Spanish Barb horses in pastures on approximately 400 acres and left them in their natural state with as little contact with humans as possible. Painter was 92 when he passed away in March.

Sandia Creek Ranch Auxiliary Foundation, having a proven record of working with difficult horses, was asked to join in the rescue efforts when 67 horses barely made it through the winter, due to poor conditions and extreme weather in Idaho. Wylie was asked to take the one who was terrified of people, completely untouched, and a stallion no less. “At the time we had no idea that the breeding on these horses was considered critically endangered,” said Wylie.

Wylie and her mother made the trek to Idaho where they were asked to also take the remaining horses and save their lives, totaling seven horses.

The oldest of the seven horses, Hy Flyer, is 19 years old. The youngest is a yearling filly. Four of the horses are stallions, one is a mare, and two are fillies.

Wylie noted that the horses are learning quickly. “You teach them something and the next day they pick up where you left off,” she said.

“They’re letting us touch them, some are even inviting for a scratch. They are learning to be haltered and led, and they are learning to love interaction with people,” Wylie’s mother Crystal said.

Texas A&M University is performing DNA testing at no charge. One of the traits of Spanish horses is that they only have five lumbar vertebrae; most horses have six. It is one of the oldest known breeds in the world, known for their intelligence, versatility, strength and stamina. Possibly less than 3000 are left internationally.

Sandia Creek Ranch Auxiliary Foundation, an equine rescue and outdoor family education center, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization which was founded in 2014. Dedicated to providing a second chance to the horses, SCRAF rehabilitates, retrains, and rehomes or is a sanctuary for those needing a safe landing. Through the efforts of SCRAF, they have been able to change the lives of more than 100 horses, finding them their forever homes. Tax deductible donations can be made at SCRAF.ORG.

105 North Main Gallery of the Arts, in downtown Fallbrook also supports the rescue efforts at SCRAF and will be hosting the Equine and Western art competition and sale in October.


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