Arizona woman's hobby may hold key to saving wild horses
They stood, majestically holding court at Pebble Beach Campground just inside Tonto National Forest in Mesa. People gathered to catch a glimpse of living western history and these wild horses didn't run from the attention although the only person able to get very close was Becky Standridge.
The horses seem to know the Mesa woman, but not half as well as she knows them. Now, her hobby of capturing pictures of these animals may be the key to saving their lives.
An Arizona woman's passion for pictures may surprisingly be the answer to saving Wild Horses right here in the Valley.
A Mesa woman spends her time in the Tonto National Forest... And she had no idea her hobby would have an impact.
The forest service and others have struggled for years to decide how to deal with wild horses.
There is a real dilemma on how to manage the herd.
Tonight they may have a better chance at survival thanks to a local woman who had no idea her pictures were so important.
"I'd heard about these wild horses for several years but I'd never seen them," Standrige said, "until a friend brought me for a walk here just over a year ago."
For the laid-off Intel worker, it was love at first sight.
Becky began amassing a vast album of the herd. She snapped, and snapped, and snapped collecting more than just pony pictures. The images told stories and Becky's observations revealed histories.
"I identify their color, their blaze, their socks. All the characteristics. Who's who. What's going on", she explained. "The horses are all very special. Their family bonds are very strong. Their freedom is extremely important to them."
Her near-constant presence put the horses at ease allowing her an intimate view most can only imagine.
She compared it to a soap opera saying, ""Sometimes it's really exciting and sometimes it's really sad."
One of the most tragic situations revealed That becky may be the best hope to save these wild horses. About 3 months ago a driver hit and killed a horse on the road that snakes through the Mesa Range of Tonto N.F. Curious as to which horse had died, Becky went to the ranger station thinking, surely they had identified the horse.
"I wanted to keep it on my log who was now missing because you can't see every horse every day", Standridge explained.
But when the Range Wildlife Manger asked what Becky had been up to she learned that no one had ever catalogued the horses. In fact, there had been a long debate over how to manage the herd. Becky's hobby was like an answer falling from the sky. An answer that may save many of these horses.
The Tonto National Forest, Mesa Range Wildlife Manager says 6 area agencies have struggled for an answer to the wild horse dilemna. The answer they want to avoid is capturing the animals and selling them at auction. Most times that means a trip to the slaughter house.
The hope is to manage the herd another way but they need a catalogue of wild horses. With money and manpower at a minimum, that has always been impossible.Until becky came along.
She offered up her expertiese and research.
Now, donning a new volunteers uniform and armed with her telephoto lense, Becky continues to track and identify the herd.
The are still decisions to be made when it comes to herd management but Becky's horse log has opened up options wildlife biologists feared would not be possible.