After weeks of uncertainty, Rancho Resort's unofficial pets will finally be given a proper home.
Four wild horses, frequent visitors to the community for more than four months, were removed Tuesday by state Department of Agriculture livestock officers. They will spend a few days in stray livestock pens in Nogales before being moved to a sprawling ranch in Aravaipa Canyon this week.
The horses were a common sight in the subdivision at Sahuarita Road and La Canada Drive, either eating the clubhouse grass or wandering the streets. Despite positive reactions from residents, community management said the wild horses posed a hazard. Last month, Rancho Resort held a meeting and sent a letter explaining the liability issues and that the horses needed to be removed.
Shelby Stewardson, a Rancho Resort resident, said she and her neighbors are sad to see the horses go, but understand it's necessary.
"Living in a subdivision is probably not best for them," Stewardson said.
She said the neighborhood will feel better about the removal when they are assured the horses will be kept together and somewhere safe.
William Teran, who used to leave water out for the horses, also said he is concerned with what happens to the them.
"I want to know where they're going," Teran said.
Rancho Resort contacted the Department of Agriculture in May about removal, and livestock officers set up a corral more than four weeks ago near Teran's house. At the time, Rudy Acevedo, a livestock officer with the department, estimated it would take a few days to round up the horses.
However, the corral proved too small and the horses didn't eat the hay left to attract them, Acevedo said.
Two weeks ago he set up another corral, three times larger than the first, on the clubhouse grass where the horses frequently grazed. The community and police were asked to close the gate to the corral if all the horses were inside.
On Tuesday a maintenance worker found the four horses inside and closed the gate. Acevedo and other livestock officers arrived and the horses were then loaded onto a trailer and taken to Nogales.
A new home
Normally, under state livestock laws, the horses would be put up to public auction. However, an equine rescue group has been working behind the scenes for an alternative.
Karen Pomroy, president of Equine Voices Rescue and Sanctuary, said calls have come in for months about the horses. After contacting Acevedo and learning of the concern among residents for the horses' well-being, Pomroy spoke with a friend about what could be done.
The friend, a wild horse advocate, approached David Rychener and Steve Turcotte, who have 3,200 acres of state trust land north of Mammoth, about putting the horses on their property.
Rychener said he's always been sympathetic to wild horses and he and his wife agreed to do it. "I think the idea of horses running wild on that land appealed to my sense of freedom," Rychener said.
There are four or five year-round water sources on the property, Rychener said. They will clear out a few areas to create access to the water for the horses this weekend before having them brought up, he said.
Turcotte said they intend the horses to have a good life and maybe start a small herd on the property. There a few wild horses in the area already, which Turcotte described as majestic.
"The wild nature of those creatures - it's beautiful," Turcotte said.
The horses are tentatively scheduled to be transferred to the ranch Thursday.
One horse left
But Rancho Resort is not done with horses just yet. A fifth horse, which was not allowed by the others to join the herd, showed up at Teran's house Tuesday night.
The corral by the clubhouse will remain up until this last horse can be safely removed from the community, said Syd Kyle, community manager for Rancho Resort.
Despite the hassle of the last few months and close encounters with horses and cows near the neighborhood in the past, Kyle said there are no plans to fence the area off to livestock. This last group, she said, was the only to actually enter the community.
"(The others) didn't come into our common area, and that's what became an issue for us," Kyle said.