Ramona's Original Horses Come Home

Wild horses once roamed Ramona and are being returned through our Heritage Herd.

I have to share with Ramona the exciting news and history of Ramona's Original Horses! We have a herd that is re-establishing our equestrian heritage right off Highland Valley Road and so many of you have asked about them I thought I'd better fill you in.

The horse has been part of North America since, well, forever. The San Diego Zoological Society believes the horse originated in North America millions of years ago then went extinct on this continent. Horses were reintroduced by Spanish visitors and have also been a part of Southern California for centuries.

My interest in wild horses began when dreaming of the wild horses in my childhood and wild horses in my life became a reality when I adopted Cricket. The Mustang is a decendent of the horses long gone by. In my growing passion for wild horses one of the most exciting things I have found is an effort to save the genetic stock from our area. Yep, horses used to roam right here in and around Ramona.

Coyote Canyon Caballos d'Anza (CCCDA) was established by people interested in preserving the history of the horse in our area, particularly Ramona, Santa Ysabel and Anza Borrego.

According to the CCCDA, wild horses had roamed from somewhere around 1769 when the first Mission was built in San Diego. The missions supplied bloodstock to the local outlying Rancherias, including Warner Ranch just outside Ramona.  Horses escaped the Missions and Rancherias and formed bands, or herds, and spread to the mountain and desert areas.

Through the study of history they were able to discern that by 1840, the last great horse raid on Southern California Ranchos was led by Pegleg Smith and Chief Welkara. Three-thousand horses of Colonial Spanish bloodstock were driven into Utah along the Old Spanish Trail. Not until 1974 were remnants of this herd discovered on the Mt. Home Range by the Bureau of Land Management.

"The story begins in 1769 when the first Mission was built in San Diego to bring Catholicism and establish a land trust for the indigenous peoples. The missions supplied Spanish bloodstock to the outlying Rancherias, including the present day Warner Ranch. When Spaniards first visited the hot springs at Warner’s Ranch in 1795 they encountered the Cupeno Indians on a 'Rancheria' located there. To the south and west were the Dieguenos, and north were the Cahuilla’s. 

After the Spanish Mexican War, and by 1833, the Indians and ranchos possessed great numbers of horses, cattle, sheep and other animals. Newcomers to the area began maneuvers to acquire these properties, and tragically the Indians were displaced from their homeland. A small worn plaque near the tiny Warner Springs Chapel and Cupa cemetery bears their heart rendering words.

These native peoples and their lands were further segregated from the original trust after Mexico ceded their territory to the United States by Treaty of Hidalgo in 1848.

By 1840 the last great horse raid on Southern California Ranchos was led by Pegleg Smith and Chief Welkara. 3000 horses of Colonial Spanish bloodstock were driven into Utah along the Old Spanish Trail. Not until 1974 were remnants of this herd discovered on the Mt Home Range by the Bureau of Land management.

John Turnbull Warner arrived in San Diego about 1846. He applied for, and was granted, a Mexican grant to the Indian Trust.  By 1850 Indian resentment culminated in the Gara revolt and massacre at Warner Hot Springs, when the Indians reclaimed cattle and horses and drove them into  Coyote Canyon. For 150 years, even after the Indians abandoned their villages in the canyon, the animals ranged freely as was the custom.

However, by 1984 the Anza Borrego Desert State Parks acquired the lands and removed the last remnants of Indian cattle, and in 2003, the Coyote Canyon Wild Horse Herd.  Parks claimed they were feral and invasive.  All wild horses have been gathered and removed from the San Diego area, but are returning to Ramona!

Only four stallions remain from this herd. They are listed by the International Equine Conservation nonprofit Equus Survival Trust, as Critically Endangered/Nearly Extinct. (I will introduce them later).

For purposes of genetic recovery BLM sent 14 mares from the Southern Utah herd to be bred to the Coyote Canyon Stallions. The stallions and mares represent a distinct population segment of species that evolved and survived the harshest desert environs and nature’s challenges.

The Coyote Canyon Stallions and mares are held in trust locally by Coyote Canyon Caballos d’ Anza. (CCCDA) a 501 (c)3 non-profit that is dedicated to the repatriation of San Diego’s last Heritage Herd to their native ranges and preservation of historic routes."

Currently there are mares and foals residing in Ramona while plans are made and arrangements sought for more acreage for the herd. I met the mares upon arrival years ago and have much more to come!

Visit soon to find out more and how you can help.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Candace Oathout July 12, 2012 at 08:43 PM
It is long past time for these wonderful horses to roam their home range. They are a shining example of our rich heritage.
Karen Carlson July 12, 2012 at 09:30 PM
Candace, you are so right. Seeing them in person is breath taking! The photos here are from 2009 so wait until you see them now! Love, Karen
Teri Kerns July 13, 2012 at 02:02 PM
Thank you Karen for the update, I've been loosely following this for years, and it's nice to see resolution, or at least a start!
Helen Ofield July 16, 2012 at 05:12 PM
This extraordinary project is central to the history and folklore of the American West, bringing together Native American, Spanish and Anglo cultures and and their social and political structures; issues of ethnic and racial subjugation; environmental conservation; land use and planning; genetic studies and species preservation; the evolution of our democratic republic; the Monroe Doctrine; and much more. But the beating heart of the whole effort is the horse and its inextricable links to human history -- the horse, surely one of our planet's most glorious, mythic creatures, embodying hopes and dreams and even the origins of art (those little heads in the firelight on the walls of the Lascaux Caves....)


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