Renegade Indians
Renegade Indians

 MY FIGHT IS FOR THE LIVES OF HORSES

My name is Steven Roth. I own Seahorse Equestrian Tours. I was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I was adopted 3 days later by the only parents I have ever known. They are both gone now, and the only Family I really have are these horses.

I  was raised on a very large ranch in Utah, where my father was a ranch manager. All of my earliest memories are gleefully highlighted with horses and the many lessons I secretly borrowed from them, and possess still today. I have been fortunate to have them remain a part of my life and continue to enrich my personal view of the world.

My father took me on more than a few of his Mustang apprehension missions before the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971 deemed the pursuit or capture of mustangs to be illegal. Things were quite different then. Since then I have been appalled by the mismanagement, and atrocious methods that the BLM have implemented to cover their impotent tracks.

http://www.wildhorseandburro.blm.gov/92-195.htm

We would bring them home, break them and put them to work on the ranch or sell them to a good home. It was exciting and good for everyone involved, including the horses. They have since, always been a part of my life. I am blessed to have two Kiger Mustangs and two Nevada Mustangs in my remuda to this day. They were given to me when my father passed away. They are a large part of my motivation in general; and many of my reasons for pursuing this business are rooted in their well-being. The mustang is truly a beautiful, living, breathing, part of the history of the Americas. The so-called Government that we all are forced to endure here in Middle America make thin laws to protect the horse if it is wild, and that is unfortunate. It would only compound the shame if we were to ignore their more domestic brethren as well…

I rescued most of my horses from abandonment, abuse and certain demise. It seems long ago that I saw the first two.  Both were hungry, emaciated and unsure of their future at the hands of the people that used to live in the house across the road.  I am sure that I saw them run to the fence that day to wish their owners a good day, as horses often do.  This time though, the owners would never return. I actually saw them in the big Ryder truck, lumber down the driveway and turn towards highway 101. I never expected that they wouldn’t be coming home.  The next evening, it had just gotten dark. I noticed the yard light wasn’t on as it always was this time of night. Normally the yard light from the neighbor’s house aided me when checking the mail. Usually when I opened the door of my mailbox, the light would shine directly into it. Helping me to not miss some important advertisement or bill. Tonight however, I had to feel around to make sure that I didn’t. That was my first clue to their abandonment.  As a week went by the light was never on.  Though it was barely noticeable, the horses were acting strangely aggressive. Being mean to one another and pushing and leaning on the barbed ​wire trying to reach aging clumps of grass that were just out of reach. Early one morning as I was ambitiously loading tools, preparing for a large network job in the city. I heard the fence screech as rusty wire was pulled through a similar staple with force. A sound I know all too well, from a horse accident in my younger days.  I still get to see the scars every day when I get dressed. The smaller of the two horses,  Lady I call her now,  must have lost her balance as she was leaning against the fence and had to step forward to balance herself. Her left front hoof went through a hole in the no-climb wire, and when she tried to pull it free the fenced screeched and startled the other horse. It bolted off across the pasture and left Lady struggling in the rusty fence. I ran to help her, picking up the Kleins (pliers) and the half bucket of grain that I keep in my truck. My two horses thought the grain was for them as I ran by and nickered a small protest as if maybe they understood the urgency. When I got to the struggling horse, she screamed like horses do when they are frightened and in pain. I did not run up to her face forward and square, as I am a predator from her point of view.  She was caught and knew it. It would have made her struggle more, and there was blood already running down her leg.  Instead I turned my back to her, and tried to calm her with my voice and some shakes of the bucket of grain. She did not know me really, and it took a few minutes of calming myself to calm her. She finally realized when she stopped panicking that I was not there to eat her. She stopped flailing for a moment, which allowed me to get her cut out of the fence. Her leg was a mess. Cut to the bone. Who knows what would have happened had I left an hour earlier. I thought I would take her across the road to my house to the barn where I keep a myriad of horse medical gear, but there was no gate down there, and she would have nothing to do with that fallen fence. We slowly limped our way up to the still house after removing my shirt to act as a bandage/ tourniquet.  There was a stillness to the house that was unsettling, and gross.

As we made our way into the yard from the pasture, I turned to look to see if anyone was awake yet, feeling apprehensive about knocking on the door so early in the morning. Lady was looking hopefully in that direction also. Surely they would want to know that their horse was hurt badly and needed medical attention. As I opened the yard gate, Lady pushed rudely past me and attacked the browning grass that filled the yard, taking huge bites. She was starving! I dropped the bailing twine that acted as a makeshift halter, knowing lady would not try to get away. I walked up on the empty porch to knock on the door. There were no curtains, yet I could not see through the windows as the morning glare turned them opaque. I knocked hard to convey the urgency. The knock was returned by an echo. I knocked harder, and again only an echo. I cupped my hands to the window and peered through the thick, old glass contorting my view, only to find bare floors. No rugs, no furniture, nothing.  Just a single Black widow spider, carefully making its way down the hallway toward a new home in another part of the abandoned house.

I took Lady home to treat her and she has never left. The SPCA told me to keep her and the other horse if I wanted them, as they had too many horses already and was getting more all of the time. They told me that abandoning horses was happening more and more often.  Horses are expensive to keep because they eat so much, and need attention most of the time. In this busy, contemporary world we live in, horses have fallen to the wayside, and have become a burden for many. Truly unfortunate for the horse as a species, and future equestrians.

In Alaska, the summer before, while I was riding in the rain for days on end.  Giving tourists from Princess Tours disembarking the Alaskan Railroad, horseback rides along the swollen Talkeetna River., in the quite eccentric, artistic town that shares its name. (If you ever get the chance to go there, you should.)

To occupy my mind and fend off the cold one dreary day while leading a group of fresh faced tourists on a muddy trail ride in the rain.  I was thinking about how nice it must be back in Monterey. I was wondering why I was up there riding horses in Alaska when I could be riding my own horses on Zmudowski State beach as I had done many times since moving to Monterey a few years earlier. I had been online the night before at the pub, because that was the only place within 200 miles that had internet. It wasn’t unusual to see ten or twelve other people working away on their keyboards. Checking Emails, running businesses, or sending pictures home to loved ones back in the states. The air inside the bar was thick with wood smoke and the sour smell of unwashed mountain climbers, returning from three and a half weeks of adventure climbing Mount Mckinley. The guides would be there for about a week, before taking another group of novice mountain climbers, attempting to pay their dues and climb one of the seven summits on the highest mountain in the Alaska Range and North America.

I was looking up demographics. Specifically, Monterey and the many towns around the bay. Wondering how tourism affected each area. I found myself searching for rules about horses on the beach, but to no avail.  There were ordinances for dogs, but nothing on horses.

I had another ride at 9:00 AM, and it was past midnight. Better judgement told me that it was time to go, as I made my way through the crowd of hopeful lovers, awkwardly clinging to one another  as if they were attached.

I was forced to squint as I walked out into the sun that was still high in the sky.  I was a little irritated at the fact that there was so little information about having horses on the beach. You See, I love horses and I love technology. I was sick of riding in the mud and rain, and a hamburger from Mcdonald’s had become a very real need. The economy seemed to be getting better from the 2008 banking atrocity that was bestowed upon us all, and I was actively looking to get back to civilization, my own horses, and Silicon Valley to make some real money again.

After gaining two more horses from the house across the road, my hay bill had doubled literally overnight!  Having owned horses most of my life, I knew that here in California where everything seems to be more complicated and expensive,  hay was already almost twice as much as it was in Colorado. It was actually cheaper in Alaska. That too was irritating, and I still don’t understand why. How is that possible? It never gets down to forty below zero in California. Anyway, I knew I had to find a way to put these horses to work, to earn their way through life.

On the freeway, stuck in my daily commute to the Valley of Silicon where I somehow managed to land  a contract with A church to install internet into a few meeting houses. I was day dreaming between the stops and starts that we all are so familiar with here in California. My thoughts were of Alaska and how I could put my horses to work giving trail rides, and beach rides. I decided that I would try it. There were no signs about horses on the beach everywhere I looked.

One day while riding the beach, I was on Marina state beach, when a ranger stopped me, to tell me that horses were not allowed on the beach south of the Salinas River. I asked him why?

He told me about the Snowy Plover and that I could ride all I wanted to on Zmudowski, and Salinas River State beaches. I loaded my horse and went to Salinas State beach.

Again in the back of my mind, I knew I could not afford to have that many horses if they were not working.

I started building my website. I had never built a website before, but it was not that difficult for me because of my network background, and after a month went by and Googles’ waiting period diminished, one day the phone rang, and it was a lady who just loved my website, and could not wait to get on a horse. She told me the story I hear most often now. How when she was younger, horses helped her through the death of her father, who was killed while changing a tire beside the freeway in San Diego.

She brought her daughter with her that first day. Her daughter had been living in Washington state with her estranged ex-husband. She told me that she had to go to Washington state to bring Makenzie back to California, after an alcohol related incident. I didn’t pry.  Makenzie told me later that her father had beaten her up while drunk one horrible night. She went on to say that it wasn’t the first time, and it was so weird that she missed him. I don’t think her mother was so well informed.  Later, I wondered why she confided in me.

Right then, I had a moment of clarity! I knew what I had to do. I took Makenzie under my wing and taught her how to ride, and ride well. To occupy her mind and fill it with something other than bazaar human feelings that could possibly drag her down mentally, to that horrible day and the things she must have endured.

When I think about that, it upsets me…

I spent the next year and a half sponsoring her through numerous high school rodeos as a member of the District 4 high school rodeo team here in central California.. She has never mentioned the beatings again.

She now is going pro in the Moto-cross and Flat- Track circuit in Sacremento. Her mother was just remarried, and they are happy.  I see her as often as possible. I am proud of her.  I told her in one of our many conversations, that if she educates herself every day, pays attention to her position in life and set goals for her future and works to see them through, then “she would always rise to the top, like fine champagne bubbles”.

She says those very words back to me now when I feel like the world is upon my shoulders.

As she progressed in her riding abilities, and the competition of local ACBRA (cut- throat) barrel racing increased, I had to buy her faster horses. I felt I could not let her down ever, after her father’s drunken melee. I had never wanted a daughter before I met Makenzie.  I consider her my daughter now. She thanks me once in a while, and little does she know, that I would do it a thousand times over if given the opportunity, for it remains the most important thing I have ever done in my life.

I know now that the reason she confided in me, was because of our mutual love of horses.

“All of us are more powerful when we are astride a horse.” Physically as well as spiritually.

(John Steinbeck)

Now, I had two more horses. 6 total. The ever present drought on this planet, and foreign demand made hay prices rise that year drastically, forcing me to put these horses to work.

I engineered and installed network systems for 93 LDS buildings. I had a good chunk of money in the bank and I didn’t want to waste it like young men do. I had turned 45 while in Alaska and was reluctantly feeling my age, after a year and a half of competition barrel racing. Mak was growing up fast, and like all teenage girls, was looking forward to other things. It happens all of the time in the horse world. Little girl who loves horses, grows up and finds marriage more important. More often than not, the horse loses. Only to get sold to another little girl or whatever fate has waiting.  More and more often it seems that the slaughter house is the easy option. I beg to differ…

Out of this, Seahorse Equestrian Tours was born. I have a friend who has land in Hollister. He allowed me to take guests riding there, but most were unimpressed with the landscape. The website was doing great and the phone started ringing a lot. Seemed like everyone wanted to go to the beach, or Henry Cowell, or Wilder Ranch. So I went and rode all of them to research potential trails to take clients. I ultimately ended up with seventeen horses and all but 3 were rescue horses. Their stories are just as sad as or worse than the story about Lady.  As far as stories like Makenzie’s.  Well, we hear of them all of the time also. I am just happy that my horses and I were able to affect her life in such a way that she did not become just another one that the wolves pulled down.

I found a good insurance company, and acquired liability insurance, because I did not want to have an accident and have someone hurt with no insurance. I took rides all over for a few weeks. Then the nasty letters started coming. They were from the notorious California State Parks and Recreation, Monterey sector,  stating that it had come to the attention that I had been taking rides on Salinas River State beach and to cease and desist from doing so, going on to state that I needed a permit to continue taking rides to the beach, with contact information for a Ms. Fleccia Wilson.

Ms. Wilson was in charge of “Special Event Permitting” ( I found that to be strange, because obviously I was not a special event.)

So with paperwork in hand, I headed to Point Lobos. Now At this point I had no idea of the hierarchy within CSP. In Colorado where I am from, you could have 50 horses dressed out and 50 riders all ready to go, and nobody would even ask a question. Unless of course there was an accident.

(something I have not had in over 20 years)

When I arrived to talk with Miss Wilson, I was surprised to see that my liaison to the CSP would be such a large woman. I wondered if she had ever even been to the beaches that I was referring to. I wondered if she had ever been on a horse....

I like Fleccia. She is funny, and personable, but I wondered how she would be able to relate to my situation, should the need arise.

When I finished telling her of my plans and dreams for Seahorse, she looked perplexed, like she was wondering why I had told her any of it. What she said to me next, unbeknownst to me at the time was to set the stage for some of the most unprofessional and egotistical behavior I have ever seen from government officials in my life.  Fleccia being the least, and in retrospect I understand now why she said it.

She said to me, “Well, Mr. Roth, that’s just a little above my pay grade.” I was amazed at the way the words just rolled out so smooth, like she said it all of the time. However, I do not know, and that was the least of my concerns I was to find out a little further up the bumpy unmaintained CSP road, at least here in central California.

I felt like a guy who had just given a State of the Union address to a class room of first graders. Impotent and frustrated.

She handed me the application, and still reeling from her response, I thanked her and walked back to my truck to make my way back up US 1 to the ranch.

I already had acquired a federal permit to take my clients to ride on the newly named Fort Ord National Monument. On April 20th 2012, President Obama changed Fort Ord administration from the Department of Defense to The Bureau of Land Management. I offered to take two supervisory rangers on a 15 mile ride from Marina all of the way across fort Ord, to let them know how I do things, if I am capable of what I am wanting to do in the park, the temperament of my horses and how I treat them. To see what kind of person I am.  They accepted the offer.  When it was over, we were all on the same page, and there was mutual respect amongst us. I got the permit hands down.  Later that year, after a couple of incidents with a small statured, overzealous, Napoleonic national park ranger I decided to give them back their permit.

Shortly thereafter,  I found out that the BLM was in charge of systematically killing America’s mustang population. Whatever their reasons are, it is an atrocity. One that I cannot be a part of in any way.

A couple of weeks later, Fleccia called me and told me to come sign, and receive my permit. I was very happy about that because my phone was ringing a lot with people wanting to ride on the beach. When I signed it I noticed that it was a special events permit. I asked Fleccia about that over the phone, because none of the questions on the application seemed to quite fit my business model. She told me not to worry about it, because it was just a technicality.

With permit in hand I slapped signs on my rig and Seahorse Equestrian Tours officially opened its doors. I put advertising for Zmudowski State beach on my website, which was doing just great. I was taking rides, answering the phone, taking care of the horses and all of the things that come with a business like this. I soon found out that I could not continue doing it all by myself, but I was in start-up mode and like any business you learn and adjust as needed as you go. The use fees were very high at 12% of my gross, and when the subject came up, which it did often when my clients inquired about the details of running a business like mine. When I told them 12% of my gross was what the state was charging me, 90% of them without hesitation said things like “Oh my God, how do you stay in business?”

I’d tell them I manage. Well when I hired Brisa to come work for me, that 12% started to hurt my cash flow. I found out later from a junior park ranger from Santa Cruz that 12% is what they charge for special events like surf competitions and other things that only last a few days and attracted many people all at once. To this day, I don’t think I have ever fallen into the category of a special event. Later in this truth I received a letter, stating that I did not fall into the category of a special event and they were pulling my permit.

 

TO BE CONTINUED.........

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