RAMONA, Calif. — Filaree, daughter of Anza and Fiera, is standing in her field — which currently is 140 acres of pasture land in this rural, horse-loving community northeast of San Diego.
Inquisitive, unafraid of visitors and with a gentleness that belies her designation as a “wild” equine, Filaree is among 20 horses in the pasture, all mares and foals. Four stallions, including Anza, are kept in a corral miles away.
DNA testing has shown that the mares and stallions and their recent offspring are descended from horses that carried a Spanish military expedition into the region in the mid-1700s. Their history is intermixed with the triumphs and tragedies of early California.
But though their past is storied, their future is uncertain, possibly dependent on the wild-horse policies of the federal Bureau of Land Management.
“These horses are no different than the grizzly bear, the mountain lion and the wolf — they’re our heritage,” said Kathleen Hayden, a member of Coyote Canyon Caballos d’Anza, a group dedicated to protecting the small herd.
Hayden’s group and the county Board of Supervisors would like the BLM to take responsibility for the horses and relocate them to BLM land near Beauty Mountain in San Diego County.
“They’re gorgeous,” said Supervisor Dianne Jacob, an experienced rider.
For the last year, the horses have lived on a privately owned spread, foraging for grass and occasionally receiving a bale of hay. But long term, the best chance for the herd to survive and increase its numbers lies in support from the federal government, Hayden said.
But nothing involving wild horses and federal policy is simple or without strong passions on all sides.