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Wild and Free: Wild Horses Near the Grand Canyon

Sal Santiago writes about travel, minimalism, art, philosophy, and living an alternative lifestyle.

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Wild Horses in Arizona

In the Kaibab Forest, near Grand Canyon National Park, there are wild horses roaming free once again. On the walking path between Tusayan and the South Rim, you are likely to see a few of them on any given day. Usually a small pack of them—three or four, sometimes five—stay together and spend the day grazing in the forest. They look healthy and happy, swinging their tails like cows in a rich pasture.

Most are dark brown, and a few have light tan or grey coats. They are not very skittish, as long as you keep your distance. They seem relaxed, and are enjoying life here in the ponderosa forests of Northern Arizona, where the elevation is around 6800 feet.

Where did the wild horses come from? Have they always been here?

Where did the wild horses come from? Have they always been here?

I recently asked people who have lived in this area for years. Almost everyone said they started appearing in 2020, though a few said they first noticed them showing up in 2019. It is thought that the original free-roaming horses came from the Navajo Nation, and possibly from the Hualapi Reservation.

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There is a very sad story connected with this. Arizona has been in a state of drought for years. In 2019, several hundred horses died. They went to drink from a watering hole. The water had mostly dried up, and the horses got stuck in the mud. They were malnourished, and too weak to get out of the mud, and died there.

This was reported in the news, and a few photos of the hundreds of dead horses received some attention.

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It's thought that some of the horses wandered and reached the Kaibab National Forest, where there is an ample supply of grasses and shrubs. The horses have plenty to eat here, and seem to be doing well. The first ones who ventured here have mated and given birth to baby horses. The first horses born in the wild, living free here in the forest.

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Now they have started a new chapter, with a new crop of horses being born here each year. They seem well suited to the climate in these high elevations, the temperature rising into the mid-80s during these summer days, and cooling down to about 50 or so overnight. A comfortable range. Hopefully, they will continue to have enough water to survive and stay healthy.

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I had never seen a wild horse until I began living in this part of the country. I take almost daily walks on the path through the forest (which spans about six miles and connects Tusayan with the Grand Canyon South Rim), and regularly come across the wild horses. It is always amazing to see them.

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Along with the elk, the occasional ground squirrel (Abert Squirrel), the ubiquitous lizards, and the variety of birds (especially the raven), they make this area unique. They embody the wildness of the west, and the spirit of freedom.

We have tamed— and tried to tame—much of the natural world for our own purposes. It is wonderful to see a few of these creatures become wild and free again, roaming as far as they care to, wagging their tails happily in the sunshine and the fresh air. Long may they roam and live free.

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This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

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