written by Marc Lacey of the New York Times.
Phoenix-- Found tottering alone in the desert with their ribs visible and their heads hung low, horses play a back-breaking, unappreciated role in the multi-billion-dollar drug smuggling industry.
Mexican traffickers strap heavy bales of marijuana or other illegal drugs to the horses backs and march them north through mountain passes and across rough desert terrain.
With little food and water, some collapse under their heavy loads. Others are turned loose when the contraband gets far enough into Arizona to be off-loaded into vehicles with even more horsepower.
"We would pick up 15 to 20 horses a month, and many more of the animals would get past us,: said Brad Cowan, who spent 28 years as a livestock office for the Arizona Department of Argriculture befoer retiring a few months ago. "They were poorly fitted equipment. It's obvious they were not well taken care of. The makeshift saddles rub big sores in their backs."
Even once rescued, the horses face an uncertain future. Since they are not from the United States, the state of Arizona must draw their blood and conduct a battery of tests to ensure that they do not carry any disease that would infect domestic livestock. Then the horses head to auction, where some are bought and shipped back to Mexico for slaughter.
Others are luckier. They find their way to equine rescue operations, which help place them with homes.
"I'd get angry when I'd see the condition these horses were in," Cowan said. "The smugglers would buy them or steal them on the Mexican side and then work them almost to death. They have horrible sores that can take months to heal up."
He recalled one horse he came across in Pima Country, not far from the Mexican border, that had deep wounds in its hide, was clearly malnourished and was so weak that that it was trying to sit back on its hind end to take the weight off its legs. He and a co-worker had to carry the horse into a trailer.
Still, he said, horses are resilient.
"They can come back from a lot," he said.
Some of the abused horses end up back in the rugged border region where they were first found, Cowan said. Instead of smuggling though, they are sometimes used by law enforcement agencies to purse the traffickers who mistreated them.
Holy Fuck me....is this not the saddest thing ever?...I wish they had given an address or information on the people that are able to buy the horses and see that they get taken care of and given new homes. My grandpa, Daddy Red was right. There are more horses asses then there are horses.