Arizona’s Salt River Wild Horses

Salt River Wild Horses, Arizona. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 500 mm, f/8.0, 1/500 sec, ISO 640, hand-held.

For those of us who live in the Phoenix, Arizona area, we have a gem right in our backyard. The Salt River wild horses roam the lower half of the Salt River in the Tonto National Forest in Mesa, Arizona and have been subject to much controversy in the recent years. In 2015, a notice was given to the public that federal officials would begin rounding up the horses to remove them from the area. The Salt River Wild Horse Management Group rallied up support for the horses and was able to get a statue passed in AZ State Congress to protect the horses and to allow them to roam the Salt River.

Salt River Wild Horses, Arizona. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 500 mm, f/8.0, 1/640 sec, ISO 640, hand-held.

I headed out to river watershed where they are known to graze with a fellow photographer friend this weekend. It was a bright sunny day and although we got there just as the sun rose, the bright light created many shadows on the horses. We didn’t have to search too much before finding these magnificent creatures. The adults were huge and a local volunteer pointed out a female that was pregnant. For most of the morning, the horses stayed under the shade of the mesquite trees and chewed hungrily on the leaves and branches.

Because of the speckled light on the horses, we had to get a little creative with our shots. I converted the image below to black and white since I wanted to highlight the hair flying as he shook his head to scare off the flies.

Salt River Wild Horses, Arizona. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 480 mm, f/5.6, 1/1250 sec, ISO 1000, hand-held.

Surprisingly, there were many foals walking around with their mothers. Some rolled around in the dirt and others stayed next to their mothers, nursing when they had the opportunity. This one below was a little curious at its visitors and peaked its head around the tree trunk.

Salt River Wild Horses, Arizona. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 400 mm, f/8.0, 1/1600 sec, ISO 800, hand-held.

The horses often stood next to each other and let another horse’s tail swat away flies. This little foal below, however, sought the protection of his mother and got a little caress of the tail.

Salt River Wild Horses, Arizona. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 420 mm, f/7.1, 1/1250 sec, ISO 1250, hand-held.

We were told by the volunteer that this was a record year for births. In the image below, you can see the bulging belly of one of the mothers. At one point, I counted over 25 horses in our area, but the volunteer said there were over 70 in that same area last week. They have a large area to roam and seem very peaceful, although at times, they tend to get a little ornery and run around.

Salt River Wild Horses, Arizona. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 450 mm, f/5.6, 1/800 sec, ISO 1250, hand-held.

Even if you are not a photographer, a trip out to see them is well worth the visit! You can view these images individually and more not posted here in my portfolio located here.

Author: Dr. Amy Novotny

Amy Novotny is a physical therapist, marathon/ultra runner and nature photographer. She treats patients for a variety of conditions but specializes in chronic pain and calming an overactive nervous system using special diaphragmatic breathing. She has used this technique to help her qualify and run in four Boston marathons! She enjoys the outdoors and can often be found running and hiking on trails in throughout Arizona. She attempts to capture the beauty of nature with her photography both locally in Arizona and also throughout the United States. She is becoming more interested in wildlife photography and attempting to capture the emotion of animal interactions. In her spare time, Amy volunteers as a photo guide for the Arizona Highways PhotoScapes nonprofit and shares her joy of nature with others. Please feel free to contact her regarding her photography, physical therapy or running.

6 thoughts on “Arizona’s Salt River Wild Horses”

  1. I’ve never been out to see the horses, so I really enjoyed the photos and video. I’m so glad the horses are being allowed to stay in the Salt River.

    Liked by 1 person

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