I had the opportunity to go for a horseback ride near Silver City with Joe Saenz, the owner of WolfHorse Outfitters. Full disclosure: I am not an adept rider. Several friends warned me that my butt would need time to recover, but it wasn’t my posterior that complained…it was a knee and a finger, both easily ignored
We didn’t go far, because WolfHorse is around the corner from the Fort Bayard Elk Refuge and the Dragonfly Trail. The trail leads to a variety of petroglyphs and pictographs. The ancient images adorn the boulders lining a dry creek bed; graffiti evidence of ancient human habitation in the area. The trail’s name stems from the numerous dragonflies depicted in the petroglyphs.
Enjoying an Equine Afternoon
There is something about experiencing nature on horseback that enhances one’s appreciation for how people lived in the past. There is an undeniable peacefulness to spending a beautiful afternoon listening to the cadence of a horse. Once you have wandered beyond the power lines, houses, and other traces of the modern world, the vantage point is similar to what it would have been 100-200 years ago. There are some obvious differences. Grazing eliminated a lot of the native grasses. People moving to the area introduced non-native species into the eco-system, like Siberian Elm. They spread quickly and crowded out indigenous species like Juniper and Piñon.
The Gila Wilderness, in southwest New Mexico, was America’s first designated wilderness area. At 3.3 million acres, it is also the largest. It is one of the most pristine and rugged wilderness areas in the country. Elevations range from 4500 to 10,000 feet and biospheres ranging from desert to alpine. The Gila River’s immense watershed has etched a stunning landscape of deep valleys, majestic mesas and steep, narrow canyons. Immense natural resources are available for outdoor enthusiasts. Ancient settlements provide the opportunity for history buffs to learn about the people who lived here in the distant past.
The Ndee (Chihe’ne, Chokone’ne, Bida’nku, Ndenai), also known as the Chiricahua Apache People, originally inhabited the region. Unlike the neighboring Puebloans, the Apache moved their camps frequently. They foraged based on which plants were producing rather than engaging in cultivation like their neighbors. When the ancient Puebloans (Anasazi, Mogollon and Mimbres) attempted to settle in the area, the Apache drove them out.
Joe is of Chihe´ne (Warm Springs Apache) ancestry. His approach is based on living in harmony with the land, including respecting and protecting the other inhabitants. His knowledge about local flora is vast and his awareness of the fauna, from habitat to habits, is extensive. Joe’s company, WolfHorse Outfitters, specializes in guided horseback adventures in the Gila and Aldo Leopold Wilderness areas. He provides intense, extended pack rides deep into the Gila, with little more than the basics. He teaches people how to identify plants, forage, hunt for small game, camp, etc.
Joe is an outstanding equestrian, but he is innately a teacher. His goal is to engage clients in the experience and environment. He is a guide to the natural and cultural legacy of the area, readily answering questions about local vegetation, geology, history and fauna. It is like a fun college class experienced on horseback.
Customized Tours of the Gila
Joe customizes tours based on the experience, time frame and interests of clients. He offers eco-tours, hiking adventures, expedition support and interpretive services. In a nutshell he is a great connection if you are looking for a unique experience or an epic adventure in the raw, intensely beautiful wilds of the Gila. It was like a temporary time warp to the 1800s, without the drunk miners, gamblers, brothels and shoot outs. Contemplation of the hardships of past inhabitants merely enhanced my appreciation for the awesome green chile cheeseburger at Little Toad Creek Brewery.
125 Arenas Valley Rd
Arenas Valley, NM 88022
WolfHorse Outfitters provides all packing services, drop camps and camp support services; including cooking and meals, to your zone location or preferred base camp site. Camping equipment available on request. You provide your own personal gear (hat, gloves, boots, rain slicker, clothing, sleeping bag(s), etc.). They welcome guests to bring their own tack and horse(s). Boarding is available.
- Eco Tours
- Custom Pack Trips
- Custom Horseback Riding Adventures
- Horseback Riding Lessons
- Custom Hiking Adventures
- Expedition Support
- Drop Camps
- Year ´Round horseback riding
- Outdoor Living Education
- Consultant Services
- Natural Interpretive Services
- Historical Interpretive Services
- Cultural Skills Education
- Cinematic Consultant
- Movie Location Scout