Salt River Wild Horses in the Arizona Desert of the Tonto National Forest
6 by 9 inches Watercolor
by LindaLMartin Artist
When most Americans from the East and mid-west think of desert horses of the west, our visions have been colored by movies and romantic histories of what we think of as the quintessential desert. It always has cactus, many types of cactus and many colors in layers like sediment on wind ravaged mountains over time; however, they are living plants with greens and purples and blues in shadows that defy the truth of how hot it can be there. Yes it is romantic. Oddly it is the Salt River wild Horses of the Tonto National Forrest that live the reality have uniquely adapted to the harsh beauty of the desert and the wonders of grazing the Salt River.
Yes, I did say grazing the river. They bask in the shade of the trees along the river; however, they actually dip their heads, sometimes completely, into the Salt River and eat the river grasses under the water. They teach their young to do this from the time they are born. In coming weeks I will be painting some of this behavior as well as more of the life along this beautiful desert river.
Actually painting the Arizona Desert with all its nuances is a special challenge to me. After three years of painting high desert wild horses of Colorado, Idaho, Oregon and Wyoming with sage brush and greasewood, then the sparse dry lands of Nevada and Utah, Painting Arizona wild horses is presenting a whole new color pallet and a very different type of desert.
The Salt River Wild Horses of Arizona are not protected by the Wild Horse and Burro Act. I am told that the wild horses run not only in National Forest Land as well as Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Reservation and the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation. One advocate claims that the horses have always been living along the river even before the WH&B Act.
The one thing that the Salt River herd have that most other wild horses do not, is an amazing desert river that flows year long. And there they spend much of their time raising their young, interacting with visitors to the Tonto National Forest. and have developed some very unique skills involving water that are usually only seen in the East Coast Herds among the ponies who frequent the marshlands. One description of this Forrest land is that it is the largest Urban Forrest in Arizona.
A special thank you to Dave Saunders one of the Arizona Photographers for many of the paintings, including this one. Thanks Dave! If you would like to interact with more of the photographers who are active in documenting this herd please consider joining the facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/100496980142662/