This story is published in the June/July issue of PKA's Advocate
The love generation of the 1960’s is well and living in Esperanza, located on the sunny, palm tree shaded beaches and crystal clear water of the Caribbean island of Vieques, Puerto Rico.
Vieques is only about twenty-one miles long by five miles wide. For over fifty years, the US Navy used about two-thirds of the island for war games and bombing practice until 1999 when a misplaced bomb killed a Puerto Rican civilian and set into motion a protest that forced the Navy to withdraw in 2003.
Today, about 70% of the island’s total area is a US Fish & Wildlife Refuge, resulting in the bulk of the island remaining virtually virgin territory that can be explored by all. The island has no golf courses, gambling casinos, or Las Vegas style glitz.
What it does have are more wild horses than cars.
There are two towns on Vieques about five miles apart. Isabel Segunda, the larger of the two, is where the ferry from the main island docks. The passage costs $4 each way. From Isabel Segunda a very good road takes you across the island to the best beaches, which is also where most of the horses roam.
My reasons for coming here were the sun and the sea. Then I found out about wild Paso Fino horses. I did not know until later about the loved dogs, cats, bulls, squawking chickens, and crowing roosters everywhere, nor about the Latino music, Latinos and gringos, “spring breakers,” and tourists from all over the world.
Nobody complains about anyone or anything. People all hug and kiss a cheek or two whenever they meet. And nobody seems to notice the mess all these animals and some uncaring people leave behind. Smiles are everywhere, along with twelve magnificent beaches– everyone has a favorite.
One woman, Penny Miller, is a legend on this island, the epitome of love. Mention her name to anyone who lives here or cares about this island and they claim Penny as one of their best friends. After meeting her, I know why. She saves animals.
Penny’s mother started the Humane Society on this island over fifty years ago, and Penny took over twenty-eight years ago. She has placed innumerable cats and dogs in good homes, and now she is trying to control the thousand-plus horses of Paso Fino descent that roam freely and reproduce continuously.
The horses get into everything and go everywhere, doing damage, turning over garbage cans, eating plastic bags to get at the bread or other edibles left in them, eating expensive landscape plantings, and getting hit by cars. With all the regulations on drugs, if the car-horse collision becomes a police matter, an injured horse may lay alongside the road for days before Penny is allowed to euthanize it humanely to end its pain and misery.
Years ago, the horses were the main form of transportation. Now with the many cars, they are beginning to become a major problem.
Penny explained the “wild principle.” The horses on Sun Bay Beach are part wild. Some you can touch, but some you cannot get close to. Those are wild or “semi-wild.” The horses roaming the central restricted parts of the island you cannot get near. They are wild. The ones roaming the streets of Esperanza and Isabel Segunda are only wild if they get into trouble. If they stay out of trouble, then somebody owns them.
My wife and I were staying at the Esperanza Inn. Each morning, a smoky colored mare and her foal, a colt, came to drink from the foot bath outside the Inn. She and the colt would drink their fill and move on. They were in great shape, with trimmed feet and no ticks, but completely free.
For two or three mornings, I would pet and feed her and her colt with Cheerios, corn flakes, or bread. Then, having brought a bridle and reins with me, I slipped the bridle over her head. She stood for it. I mounted and rode away.
Within a hundred feet or so, a young man stopped me. He asked me how I got the horse. I told him and asked, “Is she yours? Do you want me to get off? Do you want money?”
“No,” he said. “Just let her go free when you are done.”
I said, “Okay. Gracias,” and rode off into the sun along the beach.
When I was done, I slipped off the bridle and let her and her colt go free. Wild horses– as long as they were not in trouble.
It is a beautiful thing to see and to be among them, but there is trouble brewing every day.
Penny agrees that something must be done to save one of the last places on earth where Paso Finos roam free. They are the descendants of horses from the days of Columbus and Ponce de Leon, the first horses to come to this hemisphere since the Ice Age when their ancestors crossed the Bering Sea land bridge into Asia. Like a museum of artifacts or an historical house, the Paso Finos are a great part of history and must be helped before it is too late.
Penny is doing more than her share, but needs all the help she can get. Ideas, donations of money, publicity, and volunteers are all needed, as well as the educating of Puerto Ricans and tourists.
Penny can be contacted at:
Penny Miller’s Humane Society of Vieques, P.R.
c/o Seagate Hotel, Isabel Segunda, Vieques Island, P.R. 00765
Or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Better yet, stay at the Seagate Hotel with Penny and enjoy her home, ride her rescued Paso Finos and appreciate their smooth gait, as well as all that the sunny Caribbean island has to offer, including good food, good people, and great beaches.
This story is ©2014 PKA's Advocate/PKA Publication.
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