Rich Reif – Vice President
Rich grew up in Chicago but moved to New Mexico to do solar physics research at Sacramento Peak Observatory, near Cloudcroft, and completed his Ph.D. in science education at UNM. He spent 19 years on the faculties of various universities across the nation, eventually retiring as associate dean from SUNY New Paltz in upstate New York, and taking residence in Placitas.
He has been a member of the Cactus and Succulent Society of New Mexico, on and off, since 1973. He is the immediate past president of CSSNM. He also serves as president of the Placitas Artists Series board, vice president of the Council of Albuquerque Garden Clubs, and vice president of Straight To The Horses Mouth, a non-profit set up to aid wild horses in Placitas.
He is also an accomplished award-winning cook and baker.
Straight To The Horse’s Mouth is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization formed by a small community group of 6 members dedicated to the long term care of these horses. The horses are now safely corralled on one of the members property. Their needs are taken care of and they are gradually becoming accustomed to interaction with people. They live safely off the road and are out of danger or threat.
Laurel Hull - Secretary
Laurel Hull is an animal lover and a resident of Placitas for over 20 years, moving here once she retired from the United States Marine Corps. During her service she was an administrator, and since her retirement has spent many years volunteering for veteran organizations. She has held several leadership positions in those organizations including serving over 3 years as President of a 501(c)(3) non-profit Foundation.
Loyce duLin - President
I have gratefully lived in Placitas for about fifty years sharing the wonderful clean and quiet environment with the wildlife, nature, and our great community. Horses have been a part of that experience for as long as I can remember, including Shortie’s horse, Blue, who ended up in my folk’s old septic tank, and was successfully coaxed out! Being involved with this herd of wild horses has been a learning experience and privilege. As a massage therapist with 35 years’ experience, I try to rub things into place in the organization in the capacity of Board President for Straight to the Horses Mouth.
Karen Cox, Treasurer
Karen is a native New Mexican and has lived in Placitas for nine years. Her careers have included government work, a wedding business, retail book sales and accounting.
She is currently the President of Jardineros de Placitas.
Passionate about her husband, Rich Reif, their six cats and reading, she is grateful to be able to be involved with Straight to the Horses Mouth. Providing a safe, healthy environment for a group of wild horses is a way of passing on her love of animals.
Straight To The Horses Mouth has a dedicated team of supporters. Two very important members, who initiated the project to care for this family band of Placitas Wild Horses, are Mike and Margaret Johnson.
I’ve watched the wild mustangs roam the BLM land and my mom’s property for the past 35 years. I’ve seen our stallion, Blaze, roaming free for 18 years. Blaze and his herd came visiting for at least 2 years prior to living on 2 fenced acres of my property.
The day my mother passed away, Blaze and his brood seemed to know. They came to our porch and just hung out. They stayed for hours sharing my sorrow, feeling our pain. This touched my heart deeply. These horses know love, and although they are wild, when kindness is shown to them, they in return will respond in kind.
I lived in Wyoming and Colorado as a young adult and did a lot of work around horses and learned how to care for them. I’ve also been a handyman all my life and love figuring out how to make things work, and building things with found materials. I have a knack for thinking things through and making them work, like how to move horses from one place to another. It’s like solving a puzzle sometimes.
The most important thing to me is the herd is now legally ours. I love working with our herd and getting to know each member of the herd and taking care of them. It is a struggle to make ends meet to care for them, but we are making it work.
Margaret B. Johnson
I’ve only had the luxury of seeing the horses since 2013. My husband, Mike, has told me about them for the last 28 years, but I always seemed to be at work when they were around.
This time I was off after a surgery, sitting on my porch when I saw, standing on the hill, a beautiful Blue Roan. He called out, dancing around with such magnificence. Then running down the road toward me was the most beautiful sight; Blaze’s brood was at my doorstep, babies and all. Mike already had water set up for them and we had sunflower seeds out for the birds, so the horses were making themselves at home. Mike had told me of a foal born less than a week before that he called Wildfire. She was born to Midnight and Blaze. The first day she saw Mike, she walked up to him and sucked his fingers. Midnight was reluctant, but she trusted Mike not to hurt her. Now I got to meet Wildfire and I’m eating Animal Crackers and she climbs up the porch, puts her little Bambi face in mine, sniffs me, sniffs my crackers, takes a couple and smiles. Now the rest of the herd wants crackers too! I was so overjoyed. I had to remember these horses are wild.
Now let me talk about my boy Blaze. When I first saw him on that hill, I fell in love. His beauty was breath-taking. When he called to his herd and they came running, it was like watching a National Geographic show. He wouldn’t come down to the herd, but would let his girls and kids eat. What a gentleman. I used to be so jealous when Mike and the neighbors showed me pictures or told me stories of the herd, but not anymore. I finally saw them for myself.
Blaze’s brood came 3-4 times a day, usually around the same time. One morning, when they came, Blaze was hiding in the bush watching his mares. I decided to meet him. I got a box of cereal, and approaching him very slowly, I stood above him on the hill, maybe 5 feet away. I let him look at me trying not to startle him as I put my hand in the box. He bucked a little and went to turn away, but I got my hand out and tossed a handful of cereal his way. He bent as it spread on the ground and sniffed it and, with the softest lips, he started vacuuming up the cereal. He looked at me like a kid. His ears were forward, his head tilted, and then his foot was scratching the ground. He was pawing for more, this wild stallion, my gentle giant, my boy. I couldn’t continue to stand on that hill due to my pain, so I moved to where I could sit back down. I asked Blaze to follow me around the trees to the stump and to my surprise, he did. This wild stallion stood beside me maybe 5 inches away. He ate the cereal. He asked for more and we got to know each other. He would not let the mares near except Wildfire. He played with her.
Mike drove up and got to see Blaze on our porch. Once Blaze and his herd left, Mike told me that no one had ever had the luxury to get that close to Blaze, let alone feed or touch him. I introduced Mike to Blaze that morning and from then on Blaze always shared his time with his family on our porch.
I am Margret Johnson. Blaze is my boy. You still can’t touch him, but now he will take treats. I can touch him on his terms sometimes. My duties are to love and gentle our herd and I work the Flea Markets to raise funds to maintain the herd.