On February 24, 2021, I wrote an article about the United States Border Patrol’s use of horses. I was prompted to write the article after I came across a provision in the United States Code providing for appropriations for horses for officers of the United States immigration services. On September 4, 2021, the New York Post published its own article on the subject of Border Patrol horses – Border Patrol using wild mustangs to patrol border with Mexico. This content, by Ms. Isabel Vincent, explains how the Border Patrol makes use of wild mustangs to help secure the border.

CBP, Border Patrol agents from the McAllen station horse patrol unit on patrol on horseback in South Texas (2013).
CBP, Border Patrol agents from the McAllen station horse patrol unit on patrol on horseback in South Texas (2013). Photographer: Donna Burton. Public Domain. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Has the New York Post been following The New Leaf Journal? I ask only in jest. Since I have already covered the subject of border patrol horses here at The New Leaf Journal, I figured that it would be altogether fitting and proper to summarize some of the highlights from Ms. Vincent’s interesting report.

How Many Horses are Patrolling the Border?

The article states that as of September 4, 2021, there are 334 Border Patrol horses deployed on the United States’ border with Mexico.

In my first article on Border Patrol horses, I cited to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection press release that noted that the Border Patrol has been using horses since the 1920s. Ms. Vincent was more specific, stating that horses have been in use by U.S. immigration enforcement authorities since 1924.

While much of the discussion of immigration enforcement on the border focuses on technology, the Border Patrol has increased its reliance on horses in recent decades. Ms. Vincent wrote: “[Horses] returned to the force in greater numbers in 1986 when agents realized that they could access the most difficult-to-reach crevices and canyons on horseback.”

Where do the Border Patrol Horses Come From?

The Border Patrol horses are captured from the wild and trained by prison inmates.

Ms. Vincent explained that the Bureau of Land Management captures about 10,000 horses and burros each year as part of its efforts to control grazing and water usage. Bureau of Land Management sponsors a program to send some of the wild mustangs it captures to prisons in the Southwest. There, the horses are trained by inmates until they are amenable to bonding with a Border Patrol agent (see additional story). A former Border Patrol agent, Ms. Valeria Morales, stated that training agents for the Horse Patrol is among the “toughest training in the Border Patrol.”

While most of the horses used by the Border Patrol appear to be from the wild, Ms. Vincent noted that some come from a different source: “Other horses are adopted after they have been seized by agents in drug busts.” Unsurprisingly, some drug traffickers operating from Mexico use horses in their illicit activities. I suppose making a drug bust and adding a horse to the Border Patrol fleet would mark a good day at the border office.

The Star of the Article

The article began with a description of one of the 334 Border Patrol horses currently in service. Whiskey, an eight-year- old horse, works with his unnamed Border Patrol rider to patrol one of the busiest areas of the Southwest Border in New Mexico. In the early morning hours of September 1, 2021, Whiskey and his rider “helped round up some 30 migrants who had tried to hide in the scrub in the border badlands before dawn on Wednesday.”

Whiskey’s handler has been working with his horse for six months, and he is grateful to his partner for making it much easier to move through inhospitable terrain. Whiskey’s handler said this of the horse:

’He has good days and bad days, but he can sense things, and sometimes he wants to test me.

I will venture that September 1 was a relatively good day for the pair.

Equine Conclusion

The Border Patrol’s increasing reliance on horses shows that for all the technology that is available to the Border Patrol, sometimes a trusty steed does just as well.

As I write this article, we are seeing record numbers of apprehensions and get-aways at the Southwest Border. If that was not already troubling enough, the copious amounts of fentanyl and other illicit substances crossing the border tear apart American communities every day. Add in the concerns about terrorists and others who wish to do America harm using the chaos at the border to sneak into this country undetected, and it becomes clear that the beleaguered agents of the Border Patrol are doing very important work. So too are their horses. I was happy to give the Horse Patrol is much-deserved due in February, and I am glad to see their efforts recognized in one of the most-circulated newspapers in the United States in September.