Some of Minnesota's newest immigrants come from ancestry that can be traced back nearly 500 years to some of North America's earliest Spanish explorers.
Seven stallions, to be precise, who (along with a filly and a mare) arrived at a Hastings-area sanctuary for old and unwanted horses last week.
Called "This Old Horse," it's sort of an equine retirement home. You can go there and see the new stallions at an open house Saturday but they won't see you. They're blind.
They're originally from Gila Bend, Arizona, where a herd of wild mustangs had been living since their ancestors escaped from – or were released by – Spanish conquerors who brought horses to the area in the 1500s.
But in the 1990s when the Bureau of Land Management wanted the wild horses removed, most were shipped to a sanctuary in South Dakota. That ranch now has more horses than it can care for, so This Old Horse said last week it would be taking in some of those from the Gila herd.
This Old Horse said in a Facebook post they've been getting the "Why?" question a lot. People asking things like: "Out of all the horses who need help, why put resources and energy into these horses? Why not take in young, healthy horses that have a productive life ahead of them?"
Short answer: it's what they do.
This Old Horse says on its homepage that many of its animals worked hard for a living during their younger days but are no longer able to do so. "We give these veterans a safe harbor for life where they may age in place, loved, honored and respected to the end," they say.
In the case of the seven blind stallions, the group says those horses had no shot at being adopted through the normal channels and most likely "...they would go from life to death unheralded, unmourned. And frankly, who cares? We do."
A spokeswoman for This Old Horse tells the Pioneer Press they don't know what caused the blindness of the stallions.
The Star Tribune says the group was already caring for a couple of blind horses and uses plastic fencing that doesn't hurt horses who bump into it.
Monica Carlson also tells the Star Tribune the wild horses have a distinctive look – smaller and shaggier than quarter horses with "more of a Roman face."
This Old Horse boards its animals at Wishbone Ranch, which is near Hastings. Saturday's open house is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.