The preservation of Spanish mustangs in New Mexico
by Christie Chisholm, Weekly Alibi, January 14, 2010
Carlos LoPopolo is large in stature—and in ambition. His frame seems to dwarf the wooden bench he’s perched on at the Satellite Coffee on University. His height is hard to gauge from a sitting position, but he looms over the table, a studded black cowboy hat bobbing as he talks, which is most of the time. To his right, Paul Polechla serves as his counterpart—a man of average size and quiet disposition, wearing a white cowboy hat and yellow-and-blue checkered shirt, topped with a matching silk bandana tied around his neck. LoPopolo is a Southwest historian and the founder of the New Mexican Horse Project, an organization many New Mexicans know nothing about. Polechla is the group’s biologist as well as a biology professor at UNM.
Though the Horse Project’s mission to preserve a certain kind of horse is simple, LoPopolo and Polechla will tell you the road they’ve been down has been anything but. In the 10 years the organization has existed, LoPopolo has met criticism and fury from horse breeders and cattle ranchers, spent nearly $1 million out of his own pocket, and has even been graced with the occasional death threat. The reason he puts up with it? It’s all to protect a horse most people thought no longer existed.