Again today, someone posted on social media telling someone who was planning on visiting Havasupai Falls, “Don’t rent the horses! They are mistreated!” I swear, if I see one more person on social media post about how you shouldn’t rent the horses down at Havasupai Falls I’m going to flip my lid.
I don’t know if any of those people have actually been down there or all they’re doing is passing on somebody else’s opinion. But I don’t know how anyone can personally visit there and all they come back with is how the horses are mistreated. Because in reality, if all you see is the horses that I don’t even know what kind of human being you are.
Because the fact is, in order to visit Havasupai Falls you have to walk through THIRD WORLD POVERTY conditions. Not unlike many Native American reservations in America today.
One of the initial things that I noticed is that the first building when you walk into town is a Head Start preschool school house. Head Start is a federal program designated for low-income families. The fact that the only preschool in town is designated for low income families is your first clue.
I don’t know how you can miss the derelict homes with the windows boarded up, roofs sagging, broken appliances in the front yard. People waiting in line for services at the community center for services. I didn’t see one home that looks like a decent place for human being to live. Maybe because I work with the low income population I am more aware of the signs than the average American but the poverty seemed pretty obvious.
This? This is WIC which stands for Women, Infant and Children and it is a food stamp supplement program that ensures this population gets the nutrition it needs.
At the grocery stores you pay outrageous prices for basic food items. Can you imagine how much things cost if they all have to be flown in via helicopter or packed in on horses?
This isn’t some reenactment, rendition or simulation of some quaint Native American village. You’re not at Yellowstone or Yosemite in a national park. This isn’t some resort town with employees shipped in for the season. You are not on some dude ranch in Montana. This is real life, folks. You are literally walking through an impoverished corner of the United States so that you can sit in your swimsuit next to a beautiful waterfall that you can later post on Instagram for all your friends to see. You get to go home from your vacation, your holiday, where you witnessed a village in poverty and you want to complain about the treatment of the HORSES?
Did you make eye contact with anyone? That young woman picking up your garbage on the trail as you hiked in? That older gentleman sitting in the shade out of the hot sun counting tourists as they walked by to make sure everyone pays? That teenage boy walking through the campground with his headphones, most likely making a little money to make sure you have a wristband on?
You might say, but we pay those huge registration fees!
Did you stop for one minute to think about what it would mean to live in such an isolated place? They might as well be on a deserted island. Did you see an helicopter flying overhead? No, not the one carrying well paying tourists in. The one carrying in basic food and medical supplies. Toilet paper. Did you think about what it must cost to have to have your daily needs brought in by HELICOPTER? Your $100 buys someone a week’s worth of dinner for the family, a new roof on the school, a basketball hoop. Maybe it buys a kid a new pair of shoes, school supplies or helps them go to college.
Those horses are owned by people living in poverty eeking out a living through your vacation dollars. I am by no means an expert on animal well being. And I am all for the proper treatment of animals. But I will tell you that what I saw were not mistreated horses but horses that live in the SAME conditions as the people who live there and whose owners treat them the best they can with what little they have because those horses ARE THEIR LIVELIHOOD.
I shopped in BOTH stores, paying $8 for orange juice and $15 for some cheap Havasupai lanyard because I CAN. If I had known the conditions, I might have even RENTED THE DAMN HORSES. I have never felt my privilege more then when walking through the town of Supai. I have to say I was actually embarrassed to be visiting and if I had known I might not have gone. It is one of the reasons that I really have no desire to go back there despite the beauty.
What does it say about you that you will call out the condition of those horses over the conditions that the PEOPLE are living in? I think people need to get off their high horse (pun intended) and take a closer look at the HUMAN BEINGS around them.
Editor’s note: I did have the thought that maybe this was just one extension of the Supai tribe and there must be others living outside the canyon. You know, like another reservation. With nicer conditions. Where does the money go? So I asked in town on our way out and was told that in fact the entire tribe does live in the canyon. There are not others living in better conditions. That’s it folks. But even if there were, the story is the same for those in the village. And NO, I am not telling you to ACTUALLY rent the horses (unless you really want to).