A man on horseback in the mountains above Santa Fe threatened to shoot Panama Pete, a rescue dog and canine model, who was hiking the Winsor Trail last Thursday with his owner and her friend.

While hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians are mostly respectful of one another on the popular multiuse trails around Santa Fe, some unpleasant encounters do occur — and this was one of them. The incident was reported to U.S. Forest Service officials, who have turned the case over to New Mexico State Police.

Lorna Dyer, Pete’s owner, said she and Kay Fitzgerald were about halfway back up to the ridge from the meadow known as La Vega when they came around a curve on Winsor Trail and saw two cows and two calves crossing the trail. The animals were followed by a man on horseback. Pete, who was off-leash, began barking and running toward them. The rider, who was armed, started yelling at the dog and at the women.

Dyer called to her dog. “Pete came right away, and she put him on the leash,” Fitzgerald said.

But the rider continued swearing at the women, repeatedly calling them vulgar names. Dyer said the rider, who had a holster on his right hip, put his hand on his gun and said, “If your dog comes at my cattle, I’ll kill him.”

“He was actually very scary,” Fitzgerald said.

All of those involved were legally using the trails, including Panama Pete. In the national forest, dogs must be on a leash or under voice command. At the same time, equestrians, especially those moving cows, are justifiably concerned about meeting loose dogs on the trail. The dogs can spook both horses and cows, causing a stampede. But the women insist Pete responded quickly to Dyer’s commands.

Pete is a 9-year-old, 90-pound greyhound/pit bull mix and also something of a supermodel, according to Dyer’s husband, Jerry Watts. Pete’s the dog with the white head and black patch over his right eye seen relaxing on a black leather recliner in a recent newspaper advertisement for Leishman’s furniture store. He’s not aggressive, Dyer said, and is known as a “splitter,” a dog who splits up fights. “He’s kind of the love of our life,” she said.

A tricky issue

Dyer said there were lots of dogs and hikers on the trail at around 1 p.m. Thursday when she encountered the man on horseback. When she confronted him over his tirade, she said, “He didn’t like my saying this is a multiple-use trail. This is not just for cows.”

The man was quite agitated, she said, and she was afraid that if he took a shot at her dog, he might also hit her. “This is a multiple-use mountain, and you can’t threaten people with guns, especially if I’m obeying the law,” Dyer said. She is asking that the still-unidentified rider be reprimanded.

As the rider continued to yell, she got more nervous, Fitzgerald said. “All the way down [to the parking lot] I was looking behind us,” she said.

“We were kind of a wreck,” she said. “I don’t think we should be scared stiff every time we go hiking.”

On their way down the ski area road, the women stopped at Hyde Memorial State Park to report the incident to a ranger, who also referred her to a district law enforcement official.

U.S. Forest Service spokesman Laurence Lujan confirmed that Dyer had reported the encounter. “We are looking into it,” he said. The case has since been turned over to New Mexico State Police.

In such encounters, he noted, “animals are spooked and startled, and they react and the owners react.”

Ray Contreras, a permit-holder who runs cattle in the Santa Fe National Forest, said he hasn’t had any confrontations with hikers or bikers this year. But when he does encounter trail users with loose dogs, “We talk to people. … If [dogs] attack a calf, we’re going to shoot,” he said.

A Santa Fe man who didn’t want to be named said people in his family have ridden the trails east of Santa Fe for eight generations. He said he frequently meets up with unleashed dogs, and “sometimes they are a little aggressive with me and my horse.” His strategy, he said, is, “I try to keep on going. I hate to get into a confrontation [because] people are real [law]suit happy. I try to keep my temper.”

But, he said, “Sometimes they’ll smell a horse from a ways and come out running,” and on occasion, “I’ll chase the dog back. You can only take so much. I’d hate for my horse to get bitten.”

A few years ago, forester ranch management consultant Henry Carey and his wife were thrown off their horses during a run-in with dogs on the lower Winsor Trail. Carey was bitten by one of the dogs, and his wife was knocked unconscious.

Carey, who doesn’t ride any more, said in heavy recreation areas in the Pecos Wilderness, the grazing has been curtailed, but, he said, “I expect to see cows in the wilderness.”

When horses and dogs meet up, he said, “It’s a tricky issue.”

In fact, the first section of the Winsor Trail from the ski area parking lot to the gate at the top of the ridge is so heavily used that he thinks it might be a good idea to require dogs to be leashed.

Spokesman Lujan said the Santa Fe National Forest is aware of user conflicts on multiuse trails such as the Winsor Trail, and “we continue to gather information. We want to hear about the problems so we can explore options.”

Meanwhile, he said, users should be considerate of others, make their presence known, comply with posted signs — and if they’re wearing headphones, be aware that it’s difficult to hear what is going on around them.

Contact Anne Constable at 986-3022 or aconstable@sfnewmexican.com.

(21) comments

Tom Ribe

The whole Santa Fe and Tesuque watersheds should become a national recreation area without cattle since this area supports recreation for thousands of people every year. The ranchers put traps out there that can kill dogs and maim people. Their cattle defecate in the streams and on the trails. The cattle ruin the vegetation and ultimately worsen fire danger. It's time to focus on recreation and fire management in the Santa Fe mountains and get away from the 19th century cattle drives.

Alfred Padilla

So sayeth the white man!

Tom Ribe

This is why we need to get cattle off public lands. Let the angry rancher have his cows on his own land. Forest Service lands are far too valuable for subsidized grazing and the cattle are doing huge damage to the forests. It's time to end this antiquated welfare system for ranchers and remove cattle, especially from our wilderness areas.

Carolyn DM

Twyla Phalyn's mention of other commentors, "holier than thou attitude", is amusing at best. The irony doesn't really need to be pointed out.

Philip Taccetta

Anthony Martinez - I'd like you to tell me how an unleashed dog could possibly " destroy the ecosystem"? And other than an occasional rabbit - what wildlife gets close enough for people to observe the dogs "harass wild animals'? If you're going to post, try not to make things up.

Khal Spencer

Seems to me a little bit of civility could have de-fused this pseudo-crisis rather than spinning it up into a potential criminal act. How about resorting to threats of force and anger last rather than first? Last thing we need is an argument turning into a shooting because one or more of us can't control either our temper or our trigger finger.

Jack Burrton

Easy for all of you people to say when you arent the ones on a horse being threatened or having your livestock harassed by some mutt off a leash. I own several dogs and I know better than to take them anywhere off a leash, my family also owns livestock and the law says you can shoot a dog with no questions asked if it is threatening your livestock...

Jennifer Bizzarro

New Mexico--True![sad]

mark mocha

Sheesh, can't we all just get along? Apparently not. Here we go again with the "who owns the forest" argument. For the poster with the asinine comment about getting the cows out of the forest they were there way before you meaning before there were hiking trails for people who don't do physical labor (ew, so blue collar) and need to walk for exercise. Ranchers have been getting grazing permits ever since there was a state or national park. For you non vegans (still don't get that. We are meat eaters after all) this is where your burgers come from. Yeah, from a cow. They could probably be a bit more polite but that calf you saw is worth quite a bit and when dogs charge and scare them they have been known to run right off a cliff.
Next, for the gal that wants to walk her dog off the leash because her dog is so well trained and if you infringe on her constitutional right to do so (69th amendment) she will sue the pants off of you. First, is literacy one of the posted rules? Obviously you think rudeness and insults are. Newsflash. 99.9% of dogs at any given time when confronted with a larger animal of a different species will either ignore voice commands or react much slower than usual. Don't believe me? ask any animal trainer. Now consider that you are not constantly watching your dog. You are on your I-phone texting, checking the hot hiker as he/she runs by or tying your shoe. In that split second your superiorly trained dog has just enough time to charge that horse, cow or calf and cause all kinds of mayhem and then it'll be you having your pants sued right off of you so your only legal remedy will be to hire a good lawyer.
Why is it so hard to understand. In tight spaces like a trail it is best to keep your overrated pets leashed, Do that and perhaps that rancher that you stare down your nose at will be a bit more friendly to the gringos that have invaded HIS native lands.

Pierce Knolls


Susan Burke

Please people - dogs need to be kept on leashes, PERIOD. This is for their safety & the safety of others. I use the trails for hiking & biking & have experienced dogs charging up to me with teeth bared only to be told "don't worry, they're friendly."

Pierce Knolls

“'Pete came right away, and she put him on the leash,' Fitzgerald said." - Yeah, right. When walking my leashed dog I regularly encounter unleashed dogs and their humans. The owners always claim that their dog was under their control the whole time, even though it took five minutes of calling and whistling before their dog obeyed.

“'He was actually very scary,' Fitzgerald said." - I bet it's very scary being on top of a horse when a ninety pound pit-bull mix charges at you and the cattle that are your livelihood.

Comment deleted.
Pierce Knolls

"A well trained dog will come on first command..."

Sure, a well trained dog will come on first command, but in my experience most of the coddled canines in Santa Fe aren't well trained enough to do so, regardless of how much their owners deny it.

"...I would not let my dog off leash if he did not."

Then you're an exception among the dog owners I encounter on Santa Fe's trails.

"Yeah it is freaky when some hick with a gun tells you they will shoot your animal."

As far as I know, in New Mexico it is perfectly legal to shoot a dog that is attacking one's cattle, no warning required. My dog means a great deal to me, so for her safety I won't let her chase after cattle.

Carolyn DM

Every time there is an article about a dog getting lost or in trouble in the mountains, it's because it was unleashed. Get a freakin' clue, people. The guy shouldn't have threatened to shoot your dog but at the same time, you never know what you dog is going to come upon to that may make it act agressively, or indifferently, or worst of all, scare it and make it run off never to be seen again.

T'laryth Phalyn

It's so sad that literacy doesn't seem to be the strong suit of so many folks here. Please read the law and understand it before you call dog owners like myself insulting names or blame us for incidents on the trail. This holier-than-thou attitude is what causes problems for everyone on the trail. Understand the laws, rules, and regulations of the paths and trails you hike or stay at home and leave the trails to those of us who truly know the laws.

"In the national forest, dogs must be on a leash or under voice command."

Did you folks miss that part? Voice command. The owner speaks, the dog listens. Many of us who hike with our dogs off-leash do so with voice command and our dogs listen. You'd be hard-pressed to find human children than listen so well. Pete listened and returned once called. Ms. Dyer violated NO law. Those of us with dogs trained well enough to be under voice command break no law when hiking in areas that permit as much.

Remember, respect goes both ways. I will happily clear the path for a horse, as will my dogs. However if anyone threaten my dogs I will go after them in every legal way possible. Ms. Dyer has my complete support.


“He didn’t like my saying this is a multiple-use trail. This is not just for cows.” Maybe she should have said I'm sorry my dog attacked your cows, and he would have had a different reaction. I have been in that situation before, and it angers you when people are rude to you after their dogs attack you or your livestock.

Anthony Martinez

I am an avid hiker, hunter, and fisherman. All too often I have observed people with unleashed dogs in the forest. I have seen these dogs harass wild animals, stalk cattle, chase horses, and destroy the ecosystem. The taxpayers spend thousands of dollars to maintain dog parks. THE FOREST IS NOT A DOG PARK. It's about time people have respect for the forest. The need to keep their dogs leashed. It is illegal in this state to harass, harry, drive, rally or pursue wild animals and cattle. Maybe the police should charge Ms. Dyer for violating the law??????

Comment deleted.
Pierce Knolls

Of course, that cowboy has paid to graze his cattle up there, which is more than can be said for the oblivious recreational hikers and their barely controlled dogs.

Alfred Padilla

Put your dog on a leash like you are supposed to and this stuff will not happen, gees what a bunch of simpletons. I do not blame him one bit if any of his cattle would have been spooked by this dog would these people be the ones to go and find it? I doubt it one bit this man would have had and could have had a mess on his hands because a bunch of privileged individuals believe they have special rights. Follow the rules or stay home!

Philip Taccetta

"On leash or under voice command". She was obeying the law. Her dog came right back. The rude and obnoxious "cowboy" used language and gestures that obviously scared Lorna Dyer and Kay Fitzgerald. He may have been technically right, but his language and threats are unacceptable. If he is incapable of interacting with hikers on this multi use trail in a respectful way, (especially since he was talking to women) perhaps he should loose his grazing rights for this area!

christopher quintana

the wild west

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