Slate is MIA – Saturday, March 22, 2008

26 03 2008

Despite everything I said in the previous post about it being a glorious weekend – and it was – I do have to report a puzzling mystery (is there any other kind?) regarding Slate, the grulla mare.

I saw Bounce and Alegre both Saturday and Sunday, and Slate still is not with them. I saw Grey, Houdini and the foals; Steeldust’s band – still with Hollywood and Jif tagging along; the Bachelor 6; Seven, still with Roja and Molly; Roach, Poco and Bones; and Kreacher. And that was all Saturday. Slate was nowhere to be found.

Sunday, I saw all the above-mentioned horses except Roach’s and Seven’s – in addition to Bruiser and family (still with Shadow) and Kreacher tagging along after the “southside boys” – Corazon, etc. Slate was nowhere to be found.

I am assuming the worst, and her loss is really painful to me because she was fairly young (about 10), she was pregnant, and I recently found out she was introduced as a young mare from the Sand Wash Basin herd in 2001 to enhance our herd’s genetics. She also was a nicely built mare, and based on photos from Barb Headley, she threw nice colts. Barb and I think Hollywood may be her son. Until or unless we find her body, we won’t know for sure, but where on Earth is she?? The last time I saw her was Dec. 29, 2007, with Bounce and Alegre.

The first horse I saw Saturday morning was Kreacher, by himself on “bachelor ridge,” which is across the low area southeast of the water catchment. Too far for photos.

Then I saw some of the Bachelor 6. They all came into view when I turned southeast at the first intersection – along with Steeldust’s band, with Hollywood still hanging out nearby. It was late enough that the light was pretty harsh, so I stayed west of them, parked up on the road, and walked out to the edge of the hill – the topography drops down from the road. They were pretty tolerant of me, especially Alpha and Luna. They knew I was there because I was on top of the hill, and my scent should have been blowing right to them. My experience during the past few years is that Alpha is just about the most protective mama I’ve ever seen, so her tolerance may wane considerably in the next month or so (she should go until early May – if she’s pregnant).

Alpha

She does seem thick in the middle, but she’s nowhere near as huge as I’ve seen her in the past. Doesn’t she have the prettiest face? In this photo, too, finally, you can see the DG brand on her hip. She got it last August before she was released – after the got the PZP-22 immunocontraceptive. Well, I say you can see the brand, but at this size, maybe it’s still a little hard to see.

Kestrel and Baylee

Look at these two cuties! About to celebrate their first birthdays, that’s Kestrel at left and Baylee at right. Baylee is definitely a filly; I think Kestrel also is a filly. Luna is Kestrel’s dam, and the bay mare is Baylee’s dam. Here I was sitting on the edge of the hill; that blur at right is vegetation, in the way as I was shooting down at them. I wish I could identify all the plants out there.

Luna

Gorgeous girl Luna. Coupla weeks for her? I found out recently that Luna was introduced in 2001 – with Slate and a dun mare. I guessed her at about 10, and if she was 2 or 3 when she was released, that would make her 8 or 9. Not bad, eh?

Piedra

Miss Piedra. I’m starting to wonder if she’s pregnant – or just eating well this spring? Like Alpha, she looks a bit thick through the middle … and that got me to wondering about where she came from. I was assuming she’s Steeldust’s daughter, but what if she’s not?

Hollywood and Jif

Hollywood, left, and Jif.

Hollywood

I just love this guy, and I love thinking he’s Slate’s son. He’s been busy this spring, defending Jif, eh?

Kestrel

Kestrel, kicking up her heels as the band went across the road east of my little hill. Spring is in the air!

Bounce, Alegre and the B6

Twenty-two thousand acres, and the ponies think they all have to hang out in the same area. In the bottom corner are Bounce, right, and Alegre, and at the top of the photo are the Bachelor 6. At far left are actually two of them. When I took this, Grey/Traveler, Houdini and the foals were just a tiny bit to the southeast (right, out of the frame), and Steeldust’s big group was back up to the northwest, just east of the first intersection.

Poco and Bones

Just past the fork in the road where you go right to Round Top or left to go up into the northeast and around to the north T intersection, going all the way around, you come pretty quickly to a shallow arroyo. It’s still wet enough that I’m still nervous about driving through it. If I get stuck, I’m pretty well, well, stuck. So I’ve been parking there and walking. A couple of weeks ago, I found Bounce and Alegre and Roach, Poco and Bones on the other side of that ridge. Saturday, Seven, Molly and Roja were south of the ridge near that water hole. The light was pretty harsh from the road looking down on them, so I kept on. I wanted to find Roach and Co. to see if, possibly, Slate was with them. She wasn’t, but they were, predictably, by what seems to be their favorite water hole. There are two, but one is already dry (mud), and the other is kinda stinky, small and shallow. In the photo above, Poco is circling Bones to keep her from leaving. Strange behavior, and I can’t quite explain it other than Roach was standing a bit closer to me and to the right as I took that photo. He’s probably the horse most unconcerned about me in the entire basin, and I don’t know if that’s just his personality or, possibly, because he might have prior experience with we two-leggeds.

Roach

He ain’t scairt. I may already have written this in a previous post, but when I first saw him, as a brazen youngster in May 2004, his forelock and mane were perfectly roached (hence, his name). Now, call me crazy, but I’ve never found a barber in the basin, if you know what I mean.

Even though Bones would stand for a few minutes, she’d then start to walk away. Poco would lay back his ears and circle her – to keep her close to Roach? It’s also my theory that Roach is a lieutenant stallion to Poco. They were together back in 2004. For some of us, that’s a rather long-term relationship!

Seven, Molly and Roja

Another handsome boy – Seven still has Molly and Roja. I was told recently that Molly was aged at older than 20 at the gather. She got the PZP, but maybe it doesn’t matter for her anymore? She came through the winter thin but otherwise looks fine. Molly looks pregnant and in good condition. The pic was taken from the road, on a ridge.

Grey’s

The sun was dropping as I headed out from the arroyo. Grey and his little family had crossed the big arroyo that runs along the east side of the road there and were heading up the hill toward the road. Thinking they might be sort of making their way toward the water hole by Flat Top, I drove past them, then stopped and waited to see if they’d come up to where I could photograph them. They grazed around then ended up disappearing behind a hill or ridge, so I called it a day.

Sometimes I just watch the horses from the Jeep/road, and sometimes I park and walk. My reasons vary, and sometimes I don’t really have a reason other than not wanting to bother them or wanting to get a closer look. I was thinking about that Saturday. By now, I have most of what I need for identification photos (although I could probably use some better photos of the southside boys), so it’s mostly a matter of good light, photogenic backgrounds, things like that, if I decide to get closer. The new foals will require photos, but we’re starting to get to critical timing, and I don’t plan to or expect to get close enough for good ID photos for at least a couple of months. I can’t wait to see them – even from afar!

Last one:

Red-tail hawk

When I was taking pix of Grey and Houdini, I put my 1.4x extender on my camera with my 100-400 mm lens. With the 1.6x magnification of my digital camera, it gives me effectively an 896 mm lens. The problem is that it makes my auto-focus lens a manual-focus lens. As a relative newcomer to photography, I still count my blessings for auto focus. I have pretty good eyes, but I haven’t had much luck trying to manual focus on wildlife. The hawk flew by while I was photographing Grey, and they must have been about the same distance away, because I just aimed and shot, and the hawk is fairly well in focus! Ha! I’m not sure it would have been as sharp if I had been trying to track it with my auto focus.

We find all kinds of treasures in the basin.


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