April flowers

6 04 2008

The first sign of spring has come to the basin in the form of these tiny flowers, a kind of phlox, I think. It’s not quite green yet, but these flowers are a hopeful sign of a fresh season. Babies can’t be far behind.

There aren’t any new foals yet, but it’s only a matter of weeks now. The first horses I saw were those in Steeldust’s band, just on the north side of the hill called Flat Top. Driving on the little road toward that hill, I thought I saw Grey/Traveler or Houdini and the foals – just their backs over a hill. But just before I parked to walk toward Steeldust’s band, I got a bad scare: Grey – definitely – and alone. But not to fear; before I could freak out too much, there popped up Two Boots … then Houdini … then Twister. Whew!

The mystery horses turned out to be Seven, Molly and Roja. That’s not the first time I’ve made that mistake from afar and looking at just their backs.

But then I worried again because Grey was moving his family right toward Steeldust’s. I followed the road around until I was actually on the side of Flat Top, where I could watch without interfering – although goodness knows I wanted to run out there between them!

Grey watching Steeldust\'s band

That’s Houdini in the foreground, watching me as I walked the road, and Grey/Traveler watching the other horses. At left (in front of Grey) from front to back are Baylee, one of the rose grey stallions and Steeldust; in the center are Alpha and Piedra; the dun in the back is Hollywood, still tagging along with Steeldust but now causing some stress; and the bay mare, Baylee’s dam and, I believe, that rose-grey stud’s dam.

Grey, Two Boots and Twister

Houdini wanted no part of the gathering and stood apart the whole time, but the foals were curious, and they crowded behind Grey as he watched the other horses. Here, he had turned around with this sweet expression. A moment later, he was striking at them, and immediately after they backed off, he rubbed his face on Two Boots’ side as if to apologize.

Steeldust was much more interested in what Hollywood was doing than he was in Grey’s open challenge. I had observed Hollywood with Steeldust as a mutually beneficial arrangement, but the two seem to be harrying each other now – another sign of the season, I suppose.

Grey challenges

Grey finally had enough of waiting, I guess, and he lunged right into the group of horses in Steeldust’s band. Calmly watching in the background is Alpha, who until sometime last spring was Grey’s favorite mare. (She was gathered with a different stallion and was one of the lucky ones released.)

That broke the spell, and the bands split. Two Boots made a rebellious dash toward the other band, but Grey chased after her and turned her back. Based on about how old I think Two Boots was last spring when I first saw her, I think Houdini is two weeks or less away from foaling.

The Bachelor 6 are 7 again; Kreacher has joined them. I saw them to the west as I approached the first intersection. The last time I saw Kreacher, he was south of Round Top with, at least, Corazon, who has been with Cinch, David, the muley bay, Ty and Mesa. Dunno how he ended up in the north with the B7, but I’m glad he has company.

Seven, Molly and Roja

It was deja vu with this merry band again. They were just west of the south loop road (which angles toward the southeast), and this was as close as I got to them before they trotted down the road toward Round Top. Roja was in the lead, looking pretty sprightly for a mare I thought was pregnant. I happened to see her later from straight on … She doesn’t look very pregnant. It wouldn’t be the only pregnancy-related surprise of the day.

I spotted Roach, Poco and Bones northeast of that road, on the other side of the ridge that it follows before it swings north. They were grazing in the company of some mule deer. I hadn’t seen Bounce yet, and I admit that I still hope to find Slate, so I parked by the second arroyo after the split to Round Top and walked up the road. I saw Roach and Co. from the east again, but I never saw Bounce and Alegre – until I drove back toward the dugout intersection. They were northeast of the road just on the east side of the arroyo – Spring Creek, I think that is? I missed them on my drive out. Bounce has been hanging out in that area for quite awhile now, and I’ve wondered, if Slate is dead, if she died somewhere around there. So I parked and walked out.

Bounce and Alegre

They saw me from the moment I saw them, from the Jeep from the road. And I walked out across the hill and down to a bench of land just above the west side of the arroyo in plain view. I kept expecting them to walk away, so I took my time looking for anything that might have been Slate. I took the pictures of the phlox during that little walk. But Bounce just stood where he was. Except for turning once when he saw something behind him (not Alegre), then turning back to face me, he never moved except to eventually cock a hip and settle into trying to ignore me.

Maybe the arroyo, which is wide but shallow there, was enough of a barrier that he thought he was quite safe. I didn’t betray his confidence; I stayed on my side. I did move back and forth to get a composition with Alegre in the background, then I walked back up the hill.

Where on Earth is Slate? I wish I knew. I want her to show up with a phantom stallion, one I haven’t yet documented. Walking, I went far into the northeast, but I didn’t see signs that couldn’t have been made by Bounce and Alegre or Roach, Bones and Poco. The longer it goes without seeing Slate, the more sure I am that something happened.

On my way out, I came over a little rise and ta-da, there was Steeldust’s band again. I parked and got out, stood at the back of the Jeep and hit the shutter button. They were moving in the direction I had just come from, grazing as they went. They were so close! And totally ignored me. They crossed the road behind me, and I thought I was the cause of them moving, so I almost left. Then I realized, even more than earlier, that it was the stallions, Steeldust and Hollywood. Hollywood was chasing Jif, and Steeldust was chasing Hollywood. After they crossed the road, they came back toward me, making sort of a U around me. The stallions chased and danced, and always Jif seemed to be in the middle of things. I stood right by the Jeep and just tried to find nice compositions through the lens.

Steeldust, Hollywood and Jif

Steeldust trying to stay between his band and Hollywood with little Jif right by Hollywood. Notice the scars on both stallions. They’ve been playing hard.

Piedra

I think our little Piedra is going to be a mama! She doesn’t look very pregnant, does she? But look at that udder.

Luna

This is one of my favorite photos of the day, taken during that last encounter. That’s Luna in the lead, with Kestrel beside her followed by one of the rose-grey studs. The bay mare is on the other side of Luna.

I wanted to add a little bit about the rose-grey studs. Based on conformation and behavior, I think the rose-grey stud in this photo is the bay mare’s 2-year-old colt. I’ve started to think the other rose-grey is Luna’s 2-year-old colt. Now, I could be totally wrong, of course; I will admit that it’s weird that a bay mare and a buckskin mare both threw rose-grey colts (they may have been born sorrel) in the same year. And last year, they threw fillies the same color as themselves. The rose-grey in this photo – with the darker shading around his muzzle and the coarser head – looks a lot like the bay mare, and I’ve seen them frequently grazing together. The other colt is a bit more independent, but when I saw him grazing that day with Luna, their similarities struck me. That colt has a bit more refinement (I thought he was a mare at first!) and nicer conformation.

It has been busy these past weeks, and going out to the basin has become my refuge. Wild horses, outside, are indeed very good for the inside of this woman.


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6 responses

6 04 2008
Billie

I have to agree with you about being outside and around wild horses, it is a great outlet. I found a quote that sums it up… “I go to nature to be soothed and healed and to have my senses put in order” -John Burroughs. It is my favorite quote and expresses how I feel very well.
We have 2 foals so far that we have found. I will put them on my blog soon. The Indian Paintbrush is blooming now too, so I guess Sping is on the way finally. Glad that you you got out to the range, I am headed to ours again today.
Billie

6 04 2008
TJ

Wow – foals! I can’t wait to see your photos! And Indian paintbrush, too! It sounds like you guys are a couple of weeks ahead of us in the progression of the season. Those little bitty phlox flowers are the only ones blooming right now in the basin. There is some actual grass in places, but I’m still waiting for the “green-up”! I am very eager to see our foals – and find out who foals! Some of the mares that looked big in the fall do not look pregnant now. But Piedra … Looking at her slim belly, I wouldn’t have thought she was pregnant except for seeing her full udder. I think this must be her first.
I love that quote – I think I’ve seen it before. It does sum it all up!
Good luck on your outing today!
TJ

6 04 2008
Lea Williams

Good for the inside of this woman too.

8 04 2008
TJ

I have to say I never realized the hold the horses would have on me until I truly got to know them and their environment. It’s hard to believe how attached to them I am, when I can’t even touch them! I guess it’s enough that they “touch” me.
TJ

10 04 2008
PonyGirl

I just discovered your blog. Love your photos! I may never be in a situation to own a Mustang. But when I have my ranch someday, it is a dream of mine to adopt one…. Can’t wait to read more.

10 04 2008
TJ

Hi, PonyGirl!
I hope that when you have your ranch, you’re able to adopt a mustang. I grew up mostly with Quarter Horses, but my current circumstances render me horseless. I hope to be able to adopt a mustang, too, someday!
TJ

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