Surprises! – Sunday, April 27, 2008

27 04 2008

The wild ponies have been up to something out there in the wild basin, and I’m thrilled! Maybe it’s the season (yes), maybe there’s something in the water (?!), but the surprises are good ones. I’ll give one away before I get to the photos: There’s a new foal, but it’s not Houdini’s!

Grey and Jif

Who’s da man?! That’s right – Grey/Traveler! Sometime between last weekend and this weekend, he managed to steal the young dun mare, Jif, out from under the noses of Steeldust AND Hollywood!

When I first saw them, it was from a distance, and I was confused by the number of horses because none of them were small enough to be a foal. I found them by the arroyo on the northeast side of the south loop road. I have to confess that after I realized the identity of the fifth horse, I dropped out of their sight and did a crazy little happy dance (so I wouldn’t freak them out!). So much for my early prediction that with all the young bachelors in the basin Grey might never have a family again! The old man’s still got it! Woo hoo!!

Jif, Houdini, Twister and Two Boots

This photo was taken right after the first one; after Jif walked past Grey, she walked in front of Houdini, Twister and Two Boots. Houdini seems to tolerate her, but there’s no question about her “alpha mare” status in this band.

Good news for Grey … not so much for Hollywood, eh? Here’s the question burning a hole in my mind: How on Earth did Grey steal Jif away not only from Hollywood but Steeldust, too??

Surprise No. 2: Guess who had her foal?

Alegre and sorrel filly

Points to you if you recognize Alegre, Bounce’s young mare!

Bounce, Alegre and filly

That’s the family, with Bounce at left. I wish I knew if Bounce is the filly’s (I think it’s a filly) sire. From photos and video of the horses before the gather, I know Bounce and Slate (the missing grulla mare) were together pre-gather, but Alegre isn’t visible.

Alegre and filly

Look at that big blaze on baby! I’m going to guesstimate her birthday at April 22, which was Earth Day, and so I named her Gaia. I might have to reconsider that if I learn that she is, in fact, a he! She may also turn grey eventually.

These photos were taken Saturday morning. Grey and his band were nearby, and I walked out very slowly like I was going toward them and, again, in full sight. I think Alegre is young (about 4?), and I think this is her first foal. She is rightfully very protective, and all the photos of her above are heavily cropped. I didn’t want her to get worried enough to take off running, so I took bursts of photos in a pretty short period as she moved around, then walked back to the Jeep. An interesting sidenote is that I like to think Alegre is a daughter of Alpha and Grey (because she looks so much like a known daughter of theirs that I saw a few years ago), so this filly would be Grey’s grandbaby. 🙂

Spring is more and more evident in the basin. The north hills, especially, are green, and more and more wildflowers are popping up. The wind is still pretty relentless, and the temperature is still getting down to freezing at night. We need moisture to keep the growing trend going strong! It’s so amazing to watch the progression of green, especially when I remember how much snow fell this winter. The horses all look good – even Molly looks like she’s gaining back some weight she lost over the winter. Some of the horses are starting to look shiny and sleek (Piedra comes to mind), but some are still pretty shaggy (little Twister must have hair 2 inches long!).

Another little surprise is where I found Steeldust’s band – up in the northwest! With Duke tagging along! The Bachelor 7 have been wide-ranging this spring – and so have the other bachelors – and they’re all split up these days. I’ll get to them later. Steeldust has his hooves full now: Hollywood doesn’t have his own mare to protect, and Duke clearly has one thing on his mind.

Duke with Steeldust\'s band

That’s Duke in the foreground. Steeldust is behind him, with his head down. Don’t miss the mule deer behind Steeldust’s hip!

Steeldust licks Piedra

I was up on a hillside away from Steeldust’s band when I caught this little moment. Piedra was distracted when Steeldust started licking her shoulder. She apparently is not ready for even such a subtle advance because she walked away.

I stayed on the hillside, in full view, so the horses wouldn’t feel like I was too close to them. I probably wouldn’t have gone above them like that if it was a cliff, but although they watched me, they didn’t seem worried about me, even when I sat down to watch them for a few minutes.

Luna with her babies

Luna and her babies. I decided this weekend to call the filly “Ember.” She’s a darker red, and she may go grey, but even then – embers to ashes – the name will still kinda fit. Luna’s yearling filly, Kestrel, is at right.

Nap time

Little Ember was a sleepy girl. She’d stand by Luna’s hip … then Luna would get a few steps away from her as she grazed, and Ember would open her eyes and hurry to her side again. Finally they got out to this little open area with no prickly bushes or cactus, and baby promptly laid down.

Duke

Meanwhile, Duke was hanging out at the base of my hill. While I was taking pictures of Ember lying down, I heard this whinney and looked over to see Duke. Steeldust galloped over, and I wondered how excited they were going to get.

Duke and Steeldust

Yep. That’s it. That’s about as excited as they got. See Duke’s cocked hind leg? I was just waiting for him to let loose into Steeldust’s chest, but he never did. Check out how long-bodied Duke is. His conformation is definitely an exception among the horses out there; they’re all pretty compact.

Steeldust

Uh oh! Who’s watching the band?!

Steeldust and Hollywood

Can’t turn your back on that youngster for a minute! While Steeldust was checking out Duke, young Mr. Hollywood must have been making advances. So Steeldust galloped back to his girls to scold Hollywood.  After all, they both just lost a mare (Jif) to another stallion! (I’d LOVE to know how Grey managed that!)

Nap time

And then, minutes later, Hollywood stood guard while Steeldust took a nap with Luna, Ember and Butch.

Ty, Corazon and Mesa

From left, Ty, Corazon and Mesa.

I saw all the bachelors this weekend – but not all together. These boys were right by the dugout intersection! They’re really roaming from their traditional territory in the east and south. I saw them throughout the weekend, and I saw Cinch, David and the muley bay once each day from a distance. Last weekend, we saw all of them – together – from horseback just east-southeast of Round Top.

The Bachelor 7 are fragmented, too. Duke, of course, is with Steeldust’s band right now. Chrome and Comanche are back together and were wandering around over the east-west hill from the open area northeast of the south loop road up into the north by the northeastern-most part of the loop. Aspen, Mouse, Hook and Kreacher were up in the northwest, then on the north side of Flat Top. I am glad that Kreacher is still with the boys. I don’t like him as a band stallion, but I do want him to have companionship!

Seven\'s band

Also saw Seven with his girls (Roja, left, and Molly, center) a couple of times this weekend. Both times, they were on the north side of the “roller coaster ridge” road. I don’t have the foggiest idea on the pregnancy status of either mare. Maybe so, maybe no?

I did drive all the way around the loop (both directions) this weekend for the first time this spring. From the Round Top intersection going counter-clockwise, the first and second arroyo crossings are OK; the third is gushy (make sure you’re in 4-WD and go) and the fourth is just a little tire-grabber ditch; the rest are no problem. I haven’t seen Poco, Bones and Roach for a few weeks now, and although I don’t think Bones is in any condition to conceive, I do want to see them at least every few weeks or so. All kinds of stud piles back there, but no sign of the three musketeers.

I didn’t go looking for the pinto family this time. I don’t think Kiowa is particularly close to foaling, so I’ll wait until next weekend to check on her again. (She may surprise me?!)

These next are some pix of Grey/Traveler and family. They were really close to the road in the evening, and all the photos were taken from either the road or just off to one side. Grey’s keeping a pretty close eye on his new acquisition, and for her part, she seems to be pretty calm about this turn of events.

Grey and Houdini

Grey/Traveler and Houdini grazing.

Two Boots and Jif

Two Boots and Jif (Houdini in the background).

Twister and Two Boots

Twister and Two Boots. Look at that shaggy boy! You can see on his face how grey he’s going to be when he sheds out. Two Boots is shedding out really dark grey, like Alegre.

Grey courting

This photo may explain why Grey’s so interested in Jif! She may be coming into season – or just out – but she wasn’t quite ready for his advances just then.

Houdini

Pregnant girl Houdini. She’s not overly huge. I’m officially giving up on trying to predict her due date! She was grazing, then started walking right toward me. All of a sudden she stopped and looked right at me, like she didn’t quite realize I was standing there? I stayed totally still so she wouldn’t bolt, but she stood there for at least a long minute, just looking. When I got home, the current issue of High Country News was waiting for me. The “Uncommon Westerners” section is about a man named Les Bighorn from Poplar, Montana. The article is about his work to return swift foxes to the Fort Peck Sioux and Assiniboine Reservation as a wildlife technician and game warden. Off on the side, there’s a quote: “An elder once told me that when an animal comes to you instead of running or flying away as you approach it, they are telling you that your heart is filled with goodness and your life is in harmony with the Creator.” Well, didn’t that bring tears to my eyes, thinking of all the times the horses have allowed me to approach or even, in some cases, walked right toward me. I don’t know how harmonic my life is, but every moment with the wild horses is a gift, and I sure thank my Creator for every day I’m able to visit the wild horses in their basin home!

Grey snaking

Grey snaking his family back to the other side of the road. I had been standing right on the road taking pix of them, and then they started moving toward the road, so I backed away off the road, thinking they wanted to cross and go down to the other arroyo. But nope. Grey had other ideas! He looks pretty mean there, but like most stallions, the mean-guy routine doesn’t last long. They go where he wants them to go, and all is calm. It makes me wonder, though, just who’s leading? I guess Houdini could go in a certain direction, and Grey might go along … but he might not?!

Dusty sunset hills

You’d think fires were burning locally, but that’s “just” dust from the wind (I’m telling you, it’s WINDY). There’s all kinds of news about Colorado River water being used by downstream consumers in Arizona, California, etc., but we never hear anything about Colorado stealing Arizona, eh? I’m not exactly sure where it’s all coming from, but the dust does make for some moody sunsets.

Basin sunset

When it got too dark to photograph Grey and his family, I turned around, and that’s what I saw. Another beautiful day in the basin.


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One response

27 04 2008
Billie

TJ,

I loved that quote, it also brought tears to my eyes. What is it about the wild ones that so moves us?
If you have my email address, email me and I will tell you all about the horse tour we did. It was fun.
Traveler got named so because of all the places he has been already in his young life. We have seen his tracks all over in upper Coal Canyon, the other two foals have pretty much stayed in the same place.
Billie

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