This panorama doesn’t do the basin any kind of justice, but that’s a lot of it, from a ridge high on the northeastern rim of Spring Creek Basin, above Horse Park. It’s a crazy steep hike, and I found out later that it’s in the wilderness study area, which is not cool because I drove to the base of the ridge on a well-worn doubletrack – unfortunately not signed. It’s definitely not something I’ll do again.
It’s not even the highest ridgeline surrounding the basin, and from the heart of horses’ home, it’s not something I could easily point out to you. It sounds like a terrible cliche, but it is true that a different perspective often gives you new appreciation. It’s context – I KNOW what’s down there – but looking at the whole, all I could think about was the details: each horse, every band, all their trails I’ve followed, their interactions I’ve been privileged to witness, the 3 feet of of snow this winter and the blooming paintbrush this spring.
I know what’s there, and I’m in love with it all.
Friday morning, I hiked into the herd area from the county road, heading toward a big mesa/hill where the pintos sometimes hang out. Sometimes it works out to look for horses in familiar places, and Friday was one of those days. When I found them, I stood still, out in the open, and they were pretty calm. Then Kiowa started moving to the east, so I headed west, off the hill. From left, Spook and Kiowa, Reya, Chipeta, Shadow and Bruiser.
And then sometimes you spend a lot of time looking for particular horses in particular places, only to give up and find ’em right around the corner. Ya gotta find the humor in that. This is the arroyo on the northeast side of the roller-coaster ridge road. I had finally seen them out in the open – with Poco, Bones and Roach close but farther east.
Despite the deep snow this winter, it has been a seriously windy spring, and water holes are dry and drying. A couple of them are already completely dry, and some others are rapidly shrinking. The water situation bears close watching.
Male collared lizard. It was huge! It’s in the middle of the road here, and it’s one lucky lizard. I don’t pay much attention to the road when I’m in the basin, being continuously on the lookout for horses. Of course, I’m usually a very careful driver! I don’t know if there’s such a thing as lizard harassment, but this guy came at me! Freaked me out, and that was the end of that photo session!
Alpha girl, still pregnant … Such a pretty girl.
What a doll! But notice his slightly swollen left hock. And check this out – maybe you’ve already noticed it – check out the little, darker splotch high up on his back, just behind his withers. See it?
Last year, a bay filly was gathered that had a black splotch – like the splotch on a pinto, except she was otherwise bay. She was sent to Canon City, where she was named Hershey. She was later taken to the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo (held in March, I think) in Denver and adopted. Claude Steelman has a photo of her coming down to the trap site with a grey stallion I think is Seven, her dam and another mare. The splotch isn’t genetic, apparently, but it’s weird to see it show up on another horse, yeah?
Baby nursing, Ember napping, Luna grazing, Piedra and Baylee hanging out.
Steeldust and his band and the Bachelor 7 (minus Duke) were hanging out pretty close to the road near Wildcat Spring, so I parked and opened the door and just sat and watched.
Aspen (bay) and Mouse (mud-colored) sparred while hanging out near Steeldust (Kreacher in the background) …
But mostly they grazed.
I had gotten out of the Jeep and was sitting on the ground right in front of it by a tree. Chrome was terribly, awfully curious. He’s a big boy, but he has a gentle personality. Aspen, there behind him, has a more dominant personality.
But it wasn’t without drama. I didn’t notice much of a change in proximity of the bachelors, but Steeldust obviously did, and he came galloping over to announce HIS dominance.
Grey/Traveler and his family were farther out in the open, near a wash that obviously gets enough moisture to grow cottonwoods. That wash is the same one University of Missouri students worked on this spring and last, cutting and spraying tamarisk. Grey kept his distance, but they did move out farther east.
Meanwhile, the babies were down for naps. Mama Luna is there in the background, never too far away.
While Grey and his family grazed out to the east, Steeldust’s family moseyed on up to the northwest, across the road and into the north hills, followed, of course, by the ever-hopeful bachelor boys. After they disappeared out of sight, I drove on. Duke was still in the same little green “meadow” where I had seen him Thursday evening. I didn’t go close to him at all, but he sure saw and watched me closely. I hope he’s healing because people who rode during the count didn’t see him limping.
I headed out before the golden hour so I could get back to the corrals and talk to riders who would be counting horses Saturday, but on my way out, I met Claude Steelman, who was chasing that light. He gave me permission to share this photo from Thursday evening:
Claude said they never actually connected, but Traveler came galloping to challenge Hollywood. He has a lot worth defending these days.