Pony Up tour

9 10 2008

Tuesday, I had the pleasure to meet up with Kathe Hayes, with the San Juan Mountains Association, Bob Ball, BLM manager of the Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area, and Mimi and Ken and Wendy, high bidders for the tours offered during the silent auction at the main Pony Up event in Durango back in August (I think there also was another, second high bidder for another tour). Bar none, Kathe provided the best lunch I’ve had in the basin. Our lunch bags were almost bottomless! We also got great lessons in plant identification from Bob.

I camped in the basin overnight so I could scout some bands for the group.

Iya and Houdini

Iya and Houdini

Grey/Traveler’s band was northeast of Filly Peak when I arrived in the evening.

Babes in the wild

Babes in the wild

Big girl Iya, left, is nearly as big as her big sister Two Boots and big adopted brother Twister, both yearlings. Iya is 5+ months old.

I was racing the setting sun, so I left them grazing on a hillside below the road and drove on into the interior of the basin to see who else I could find before dark. Steeldust’s band was back by Wildcat Spring. Bachelors Mouse, Comanche and Aspen are still with the band, and the “breakaway boys,” Duke, Hook, Kreacher and Chrome, are still hanging out in the north (we saw them Tuesday). Shadows had filled the basin clear to the eastern hills, so I found a rock and sat with the band for a little while until it got almost too dark to see them. It’s so fun to watch the babies of that band – Ember, Pinon and Storm! They’re curious about everything!

The next morning, Steeldust’s band was fairly close to Traveler’s band, just down the hill from the water catchment, napping and taking advantage of the warm sun (frost on the windshield that morning!). Maybe both bands are using the water tanks?! The vegetation is kinda “slim pickin’s” back in the east, so I went north looking for Duke’s group. I hiked the trail around the hill from the water hole but didn’t spot them. But from that area, I spied Seven and the girls, Molly and Roja, far yonder south, north of Round Top. By the time I drove out on the loop, they were headed south between Flat Top and Round Top, Steeldust’s group was on the road toward Flat Top (possibly the water hole there?), and Traveler’s band had run down the hill toward Steeldust’s into the broad “valley” south of the catchment.

I spotted Chrome and Co. on the north hills before I got to Kathe and the tour folks at the interpretive sign, but the boys had slipped out of sight again by the time we got rolling. Unfortunately, Traveler’s band was way out toward Flat Top, and Steeldust’s band headed over the loop road toward the east-west hill by the time we got to the catchment. Steeldust’s band stopped to graze in the big open area west of Knife Edge by the time we got in position on the road. Hollywood and his girls – Piedra and Baylee – do seem to be with but slightly apart from the band. They show no inclination to wander off on their own, but Steeldust seems to have decided they’re with Hollywood; he actually snaked them away from his band Monday night while I watched.

Right around the intersection to Round Top, we spotted Seven in the trees in the area between Round and Flat tops. Ken may have seen the mares, but I don’t think the rest of us did. We had lunch on the roller-coaster ridge overlooking the only pond that didn’t go dry this summer and found what seemed to be a gravesite for “Molly” marked “05-07.” She has a pretty incredible view. Thanks again to Kathe for the most excellent lunch.

We made it all the way around the loop in Kathe’s Land Cruiser. I had hoped to spot Poco, Bones and Roach because I haven’t seen them for several weeks now, but it wasn’t to be. In fact, we didn’t spot horses again until Ken cried horse on the road to the north entrance – it was Bounce! I hadn’t seen him, Alegre or Gaia for a few weeks, either, so I was happy to see them … except that we saw just Bounce and baby Gaia. We were in the pinon-juniper, but we all got out and looked – nada. We drove on and spotted the boys, right near the north pond. They ran farther north, so we didn’t get a good look at them, but I’m glad they’re all still together.

On the way back toward the intersection, we stopped, and Bob and I hiked up the hill toward Bounce and Gaia to see if we could find Alegre. I was pretty nervous by that point, memories of not finding Starla with Molly, Seven and Roja a month or so ago still fresh. We headed up toward Bounce, then lost him in the trees and veered off to come up to the side of him and the filly. Then Bob, who was back to my left, spotted a tail swishing in the trees. I thought I’d misjudged or the horses had moved and we had come up the hill right below Bounce, which wasn’t what I wanted to do … but then Alegre streaked across a gap in the trees! Good grief. I could strangle her for scaring me so badly, thinking something might have happened to her … 🙂 She and Gaia reunited, then they trotted off with Bounce.

Alegre and Gaia

Alegre and Gaia

When we first saw Gaia and Bounce, everyone commented on how big Gaia is. She’s about 3 days younger than Ember, the oldest of this year’s foals, and about five days older than Iya, who is enormous. I told Bob I was really worried when we didn’t see Alegre because “she’s one of my favorites.” Bob correctly summarized that they all seem to be my favorites, but, really, Alegre and Gaia are among my *favorite* favorites!

And that was about our day. We drove back to Dolores via the county and Dolores-Norwood roads. I looked for the southern horses on the way past but didn’t spot anybody. It was a gorgeous day – just about perfect as far as weather. The basin got some rain from the weekend’s rain/snow storms, but none of the roads were enough to deter Kathe or her Cruiser.

It was nice to meet you, Ken, Mimi and Wendy! I hope you had a wonderful day seeing our wild horses of Spring Creek Basin!



2 responses

10 10 2008

Thanks TJ for the nice write up.

11 10 2008

Thank YOU for organizing the tour and providing the fabulous lunch. Events like this to bring awareness to our wild horses – especially our local herd – can only help them.

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