Giving thanks

28 11 2008
Another beautiful morning

Another beautiful morning

As I write this post, it really is still Thanksgiving, even though I know the blog will say otherwise. Not that I can’t give thanks for the horses, and my time with them, any day of the year, but I just wanted to make that point. All these photos are from last Sunday. As you’ll see, it was a gorgeous day. Also as I write this post, it’s snowing. The basin is getting rain or snow or some combination. The horses are likely wet, but hopefully they’re as ready for this next season as they look. They – we – really need the moisture.

In the photo above, that’s Hollywood and Baylee near the road and the water catchment. Steeldust’s family and all the bachelors but Chrome, Kreacher and Hook also were there.

Big band

Big band

The horses were all very relaxed and calm Sunday morning about an hour after sunrise.

Steeldust, Alpha and Storm

Steeldust, Alpha and Storm

I included this photo as the start of a little visual journey. Soon after I took this photo, Storm laid down for a nap.

Sleepy boys

Sleepy boys

There’s Pinon standing over Storm, with Sundance snoozing behind them.

Daddy on guard

Daddy on guard

Slightly different angle. That’s Ember behind Steeldust.

So that’s nice, you’re thinking, but this isn’t much of a story. Maybe not, but all stories need a beginning. See, I took these photos from just down from the fenced-in water catchment. The light wasn’t the best from this angle, but it was the best angle to catch little Storm-chaser at his nap (and who can resist?). My back was to the northeast, where that hill drops off to the big “flat” below.

So I’m taking pix from a crouched position, and the horses are calm, and Storm is looking at me but not bothered enough to disturb his semi-nap. But then all of a sudden, all the horses looked up at me. What did I do? I hadn’t moved?

Hoofbeats. Behind me. Trotting.

Boo!

Boo!

I look back, and there’s Grey/Traveler trotting after Jif, who is trotting up over the edge of the hill and right past me! He’s trotting in this photo – can you see his eye looking at me? I think he was as surprised to see me as I was to see him!

Traveler and Jif

Traveler and Jif

He finally got her to stop there, where they’re looking at Steeldust’s band (who were all possibly just as surprised as the rest of us), who were looking back at them. I figured the rest of the band was coming up the trail, but they never showed up.

Sassy Jif

Sassy Jif

Moments later … “I’m going, already.”

Not too worried

Not too worried

He followed after her, pretty calm, as you can see here, but this is where the story (visually) got good.

The chase is on

The chase is on

Jif was being sassy and lolly-gagging along, so Grey/Traveler decided to push a little harder.

Cant catch me

Cant catch me

Now he’s starting to get a little mad.

Keep moving

Keep moving

I really thought the band was just out of sight below the edge of the hill.

Over the edge

Over the edge

They dropped over the edge, and I walked over slowly, expecting to see the other horses.

All calm on the eastern front

All calm on the eastern front

But they weren’t. I walked back to the Jeep and drove on down the hill and across the “flat,” where this photo was taken from the Jeep. Left to right: Jif, Houdini, Iya and Twister (Iya is just barely visible), and Two Boots. Grey/Traveler is just out of the picture at right. They were way away! (Relatively.) Why did Jif go running off like that? She’s kind of independent, but does she do that often? Another hmm. The end.

Not really, of course. I had spotted the new girls up on a hill around from the dry-pond trail, so that’s where I headed next.

Da girls

Da girls

They were out enjoying the sunshine, as calm and relaxed as Steeldust’s and Grey’s bands (minus the Jif incident).

Pretty little girl

Pretty little girl

Isn’t she cute?

Black mare

Black mare

Don’t let this angle fool you; she’s really a girl with (small) spots.

Cute n curious

Cute n curious

I walked across the hill below them to get them in better light, then sat down to hang out with them for a little while and see what they’d do. This little girl just walked on over, the better to see me. Black mare and apricot mare stayed back. Feeding their pal to the lion? Just waiting to see what the lion would do? Some friends, eh? Ha.

Let me just check out this saltbush ...

Let me just check out this saltbush ...

I love her curiosity. When she realized I a) wasn’t a lion and b) wasn’t going to eat her, she just went to grazing. She did that for several minutes then walked back to her pals to give them the scoop.

OK?

OK?

OK.

Showing her spots

Showing her spots

Watchful girl.

Little apricot

Little apricot

Calm enough to graze. I like it when that happens.

It was a really nice, quiet visit with these girls. I’m really quite fond of them!

I never expected to see Seven and his mares again Sunday, but I decided to go have a look anyway, just in case. Would you believe they were in the same exact place – a little closer to Flat Top – as where I found them Saturday? It’s where I last saw them in early October … and I’ve looked there every time I’ve been out there since – and never seen them until this weekend!

Seven

Seven

Handsome boy.

Molly and Roja

Molly and Roja

I didn’t stay with them long, and I didn’t take many photos. They were fine with me standing at a distance. I checked off the ridge but didn’t see any other horses.

Breakaway boys

Breakaway boys

Almost forgot this pic of the three boys who wandered away from the big band: Chrome at left, Hook and Kreacher. This was taken from the road, almost to the base of Round Top, looking eastish. Kind of a cool backdrop, eh?

I looked for Steeldust’s band on my way back out but wasn’t seeing them. From the north, I had seen them walking along the ridge toward the pond near the entrance, so I thought I might see them in that area. Sometimes, they’re where you’re least expecting them.

Steely Dan and fam

Steely Dan and fam

They were against the hill right inside the main entrance. They barely looked up from their grazing …

Aspen

Aspen

Except this guy. He was looking so handsome in the sunlight, I couldn’t resist taking his picture.

Ember and Luna

Ember and Luna

And this little girl. I keep thinking of all this year’s yearlings, how they looked last year when they were the age of this year’s babies. They grow so quickly. Ah … I’m so sentimental.

But wait! The story’s not yet over. Guess who I saw right from the county road on my way home?

Painted ponies

Painted ponies

I took pictures of them right from the fenceline off the road. Here, from front to back: Kiowa, Chipeta, Corazon, Reya and Spook.

Ty

Ty

Ty was back with the band. I guess he found family life more appealing than life as a single guy.

Muddy Mesa

Muddy Mesa

Big muddy boy. Copper was the farthest from the band and never came very close. The king is (driven away); long live the king? Corazon was right with the band … which isn’t unusual EXCEPT that Copper was so far away. So is Corazon the new head of family?

And that’s the Sunday story. Heartfelt thanks to my ponies, as always.





‘Our Wild Horses’

27 11 2008

Pam Nickoles is a photographer from Golden, Colo., who has been traveling the country photographing our wild horses to bring more attention to these beautiful animals. As someone who is working to use her talents to show off our mustangs, I am giving her a shameless plug! I can’t say enough about this beautiful tribute, her new DVD called “Our Wild Horses II.”

She produced an original DVD called “Our Wild Horses” set to incredible music that was complemented by her beautiful photos of horses in the wild (you may have seen it advertised in the “Back in the Saddle” catalog.) Now, the sequel is out: “Our Wild Horses II.” With music by Bruce Rowland (if you don’t know his name, surely you know this name: “The Man From Snowy River”!)

Her new DVD is a stunning tribute to our country’s wild horses. From well-known herds like Pryor Mountain in Montana and Wyoming, and the Little Book Cliffs in Colorado, to less well-known herds like Carrott Island, North Carolina, and even our beloved Spring Creek Basin (!), Pam shows horses being themselves in the wild. (Pam and her husband, Tom, visited our horses in May.) The music itself is phenomenal, and she pairs it with several “collections” of glowing photos. Seriously. Wow.

Also contributing to the musical complement are Jimmy Gelhaar, Donovan Johnson and Kevin Martinez of “Prairie Desert Music.”

Visit her Web site at http://www.nickolesphotography.com/ for more information about Pam, herds she has photographed and to see a clip of the DVD. (What a great Christmas present!)





And on the seventh day …

26 11 2008
Seven and his girls

Seven and his girls

Look who decided to make an appearance: Seven, left, Molly and Roja. They were at the yucky little water hole between Flat Top and Round Top on Saturday with Bruiser and Cinch. Molly is showing her age, but she looks pretty good. Roja is downright fat! Seven is handsome as ever. That light patch on Molly’s hip is just dried mud, in case you were wondering, like I was.

I walked out to them on the trail that goes around the west side of Round Top and connects to the trail that runs along the ridge sort of south of Flat Top down to the water hole that has been dry since April. Right along that ridge trail is where Bruiser and Cinch were grazing. Seven saw me for quite a while as I was hiking, but the spotted boys were oblivious until I was fairly close.

Wide open invisible

Wide open invisible

This is Cinch, with Seven in the background. I was standing in the middle of the trail here, in full view of Seven, and I had expected Cinch and Bruiser to spot me much earlier than this. In fact, although you can see Cinch’s eye here, he still hasn’t noticed me.

Hello!

Hello!

Cinch pretends to finally notice Seven.

And hello!

And hello!

Now they see me. Bruiser on the left.

Boys

Boys

A wider shot showing Seven in the background.

Molly and Roja

Molly and Roja

See how fat is Roja? She’s the sorrel mare walking away. The white stuff is the salty stuff around the little water puddle. And that’s Molly looking at me.

Mr. Handsome

Mr. Handsome

Seven was not very happy about the proximity of the pinto stallions, but they insisted on sticking around.

Bruiser and Seven

Bruiser and Seven

Older and recent band stallion Bruiser seemed to recognize Seven’s dominance, and neither he nor Cinch put up much “fight.”

Arabian knight?

Arabian knight?

“How cool am I?” Seven seems to ask here. Isn’t he beautiful?

El Victorio

El Victorio

Very satisfied with himself.

Seven

Seven

I have definitely missed seeing this boy.

Molly, Seven and Roja

Molly, Seven and Roja

This was taken near the road to Round Top looking sort of northish, maybe slightly northeastish.

Boys with spots

Boys with spots

One more of Cinch, left, and Bruiser. What if Bruiser is Cinch’s sire? Similar faces, eh? But check out those little curvy hooks at the tips of Cinch’s ears! Cute!

Quiet time

Quiet time

Steeldust’s band was right along the base of the roller-coaster ridge, just a little southeast of the pond. They were fairly spread out. Mouse was close to the family band (seen above minus Kestrel, Steeldust and Mahogany and Pinon), Aspen, Comanche and Duke were hanging out with Hollywood, Piedra and Baylee, and the breakaway boys – Chrome, Kreacher and Hook – were even farther south. In the photo above, from left, Storm, Alpha, Ember and Luna, Butch (hard to see) and Sundance. You may not be able to see it in this small photo, but Ember is totally eyeing me even while having her snack.

Luna and Kestrel

Luna and Kestrel

Luna and her yearling filly, Kestrel. Even though yearling filly Baylee (Mahogany’s daughter) decided to join Hollywood’s little band with Piedra (who might be her big sister), Kestrel is still with the big family.

Luna and her babies

Luna and her babies

Luna and her youngest babies, Ember and Kestrel. And a bonus background. Can you guess? That’s Filly Peak way off yonder to the west.

Steeldust

Steeldust

Family man Steely Dan walking toward Luna (and Ember and Kestrel) with the beautiful La Sal Mountains in the background.

Pinon and Mahogany

Pinon and Mahogany

I think young Mr. Pinon is growing up to be such a handsome young man!

Alpha, Storm and Sundance

Alpha, Storm and Sundance

Storm looks slightly disembodied here, but he’s still lying down as in that first photo of the group.

Little prince

Little prince

A closer look …

Soooo sleepy

Soooo sleepy

Check out his wispy little “Trojan horse” mane!

Napping

Napping

Daddy Steeldust was taking advantage of the warm sunshine, too. Flat Top in the background.

Boo-boo

Boo-boo

Hollywood and Mouse got into a little play fight last Sunday while we watched them near the end of the day. Although none of us thought they were being at all serious, Hollywood came away with a cut on his lip, and Mouse has an apple-size swelling on his neck.

Hearts

Hearts

Say it with me now: Awwwww. I love how their faces seem to mimic the shape of a heart. Piedra, left, and Hollywood.

Alegre and Gaia

Alegre and Gaia

These last photos were actually taken at the very end of the day Friday (all the other pictures on this post were taken Saturday). Bounce and his girls were down on the other, north, side of the roller-coaster ridge.

Bounce m'boy

Bounce m'boy

Such a handsome boy! That’s McKenna Peak (thanks, Kathe and Bob) in the background, namesake of the McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area.
Only beautiful

Only beautiful

I love this boy, Bounce. And I love his look here.
Can you have too many beautiful weekends in the wild? As I’m writing this, it’s the day before Thanksgiving. I could never take the horses, their beauty and grace, for granted. My heartfelt thanks to them for what they teach me every time I’m with them.
I do still have some photos from Sunday to tweak and post, including more of Seven and his girls, and some from a lovely visit with the new girls. Over the course of the weekend, I saw all the horses but David and Shadow! (So now who’s the object of the wild horse chase, eh?) Thanks also to you readers who have come along in this journey of getting to know our Spring Creek Basin horses.




Without words

20 11 2008
Center of the world

Center of the world

Sunday was … the last day, the end of the weekend, gorgeous … busy with visitors … the end of the fourth/last hunting season. Did I mention gorgeous? The kind of day when it never enters your mind to be anywhere else or with anyone else.

I had a couple of hours of early morning again Sunday before Debbie and Kathleen arrived in the basin, and Steeldust’s and Traveler’s bands were still close by and accommodating. There is such a feeling of peace and all-is-right-with-the-world under all that rich light.

Traveler and Jif

Traveler and Jif

Silver-beautiful boy and his girl Jif.

Iya and Houdini

Iya and Houdini

Although Houdini does still let Iya nurse, it seems like she’s starting to wean her away, just by walking off when Iya indicates interest.

Soft

Soft

Do you love his expression here?!

Youngsters

Youngsters

Do good things come in threes? Three good babies. Beautiful early light. Wild youngsters so relaxed.

Baylee and Hollywood

Baylee and Hollywood

Piedra was there, too, a few moments earlier, then she wandered off to graze.

Home with a view

Home with a view

Relaxed Steeldust, hangin’ with the (extended) fam. If you’re having a big crew to the table this Thanksgiving, think of him, leading his big crew to grazing every day of the year. Don’t stress. Enjoy the sunshine. Take a nap. Appreciate your family.

Shortly after this, Debbie and Kathleen arrived, and we returned to find the horses in the same areas. We spent more time with them, Debbie had her wonderful conversation with Grey/Traveler, and we bid them farewell to head north.

Top of the world

Top of the world

Twister, Iya and Houdini walking along the edge of the “ridge” that drops off southeast of Filly Peak beyond the road where it curves to take visitors past the catchment.

The ladies’ time in the basin Sunday was limited because of their distance from home. We spotted the new mares up off the north road, so we headed up to visit them.

Apricot dun

Apricot dun

We took our time walking out to them, even though they were just a short distance from the road and had seen the Jeep rolling toward them. They were on a little grassy bench above the road. (And I did see the black mare nibble at a greasewood bush. I think they’re just not sharing all their secrets at once.)

One way

One way

There’s the black mare between the two duns, warning the apricot dun away.

Then the other way

Then the other way

They didn’t go far.

Once more

Once more

When I was in third grade, I followed my best friend, Linda, everywhere. Looking back, I’m pretty sure it was annoying.

Go, duns, go!

Go, duns, go!

You might be able to just see the black mare’s nose behind the tree branches at right behind these girls. Seconds after this, the only thing you could see of them was their heels in the air!

What more can you ask from life? So … a few words, but my goal was to show off the expressiveness of the horses, whether napping or playing. Happy? I really think they are.





Love and light

19 11 2008
First light

First light

It comes a little after 7 a.m. now, that gentle, golden light that slides over ridges and slips around hills and envelops you like a caress. If the horses are relieved to see it morning after morning, they give no indication. It finds them, warms them; it marks the next day in Spring Creek Basin. I can think of few better places to enjoy the coming of dawn. Above are horses in Grey/Traveler’s band: Iya and Houdini, Traveler in the background (farther away than he looks), Jif, Two Boots and Twister.

What scary monsters are yonder?

What scary monsters are yonder?

Very close to the main entrance to the herd area here and not long after my visit with Grey’s band, still fairly early. Chrome was fascinated by something in the near distance and couldn’t take his eyes off it. Duke came to offer support.  What scary monster could it have been that eventually sent the boys all running to catch up with their mates down at the pond?

Ooooh ... scary!

Ooooh ... scary!

Go ahead, give it a chuckle. Two little baby boys, just up from morning naps, were the “monsters” Chrome was so worried about.

Snack time

Snack time

Not much longer, and Debbie and Kathleen arrived and we drove around to watch the horses in Steeldust’s band from the road near the catchment.

Another nap

Another nap

Pinon and Storm laid down for another nap, surrounded by family.

Last ones standing

Last ones standing

While we watched and Debbie communicated with them, almost all the other horses laid down, too. It would be a shorter list to name who did NOT lie down. In this photo, you can see Kestrel, Sundance and Hollywood lying down. Butch also is back there lying down. Even Steeldust laid down.

And even Duke

And even Duke

Even vigilant Duke laid down for a rest. Both Chrome and Hook also eventually laid down. It was fantastic to see them so relaxed, even with visitors.

Wild light

Wild light

Evening light here. I took Debbie and Kathleen up on Round Top to give them an overview of the whole basin. On the way there, we saw Bounce, Alegre and Gaia. We saw the pintos from the summit, as well as Bruiser and Cinch and, close by, Ty. We saw Poco, Bones and Roach from the loop road. We saw a large (20?) herd of mule deer and one beautiful young buck near Lizard Mesa (Sunday was the last day of the fourth and last hunting season). We had seen Steeldust’s band from the summit of Round Top, too, and we were looking for them on our way toward closing the loop – voila. We came up over a slight rise that blocked our view, and there they were, just above the dugout intersection. The picture above represents what we saw. The horses were very relaxed and all very close together. Beautiful horses in beautiful light.

Asleep on their feet

Asleep on their feet

Piedra and Baylee are rarely far from each other these days. Did you spot Hollywood in the previous picture? He’s right up in the middle of the band. At left is bachelor Aspen.

Three grey boys

Three grey boys

Hook, left, Chrome and Kreacher. Kathleen and Hook took an instant liking to each other.

Bachelor 4

Bachelor 4

All calm on the eastern front. Chrome, left, Kreacher, Hook and Duke.

Last light

Last light

Gorgeous, yeah? Ember and Luna, Storm and Alpha.

Zzzzzzzzz

Zzzzzzzzz

Storm-baby was sound asleep almost the whole time we were with the band – probably because the other horses were so relaxed no one raised an alarm.

Time to get up!

Time to get up!

Ha! I’m not sure I’ve captured a funnier face than the one Ember is making here! Storm had awakened, and she was checking him out as he scratched and stretched. He was in no mood to get up, but he finally did.

Now what?

Now what?

After the nap – now what trouble do you suppose they can get into? Tomorrow’s another day …!

The band crossed the road to the side we were on, then went down the hill to graze into the night.





‘An eco-vacation spot’

19 11 2008

This news article has a little more information about Madeline Pickens’ plan: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2008408798_pickens19.html

Last sentence of the article: “You have to look at the entire pipeline of the process,” he (Jeff Malcolm, assistant director at the GAO who studied the wild-horse program at the request of Congress) said. “You need a strategy of population control.”

A little pencil work in the beginning could save money and space (more money) in the end …

I got an email this morning from the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (www.wildhorsepreservation.org) about some things that came out of Monday’s National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board meeting. I’m not sure it’s appropriate to post the email here, so I’m just going to refer you to their Web site and hopefully the information will be posted soon under their “News & Alerts” link (I didn’t see it yet). You can also sign up to get those email alerts.





A break in the clouds

18 11 2008

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/17/AR2008111703680.html?hpid=artslot

🙂

(Thanks to photographer Pam Nickoles for sending out an email about this article this morning.)