New blog to check

31 01 2009

Check out photographer Pam Nickoles’ new blog: http://nickolesphotography.wordpress.com/

Keep up with her adventures getting in – and out! – of herd areas to photograph wild horses. Her first post has a link to a clip of her photos of Sand Wash Basin wild horses before last fall’s roundup.

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Music review

31 01 2009

Breaking with tradition (I’m sick and moping for horse contact), I’m going to pass on a recommendation for a horse-loving musician you may not have heard of: Templeton Thompson. “Girls & Horses” is the title song of her album of the same name. I first learned about Templeton from the photos of Texas photographer Candace Craw-Goldman, but I never could find any of her CDs in any store. Finally I broke down and ordered this CD from the Web last fall (call me old fashioned, but I just haven’t gotten into the downloading-music-from-the-Internet craze). Now it’s one of my favorite CDs.

Find her Web site at http://templetonthompson.com/

And yes, there’s a hint of mustang love to her as well … read down on her journal page.

Beautiful weather out there … too beautiful to be cooped up inside sick. But the snow is melting into mud again, so there may not be an update on our Spring Creek ponies until next weekend – supposed to be good weather all next week. Till then, imagine them fat and fuzzy and wild!





National Geographic article

30 01 2009

Our Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area BLM manager sent a link to this article last week, but I have to say I was originally put off by the unfortunate (in my opinion) tagline: “The crowded West has little room for wild horses.” As opposed to what, cattle and oil wells and McMansions, I thought?! But I picked up a February issue at the newsstand (which I do every month; I ought to just plunk down my money for a subscription) and read the article … and was pleasantly surprised. After I read the article, I understood the tagline; it refers to what the horses are competing against – and it’s not just cattle and oil barons but attitudes, too.

Here’s the link to the online article: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2009/02/wild-horses/fuller-text/1

I encourage everyone to read it – online, or pick up your own copy. I’d be interested to know what others think of the article. Even as close to the issue as I am, it seemed pretty balanced, but I do admit my obvious bias!





Links to inaugural parade videos

23 01 2009

http://beautifulmustang.blogspot.com/

I posted this link a few days ago; now, she has a few links to YouTube videos – including the section I watched on C-span – about the Border Patrol mustangs. Watch them! Justice isn’t specifically featured in any, but they’re great to watch!





Mountain magic

22 01 2009

Go never to the wild with an agenda … If you’re silly enough to go with an agenda, be prepared to abandon it immediately.

That is a lesson I learned early on, and it continues to hold true. As late as driving along the herd area on the county road Sunday morning, I had one mission but no agenda. I had an idea where I wanted to park and hike in – not my favorite hike-in spot – but that idea was quickly abandoned when I happened to spot a white spot among white snow spots: the pintos. Hit reverse, back to my spot, through the fence and onward.

When you’re given horses, never ignore the gift.

Sharing snow

Sharing snow

The pinto girls and boy and their solid pals were below the bench that runs around the west side of their hill, grazing lazily in the sunshine. In this photo, Kiowa and Copper shared a patch of snow. Check out Copper’s expression.

Chipeta and admirers

Chipeta and admirers

Front to back: Corazon, Chipeta and Ty. I don’t quite understand the dynamics of this non-traditional family, but it makes for fun watching. Copper definitely seems to be back in charge, but he tends to leave Chipeta to her own devices. She’s a bit of a coquette, I think. If they get too close, she pins her ears warns them away. It’s a little dance they do.

Mesa and the girls

Mesa and the girls

We scared up some deer, and the horses walked on up to the top of the hill. Chipeta caught up to Kiowa, and Mesa paused to check me out before moseying out to lead the line.

I headed toward Round Top with the particularly vague idea of hiking to the summit to survey the area. At 10 a.m., the ground was still frozen. By at least 10:45 a.m., the thaw was well under way. Good thing I didn’t really want to march up the Top because I spotted horses out on the hill where the pinto band was last weekend.

Four horses total. Two together, Bruiser a little farther away and … David? By himself? Uh oh. The two horses together were Cinch and Shadow. Luckily, they waited until I hiked out to them to start the fireworks. (David saw me, but the others didn’t until after the show.)

I said no!

I said no!

Cinch got frisky, but yearling (actually, she’ll be 2 this spring) Shadow wasn’t willing to accept him, so she ran from him, occasionally firing a half-hearted kick at his chest.

Go away!

Go away!

Right after this, they suddenly stopped and started grazing (as best they could through the snow). David was right above them, watching them and me, and I thought Shadow might walk right up to him. But she didn’t. He finally turned around and went back down his side of the hill. Finally Bruiser noticed me, then Cinch, then Shadow. THEN she walked up the hill to David, and normalcy was restored.

Some magic

Some magic

They trotted down the hill toward an arroyo, then up the other side toward Round Top.

Another sort of chase

Another sort of chase

David finally had enough of Cinch being close to his girl and lunged at him. This was across the arroyo. They all trotted away together.

I continued on up toward Round Top, hiking past the pond on the way. Dry. Not even any snow in the bed of the pond. There’s a trail that goes up to the ridge on the southwest side of the saddle between the two Tops, which I’m starting to call the saddle trail. From there, I spotted, way off yonder in the amazingly far distance, what looked like Grey/Traveler’s band. I could pick out a grey – him or Houdini – and what looked like Twister.

Sleepy Seven

Sleepy Seven

Look who I found napping in the sunshine closest to Round Top. He was sort of uncharacteristically calm; I couldn’t believe he watched me while lying down. At first, I saw just him and Roja – grazing nearby – and was really looking around for old-girl Molly.

Sleepy Molly

Sleepy Molly

When I finally saw her, I realized that while focusing on Seven and Roja, I had walked right by Molly, who was napping under a tree, one of her habits. She looked at me for a minute, then seemed to realize that I was closer to her family than she was and trotted on back to them. Seven got to his feet and stretched, then started nickering to Molly, but it was a little odd – more like a colt nickering to his mother than a stallion nickering to his mare. I know that sounds weird, and it was.

Roja and Molly

Roja and Molly

These girls are close. I think Molly could be Roja’s dam.

Seven and his girls

Seven and his girls

Once they reunited, they didn’t go far, but I headed back up to the trail. I was glad to see these ponies.

After I saw Seven and the girls, I was pretty sure the far horses were, indeed, Traveler’s band, but they were way up to the northwest, and my Jeep was way back to the southwest. Because of the snow and mud and what promised to be a long walk not only to where the band was but then back to the Jeep, I decided to walk back to the Jeep, then drive up to the corral and hike from there.

Under the mountains

Under the mountains

The horses ended up being even farther along the hill above the corral than I thought. That’s Filly Peak sloping up to the right. Two Boots looking at me, Twister behind her, Houdini grazing, and Iya in front of her.

Houdini

Houdini

Mama Houdini. Random thought from the day: She should be about three months from foaling.

Traveler

Traveler

Handsome boy.

Horses, mountains

Horses, mountains

See the fence in the background? Behind the horses. That’s the boundary fence that eventually runs down to the county road. I’ve never been that close to that fence.

Bliss

Bliss

The promised image of Traveler enjoying a bite of snow. He really seemed to enjoy it!

Backside of Filly Peak

Backside of Filly Peak

Twister, Traveler and Jif with the southwest side of Filly Peak in the background.

Jif

Jif

Jif should have Traveler’s foal this spring, too.

Family

Family

A final look of the day at the ponies.

I took my time walking back across the hill and down to the Jeep, savoring the day and letting my tiredness catch up to me. The weather was particularly gorgeous; for January, it was nothing less than amazing. My mission of the day, by the way, was to find Grey. Fabulous day.

We’re supposed to get some snow in the next few days, so I won’t be making a trip to the basin this weekend. But I will be taking a trip to the Browning Ranch in Farmington, N.M., which acts as a holding facility for wild horses rounded up and removed from (at least) the Carson National Forest. Claude Steelman, photographer and author of the excellent book Colorado’s Wild Horses, adopted a yearling colt from the Carson and took him home last Thanksgiving. I’m going to meet up with Claude there and see what’s what.





4 seconds of fame

20 01 2009

Did you see the Border Patrol group during the inaugural parade? Did you catch the mustangs? The quick shot of the first two horses – black Okanogan and grey Bullet? – was great. Boy, were they shiny and handsome! I think two buckskins were next in line, and two buckskins brought up the rear; I couldn’t tell which was Justice.

I found this blog – http://beautifulmustang.blogspot.com/ – with some photos. She also thinks the lead horses were Okanogan and Bullet. There’s a buckskin in the background of one of the photos …? No mane on the left side – Zeus? Hard to tell.

The thing that hit me in the few seconds they were featured on the channel I watched (C-SPAN; I couldn’t stand the political jabbering on the other channels) was how calm the horses were! It looked like they were taking it all in stride. Pretty darn cool.





Surprise over the ridge

19 01 2009

Hello, my name is TJ, and I am addicted to the wild horses of Spring Creek Basin.

The lessons have been both big and small, but I learn something new about them almost every time I visit, and though two different people last week suggested I need to get a life (away from the horses, I think they meant), almost nowhere else do I find such enjoyment as in the simplicity of days in the wild of the basin. And so I can’t seem to stay away. They mean well, I think, but what other addiction is so healthy and enjoyable and full of benefit?

Perfect nap weather

Perfect nap weather

Steeldust and his big band and Hollywood and the bachelors were out between the loop road and Knife Edge. I was able to drive in and park at the water catchment. (Kreacher and the girls were down in the “valley” southwest of the catchment.) Mouse was close to the band, as he has been in recent months; Duke, Hook and Chrome were fairly close; and Hollywood and Comanche were scrapping a little farther away. Yep, you already guessed the change-up if you know which horses weren’t visible – because they were together. But given that they were all together the last time I saw them, I didn’t think too much about it and stayed on track to visit Steeldust’s band. Oh, notice Butch’s position – he’s lying down at far left. He looks like he’s so sleepy he’s about to roll over on Ember. In the next few moments, he did. They were so close, she had to lift her head over his when he laid his big head on the ground at her knees.

Harrassment

Harrassment

Where have you seen this pose before? Baby brother Storm was trying this with big sister Ember a few weeks ago (at least). In fact, the butt in the background is hers. Pinon was quite a bit more tolerant, but Storm also seemed a bit half-hearted. In fact, here, I love that he seems so focused on me but is still pawing at Pinon – what a multi-tasker!

Three boys

Three boys

Pinon, Storm and Butch. You can see Ember’s face in the background – flat-out asleep – and that’s Luna behind Butch.

Sentinel Duke

Sentinel Duke

Meanwhile, Duke was on a ridge above the band, taking it all in.

Hook and Chrome

Hook and Chrome

McKenna and the unnamed peaks in the background.

Lover boy

Lover boy

Meanwhile, Steeldust squeezed in a little lovin’ on Alpha-girl. She accepted it – for a few moments – then struck at him and led Storm away. Easy come, easy go, buddy.

Three more boys

Three more boys

Hook and Chrome hooked up with Duke, then they went across the ridge to a little point, where they could look down on the band.

I could see Hollywood on a ridge below, but Comanche had dropped out of sight, and I still hadn’t seen Aspen, Piedra and Baylee. I still hadn’t put it together. I climbed a little higher to make sure no one was on the other side of the highest ridge and found a dry spot for a little lunch break. Then I went down to Hollywood. Found Comanche … and, on the other side of the ridge below Hollywood … Aspen and the girls.

Uh-oh

Uh-oh

My first glimpse of change: Hollywood on the ridge (I’m shooting from a ridge parallel to his) and Aspen below with the missing mares. How did I not see that coming? Prior knowledge can be blinding.

All together

All together

Same five horses that have been together since before the holidays … a little change in dynamic. That’s Comanche and Hollywood together in the foreground, and Aspen, left, Piedra, back center, and Baylee in the background.

New lead guy

New lead guy

I gotta say I’m not liking this change. I’m pretty fond of Hollywood, and he’s a better stallion than Aspen, not to mention that Aspen was low on the totem pole among the bachelors. Not as low as Kreacher but maybe above Hook. What is it with these lesser stallions getting the girls?

Snow snack

Snow snack

After most of the past year keeping Mouse at bay, Hollywood loses his mares (and he got not one but two!) to Aspen?! Now, if Holls has a fault as a band stallion, it may be that he’s not always as attentive as he should be, especially with several footloose bachelors on the prowl. Nobody seems to be hurt, so I’m thinking it might have been as simple as Hollywood not paying attention and Aspen sneaking in and snaking the girls away.

The proof

The proof

I watched them for quite a while. Because these five horses have been separate from the big band and together for at least the past several weeks, I figured it was possible that I just happened along at a point in time when the girls just happened to be closer to Aspen than to Hollywood. But Aspen definitely was acting like the band stallion, so for now at least, Aspen is king.

Five in a line

Five in a line

There they are – my look back as I was leaving (the snaking actually came right after this). Hollywood, left, Comanche on the other side of a low ridge, Baylee, Piedra and Aspen. Piedra, by the way, should have Hollywood’s foal this spring (sometime in April); I think it will be her first.

I was hoping to catch a glimpse of Bounce, Alegre and Gaia and/or Poco, Bones and Roach because back in that area by Knife Edge is one of their stomping grounds (P, B & R are usually a little farther east), but I didn’t see hide nor hair of those ponies. After I left Aspen’s band, I headed toward the intersection on the loop road that goes to Round Top. Earlier, while walking the road, before cutting off toward Steeldust’s band, I saw horses that I’m pretty sure were Seven, Molly and Roja up on the saddle area between Round Top and Flat Top. No sign of them on the way back, either. I crossed the road and headed toward Flat Top to close my loop back to the Jeep, also hoping I might see Traveler; they were on the west side of Flat Top the last time I saw them. A long shot, sure, but worth a look.

Kreacher and the girls were still down in the little valley but a little closer to the road when I got back. I was plenty tired at that point (another five-plus hours of adventure walking), so I didn’t go out to them. They watched me go by, then went back to grazing. I was glad to see them branching out from their north hills territory.

The only cattle I saw were northwest of the dugout intersection by the hills above Spring Creek and northeast of the finger hills.

It was a gorgeous day, and I hiked without a coat. There was only a very light breeze. You can’t get much closer to perfect. Quite a bit of snow, and with snow and clear blue-bird skies comes mud. The coolest thing is that you can actually hear the snow melt (see what I mean about simple pleasures?). The ponies take it in stride and use it to their advantage. It’s much easier for them to just gobble mouthfuls of snow when they’re thirsty than have to travel to known water sources. They seemed to enjoy it, and in the next post, I’ll have a nifty shot of Traveler to illustrate just how much!

The crazy thing is that I almost left that evening because the walking was so tiring. But I hadn’t seen my boy Grey (Traveler), and I just am so addicted that I couldn’t leave without seeing him. It took all day Sunday, but I found him and his family. 🙂 Stay tuned.