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.
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
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
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!
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.
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.
They trotted down the hill toward an arroyo, then up the other side toward Round Top.
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.
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.
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
These girls are close. I think Molly could be Roja’s dam.
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
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.
Mama Houdini. Random thought from the day: She should be about three months from foaling.
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.
The promised image of Traveler enjoying a bite of snow. He really seemed to enjoy it!
Backside of Filly Peak
Twister, Traveler and Jif with the southwest side of Filly Peak in the background.
Jif should have Traveler’s foal this spring, too.
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.