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12 01 2009
Mesa invitation

Mesa invitation

Sunday was my first trip to the basin since I returned from my holiday vacation, and it was a good one. I saw all but three bands (Traveler’s, Seven’s and Poco, Bones and Roach), though most of the horses were pretty far away and viewed through binoculars. I hiked in and found the pinto band at the end of the day and took this photo of Mesa. It seems like he’s inviting me to follow him into his home – and what a beautiful home it is.

I wasn’t at all sure what to expect on the roads, but the road from the county road to the herd area boundary and a short way into the herd area was mostly dry. It was partly sunny when I got there, but then it turned cloudy. Later in the afternoon: full sunshine. I stopped just uphill from the first curve inside the herd area to take a look. Before I got my binoculars, I saw cattle way out in the area northeastish of the finger hills, then some shapes back to the north … one of them a familiar and non-cowy color. I thought, based on where I last saw the new mares and their new beau (down on the east side of Round Top), if I didn’t know better, I’d think that was the apricot dun mare. Damned if it wasn’t Kreacher and the girls!

Tres amigas

Tres amigas

I was psyched to see them. Again, based on where I saw them last (yes, it was four weeks ago), I really didn’t expect to see them today.

The new girls have new names this new year. Thanks to Lynn and Kathy in New Mexico for “Raven” for the black pinto mare. As they so astutely pointed out, the mare’s color is exactly the lustrous black of the ubiquitous ravens that call the basin home. And thanks to Karen of South Carolina and Ouray for “Mona” for the “regular” dun. She noticed that I’m always commenting on how cute she is, “que mona” – how cute! It was right as soon as I read it. And for the apricot dun, in honor of her Sand Wash Basin “cousin” who patrols the U.S.-Canada border with the U.S. Border Patrol and is one of two Colorado mustangs going to the inaugural parade Jan. 20 in Washington, D.C., I named her “Kootenai” (“kooten-ee”).

Raven, Mona and Kootenai

Raven, Mona and Kootenai

And Kreacher following.

Kreacher

Kreacher

My guess is that the girls didn’t like the direction their new relationship was going, so they turned tail and headed back to their familiar (north) hills. What’s a boy to do? Of course he followed. Still not acting at all “stallion-like,” just very calm and laid back. So I started thinking back to when he had Molly and Roja, and I think he was about the same way. The very first time I saw them, I thought he was a mare, as a matter of fact; he wasn’t at all aggressive or protective or otherwise displaying the usual “protection” behaviors. But apparently he has the cajones to keep a few mares – at least for now. Maybe it’s a matter of sheer coincidence, but consider that – in addition to Kreacher now – only Steeldust has as many as three mares. None of the other horses are anywhere close (that I saw) to them, location-wise, so it stands to reason that he’ll keep the girls for a while (maybe until the bachelors start wandering again).

Alert

Alert

The girls were up on a hill that gave me a good vantage point to scan the basin. From there, I saw Bounce, Alegre and Gaia, Steeldust’s band and Hollywood’s band with at least one bachelor nearby and three bachelors together just slightly farther away. But rather than try to hike out through the snow and mud to get to them, I decided to drive out and on down the county road to see how far I could get. I thought if I could get at least to the corrals, I’d hike in from there.

But the road was good all the way down to Black Snag Road. Some snow, but earlier traffic was obvious. I turned around there and went back up to my favorite hike-in spot, a little southeast of the county line. I hadn’t seen any horses from there, but the clouds had gone away, the sky was blue, it was a great day for a hike, I hadn’t seen the pintos for a while, and I didn’t want the day to end. I walked in and up on top of the hill where I often found the pintos last year. There was a lot more snow in the southern part of the herd area.

The pinto ponies and their suitors weren’t on their hill, though. I stopped on the trail when I got high enough to see back toward Round Top and scanned with the binoculars. Then I saw them, up on the hill on the north side of the little valley I hike through to get to their hill – actually closer to the road! Ha. Well, it was a great day for a hike.

Mesa

Mesa

This boy is kind of the behavioral opposite of Kreacher – and he doesn’t even have his own mares! Copper should feel (!) lucky to have him act as protector while Copper sticks close to his mares from Corazon and Ty, all the boys still acting as one big family.

King of the hill

King of the hill

The last time I saw the pintos, right from the county road, Copper was not acting like the lead stallion; Corazon was. But things seem to be back to “normal” with Copper sticking close – even though Kiowa kept pinning her ears and snapping her teeth at him.

By the time I walked up to their hill, they had moved out into the open and were headed slightly downhill toward Round Top. It coincidentally put them right in the middle of a spectacular background – the La Sal Mountains in Utah.

Kiowa and her girls

Kiowa and her girls

Kiowa seems mostly passive from a distance, a benign mother and alpha mare. But don’t let appearances fool you. I think she rules with an iron, er, hoof, when she needs to! From left, Reya (yearling filly), Kiowa, Spook (2008 filly) and Chipeta.

Still nursing

Still nursing

But she’s still  a mama above all else. She wasn’t happy about it, but she eventually stood still for Spook to nurse. Copper at right.

Family

Family

Just Mesa is missing from the band above – he had already moved farther to the right, trying to lead the band away. From left, Ty, Corazon, Kiowa, Spook and Reya, Chipeta and Copper. That’s Round Top in the background. It looks different from this perspective, doesn’t it? This was the last shot I took of them as I started back toward the Jeep.

Almost forgot to say that I saw David and Shadow and Cinch south of Flat Top from the hill. I didn’t see Bruiser, but I hope he was nearby; he and Cinch have been together almost since the bachelors kicked him out of the pinto band.

A few more random photos:

Winter day

Winter day

Kreacher and Kootenai with McKenna Peak in the background.

Close-up

Close-up

Kreacher and the mares went around the little hill they were on and down to graze. I went around the other side of the hill and caught this shot of Kreacher as he followed Kootenai down into the little valley. I took some pix that really didn’t show him at his best (he really doesn’t have the best conformation), but I just couldn’t bring myself to show them. 🙂 He looks pretty decent here.

On guard

On guard

Mr. Mesa takes his protection duties seriously. Always be aware of your surroundings: I was photographing the other horses against the mountains when a look or posture of one of them made me look away from the camera. Tough guy Mesa had come out to say “hi,” all puffed up, and I hadn’t even noticed! He’s really not as close as he appears; I had my lens zoomed out to take the pix of the other horses, and when I saw Mesa, I just pointed and shot. This is one of just two shots like this before he trotted back to the band.

Deer central

Deer central

The deer are back. Wow. I hadn’t seen this many deer since, well, this time last year. I took this shot right from the Jeep on the county road – the deer are inside the herd area. There were at least a dozen other deer just in this group, and this was one of probably a dozen groups I saw today.

It’s good to be back!


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2 responses

12 01 2009
Lynn Bauer

Hey TJ –
I commented under an earlier post, thinking you were probably already out in the Basin – shoulda waited a couple of days! Anyway, welcome back! Thanks for giving the new black mare the name, “Raven!” Now, we think she’s kinda ours (actually, we’re beginning to think of all of them as our kids, too). It’s an honor and we DO appreciate it! Glad you’re back to watch over everyone! As usual, GREAT PHOTOS and good info for our map!!!
Take care!
Lynn and Kathy

12 01 2009
TJ

Usually I get an email alerting me to new comments on the blog, but I didn’t see yours! I’ll have to go back and look for it.
I love “Raven” for Raven! It seems to fit her perfectly, both in color, and, a little, in temperament. She changes from minute to minute depending on who is close to her. Oddly enough, though she seems very protective/jealous of Mona and tries to keep Kootenai away, Mona will quickly get out of Kootenai’s way if necessary. They definitely have a distinct little dynamic among the three of them. I’m so glad for you guys to think of Raven – and all of the horses – as yours! THEY ARE!
Hope ya’ll had a wonderful holiday!
TJ

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