Awaiting new arrivals

25 04 2009

The title says it all. Although I was certain and sure of seeing new faces this weekend, the girls have other ideas. As far as I know – and I’ll explain that later – Ze and Hannah are our only babies.

I haven’t taken many pictures during the last two weekends (which may shock you), but I’ve been more on lookout patrol and giving expectant mamas their space. Alegre, Piedra and Houdini are closest, Jif and Raven are unknowns, and Mahogany is due in May. Ze and Hannah are growing like wild weeds. Strong Ze loves to run, and dainty Hannah is brave, not easily intimidated by the chaos of her extended family.

Last weekend, after I found dear Bones, I was able to spend some time with that big family, a salve for my heart. Like Alpha last year, Luna has been so generous sharing her treasure. She was in foaling heat then and … Butch was after her? So much for my theory that he and Sundance are her sons. He even mounted her … but he didn’t breed her. How’s that for weird? Are you  – like me – used to questions without answers?

Duke was wandering again, and Chrome and Hook were wandering together. This weekend, Duke – and Chrome and Hook – had re-joined the big band; the next morning, Duke was gone again. At the end of the day, he was waaaaay across the basin, having found a big sea of green in the north hills that he had all to himself.

Seven has decided to show off his strapping boy to the world, and they were easily visible last weekend. They had retreated a bit by this weekend, but who can blame them? One of the biggest “stories” of the weekend was the flow of human admirers (and, unfortunately, a very few who fell in the “not so much” category)  in the basin.

Poco and Roach did appear one morning close to the road, but reports have them continuing to hold vigil with Bones and her baby. Do horses grieve? I believe they do – and are.

Grey/Traveler kept a low profile last weekend, but he was more visible this weekend. He and his band have discovered the water tanks at the catchment again and are drinking there regularly.

Bounce and his girls have retreated to the east pocket exclusively. The pond back there still has good water. In fact, Steeldust’s band was back in that area by Lizard Mesa, but then they wandered back to “the front country” for easy visibility. The drawback of that comes from people who aren’t considerate of the horses and their imminent foaling dates because they’re racing around on their ATVs. Steeldust’s band had the unfortunate timing of being right on the road when the folks on ATV came racing up on them, causing them to run for the hills.

And with that, let me introduce some honored guests in the basin this weekend. Lynn and Kathy from New Mexico have been following the blog since the beginning and have created an AMAZING map that tracks all the bands by color-coded stickers! I’m so incredibly humbled by their attention to the horses. THEY witnessed the ATVs running the horses off, and THEY were able to talk to the people and tell them the importance of being careful around the horses, especially during this sensitive time. You go, girls!

We spent a whole day together so they could see horses and landmarks and learn TJ-speak, which I learned includes a lot of “ishes.” 🙂 As in “northish,” towardish,” etc. It was so wonderful to share the horses with people who clearly cherish them and are so full of enthusiasm! We laughed a lot and smiled constantly – except when it came to Bones, and even that wasn’t so bad as shared sorrow. What an absolute treat to meet you both, my new friends! I hope this meeting is just the first of many.

During the past two weekends, I’ve also seen the southern horses: the pintos, David and Shadow, and Cinch and Bruiser – all but the pintos as recently as today. So. Who didn’t I see? I saved the mystery for last. Kreacher and the girls eluded me all last weekend, but I saw Kreacher, Mona and Kootenai the first day this weekend. They were way out on the hill above the corrals, and figuring for distance, trees and the hill, I figured Raven was just out of sight. But that theory was blown today, when I saw Kreacher, Mona and Kootenai walk down to the roller coaster pond – minus the black-and-white girl. Uh oh.

Getting to the heart of the matter, they headed to the saddle between Flat Top and Round Top, where they met David and Shadow. How are you for conspiracy theories? By the time I high-tailed it over there, the saddle was clear of equines, David and his girl were down below and headed toward the (dry) pond, and there was not a single sign of Kreacher and the duns. Did I mention that the first time I saw them, on the corral hill, I drove out there and hiked up, along, down and up across the valley … and never found a sign but hoof prints? These horses have never been hard to find, so what’s up? AND WHERE IS OUR GIRL RAVEN?

Before you theorize that she took up with another stallion, remember that I saw them all. Didn’t see the Duke today, though; mayhap she returned to familiar north hills and found herself a new beau. Or perhaps – and most hopefully – she required a bit of alone time during which to bring forth a little bundle of four-legged, equine joy. Cross yer fingers.

The wind was furious yesterday; the dust was ubiquitous (what a word). Today … When I went looking for Kreacher and the girls, the wind was a solid thing, threatening to tumble me off the ridge. Think an unliving thing (surely can’t call it inanimate!) can’t be “furious”? It was spewing rocks at me! What’d I ever do to the wind?!

The earth never filled the sky yesterday as it has in the past – and I don’t have the foggiest idea why. It was blowing hard enough. It just waited till today – when it also decided to try to rain. Fickle, rocky Mother Nature. I think she got rid of all of us who don’t call the basin home.

And there’s your news ‘o the basin, trimmed down to near-nutshell length. I’ll have a sampling of photos to come.





Happy Earth Day birthday, Gaia!

22 04 2009
Gaia

Gaia

She’s standing all goofy here, but this is a big, bold, curious girl.

Gaia and Alegre

Gaia and Alegre

Almost as big as mama. She’s also a daddy’s girl and loves (step) Daddy Bounce.

Baby girl

Baby girl

Baby picture, taken four days after she was born. Can you believe she grew up into such a big strapping girl? She is Alegre’s firstborn.

Happy birthday, delightful girl!





Mustangs need help – and burros, too

21 04 2009

http://www.habitatforhorses.org/

Click that link and scroll down to the links under “What’s New” and “Latest News” to read about horses at the Nebraska ranch that need donations of money and/or hay. Details are listed at the end of the press release. It is important to NOT send anything directly to the ranch. Go through Front Range Equine Rescue as detailed in the press release.

Also follow this link – http://www.alliancetimes.com/breaking%20news.htm – to a short brief in the local newspaper.

Continuing with the “if you can help” theme, visit this blog – http://horsebackwriter.wordpress.com/ – for information about some burros that need homes. Fresh Start Horse Rescue is a small farm here in Southwest Colorado, but the folks who run it have huge hearts.





Happy first birthday, Ember!

21 04 2009
Ember

Ember

This would have been my first post except for Bones … So in the spirit of moving on and celebrating life, Ember turned 1 on Saturday, the day these pix were taken. Steeldust’s band had moved over to the east side of the roller-coaser hill by the time I came moping back after finding Bones and her baby, so I went out to sit with them and hope for a little bit of healing in the presence of so much wild life.

Ember and Kestrel

Ember and Kestrel

The girl was not very cooperative on the esteemed occasion of her birthday, napping and ignoring all the goings on. But the stallions have kept everyone restless and moving, so I imagine she was tired and ready to catch a nap however she could. Keeping her company there is big sister Kestrel, and though I don’t know the date of her birth, it’s close, so happy birthday to Kestrel, too!

Luna and baby Ember

Luna and baby Ember

One more, just to see how much she has grown. 🙂 This was taken two days after she was born.

Happy birthday, old-soul girl!





RIP Bones & baby

19 04 2009
Bones

Bones

Unfortunately, having a baby was not to be for sweet girl Bones. The foal didn’t even make it all the way out.

Poco led me right to Bones and her baby, which I didn’t even realize until I finally I saw them. For what it’s worth, she was nourishing a golden eagle.

So the basin is one (two) less, but keep these things in mind: She lived and died wild, and her baby died with her (not later).





April fooler

13 04 2009

Seven, Molly and Roja have been elusive during the last couple of trips I’ve made to the basin, but I haven’t gone looking for them, either. They had been hanging out in the general vicinity of the saddle between Flat Top and Round Top. You get a good view of that area from the west-side road, but you can’t see the horses if they’re down on the southwest side. I’d been having a niggling little feeling about Roja, so I went looking. It’s a pretty easy hike around the west side of Round Top to get out there, but I went up on top for the first time in awhile (?) to see who else I could see.

Let me get right to the point: Roja has a foal! And how about this: I’m sure her foal is actually the first foal born in the basin this year.

Baby and Roja

Baby and Roja

When I watched the horses from Round Top, the foal was galloping huge circles around Roja, so I had a couple of thoughts: I bet that foal is at least a week old, and I bet it’s a little boy. A week ago is one of the most special dates to me personally because that’s the birthday of the best horse I ever had. He’s been gone almost 17 years now, and you’d be amazed how much I still think about him. So in honor of my beloved horse, and with a nod to a friend with a colt named Kola Zi, I named this little guy Ze (“zee”) in honor of the first part of my horse’s registered name, which I actually never liked but which proved absolutely true.

Ze

Ze

He IS a colt, and he’s bay! Great big bundle of *CUTE*!

Sleepy

Sleepy

Active little boys need plenty of rest.

Seven comes calling

Seven comes calling

Daddy Seven came up the hill after I’d been watching Roja and Ze for a fair amount of time. I was lying belly down at the edge of a hill across a big drainage from the mare and foal. Roja had earlier looked down the other side of her hill, and that’s where I thought Seven and Molly must be. But then Seven came up from the opposite direction.

Hungry boy

Hungry boy

I read a post on another blog recently about how mamas of all types get “in the zone” while their babies nurse, and I thought of that while I watched Ze nurse. Roja had been grazing constantly, even while Ze napped the first time, but she finally stopped and sort of glazed over while he slurped up some nourishment. As far as I know, this is Roja’s first foal.

Handsome daddy

Handsome daddy

I don’t know if Seven knew I was across the hill or if he was looking back at Molly. This is at least his second foal. When he was gathered, one of his mares had a bay filly.

Second nap

Second nap

Warm milk makes baby sleepy!

Daddy, mama, baby

Daddy, mama, baby

Brumley Point in the background.

Molly

Molly

Can’t forget grandma (?) Molly. I could be wrong, but I think Molly is Roja’s dam.

Ze appears to be solid bay, with no markings. His legs are already darker than Hannah’s. He’s a little hunk already!

I was able to watch the horses quietly for quite a while, and when they moved on (the pic of Molly is her bringing up the rear), I was able to back down off my hill and leave them, hopefully without them ever knowing I was there. This is one of the most wary bands. Molly’s filly Starla died last year, and they had been chased by a guy the last time I saw them; I think they’ve never quite gotten over that.  Maybe I’m way off on that assessment, but they were getting more comfortable with my presence until that event. So I was very happy I could both see Roja’s new boy and get away without disturbing them.

So now we’re TWO down with (maybe) seven to go?!





Spring in the wind

11 04 2009

Tis the season of deja vu.  Work obligations Saturday sent me to the basin Friday, and glad am I that I went, for what I found and for the fact that it snowed again most of the day today!

The horses had a few human visitors Friday, including some on horseback. Grey/Traveler was standing guard against a truck and trailer parked up on the road to Flat Top while his band grazed down in the valley below the water catchment. Kreacher and the girls were out on the northeast side of the finger hills watching riders who gave them wide berth. Bounce and his girls were out on the southeast end of the “east-west hill,” close to Knife Edge. One dark horse was back to the northwest, sort of north of Spring Creek at the trap site. Duke? That was all within my first 15 minutes in the basin.

Because of hills and distance, I couldn’t quite tell if the single dark horse I saw was Duke, so there was nothing else to do but take a walk. The wind was at about mid-throttle – very tolerable given the insanity of the past few weekends.

Very happy surprise to walk up over a modest saddle to find not only our bay boy Duke but Chrome and Hook back with him! And an unexpected visitor.

Prongs

Prongs

It’s not uncommon to see pronghorn antelope in the basin, not even alone, but this guy figures into the tale, so I’ll include his portrait. He was lying down when I first saw him, on a hill above the horses, protected from the wind, but his back was to me. He got up, and I turned my attention back to the horses. When I looked back at him, he had laid back down as you see in the pic! I wondered if he was hurt, but he didn’t seem to be.

Hook and Duke

Hook and Duke

Chrome

Chrome

Chrome kept looking over his shoulder like he expected another pronghorn to pop up and run by.

Pronghorn saunter

Pronghorn saunter

When the buck walked down off his hill, the boys watched him very carefully.

Spooky boys

Spooky boys

And it gave them an excuse to gallop.

Watching

Watching

But then they circled back to just below the hill to watch the buck cross an arroyo and continue up a far hill and out of sight.

Hearts

Hearts

Do you see the way their heads and bodies seem to form a heart?

Hmph

Hmph

Duke was sound and seemed well, if a bit grouchy. I couldn’t find any outward sign of why he might have been missing last week. I was glad to find him, and glad to find him with his pals. Something interesting: They were quite a distance from the big band, something Aspen may want to consider …

When I got back to the Jeep, another truck and trailer was visible with visitors. I never did see the original three riders again. I stayed north at the dugout intersection, intending to look for Kreacher and the girls where I had seen them last, but from the road you can look down to the south and see the bottom land you can’t see from up on the west-side road. If I’ve cautioned against having an agenda in the basin once, I’ve done it a thousand times, eh? Guess who I spotted? So I turned around and took the fork to cross Spring Creek again, headed south. The first crossing is wet, but the second is completely dry.

Kreacher and the girls were looking toward the east-west hill (can I just say and call it done that the hill really runs sort of northwest-southeast, but it’s easier to type “east-west”?) but not really toward Bounce, Alegre and Gaia, who were up higher at the end of Knife Edge toward the crest where they could have dropped into the valley between that ridge and Lizard Mesa. I watched Alegre quite intently through the binoculars for several minutes because I couldn’t quite tell if she was sporting an extra set of legs – ha. Call me expectant. She wasn’t – sporting extra legs. She should be within two weeks, give or take.

I decided to continue driving because I hadn’t yet spotted Steeldust’s band, and I also wanted to look for Poco, Bones and Roach to check Bones’ progress.

Ah ha! Poco, Bones and Roach, way out on the southwestish side of the far end of the roller-coaster ridge (past where the road goes over to the east side). And then another nice surprise: the big band, napping right at the intersection to Round Top. I parked short of them and took a closer look through the binoculars.

I always make sure all the ponies are accounted for … and they were … but wait a minute …

Do you see what I see?

Do you see what I see?

Steeldust at left, and Luna. You can’t see him very well, but Sundance is on the other side of them. Butch in the middle, Storm at right (such a handsome boy!), and Mahogany behind him. Also over there were Alpha, Pinon and Ember and Kestrel. Farther out was Mouse. To the left were Aspen and Co., but let me wait a minute before we get to them. What’s that at Luna’s feet?

Holy baby!!!!!!! I have to say, I didn’t quite expect to see a foal this weekend. Luna was first to foal last year, too, but Ember was born April 18 or 19 (I like to pin it to April 18). Friday was a full week earlier than that.

I started to walk out on the road, trying to decide if I could drop down off the ridge and skirt around them without worrying them. Then I heard the truck and trailer coming behind me. I decided the best course of action was to walk back, tell the people in the truck there was a brand new baby with the band and ask if they would wait until the horses finished their nap and moved away from the road.

As it turned out, the man driving the truck was born in Telluride and knew the country quite well. We had a great conversation – though it was sometimes hard to hear him over the wind. He lives in California now and has worked on Thoroughbred racehorse farms most of his adult life (he’s now “nearly 70”). He brought his cousin and two horses, which they rode later. It was pretty cool to hear him talk about some of the history of the land and the horses and roundups past, horses he has ridden and rodeos at which he has competed. I hope I get this right: He won the calf roping at the Norwood rodeo seven times!  They ended up turning around there and drove back toward the dugout, then parked along the road to unload their horses and enjoy a ride in the basin.

While we were talking, the horses woke up, and the stallions started messing around. It seems like Butch and Sundance are finally starting to feel their oats – are they 3 this year? Four? Three and 4? The “pink” boys are silly boys. They started moving, and I’m still somewhat surprised to report that after I visited them, and after I visited Poco and Co., and after I drove away … at least an hour and a half after I first saw them? … they were still moving, heading to Round Top from Flat Top! Those rowdy boys.

But let’s back up. You’ve been waiting, and … but of course I have baby pix! 🙂

Oh, wait; first, the promised pic of Hollywood, guarding “his” band, which just so happens to contain the stallion that stole “his” mares.

The breakaways

The breakaways

Hollywood at left; Aspen with Baylee, barely visible behind him, and Piedra.

Welcome to your family

Welcome to your family

Little Hannah girl. Such a little thing and now famous! Mama Luna at left, and big sister Kestrel, now 2, at right. I’ve been wondering for a while whether the pink boys are descended from Luna. They did stay rather close … or was it my imagination?

Snuggly

Snuggly

Luna-dear is an old hand at mothering. If she’s 10 – I suspect she’s close, one way or ‘tother – this is possibly her eighth foal! She did not seem at all concerned with me, focusing instead on eating everything palatable within reach.

Baby, meet baby

Baby, meet baby

This is one of my favorite pictures of the day. Storm is no longer the baby of the family! I love his expression; I can’t imagine what he’s thinking.

Keeping up

Keeping up

Luna didn’t exactly ignore her baby, but she didn’t coddle her, either. This might be a good place to say I think Hannah is at least a couple of days old (I put her birthday at Wednesday, April 8). She doesn’t have that newborn look anymore, and she wasn’t so new that Luna was constantly checking and nuzzling her. She expected baby to follow, and baby did!

Hannah

Hannah

Isn’t she a doll?!

Peace

Peace

Welcome to your world, sweet baby girl!

All calm

All calm

Meanwhile, Aspen and Co. were following the band at a respectful distance.

Beeline

Beeline

Piedra started walking toward me, and Baylee was not quite sure that was the wisest move.

Making a run for it

Making a run for it

Apparently, Baylee dawdled too long because Comanche came calling. The butt straight out is Mouse’s, and he’s directing Steeldust’s horses away from the fray.

Get lost, buddy

Get lost, buddy

Then Aspen, who had been trying to protect Piedra from Hollywood, came running back to the rescue. The grey in the background at right is Steeldust.

Eye of the storm

Eye of the storm

Piedra tried to ignore the chaos swirling around her (but note the ear). Baylee is just happy to be back at her side. Aspen – you can see his head just over Piedra’s hindquarters – cut Comanche off … but Hollywood was about to make his move.

Around and around

Around and around

Now see what I meant earlier when I said Aspen would do well to put some distance between himself and the band (again)? Personally (and not-so secretly), I’d love to see Holls get the mares back, but if Aspen stays in the vicinity of the big band, I’d wager that the dynamics of this little band are going to change, or Aspen is going to be run ragged – or both.

Comanche

Comanche

This guy is pretty burly. It’s only a matter of time before he starts to collect a harem, I think, though there are only so many to go around.

Pinon and Ember

Pinon and Ember

Pinon is a month from his first birthday; Ember is just a week away!

Keeping the girls in line

Keeping the girls in line

Steeldust had his hooves full trying to keep his ladies together, but Mouse seems to be pulling his weight.

Still a baby

Still a baby

Don’t grow up too fast, little man. Pinon with Mouse.

The ponies moseyed on, and I sat awhile longer, marveling at the horses and all the behaviors and interactions I’m privileged to witness. Really amazing. They crossed the arroyo I was sitting at the edge of, and I waited until they had dropped out of sight over the next little ridge, then went on back to the intersection.

Poco, Bones and Roach had gone out of sight from that side of the roller-coaster ridge, so I drove on that way to see if they’d gone to the other side. Sure enough, they were down by the squishy arroyo on the east side of the ridge. I watched them from the Jeep for a while, then turned around and headed back. Bones looks like she could foal at any time … Fingers crossed she safely delivers a healthy foal.

Mountain majesty

Mountain majesty

Looking northwest, look who I spotted right on the west-side road! I stopped to scan for Bounce and the girls toward Knife Edge or down toward the arroyo below the road, but I didn’t see them. By the time I got moving again, Kreacher and the girls had dropped out of sight – again.

I decided to go down and see if any water had collected in the pond by Flat Top. Hook was a short distance west of the road, acting as lookout. I caught a glimpse of Duke but didn’t see all three of them until later, on my way out. And I got another surprise because Kreacher and the girls had gone slightly southwest and up toward that north-south road that goes between the Flat Top pond and the main road. After them disappearing and re-appearing all day, I finally had the chance to see them from a closer vantage, which gave me the chance to check on Raven.

Three girls

Three girls

Kootenai, left, Raven and Mona right on the north-south road.

Kreacher

Kreacher

I think the ponies aren’t so used to a lot of visitors like they had Friday, so they seemed a little more nervous than usual.

Kootenai

Kootenai

Mona

Mona

Raven

Raven

Compare the bellies

Compare the bellies

I’m just sayin’ … Maybe she’s just an easy keeper …

They went on up the road, so I decided to turn around rather than follow them and have them feel pushed. Once back out on the main road, guess who else I found? Only my very favorite boy!

Lowlanders

Lowlanders

Between them, Grey/Traveler and Houdini-mare are wise, wise ponies. They were down in this shallow arroyo, at least semi-protected from the wind. It did turn out to be another very windy day, but the moisture we’ve gotten recently (snow last Saturday) seems to have glued some of the dirt to the ground, so we didn’t have the major dust storms we’ve had lately.

All at attention

All at attention

Well, except Mr. Twister, snoozing in the protection of the ladies. You can’t see their whole bodies here, but look how big Iya’s face (center, bald face/big blaze) is compared with older sister Two Boots’, next to Twister, behind Jif. Maybe it’s the marking, and maybe it’s that Iya has a big Roman nose and Two Boots is quite a bit more refined, but Iya is one big girl (and her first birthday is coming up in about two weeks!).

Is it summer yet?

Is it summer yet?

I noticed that some of the horses didn’t seem quite as fuzzy as they had even last weekend, but check it out: Jif is shedding!

Testing her limits

Testing her limits

Where have you seen this before? Cheeky Jif tries to outrun her stallion …

Ducklings

Ducklings

… while the youngsters crowded around mama Houdini, who  went the opposite direction. I thought that was funny. 🙂

Pied piper

Pied piper

Traveler, of course, brought his wayward young mare back to the fold, but how she ended up at the head of the line, only she knows. She has just a little belly, but Houdini is bulging at the seams.

And there you have it. Duke and his pals were all visible in the “flats” east of the catchment. I think I didn’t stop smiling all the way home. 🙂 A beautiful new baby, a missing boy found, a day in the wild. Could it have been a better day? I can’t quite see how.

One down, eight to go? We shall see!