Before the count, part 1

18 05 2009

Every year, the Four Corners Back Country Horsemen, a group based in Durango, hosts a wild horse count in Spring Creek Basin. I think this was their 11th year. They partner with the BLM to ride out – and hike to the top of Round Top – to check on the horses and report numbers and descriptions. It’s a testament to their dedication to the horses – and to the fun they have with the wild ones – that they’ve been doing this so long!

This was the second year I’ve joined them, and like last year, it was a beautiful weekend. The count itself happened Saturday, but a few people were out as early as Thursday, and by Friday afternoon, the trailer traffic to the corral campsite was unlike that seen any other time of the year. Lots of folks this year, and I think everyone had a wonderful time. There were four groups of riders this year (three groups last year), six of us up on Round Top (including Jamie Seller-Baker with the BLM, who made a point of attending even though she was in Denver – thanks, Jamie!), a group of BCH members who drove into the area and a group of folks on a tour of the area as part of the Ute Mountain Mesa Verde Birding Festival.

In spite of the major increase in visitors to the area, the horses were completely at ease (with the exception of some stallion- and spring-influenced behavior). Everyone was so respectful, and the horses took it all in stride! Wonderful experience! Not all the rider groups saw horses, but collectively, all the horses were seen this year! The people I talked to couldn’t stop talking about the horses – who they saw, their behavior, how great they looked, etc. Music to my ears to hear people so excited about visiting the wild horses! Maybe it’s a simple thing … but it’s not. It’s huge.

I hope everyone did have a fantastic weekend in Spring Creek Basin! I look forward to seeing you all again next year!

Here are some photos from Thursday:

Kreacher and the girls

Kreacher and the girls

Kreacher, Mona and Kootenai were conveniently visible near Filly Peak. Have I mentioned the traveling these ponies have been doing? By Saturday, they’d be in the east pocket.

All together

All together

I had a report from last weekend that Duke had been seen alone, and Raven and Corona were with another stallion. Worried? Me? Nah. (Total lie; of course I was.) When I first drove in, I spotted a single bay horse up in the north hills – dark … looked like Duke. By the time I got around to the catchment and stopped to scan again, I spotted Raven as well. So I headed up that way. Corona was napping in a bed of globe mallow when I got up to their little meadow, and I watched them from behind a tree until she got up to nurse and follow Raven as she grazed. Oh, sure, I had confirmed Duke by then. It was just nice to watch them for a little while. This was taken as I walked away. Glad to see them all together.

Pro view

Pro view

Durango photographer Claude Steelman was in the basin for the weekend, and it’s always good to see him. Claude published the wonderful book Colorado’s Wild Horses last summer, which showcases all of Colorado’s wild horse herds (surely Spring Creek Basin is his favorite!). Late last year, he adopted a mustang colt, Pancho, from the Carson National Forest in New Mexico. “I’m not a photographer anymore; I’m a horse trainer,” he kept saying. I think the wild horses have spun their magic around dear Mr. Steelman … Pancho certainly has him wrapped around his hoof. 😉

Many of the northern bands were in the east pocket, enjoying the good grass and water source, and that’s where Claude and I met up. From the road, we could see Hollywood’s band – with Roach and Poco nearby! – Steeldust’s band, Grey/Traveler’s band, Seven’s band and Bounce’s band. Aspen and Chrome were in the area as well. The horses were fairly close to each other – Seven had his band the farthest away – beyond the pond, so Claude and I walked out to see what we could see.

We got out to an open area and stopped to watch the horses. Steeldust’s were in a fairly tight group, probably because of Aspen and Chrome (Hook?). When they started moving, Grey/Traveler’s band came around from behind them and toward us. We just stayed where we were and snapped some of the action.

Defense

Defense

At the same time, Steeldust’s band started to move toward them. This is Traveler posturing toward Mouse and Comanche from Steeldust’s band while the mares and youngsters stopped then went back the other way. (People from the Back Country Horsemen remember when he was so dark grey he looked “blue.” How silver is he now!)

Two grey make one red

Two grey make one red

Traveler, Houdini and Terra going the other way – other horses behind them.

Meanwhile, Steeldust’s band walked across right in front of us.

Mahogany and Sable - and Hannah

Mahogany and Sable - and Hannah

Hannah is about a month and a half old now; Sable was just a week old this day!

Mmmm - tail hair!

Mmmm - tail hair!

Cheeky Hannah is bold and fearless. She has a completely different personality than big sisters Ember and Kestrel. She’s very outgoing; they’re very calm and laid back. She’s chewing on Butch’s tail here, and he was completely obliging.

Mouse

Mouse

Who couldn’t love that face?

We waited until the horses had moved on before we even moved from our spot. We thought they might go to the pond to drink, but they were just looking for a place of their own, a little farther from the other bands. The horses don’t typically gather together so close like this, but they’ve all figured out the good grass and water in that area right now. The surface area of the pond has shrunk some, but it will probably hold out longer than the cheat grass, especially if we don’t get rain soon.

More to come.


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3 responses

19 05 2009
Billie

Wonderful report and glad to hear all is well in the basin. Our spring foal count /workday is scheduled next weekend, if it doesn’t rain! So far we have found 7 foals.

19 05 2009
TJ

Good luck with your weather, and I wish you as wonderful a time as I think the folks had in SCB! I’ll have a little surprise in the foal department later in the “saga,” but we’re still waiting on Jif … at least …
TJ

20 05 2009
Pony Girl

I love the last two pictures! They are so beautiful! And how great the photographer became a Mustang owner and trainer! 😉

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