Sand Wash, part 2

31 07 2009

Here’s another round of photos from my visit to Sand Wash Basin. I took a lot of photos Saturday, July 25, but although we saw quite a few horses Sunday, I didn’t take a single picture. It was enough to drive through the area with Amanda, talking, spotting and enjoying wild horses.

We saw Picasso’s, Corona’s and Cosmo’s bands again, Cyclone and his mare again, and a few of the bachelors we photographed Saturday. We also saw a couple different bands: a black and white pinto stallion named Domino and his band, and a bay stallion named Koda/Coda/Kota (?) and his band. Each band had foals.

The whole experience was just wonderful!

Here are a few more pictures from Saturday.

Bachelors

Bachelors

Three of the six bachelors we photographed. The stallion at right is Cayenne – perfect!

Boy chat

Boy chat

There were two very light (“white”) bachelors, two darker/medium grey boys, Cayenne and the sorrel with flaxen mane and tail from the first photo. One of the darker greys stayed up on the hill and never came down to mingle with the others while we watched.

Sentry

Sentry

This is the bachelor boy who never came down to join the party.

Easy to spot

Easy to spot

The two light greys together.

Cyclone

Cyclone

Cyclone and his mare were just off the road in about the same place both Saturday and Sunday.

Cyclones mare

Cyclones mare

Like Amanda said, Cyclone’s mare is readily identifiable by her frost-bit ear and “blood mark” on her left shoulder. These two were very calm and not bothered by us at all while we took pictures of them from the road.

Corona

Corona

Loved the contrast of his beautiful palomino coat against the coming storm.

Coronas grey mare

Coronas grey mare

This colt is the one that reminds me so much of Storm! This seemed to be the mare that wasn’t too sure of us. I think Amanda said (??) the pinto mare and the sorrel mare were with him before the gather … very cool that they reunited!

Corona with sorrel mare

Corona with sorrel mare

Sand Wash view

Sand Wash view

Looking westish-northwestish toward the storm. Only the palomino pinto mare is missing from this image. All three foals are in a little bunch at right.

Picasso and band

Picasso and band

There’s Picasso – center – with both his mares and foals. I kept seeing similarities between the Sand Wash horses and other wild horses I know. The pinto mare at right reminds me of Chrome of the Little Book Cliffs, once Phantom’s mare, and the bay mare at left reminds me of Grey’s mare that was mistakenly sorted into the stallion pen during our roundup.

Picassos mares

Picassos mares

I know from Amanda that Picasso was gathered and released, but I don’t know about his mares. The pinto foal’s markings look like a jigsaw puzzle, don’t they? On this left shoulder, where you can’t see because of the bay mare, there’s a little speckling of “freckles.”

Picasso

Picasso

It’s hard to take your eyes off of him … especially in person!

It was just a darn nice visit. 🙂





Sand Wash Basin

29 07 2009
Picasso of Sand Wash Basin

Picasso of Sand Wash Basin

This past weekend, I finally had the opportunity I’ve been anticipating since last October: a visit to Sand Wash Basin, home range of current Spring Creek Basin mares Luna (2001), Raven, Mona and Kootenai (2008). What an unforgettable experience!

Many sincere thanks to Amanda Conner who was so generous with her time, taking me out to see the horses Saturday with photographer Pam Nickoles and her husband, Tom, and Sunday morning before I had to head for home. Fantastic company all the way around, and I was thrilled to be with these particular mustang advocates during my first visit to this amazing area!

You might recognize Amanda’s name from the pictures she sent awhile back of Raven and Kootenai with their bands in Sand Wash before they were gathered last October and traveled to Spring Creek to boost our herd’s genetic diversity. She visited Spring Creek Basin in 2007 and 2008 (I think) as part of the alternative spring break program from the University of Missouri. She was already a horse girl, but seeing the mustangs inspired her to find a way to work with them. She’s about to start graduate school studying equine reproduction (yeah?!), but meanwhile, she’s an intern for the Humane Society of the United States, working on their PZP study in Sand Wash. She knows those horses like family! Lucky for us and the horses, next summer will be her third summer in *that* basin! Amanda, thank you so, so much for all you do for our wild horses!

Sand Wash Basin is amazingly familiar, sharing a lot of the same type of topography and vegetation that fills Spring Creek Basin. Some main differences I noticed: they have more sage to our saltbush, and they have a lot of, well, washes. I couldn’t give you a technical definition to differentiate the two, but Sand Wash’s washes seem broader, gentler, while Spring Creek’s arroyos seem … “sharper” somehow.

And it’s big. Huge. Ginormous. Almost 158,000 acres to our almost 22,000. And they have more than 200 horses … down from probably a little more than 400 before the October 2008 (please correct me, Amanda, if I remembered those figures incorrectly). I’m just comparing that to our 50+ horses. It’s roughly an hour from Craig compared with my two-hour drive to Spring Creek Basin, but I used at least the same amount of gas getting there – and around – and back. The same warning about rain-on-the-roads applies. Among our group, I held the dubious first-timer distinction of being the only one never stuck in Sand Wash Basin … but let’s not talk about Spring Creek Basin!

The horses look fabulous! We kept using the word “chunky.” Amanda has been keeping an eye on a handsome little perlino colt with a hock injury … keep him in your prayers. The wild ones do so much for us; it’s a little thing to try to pass some of that wild magic back to them.

Lots of color in the Sand Wash herd! Pintos of all colors and patterns, bays, greys, sorrels, palominos, duns, grullas, oh my! Picasso, the beautiful pinto stallion pictured above is an interesting color – bay and white pinto at first glance. His forelock is black, his mane black and white, but his tail is dark red; his legs are not black. Is he dark chestnut or is he bay? But let’s get down to brass tacks – he’s beautiful, and I could have spent all day photographing him! Incidentally, handsome Picasso graces the cover of Claude Steelman’s Colorado’s Wild Horses.

Speaking of Claude’s book, our black and bit-o-white girl Raven also is in Claude’s book, photographed when she was on her home range of Sand Wash Basin. Is it odd that her picture appears opposite a mare and foal Claude photographed in Spring Creek Basin? Raven came with dun mares Mona and Kootenai to Spring Creek Basin after last fall’s roundup in Sand Wash. Buckskin butterball Luna came with two other mares (grulla Slate and an unknown-to-me dun mare) as a 2-year-old in 2001. All our new mares got the PZP-22 – like all the mares released back to Sand Wash Basin after the gather – and none were thought to be pregnant. But Raven delivered a surprise on or about April 26, and with Amanda’s help, we know that a beautiful palomino stallion named Corona (with the amazingly appropriate nickname Fabio!) is the likely sire of Raven’s filly, named, in his honor, Corona.

Corona with mares

Corona with mares

That’s him in the center of two of his three mares and foals. (Doesn’t the sorrel foal at right remind you of Storm?)

Below Bears Ears

Below Bears Ears

The handsome boy with his other mare and foal … and that’s the little boy with the injury. Who does he remind you of? His half-sister Corona, perhaps??

Pretty perlino and dam

Pretty perlino and dam

Striking, yes? Remember him in your prayers.

Corona and his band – with Raven – were gathered. Raven, of course, was removed from Sand Wash Basin but released to freedom in Spring Creek Basin. I think at least two of his current mares also were released – and reunited with him.

We saw a couple different groups of bachelors – and photographed one band – and a few family bands. The first band we saw appeared unexpectedly fairly close to the entrance turnoff from the highway. We thought it might have been another band that caused them to come toward us to cross the road right in front of where we stopped, but we didn’t see any other horses.

Elegant grey

Elegant grey

This lovely girl – and the grulla and dun beside her – are Cosmo’s mares.

Her handsome colt

Her handsome colt

Love his still-red mane and tail! Amanda said the greys there “go grey” pretty quickly.

Cosmos band

Cosmos band

Cosmo closest. They disappeared behind some nearby hills, and we saw them farther out in that open space on our way out Saturday and again Sunday.

Threatening rain ended our visit with Corona’s band later.

Amanda and her mustangs

Amanda and her mustangs

There’s our wonderful guide watching Corona’s band through her spotting scope.

We also saw groups of bachelors near there before we continued on around the loop. Approaching the main road again, we spotted horses that Amanda identified as Picasso’s. But that rain … All of us have a healthy respect for wet roads in faraway, back-of-beyond places, so we headed toward the highway. We stopped where a grey stallion named Cyclone was grazing with his mare (distinctive with her frost-bit half-ear and “blood mark” high on her left shoulder. We were out of the rain, and we could see the distinct column passing across the northern part of the basin … “What do you think about trying to go back?” Ha! We were respectful of the sprinkles that fell on our windshields as we stopped on the road across from Picasso’s band, but the rain soon stopped, and the three amigas set off through the sage.

“Tttttttt”

I stopped, Pam a few feet away to my right, Amanda just on the other side of a bush to my left. “Did you hear that?”

Amanda stopped, and I looked under her feet because the sound came from my left. Pam came over to see what had caught our attention. “It’s too cold for snakes.” Indeed, we were all wearing lightweight rain jackets.

“There it is” – looped up at the base of the bush that had separated me from Amanda. Not coiled. Not a few moments after we saw it did it come slithering out toward us. Not to panic; there was a hole in the ground right in front of it … which apparently was not the home entrance, so it kept coming. We all backed up a step or three – and kept “shooting,” of course! What are we, photographers or scairdy-gals?!

Rattler

Rattler

Check out his crazy orange eye! His other eye was brown.

He eventually found the front door, and, undaunted, we continued toward the horses, and I can’t speak for my brave compadres, but I was checking around and under every bush and sidestepping each little hidey-hole! Our bravery won us a wonderful visit with Mr. Picasso (again, check my numbers), aged at 20+ by the contractor when he was gathered?!

The old mans still got it!

The old mans still got it!

Bless these wise elders who still protect their families.

Handsome mister

Handsome mister

See what I mean about his color? Tell me what you think!

Family man

Family man

He also has a solid bay mare and her seal brown foal. I’ll take this opportunity to say this is just the first round of photos until I can get more tweaked, as well as to encourage everyone to keep an eye on Pam’s blog (http://nickolesphotography.wordpress.com/) for her narrative of our visit, which, for her and Tom, included a visit to Wyoming’s Adobe Town herd!

Another one

Another one

Seriously, I could take pictures of this guy all day!

With a rapidly setting sun and clouds still filling most of the sky, we headed out. Pam recognized the birds flying past us at one point and got out to identify burrowing owls! Cool! The next day, Amanda and I saw a doe with twins just outside Maybell, then a golden eagle and a coyote inside the herd area! As if the wild horses weren’t enough, it was such a treat to see other wildlife during our visit.

I have to mention the event that took me north in the first place. A few posts ago, I mentioned the fundraising and book-signing event at Zuma’s Rescue Ranch near Denver. Michael Blake – you know him as the author and screenplay writer of “Dances with Wolves,” book and movie – was there almost immediately after completing a recent whirlwind  book tour. He not only offered his new book, Twelve the King, and other books including Dances With Wolves and its sequel, The Holy Road, and Indian Yell, he talked about the importance of protecting our American mustangs in the wild. Twelve is about the mustang stallion he rescued from Palomino Valley in Nevada in 1991. An amazing horse; an amazing story. Read Pam’s blog for another amazing story.





Happy birthday, Storm!

23 07 2009

Do you remember that at this time last year, we were on belly watch with Alpha? Do you remember that she was teasing us with the growing width of her big white tummy … just like we’re now waiting on Jif and, possibly, Chipeta?

Brand new boy

Brand new boy

And then one day, after a big storm at the end of July, there he was, the littlest prince of Spring Creek Basin.

Standing tall

Standing tall

My good-NESS, wasn’t he cute!

And just like that my heart was his … like it belongs to all of them. It’s a little early – Storm’s birthday is Saturday – but I’ll be visiting other horses this weekend (stay tuned).

Storm

Storm

Now look at him!

Baby face

Baby face

What a handsome little mister he is.

Happy birthday, orneriest of babies!





Terra-ific update

20 07 2009
Terra

Terra

All seems to be mostly well with this baby girl. I wouldn’t say she’s 100 percent – still seems to step a little delicately – but she’s not limping at all. Doesn’t she look fabulous?

The other big news comes from the same band and is about Mister Twister.

Little boy among big boys

Little boy among big boys

Whether Traveler kicked him out or whether he thought the boys were cooler than hanging out with all the girls, I dunno, but our young orphan was with the bachelor boys: Aspen, Hook and Chrome.

Alegre and Whisper

Alegre and Whisper

Bounce and Gaia

Bounce and Gaia

Looking up the hill at Cinch and Bruiser in the trees.

Bounce and family

Bounce and family

All together just over the hill from Wildcat Spring.

All but Jif

All but Jif

Grey/Traveler’s band off the east-side loop road.

Iya and Jif

Iya and Jif

Jif

Jif

Waiting on the belly.

Cuatro

Cuatro

Growing into his legs.

Nippy

Nippy

It’s always the same with little brothers, isn’t it? Fortunately for Terra, Cuatro was only annoying in passing. Iya at left.

Brother, sister

Brother, sister

Not to mention … aunt and nephew?

Cuatro, Houdini, Terra

Cuatro, Houdini, Terra

Let’s break it down: Houdini is Cuatro’s grandma and Terra’s mom. Cuatro’s mom is Terra’s half-sister. Possibly, Cuatro and Terra have the same sire; I’m only certain Grey/Traveler is Terra’s daddy. Whew.

Grey boy and babies

Grey boy and babies

Terra lying down at left; Cuatro at right. Two Boots behind.

Aspen and Chrome

Aspen and Chrome

The boys – who by this time had lost Hook and Twister – take a look at Traveler’s band.
Chat

Chat

The boys wisely deferred to da man.
Bounce and Twister

Bounce and Twister

Meanwhile, Twister was checking his options.
Lets go, little buddy

Lets go, little buddy

In the above pic, Hook was wisely keeping his distance – in fact, Bounce and Twister are looking at him. Here, he seems to be shepherding the youngster away from Bounce’s family.
Steeldust under the trees

Steeldust under the trees

It was hot – between 96 and 100 degrees when I was there – and the horses sought the comfort of the shade.
Seeking shade

Seeking shade

A different time of day, and they were back under the “shade trees.”
Sable and Mahogany

Sable and Mahogany

Love Sable’s face here.
Ember and Sable

Ember and Sable

Storm

Storm

Storm and Ember have both gone from baby-red to grey. Master Storm will be a year old next Saturday!
Alpha and Storm

Alpha and Storm

Storm here is deliberately stopping mama so he can nurse … and she let him. He’s just a big baby. 🙂
Hannah and Sable

Hannah and Sable

I love to see the babies interacting with each other.
It was a really wonderful day, though pretty warm. A nice breeze all day mostly kept the bugs away, and some clouds came up in the afternoon to provide some spotty shade (not rainmakers, though). Most of the northern bands seem to still be hanging around the Wildcat Spring area. Also saw Hollywood – closer to the dugout – and his band, and Kreacher and the girls by Filly Peak. Didn’t spot Duke’s band or Seven’s, and didn’t have the luck this weekend of seeing David and Shadow or the pintos from the Disappointment Road.
The horses look great, and the babies are growing and shedding their baby hair like crazy. Cuatro has a little line of hair still on his belly that’s very cute. Not much water, which I’m sure is one reason the horses are all close to the spring. They’re taking advantage of the trees for shade and keeping the activity level low in the heat.




Interaction

18 07 2009

For the latest installment, a little more intimate look at the interactions of  a couple of bands. Visits when I see all or most of the horses are great because I get a sense of everybody’s overall well-being. Visits when I get to hang out with a couple of bands are great because I get a more intimate feel for individual horses and personalities. Visits are great.

David and Shadow were visible from the county road again. They led me to their water source …

Hoofprint puddles

Hoofprint puddles

David and Shadow

David and Shadow

They seem very bonded, this pair. Shadow is 2 this year … not sure about David. 

David

David

Shadow

Shadow

She looks like her mother, Ceal.

Then it was on to the main entrance of the basin.

Bounce’s band – and Cinch and Bruiser – were hanging out in the meadow area above the second intersection. Tiny bits of rain drops were falling intermittently. Some clouds to the northeast; some clouds over the western ridgeline. The pressing goal was to find and check on Terra … I did find her, finally, with her band, through binoculars, up on a hill along the eastern hills. She was standing and moving – and up on a hill. Thunder and lightning cut short the visit and any hope of seeing her from a closer distance …

Bounces band and Cinch and Bruiser

Bounces band and Cinch and Bruiser

When Whisper was first born, I noted that he had the same trot as his daddy; here, he mimics mama.

Alegre and Whisper

Alegre and Whisper

Heading toward the road.

Following

Following

Where ya going?

Where ya going?

See the likeness?

Wait for me

Wait for me

Cinch

Wait for me, too

Wait for me, too

Bruiser

The discussion

The discussion

Oddly enough, it was Bruiser who engaged Bounce. They’re probably fairly close in age?

The conclusion

The conclusion

Bruiser let fly, but he didn’t connect.

One way

One way

The other way

The other way

To the rescue

To the rescue

Alegre and the youngsters were walking toward me when Bounce arrived to put an end to that nonsense.

Family

Family

Favorite of the day.

Second favorite

Second favorite

They’re heading away from the second intersection. In the far background, you might be able to pick out part of the loop road where it heads on south from the east pocket.

I drove on (this was on the northwest road, by the way) to visit with Hollywood’s band.

Safe Sage

Safe Sage

Piedra grazes close while Sage naps.

Sage and Piedra

Sage and Piedra

Brumley Point (which seems to lack an actual point) in the background. The band was on the north/northwest side of the road between the intersections, southish of the northwest road.

Poco

Poco

McKenna Peak (which has a point) and “the promontory” in the background.

Roach

Roach

The boys are sticking close – but not too close. They are with company, but I feel some sadness for them, too … close but not close enough to having what they had.

Piedra and Baylee

Piedra and Baylee

Baylee

Baylee

Sage and Baylee

Sage and Baylee

Hollywood

Hollywood

All together

All together

Cheeky

Cheeky

Biting mama’s ear

More cheek

More cheek

The boy defines “cheeky!”

Ha ha!

Ha ha!

So he’s yawning, but what a funny little mister. 🙂

Sweet boy

Sweet boy

Quiet

Quiet

What an angel he is.

Whew, it was hot out there. I left pretty soon after that last picture. The boy’s tummy was full, and he was sleepy again. He laid down for another nap, and I left the ponies to sunshine and browse.

On the way out, to the tune of thunder and a show of lightning, right before I spotted Grey/Traveler’s band on the hill, Steeldust’s were coming out of “hiding” from the direction of Wildcat Spring. All the ponies seen last weekend but Seven’s band. Was particularly glad to see David and Shadow.





Small battle won

17 07 2009

Email today from the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign:

The Restoring Our American Mustangs (ROAM) Act – HR 1018, introduced by U.S. Representatives Rahall and Grijalva, passed in the House of Representatives this morning. The bill amends the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act by adding important new protections and provisions, such as the banning of helicopter round-ups and the reclaiming of land lost by America’s wild horses over the past 30 years. Thank you so much to all who raised your voices in support of this critical piece of legislation. Now we need to prepare for the Senate vote!

On behalf of the horses, thank you for your support,

The AWHPC Team American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign

http://www.wildhorsepreservation.org





Baby girl hurt

15 07 2009

Don’t panic. But it’s been on my mind and will be till I see her again. Terra-love was limping on her right hind leg this weekend. I couldn’t see any obvious injuries or swelling, but binoculars never give you a close-enough view when that’s what you want to see.

Stiff

Stiff

Not a good image, of course, but can you see how “humped” she looks? Think good thoughts for our little girl, people. Thanks-a-bunch.

Artist Karen Keene Day was back in the basin to visit the horses. While she was inspired by the wild ones for future artwork, her husband put inspiration to canvas during our weekend trip.

It was another good day for seeing horses. We even saw David and Shadow! The horses are staying close to the water, in this case Wildcat Spring. The small pond off the road to the old trap site still has water from the latest rains, but I haven’t seen horses drinking there. Kreacher and the girls are taking full advantage of the catchment, but they seem to be the only ones. Wildcat Spring is the current “neighborhood watering hole.” Bruiser and Cinch are still up with the northern gang.

It’s warm, and afternoon rain is always something to be aware of. The bugs are out – but not as bad as last year. They seem worse in the south than in the north. The cheat grass also doesn’t seem as sticky. Something to look forward to, I guess!

Corona

Corona

Isn’t she a stunning little girl?

Most of the bands were east of the section of road between the intersections. We came first to Duke, Raven and the beauty above.  Then Steeldust’s band strolled by us like a wave.

Daddy and baby

Daddy and baby

Steeldust and Hannah.

Mama and baby

Mama and baby

Mahogany and Sable.

Buckskin and bay

Buckskin and bay

Luna and 2-year-old Kestrel and Mahogany and yearling pinon.

Mamas and babies

Mamas and babies

Luna and Hannah, Mahogany and Sable.

Ember

Ember

How she’s changed. She actually looks quite a bit like her big sister, Kestrel, except for her color, of course!

Coupla boys

Coupla boys

Aspen and Chrome following the big band.

Wait for me!

Wait for me!

Hook-at-the-trot. While we were watching Steeldust’s band walk past – and Aspen and Chrome follow – we looked over to see Hook, apparently forlorn at having been left behind.

Horses and hills

Horses and hills

Still le petite Jif hides her treasure from the world. Terra is lying down by Houdini.

The misters

The misters

Daddy and Sage. Aren’t they handsome fellows!

Family bonds

Family bonds

Daddy Hollywood stands very nearby as Sage takes an afternoon snack from mama Piedra.

Admiring the scenery

Admiring the scenery

What does he see out there? Does he see something faraway? What’s on his mind? Lizard mesa in the middle distance; the east pocket beyond.

As we drove out, not only were purple clouds rising over the western hills but thunder was rolling, and lightning was striking – not near(ish). We were privileged to see David and Shadow off the county road near dysfunction junction. I left Karen at our lodging and went back to look for the pintos.

Kiowa and baby

Kiowa and baby

Did I say I thought the foal was a filly? Then I thought it was a colt. But as it turns out, none of my pictures were close or clear enough to really determine, so baby’s gender remains a mystery. And a little more research into the timing of Copper’s take-over makes it very possible – and given the foal’s color, likely – that he is baby’s daddy.

Surrounded by spots

Surrounded by spots

The little holds his or her own.

Mama-to-be?

Mama-to-be?

Wouldja lookit the size o’ dat belly, la! Time will tell.

And such was the day. We didn’t see Bounce’s or Seven’s. I hope to not see Terra limping this weekend.