Love anyway

28 11 2009

Any Martina McBride fans out there? Her song “Anyway” came up on the mp3 player when I was about 20 miles or so (nearly there) from the basin on Thanksgiving Day, and it got me thinking. Despite the supreme frustrations we wild horse lovers endure in the battle to keep our mustangs wild and free, and despite the heartaches and breaks they inevitably bring us along the way – from the magical way they melt into our hearts from first sighting – we must love them anyway. I don’t know about you all, but I’m helpless to do it any other way.

This visit wasn’t without some personal heartbreak – Molly. But it was with so much more: the horses and me and the deer and the wind and the light and the hills and song dogs howling and hope for the future in the shape of little faces and fuzzy coats, winter-ready.

Hunters gone, I had a long-awaited visit with the pinto ponies. Stout Milagro is so fuzzy, he looked like a pony next to daddy Copper.

Oddly, he and Liberty are the same dark muley bay. Maybe a genetic connection on their respective trees.

Here we have Shadow as bonnie mountain goat and David playing it a wee bit safer. I spotted them from the county road, but the pintos were hiding a bit.

The horses – including matriarch Kiowa – were relaxed and grazing, and they paid hardly as much attention to me as to the visitor walking the trail below them …

I’m happy to report that although the vast contingent of hunters finally left the valley, the deer did not. In fact, they are much more visible now, including at least two magnificent “granddaddies” to this young buck.

Mama Kiowa and baby Milagro; Corazon at left and Spook at right.

Mesa is still the outside man, but Ty and Corazon are right in the thick of things, to no great concern of Copper’s.

Corazon; Kiowa in the background.

Reya is the same age as Shadow; they’ll be 3 next spring.

Sisters Reya and Spook (May 1, 2008).

And baby brother Milagro (July 1, 2009). Can you see how fuzzy he is?

In the “front country” of the basin, Steeldust’s band was enjoying the last light of day … and I enjoyed the light creating halos around them …

He does seem to be sticking close to Lady Alpha these days.

Luna and Hannah

Mahogany grazing; Sable seeking attention from almost-3-year-old Kestrel (yearmate of Shadow and Reya).

A little past, a little different angle o’ light. Comanche in the background. (Aspen and Hook are still with the band.)

I took some pictures in passing, but my attention was really farther ahead: Chrome, Jif and little-man Hayden.

This image may be actual size? That’s Hayden’s teeny hoofprint in the soil of his home … Can’t express, really, what this image means to me.

It seems to me (stand by for anthropomorphization) that now-family-man Chrome is a little befuddled by the recent attention showered upon him – former bachelor that he is – well, in his vicinity. I am thankful for his care of his little shadow …

This one just makes me smile. 🙂

Little is fuzzed-up and bearded for winter … so soon … He seems to show the faintest hint of grey high on his cheeks, but right around his eyes is red. What color will the mister be? He’s so much like his daddy, Grey/Traveler.

Now the secret is out: BLM’s next “issue” is the incredible proliferation of over-populating wild ants! No end in sight! How WILL they manage this new “problem”??

Evening with a view …

So thankful …

I took this photo of the moon during my visit with Hayden and Co., song dogs setting up a chorus in the background. Not sure it could have been more perfect.

At that point, I didn’t yet know about Molly.

In the morning, before sunrise, it was 15 degrees in the basin. The morning star was glittering like a droplet of  ice on the eastern horizon while the sky grew steadily lighter. In the dim light, I had a sighting that made my heart leap: Duke. It was hard to see him because it was not yet exactly light and because of the distance, but he looked a little off – still. More on him to come.

Mornings in the basin will make you believe in something other than yourself … and if you already believe … it will reaffirm your faith in something humans will never take away. It is still. It is clear. It is hopeful. It is magic. You can almost hear the collective breath holding, waiting for that first light on the far ridges across Disappointment Valley, waiting for a long column of light to illuminate, first, Filly Peak, then widen and lay down its path across Round Top and Flat Top.

Steeldust and his hangers-on were single-file from the pond to the base of the hill. Far away.

I was looking for horses to put between me and the camera and the hills, surrounded by that sublime light. Did I mention how cold it was?

Hollywood and his girls and his youngster found me, grazing quietly in the pre-dawn light down a line of hills below the road. I hadn’t spent much time with them lately, so I put my down coat on top of my jacket and 14 other layers, wrapped my ear-band around my head, readied my gloves, put extra batteries close to my heart … and waited and watched the creep of light.

Have you ever watched – really watched – sunrise? It can’t be described. Especially, maybe, in the great – intimate – expanse of the basin; there are just too many places to watch the rising sun touch hills and ridges and swells with that sweet golden light. And before I knew it, sunlight had replaced shadow surrounding Holls and the girls and Sage. I zipped up and started walking. Baylee, watching me waddle toward them, thought – apparently – I was the abominable snowwoman – or Michelin Woman? – come to life.

The “Bundle Woman” cometh.

Piedra apparently eventually recognized me, but Baylee’s expression didn’t change much in the other photos I took. Steeldust’s band didn’t know what to think last fall, either, the first time I wore my down coat, until I started singing to them … the only audience that can withstand my “singing.” 😉

Sage still treats auntie Baylee like a playmate … and he still seeks reassurance from mama.


Sage’s winter coat is brown again. He looks like a little Mouse.


I hadn’t seen Grey/Traveler’s band the day before – and I hadn’t seen Bounce’s since the weekend before last – so I decided to head on to look for them and see if the golden light would hold.

Saw the silver boy and his band … and as I approached the Round Top intersection, I saw horses nearly straight ahead. It took a second to identify them against the light … and it took a second after that to pick out Liberty, grazing close to Gaia. I didn’t have to look for Molly; I knew she wouldn’t be there. Even expecting to see what I saw, I couldn’t stop the tears from coming. There’d be no heartbreak if there wasn’t first love.

Gaia and Liberty


Whisper and Alegre

Maybe a little surrogate-mothering going on …

Liberty is our third orphan since I started the documentation of the Spring Creek Basin herd. My introduction to Twister was when he was already orphaned, possibly during the roundup. Shadow’s dam, Ceal, died sometime over the winter of 2007-08. Liberty is 6 months old, and she’s a tough little thing. I think she’ll be OK.

I walked from them back over to Grey/Traveler’s band.

He is my healing magic.

Cuatro was hanging out, napping on his feet, a short distance from the band. Then he decided to put on a show:

Such a big trot for a little boy!


He must have learned this move from his muley pals. 🙂

He hit the brakes, and Terra came up out of the arroyo. Two Boots never looked up from her grazing. She’s a veteran mama at the ripe young age of 2. Watching Cuatro, it suddenly became apparent to me that his sire has to be Twister; he looks just like him.

Grey and Houdini

Terra and Cuatro

Iya (April 27, 2008) and Terra (May 1, 2009); La Sal Mountains in the background. They were born the same color; look how dark Iya is now!

Fuzzy, furry silver boy!

Thus emotionally armed, I went back to find Duke.

He looks all right … but he is thinner than when he had Raven and Corona – and, briefly, Kootenai.

He’s still limping, but he’s completely mobile, and he’s putting weight on his injured leg (right hind). See all that sky behind him? This is Spring Creek Basin’s version of “top of the world.” The difference between here and the Pryors is that here, if you step off that edge … well, let’s just say it really is an edge, and I really would recommend NOT stepping off!

Love his handsome face.

He’s a crazy horse to be walking up and down mountains (to and from water) on his healing leg, but he’s a tough boy!

Love, always. 🙂

Thankful days don’t wait for calendar dates. No matter what’s going on, I – and you, I bet – have things in your life for which to be thankful anyway. I think the ponies don’t know how much they give of themselves to all of us who admire them so; it’s the least we can do to ensure their continued protection – any way we can.

RIP, Molly

27 11 2009

One of the first pictures I took of Molly – that’s Kreacher in the background – and still one of my favorites of her.

It’s an assumption … but it’s based on this:

Liberty is with Bounce’s family now …

Molly was a wise old girl who lived her considerable long life in Spring Creek Basin. She was rounded up in 2007 but had the fortune of being released back to the wild. She was aged by the contractor then at “older than 20,” and although the contractor wasn’t terribly accurate with his aging skills, I’d believe it of her.

She didn’t have much use for humans – for good reason, I’d say – but she was a kind and gentle mother, and she gave her last foal, Liberty, an excellent chance of survival.

Rest peacefully, Molly-girl, in your heaven.

Pryor Mountain – Part 3 (Updated)

26 11 2009

I apologize in advance for the backwards-first nature of this particular post, but for goodness sake, my visit was two months ago! So I’m trying to get the rest of the photos from that day (Sept. 26, after the adoption) posted … but the order is going to be a little funky (time, time … give me more time …).

To recap a little, I drove up the Crooked Creek Road and first encountered horses near Krueger (?) Pond. After a wonderful visit with a few bands there (Bolder’s, Lakota’s, Doc’s and Jackson’s), I drove on and took the fork toward Penn’s cabin. There were a lot of horses in that area, down in a sort of draw and then by a little pond. I walked out and sat on a rock outcropping above the pond for most of this visit and took pictures of the horses as they grazed around me and came to water. From “yonder” at what seemed like the edge of the mountain, horses kept appearing and walking toward the pond. I was so focused on the horses while I was there that I never actually saw the cabin. Someone – Pam, maybe – said she was surprised I didn’t see the cabin. As it turned out, I *was* in view of it – it showed up in at least one of my pictures! I swear, I never saw the cabin for the horses! 🙂

I took so many pictures during my time on Pryor Mountain that I used two memory cards (all of one 8 gb and most of another 8, and maybe that helps explain my delay in processing and posting pix??). The following pictures are from the second card, so the end of my time there. Again, sorry for the order. Also, there were SO many horses up there, and they were so close to each other that I wasn’t entirely sure which horses were with which band – and I didn’t have Matt’s list at that point, so I was looking just at the horses and their behavior/interaction with each other. Our Spring Creek Basin horses don’t gather in such proximity – and definitely not as calmly as these horses! Another noticeable difference: In the basin, I go to the horses; on Pryor Mountain, I went to their general area, and they came to me. I walked out from the road to sit on the outcropping with some horses grazing out in the open toward the cabin (where I now know the cabin is) from the pond and more walking from quite a distance beyond that to the pond, and I ended up literally surrounded by horses. Talk about magic. I was in heaven.

As always, Matt and Pam and others knowledgeable about the Pryor horses, please correct me if needed. Even with Matt’s list of colors and descriptions, it wasn’t easy to figure out these horses because it was hard to figure out the “delineation” of bands!

I’ll start with Baja’s band, walking to water.

Baja, to me, seems to be one of the stallions that epitomize the Pryor mustangs with his dun color and “Spanish warhorse” build. Followed by Washakie, Bacardi and Bacardi’s lovely filly. Band members Graciana and her colt were bringing up the rear out of this image. The filly was feeling her oats on this beautiful evening; she would gallop up to near the head of the line then stop – for a scratch – then burst into a gallop again when the band seemed to “leave her behind.”

Here she is catching up to Baja and grandma (?) Washakie. Matt’s list indicates that Washakie is Bacardi’s dam, and Bacardi is Graciana’s dam.

Graciana’s colt was following the band ahead of his dam, but they were a fair distance behind. He kept stopping and looking back at his dam, but then he seemed to decide that he was tired of waiting for mama and missing the fun his sister (and aunt?) was having, so he hustled on after the band … and then Graciana broke into a trot also. 🙂 It was fun watching them.

Now here are two horses I’m not entirely sure I have right (it was hard to see some of their lower leg markings because of the grass): Felina (right) and her filly? In Morning Star’s band? They were toward the road when I first got there and walked out to the outcropping, then they walked down to water past/below me, then back up to where they had been before.

I really liked this mare’s striking color (Felina again, if I have her correctly identified), sort of darkish buck-dunny! And loved her shoulder and neck stripes, which you can see in the previous picture and which her filly seems to have inherited. The dun beside her must (might?) be Hataalii? If so, she’s a 2-year-old filly out of Sapo, the grulla dam of the buckskin filly in Bolder’s band (pix in part 2).

Prince. Matt wrote about this guy on his blog awhile back, noting that lip injury. It looks pretty ragged but doesn’t seem to bother him much; he’s very stout, hale and hearty and has a mare, red roan Ireland. He’s 16.

Cloud, one of the horses I could recognize without Matt’s list (really, is there anyone who couldn’t recognize this handsome stallion?), and his band came from “yonder” way out shortly after I sat down. At about the same time, Baja’s band was coming from a slightly different location “yonder.” Baja’s band went directly down the trail to water, but Cloud’s broke off the trail and came up down (sorry, I’m finding it hard to describe the directions!) where the outcropping followed the line of the hill below me.

He was completely uninterested in me, and in almost all the pictures I took of him, he’s grazing. I finally got this shot – one of my favorites – when he saw (I think) Baja’s band coming up from water. He took an interest in them and took a few steps toward them before just going back to grazing! Supremely confident, this lad. 🙂 (This was cropped into a vertical image from a horizontal picture.)

Quite a significant crop of the original pic … I loved the light on his shining forelock.

And then there was the dainty little nearly newborn baby girl … Halcyon’s filly. Truly, one of the most adorable babies ever (said she who knows every baby born is the most adorable ever)!

Soooo tired … head sooo heavy … Did I lie??

She and her mother (Halcyon) and grandmother (Blue Sioux) and another mare (Adona) are in Coronado’s band, and I think this might be the little one that was born just before the roundup and left on the mountain because she was too little to come down? (Thank goodness!)

My favorite moment/picture from the entire day. Absolutely and positively. Halcyon is just 2 years old, like our Two Boots. There will be an interesting little surprise in the next batch of pictures – from just a short time before this picture was taken.

And now, a little series:

After her dinner, mama and grandma walked away grazing, leaving baby momentarily behind. So she burst into dance …

… She got to mama, but she galloped on past …

… When she got to grandma Blue Sioux, she slowed down but kept going …

… She finally stopped when she got to daddy (?) Coronado! Daddy’s little girl! He paused in his grazing to shake his head, then went right back to it, completely unperturbed and leading by example. 🙂 Loved this!

Here’s one of her from earlier, after she got up from her nap. She was scratching with a back leg (that’s what you see in the very lower right corner), but I found her curly little mane fascinating! What a doll!

By this point, I was at least half an hour past the time I had told myself I needed to leave to head back down the mountain. How I would have loved to have stayed there on that magic mountain that evening, all the way to night darkness.

This is one of the last pictures I took that evening. I don’t know the horses. They were yet another band coming up from “yonder” at the “edge” of the mountain. Check out the country beyond! That’s looking eastish, I think – maybe eastish-southeastish? – toward the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area/Bighorn Mountains? Matt will have to help me with the geography. It’s one of the unique attributes of Pryor Mountain, that when you’re on top, you’re really on top of the world, and there really are “edges” (OK, not *really*) below which the rest of the world seems so far removed … and you wish it really was sometimes. Pam has a phenomenal photo of a Pryor stallion rearing on the mountain with a rainbow over him and seemingly all of Wyoming spread out at the bottom of the mountain below. When I think of the Pryor Mountain horses, I think of the horses “at the top of the world.”

Hopefully, I’ll finish this post by just adding new pictures – from before these (again, sorry) – here (and it may take me another little while). Magic is without order, after all. 🙂

OK, these pictures conclude my Pryor Mountain visit – these were taken before the ones above (sorry, again!).

From my perch above the pond … Morning Star’s band? You can see the road continuing on in the background (I parked back up the hill behind this vantage).

I included this one to give a little glimpse at how close some of the bands were to each other. Front left: Ireland and Prince. Morning Star (I think) behind them, and I think those are his mares and foals at far right (but I’m not entirely sure that foal is Felina’s now?). In the middle is Custer and his mare grulla Winnemucca and (the list says black) colt Irial … who is Ireland’s colt. Goodness.

Ireland and Prince … Irial and Custer?

Something caught Winnemucca’s eye, and she walked up the hill behind me. Such a pretty, feminine mare.

It wasn’t long before Custer was hot on her trail! Look at that long trot!

Happily reunited.

The trees kind of ruin the “edge of the world” look, but there’s Cloud taking in the view of his world.

As his band was appearing, so was Baja’s, from farther right. It was a crazy kind of thing … horses kept coming up from that “edge”! It was like they were coming up from Neverland and just appearing at the top of the mountain.

And there it is – the cabin! (Far upper right.)

I think these are in Cloud’s band: grulla Aztec and filly Jasmine and … and black …? Bailey’s or Pococeno?

This was the water hole below my perch. Morning Star’s band, I think?

And remember the little surprise regarding Halcyon?

Here’s her baby nursing …

Then, after her baby had nursed, Halcyon went over to HER mother, Blue Sioux, and nursed! And I thought our boy Storm nursing was weird! He’s 16 months old! Matt’s list says Halcyon was born in 2007.

Really, a lovely day. 🙂

Two ponds dug

25 11 2009

I have to start this post with the good news (there isn’t any bad): Two of our ponds finally got dug out! The work was done before the snow the weekend before last, but the dozer just left this past weekend. I think the ponds look fabulous, and they’re both deeper (much deeper!) and can’t help but provide more water sources for the horses next spring! I wish I could remember the contractor’s name; I’d thank him right here on the blog – thank you, contractor! Your work will provide a direct benefit to the horses! And thanks to BLM for starting the process rolling by securing the funds.

Let’s start with the pond behind/south of Round Top.

This what it looked like “un-dug.”

Here it is dug. Just imagine that baby filled with water!

Now here’s the other one, one of the “double ponds” off the far east loop road:

It blends in, doesn’t it? 🙂 That’s OK – perfect, even! In the foreground is the wide arroyo the road crosses, and about midway up the left side IS the road … and up to the right, about midway, is the pond. (The second of the “double ponds” is back farther, closer to where the arroyo comes down from the east ridge.)

Here it is a little closer (zoomed in). I hiked back to it after a visit with Poco and Roach and just had my long lens. From closer, I couldn’t get nearly all the pond in any composition!

Another comparison:

This is the big pond below the roller-coaster ridge. Yes, it’s shrinking (it was the one pond that didn’t go dry in 2008; it did go dry this year, then filled back up), but look how shallow it looks compared to the ones that just got dug out! That’s serious siltification! (I have no idea whether that’s an actual word.)

Snow is still in patches throughout the basin, but the roads were mostly dry. It was a little soft back near the double ponds, so I didn’t go all the way around. Molly and Liberty and Duke remain elusive. I did see Seven’s but not Bounce’s, so Molly and her filly are a mystery right now (if Molly’s time has come, I’m expecting Liberty to show up with one of the other bands … maybe back with Seven, her sire, or with Bounce, who she and Molly spent at least a few days with after they left Seven’s band). Little Hayden is adjusting well to his abnormal babyhood. He’s fuzzy, and both Jif and stepdaddy Chrome are protective of him. I saw them just from a distance, walking along a ridge. Jif was leading, and Hayden was a short distance behind … with Chrome *right* behind him. He easily could have passed the youngster, but he stayed right with him, even stopping with him for a rest while Jif walked on till she realized they had stopped. Nothing’s more important than family, no matter the season. 🙂

Poco has regained some weight he lost while he and Roach were with Hollywood’s band.

Roach, low man on the totem pole, still looks great.

I was having flashbacks with regard to Kreacher’s band  like with Seven’s band after they were chased last summer: I hadn’t seen them except very far away since the ATV hunters spooked them. Found them finally a bit out of their normal territory, but then they ended up on the west-side loop road and were completely calm when I gingerly approached them to say howdy.

Looking out toward the eastern ridge/boundary. It doesn’t look very snowy, but patches were hiding in the shadows of saltbush and grassy stuff! You can see the tracks from the dozer on the road.

Corona seems to have made a connection with Kootenai since Koot joined them with Duke.

I caught them during their late-afternoon nap …

By this time of year, the mamas seem to feel like their ever-more-independent babes regard them just as milk bars. But every now and then, you can still catch them in a tender moment …

And a mother-daughter portrait or two. 🙂

Mona and Kootenai … still napping … on the other side of the road (no jokes!).

They’re very fuzzy (Kootenai, in particular, has a lush, furry coat; maybe it’s her color that makes it so apparent). Corona was a bit muddy, and the mud just accentuated her curls. 🙂 She’s SO cute!

Just before sunset, I found Hollywood and his family, getting a drink at the Flat Top pond, which was on the dig-out list but didn’t get done because Mother Nature saw fit to rain enough just before it was to get done that water collected a bit here. About a third of that surface area (it didn’t fill) is dry again now.

This is the view from the road. It’s the opposite end that’s drying first.

Hollywood and his shadow. 🙂

I wish all of you a happy Thanksgiving, no matter where you are or who you’re with. Other than my family, of course, I’m most thankful for the wild horses of Spring Creek Basin and elsewhere, and I’ll be gratefully and thankfully spending the holiday with them this year. Bounty of good life to you all!

Pryor Mountain, Part 2

14 11 2009

In the spirit of catching up, here are some more photos from my visit to the top of east Pryor Mountain when I was in Wyoming and Montana back in September.

Shortly after I crossed onto the wild horse range from the national forest, I saw horses. It was Bolder’s band, coming from Krueger Pond.


Bolder and Amethyst (as always, please correct me if I’ve incorrectly ID’d horses?)


Bolder’s mares Celt (black) and Fool’s Gold


Also in Bolder’s band: Grulla mare Sapo and her filly


Pretty, pretty girl!

I could hear ATVs that I thought would eventually get to us on the road, but they never appeared. I found them when I walked down toward the pond; they were AT the edge of the pond while three bands stood on the hillside.


Doc’s band – he’s at right, Inocentes is in front, her dam, Fiasco, at left and Flicka (18!) behind her.


Jackson’s band – he’s the coyote dun at right, Firestorm at left, black Galena and her seal brown colt Jasper, and grulla Brumby and her filly behind Jackson. I think Brumby is the mare that tied up when she was driven in by helicopter during the roundup; she looked great this day.


Lakota’s band – he’s the grullo at left, bay mare Half Moon, 18-year-old Quelle Colour, palomino Blanca and roan Heritage.

Because of the people at the pond, I sat down on a boulder to wait for them to leave, thinking the horses were waiting for the same thing. The pond sits in a sort of natural amphitheater, and I’m sure the people didn’t realize I could hear them talking as if I was standing next to them. The people didn’t leave right away, but the horses did – they came right toward and past me! I figured sitting still and quietly was my best course of (in)action.


Jackson’s band starting to leave the pond.


Love his color.


What a handsome stallion!


Brumby and her filly


Jasper. Cute ‘n curious.


Quelle Colour, Heritage and Blanca


Half Moon


Handsome Lakota … he’s been one of my favorites since my first visit two years ago.


Jackson and Doc


Brumby’s filly and Jackson


Doc … What a splendid shiny boy! If memory serves (and it’s entirely possible it doesn’t), Doc was a bachelor with Two Boots a couple of years ago when I was there.



My impressions were that the horses looked wonderful and were quite sound, and if I didn’t know about the recent roundup, I wouldn’t have because they were remarkably calm. I wasn’t too surprised that they decided not to go to the pond with the people and ATVs and dogs there, but I was surprised they walked right by me on their way up the hill; there was plenty of room away from me to get to the top of the hill.

They are amazing horses, and I’ll have a part three to come of the horses I saw close to Penn’s Cabin, but it was so nice and almost completely peaceful (except for the pond people, I was the only one there, it seemed), and I thoroughly enjoyed visiting all the families.

Sun worship

13 11 2009


Can you feel the warmth?


Early morning in the basin, everything is still. Chrome and Traveler were still close with their families; in fact, Iya was hanging out with Chrome and Jif and Hayden again.


Traveler’s had started to go up this hill, on this side of the drainage, and Chrome’s – with Iya – had started up a hill to the left.


From the top of “Chrome’s hill” looking across at Terra and Houdini.


A little closer


A little earlier – Cuatro and Terra


A little sun … a little shade … a beautiful silver …


A little nourishment for the littlest.

I drove up into the northwest section of the basin, looking for Kreacher’s where I’d seen them the day before and any sign of Duke – nada nobody. But as I drove, I was thinking about the “bottle tree” I cleaned up last year in the wake of the people at Wildcat Spring. Remember it?


Taken Nov. 2, 2008.

You’d never believe …


Taken Nov. 7, 2009; same tree. 😦

I saw everybody else during the day but Molly and Liberty and the pintos (and the aforementioned Kreacher’s band and Duke), including Poco and Roach. They were too far for good pictures, just over the ridge from Seven’s, Bounce’s and Cinch, Bruiser and Twister. Steeldust was entertaining the remainder of the bachelors near Round Top. David and Shadow were out on the saddle, so I know they’re staying close to that water source, which is interior and safer at least.

The wind picked up about mid-morning, apparently trying to make up for the early morning stillness. Most of the sky was bright blue except for a long trail of clouds that kept the sun mostly – weirdly – obscured and kept us mostly under shade after that first glorious hour of the day.

Snow coming again.


10 11 2009

Last weekend was about searching for horses, in particular Duke, Molly and Liberty, Poco and Roach and baby Hayden. I found Hayden and Poco and Roach.

The end of the third rifle season was Friday or Saturday, depending on which DOW schedule was right, and I mostly had the basin and the horses to myself – ah, peace. I haven’t seen the pintos since the start of hunting season, I think, probably because of pressure from the road, close to which is the only water source I know of for them.

One of the bands that has NOT been hard to see recently – Kreacher’s – was briefly sighted up by the northwest road, then not again. I did get lucky and saw most of the others both days I was out.

Grey/Traveler was babysitting his youngsters – safely tucked into the saltbush taking their afternoon naps – while mamas and Iya were out grazing. Chrome and his new family were nearby, baby Hayden also taking his nap.

It was pretty windy both days (very still and nice until Saturday mid-morning) but mostly sunny and perfect temperature. Still some shade in the very shadiest of the most-north-facing hills but otherwise totally dry – except “the squish” on the loop road down from the roller-coaster hill, but not a problem to drive through.

The first clutch came when I found Steeldust’s band near the north-south road north of the Flat Top pond (which continues to shrink). Hook was with the band, and Aspen, but Twister was not with Hook. Maintaining my practice of not letting ya’ll share (some of ) my worry, he’s with Cinch and Bruiser! Not too much of a surprise, given they were all out on the Round Top-Flat Top saddle the previous weekend. AND the very first time I ever saw Mister Twister, he was with Cinch and Corazon.

Comanche and Mouse were napping on the far side of the band, and only Aspen and Hook gave me the eyeball while I visited (I don’t think Mouse moved so much as a hoof). Steeldust was hanging out with Alpha on the other far side of the band, and he apparently was completely unconcerned that Aspen and Hook were closer to his ladies and babies (except Alpha and Storm) than he was. Is Alpha in heat? There was no activity to suggest that; they were very quiet, sharing each other’s company in the sunshine. I just like to speculate. Storm-chaser is holding onto baby-hood as long as he can.


Hook and Ember napping. They weren’t as close as they look in this photo. That’s Hollywood’s band way out in the distance on the east-west hill.


Sundance roused from his nap long enough to greet Aspen and Hook, and after a couple of squeals and sniffs, went right back to the band.


Is it just me, or is Mouse getting stocky as he grows up?


Handsome curious boys


Front: Mahogany and Sable. Back: Ember and Pinon.


Sleepy, sleepy babies: Ember, Pinon, Hannah and Luna


A little after the previous photo, Hannah laid down. In the “near” background is the east-west hill – that’s where Hollywood’s band was hanging out both days.


“Baby” Storm is still nursing. Mama Alpha still lets him. Steeldust was just to the right.



Whaddy’a think? They look sleepy … and they look fantastic, eh? 🙂


You all, of course, know the Twister “mystery,” but I didn’t yet at that point. This pic was taken from the west-side loop road looking back at the band. Those crazy ponies didn’t even move in the time it took me to drive around there – well, Storm walked over to the main group. Lower left: Steeldust and Alpha. Looming weirdly hugely in the background is Filly Peak.

Seven’s band was between the Round Top road and roller-coaster ridge pond, Bounce’s was between the pond and the ridge, and Cinch, Bruiser and Twister were out between Round Top and the weird guzzler. No Molly and/or Liberty to be seen. Bounce’s were right at the base of the ridge, so when I drove over, I decided to walk down and around them to get better light. But before I got “better” light, I got light that loved Alegre.


Love that rim lighting on her forelock and tail as she stands over her baby Whisper, who is growing up into a fine young boy.


Handsome handsome!


Just like daddy Bounce!


Sweetest bravest curious-est girl Gaia 🙂


She’s still baby-clacking.


While I was visiting with and photographing Bounce’s band, Seven was curiously and calmly watching. Then he walked down to get a drink from the pond, just a little bit in front of him, out of this frame.

I checked the hunter camp on the hilltop overlooking Wildcat Spring. Except for four ribcages, four mule deer heads (antlers cut out) and hides, two gut piles and three entrance routes to the hill from the main road, the only speck of trash I found was a bottle cap. I guess I get leaving the leftovers for the ravens (they didn’t seem to find the stuff till the next day, making me wonder how recently the hunters left) and coyotes, but did they have to dump it down the hill on the side of the spring/canyon?? And the three routes they drove in – I hope – illustrates the need to prohibit off-road travel in an area of limited forage. How long will it take for grass – or anything else – to grow back in that poor (poor as in not very fertile) soil the horses depend on?

The sun was close to the horizon (I always forget how early it comes when we turn back the clocks) by then, so I headed out, hoping to find Grey’s and Chrome’s still in the flats. Oh, lucky me … but the long shadows were growing longer by the second.


You can see that the shade has overtaken them by this point … See that white-ish blur at upper left? That’s Grey/Traveler. His band was out to the right.


Hayden looks back at me and Chrome takes the opportunity to investigate the little mister. That’s Grey’s butt between his ears; an unfortunate angle, but I didn’t want to move and lose the moment! Remember how I originally described Hayden’s star as diamond-shaped? What does it most resemble now?? Be still my so-lost heart.


This is how close they were … and how calm. Still in the sunshine, barely. Jif and Hayden were to the right; Grey/Traveler was over to the left as far back as his band. In the background, from left: Iya, Houdini, Terra and Cuatro. I think Two Boots was closer to Grey.

Lovely day and evening. 🙂

More roundups

9 11 2009

From an email update from American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign:

The federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has issued its 2010 Round-up Schedule ( which provides for the capture of a staggering 12,000 additional wild horses and burros, at the cost of 32 million of our tax dollars! Given BLM’s recent handwringing over the number of horses in government holding, this announcement is simply baffling. More than ever, America’s wild horses are under siege, their long-term survival increasingly threatened.

[Note that West Douglas  is on the list – 60 horses (of how many?) to be removed – in February. Don’t know how many horses out there; BLM still claims there are four herd areas in Colorado, not five.]

Nevada’s Calico Complex, with over 2,500 horses slated for removal next month, is high on the list of questionable removals and another example of BLM’s out-of-control behavior. This herd was last rounded up in 2005, when BLM left an estimated 575 horses on the range and gave the mares a contraceptive vaccine. Yet, BLM now claims there are over 3,000 horses in that same area, a preposterous number, even by BLM standards. Locals familiar with the herd are adamant there are far from that many horses left on that range. Indeed, only BLM’s creative accounting could find that a herd has quintupled in size in less than five years, let alone a herd under a contraceptive program!

Interesting background information: last year, BLM authorized a 300% increase in cattle grazing for the area, and the building of a fence that BLM itself admitted might cut wild horses from their winter range and cause them to die. Wild horses would also be locked out of the best pasture with the most abundant water during the driest time of the year. At the time, BLM justified its decision by arguing that wild horse populations in the area were minimal. A couple of months later, it came out with its puzzling claim of population explosion, setting the stage for this massive round-up.

Clearly, something here is amiss. Where did these 3,000 horses come from?

Comments to BLM regarding this round-up must be provided by Thursday, November 12, 4:30 pm PST to Jerome Fox, BLM, 5100 E. Winnemucca Blvd., Winnemucca, NV 89445; Fax: (775) 623-1503; Email: (please be sure to include the following reference #: DOI-BLM-NV-W030-2010-0001-EA)

More importantly, the Department of Justice, which is currently investigating BLM for other misdeeds, must be made aware of another instance of this federal agency running amok. Please express your concerns over BLM?s questionable practices and continued mismanagement of our wild horses to:

John Cruden, Acting Assistant Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice, Room 2141
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530-0001
(note: letters to the DOJ are not subject to the Nov. 12 deadline)

On behalf of America’s wild horses, thank you for your support,

The AWHPC Team
American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign

Troubling encounter

5 11 2009

We’re almost to the end of hunting season. I was hoping we’d make it through with only the respectful people I’d seen thus far, but it wasn’t to be. Despite the fact that we reclaimed the old illegal road to Wildcat Spring, hunters apparently drove in a new “route” up on top of the next hill right above the spring! I guess they couldn’t read the very large sign at the entrance to the herd area telling ’em to stay on designated routes!

This is what the sign says: “Travel restricted to maintained roads. Cross country travel prohibited.”

Who thinks driving off the road and up onto a hill is OK? These guys.


It’s hard to see the trucks and stock trailer and utility trailer and big canvas tent up on the hill, but they’re there. Note the old road to Wildcat at lower left. Lots of tire traffic and some boot traffic to the boulders (and walking past) to check it out. One of the dead trees the students “planted” was knocked over, whether human-caused or natural, I don’t know. I stood it back up. Thank goodness for the boulders, methinks.

To make matters worse, three men – one on an ATV and two on a “gator” or “mule” or some little golf-cart thing – came up behind my Jeep while I was watching and photographing Kreacher’s band from the road, drove around me and sent the horses galloping away.


Check out the passenger shading his eyes so he can see the horses better. The carsonite sign at left marks the intersection with the road to Flat Top.


This was my next view of Kreacher’s band. 😦

I just read a really great Writers on the Range (High Country News) column written by a guy who used to be an avid off-road ATV rider … until the day he was hunting elk and a group of off-road ATV riders zoomed up and scared off the elk … and didn’t understand why the author was PO’d.

To go back in time to a more positive encounter, when I first passed Kreacher’s band, just on  the other side of the road from where this happened, I was heading back to get a closer look at the camp. I drove slowly past the band and took pix through my passenger’s side window. Then I noticed a truck coming up behind me. I drove on, watching carefully in my rear-view mirrors, but they were very respectful and also drove very slowly past the horses, who stayed right where they were, completely relaxed.

Do you get the point? Some visitors respected the horses and were able to get an amazing view of them. Then three visitors completely disrespected them, and the horses galloped away to protect themselves, making it impossible for anyone to enjoy them further at that time.

In addition to the fact that chasing/harassing  the horses is completely illegal, it’s just plain stupid, disrespectful to the horses and rude to other visitors. ARGH!

I sent an email to BLM that night, and I received a near-immediate reply that not only had they had law-enforcement rangers in the basin the day before but that they would follow up on my report. Very much appreciated.

Let’s go back to the beginning.

There were still patches of snow in the basin – more than I expected, truth be told – but it was obvious there had been plenty of vehicle traffic because the roads were mostly good (though a bit more rutted). I did hear what sounded like a stuck truck, but I could never figure out where it was coming from.

Kreacher’s were first on the flats below the catchment. There were a lot of human “visitors” in the basin. I parked up near Flat Top and hiked the old road around the hill. Grey/Traveler’s band was on the north side of the hill. I followed some ATV tracks that went up actually onto the hill … maybe before the sign went up … maybe ignored. I spent some time just visiting with Grey’s band but didn’t take any pictures, then kept going around to the “saddle.”

Hook and Twister were hanging out in the middle under some trees. Twister was lying down with Hook standing over him when I first saw them. 🙂 The trail was somewhat dry – and considerably drier than the ground right off the trail (snowmelt) – so I sat down on the trail to watch the boys.

Steeldust’s band was out by the west-side loop road; Hollywood’s were a little closer to Flat Top. They ended up going all the way over past the pond to the roller-coaster ridge, up on top, then back to the west end. Aspen was with them when I first saw them, but I didn’t realize until I looked through my photos at home that Hollywood’s followed them.

Bounce’s band was over by the west end of Knife Edge … without Molly and Liberty. I never did see them. (Also didn’t see Duke that day, or Chrome, Jif and baby Hayden.)

Cinch and Bruiser also were on the saddle – closer to Round Top – and then I saw David and Shadow back toward that far yucky water puddle. It and the one close to Flat Top both have a little water, and by the hoof prints, horses are drinking at both.


You can see the snow … and the salt in the soil around the puddle.


While I was watching David and Shadow, I saw another “shadow” under some trees in the middle of the saddle, between D&S and Cinch and Bruiser …


Ze, Roja and Seven … Bruiser in the background.



It’s so weird to see them without Molly and Liberty.

I went back around the hill – Grey/Traveler’s were right up at the base of the hill then – and took the horse trail to the pond. It’s shrinking every time I see it.

I was almost back to the main road when I saw the camp and went to investigate.

That’s when I passed Kreacher’s band the first time.


Corona has been playing in the mud. 🙂

And then on the way out …



Loved that halo-light on the ponies …


A little lovely light, a little lovely background … a little lovely wild.


It was such a wonderful end to the day … until the horses heard the ATV.

Let’s review again how the day really ended:


I want everyone to feel about the horses the way I do. It’s a rude realization when I’m reminded that’s not the way it is.