Dapple light

20 05 2010

Had a simply gorgeous time in the basin … despite the forecast that called for – you guessed it – rain/snow – again – right smack dab on my weekend. The forecasters were wrong! (Please forgive my wicked glee!) The sky looked threatening the whole way out, but then it was sunshine and layer upon layer of thick fluffy white clouds from here to the horizon. Ma Nature brewed her dark clouds over the La Sals to the northwest, and assistant Wind dutifully carried them east and south, but Storm’s corridor was just along the northern and eastern ridges and on down to the far southern reaches of Disappointment Valley and beyond, leaving the basin just a paradise on the edge of the world.

An example – this patch of sunlight illuminated the finger hill Bruiser, Twister and Cinch (reunited) were standing on while the ridge behind them stayed in shadow. They were looking down on Hollywood’s band, who eventually went north, while the boys moseyed down off the hill and across the arroyo and up onto the bench that carries the west-side loop road toward Round Top and points east.

Even more is blooming now – late this year. I’ve been keeping track, but – crazy! – I haven’t stopped to photograph the flowers yet. The paintbrush has been trying its best to find the sunshine and warm breath of spring, and more is blooming every week. Prince’s plume started last week … the globe mallow was out just this week – not so much in the basin but very much along the private road leading to the basin. Hardy phlox – white and pink – has been out for weeks and still blooms, some of the petals looking a bit windblown. Loco weed also pops up in places. Some isolated yellow daisies-something-or-other. The cheat grass is still green but starting to flag.  Greasewood is greener than green (it’s possible) and was budding last week. Water holes are dry or very shallow. One pond holds decent water, and a couple of bands are in the vicinity of Wildcat Spring. At least one band is using the catchment, but they have to range far for forage because it’s just not that great in that area. The claret cups are tightly furled within their nests of thorns … not blooming yet. I saw a couple of bunches of lupine (my very favorite wildflower) near Dolores, but that was it. We don’t typically get lupine in the basin (I’m so jealous of the opportunity on Pryor Mountain to photograph babies in fields of blue lupine!)), but there are spots along the Dolores-Norwood Road where they’ve been insane in past years. Given the great snow we had this winter, I’m looking forward to a great show of wildflowers here in Colorado this year.

The horses are mostly shed out now – last year’s youngsters still fuzzy in most cases. Nights still dipping into the 20s (occasionally) and 30s (commonly). The temp reached at least 72 while I was out. Just beautiful.

The first horses I saw were Chrome’s: Jif, Hayden, Two Boots, Cuatro and Chrome, taking his time, bringing up the rear. Can you tell that Jif is slick while Hayden is still fuzzy? Oddly enough, because he was born so late in the year, I’ve never seen Hayden shed out. His face is starting, though, and I think he’s going to stay sorrel – he’s going to be just as handsome a devil as his daddy!

Two Boots is starting to look a little closer … Can you see the little hunks of hair Hayden is trying to shed?

“Wait for me!” They walked on by and down the hill on a horse trail, then Chrome looked up from his lolly-gagging (grazing) and decided he was being left behind, so he went galloping after them.

I saw Seven’s close to Grey/Traveler’s close to Bounce’s, who turned out to be close to Kreacher’s who were close to … Luna’s. (Some stallion weirdness I’ll explain in a minute, so for now, it’s Luna’s band because everyone is following her!)

Didn’t take pix of Seven’s or Grey’s. Seven’s were very close to where I saw them last week. I just sat in the Jeep and watched them. Roja grazed and watched and watched and grazed for about 10 or 15 minutes, then oh-so-casually led her family away. She is so wary and so protective, and because I’ve witnessed them being chased (a couple of summers ago, after which I never saw Molly’s filly Starla again), I just don’t have much heart for even attempting to get too close for her comfort – which isn’t close at all.

Grey’s were moving toward the road on which I had stopped, so I enjoyed my vantage of being able to watch them as they grazed their way closer and eventually crossed to where Seven had had his band.

Who’s who? Doesn’t Whisper, left, look just like daddy Bounce? He’s going grey, though … I love seeing the resemblance.

Gaia and Liberty

And this girl is pulling a Luna on us – two weeks past her “due date,” and she barely looks pregnant at all. Even with her most recent spa treatment in evidence, isn’t she just beautiful?

Raven and Kootenai. You may remember a few posts ago, I referred to their mid-morning nap … here we are smack in the middle of their middle-of-the-afternoon nap!

Corona – no, she is NOT white! – Mona and Kreacher. I know she looks white – she’s blown out, too – but she’s not. She has this very unusual flecking of her palomino color … like Ma Nature couldn’t decide what color to paint her.

All but Mona, who was just off to the left.

And there’s baby Gideon with Mama Luna and Butch, Storm and Alpha at right. Steeldust was nearby but not too close.


Who could resist this gorgeous matriarch? One of the great grand dam(e)s of Spring Creek Basin.

Storm and Alpha watching Kreacher’s band. (And yes, he’s still nursing.)

While I was watching this, I kept one eye on Steeldust, who watched but never moved a hoof. Butch has bred Alpha in the past, but he didn’t now, though she’s clearly in heat.

Butch did a little dance (like a very slow motion passage) over to Steeldust, who didn’t go after him, but neither did he back down. It did provoke him to mark his territory, and Butch went back to Luna, who took the opportunity to walk away …

… followed by Alpha …

… to the very shallow nearby pond. Here’s Steeldust at left – rear – while Butch leaves a territory marker as Luna leads Gideon and Alpha and Storm around the pond – effectively separating Steeldust from the mares.

Luna walked around the pond, but Alpha stopped. Butch continued after Luna, and Steeldust stopped with Alpha.

Think that looks terrible?

How about this?

The good news is that BLM is supposed to have several more ponds – hopefully including this one – dug out because they’re all very shallow (because of the highly erodable soil). The bad news is that neither of the two ponds dug out finally last fall have water right now (I was so optimistic), and the ponds to be dug out aren’t even on the schedule until August or September.

Here’s Butch getting great enjoyment out of his “spa treatment”! Check out how he’s tilted his head and closed his eyes to avoid splashing mud. 😉

He splashed a few times, laid down just so his cheek appeared to touch mud, then got right back up again.

Kreacher, Mona and Raven watch Luna lead the band away from the pond. Butch is looking back at Alpha and the others.

They’re really all quite polite with each other. Whether that’s something conscious – “don’t want to get involved in THEIR drama” or “I think I have enough …” – or bonds keeping them together, who knows? The girls from Sand Wash Basin seem quite content with their boy.

Alegre napping at the base of the hill while the babies (not “babies” anymore!) graze in a bunch. Bounce was down a bit watching the two bands.

He has such a presence, but he’s really not a very big boy in size.

Our very own wild black stallion. He has a heart of gold.

Mahogany, Sundance and Mouse …

Kestrel, Winona and … Comanche, still guarding the girl and the babe!

Notice anybody missing?

There’s Aspen at far right …

Notice anything else, hmm, “odd”? Kestrel and Winona in the background … and in the foreground, Mahogany (front), surrounded by boys, left to right behind her: Mouse, Sundance and Aspen. And not quite ready to present her baby … but close …

Comanche … Hey, who’s that behind him?

Do you see? Recognize? Now do you see who was missing from Mahogany’s band?

Hannah and Sable. When I saw Mahogany – without Sable – I hoped fervently that she had joined her yearmate and big brother Pinon older half-sister Ember with Hook. This kind of thing makes me wonder how “off” our herd dynamic is with massive roundups that take most of the horses every two to four years. Hannah and Sable are yearlings. In a normal environment, I don’t think they’d have left their dams this soon. In both cases, they left before their mothers had even had this year’s foals.

Left to right: Pinon, Hook, Sable, Ember’s head, Hannah


I thought she was going to put on a show like Gideon did last week …

But this wee girl is more reserved than her uncle.

Mama and first-born daughter

Snack time

Love her expression here … *drinker of the wind*! Trying to catch a whiff of this weird two-legged.

Baby girl laid down when Kestrel was grazing with her head hidden from me by a greasewood bush. But then Kestrel grazed her way around her like this, and it looked to me like a little “hug” of the baby – a cocoon of sun-warmed grass and mama’s protective presence.

Comanche grazes by Kestrel as she stands over Winona. The other horses were never far away. I wonder whether Kestrel will continue to follow Mahogany or whether she and Comanche will eventually split off on their own.

Baby napping under guardian legs. Could anything be sweeter?! (Don’t answer that, and if you’ve made it this far, more sweetness is coming …)

With all those boys together, there’s bound to be a little of this. Mouse, left, and Sundance.

And then Hook had the audacity to strut up the hill from his little flock toward Comanche, Kestrel and Winona. Kestrel never looked up, and it didn’t – immediately – interrupt Winona’s nap – but Comanche took immediate notice. And Hook got a little shock:

He took off after him – HARD. I had started to leave them, so I missed the beginning stages of this chase with the camera.

So Hook, former lowest man on the bachelor totem pole, has a band of four now, and Comanche, former first sergeant for Steeldust’s band and then low on the bachelor pole that developed when SD’s band split, seems to have acquired a mare and her foal … and former Lt. Mouse seems to be still in that position – to Sundance, who seems to have been born into and at least grew up in the band? – with Aspen at the low end of THAT heirarchy. Following in the footsteps of low-man Kreacher and low-man Copper … Smarts, not necessarily brawn, with this group?! Or is the bottom of the heap the place to be when it comes to “acquiring” those that lag behind (whether youngsters or a mare that goes off to foal)? Always a myriad to ponder …

Hollywood’s band was almost the last I saw (I saw Cinch, Bruiser and Twister again, far off). Not too far from the road, and I was able to get a nice look at Piedra’s newest son.

No lupine … and greasewood doesn’t quite have the same luminous quality, but baby in a sea of green appeals just as well to my heart.

Piedra and her little boy – see how his star makes a heart at the top – like Hayden’s? Or another upside-down aspen leaf …

Baylee and Sage

After a bit, he got up to nurse, but I loved this look he’s throwing back over his shoulder.

Then Piedra decided that was enough exposure to a two-legged, and she walked down to Hollywood. Iya in the foreground. She turned to follow them, and I wish I’d been about five steps to the left or right because Holls bent his neck around to greet his son for a few seconds before Piedra turned and walked a bit farther before settling back to grazing. The whole moment was blocked because I was behind Iya in a direct path. Oy. As much as I love to capture the interactions between the mamas and their babies, I love to capture that between the stallions and babies – just more rare to see. They like to portray this stoic tough-guy front, but they’re big softies when it comes to babies! Just like all of us!

The Four Corners Back Country Horsemen’s annual wild horse count is this weekend – I hope you folks see all the horses and new babies and have weather as great as mid-week!

Happy birthday, Cuatro!

16 05 2010

This little boy had a bit of a wobbly start on an auspicious day: the day of last year’s wild horse count by Four Corners Back Country Horsemen.

Because he was born on their big day (the count is an annual event – this year’s is coming up this weekend, and I think it’s year 12?!), I asked members to come up with a name for the brown colt with the four white legs and great big star. What they came up with was simple and perfect – simply perfect!

I’d had no idea then-2-year-old Two Boots was even pregnant. They were back in the east pocket, along with several other bands. When I first saw her, I mistook her for Alegre (there is a pretty striking resemblance …), but I couldn’t figure out how she had gotten to where she had so quickly. Then it hit me that it was NOT Alegre, that it was, in fact, Two Boots, and what the heck was that little bundle at her feet?!

Yearling Iya checks out the newcomer …

Baby Terra didn’t know WHAT to think of this tiny little creature!

And when he finally wobbled to his feet, he wasn’t at all sure which flank was the correct flank! (That’s Twister – maybe his daddy? – he’s searching.)

But he finally found mama, and all was well.

He looked so much stronger the next week, I knew he was going to make it.

And Two Boots, young as she was, obviously learned well from her own mama’s care that she has done just fine.

August …

He wasn’t above little brother pranks, either!

Or showing off …

Or racing like the wind!

Cuatro and Terra … Terra is Grey/Traveler’s and Houdini’s daughter. Cuatro is Houdini’s grandson.

He loved playing in the snow. 🙂

And he has been a most excellent and tolerant “big brother” to Hayden since they’ve been in Chrome’s band with their mothers!

Did you ever see two cuter, more completely innocent little boys in all your lives?!

Look how grey he’s getting around his face.

Happy birthday, striking boy! From a wobbly start, you’ve blossomed!

Bounce’s and Chrome’s

14 05 2010

They weren’t close – in fact, they were miles away from each other – but this is a grouping of pix of these two bands because I didn’t post them earlier.

They’re looking up toward Grey/Traveler’s band and Steeldust’s band.

Alegre and Liberty. Liberty is small, but she’s doing well.

Love this beautiful girl … we have a bit of a wait till we see her baby, methinks …

Alegre and 2-year-old Gaia

And I know VC has been waiting for word about Chrome’s band … 🙂

Funny … only Hayden looking at me.

Cuatro and Two Boots … 2B doesn’t look all that close, either, does she? She’s “due” in a couple of days.

I could never get tired of seeing the horses just like this – and all it means in terms of their bonds with each other.

Nor like this! At home in a big little slice of country.

Jif. Don’t be fooled by her little belly – Hayden is only almost 8 months old.

VC, just for you – handsome Chrome, actually taking a break from grazing to look at me for a picture!

And one for the birder folks who so unfortunately got rained out Thursday when they were supposed to be able to see the horses during their tour:

How beautiful is this little wonder of nature?! Western tanager

Wild horse workshop in Denver

14 05 2010


BLM Press Release:  WHB Advisory Board Workshop & Meeting

Bureau of Land Management      Contact: Tom Gorey
For release: Thursday, May 13, 2010     (202-912-7420)

National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board Will Conduct Public Workshop and Hold Meeting in June in Denver
The Bureau of Land Management announced today that the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board will conduct a public workshop and hold a regular meeting in June at a two-day event in Denver.  The workshop on Monday, June 14, will provide the public with a unique opportunity to express their views, comments, and suggestions regarding Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar’s wild horse initiative, which he and BLM Director Bob Abbey announced last October.  The Board will hold a regular meeting on wild horse management issues on Tuesday, June 15.
The public workshop and the Board meeting will take place in Denver, Colorado, at the Magnolia Hotel, 818 17th St., Denver, CO 80202.  The hours of the Monday workshop are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. local time; the Tuesday Board meeting is set for 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. local time.  The hotel’s phone number for reservations is 303-607-9000.  The business agendas for the public workshop and Board meeting can be found on page 26990 of the Thursday, May 13, Federal Register(http://frwebgate5.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/PDFgate.cgi?WAISdocID=762416245134+2+2+0&WAISaction=retrieve).
On Monday, June 14, the public will be able to provide feedback and input concerning Secretary Salazar’s initiative, the details of which can be accessed at the BLM’s website (www.blm.gov); the specific Web address is http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/wild_horse_and_burro/national/initiative.html.
On Tuesday, June 15, the public may address the Advisory Board at an appropriate point in the agenda, which is expected to be about 3 p.m., local time.  Individuals who want to make a statement should register with the BLM by noon on the day of the meeting at the meeting site.  Depending on the number of speakers, the Board may limit the length of presentations, set at three minutes for previous meetings.  Speakers, who should address the specific wild horse and burro-related topics listed on the agenda, must submit a written statement of their comments, which may be sent electronically to the BLM by accessing the following Web address:  http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/wild_horse_and_burro/wh_b_contact_us/enhanced_feedback_form.html.  Alternatively, comments may be mailed to the National Wild Horse and Burro Program, WO-260, Attention: Ramona DeLorme, 1340 Financial Blvd., Reno, NV 89502-7147.  Written comments pertaining to the Advisory Board meeting should be submitted no later than close of business June 7.
For additional information about the meeting, please contact Ramona DeLorme, Wild Horse and Burro Administrative Assistant, at 775-861-6583.  Individuals who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may reach Ms. DeLorme at any time by calling the Federal Information Relay Service at 1-800-877-8339.
The National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board provides input and advice to the BLM as it carries out its responsibilities under the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act.  This law mandates the protection, management, and control of these free-roaming animals in a manner that ensures healthy herds at levels consistent with the land’s capacity to support them.  The BLM manages about 37,000 wild horses and burros that roam BLM-managed rangelands in 10 Western states; the agency also feeds and cares for more than 35,000 horses and burros that are maintained in short-term corrals and long-term Midwestern pastures.
The Advisory Board meets at least twice a year and the BLM Director may call additional meetings when necessary.  Members serve without salary, but are reimbursed for travel and per diem expenses according to government travel regulations.
The BLM manages more land – 253 million acres – than any other Federal agency.  This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska.  The Bureau, with a budget of about $1 billion, also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation.  The BLM’s multiple-use mission is to sustain the health and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.  The Bureau accomplishes this by managing such activities as outdoor recreation, livestock grazing, mineral development, and energy production, and by conserving natural, historical, cultural, and other resources on public lands

Happy birthday, Pinon!

14 05 2010

Pinon’s estimated birthday was yesterday. He was named by fabulous wildlife photographer Claude Steelman, based in Durango. You may not know Claude’s name, but you’ve seen his photos – on the tails of Frontier Airlines planes. Remember the commercials not long ago about the talking snowshoe hare and bobcat (or lynx? uh oh, now I can’t recall)?

Pinon was born right before the count that year, and Claude was photographing his band when I arrived, so I asked him to suggest a name for the colt – and he came up with this perfect suggestion!

Definitely bay, so so light and baby soft.

One of my favorite images ever of a mare and her foal.

Such a good mama.

Pinon and Storm in September … Look how dark he got!

He’s almost a year old here …

Now he’s with a new, small band, and I think his personality will really shine. He got a little taste of stallion duties the other day when Hook left the youngsters on their own to try to steal Kestrel away. Ember above is his year-mate – a month older than him, and Hannah is Ember’s little sister.

Happy birthday, steady boy – shine on!

Positively pony time

13 05 2010

Remember this?:

That was last week.

This is now!:

Welcome, Gideon, to your world! (from Emmy Lou Harris’ “Red Dirt Girls”) This is the first time Luna has had a colt since I’ve known her – and no, he doesn’t match the colt of my dream …

But this little one almost does:

I found Kestrel first and her nearly-brand-new buckskin filly! I named her Winona, which means “first-born daughter.” Coincidentally, she may share her birthday with my grandpa – my dad’s dad – who lived with my grandma in a town called Winona all their married lives.

Yesterday was simply gorgeous from about daybreak till about 2 p.m., when the clouds just took over and hogged the formerly turquoise sky. No rain till about midnight last night, though, which was good for my visit … but a real bummer for the dozen or so people who had signed up for the wild horse tour today as part of the Mesa Verde Ute Mountain Ute Birding Festival. We did see a little yellow bird (goldfinch?), but, because of rain, we couldn’t even drive into the basin and therefore didn’t see a single horse. Last year, I was so happy to be able to show folks all the “northern” horses … but this year, it just wasn’t to be. Interestingly, the very first time I went out to see the horses, it was with a smallish group, and it also rained, and we also couldn’t even drive in and didn’t see horses. I went back later by myself … and the rest, as they say, is history!

Hopefully, if any of you are reading this after the fact, you’ll be able to “virtually” see some of the horses I saw yesterday and early this morning.

Kestrel’s was the first new foal I saw yesterday, but her group wasn’t the first of the day. Pinon was leading Ember and Hannah along a ridge down by Spring Creek … and Hook was nowhere to be seen. I couldn’t believe he’d gone off and left them, but that’s exactly what he did. Where did I find him? Running circles around Kestrel and filly, fended off by Comanche, with Sundance, Mahogany (close but not yet), Sable, Mouse and Aspen right nearby. What a goofy boy. Like he has any chance of getting one little mare of two mares guarded by four stallions! This morning, he had reunited with his flock, and all was well.

Isn’t she divine? Almost the spitting image of her mother – and her grandmother!

Just a little bitty thing

She doesn’t seem to have a speck of white on her unless it’s just hard to see right now on her light coat.

Kestrel has never really taken on any babysitting duties that I could see, but she is a doting mother.

So where was Steeldust? Well, the Steeldust-led big band is no more. Not only have youngsters Pinon, Ember and Hannah gone off to seek their fortunes with Hook, Steeldust and Alpha and Storm have followed Luna and Butch. I’m not sure who Winona’s sire is … possibly Mouse, who I noticed was very interested in Ember last year. Kestrel never seemed to draw the same attention, so daddy is just unknown.

But I am assuming Steeldust is Gideon’s sire, as I assume he’s at least Hannah’s sire and possibly Ember’s.

The little guy is the same color as Tenaz, Piedra’s son. The edges of his mane and tail look dark here, so I’m guessing they’ll darken – like their legs – and both boys will be bay.

Grey/Traveler’s band was close by …

… as was Bounce’s band. No baby yet for Alegre, and she doesn’t look like she’s close, despite being a week past her due date. All the bands were very cordial of each other, and there was no interaction at all.

Seven’s – I saw later – also were in the vicinity. I watched them nap this morning, but no pix because I couldn’t get into position to take pix without suddenly “appearing” on them, so I didn’t take any and just crept away. Right after that, I realized I was in trouble of getting rained upon – I did – so I boogied out of there! But that was today.

Here are more pix from yesterday:

The always lovely Alpha …

Alpha and her almost-2-year-old son, Storm sharing a scratch …

Storm looking for a little snack while Steeldust looks on … but I think that free lunch is about at an end. The PZP-22 did work on Alpha (and only on Alpha), so we may be looking for another July baby from the girl.

He’s just as sweet as can be …

!! And look how big her “baby” boy is!

Gideon nursing with Terra, Gemma and Houdini in the background.

Speaking of Gemma, here’s the 3-week-old girl:

To give you an idea of her size, here she is with mama Houdini:

She’s a big girl!

Daddy Grey/Traveler with his 2-year-old “baby” girl, Terra.


He’s going to be cheeky, like big sister Hannah … I can see it coming.

And he’s off!

Keep those legs untangled, mister!

Didja see me, Mama? I was RACIN’!

Every growing little boy (and girl) needs plenty of milk …

… and plenty of shut-eye.


Babies have lots o’ itchies!

No question this little girl will turn grey.

Big sister is going grey, too.

Daddy, of course, is pure silver!

Isn’t he gorgeous??

I took some also of Bounce’s family members, and at the end of the day, I found and took pix of Chrome’s band. I’ll have those up later.

It’s still one-day-spring, the-next-day-winter in Colorado on the Western Slope (and I think the Denver area got slammed Tuesday with snow?), so these babies have to be tough right out of the womb. Good thing they have excellent mamas watching over them. 🙂

Luna on pony time

11 05 2010

Our lovely buckskin mare Luna was due to foal around April 8. She missed that date. She missed the week after that and the week after that. By now, I’m practically convinced she’s going to give birth to a Clydesdale (just kidding).

Luna has been dragging Steeldust’s band – and hangers-on – all over the basin for weeks now. And I don’t mean at a leisurely stroll. And not at an uncomfortable waddle. She is striding out – marching – follow the inner beat of her baby-drum. I’m not sure whether she’s looking for something in particular or trying to outwalk the glue-like advances of young Butch, or maybe she’s trying to outrun this crazy wind we’ve had – again – this spring (last year, we had 4-5 big bad dust storms? I think today is the third such day this year – I’m pretty sure Armageddon will look something like this). In any case, she’s a mama on a mission, and I’ve started thinking of her as simply that – “Mama.” As in, Where on Earth – or in the basin – is Mama today? Where did Mama take them now? I want Mama now! 🙂

Luna, of course, is on pony time. She may be the keeper of time in pony form, for all I know. She has the wisdom, for certain and for sure.

I watched her from the road last week as she walked directly toward me, then veered toward the road as if she was going to cross it, then walked on it toward me, then veered back off to the same side from which she’d come, then straight toward me, then back to the road – and across it – and out and around, and I thought they were leaving, then BACK toward me, then up through a little drainage between hills and onto a ridge, where she stopped – suddenly and stubbornly – and refused to move, even when first Butch, then Alpha and Steeldust, crowded her. Head up, eyes closed, nearly into the wind. Not even when Hook brought his little flock up behind her group. Not for quite a while.

When Luna is good and ready, we shall see her beautiful treasure – and nary a second before.

The anticipation is divine. It’s making me crazy! 🙂