Gideon see, Gideon do

30 07 2010

These pictures never made it to the blog … victims of lack of time, I suppose. They’re from back in June, during T&L’s visit from Florida.

It’s pretty safe to say – in any context – that Gideon adores Butch. His mimicry of his stepdaddy is pronounced. I realized when I looked back at these photos that there’s another little series I had wanted to show and apparently never gotten around to … Maybe that will be my next post.

In the meantime, Steeldust’s band – which is sort of “back together,” but Steeldust is not particularly in charge – was up above a steep little canyon in the north hills. It’s rockier up there, with lots of cacti around, but there are trees – and grass, actual long-stemmed blades of the stuff.

When Chrome first laid down, Gideon walked up right behind him to investigate. Here’s the big guy – my size!

But when the big guy started throwing those long legs around, things got a little alarming!

Love this expression on Gideon’s face as he watches Butch roll.

A little rest after a successful roll. Mama Luna in the background, by the way.

The next thing we knew, after Butch got up, Gideon laid down in exactly the same spot!

Woo hoo! This IS fun!

A mid-roll check to make sure Mama hasn’t left the vicinity.

Oooh, it feels so good just to lie here in the sunshine … Alpha strolling in the background …

Gathering for the final effort …

And up he goes again!

It must have felt good to both of them. I’m just glad they didn’t hit one of these, which I found later, not toooo close …

Unfortunately, what led me to find this prickly beauty was a beer can some nincompoop had stuck bottoms-up on a dead tree, that I walked over to retrieve. Really? You’re going to carry it all the way up there, presumably sit and knock it back – enjoying the view – then leave it to spoil someone else’s?!

So I leave you with a better thought:

Gideon with (likely) daddy Steeldust, sharing a moment of hang-out time under a tree. 🙂

Heavens, open

28 07 2010

Heavy rains hit SW Colo, set off rock slides
NORWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Heavy rains in southwestern Colorado have caused rock slides, closing part of a highway.
San Miguel County spokeswoman Jennifer Dinsmore says rocks and debris about 4 feet high slid onto Colorado 145 between Norwood and Telluride on Tuesday. No cars were trapped, and no one was injured.
Highway crews hoped to reopen the highway by Tuesday evening. The slide occurred three miles east of Norwood.
The area was under a flash flood warning until early evening. Dinsmore says the soil is saturated from heavy rains the past few days.


That was the content of an email I sent a friend last night with the pronouncement: We’re not getting into the basin tomorrow.

Norwood is almost directly north of the basin as the raven flaps or the kestrel darts or the golden eagle soars.

We have been getting RAIN. Last week’s episode was just a teaser of things to come. I can hardly wait now to get back and see – and report on – all the ponds rippling with water (hopeful, hopeful!). But it’s going to have to wait because the arroyos are likely running and/or thick with mud that hasn’t had a chance to dry so *I* can cross ’em! (How selfish of me!)

And then came the last-minute other-wrench – I have to work my Saturday. Well, if I can’t get out to the basin, OK – it’s raining, after all – though it’s not great for my mental outlook to work six days and have only one off, in any kind of weather.

But I figured if I can’t present new pix, I ought to be able to come up with past pix that I haven’t posted yet. This is one of those:

This was after their little rearing episode: Corazon and Mesa greet each other politely while Ty paws in the background. Aren’t they handsome with their arched necks and alert expressions?

Happy birthday, Storm!

25 07 2010

This big boy has to be one of my favorites. Sure it’s possible his sire is my favorite Grey/Traveler, but his mother is one of my favorite mares, released after the 2007 roundup – I hope – because of recognition of her alpha status, which means her knowledge and wisdom is required by future generations – including her son!

He and I have known each other since the day he was born, and his birth-day photos are some of my favorite mare-foal pictures ever.

This one made it into our new brochure.

This one is framed.

Storm with Pinon, who was born in mid-May that year.

Storm and Ember, who was born in April of that year.

Always a stinker, that boy.

Almost a yearling here – look how big and stout!

Heading into his second winter …


Always getting into trouble – here with almost-yearling Hannah.

This spring.

That boy does love his mama …

Early June

Early July … our little boy is growing up …

Happy second birthday, little prince. You’re destined to be a king!

Spots after rain

24 07 2010

Chipeta is – should be – very close.

So when I saw her – standing oh-so-still way out yonder – across the muddy green gloriousness (I swear the greasewood are greener), the sacrifice of my shoes was a foregone conclusion.

As it turned out, she was just resting, not standing over a small something I couldn’t see across the distance. Doesn’t she look – ahem – *glowing*? Radiant, even?

That light WAS sublime.

And so was every glimpse of this in the big arroyo:

Looking down from above, after sun had set.

As I was about to walk across. Two notes: Can you imagine what my shoes looked like? This is why we didn’t drive into the basin!

OK, so it looks like the mud pots of Yellowstone, but it’s running water. See the riffles? See the trickles? See the life force of the desert? Of the horses that call this slice of desert home?

*Shutter click* Well, hello there, big. While I was focused on the band, I managed to “sneak” up on Mesa, browsing along the edge of the big arroyo. He didn’t seem to know I was there until he heard the click of my camera shutter and turned his head to smile for the camera.

Big bro and little bro – Milagro and Maiku.

Corazon, on guard. I’m not sure why he seems to have “preferred” status with the band. He’s walking away from Ty here … to scuffle with Mesa … and later with Ty … They both seemed to have the upper, uh, hoof, but they also both walked away.

And Ty seems to “have” Chipeta … except when he doesn’t. When I first saw them, they were slightly apart from the band (Mesa even farther), both standing, napping. Chipeta ended up with the band, and Ty walked on … past Milagro, who stood facing him, ready to clack, ready to be submissive, very curious in the big grey boy … past Corazon the first time … In this photo, he was actually walking back up toward the band from grazing down the hill toward the arroyo.

Milagro at bottom right; Spook, upper left; Kiowa and nursing Maiku and Copper behind them.

Milagro and big sisters Reya, center, and Spook.

Milagro and daddy Copper. My, don’t THEY look alike?! Almost the last of the sun before it slipped below the near hill …

Chipeta and Spook and mama Kiowa

Kiowa and Maiku. That little jag over his withers – see his tuft of white mane? – is the only “pinto” he got from mama.

Just a tiny bit on this side. Big baby boy!

Reya, 3 (big Chipeta grazing away at left)

The sun had slipped away by this point, so then it was just a sweet, quiet visit with these seldom-visited ponies.

More rain that night … the next morning … with it, cooool breezes. Oh lovely days.


Glorious rain

23 07 2010

It rained. It poured.

The day turned dark. The lightning came in bolts.

The arroyos started running with the liquid of desert life.

The land carried water until it could swallow it all in.

Just as I was thinking “I wish horses were here to take advantage of THIS water running in THESE arroyos,” there was a black horse … and her foal …

I thought I was seeing things – my wish come true!

Sure enough, David – having already rolled in the wet, heavy, muddy goodness! – was very nearby his Shadow and their Wind.

I wish I could have kept sight of them in that sublime, post-storm light – as golden as it had been purple-dark earlier – but the trees … the hills … the washes … alive with water …

Advantage being taken.


On the way

19 07 2010

Chrome’s band were camouflaged among the rocks and trees on the flank of Filly Peak when the fire management officer and I arrived in the basin last week to check the status of the tree fire. We stopped quite a distance away to allow Jif to see us, recognize us, do what she was going to do. She had been very comfortable with visitors, but about a month or two ago now, that changed, and she’s quite concerned with vehicles …

They did run down the hill and gathered –  and stopped – right above the road. I had thought she’d take them at least out into the open – across the road – but just down from the confines of the rocks and trees and “nowhere to go,” she was perfectly content. When it was apparent they were going back to grazing and were calm and relaxed, on we drove, not even raising dust with the cautiousness of our forward-creep.

Respectful visitors get a view like this! Relaxed alpha-mom Jif and her big boy Hayden. Shot through the passenger window.

Cuatro greeting big-stepdaddy Chrome near little bro Rio and mama Two Boots. We got shade under what I think was the last big cloud of the day.

Chrome’s band? Misnomer. What I really mean to say is Jif’s band!

No disrespect, big guy. You’re a fabulous band stallion! 🙂

We saw a few other bands from a distance, but nobody else close until we got to this “exotic” band, just before we stopped to hike up to the tree:

Almost looks like they’re still shedding a bit, eh? As hot as it is! There were at least five pronghorn in this group, including a buck. I rarely see pronghorn antelope in the basin, and when I do, they’re almost always single, so this was a big group!

Always something of interest through the trees, around the bend, over the hill. Magic of discovery. 🙂


19 07 2010

The morning I found the tree on fire, I had seen bands at a distance and was headed out to visit them. After I called in the fire (with randomly and surprisingly found cell service), I went on to visit.

What a(nother) great surprise to find Duke with Twister (center) and Cinch (right)! Bruiser still not with the boys, but I’ve had a recent update from this weekend that he has been seen – alone but apparently just fine. I stopped the Jeep and took pix from it …

… but the boys “made a mad dash” anyway. 🙂 Look at that handsome Duke! So elegant! His mind is on Cinch, and Cinch’s mind is on Duke, and young Twister (3 years old) is just happy to be part of the gang.

Stopped again. I didn’t know it at this point, and I’m not sure whether they did … but somebody(s) were up the hill in the trees ahead of them …

I drove on, looking for Hollywood’s band, which I had seen earlier, and it does seem like these boys – Cinch and Twister before Duke joined them – are hanging out close to Holls’ band again. Just below a little “rise” or “edge,” almost to the fence, I found them. They were napping under a tree, and the proximity to the fence was unfortunate because they felt the “squeeze” and immediately started walking out into the open. I stopped a little way on so I didn’t block them, then got out to watch the parade.

Iya leading – she’s not terribly long-legged for her size, but she is a big girl. Sage tossing his head against the gnats, big Tenaz and mama Piedra.

Hollywood in the lead, followed by Baylee, Piedra and Tenaz (Iya and Sage now bringing up the rear).

Piedra, Tenaz (look at him looking!) and Iya, sneaking in a sniff of baby where mama Piedra can’t warn her away. See the dapples in their summer-slick coats. 🙂

Following Baylee. A couple of things about this image: First, see how big he is! His bay-black legs are starting to shed through his baby-fine . But do you see how much he resembles Hollywood? I think Sage tends to resemble Piedra, but this big boy definitely looks like daddy! He’s about a week away from being 3 months old.

Sage and Iya broke off for a little detour visit. Brave ones of the group, these two.

Meanwhile, Holls and the girls and his little mini-me waited at the stud pile(s) for them to catch up. 🙂 Look at that handsome Tenaz – cute!!

On they went, then, heading up the valley toward the boys … who went closer to the hill and found …

Do you see them? Everybody in Kreacher’s (lower left) band is at least partially visible – though not very well, admittedly. 🙂 Mona is above Kreacher; Kootenai is to the upper right; and nearly smack dab in the middle, you might be able to make out Raven’s legs through the tree … and immediately left of her, Corona.

Later, after I’d gone back to watch the fire and then was on my way out, I found them again:

Drinking at the trickle – found enough water to splash in! It collects a little below this but is pretty stagnant there; they drink uphill, where it comes out – a barely slurpable trickle, but clear. (Mona was just to the right.)

Fire tree update

19 07 2010

The tree fire is long out. While we’re scorching now in Southwest Colorado (and elsewhere – Denver hit 100 Saturday, even as did Cortez, straight south of the basin as the raven flies), we had rain awhile back, and it’s likely that doused the flames on the tree fire I reported almost two weeks ago.

The fire management officer from the Dolores Public Lands Office (who coordinates both Forest Service and BLM crews) was super nice and met me last week to make the long drive to the basin and have a look. What he could tell us would fill a book (and likely does somewhere, for aspiring young wildland firefighters), but the upshot is the basin would probably never suffer from a catastrophic wildfire because there simply are not the “combustibles” to fuel it (my word – I’m pretty sure he never said that actual word :)).

Here’s the “overall” scene. The tree that burned is fringed with brown on its needles – sort of middle/upper right. The dead branch in the foreground at right also burned, as well as the black stump you can barely make out just left of center, as well as some other branches that apparently were consumed by their respective fires. See the little green tree immediately behind the black stump? It’s hard to tell how close it is, but it’s close. That’s pinon – the tree that burned is Utah juniper (I also learned the difference between Rocky Mountain and Utah juniper) – and it wasn’t touched, apparently. But then see what looks like the dead, fallen trunk at far left? It’s attached to those singed needles you see at upper left (against the blue sky). That likely came from the fire, but the tree as a whole should live – even though it looks like it’s on the ground. So did the tree that burned before the fire burned through its horizontal trunk and put the “crown” on the ground, where it fell on another little bush with round little leaves … not a pinon or juniper. I imagine that poor little thing is toast. But hopefully you can also see in this picture, beneath the scattered woodsy debris (I’m surprised it didn’t burn), is grey dirt – which is sort of a mix of dirt and shaley rock – very fine – you can hear it crunch and crackle when you walk over it. And you can maybe get a sense of how far apart the trees are in this area. The FMO did note areas he thinks have burned previously, but grass may never take hold here – not well – because of the poor alkaline soil.

Between the near black stump (hard to see in the first picture) and the rest of the tree used to be the trunk, which burned completely and totally through and away. See where the bark of the tree looks skinned away? The FMO said that’s the path of the lightning strike. Not really a “scar” as much as it just burned from the top to the bottom through that “papery” layer of bark – basically, it’s “firestarter” – kindling.

Nature at work.

Be careful out there while you’re camping this summer. It seems like many places in the country are feeling the heat this summer, and particularly in the West, ’tis the season for fires – wild and otherwise. Some local Back Country Horsemen, out for a ride in the national forest close to where I live and have been mountain biking, were out for a day ride recently and came across a campfire someone(s) had left burning! (By the accompanying pictures, it was big.) Let’s have a collective gasp for the stupidity factor! Bless those horse folks for giving up ride time to not only put out the fire but CLEAN UP THE TRASH left behind! This was a possible disaster waiting to happen – many ponderosa pine trees and Gambel oak – forest – in other words, loaded with “fuel.” There are homes in the area, and it’s a popular recreation entry point to the forest for locals.

My thanks again to the FMO for coming out to the basin and enhancing my education about natural forces – which include fire. Here in the basin, the outcome was hopefully more benefit than disaster (maybe birds will make use of the tree as it decays … maybe some grasses will spring up in spite of the soil …). We even saw a few horses: Chrome’s band let us squeak by on the road pretty close, and Seven’s, Grey/Traveler’s and Hollywood’s were visible at distances in different areas.

Circle of life. 🙂


17 07 2010

Gemma is officially the fastest-greying foal I’ve seen since I started documenting the herd. She reminds me of a youngster I saw in Sand Wash Basin last fall.

See? Even big sister Terra is less grey than little sister. Like the brothers, these sisters stick close.

Daddy Grey/Traveler, looking handsome as always.

They always think the smallest bushes hide them. 🙂

Mama and her girls.

Kiowa has a little boy

15 07 2010

I figured she’d had her foal … but I haven’t seen the pinto band since before I went on vacation. I don’t know where they’re finding water – somewhere obviously. I couldn’t find it.

Chipeta, Ty and Mesa were visible from the Disappointment Road on my way out with the fire management officer, but the other horses were not. We watched them for several minutes, but if the other horses were in the arroyo, out of sight, they were there longer than we were there watching. Makes sense if there was only a little water, and they had to wait for it to seep to the surface then take turns.

I climbed Round Top to look for the pintos (check), for David and Shadow and Wind (nope), for Poco and Roach – and Bruiser? (nope). Nice and windy – and windier from there – gnats were few. Ty and Chipeta were close to the pintos, which again makes me think they may have been close earlier. They had followed a drainage – and Ty and Chipeta had climbed a hill – and were only partially visible to me: Mesa, looking very, very dark in the very, very bright sunshine, and Copper, and, for a few moments, Milagro, and Corazon, I thought.

I had seen most everybody else – mostly from a distance – so I drove out and around and hiked in at dysfunction junction – maybe my first serious hike in from there since the summer before last when it seemed like I was hiking in there every other visit to visit the pintos on their hill. Made a decision at a confluence of arroyos near their heads … picked a hill to climb … and there they were, napping in that bright, hot (96?) sunshine – Ty looking down on them from a nearby hill. As it turned out, that brought the short visit to a quick end. Copper added to the stud pile nearby, and Mesa came over to investigate that, and Ty trotted down to investigate them, and Corazon, standing sentinel against the cloud-studded horizon, pretty as a picture, trotted over to warn him off, meanwhile, Chipeta used the diversion (clever mare) to make a run back to the band (aka Kiowa), which caused Ty and Corazon to break off their manly event and go racing off after her, which caused the whole band to decide nap time was over – long over – and they should be far away. Copper snaked and lunged – at the mares, at Milagro and Spook – at Mesa and Ty – at Corazon – and Kiowa led her baby – and the rest – to the grey far hills, away – naturally away – from my long walk back.

I usually fill my cooler with Gatorade and then put half the bottles back in the fridge upon my return … I drank them all this visit. Hot and warm and dry and dehydrating was the wind and sun – the hottest of the summer, so far, by my visits. And how must the horses fare, with temperatures so high, water so scarce?

I thought of the news of the Tuscarora horses, dying of dehydration, running in the summer heat ahead of the relentless helicopter … no relief at the capture site. I know someone who wants a return to the “good old days” of mustangs. You mean, where they chased them from pickups, roped them with lassos knotted to tires at their ends? Was that less inhumane than what occurs now? I’m not there. I don’t know the details. Common sense seems so scarce …

“Well, *I* wouldn’t drink that water.” Said with a laugh. Talking about our horses. Spring Creek Basin horses.

Unforgettable deeds and words. Unforgivable.

There are plenty of sites dedicated to wild horse and burro news – I read them – my purpose here is different. But my heart is crying … even while I celebrate the gift of another life.

Welcome to your delicate life, little one, Maiku (“my-kuh,” “a friendly greeting” in the Ute language). Be strong and swift and fearless. I will help you until I can’t.

The story in pictures:

Spook, Kiowa, Milagro, Maiku (see him?) and Copper; Corazon on the ridge.

Zoomed in – see the baby on the ground?

Reya, closer, looking up from grazing.

Ty, on the hill, looking down at the band. Mesa has left them and walked down … Chipeta is behind Ty, out of sight …

Copper prepares to add to the stud pile (see how massive it is – I guess I know where the pinto band has been hanging out!) …

Copper (kicking) and Mesa discuss their territory.

Corazon watching … just before Ty decided to join the discussion, which led to Corazon’s involvement.

Corazon thought he’d take advantage of the diversion and head toward Chipeta – Ty is in pursuit. Corazon, so chunky and stout. Ty, so spare and long-legged. Sleek. Going about the business of being wild.

Their discussion reaches its peak and provides its own diversion, which Chipeta (close … so close) takes advantage of …

And which brought their “discussion” to a near-immediate end as they fastened their attention back on Chipeta – too late.

Maiku – just barely a pinto pony – and mama Kiowa

Milagro looking back … See Maiku’s legs through Milo’s? Kiowa, and Spook past her.

And then up and over the ridge … I walked to the top of it and watched Copper snaking his family to, snaking the boys fro, Kiowa with baby tight to her side, leading her family this way and that to escape the snake.

Kiowa is the only mare with babies this old all still with her: Reya, 3, was released with her after the roundup (nearly a weanling at the time),  2-year-old Spook, yearling Milagro and baby Maiku.

Isolated, this band – segregated by geography – not without family drama.

Chipeta is due to foal the end of this month. I hope this year has a happier outcome.

I hope for happier outcomes …