Another other

18 01 2013

One of three:




They were on a dead elk right outside the herd area along the road. Simply gorgeous – the eagles, not the poor elk.

Schnowy schmuzzle

17 01 2013


Maiku wins the cute award this week!

Baby news

16 01 2013

Speaking of late babies, this little girl, born Sept. 23, is doing perfectly well!

Mama Chipeta and baby Seneca.

Baby Seneca with mama Chipeta.

Baby Seneca has a chat with daddy Ty.

Baby Seneca with daddy Ty.

Baby Seneca naps knowing daddy Ty is protecting her.

She IS a daddy’s girl.

Mama Chipeta, baby Seneca and daddy Ty

Seneca with mama and daddy.

We got some good snow a few days ago, and most of the basin has quite a good cover. Now it’s cold – sometimes bitterly cold – under the crystal-clear sky. But the horses have thick, rich, furry coats, and they’re in excellent shape!


15 01 2013

With all the craziness surrounding the wild horse “issue,” here’s something that looks pretty cool:

From the email that alerted me to this endeavor:

Backcountry  Horsemen,

This is Ben Masters. Myself and three friends are training 11 mustangs and riding them 3,000 miles from Mexico to Canada starting in March. Our route will take six months through Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. We’re making a documentary: Unbranded that aims to promote conservation of open spaces, inspire mustang adoptions and get people outside horseback.

We’re trying to promote our journey and documentary. We need your help by pledging your support and sending the information to others who like horses, the backcountry and conservation. Here is the video, it’ll put a smile on your face:

For more info, our website is

Western Horseman’s blog over our trip:

Thank you,

Ben Masters

Check out their story; I’m sure you’ll follow them as I will! Have I ever mentioned I’m an Aggie? Gig ’em, Ags. What a ride it will be!

Dr. Jay

15 01 2013

Here’s another nudge for Wild Horse Scientists – and a guest post on Kay Frydenborg’s blog by Dr. Jay Kirkpatrick!

My copy arrived last week, and I wholeheartedly give it two thumbs up. It’s an excellent resource for information about PZP and how fertility control is helping wild horses, particularly on Assateague Island and Pryor Mountain.  It’s a “children’s book” in the sense that we’re all learning and have much to learn. It’s truly appropriate for ALL ages.

Well-researched, well-written, beautiful photographs, and I absolutely enjoyed reading it.

This is a book that should not languish below the radar!

White snow, grey ponies

14 01 2013

A day full of snow would leave a basin full of snow, you’d think – and you’d be right! Such interesting climate zones in Disappointment Valley. Some snow in the lower, broader valley; lots of snow higher as the valley narrows to the east-southeast. It all means moisture for the horses and deer and elk and coyotes and bobcats and other critters that call the valley home.

Someone told me the other day that he saw “a big tom” (bobcat) on a newborn calf – bovine, not wapiti. I’m not sure what surprised me most: a calf born at this time of year (or that the cow still is here) or a bobcat! I’ve seen one in the basin, way too quick for photos, after a rabbit. I’m not sure about the rabbit, but the bobcat got away (from me)!

Mariah, Houdini, Alegre, Maia

Mariah, Houdini, Alegre and Maia.


Grey/Traveler. He could do with a little more fat on his old bones, but he looks pretty hearty.

The temperature ranged from 12 to 17 degrees, according to the Jeep, while I was in the basin. After snowing all day, it stopped for an hour or two, then picked up again around sunset.

Yes, they’re all grey. 🙂

Oh, ‘Nona!

11 01 2013

This gorgeous girl gets only more beautiful.


Fuzzy divine.


A la beautiful.


Simply a stunner – with a snow mustachio! 🙂

How beautiful, glorious Winona.

Hannah’s hooves, reprisal

10 01 2013

Awhile ago, someone asked about the mustangs’ hooves. I was reminded right away of a pic I took of Hannah’s hooves when the horses were on a road in the basin. I looked but couldn’t find the pic, and then I kinda forgot – until I found it while looking for other pix (RIP, sweet Winky-girl, our almost-28-year-old Quarter Horse mare at home in Texas; she was born at my grandparents’ in Ohio; she was loved, always).

The mustangs’ hooves fascinate me with their perfection. Their hooves are usually difficult to see through the low vegetation, but the prints they leave in the earth of their home never fail to make me stop and look closer.

Hannah's hooves

Note the “mustang roll” at the toes. White hooves soft? Not these pony toes!

This photo was taken in November 2010. Hannah was rounded up and adopted in September 2011. The original post can be found here.


9 01 2013

The mustangs share Spring Creek Basin with other wildlife, including these beauties I saw during my last visit:

Elk in Spring Creek Basin

Elk in Spring Creek Basin

They were in a big group, too spread out to capture them all in one photo!

I came over the crest of a hill and saw them – and they saw me! – and off they went. Naturally, I took photos while I waited for them to put some distance between us! You can see the road in the background of the lower photo.

Disappointment Valley is a major wintering area for mule deer and elk. Seeing deer is nearly an everyday occurrence, but it’s pretty cool to see elk – and this many at one time!

Assateague & Chincoteague

8 01 2013

In the interest of clearing up what may be common confusion about Chincoteague and Assateauge islands and the wild horses that live there, Kay Frydenborg, author of Wild Horse Scientists, agreed to write a guest post about the topic. Yes, these East Coast islands are most of a continent and a world away from the West’s wild horses, but population management and fertility control are common topics. So here we go. I hope you’ll leave any questions for Kay in the comments!

Sorting Out the Wild Horses of Assateague Island

Since writing Wild Horse Scientists, I’ve run into a lot of folks who are a bit confused about the famous Chincoteague ponies, and that confusion is well-founded. It is confusing. For starters, the animals most people think of when they think of Chincoteague ponies are not ponies, technically, but small horses. And except for a few days each July during Pony Penning (which many people know about from Marguerite Henry’s classic children’s book Misty of Chincoteague and the movie that was adapted from the book), the wild ponies don’t live on the island of Chincoteague, but rather on the larger, uninhabited nearby island of Assateague.

To further complicate things, Assateague Island straddles two states (Maryland and Virginia), and two different federal agencies are in charge of overseeing the wild horses in each state (National Park Service in Maryland, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in Virginia). On top of that, the wild “ponies” on the Virginia side of the island are legally the property of the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company, which has been running the famous round-up, the swim across the channel to Chincoteague, and the foal auction for many years.  The horses are not only rounded up for this annual event (which provides needed funds for the fire company and much tourism for the town), but they are also gathered at other times and given routine immunizations and veterinary and farrier care. Their population is kept at a maximum of about 150 by means of the foal auction alone; no contraceptives are used to limit the herd size in Virginia.

On the Maryland side of Assateague, home of the Assateague Island National Seashore (as well as a Maryland state park within the national park!), the wild horses are managed quite differently. They’re called horses here, not ponies, and managed in a mostly hands-off manner, with no human handling and no roundups. Unless a horse becomes gravely ill or injured and the Park Service determines urgent medical care or euthanasia is required to spare undue suffering, the only human intervention in the lives of these horses is the remote darting (via special rifles) of the contraceptive PZP. Over the 25-plus years that PZP has been used as the sole management tool, the numbers of horses has gradually stabilized to sustainable levels. At the same time, these horses are observed closely from a distance, and careful records are kept for the purposes of effective management of the PZP program and ensuring that a viable gene pool is maintained among the horses.

Though all of the wild horses of Assateague Island descend from the same original herd, after the island was split with the National Seashore designation in 1962, these different management strategies on the two sides of Assateague have resulted in some real differences in the makeup of the herds. You can read much more about these differences, and the 300-plus year history of these unique wild horses, in my book. I hope you’ll check it out!