Wha-huh? Oh! … Uh …

24 04 2011

Changes happen all the time – that’s nature. Because foaling season and re-breeding season in horses happens one right after the other (no separate “rut” like with deer and elk) – and usually (but not always) in the spring – ’tis the season of changes. I like to focus on the behavior and all the “other” going on. So you’ll rarely see “fight shots” on this blog unless I can use them to illustrate the behavior behind it (such as the play fighting with the youngsters awhile back). Also, because images of stallions fighting are so prevalent, some folks then have the idea that the stallions just fight constantly, and that’s simply not the case. Stallions do fight to protect their mares and families – but they don’t fight all the time – and what else is going on?

When I first saw Hollywood’s band last week, I was confused. Kestrel and Winona were nearby – that has been fairly typical lately – but not Comanche … and not Hollywood. This was all from a distance through binoculars, by the way – and then realization hit me: Comanche WAS there – WITH Hollywood’s band – WITHOUT Hollywood …

Comanche stole Hollywood’s band – minus Piedra and, as I found later that day, their new daughter. (So much for the belief of the visitor who was adamant Hollywood could “kick that grey stallion’s ass.”)

When I finally figured out what I was seeing, it looked like the band must have been new because there was a lot of chaos swirling – and Kestrel and ‘Nona were staying apart from it.

As it turned out, I found Grey/Traveler’s band with their new filly and, late in the day, Hollywood and Piedra and Bri, and I never walked out to Comanche’s new band until the next morning.

By then, Comanche was sort of bridging the continuing gap between “Hollywood’s band” – seen above – and his original girls, Kes and ‘Nona. And except for one brief bit of interest in Baylee, Comanche seemed to be leaving them alone – and I didn’t quite understand that, either …

I’ll skip the graphic details, but Iya was clearly in her foaling heat … and it was SAGE trying to breed her! The little guy is just 2 (end of this week), and he was pretty awkward. Add to that his “auntie” Baylee, who has now fully switched her allegiance from Sage and his brother Tenaz to Iya’s little boy, and it left this human feeling confused. Why wasn’t Comanche filling that duty?

They went round and round, and Sage still found gaps in her defenses and tried to breed Iya several times while I was with them. I don’t know whether he was successful … and we won’t know till next year!

Baby was NOT hurt, I want to make very clear, and he was never in direct danger from either Sage, his half-brother trying to breed his mother, OR from Comanche, who just stole his mother and the others. Anything can happen, of course, and have foals never been trampled by a stallion trying to get to a mare to breed her? I’m sure they have been. But I know the “cult rumor” has reached epic proportions that “a stallion will kill any foal that’s not his” (I have BLM as well as non asking me this all the time), and I want to make it clear: Even in his zeal to get to Iya, Sage avoided the baby, and, as I’ve said, Comanche almost completely ignored them altogether.

What really confused me was Comanche’s behavior.

He was completely calm. Other than following them and making sure Kestrel and Winona followed him, he seemed to mostly ignore Sage AND Iya. That was the most confusing part. With her so obviously in heat (she stood for Sage patiently every time he tried), why was Comanche ignoring her? Wasn’t that probably the catalyst for Comanche stealing them in the first place? (Hollywood did not emerge unscathed from their apparent encounter, but he’ll be OK.)

Comanche at right, Sage in the middle, Tenaz, Iya and the baby in front of him and beside Baylee. Sage is in a rather tentative “stallion” position here, between Comanche and his band/family … but in the next moment:

Baby clacking!

Sage then went to the mares, and Comanche went back to grazing. Comanche showed no outward sign of injury, though he certainly could have been bruised. His attitude – in very human terms – seemed to be one of just biding his time.

Kestrel seemed to ignore the new additions even more completely than Comanche did. Here, the horses are behind her and up to the right. She’s looking long down the hill, possibly at Seven’s in the far distance (very visible this week).

Tenaz tried to take advantage of the situation by sticking as close to Winona as she would allow, but she wasn’t too interested in playing with him.

I was so hoping ‘Nona would turn her head and present me with a lovely shot of Tenaz, her and Kestrel all in a row … but she wasn’t so accommodating. 🙂 Comanche is just behind them, and the others are in the arroyo beyond.

Iya – the eye of the storm – seemed exactly as calm, taking everything in stride, focused almost completely on grazing and her baby.

No mistaking these two!

Comanche watched Iya, baby, Baylee and Sage in a wide arroyo before he led Kestrel, Winona and Tenaz down to join them.

Sunrise was almost completely cloudy (and storm-cloudy) except for this bit of softness.

Always changes … always more to learn … ALWAYS more wonder!





Hollywood’s

27 03 2011

Monday, March 28, is the deadline to call the Dolores Public Lands Office at (970) 882-6800 *to request placement on the mailing list* to be sent the scoping letter for the Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area roundup this fall. The scoping letter then should be coming out very soon. The scoping letter also will be online, and I’ll post that link when it’s ready. The deadline for comments will be in that letter.

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Hollywood’s band was *right* off the road when I was making my way out of the basin, all hope of sunset light disappearing behind clouds. He made quite a striking figure standing sentry with some low hills, still spotted with snow, behind him (beyond the basin).

Though the golden end-o-day light didn’t break through as I had hoped, there’s something really lovely and soft about the last diffused light we did get – especially on Holls’ gorgeous dun coat.

Hollywood

Hollywood’s girls – and one of his boys: Baylee (left) will be 4; Iya will be 3 in late April; Sage, his son, will be 2 in late April; and mama Piedra is likely at least 5 this year.

BFFs Baylee and Iya. Has anyone else seen the news that the Oxford English Dictionary added that “word” recently? Like, OMG, I LOL at the ridiculousness – IMHO, of course. 🙂 I (heart) Spring Creek Basin mustangs! I’d try to get *meep* in the discussion – you know, like the roadrunner “says” in the Wile E. Coyote cartoons? – but I just can’t come up with a basin meep. I’ve heard marmots meep but no mustang meeping. Heh. (Wait, is that a word?)

Tenaz seems to be floating above Spring Creek canyon, which is really quite a distance away. That tiny glow of pink in the sky is all the color we got at the close of another wonderful day.





Subtlety

23 03 2011

This will be at the top of posts until the deadline – Monday, March 28 – to call the Dolores Public Lands Office at (970) 882-6800 to request placement on the mailing list to be sent the scoping letter for the Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area roundup this fall. That should be coming out very soon.

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The following are photos from my visit with Hollywood’s, Comanche’s and Mahogany’s bands last week. They were once all part of Steeldust’s large band (except the youngsters and Iya) – though not for a couple of years now. 🙂 Mahogany leaving with Sundance and bachelor Aspen is the most recent development.

Full brothers Tenaz, almost a yearling, left, and Sage, almost 2, right.

Here’s the rest of that story:

“Reading” stud pile messages. Iya in the background.

Mahogany (bay) and Sudance. SunD stays close to her to ward off Aspen. Mahogany is in much better shape this year after a year’s rest from raising a foal.

Mahogany is the dam of Baylee (almost 4), Pinon (almost 3) and Sable (almost 2). Bayles is with Hollywood; Pinon and Sable are with Hook. She should be due in May.

Aspen with Round Top in the background. See the road? It ends just above the curve you can see. That’s where I parked the day before and walked around the west side (to the right) and came back to the Jeep from the east side (left). Seven’s and Bruiser were “behind” it on the leftish side – basically southeastish.

I’m positive Iya is pregnant.

Baylee sure doesn’t look pregnant …

Watching me carefully while she rubs an itch using that greasewood! (Check out her lip!)

What do YOU think?

Straight-on of Baylee …

Straight-on of Iya.

Hang in there, mama Piedra. Only about another month for you.

If she’s as consistent as she was with Sage and Tenaz, she’s due around the end of April.

Sundance – check out that groovy, wavy mane.

Camouflage, naturally. (Did anyone see him in one of the pix above of Baylee?)

As he grows up, he reminds me more of Chrome in his carriage.

Comanche

I had been photographing Sage and Tenaz playing over the stud pile when I noticed ‘Nona moseying in our direction. Hollywood’s had spread out grazing, but Tenaz was lingering even after Sage had wandered off. Oh, sly boy, I wonder why? 🙂

Winona walking down into the shallow arroyo. Sure-footed and beautiful.

Earlier, Tenaz sticking to big brother.

Big trot …

Do you see the future? Mr. Tenaz guarding his family? Brother Sage and auntie Iya in the background.

Watching daddy Hollywood, who hadn’t yet crossed the arroyo. Don’t you see Hollywood in this boy?

Curious George, err, I mean Tenaz. 🙂

I went on up the hill to watch them, and Mahogany and SunD came up and past me again … Lack of golden sunshine didn’t diminish the beauty of the basin.

Someone in Telluride asked me (basically): Of all the wonderful places in the West that are loved and cherished and protected and should be protected, what’s so special about Spring Creek Basin?

An innocent question (I think … I hope) … one whose answers completely undid me.

“It’s magic,” I finally managed. I can’t remember what else I said through my tear-choked throat.

Is magic enough? To protect this place that most would see as empty, desolate, scrubby and lonesome and well off anyone’s definition of a beaten track?

I think I tried to say that I write a blog to try to tell people just what’s so special about it … Mostly, my attempts fall short.

The wind, howling the day before, howling overnight, was still at dawn and for a couple of hours … until it returned seemingly out of nowhere about midmorning. I got up to head back down the hill, and saw that Winona had laid down for a nap not far below me.

Ordinary? She’s watching a pair of noisy (mating?) ravens flying across the hill that had been with us all morning. Maybe, to her, alert to the goings-on of her world. Extraordinary.

Loved the soft light illuminating her mane, the dark eastern ridges rising above her, complementing her buckskin gold.

Head. So. Heavy.

What’s so special?

Really?

Do words even exist??





Merry bands of Hook and Hollywood

28 02 2011

Hook’s is an interesting tale (that I know) … young bachelor, bottom of the totem pole, following after his pals and Steeldust’s band. Last spring – early, probably at least this time of year – I started to notice Ember and Pinon together, at the edge of the band, Hook always nearby. And then they were together – separate from the band. Shortly, Hannah joined them … then Sable. Both fillies – both yearlings – left their family band before their mothers had even had that year’s foals (Mahogany lost hers; Luna’s Gideon is quite robust). Hook is an admirable band stallion, much more cautious of me now that he has a family to protect … except that all these youngsters have known me since the day they were born (Sable) or soon after, and the mother of two of them (Luna, dam of Ember and Hannah) is the most patient and tolerant mare in the basin, and in fact, was the first to use me to shed her pesky stallion. So Hook keeps a watchful eye, and the girls and Pinon treat my presence as acceptable.

Hollywood also has an interesting tale (OK, who doesn’t!). When I first started documenting the horses, the day Grey/Traveler was brought back to the basin after the roundup and his trip to Canon City and his three weeks in quarantine, Hollywood and Jif were the first other horses I found – close to Steeldust’s band, as they would be until Grey somehow managed to steal Jif right out from under the noses of Steeldust’s band and the closely-following Bachelor 7 the next April. Maybe Hollywood already had his eye on Piedra … in any case, rather than follow Jif (in Grey’s smaller band), he stayed with Steeldust’s bigger band (and still followed by the Bachelor 7 at that time) and wooed Piedra (yes, he really did), and eventually they broke off together into their own little band … followed shortly by Baylee, daughter of Mahogany (and Pinon’s elder sister). I have speculated that Piedra may be Baylee’s elder sister, and that’s why she followed … and that idea seemed strengthened by what happened with the siblings following into Hook’s band … but something has always nagged at me about Piedra’s more graceful appearance than Baylee or Pinon or Sable … and this year, particularly, I really start to doubt a blood-bond there. (Though they do share those ears!)

Ember had Fierro last July – already pregnant before she joined Hook’s band (likely sire, Mouse, though I can’t confirm). Shortly before Hannah left Steeldust’s band for Hook’s (sister Ember’s?), she managed to “stray” into Hollywood’s band. I was visiting Bounce’s (the calendar’s April photo was taken during that visit) and watched the chaos while they ignored it all (or seemed to). Hannah was frantic to get back to her mother’s family; Holls was just as adamant that she stay with him. As young as she was (yearling), I knew what that meant … I don’t know how she ended up with Holls, and I don’t know how long she was with him – running the whole time I watched at least – half an hour? An hour? – but she made it back to mama Luna. Very shortly after that, as I remember, she was with Hook and his little band. And now what do you see in the photo above? Like her sister Ember, she’ll be a mama at 2.

And Sable?

Switching back to Hollywood’s band, although coming-3-year-old Iya looks pregnant at a glance …

coming-4-year-old Baylee (elder sister of Pinon and Sable) seems still girlishly slim:

Bay-Baylee-girl

But Kestrel, who had Winona last year as a 3-year-old and elder sister of Ember and Hannah, kept her “condition” quiet until close before she foaled, so that’s just observation at this point.

Normal? Symptom of our small herd size – which is bigger now? Coming-4-year-old Reya’s condition is unknown. Her coming-3-year-old sister, Spook, lost her foal last year … Just something to make us go “hmm”?

Fierro and Ember, Pinon and Hook

Hannah

Baylee, Iya and Hollywood. I liked that I could see all their eyes. Bayles took another couple of steps that made an even better composition, but then she closed her eyes!

Iya and Holls

Pretty Piedra

Mama Piedra and her youngest, Tenaz

How toasty warm he must be in that fuzzy coat!

Tenaz and daddy Hollywood

This one is meant to show a comparison between Iya’s and Baylee’s bellies … Round Top at right, Brumley Point straight back – Tenaz at far right.

Brumley Point. To get your bearings, McKenna Peak and the unnamed promontory are to the left. The far background rimrock hills are outside the herd area.

We’ve talked about how wonderful it is to enjoy horses in their quiet moments. I am incredibly fortunate to spend such time with these horses that I can witness those moments. But they’re wild and ever watchful. Spooks do happen. 🙂

Hollywood initiated a “charge” of maybe 30-50 yards? From in front of me to up the hill a little to my right, into the light …

So unfortunately out of focus …

They didn’t go far …

Calm again. Holls and Bayles … love that light illuminating his eye! Another of my favorite images of the day.

They are wild … sensitive to movement and sounds – and that darn mud made it hard to move in steady motion.

Moments after:

Piedra

Piedra and Sage

Hollywood and Sage … I just liked their shapes in the sunlight.

And bidding farewell when everything was back to calm. Love the little hitch to his nostril.

Of the pix of Holls and his band running – like or dislike? Why? Does it matter that you know “the rest of the story”? It happens … with or without my presence … It’s part of the story thread of the basin …

I still had a decent trek to the Jeep, in the mud … I didn’t know at this point what was waiting for me at the bend … But I knew I was deliriously happy, right then, right in those splendid moments in the wild American outback. Give and take. Still and in motion. Light and shadow. Questions and wonder and mystery. How much will we know? How much do we want – need – to know?





Some girls

20 02 2011

Can’t ignore the girls …

Iya will be 3 in late April, and I’m definitely expecting a baby out of that belly.

Iya and her best friend, Baylee. Bayles will be 4 … if she’s carrying a foal, she’s hiding it as well as Kestrel did last year.

Winona and mama Kestrel

Kestrel

Baby ‘Nona … growing up. I was looking at some older pix recently, and it’s amazing how much she looks like Kestrel when she was little. OK, probably not so amazing after all. 🙂

Sweetest.

Winona

Hannah

Ember. She wasn’t as interested in me as in continuing her nap in the sunshine.

Curious Sable

Baylee

Iya and Baylee

Piedra

Raven at sunset. Looks like she’s growing a baby, too.

More girls – and boys – coming!





Messy mud and glorious beauty

18 02 2011

That’s my right boot, covered in mud. It’s hard to see the distinction of mud on my boot and where the ground is, but there’s a thick layer on both sides (and my heel) and up on the toe. (Anyone trying to lose weight? Come quick, while the weights – I mean mud – are/is still plentiful!) I’m not tall enough to be able to focus on the ground with my camera to my face, so I’m holding the camera over my head and aiming at the general direction. Messy mud. 🙂 Every step was a slide backwards of 3 to 6 inches, depending on just how saturated and recently melted the snow was in any given area – not to mention sinking an inch or 2 deep. But it was the best slog I’ve ever had!

Some more pix I’ve tweaked so far, in no particular order … (I am so, so, SO glad I decided to go ahead back out!):

Iya, left, and Baylee. Iya is definitely pregnant … Baylee should be, but it’s hard to tell. Hollywood’s band.

Little Fierro, in Hook’s band. Doesn’t he have the most awesome star with that little comet-tail?

Handsome Comanche, pausing photogenically in front of the La Sals.

Another grey day here today. How thankful am I for yesterday?! I don’t believe I’m going overboard gushing about how gorgeous yesterday was and the visits I had with these horses (three different bands – rare this winter). I’m going to try to get some pix up every day this week; I think I have enough for that!





Brilliance

7 01 2011

Really, I have no time and fewer words for the incredible beauty and magic that is the basin and its inhabitants right now.

“I am blessed” “I am blessed” “How blessed am I?”

Kept running through my head all day(s) long.

I’m working on more.

Winona

Alpha

Baylee, Sage and Hollywood

Hollywood

Winona (buckskin and blue and white)

Ice flake crystal