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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚ 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.)

Hollywood’s band

30 05 2010

Handsome Hollywood, pretty Piedra and nursing Tenaz

Now that her baby boy is a wee bit older, she’s more willing to show him off – and show off, he did! What a doll!

I went out and sat, and she grazed her way closer …

… and he stayed right at mama’s side at first … Look how big and beautiful he is.

Iya also came to see. Look how silvery she has turned as she sheds out. She’s 2 this year.

And Sagey-m’-boy. He has a bit of a boo-boo on his left hind cannon, but it looks like it’s healing just fine.

Baylee, 3 this year, and Iya. Interestingly, Baylee doesn’t appear to be pregnant, despite the fact that she’s been with Hollywood for more than a year now.

That Sage is a little love bug. (He’s pretty good-sized, by the way, but Iya is a pretty big girl. See in the previous pic how she’s almost as big as year-older Baylee. Sage is a yearling.)

But he usually has an ulterior motive!

Which is probably how he got his boo-boo!

They always forgive the little rascal. πŸ™‚

And take a little revenge!

I was taking pix of Piedra and Tenaz when Sage walked into the frame – mama and her boys.

If I have *definitely* not figured one thing out (and there are many things I haven’t!), it’s why they eat what they eat. Here, Piedra is nibbling on saltbush or greasewood – I can’t quite tell from my pix because it’s not nearly as “leafed out” (do you call that stuff on greasewood “leaves”??) as the others in the area.

Now some pix of the happy little ham:

He’s a little past a month old now.

Maybe he’s going to be bay? I guess we’ll know for sure when his legs darken. I’d love to see Hollywood sire a dun foal, or grulla like I think his mama was. His mane is pretty dark, but you can see how light his tail is at the top before it darkens to black. Gideon is just about the same color. And Spring, too … though a little more obviously bay … a shade darker … not as “reddish”? (I’ve seen her several times but too far for pictures. Have not seen Wind and his family for a few weeks.)

Walking over to see what the “big babies” are looking at.

Still trying to manage those long-long legs!

Love this one … surrounded by family.

Bye for now, my lovelies!

We haven’t seen the last of Hollywood, who, when I saw him just a little bit later, seemed at least as surprised to see ME there as I was to see HIM there! Ha!

Wind, bad – babies, good!

29 04 2010

Well, folks, the ides of March have followed us to April – almost to May, to be sure. Southwest Colorado had its second major wind-dust storm of the spring yesterday. It was fairly miserable. We had four or five last year … they were miserable, too.

Toward the end of the day yesterday, visibility finally got really bad (as opposed to fairly, just plain kinda bad).

Today it snowed.

Truth in advertising?! Summer, it ain’t – yet! And I think we need to have a little chat with Ma about the fact that it is – in point of calendar fact – spring. The sign (usually) reads: Summer maintenance only. πŸ™‚

I’m never upset about moisture. πŸ™‚

First, the spoiler:

So follow along, kids: That’s Luna (and ever-present Butch) … and that’s the belly. Ya can’t miss it, right? She’s past last year’s due date. She’s past last-last year’s due date. She’s past 10 days past last-last year’s due date! My goodness, the lady is keeping us waiting this year.

Before my visit, I told young visitor Rochlia that I thought it wouldn’t be long before I had a better opportunity to photograph Duke.

Duke at home right above Spring Creek (which is basically a dry arroyo with tiny places where water sometimes collects and sometimes seeps to the surface). You can see by his nearly horizontal tail how strong was the wind.

After Duke, the next horses I saw were Hollywood’s … and, my goodness, what’s that at Piedra’s side? They were at a distance, and I think they could see Duke, and Piedra was nervous … and Sage was VERY jealous, and Baylee and Iya were curious, so I deduced baby was – without being able to see too closely – just a day old, two at most. Piedra took them up into trees on a hill, and she kept them there all day. Smart – they were probably somewhat protected from the wind there. And from curious-as-all-get-out two-leggeds such as yours truly. πŸ™‚

Here’s a pic I took at the end of the day:

Baby is reddish with a muley muzzle, but reddish mane and tail, so not bay. Very big star and at least hind stockings. In the pic, left to right: Hollywood, Sage, Piedra and baby, and Baylee – Iya is out of the frame at right.

These lovelies also wanted to see the newest addition to the world that is Spring Creek Basin.

Another pond is dry … I know of two – maybe three – that still have water. Gonna be a long time till August-September when we’re supposed toΒ  have five or six more dug out. We’re getting moisture, but that ground just sucks it all up … and the wind … that wind is not kind.

Saw Bounce’s and Seven’s … and Steeldust’s … but not before I found the basin’s newest band. It’s headed by Hook. (I know what you’re thinking … everything changes. It can; it will. Enjoy it.) I know I haven’t been very good this spring about getting information posted to the blog in a timely manner (or at all), but Ember and Pinon have been hanging out with Hook lately (the past several weeks … since March?). So they’re all together – separate from Steeldust’s (more on them later) – plus one: Hannah! I alluded to a surprise a couple of posts ago, then never got around toΒ  spilling the photographic beans. A couple of weeks ago, I found her with Hollywood’s band! She clearly wanted to go “home,” and Holls just as clearly wanted to make her the newest member of his band. Did I mention Hannah is bold? Fearless? I can see it: The bands are close together … Hannah goes out to say hi … Holls is his usual charming self … then the bands aren’t close together anymore, and Holls is pinning his ears, and Hannah can’t get back to mama. She did end up back with the band, though. Now, she’s with sister, and all is calm.

But before I found them: a couple of white “dots” and a red dot … and an extra!

The “whites,” of course, were Grey/Traveler and Houdini, the red, Terra, and the extra:

Look how tall the baby girl is! And yes, it’s another daughter for Grey and Houdini! And, by the way, this is (at least) the fourth-in-a-row daughter for Houdini. She’s darker red than either Terra or Iya, but she has already-grey legs like Iya had, and the rings around her eyes are dead giveaways that the girl will go – surprise! – grey. πŸ™‚ (I meant “no” surprise!)

Two girls and their mama

Daddy and one of his girls. The birth of the newest little girl means we have at least three of his offspring in the basin. Given the number of offspring he must have sired in his years, it’s a little crazy that most of them are at least unknown.

If I didn’t know better, I’d say he likes being a daddy. A little bit anthro … a little bit observation.

I love her face. This lovely will have a birthday in just another day (definite, not guessed). Sister Iya was born April 27 (also known). Houdini was right on time! And master Sage was born today (again, known), so if Piedra’s newest was born two days ago, she’s also right on time! One young, one not so young. Now … about that Luna … πŸ™‚

Two more … my favorites:

Mama and her big girl …

I love spring. πŸ™‚

Welcome, babies, to your world.

More to come of Steeldust’s.

Spring Wind

23 04 2010

And moisture!

So – oddly enough – for the first time in weeks, I have a full trip report! (Because I had to wait out the rain at friends’ fantastic cabin nearby, I had time to go through the day’s limited photos!)

I saw just a few horses – and NOT Steeldust’s band. It’s odd that I don’t see them, and with Luna PAST due to have her baby, the worst thing I can say about the rain was my timing in not getting to the basin soon enough to find her. I did dream about her a few nights ago – and her foal. I’ll let ya’ll know if I’m about to list “medium” on my resume. πŸ™‚

When I got to the basin, I had time to go once ’round the loop. The horses are starting to move toward what I call the “east pocket” – it’s usually the first to green up. It’s a lot of cheat grass, and once it’s grazed and/or spent, the horses generally leave the area for the rest of the year. This is a trend I’ve noticed during the past three seasons. The timing of their migration back to the pocket varies. It was around March in 2008, I think, as early as February last year, and end of April this year!

Although I spent probably less than 30 minutes in the basin – because of the rain – I am THRILLED with the moisture! Maybe the ponds that already have gone dry and the ones close to going dry have a bit more time to serve the ponies.

Hollywood and his band were the first ones I saw, followed closely by Seven’s band. But Holls isn’t looking at Seven here …

Can you see? The boys in the trees are Roach and Poco. Remember when they set to following Holls’ band last year? But now they are “home,” and everybody else is visiting.

Baby Spring following brother Ze and mama Roja.

A flash of white caught my eye, and my first thought was Alpha … but it wasn’t. It was clever Houdini.

Around the trees, Terra and Grey/Traveler came into view. Given how windy it was, they were smart to seek the relative shelter of the trees!

Roja and Spring. I think Spring is a filly, but I’m not guaranteeing that yet! No markings that I can see.

Spring’s tail is very light at the upper edges.

Ze and Seven following along … but who do you see in the background? Do you see all three?

Spring sees them … πŸ™‚

Now do you see who was nearby?

There was a little of this …

… and a little of this …

… and a little more of this … before Bounce – with a great toss of his head, trotted back to his band.

Seven gathered his troops …

… then they were away with Bounce hot on their trail!

I’m not sure why he pursued them. They went the way I was going around the loop, but even though I was starting to get particularly nervous about the western darkening sky, I thought it more prudent to wait. Sure enough, Bounce came trotting back like a victorious king. I inched on up the road … and saw Seven’s grazing not far from the road not too far on. To pass or not to pass? They were quiet, and that sky … so I crept forward … and past … and they weren’t bothered! That was pretty awesome.

But it turned out that they were almost the last horses I saw that day. To be safe, I drove out of the basin to the county road. Sure enough, the rain came – and hail – then it stopped, but curtains of grey still were coming … more rain … more hail … I waited for a couple of hours, then decided to call it quits and headed on south.

Guess who I saw right inside the fence just past the county line?

I couldn’t believe they were back down by the road! Mister David is taking his daddy duties very seriously.

Luckily for me, Shadow must have thought the arroyo, at least, was a comforting barrier. Wind is his name, so blessed by the person who first saw him, who said it was very windy that day. Appropriate! I don’t know whether it’s coincidence that every time I’ve seen him nurse it has been from this angle … Whatever works, eh?!

He’s not very big, but he’s a cutie! You can see his left hind sock (I thought it was a stocking on my first sighting and from the other side …?), and he also has a small star.

To make a short story shorter, I awakened the next morning to about 2 inches of snow! And sunshine! It rained and rained the rest of the day and night … The sunshine was a welcome sight, but conditions were still too wet to drive in, so I walked in. But given where the horses are now, I just didn’t get that far. I did spot Chrome’s band – way too far for pictures – but I always enjoy a sighting of little red Hayden. And the others, of course!

The clouds were coming up over the eastern ridges as I hiked out, and if the skies from home were any indication, the basin got even more moisture later in the day. All welcome and much needed!

Up, front

23 03 2010

Farm and ranch kids grow up knowing stuff. All kinds of stuff. Stuff that’s so ingrained from the time they’re little bitty that they may not even consciously recognize that they know certain stuff. Until another kid, not raised as close to nature and “the facts of life,” says something that makes the farm kid cock his head and raise a quizzical brow. To wit, we once had friends over, and one of our young friends had a girlfriend who had never been around horses. They rode double – he in the saddle, she behind the saddle. It was warm. (It was Texas, OK – it was hot.) The horses were sweating, especially under their saddle blankets, especially where jean-clad butts met slick, shiny horsehair butts. After the ride, the girl was genuinely worried that her be-jeaned butt now was damp. We weren’t quite sure what the actual problem was until we realized she’d never ridden bareback (maybe never ridden at all?). Well, we said, it’s hot, the horses are sweaty … Sweaty? She was innocent. She thought horses panted. Like dogs. Ahhh. πŸ™‚

Another thing farm kids know that they may not know they know – I didn’t realize I knew this until several years ago when someone asked or it was part of a quiz in a magazine or something … I can’t now remember how it came up. Horses get up – and lie down – front-end first. Cattle get up – and lie down – butt-end first. Really. Watch ’em sometime.

To wit, we’ll now observe Baylee as she demonstrates:

I was watching/photographing Hollywood and Sage when I realized Bayles was rolling. By the time I swung the camera her way, she was getting up. Here she’s bringing her front legs up …

Up with the front legs while her hindquarters/hind legs are still on the ground as she prepares to heave.

And she’s (almost) up!

Followed by a nice shake. πŸ™‚

After a little while, she was over with the other horses …

Left to right: Sage, Hollywood (in back), Baylee and Iya

The tell-tale paw …

And to my surprise she went down again to roll! (It is almost – definitely, by the human calendar – spring, after all. They’re still very fuzzy, and it was nice and lovely and warm.) (And no, I know you’re wondering, but she didn’t go all the way over.) (I didn’t realize she was going to be so goofy, or I’d have taken a pic of her actually laying down so you could see horses go down front end first, too.)

And here’s where she got weird. She got up with her butt-end first! Still on her knees! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, so I zoomed in on her and cut off poor Sage (sorry!).

Had a little mini-shake with her butt in the air …

And continued on up!

Ta da!

I think those cattle visitors over the winter had an adverse effect on our Baylee-girl! πŸ˜‰ (I did not see a single bovine this last trip, by the way, which I’m very glad about.)

Just a thing to make ya go hmm …! πŸ™‚

Puzzling ponies

19 02 2010

So who in the basin is Iya with??

Clue No. 1.

Clue No. 2.

Clue No. 3. Betcha didn’t see that coming. πŸ™‚

Sage, Baylee – Iya – and Hollywood!

And Piedra. Reunited. πŸ™‚

You’d never know Iya was a newcomer; they acted like they’d known each other all their lives. Their dynamics are truly fascinating!

Did Grey/Traveler kick Iya out? She was born into his band as opposed to Two Boots, who was with mama Houdini when he stole them from Seven (remember that??). Did she go looking for her big sister and was intercepted by Hollywood? Did Hollywood steal her? When did she join his band? Before or after he stole Piedra and Sage back from Hook?

Oh, the puzzles these ponies present. πŸ™‚

Piedra has weaned master Sage. For a first-time mother, she had no trouble getting her message across. Moments before this shot, he nosed her flank, and she pinned her ears but didn’t otherwise – that I could discern – give anyΒ  message. He definitely understood, though, and this photo just shows baby (almost a yearling!) seeking comfort. Boy, won’t he be surprised when his new baby brother or sister appears!

He is so loved. πŸ™‚ Hollywood had had his head down browsing, and Sage basically walked right into him, causing Hollywood to throw up his head to get out of Sage’s way! In the next frame, he’s resting his chin on Sage’s hip momentarily – initially annoyed … instantly forgiven.

Oh, but who could resist the little love-bug!?

Mister Hook is fine as rain; he’s back with Aspen, trailing Steeldust’s big band.

More pix and info to come as I have time. I haven’t even been able to get through all my pictures yet; my folks are coming to Colorado for a mini ski trip, and some house-cleaning is in order!

‘Once around the sun’ in Spring Creek Basin

22 01 2010

With humble acknowledgment of the book with the title Once Around the Sun in Yellowstone, I thought it would be interesting, if slightly late, to share some pictures from (mostly) last year.

Every year since I first moved to Colorado in 2001, I’ve done a little calendar for my family. They started out as images strictly from Colorado, but then there was the year when I moved from Colorado to Montana and back to Texas before returning to Colorado on Jan. 2 the following year, so that was a mixed-image calendar. And then last year was, literally, the year of the horse, and family got all mustangs, every month. This year is no different – and I’m late in selecting images – again – which also doesn’t break my typical pattern.

But one difference: I thought I’d share the images I selected here on the blog, with a brief explanation of why I selected each – a memory of the day/moment. I think most of the images have appeared previously on the blog, with maybe a couple of exceptions, and all were taken last year except December’s boy, which was taken this January, and all except the October image were taken in the month it represents (October’s was taken in November).

We’re in the middle – maybe trending toward the end – of a blizzard, so I’m homebound and looking back through pictures of my beloved wild ones … as if I needed an excuse. πŸ™‚



This shot of our littlest wild ‘n wooly, Hayden (thus named because I was in Yellowstone, one of my other favorite places on the planet, when he was born last fall), makes the cover because it was the day after Thanksgiving, and I was having a lovely end-0f-day visit with him and his mama and his new stepdaddy, Chrome. The coyotes were singing and the moon was plump and I didn’t yet know about Molly … and because he gave me this look, full of baby-curiosity. Hayden is the son of Grey/Traveler, which careful readers know is my beloved favorite ( πŸ˜‰ ), and he has had my heart since I first laid eyes on him. I hope he long carries on his daddy’s legacy in the wild heart of his western Colorado home.


Speak of the handsome devil, here’s Grey/Traveler as Mr. January. You can see that last year’s January doesn’t begin to compare with this year’s snowy January. The band was on the west end of the corral hill – almost to the boundary fence. You can just see the base of Filly Peak at right, and in the far background are the La Sal Mountains of Utah (on the other side of which is Moab). I love starting off the year with my boy!


Ahh, happy days. Duke and Chrome were still bachelors last February, still part of the even-then loose-knit Bachelor 7, and they were shadowing Steeldust’s band this day, back in the area southish of the roller-coaster ridge. Sometimes, I have to see the pictures at full resolution on the computer screen to know what I have, but with this moment, as it happened and as I hit the shutter, click after click, I knew I had something special – the capture of a bond between stallions, friends, before the spring frenzy. I had walked out to the band and was sitting on the ground enjoying the visit while they grazed … and then they walked toward and past me, bringing the sounds of their lives with them – hooves on ground, lips and teeth nibbling, gentle snorts as they came – and went – and me, near-breathless at the seeming miracle of their wave on wave. As it happened, Duke stole Raven and her filly, Corona, in late April and had them most of the year until Kreacher stole them back and injured Duke in the process, and Chrome ended up dogging Grey’s band around the end of the summer, persistence that finally paid off when he stole Jif and Hayden about three weeks after he was born … and then acquired Two Boots and her colt, Cuatro, and now presumably has Iya as well.


Well … what can I say? πŸ™‚ This image has been my desktop image since then. A magical combination of roselight and gorgeous grey and wild life. Shot across an arroyo as he came up from water in the bottom.


This picture was taken after I knew Bones was gone. Roach (pictured) and Poco were grazing alone on a ridgetop. I hiked out, hoping Bones was just over the edge, just out of sight. She wasn’t, and I knew. I walked the whole ridgeline, looking hard on both sides, still, just in case. When I walked back, Poco was leading the way at the base of the ridge, toward an arroyo. I waited till they were on the other side, then followed while they stood there, facing me, watching. On the other side, he led me farther into a narrow valley until he stopped again and faced me again and watched me again while I watched him back, then sat, then got up and explored among the trees. He never moved. Behind him then, motion – a golden eagle launched into the air, and I found what I had dreaded: Bones and her partially born foal. Indeed one of the saddest times I’ve had in the basin. I couldn’t bring myself to use a pic of my bonny Bones, so I used this picture instead, a beautiful picture. It reminds me, though, and that’s enough.


Oh, this one I love. This was a day or two before the wild horse count by the Four Corners Back Country Horsemen, and I was out till the very end o’ day, captivated by young master Sage, racing the wind, testing his legs and lungs and baby muscles running circles around Auntie Baylee. Then it was back to mama for celebration, dinner and a nap, and there he is, after sundown, all at peace, Piedra calm, watching over her firstborn son.


I tried not to repeat horses (too much), but I couldn’t pass this one by. That’s Sage and his Auntie Baylee. She was just 2 last year and a great playmate and babysitter to her sister’s (I think) son. It was a dry spring, and a windy one, and I love the greens and greys and their wind-tousled manes and tails, not to mention their obvious bond.


If ever there was an image that said “I am wild … I live in Spring Creek Basin,” this is it, I thought that day. Duke and his family I hoped he’d have forever, napping in the summer light, McKenna Peak and the unnamed – but absolutely recognizable – promontory in the background. Saltbush and mustangs and eroded hills, jutting buttes and clear blue sky … it could be mustangs anywhere, but it’s Spring Creek Basin. Duke’s always-home … and now, hopefully, Raven’s and Corona’s, too.


If you had such a subject, no doubt he’d appear multiple times in your calendar, too! This was early in the time when Chrome started following Grey’s band, and this image happened when Grey chased Chrome away – toward me. Chrome broke off when he realized I was sitting there, and Grey trotted back to his family.


Toward the end of last year, the ponies started appearing in high places, on hill sides and tops, places I had rarely previously seen them. Untouched forage, maybe … maybe a breath of cooler air above the basin floor. Houdini and Terra pictured. Iya was just to the left out of this image, and Two Boots and Cuatro – and Chrome – were higher to the left. Grey/Traveler and heavy-pregnant Jif were napping at the base of the hill, and Kreacher and Mona and Kootenai (Raven and Corona still with Duke then) were wandering, grazing, between the hill and the road. Unique placement made for unique – to me – photos, and, on their own, reminds me of Little Book Cliffs terrain.


What a fine morning this was (actually in November)! First-thing-in-the-morning sunshine gave way soon after this image was taken to high clouds, but this was quite a lovely morning. Chrome had stolen Jif and Hayden by this time, and Iya was vacillating between her band – very close by – and Chrome’s. So many images to choose from for this month, from this morning alone, but this was the one. He’s so much like his daddy.


Another beautiful morning (and cold) … but this one, tempered by sadness. This was the morning I realized Molly was gone, when I found her filly Liberty, right, with Bounce’s band. Here, she’s with yearling Gaia. Molly and Liberty spent at least a few days with Bounce’s band after they left Seven’s (Liberty’s sire), and I was hopeful they would adopt her when the time came. I am happy to report that as of at least earlier this month, Liberty still has a place with wise Bounce and his young mare, Alegre, and her babies, Gaia and Whisper.


Surely you’ll recognize handsome Hook! This was taken most recently, in early January of this year. This was the day I realized former bachelor Hook had stolen Hollywood’s lovely mare Piedra and her colt (and Hollywood’s son), Sage. I had had a wonderful visit with Steeldust’s band just earlier, then spotted these horses farther away … then made the surprising ID. Cloudy, snowy, wintry. Wild in winter.

Again, I wish all of you a wonderful year, filled with horses and kindness, and I hope that in December, you all have a year beautiful to look back on … another “once around the sun” … and may it be filled with more light than shadows.

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 magnificentΒ “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. πŸ™‚

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 Β 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.” πŸ˜‰

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 lastΒ – 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. πŸ™‚

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 isΒ thinner than when he had Raven and Corona – and, briefly,Β 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 CreekΒ 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. πŸ™‚

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.

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? πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚

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 bandΒ  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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚

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!

Catching up

22 10 2009

“There are 85,000 apps that can do almost anything.”

I have two questions: Wasn’t it just 75,000 a week ago? And … what the heck is an “app”? Or is it ap? Appy? Appaloosa? OK, now we’re talking my language. (If “almost anything” will select and cull my photos, download them, pick ones for the blog and tweak ’em and upload ’em … just tell me how to get one.)

Nope, no appys in this post, but I think it gets me up to just a week behind (it’ll widen again in a couple of days, no worries).

L&K beat me to the basin that morning. They know the ponies like nobody’s business, and it’s awesome having them out to visit. We were both optimistic and worried when we didn’t find Mr. Duke where they had seen him the day before. Unfortunately, none of us have seen him since.

Our first visit was with Steeldust’s band, who were drinking at the catchment. The three misters (Aspen, Hook and Twister) were there, too, drinking from the smaller trough.


Big band at the big tank; misters at the little tank.

We stood at the road and took pictures … and after drinking, the horses wandered up to say hello!


Alpha, Butch, Ember and Hannah


Look at that big little guy! I don’t know whether he’s getting anything … but he’s still nursing – and mama Alpha is still letting him! Steeldust at left; Hannah at right.


Then he goes over and pokes at Mr. Twister, who is hanging out with the big boys now. Twister’s getting his licks in now …


Storm chases Twister …


Twister flashes his heels (which I was too late to catch), and Storm-chaser backs off. Works every time.


And then they were friends. There’s Comanche on the left, Mouse on the right, Aspen at far back right and Hook behind him.


Sisters Ember (near) and Kestrel. Notice Storm (and Hannah) coming up behind them and young Pinon, also looking at something in the background.


What are they looking at?


Right to left: Ember, Kestrel, Luna, Butch and Hannah. Could be five generations there if Butch is, indeed, one of Luna’s brood.

L&K saw Cinch and Bruiser later when they drove to Flat Top to check the pond, so in hind sight, I wonder whether the ponies were checking out those boys out yonder.


After Storm got his fill of boy time, he remembered his gentlemanly manners by escorting mistress Hannah back to the band … which she clearly didn’t appreciate – look at those ears! And big sisters Ember and Kestrel are posing prettily for the camera.

As the horses moved closer and closer to the road, we decided we might be blocking their route, so off we went.


On the way down the hill, I saw Mahogany and Sable looking down from the ridge, so I stopped the Jeep and grabbed a shot.

While L&K went to check the pond, I went on to check the Wildcat boulders.




While I was going clockwise around the loop, L&K were going counter-clockwise. Not a single pony was in view for me. Both the pond right by the road in the east and the east-pocket pond still have water. I was looking hard for Poco and Roach – and L&K saw them right before they saw me – but I never saw the boys. In fact, when I spied the wandering elusive-ites, L&K were already watching them … and worried about the one they didn’t see.

Seven’s were down on the southwest side of the roller-coaster ridge, out away from the pond, which also still has water. Seven, check. Roja and Ze, check. Liberty … all alone … where’s Molly? Liberty was by herself a short distance from the other horses, and while we watched, she turned and walked away. Seven and Roja and Ze followed, and they all dropped down into a wash out of sight. Every once in a while, we could see somebody’s back, but none of those backs were Molly’s. There were a few dead junipers out there and one alive. Knowing Molly-girl’s penchant for napping under trees, I thought she might have hung back while the other horses moseyed on, grazing. My theory was that when Liberty got out away from her, she decided she wasn’t going any farther and went back to Mama. Given Molly’s known condition – even though we also knew she had been seen recently by J&K – not seeing her worried us.

There was nothing for it but to walk out to get the scoop, for better or for worse. When I got to the edge of the wash and saw Liberty nursing from Molly, I was able to flash L&K the thumbs-up!


It is what it is.


Roja, little chow-hound that she is, never even looked up at me, and that in itself was a surprise. She’s usually the first to “alert.” Maybe I’m growing on her. πŸ™‚


Silent sentinel. He also was very relaxed with me there.

I took just a few photos and left them – no worries from me, ponies.

Bounce and his band were on the other side of the ridge.


Whisper, Bounce, Gaia and Alegre. They like this bend of the arroyo (and not just them – Poco and Roach, Hollywood’s … ), which is weird (?) because there’s no water in that section, but there is water farther west.

On the way back to the west-side loop road, we spotted Grey/Traveler’s way – WAY – off yonder under some trees sort of eastish of Round Top – between RT and the weird guzzler. I figure sometime between then and Sunday was when Chrome “acquired” Jif and Hayden.


Hollywood had his band out on the east-west hill; that’s him at right. Then Piedra, Sage and Baylee.

Am I right, or was it warm?

Out on the flats east of the catchment were the misters and Steeldust’s band. (Keep that in mind.)

We got back to Filly Peak, and I hiked out “behind” the hill to check for Duke, and L&K went on down to the trap-road pond to look for him. We all came up unlucky. But guess who I did see from back yonder?

And that jogs the memory – on our way into the basin, they were out on the corral hill. So when I saw Kreacher’s band – traitors included – they were heading north toward – I thought – the catchment. I reunited with L&K and gave them the report, and sure enough, the band popped up and went to the big catchment trough. They drank, then headed back the way they had come and dropped back over the edge. We drove back over and were able to see them down on the flats south of the catchment.

L&K had a drive back to their home away from home, and I had a “date,” so we headed toward the entrance.

But the ponies had other ideas (don’t they always?). I guess they weren’t quite ready to say good-by to these fans-of-theirs … Remember I said Steeldust’s band had been out on the flats east of the catchment? By the time we got back around to just past Filly Peak … they were blocking the road!


Mama Alpha and big-baby Storm (he had just finished nursing – again).


Muddy brother Pinon, Sable and Mahogany. You can see the road above/behind them.


Lovely Kestrel and Sable and Mahogany


Must have been that time of day. Hannah and Luna (road again behind them).

So pony time intervened, and there was nothing to do but watch and admire and take pictures and smile and smile and smile. πŸ™‚ A minute after I figured I had to be leaving, the ponies were across and off the road, and we were on our way.

Can’t have a much better fare-thee-well than that! πŸ˜‰