Finding Bones

26 04 2009

The wind and dust and threat of rain and press of people conspired to send me home yesterday. While I’m glad for an actual day of rest, where do I most want to be right now??

But that’s beside the point of this post. It was so hard to go through the photos I took of Poco and Roach leading up to finding Bones and her foal that I realized this needed to be a single post. No rhyme or reason to it, but that’s the way of it.

Poco and Roach were on a ridge not far off the road basically southwest of the double ponds when I saw them last Saturday. I couldn’t see Bones, but that’s not unusual given the terrain. However, knowing how close she was to foaling and because of her injury, I had to check.

Poco

Poco

Poco on the ridge as I walked up; Roach was to the right. McKenna Peak looming large in the background with the unnamed promontory at left. (Secret message: That’s NOT timothy in his mouth!)

Roach

Roach

Big red ‘n handsome.

Pyramid peak

Pyramid peak

Roach’s McKenna Peak glamour shot.

Standing steady

Standing steady

There was no room to go past them on the ridge itself, so I dropped down below them. You can see the curious tilt of Roach’s head and cock of his ear, but he never moved until I was farther up the ridge behind him. Then he turned around to face me.

Postcard perfect

Postcard perfect

But before I turned around to take this picture, I looked over the edge of the ridge … and did not find Bones. Thank goodness for image stabilization lenses because the hands that took this were not terribly steady.

Pointing the way

Pointing the way

This picture of Poco now haunts me because I seem to see by his body language that he was already grieving. When I was there, I tried to look for any sign of that, but I just couldn’t comprehend. It turns out that he was pointing the way.

I left Poco and Roach and ended up walking most of the length of the ridge, which, though considerably lower than Knife Edge, is about as blade-narrow as they come. When I was about three-quarters of the way back to the stallions, they were lower on the east side of the ridge, then ran down into the little valley below. I sat down to see what they would do, having already had the idea to stick with them for a while to see if Bones appeared or if they would lead me to her. They disappeared down in an arroyo, and just as I was thinking they had been down there an awfully long time, they climbed up the other side, where they turned around to watch me from the edge of some trees.

So I walked down and through the arroyo – just in case. It took them so long to drink because they had to sip muddy water as it seeped up into the cups made by their hooves. I went up on the other side, found a fallen tree and sat down because the boys hadn’t moved. They watched me just a few minutes more, then Poco took off again up-valley at what seemed to be a determined walk. I let them go a ways, then followed at the west side of the valley. Poco stopped again and turned to face me. Roach stopped near him.

Two mark the spot

Two mark the spot

Do you see the raven? Bones and her foal were almost directly behind Poco and Roach – I just didn’t know it yet.

I looked around some through the trees on “my” side of the valley and found nothing. Poco hadn’t moved, so I sat down under a tree across from them to see what he might do next. He didn’t move. After awhile (no idea how long?) I got up and walked past them and farther along on that little “hump” that you can see behind them where the raven is. I was going to go on farther up-valley, but I happened to look back toward them and saw movement off to the side, which I immediately pounced on as the flicker of a foal’s ears, low to the ground. But when I walked back, a great golden eagle flew away up the arroyo … and I knew.

And there they were, right behind where Poco stopped.

Poco and Roach

Poco and Roach

Poco and Roach greeted me again when I left Bones, and I cried and told them how sorry I was at the loss of their girl and her baby.

Wow. This is hard.

I like to think her “better place” is exactly where she is.





RIP Bones & baby

19 04 2009
Bones

Bones

Unfortunately, having a baby was not to be for sweet girl Bones. The foal didn’t even make it all the way out.

Poco led me right to Bones and her baby, which I didn’t even realize until I finally I saw them. For what it’s worth, she was nourishing a golden eagle.

So the basin is one (two) less, but keep these things in mind: She lived and died wild, and her baby died with her (not later).





All dusty; one missing

4 04 2009
Calendar months, state lines, boundaries between state and private land are all constructs of mankind, but Mother Nature is blurring the seasonal lines this year – as is her right and royal privilege, of course. And if she thinks it’s still March, when we should be getting a good percentage of our moisture, that’s fine. March has roared right into April, but it’s also snowing – again. All night and all today, so far. 🙂 (I know people are tired of snow, but my ponies need moisture!)

Well, I didn’t see everybody during my visit to the basin yesterday, but I did see enough to recognize Duke is “missing” from his usual group (Hook and Chrome, following Steeldust). Last April, he turned up alone and limping, and he stayed alone for nearly two months. I didn’t see him at all yesterday … I hope that’s all it is.

The forecast and weekend work duty gave me an excuse to head to the basin Friday (and given today’s 6 inches of snow and still falling, I’m glad I went). I didn’t go out last weekend; the mares should start foaling any week now, and I’ll be out there plenty for at least the next month of weekends.

Grey/Traveler and his band were out on the hill above the corrals southwest of Filly Peak when I first drove in. By the time I drove out later that afternoon, they were still on the hill but a bit farther south. Not close enough to see the mamas-to-be, but everyone was accounted for and looked content.

Poco, Roach and Bones

Poco, Roach and Bones

These horses were my next sighting (from near OR far), and they were right off the road in their usual territory (eastish, nearish the double ponds). Can you see the grey girl from here?

Bones with a belly

Bones with a belly

How ’bout now? And you can actually see her weird hip from his angle, too … Please, God, don’t rip her in half when that baby comes out into the world. I don’t mind saying I’m a little worried about the plucky girl.

Two windblown boys

Two windblown boys

Roach and Poco, enjoying some of the sunshine in the wind.

Bad dread day

Bad dread day

The wind is tough when you have dreadlocks in your mane. It was deja vu from last Sunday and the Sunday before that. The wind was insane, and the dust was hanging in the sky before I even got to the basin in the morning. Thunderstorms were in the forecast, but that wind must have blown any thought of rain clear to Wyoming.

Swaying with the wind

Swaying with the wind

Poor Bones was literally swaying on her feet as the wind pushed her. I was crossing an arroyo to get ahead of her for better light when I took this shot. You can see her big baby-belly and her protruding hip from this angle, too.

Bones and Poco

Bones and Poco

Poco had walked over to her, but she didn’t want any part of him.

Frisky Roach

Frisky Roach

Then big-boy Roach ambled over and nickered to her, but she wasn’t having any of him, either.

Poco to the rescue!

Poco to the rescue!

But that was more than Poco could take, so he chased away the interloper and saved the day, err, the mare.

At ease

At ease

A few seconds later: one little happy family (but note that Poco is between Roach and Bones). Brumley Point in the background.

Aspen and Co.

Aspen and Co.

A few minutes later, I spied the breakaway band just as I was about to cross the “squishy” arroyo. Helpful, I know, but it’s the only one that’s even slightly wet anymore (except the first Spring Creek crossing), and it’s, well, squishy. At bottom left, left to right: Hollywood, Aspen and Piedra. At far right: Baylee. Up the hill: Hook (left) and Chrome. Duke usually hangs out with Chrome and Hook. The horses walked up and over that hill, and I wondered if Steeldust’s band was on the other side – and maybe Duke, too.

So I drove up onto roller-coaster ridge and pulled over where I could watch them – Steeldust’s band and Mouse and Comanche were, indeed, on the other side of the hill. In fact, I walked over that same hill a few weeks ago when I visited Poco, Bones and Roach on the south side and Bounce, Alegre and Gaia on the north. The horses were up against the hill, which comes down in  a couple of ridges, and I still couldn’t see Duke, but I thought he was just still out of sight. But then they all moved into the open, and he wasn’t with them. Where on Earth is he??

I hiked down the ridge and took some pix from across the arroyo that runs along the base.

Itchy

Itchy

It’s a good thing the ponies are all still fuzzy, seeing as how winter follows spring this year (not that that’s a terribly unusual seasonal progression on the edge of the Rockies). Ember-girl is the oldest of last year’s babies and will be a year old in just a couple of weeks!

Ember with the boys

Ember with the boys

Possibly her brothers? Sundance in the middle and Butch at right. I don’t know if it’s very visible in this small pic, but see how the roots of Ember’s mane are grey? I had started to wonder lately if she was going to keep her red color and not turn grey, but seeing that grey-grey mane growing out, I do think she will eventually turn grey. Iya also was born bright sorrel – like Gaia and Storm – but she has gone so dark she looks black from a distance (sister Two Boots was born black and is now dark grey). Gaia will stay sorrel, I’m pretty sure, but I think Storm will eventually go grey, too.

Greasewood - breakfast of champions

Greasewood - breakfast of champions

Or lunch of hungry mamas-to-be. That’s heavy-pregnant Luna chowing on prickly winterized greasewood with Sundance, left, and Steeldust. Luna is Ember’s mama.

Focus on the belly

Focus on the belly

Just as Mahogany was walking along the opposite side of the arroyo, I hit the shutter … only to see later that she was trying to hide behind that weed covering her face. Drat. This girl still has a ways to go; she’s not due till May.

Lovely

Lovely

Beautiful Alpha-lady, with Ember behind her.

Sleepy Storm

Sleepy Storm

After lunch, little Storm-chaser was a tired boy, napping here with the wind in his face. He’s a little older than 8 months old now and still nursing from mama Alpha, who still looks good, if a little ribby. The good news is that she doesn’t look pregnant (PZP at work).

Seeing rose

Seeing rose

Mahogany, left, and Kestrel grazing … crazy dust in the background, looking northwest (roller-coaster ridge is to the left). Pretty Kestrel looks a little bulky, but I think she’s just an easy keeper like her mama (Luna) and maybe a little bit of long-lens compression.

Mouse doing the snake

Mouse doing the snake

How do lieutenant stallions know what to do? Is bachelorhood sort of like ROTC or OTS, and now he’s commissioned, and he has his orders? He walked a little farther, turned his tail to the wind, cocked a hip and tried to act like he was napping. Most of the other horses did the same; Steeldust was on the opposite side of the band.

Doing the walk-on-by

Doing the walk-on-by

Hook, left, and Chrome walk past Aspen and Co. (Hollywood at right, watching them). Knife Edge in the background. By this time, I knew Duke wasn’t around. Unhappy to not see him. I hope the boy is all right … It may sound weird, but I hope he’s “just” hurt (and just a little, enough to not keep up) and not worse. They were out on the other side of the big band, so I didn’t walk out to them. Piedra looks a little “thick” through the middle but not as pregnant as (I think) she should look. Best guess: She’s due this month (with Hollywood’s baby).

All in the family - except Duke

All in the family - except Duke

I stopped to take one more pic after I left them napping. It was nice right up on the ridge-side protected from the wind, but they were all out in the howling inferno across the arroyo. The arroyo looked (and felt) damp, but there was no water in that particular section). Notice a couple of things: Mahogany, left, Aspen, up in the “back,” and Comanche, single horse in the middle, are still grazing, and only one goofball – Hook – is facing the wind. Chrome is maybe a little hard to see, right behind him.

When I got back up to the Jeep, it was starting to sprinkle dust. When even the raindrops are dusty, you know it’s bad. Has anyone checked on Arizona lately? Is it still there, or has it been wiped from the map and deposited in Colorado? I’m not a lifelong resident of these parts, so maybe the fact that I’ve never seen it quite this bad in seven years (total, not consecutive) of living in Colorado doesn’t mean diddly, but I also think it’s visual, in-your-face proof of how dry it is. Arizona (and this bottom corner of Colorado) wouldn’t be blowing away if it was wet enough to stick to the map, err, ground, no matter what state we humans say it ought to be in. Pretty crazy.

Bounce and his lovely girls were by the arroyo by the west-side road, but I wasn’t taking any chances with potential rain (it was supposed to thunder and storm, remember), so I waved and drove on by. Cutest-girl Gaia watched me, as did dark-and-handsome Bounce, but Alegre pretty well ignored me (this from the girl who used to be like Duke in that any appearance of a vehicle sent her into get-away mode). Gaia will be 1 year old on Earth Day!

I looked and looked and looked for Kreacher and the girls but never saw hide nor hair of them. As already mentioned, I saw Grey/Traveler and his family again, still out on the far hill that’s basically above (east of) the corrals out on the county road. I did not see any cattle in the basin, but a group of mamas and babies (not the ones that had been in the basin until recently) were very disgruntled about having to give up the road when I first drove in that morning (on/near/next to the road just on the private side of the cattle guard going into the herd area). Sorry, ladies and babies. I did drive down to the trap site (pond dry). No sign of the ponies, but that section of Spring Creek, especially in the canyon, does have water, so I suspect they’re around somewhere amid the hills and swales and dales.

It was early yet, so I decided to drive down the county road to see if I could spy the spots like last time. No spots, unless you count rump patches …

Shadow and shadowy deer

Shadow and shadowy deer

Yay! David and Shadow, thought I from the Jeep on the county road just barely into Dolores County from San Miguel. But then I spied spots, and I thought, hmm, no, must be Mesa and Ty and the pintos. Then, no, I decided, David and Shadow and dusty muley rump spots! Ha. As you can see, it got much dustier (dustyer? much mo’ dusty?) – again, deja vu two weekends ago when I stopped in nearly the same spot on the county road to visit with the painted ponies and their solid suitors. David was just to the right, out of the frame of the above pic.

I drove on down to the valley of the pintos and what I am henceforth naming “dysfunction junction” in honor of the “dysfunctional” family make-up of the pinto girls and babies (well, young ladies) and one pinto boy and three solid boys, and the “junction” of my favorite hike-in spot, and the not-so-fondly named “malfunction junction” in the city where I once lived (bonus points to you if you know the city), which has since been “fixed” (but not really, according to some). Well, it made me laugh, and I liked it, and it will never show up on any official map, so there you are.

Point: No spotted – or otherwise – ponies were to be seen that day from the road (except the aforementioned David and Shadow).

So I turned around and parked the buggy and headed in to visit with David and his young lady, who will be 2 this year but hopefully not a mother until next year at least.

David the horse

David the horse

Not to be confused with the three Davids who named him right before the roundup of ’07. David was on private property. The private property gate was opened, the contractors took down the herd-area-boundary fence across the county road, tied some saddle horses in the trees inside the herd area and used Shorty the Judas (and the helicopter) to lure young David back home. He tried to hook up with a band of sorrels almost immediately, but though those sorrels were rounded up and removed, our David never was. Last year when the southside boys ganged up on pinto former band stallion Bruiser  (still a pinto; no longer a band stallion), David lured away young Miss Shadow and stole away, leaving the other boys with the band. Cinch later decided he had better company with Bruiser (who may be his sire; they look an awful lot alike).

Blending into the dusty shadows

Blending into the dusty shadows

Shadow and David

Shadow

Shadow

Shadow is black as jet. Black as night. Black as a … shadow. No markings. Her mother was the older, independent mare Ceal, who was sometimes with Bruiser and the pinto band and sometimes not. She was very thin in the fall of 2007 (and possibly had a hip injury) and died that winter. Shadow stayed with the pintos until the brouhaha when David claimed her.

Together

Together

Closer

Closer

The end.

They followed the deer into the trees farther up the hill, and I headed back to the road and the Jeep and the highway and home. Woke up the next morning – this morning – to snow. Where/when have you heard that before? Good for the dust, good for the ground, hopefully good for the ponds that are dry, definitely good for the ponies (Ma Nature can’t fool them; they’re still wearing their winter coats!).

Unlike two weeks ago when the snow mostly stopped by mid-morning, this snow has been falling all day long. I hope the ponies are getting it, too! There’s only a little grass here and there yet, but that greasewood has to taste better with a little topping of whipped snow! 🙂





Celebration

15 03 2009

Until I got to this point, I thought I had a lot to say about my most recent visit with the horses. Now, again, I’m speechless. The last time I was in the basin with them, I felt like I had walked into a painting, a place with the most lovely light and subjects so heavenly I could only weep with joy. The weather last weekend wasn’t so great, and I was still riding the high of the gift that was the previous weekend, so Saturday was my first visit in two weeks – it felt like forever.

Last weekend, I saw all the horses; this weekend, only the northern horses with the exception of Bounce and his girls. But – again – it was one sublime experience. It was sunny; it was cloudy. It was warm; there was a nip to the air. It was calm; it was breezy. The horses were as relaxed as I’ve ever seen them, I was the only two-legged for miles, and it was a day beyond treasure. Yes, again. I’m doing my best to spread the karma.

Piedra, Baylee and Aspen

Piedra, Baylee and Aspen

These ponies were the first I saw, in the flats by Spring Creek where Kreacher had his girls the last time I saw them.

Hollywood

Hollywood

Yep, he’s still with ’em.

Bored Baylee

Bored Baylee

Leggy girl got bored watching me with the others, so she started grazing.

Come on over

Come on over

I guess Hollywood thought he was being ignored, so he trotted over.

Come closer

Come closer

Which, of course, made Aspen get a little closer to the girls.

Hanging out

Hanging out

One little happy (kinda) family.

Horses and clouds

Horses and clouds

And there they stayed while I walked back to the Jeep.

At that point, the only other four-leggeds I had seen were two cows – black and black baldy – both with tiny calves – in the valley below the water catchment, so I hooked down across Spring Creek again and up onto the road headed toward Round Top. Beyond eyesight, I caught sight of Mona, Kootenai and Kreacher way out on top of the east end of the east-west hill. Raven was out of sight. Also from the road, I spotted Grey and Houdini and Jif and the kids out toward Flat Top … and farther out between Round Top and Flat Top, Seven and his girls. I parked at Round Top and hit the trail. I decided to go find the threesome first because they were farthest away. By the time I got to the far trail, they had dropped down to the valley below the saddle.

Seven

Seven

Seven, if he was aged correctly by the contractors at the roundup, is coming on 9 this year. The wind was brisk by this time, so I dropped off the saddle on the calm side of a ridge and hunkered down where I could see the boy around the corner. I had seen the girls from the top, so I figured he’d go toward them and I could inch out to the end of the ridge and sit there and watch them. But no, he decides to walk in the opposite direction, which put him right down the hill from me – and me in plain sight. I sat there long enough in an uncomfortable position on the side of the ridge that my right leg and foot went to sleep. Ugh. Can you feel the pins and needles? It finally did wake up as I shifted weight as slowly as I could so I wouldn’t startle him. Finally he walked back toward the mares, and I could wake up my leg and move down to where I could see them all. He went behind some trees, so I went down the hill and over another, lower ridge, where I got in position among the roots of a gnarled old pinon (or juniper; I didn’t actually pay attention to which), which gave me a nice little frame to shoot through, though I was still pretty much in plain sight.

Roja, Molly and Seven

Roja, Molly and Seven

I kept thinking they’d hear my shutter click, at least, but the wind must have blown the sound away.

Seven going on 9

Seven going on 9

(Any Star Trek fans?) I think I know why Seven didn’t see me – he grazes with his eyes closed.

Molly and Roja

Molly and Roja

You can see old Molly is a bit on the thin side (she should NOT have a foal this year), and you can see just as well that pert Roja is as chubby as a fall apple (should be a baby in there).

I watched them for a bit then quietly got up and walked back up the nearest ridge to the saddle. Seven saw me and watched me walk away, but if the mares saw me, they never even looked up. Great visit with these wary ponies.

I picked up the trail to the yucky water hole to pick up the trail to the other water hole which leads on out around Flat Top. Got a yucky surprise.

Yucky from a distance

Yucky from a distance

It’s almost dry! Just two weeks ago there was more water. It’s never been a big puddle, but now it’s almost just mud.

Yucky close up

Yucky close up

There is water to the top of that awful pipe, which is jagged all around its top edge. There’s more water at the next puddle, but there’s also another pipe – under the surface of the water and also jagged. All you horse folks out there are cringing just like I was. I can’t believe a horse hasn’t stepped on or in that pipe yet and sliced his or her pastern open (good karma! good karma! good karma!). At the rate things are drying up out there … well, please help me pray for rain – or more snow. March is typically our wettest month, but it’s been dry and windy so far. No pix of the other water hole because I had put my camera back in my backpack.

When I got down (up? north) to Grey/Traveler and his band, only Jif was above the arroyo, and she was headed into it. If she saw me coming, she didn’t acknowledge me. So I waited until they came up to graze, then went down to investigate what they’re drinking. I didn’t take pix, but it will look like the picture where Bones was drinking later in the program – from muddy hoof prints. Dry, peeps; it’s damn dry out there.

Are you ever so happy, so in love, the emotion spills out of you in waves of tears? Guys, you can stop reading; I know this is the equivalent of a chick flick. Girls, am I right?

Rose-colored hills, silver stallion

Rose-colored hills, silver stallion

Is he not gorgeous? He amazes me.

The light was crazy. Clouds were low on the southern and southwestern horizon when I got there in the morning, but during the day, they covered the sky, they parted, they played tag with the ridges and hillsides, they turned Spring Creek Basin into a painter’s canvas, and the horses moved through that light like angels. I swear to you, it was unbelievable.

Grey and rose

Grey and rose

He came to stand at the edge of the arroyo while I stood in the bottom. He cocked a hip and listened to me ask for just a little more wild horse medicine for my friends (one of whom came through surgery last week with flying colors and a great prognosis). He stood in the wind and made my heart sing.

Grey and youngsters

Grey and youngsters

The babies tried not to act very curious – Twister at left, Two Boots at right.

Twister and Traveler

Twister and Traveler

A little land, a lotta sky.

Comfort

Comfort

Twister, right, adores Two Boots and doesn’t mind telling her so.

Two Boots

Two Boots

Houdini’s daughter Two Boots will be 2 around April 21. She was born black.

Greasewood buffet

Greasewood buffet

Twigs, that’s all that is. How do they get nutrition from twigs? Iya and Jif snack on twigs and look great.

Iya

Iya

Big baby girl will be 1 on April 27! She still has a glint of red in the right light, but from a distance, she looks black.

Shades of grey

Shades of grey

Houdini and Grey/Traveler

Expectant mothers

Expectant mothers

First (that I know of) for Jif, many-th for wise girl Houdini.

Sunlight and shadow

Sunlight and shadow

See what I mean about that light? This is looking to the north, maybe slightly northwestish.

Youngsters

Youngsters

Iya, Two Boots and Twister follow the adults to the arroyo, which they crossed.

Pyramid

Pyramid

On the other side. I like their arrangement, even though not a one of them is paying attention to me anymore.

It was a good walk back to the Jeep from where they were, and I had spied glowing Alpha up by the roller-coaster ridge, so I walked on toward them. They were out in the open when I got to them, grazing and moseying toward-ish Round Top, with the boys bringing up the rear.

Duke and Chrome were standing together again, and Hook was a short distance ahead of them, toward the band. These boys are the remnants of the Bachelor 7. Kreacher won the new girls; Aspen hung out with Hollywood until he stole those girls; Mouse slid into Hollywood’s old lieutenant spot reporting to Steeldust; Comanche, who was with Aspen until Aspen won the girls, is sort of Mouse’s sergeant now. So Duke, Chrome and Hook stick together loosely, wandering after the big band. And they’re all still hanging out down there in the roller-coaster ridge area, probably because there’s still water in that pond. It’s shrinking like the wicked witch, but it’s the best source of water out there now – still.

Boys

Boys

Duke, left, Chrome and Hook when Hook got nervous and ran back to Duke and Chrome.

Play time

Play time

When I was walking toward them, before I had the camera out, I saw Chrome and Hook mix it up. A few minutes after Hook rejoined the boys, he and Duke had a little talk. Who’s the common denominator there? Although in this case, at least, Duke was the instigator.

Back to normal

Back to normal

Knife Edge getting the sunshine as I left the boys to go see the family.

Hook

Hook

Almost forgot this one of Hook. He really did have a little hook at the end of his snip once, I promise. Still has a hint of his rosy shade.

Mahogany

Mahogany

Looking for a mid-May baby from this gal.

Pinon

Pinon

Tall, dark and cute as a bug! He’ll be 1 around May 13.

Pinon and Daddy

Pinon and Daddy

Steeldust was pretty content … but just wait.

Belly-rific!

Belly-rific!

Luna-girl was first to foal last year.

Ember

Ember

Old-soul girl will be 1 around April 18.

Luna and her babies

Luna and her babies

Kestrel, right, will be 2 this spring.

Storm snack

Storm snack

Do you see the crazy-light beauty I was blessed with?!

Storm and Alpha

Storm and Alpha

Our little Storm-chaser is closing in on his 8-month birthday. Big boy.

Hey, look over there

Hey, look over there

This was immediately after Steeldust had a little chat with Comanche – a little reminder, really. Steely Dan is looking back at the bachelor boys; Comanche may be looking at deer (I saw them later).

Taking action

Taking action

Comanche may have missed the message, though, because right after that, Steeldust took off after him. The butt just at the edge of the frame is Mouse’s.

Frustration

Frustration

Then Steeldust left Mouse in charge of putting the point on the argument; Comanche at right.

Back again

Back again

And Steeldust moved the band back in the direction from which they had just come. (Again, that light!)

Now a little visual story:

Just walking along

Just walking along

Kestrel and Sundance. All looks well so far, but note the ear.

Perturbed

Perturbed

Now she’s feeling crowded – you know how boys can be – so Kestrel pins her ears and shakes her head at Sundance (who might, maybe be her brother).

Intervention

Intervention

And that’s when mama Luna steps in.

Punishment

Punishment

Swift and sure are mama’s teeth! I don’t know if you can see it in this small pic, but she actually has a hunk of hide in her teeth! I don’t know if Luna had a goal in mind, if she went for Sundance because daughter got out of the way, but it sure put an end to that mischief!

At some point while I was with the band, I had spotted Poco farther eastish, so when the band swapped directions, I went on out to say hi to P, B & R – couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

Copper in a cloud of dust

Copper in a cloud of dust

Roach apparently thought I was one of the bachelors when I first approached because he came trotting out to greet me (they were some distance away but visible). I wish this photo even began to do justice to the scene, but Roach was just glowing like he was in a spotlight from the heavens. Once he realized it was me, though, he turned around and walked back to his pals.

Guardian

Guardian

See them all? Bones through Roach’s legs; Poco at right.

Eh

Eh

Bones went down to get a drink, and Poco turned to watch after her.

What do you see?

What do you see?

Lemme tell you what I see. She’s so relaxed she’s not even looking at me while she drinks down in an arroyo (where I’m standing is low, but in front of her is a big “wall”). I see muddy water filling sandy hoof prints (this is what it looked like where Grey and family were drinking). I see a big belly … And you can see how her right hip bone sticks up.

Show is over

Show is over

Just for laughs. 🙂

See ya

See ya

Soft light on the big red boy.

And that was the end of that visit. I didn’t know if Poco and Roach had been down to drink yet at that point (I didn’t think so), so I left ’em to it and headed back toward the Jeep. At this point, I was on the northeastern side of Round Top, kinda near where that weird guzzler is, if you know where that is.

When I got back up on the  flattish area where the band was (flat as in no arroyos for at least 100 feet), I spotted a group of muley does and last year’s fawns moving north in front of me. They were totally backlit by the sun, and I must not have been visible to them because they had their heads down and I was “behind” a high spot in the ground. I didn’t think I’d be able to get anywhere close to them to take pix before they took off, so I kept walking. But they didn’t see me, so when I got to a shallow arroyo, I hopped the line and moved north to come out a little ahead of them.

I see you

I see you

The big girl on the left may have been an alpha doe – if deer have such rankings. She froze like a statue and didn’t take her eyes off me – and what beautiful eyes she has! She stood like that so long – and I stood like I stood so long – that most of the others got bored and went back to browsing. Finally I stepped out from behind the camera (on my monopod), and they decided that was enough of that. Looks like they wintered as well as the horses.

It took me about four hours to visit those four bands (counting the bachelors with Steeldust’s band). Had a snack when I got back to the Jeep and just rested a bit to marvel. The temperature may have inched into the lower 50s. I saw 60 once on the Jeep’s display, but I don’t believe it for a second. Cool enough for a sweatshirt; warm enough to work up an arroyo-inspired sweat. You really just have to take time to sit back and take it all in while you’re out there. It’s not all picture taking and getting from point horses to point other horses.

I spend a lot of time thinking in practical terms – how old the foals are, when which mare might foal, how dry it is, how much we need more precip – but I also spend quite a bit of time wondering how to balance all I GET from the horses with how to give back. Is it even possible? What do they want from me? What can I give them that even comes close to comparing with all they give me? So I share with them, and I share them with you, and if you take a moment in your day to thnk of them and bless their wild hearts, maybe that’s a little bit close to enough. Maybe. 🙂

Looking for Bounce and his lovely ladies, I drove the roller-coaster ridge road to where it drops off the east side, then turned around and headed back without seeing them. Driving back toward the dugout, I looked for ’em; never saw ’em. They might have been feeling crowded and gone to the east side of Knife Edge. I also looked for Kreacher and the girls as I drove along the east-west hill (I suppose it’s probably more a northwest-southeast hill), but I didn’t see them, so I had started to think they had dropped down into that little valley between Knife Edge and Lizard Mesa (I think Bounce may have been down in the eastern end of that valley, but who knows).

Bada-bing. Up ahead, split on either side of the road: Mona and Kreacher on the west side, Raven and Kootenai on the east side. Black and apricot joined dun and grey, and I found them taking in the view …

Ever so soft

Ever so soft

The sun was heading toward the far horizon by this time, below a cloud bank. I’ve been there when the sun heads to California behind the clouds the whole way, and I’ve been there when it drops out of the clouds and floods the basin in gold so pure you wish you could bank it. Guess what happened? Just a little longer … The above pic is looking southwestish from right off the road close to the dugout intersection.

Against the fingers

Against the fingers

Just a tiny bit east (of what I call the finger hills), really. They had decided they wanted to re-cross the road (don’t ask why the horses cross the road).

Kreacher

Kreacher

Mr. Big, looking all kind of handsome.

And then …

Light and light and light and grey

Light and light and light and grey

That light … Kreacher-feature never looked so fine!

Apricot and turquoise

Apricot and turquoise

Spin me a story about complementary colors, and I’ll tell you the perfect complement to a blue-bird sky is a horse wild as the wind.

And just when you want more, I have to disappoint you. Sure, I took more photos, when I remembered to hit the shutter for enjoying all that amazing light on the horses, but the horses were (are) very uncooperative, showing me mostly butts as they wandered off over the hill to graze and nap. Kreacher actually walked away out of sight! Meanwhile, the girls let ‘im go; Kootenai nibbled, and Raven and Mona stopped to enjoy the sunshine with cocked hips and closed eyes. Imagine it. … Believe me, no picture could be better than what you can imagine.

OK, one more. Just before I dropped down the last hill on the road to cross Spring Creek, guess who surprised me? I took this from near the dugout, I think, to get the background:

End of the day, laddies and lasses

End of the day, laddies and lasses

Can’t end on a much better note than that, eh? 🙂

Wild horse magic! Pass it on!





A living prayer

6 03 2009

Words are useless to describe my experiences with the horses last weekend. So I’m not going to try. It has taken me several days to even get to where I could look at the photos I took because the memories – and the emotions they evoked – are so vivid, the photos really are just aids to remember.

It’s about the horses. Always about the horses …

Reya, Copper, Spook, Ty, Kiowa

Reya, Copper, Spook, Ty, Kiowa

Spook and Kiowa

Spook and Kiowa

David and Shadow

David and Shadow

Shadow, David and Mesa

Shadow, David and Mesa

Shadow and David watch Corazon and Mesa

Shadow and David watch Corazon and Mesa

Corazon, Chipeta and Mesa

Corazon, Chipeta and Mesa

Shadow and David leaving

Shadow and David leaving

Pinto band settling down

Pinto band settling down

Bruiser and Cinch nearby

Bruiser and Cinch nearby

Shadow and David later

Shadow and David later

Hook, Chrome and Duke

Hook, Chrome and Duke

Duke and Chrome

Duke and Chrome

Steeldusts band in front of McKenna Peak

Steeldusts band in front of McKenna Peak

Ember and family

Ember and family

Mouse and Comanche in front of Brumley Point

Mouse and Comanche in front of Brumley Point

Steeldust and Comanche

Steeldust and Comanche

Steeldust and Hook

Steeldust and Hook

Mahogany

Mahogany

Pinon under a juniper

Pinon under a juniper

Luna

Luna

 

Ember

Ember

Storm and Alpha

Storm and Alpha

7-month-old Storm

7-month-old Storm

Poco

Poco

Roach

Roach

Bones

Bones

Bones and Roach

Bones and Roach

Gaia and Bounce

Gaia and Bounce

Alegre

Alegre

Gaia and Alegre

Gaia and Alegre

Two Boots, Iya and Twister

Two Boots, Iya and Twister

Houdini

Houdini

Houdini and Two Boots

Houdini and Two Boots

Jif

Jif

Jif, Iya, Houdini and Grey/Traveler

Jif, Iya, Houdini and Grey/Traveler

Grey, Houdini and Two Boots

Grey, Houdini and Two Boots

Twister and Iya

Twister and Iya

Two Boots, Grey/Traveler and Iya

Two Boots, Grey/Traveler and Iya

Although not everyone is pictured above, only Seven’s band did not make an appearance Saturday. The pictures of the pintos, David and Shadow and Bruiser and Cinch were taken early in the morning, and the pictures of Grey’s band were taken with the last bit of sunlight and after the sun had gone behind Filly Peak. A full day of horses.

Pictures from Sunday to come …





Guardian angels

23 02 2009

I have some friends battling cancer. One of those friends is helping her mom fight this dreadful disease, but they’re all fighting. Two of these friends are advocates for our wild horses – one has adopted several and currently has three at her house; one photographs them all over the country. One has an artist husband who expressed interest in painting wild horses from my images.

Out in the basin Saturday, in the middle of sunshine and wild, magic wild-horse medicine, I sent out a little prayer for them. Later, I realized I had just met someone who watches over the basin and the horses just as fiercely as I do – but he’s a whole lot closer and there even more. A guardian angel. A month or so ago, he gave some guys hell for four-wheeling out there, and he picked up the trash they left behind at Wildcat Spring – just as I did last hunting season. You can imagine how glad I was to meet him and know he’s a watchful pair of eyes and with the “oomph” to back up his words. (Thank you!!) I hope each of my friends battling cancer also has a guardian angel watching over them … and a little bit of wild-horse medicine to help them along the way.

Now on to the horses.

Moving forward

Moving forward

The first band I saw was Steeldust’s, north of Flat Top, but from the road by the water catchment, I spotted Grey/Traveler’s band almost exactly in the same little area where I had first seen them two weeks ago, tucked away on the southeast side of that little valley below the catchment. They went on the move again, but this time out into the valley and toward me. Two Boots, Houdini’s coming-2-year-old daughter, is behind Jif, so you can’t see her, but that’s the whole family. Jif on the other side of Grey, Iya with the big blaze (look how dark she is! I realized I still think of her as reddish from when she was a bright copper penny!), Twister and mama Houdini at far left.

Family portrait

Family portrait

Grey/Traveler went right on by me, after a pause behind a rather bare greasewood bush, and crossed a shallow ditch that later becomes a deep arroyo, but the band seemed to realize I was standing farther up along the ditch and stopped to have a look. You can see Two Boots now, between Jif and Twister. Aren’t they beautiful?!

They eventually caught up to “daddy” and moved out into the open “valley” where they settled down to graze in that gorgeous golden sunlight. I headed back to the Jeep to decide on a course of action to get out to see Steeldust’s group.

They were out northeast of the pond north of Flat Top, but when I drove up on the road that goes along the ridge to Flat Top, they were out of sight. As I was driving, though, Comanche popped up into view. I watched him through the binoculars, wondering if he was with Aspen’s group or with the band and thinking other horses might come into view. He was walking toward-ish Flat Top (not reaaalll close to the hill), so I figured at least the band was nearby. I parked at the intersection of the FT road and the “north-south” road and started loading my backpack with camera, Gatorade, etc. Guess who surprised me? Aspen, Piedra and Baylee, with Hollywood bringing up the rear, heading up the trail away (east) from the pond. You can’t see the pond from that intersection, even though it’s very close. So I thought, wow, maybe it has water after that last snowstorm. Got my gear together and headed out – the ponies were at the next ridge by then. I walked down to the pond to pick up the trail … pond still dry. It was still early, maybe 8:30 (OK, that’s early to me!), so I wondered if they were counting on water there. Piedra, for all her youth (3 or 4 – I hope 4 but maybe only 3), is lead mare now. Baylee’s still a baby at almost 2. Aspen is older, so he’ll know some of the grazing and water sources, but Piedra is relying on what she has learned in her short life to lead her band to water. Just something to think about. That pond is scheduled to be dug out later this year, but I’m not sure why it’s not holding water right now.

When I got to the next ridge, Aspen and Co. were farther along to the south, but bachelors Duke, Hook and Chrome were visible over the other side. I got to the ridge just in time to see all of them cross over and below another ridge … where I found the family.

Family

Family

And that’s exactly what I thought when I found them – “family.” But look at their collective body language. That’s Steeldust at the rear, with his family bunched together in front of him. Look at his ears – he’s focused on the horses that just appeared from over the ridge: Aspen, Piedra, Baylee, Hollywood, Duke, Hook, Chrome, Comanche from nearby. Mouse isn’t in the picture, but as I’ve written previously, he has slid into Hollywood’s old lieutenant stallion position, and he sticks close to the band now – and Steeldust accepts him (maybe Mouse is hoping to be “rewarded” with Kestrel, like Hollywood got Piedra?!). After the horses “reunited,” they started to relax and spread out to graze.

An aside: Right before I went to the basin Friday night, I covered a high school basketball game. This is neither a compliment nor an insult, just an observation: Wild horses are a lot like teenagers. They tend to travel in groups, they have their own body language, and they know what’s being “communicated” even if no casual observer could ever understand what’s going on. The girls are watching the guys – and vice versa – even if they’re too cool to act like they are. Yeah? 🙂

Case in point

Case in point

At right is baby girl Baylee. She’ll be 2 this spring. She didn’t get kicked out of her family band – I don’t think – she went of her own free will to hang out with Hollywood and Piedra. I THINK because Piedra is her big sister. Baylee is paying attention to me, but look at Piedra. She’s playing it cool with new stallion Aspen – and she’s about to be a new mama, after all. But check out her ears. She’s trying to act like she’s looking at me, but her attention is all on the boy behind her.

Ein, zwei, drei

Ein, zwei, drei

Aspen between Baylee, top, and Piedra. The big band is just over that hill, as you can see by Steeldust’s heiny in the background. Piedra’s trying to nap, but her ears are active.

Lucky day?

Lucky day?

Unfortunately not

Unfortunately not

Right now, Hollywood doesn’t seem to be pressing his luck. I kinda expect that to change as spring springs.

Beautiful girl

Beautiful girl

There should be a baby in that belly, and it should be Hollywood’s foal. He bred her (at least) last May 24, so we should be looking for a late April baby from Piedra.

Meanwhile, Duke, Chrome and Hook were just below the end of the ridge I was on … and not too worried.

Hey, you

Hey, you

This is one of my favorite photos of the day. I had been taking pictures of Aspen’s group, then realized Chrome and Hook were napping just below the ridge where I was sitting. I took some pix of their backsides – which showed Chrome with his eyes closed! – then I think he heard the shutter and looked back to see me looking at him! And that’s how I got this pic. Like a cool teenager, though, he went right back to ignoring me.

Duke

Duke

Another favorite pic. Duke was browsing even closer than the other boys, and every now and then he’d look up, then go back to grazing where I couldn’t see his face. Notice he has kind of a goofy twist to his muzzle; that’s because he kept chewing while he looked up at me. I love this grand boy dearly. I think he’s a few years older than the other bachelors, and he was one of the first to leave at the sight of a human a year ago, especially a vehicle. Now, he’s pretty calm.

Because I hadn’t seen Poco, Bones and Roach at all yet this year, I was feeling pulled to the east. The day was young and beautiful, and I have two legs. So one last view … and I headed east.

The mountain shot

The mountain shot

What, you thought I’d leave without getting my ponies with the La Sals in the background? Hook, left, and Chrome, eyes closed.

I picked up the loop road – cattle on the east end of the east-west hill. I thought I saw Bounce, Alegre and Gaia slightly south and downhill of the cattle, but Kreacher and the mares were on the finger hills end of the hill, and I saw just Bounce later, so now I can’t remember whether I really did see all of them or not. It was just over the east side of the roller-coaster ridge road that the basin’s “guardian” drove by in a “mule” or a “gator” – one of those ATV-type buggies. He waved; I waved. I was trying to decide how far back in the back I was going to walk, and how disappointed I’d be if I walked all that way and didn’t find the boys and the girl, when he drove back. I thought he was out checking the cattle and had gotten to impassable mud (have I mentioned how incredibly dry the roads were again?) or just reached his turn-around point and was heading back toward the entrance. But he came back to ask if I wanted a ride! So I climbed aboard, he turned around, and off again we went. I told him who I was looking for by description, and he said he had seen them, but over by Flat Top, so I think he had seen Seven’s band – grey, bay and sorrel. Poco’s band: also grey, bay and sorrel but exact opposite genders!

Darned if we didn’t spot them, in the little “meadow” area right by the double ponds – and would you believe both those ponds have water?! He let me off so I could go take pix while he went on up the road to check for cattle.

Found

Found

Ponies first. Poco in front, Bones at left and Roach at right. Poco was looking so handsome in the sunlight, with his thick winter coat looking very reddish. Look at HIS belly! They’re doing well.

Double pond No. 1

Double pond No. 1

This is the pond closest to the road. You can see that it’s really shallow by the mud in the foreground. The “skim” you see on the water in the background is ice. The morning started out fairly cold – 18 degrees at 7:30 a.m. The “back” pond seemed to have more water (it went dry first last year), and it also had quite a bit more snow around the edges; it sits close to a bend in the arroyo (is that Spring Creek?) with a tall “cliff wall” behind it, but it was all in the sunshine when I was there mid-morning.

Bones with a belly

Bones with a belly

Does she just look really good … or could she be pregnant? I have to admit my first thought is to be a little scared. If she’s pregnant, will she be able to deliver the foal? Will it survive delivery … will she?? She seemed uncomfortable and kept shifting her weight.

Front view

Front view

The compression factor of a long lens can make even a stallion look “pregnant,” but at least she’s no longer “bones” thin!

I headed back to the road, and a minute or two later, there was the guardian with the mule again. Hey, I could get used to such service! We had a really great conversation, and I rode with him back around the loop where he pointed out Bounce, on top of the east end of the east-west hill, seemingly alone. But based on his body language, I’m pretty sure Alegre and Gaia were just out of sight on the other side of the hill. We also passed Kreacher, Raven, Mona and Kootenai up on the finger hills end. Went up north and east around the loop, and we talked about the guys he had to pick up after at Wildcat Spring after they were out four-wheeling. See what I mean about being glad he’s out there? He drove me all the way back to my Jeep – thank you! (Did I mention how dry the road was …)

It was only around 1 p.m. by then, so I decided to drive to the base of Round Top so I could hike out to the saddle and have a look. Thought I might get lucky and see Seven’s or Cinch and Bruiser and/or David and Shadow … maybe even the pintos way off to the south. Driving over, I spotted a horse on the far end of the saddle between the Tops and thought it might have been Molly or Roja, so I took off hiking – and encountered the only real mud I had to deal with all day on the northwest side of Round Top – of course. I should say that even though there was more snow in the basin than two weeks ago, the ground was still mostly dry, and I couldn’t believe how dry the road was.

Peek-a-boo

Peek-a-boo

When I came out to the trail that runs along that far ridge and eventually down to the pond (still dry), I spotted Seven and Molly down in a drainage on the southwest side (west-southwest) but didn’t see Roja. I took the trail south to where I could see down to the pond and farther down into the WSA but didn’t see any other horses. I also scanned up to the northwest – the hill that runs up behind the corral – but didn’t spot anybody up there, either. So I hiked down so I was a ridge over from Molly and Seven’s drainage. Molly was grazing just enough below the far ridge that I could see her back, but she didn’t look up. Seven was farther down the hill, behind some trees. So when I got to the top of my ridge, I finally spotted Roja, napping under a tree up the drainage like Molly likes to do, and I sat down to watch them. It was really nice by then, but a light breeze had picked up. The above pic is when Molly finally saw me. She went back to grazing but started moving down toward Seven – very calm for her.

Waiting

Waiting

Here they both see me – still sitting on my ridge, wide out in the open. Seven’s looking back up the drainage for Roja.

They went down a little farther …

Chub

Chub

… and finally Roja burst up over the ridge and went flying down to join them. Roja is not subtle. 🙂

Seven and his girls

Seven and his girls

All calm on the western front, not far from where they started. I do expect Roja to foal this spring; Molly got the PZP so she should NOT foal.

Back around Round Top to the Jeep, where I promptly shed my clothes that had gotten too warm – and my boots, which had gotten muddy – and changed into jeans and my muddy (at least they were dry) hiking shoes. Ahh. By then, I was comfortable in just a long-sleeve T-shirt – gorgeous!! Although, to appease the weather gods … seriously unnatural for February! Please snow more!

When I got back up to the finger hills, a group of cattle were down by the creek, but I didn’t see Kreacher and the girls, who had earlier been very visible higher up. So I went across Spring Creek (dry crossing) and north at the intersection so I could look back down the arroyo “valley.” Sure enough, Kreacher and the girls were on the “flats” on the road side of the creek, close enough to the hill that I couldn’t see them from the road above. Because they were so close to the road, I decided to go back and see them. There are a bunch of “deadwood” pinon/juniper trunks down there along with debris from a flood at some point in the past. No growing trees – where did they come from? But they make good viewing benches. The cattle were more worried about me walking down the hills than the horses (sorry about that), and they all started to bunch up and move up the hill (but only 2-3 of the 21 actually walked on up to the very top of the hill); the girls weren’t concerned at all, and Kreacher barely gave me a glance (cool kid).

Hey howdy

Hey howdy

Kootenai, left, Raven, Mona and Kreacher behind.

Special Ks

Special Ks

Kootenai and Kreacher with the cattle in the background on the finger hills. We were very close to the dugout intersection.

Sweet K

Sweet K

Kreacher and Mona were sticking close to each other, but they all seem very comfortable with each other.

Boy with girls

Boy with girls

There’s the “tail” end of what I call Lizard Mesa in the background. It really doesn’t end there; it goes down to a ridge or saddle, then up to another hill, then down to another ridge/saddle and another hill before tapering off to that valley southwest of the northeastern part of the loop road.

I mentioned that Kreacher and Mona were staying close to each other while I watched them, and I wanted to mention a little more about the dynamics in this band. Raven is still protective of Mona and will pin her ears at Kootenai if she gets too close. BUT Kootenai can make Mona scramble away if Raven’s not close enough. So Raven outranks Kootenai, but Kootenai outranks Mona?

Que mona

Que mona

Cute girl found this branch (one of the dead trunks lying around) irresistable to scratch an itch she may not have had until she passed it and found it at perfect cheek height (you can see her checking it out in the photo above this one).

Getting late in the day then. The ponies ambled upstream while I sat on my log and thought about my friends battling terrible cancer. When the horses had disappeared from sight, I followed one of their trails to the top of the hill and back to the road. On my way out, I spotted a mini van (??) turning around, possibly on the road to Flat Top. It’s dry out there, but a mini van? By the time I got through the “V” arroyo and up where I could see again, the van was heading out on the far side of the basin. It always makes me a little suspicious of what people are doing out there if they don’t stop to talk and share their experiences, so if you’re out there and you see my red Jeep, please talk to me! I’d love to hear you talk about the horses you saw!

Spotted Grey and his band – actually spotted his band first; took a little while to see him follow them out – farther down the valley below the catchment. I pulled over to watch … then wanting to see my boy got the best of me, and I hiked out. The gorgeous sunshine had disappeared into a haze of low clouds just between visiting with Kreacher and the girls and getting to the valley, and I could feel the temperature of the air cooling. But it was still in that beautiful space of perfection, so I took one last hike of the day to see my favorite boy.

Jif and Twister

Jif and Twister

Houdini, Iya and Two Boots were farther up (down?) the valley, but these two were lagging behind, and daddy Grey was there to supervise. I loved the soft light on their shoulders – the clouded sun was not even a hand’s width above the far ridge by this time – and loved their closeness. The hill in the near background is the hill above the corral. The dark (trees) hill in the far background with the snow is beyond the county road (and beyond the herd area).

Playing favorites

Playing favorites

He’ll always be my favorite. I was interviewed last week by a beautiful little girl named Erin for a school project about mustangs. Her last question was if I had a favorite wild horse. Well, of course I do. 🙂 And this is why you see me call him Grey, even though his official name is Traveler (and I try to call him that, too). I’ve called him Grey since early on (2003?), and he is my beautiful silver boy.

All the horses belong to all of us, of course. And, I think, a little bit of us belongs to all of them. In that way, we’re surely surrounded by angels.





The cattle are in

8 12 2008
Holiday teaser

Holiday teaser

Who wouldn’t think “Christmas card” when they saw this scene? Bones, Poco and Roach.

If we don’t get snow to stick on the ground before I need to get my Christmas greetings in the mail, you’ll see something similar to the above photo as my Christmas wish to all of you before the holidays! (Of course, as I type this post, it’s snowing like crazy – and it’s sticking.)

The biggest change to the basin this weekend is that our bovine winter visitors are back in town (so to speak). The cows are in from Dec. 1 until the end of February.

Moo

Moo

This photo was taken near the first crossing of Spring Creek and is looking to the north-northwest. I saw other groups up in the north hills (where I did NOT see the new mares this past weekend), and there was a group east of the finger hills.

Several groups were in the area of Flat Top and Round Top again. Bounce and his lovely ladies were on the north side of the roller-coaster ridge. Grey/Traveler and his band were between the loop road and Flat Top. Seven and his girls were up at the base of Flat Top. Hollywood and his girls and a few of the bachelors were closer to Round Top, but I couldn’t see any of the main family band. I saw for sure later that they had separated – Steeldust and his band were up at the yucky puddle between the Tops, but I didn’t see them the first time I saw the other horses. Through the binocs, I thought I saw Shadow or David between the Tops … but I can’t confirm. Saw a lone dark horse to the east past Round Top that I finally identified as Poco, but Bones and Roach didn’t come into view until I hiked out to them. I lost a green Camelbak bottle last winter while I was hiking out there in the snow (remember when Seven had Houdini, Two Boots and Twister?), and the threesome was in that general area where I thought I lost it, so I decided to hike out to see them. (I never need much of an excuse to go visit those ponies!)

Have you ever wondered if Bones could lie down – even roll – with her healed, fractured pelvis? I have, and I was wondering that again just recently. Would you believe she cooperated and showed me she absolutely can?

Rolling Bones

Rolling Bones

Too bad I couldn’t divine the future from the way the “Bones” settled … 🙂 One reason I like Bones so much is her pluck. She looked so skinny last year, I named her thinking she wouldn’t make it through the winter. Not only did she survive, she has flourished!

The eagle and the raven

The eagle and the raven

I call the ravens Heckle and Jekyll indiscriminately. They heckle me; I try to get them to help me find horses. None of us is very cooperative (!). While I was photographing P, B & R, a golden eagle soared low down an arroyo close by, then rose into the air in ever-ascending spirals. I guess I feel better that I’m not the only subject of Heckle’s heckling. There was one raven at first, then two. They were pretty far above me, and this photo is significantly cropped, but can you see how the eagle is looking at the raven? When you’re a human object of Heckle’s affection, there’s not much you can do. When you’re an eagle, you just fly away. By the time s/he flew away, four or five other ravens had joined the “game.”

What a view

What a view

The horses aren’t always in position for me to get shots of them with the mountains in the background, but most of them were cooperating Saturday for me to get a bunch of different potential Christmas card scenes. That’s Comanche, who was turning to lead Hollywood and his girls down the trail. It was at this point that I realized Steeldust’s band really wasn’t in the immediate neighborhood.

Walking the line

Walking the line

Comanche leads Aspen, Baylee, Piedra and Hollywood down a trail to an arroyo. When they got to the arroyo, they dropped out of sight for a little while … I’m not sure if they got water there? You can see in this photo how much Piedra resembles Comanche in color.

Grey boys

Grey boys

Chrome, Kreacher and Hook (and Duke) were about a minute behind Hollywood’s group on the same trail. If you’re wondering about bachelor Mouse, who has been after Piedra most of the year, he was the only bachelor still with the family band. That’s Knife Edge in the background.

El Duque

El Duque

Big bay boy Duke stopped to say hi as his boys followed after Hollywood and Co. He has come a long way. He used to be pretty intolerant of people (me); now he almost seems to like me and will stop for prolonged (moments) visits.

Shades of grey

Shades of grey

Grey/Traveler and his band were across an arroyo that emptied into the arroyo the boys (and Baylee and Piedra) went into – and I could see them ahead of us – so I trailed along with the ponies, down close to the arroyo, until I got to the silver boy and his family (remember when HE was one of the bachelors?).

Lunch

Lunch

Big, growing girls need plenty of chow! I keep thinking about telling the tour folks back in October that I hadn’t seen any of last year’s foals still nursing last fall. I’ve still seen several of the babies nursing this fall … and not just youngest baby Storm. I like the picture above particularly because it also shows Two Boots, Houdini’s yearling filly.

Another spectacular view

Another spectacular view

And you know I’m not just talking about the landscape scenery!

Bosom buddies

Bosom buddies

Twister is another horse with a good dose of pluck. He was an orphan in the care of two stallions (Corazon and Cinch) when I first saw him last fall. Then he found mama Houdini and Two Boots and joined the family. That’s back when Seven was the head of the family. I wish he could stay young forever so he’d always have the comfort of his adopted family, but in another year or two, Grey will likely kick him out on his own. Maybe Two Boots will go with him. They’re pretty good pals.

Watching over baby

Watching over baby

Jif and Iya. Most of the band napped while I sat on the ground; Houdini grazed most of the time, but then she came back and stood a little in front of Iya, just to the right out of the picture.

Mama

Mama

A different angle. Wise old girl Houdini has had her share of babies. Twister, in the background with Two Boots, is just one of her brood.

Itchy

Itchy

I like how the plane of his face matches the line of Iya’s neck and body.

I had been keeping an eye on Seven, Molly and Roja up at the base of Flat Top while I hung out with Grey/Traveler, and that’s when I had seen Steeldust and his band up at the puddle. Eventually, they moved down, past Seven’s, toward Traveler’s and toward the bachelor boys and Hollywood’s. I walked up toward them on another trail and got into position so I could photograph them against the mountains, but they were on a mission to reunite with their boys, I guess, and they never stopped walking, grazing as they went. Consequently, I didn’t get many pix with their heads up!

Muddy boy Butch

Muddy boy Butch

Still muddy! Ooey gooey!

Sundance, clean

Sundance, clean

Sunny-boy was as muddy as Butch last weekend. He must have had a few good rolls since then.

Muddy Mouse

Muddy Mouse

Mouse was the only bachelor still with the band. It looks like he waded into the water hole – look how deep it must be! He has mud all the way up to his belly, but it doesn’t look like he rolled in it. The “puddle” is pretty small. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned its dimensions, but I’d say it’s about 3 to 4 feet in diameter – tiny!

Pretty buckskin girls

Pretty buckskin girls

Remember how muddy Kestrel was last weekend? She cleans up nice, eh?

Alpha and Storm

Alpha and Storm

Lovelies.

Guardian

Guardian

Kinda wild that I didn’t see Seven for almost two months, and now I’ve seen them the past three weekends – and all in the same area! And yes, I had been looking there all that time and never saw them. I do like seeing them.

Top of the hill

Top of the hill

Seven and Roja on a short ridge at the base of Flat Top. Roja is ornery! When Steeldust’s horses came past them on the old road, I could see Roja trot out to meet them – kind of like a stallion will do. Seven stayed back on a little rise, and Steeldust’s horses seemed to be on a mission like I mentioned above, so they just ignored her; they never stopped moving until they got just a little past me and within view of the bachelors and Hollywood. Roja is a tough girl and fun to watch!

End of day

End of day

Here they’re on the shady eastern side of Flat Top, late afternoon. This pic doesn’t translate very well on the Web, but in the full version, I like the almost painterly quality of the light. Old Molly got the PZP last August before she was released, so she shouldn’t have a foal next year (her 2008 filly died sometime in August). She and Roja were with Kreacher last fall when I first saw them (remember that?); neither Roja nor Kreacher were gathered, and Roja didn’t have a foal. I expect Roja to have her first baby in the spring, and because Seven stole her and Molly from Kreacher in early March, I’m sure Seven’s the daddy.

After my visit with these guys, I headed back to the Jeep and on out to beat the dark home (not successful). I looked but didn’t see Bounce, Alegre and Gaia on my way out, and I scanned the north hills the whole time I was out for the new girls, but I never spotted them. I don’t know if they know about cows, but I wonder if the “tourists” will encourage them to come down from their hilly stronghold and meet some new friends.

What a gorgeous day! Chilly but gorgeous sunshine and great weather for hiking around and visiting with the ponies. The days are short, and I keep thinking about the past year, all that I’ve learned and experienced. I certainly don’t lack for peace, hope and joy this holiday season! It’s supposed to snow again next weekend, but I’m going to try to get out there because I’m taking a two-week holiday to visit my folks and home ponies, which will mean at least a three-week hiatus from the basin. That’s the most time (by far) I’ve spent away from the horses since February, but given the potential weather in December in Colorado, it’s probably the best time to plan to be away.

I’m tossing around the idea of asking you, blog readers, for suggestions to name the new girls. What do you think? Can’t keep calling them “the new girls” forever, and I want people to really know these horses as OURS. So if you have suggestions, leave a comment, and be sure to specify a name or names for each particular mare: the dun, the black pinto or the apricot dun.

Thanks for coming along on this journey of discovery and joy. As much as I’ve enjoyed sharing part of the horses’ lives, I’ve enjoyed sharing what I’ve learned with you. It’s not over by any means!