Pictures from a tough day

3 08 2011

It felt like a betrayal to even lift my camera to take pictures after what happened to Twister … though, when I saw the BLM truck leave the basin, I felt unmistakable relief. Like when I drive by Bones Valley, I think of Bones and her foal … I’ll probably always now think of that hill above Wildcat Spring as Twister’s Hill. This is what attachment and memories and love do to us, I suspect. Life.

It wasn’t until I walked out to Iya’s band later in the day, though, that the guilt of continuing seemed OK, better than OK … what I still need to do. I’ll have those pix in a separate post.

Bounce with his kids: 2-year-old son Whisper and baby daughter Aurora. Whisper had just risen from rolling – and Bounce was rolling earlier – you can see the ground right under them. Is it just me or does young Whisper look bigger than his daddy? He gets that from his mama. Aurora and Whisper are very close, despite their ages, and I suspect Whisper gets that from his big sister, Gaia. A few weeks ago, I found Alegre, seemingly alone. She looked up from her grazing, regarded me for a moment as I sat in the Jeep, then returned to grazing. Bounce appeared to see what was up, and a few moments later, Whisper came trotting out of the trees, Aurora stuck to his side like glue. I wonder how many older siblings are mistaken by observers for mothers in those kinds of situations.

Perfectly proportioned.

Zoomed out to show him on the bank of a pond that recently went from dry to water (it was dug out last year).

Mama Alegre had already left the pond and was grazing among the greasewood when ‘Rora found her for her own mid-morning snack.

Those were all taken from the Jeep.

Back around under the north hills, I found Seven’s and Spook and Bruiser where they had been the day before. They like this area because of the proximity of water (Wildcat Spring) and the grazing and the trees to seek when the gnats are just too much. I parked the Jeep almost exactly where I had the day before with Grey/Traveler’s band and just watched them for a while. Seven’s band were immediately off the road, and Spook and Bruiser eventually crossed the road.

Roja, Killian, Shane and Mona

Seven, Mona and Killian. They drifted farther from the road when Spook and Bruiser crossed, and I took this as I drove by. Roja grazing while I’m near represents a major leap in her behavior. Seven still watches for quite a while before he goes back to grazing.

Spook, one of only three true black-and-white pintos in the basin (Raven, from Sand Wash Basin, and Corazon are the others).


Spook and Bruiser. Seven’s are actually closer to me – they’re what Bruiser’s looking at.

Iya’s turned up deeper in the valley, on the north side of the arroyo that runs along the base of the north side of the east-west hill – basically down left-ish of Spook and Bruiser. Quite a distance from their normal territory. Unlike most of the horses, Poco and Roach have mostly stuck to a particular location in the basin, though they occasionally go wandering. And it may be Iya’s influence that has them wandering here, though both double ponds had water (both had gone dry; one was dug out in 2009).

Twister is up, way up, to the right … a guardian now, joining the others that have gone before.

More miscellaneous (magic)

14 06 2011

No rhyme or reason, really, just beautiful horses. 🙂

Queenly Alpha.

If Alpha is a queen, Luna is an empress. She continually amazes me with … with everything about her.

Little Varoujan was named by our visiting Armenian journalist Aghavni, you might remember. My friend N, visiting this day, wanted to get pix of him to send to her. We visited with them out in a “meadow,” then moved on and stopped again to wait for Grey/Traveler’s band to move out from the pond. After they did, we walked down to check its depth (so shallow, you can see the mud and mat-like vegetation (?)). We also saw these crazy tadpoles?! HUGE. Leggy, turning-into-frogs creatures they were that gave us shadowy glimpses before darting into mud or mat. We also started seeing flashes of glittery greenish-goldish things that looked suspiciously scaled.

We started to move around the edge of the pond, and so engrossed were we that when I happened to look back, I was stunned to see Luna, leading her band to the pond! I nudged N, and we continued on around and sat down, trying to be as quiet and inconspicuous as possible – though obviously the horses weren’t at all bothered by our presence.

N had me in tears yesterday, telling me how magical was her visit to the basin and how she couldn’t stop thinking about the horses.

I start thinking, “maybe it’s just me.” “Maybe I’m crazy that after all this time, not only do they STILL affect me, they affect me – every time – more than the last time.”

But no. It’s not just me. These amazing horses truly are magic.

Handsome Mouse. One of my favorite bachelors. With any luck, he’ll be left and will find himself a mare …

Big brother Gideon resting his chin over little brother Varoujan’s heiny, mama Luna close at hand.

Spook and Bruiser. We watched them between leaving Luna’s and waiting for Grey’s to leave the pond. We wandered all around that day, and like N remarked, we almost always saw Spook and Big B no matter where we were.

Varoujan skipping ahead to Luna as they neared the pond. Alpha’s expression is directed more to Gideon, bringing up the rear, than to baby Varo. You can just see the edge of the pond at the bottom of the photo, and N and I have moved around it to sit down out of their way.

I couldn’t decide which perspective I liked better. Gideon adores his “auntie” Alpha.

Baby Varoujan and mama Luna

Big bro and little bro

Loved how big brother and mama’s tail “frame” the littlest mister.

I posted one similar to this last week … Couldn’t resist this one, too.

Another similar one … I’ll end it here for today …

If you could explain magic, it wouldn’t be. I can’t explain it. I know it. I believe in it.


12 06 2011

If you haven’t checked out the preliminary EA for our upcoming roundup, please do (give it a little while to come up – I’m on a fast connection, and it still took a few moments to appear). I’m still wading through it – so far, the first half-dozen pages are already littered with my sticky notes.

“Alternative 1 – Proposed Action” (Page 10) is what we want to support at this time. The information to comment by the deadline – July 11 – is here.

“Alternative 2” is a waste of money given the timing of the roundup and the lack of efficacy of PZP-22 here in the past during the same relative timing.

“Alternative 3” is simply unviable and would cause more harm to both the horses and the environment on which they depend.

We will continue to push bait trapping rather than helicopters for the future – as we have the last almost-four years – but for now, and with no movement on that front, we’re nearing a critical point between population and limited resources. At least five of our ponds are already dry, and the remaining ponds are shallow, which will eventually leave 80+ horses trying to get salty water from trickling seeps and springs or the one fresh-water source – the catchment. After the roundup, with a fertility-control plan firmly in place (for at least the next five years), we’ll continue to push bait trapping (and figure out the infrastructure necessary) as well as more and better quality water sources.

BLM plans a 60% stallions to 40% mares gender-skewed ratio. While we do not agree with this avenue of management, particularly in light of the PZP plan to be put in place, given everything else, it’s not a battle we plan to fight right now. Because of lack of knowledge on BLM’s part, it was 56%/21% after the 2007 roundup. All things considered, 60%/40% doesn’t seem so bad. Over the course of the years of PZP application, we’ll watch to see how that evens out and what it means to the herd as a whole, and perhaps in the future, we can nix that particular demand.

If anyone has questions, please leave a comment or email me at mtbgrrl (at) fone (dot) net.

Now some pix, in no particular order:

Juniper and mama Kestrel looking at daddy Comanche.

Handsome young Twister. He’s hanging out with Hook’s band now. He looks so much like Grey/Traveler, it’s amazing.

This was taken the next day and shows Twister, butt to the camera at left, with Hook’s band – that’s big grey Hook standing by Sable, heavy-pregnant Ember (due around early July), Hannah and Fierro. Pinon also is part of this band (he was off to the right, I think). In the background, Spook and Bruiser. A bit to the left were Seven’s, out as far as Spook and Bruiser but to the right were Bounce’s, and behind and leftish were Sundance and Aspen. Rarely are so many of our horses in the same general area except in the spring, when they’re back here with good forage and fairly good water. In fact, two of the remaining four ponds with water are back in this general area. Another reason to have good, scattered water sources – disperse the horses’ grazing.

Cuatro watching after his bachelor pals, a new generation of bachelors now that many of our bachelors have found mares. By pushing back the frequency of roundups by using PZP, I hope to see a clearer, more settled pattern of band dynamics emerge without the interruption of devastating roundups. We have several small bands now; I’ve heard people say there used to be just a few bands, but the were much larger (more horses). I wish I knew then the number of bachelors floating around. Most bands now have at least one foal, but only one band has two foals.

Look at these two handsome, oh-so-innocent devilishly sweet boys. That’s Ze, Seven’s son, on the left and Sage, Hollywood’s son, on the right. they’re hanging out with Cuatro and Milagro now – minus Duke. Milo stood either with his butt to me or nearly out of sight behind the bigger boys. They’re all 2, born between early April and early July; Ze and Sage are clearly the leaders, and between them, I tend to think Sage has a bit of an edge. Both going grey (as is Cuatro), but Ze’s holding his brown a lot longer. Sage clearly favors his beautiful mama, Piedra, but he’s stout like papa Hollywood.

Spook and Bruiser

3 06 2011

As I commented last week, Spook, 3, is with Bruiser (NOT Butch – thanks, Lynn, for catching my big typo!). They were far enough away when I saw them last week that I could tell she didn’t have a foal with her but couldn’t tell about her pregnancy status. As you see here, she clearly does not have a foal with her and just as clearly is no longer pregnant. Bruiser looks massive next to her, doesn’t he? She’s pretty small – he’s a short, stout guy!

Judging by the dried blood on her hind legs, it was fairly recently.

They’ve done a fair bit of traveling, this pair, and have ended up in the far eastern part of the basin.

Did I mention the wind was a stiff son-of-a-gun? You can tell by this photo – any wind stout enough to push Bruiser’s heavy mane to the other side of his neck is worth reckoning. I’m surprised I have any sharp photos from the day as much as it was pushing us all around. Day in the life of the ponies!

The Albuquerque news (which we get here in the southwest corner of Colorado, given that we’re in that viewing area and far closer to New Mexico than to Denver) last night showed images of the Duke City shrouded in smoke from a big fire in the Gila Wilderness in Arizona. Wednesday, it got a bit dense here, too, and though I would have believed it was dust because of the wind, it sure smelled smoky. That fire was reported at 60,000 acres last night, almost as big as the 70,000-plus-acre wildfire north of Durango the second year I lived here … Also on the news was a report of a 1,000-acre wildfire on the Carson National Forest in northern New Mexico. The Forest Service manages a herd of wild horses on the Carson … I don’t know where they are in relation to the fire, but include them in your prayers, as well as the firefighters battling all the blazes. It’s dry out there, folks. Really, really dry.

Also wanted to point out what sharp-eyed readers will already have noticed – a healing cut to Bruiser’s upper forearm. Four Corners Back Country Horsemen spied it a few weeks ago during the count, and I hadn’t been able to confirm it until now. It looks to be healing, and he doesn’t seem bothered by it.

Some miscellaneous

9 05 2011

In an effort not to bogart images from my most recent visit, here are some highlights.

Bruiser with his lonnnnnnggggg mane …

He and Milagro are still together. Interestingly, the pintos (including Milagro’s mama, Kiowa, and his little brother and big sisters) were just behind me over the ridge … well, not all the pintos. Chipeta, Puzzle and Ty (an “honorary pinto”!) have split off on their own – a move that has been coming for weeks. Those horses and Chrome’s band were the only ones I didn’t see.

Corona. Look at that wild and wooly mane on that little girl!

Shane – Mona’s and Kreacher’s daughter. Doesn’t she look big and beautiful? She’s almost 8 months old. Most of the youngsters – as usual – are still sporting fuzzy coats, though most of the adults have shed out (though some still have bits of fuzz clinging), and no wonder – the temp Thursday morning when I rolled out of the Jeep at o’dark-thirty was in the 20s!

Sisters Terra and Gemma – Gem-baby was obviously having a glorious time at the Wildcat Spring & Spa!


20 03 2011

Bruiser is readily identifiable from a distance – and more so now because he’s by himself. When I saw him, we were quite a distance apart, and he was on a hill. Sometimes the horses spread way out grazing, and you can’t always see all the horses in a particular band because of hills, arroyos, etc. I had walked out to check the Round Top pond post-winter (or at least mostly post-snow), and I decided to go on out to him.

Sometimes you can’t see all of any one horse – just backs above ridges. That’s how I spotted Seven and Mona, though I didn’t know for a few minutes whether it WAS Seven and Mona … or Chrome and Jif (very light grey and dun … very light grey and dun) – until I saw more of them.

The pond has water, but it’s by no means full. Two of the non-dug-out ponds are dry or down to mud; Flat Top pond hasn’t been dug out yet, but it and the other ponds are very shallow. The main double pond is so shallow I can see hoofprints through the water tracking across its bottom.

Unfortunately, something else I saw out there shouldn’t have been there: tire tracks from an ATV. The Round Top pond got dug out because it’s just outside the McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area boundary. Beyond the pond is WSA – no motorized/mechanized  vehicles allowed (not even chain saws) – “recreation vehicle use off existing travel routes … are not allowed.” Unfortunately, those weren’t the only tracks I’d see in the WSA; even deeper into the WSA, way to the south, more tracks. In fact, all along the main roads through the basin, someone was driving off onto the sides, making big circles and arcs. Why? Why not park on the road (not a lot of traffic!) or just off – right alongside – and GET OUT AND WALK?! These were places where it looked like the driver drove to the edge of a hill or ridge to look beyond – from inside the vehicle. I saw tracks like that all around the loop and near Filly Peak – even off the road along some horse trails and up into arroyos that the road crosses.

The whole photo itself, nothing to write home about. But don’t you love that gorgeous, graceful swish of his multicolored tail?

Bruiser is not a big guy, but he’s very stout. Without a mare to protect, he was very relaxed – not worried about me at all.

I passed below Seven’s band, grazing up a hill from the trail I walked out on (from the pond) – and as far as I know, they never saw me (this band, you know when they know). We were all right out in the open. I stopped a couple of times to let them see me … Seven was napping with his butt to me, Roja and Mona were grazing with their heads down, Shane and Ze were grazing, wandering, low behind a little “rise” between Seven and the girls. I decided to go on out to see Bruiser and discover if Spring was out of sight and also look over the hill he was on, which has a view down the drainage toward the Disappointment Road, hoping to spot the pintos.

Big Bruise, with the unnamed promontory behind him. The pyramid-shaped McKenna Peak – namesake of the WSA – is slightly to the left and back. Seven’s and Round Top are behind me.

I did walk on around, though his calm attitude from the beginning was the tipoff that Spring wasn’t around. He was almost out of sight when I got out to his hill – just his back visible as he grazed slightly on the “downside” of the hill. So I stopped and waited for him to graze his way into view. It’s a startling thing to look up from your peaceful grazing and see an intruder who has “snuck” up on you. And the wind was blowing from the south – toward me. He eventually looked up, kept chewing, and went back to grazing! Sometimes, they truly surprise me.

In past visits, I’ve driven slowly past a place along the Disappointment Road (which follows the boundary for a few miles on the southwest end) where the horses are sometimes visible – and which makes walking in to visit them quite a bit easier than walking in not knowing where in the WSA they could be – and haven’t seen the pintos – though I’ve seen David, Shadow and their Wind a couple of times. I was almost ready to turn back to Bruiser when I spotted something – down by the road. Sure enough, horses. I could identify Ty and part of a pinto and a couple of dark bays – Spring? But as I’ve already tipped off by my previous post, she wasn’t with them – must have been Mesa and/or Milagro and/or Maiku (the white marking over his neck above his withers is easier to see from one side). But I was hopeful at the time.

Oh, Bruiser. Where has our Spring gone?

Spring, spotted

3 02 2011

Across the basin or across another coupla-few months? Well, it was feeling like March here lately, until the storm that blasted most of the country and left us with just a skiff of new snow and much colder temps.

This was as close as I got to them, and “this” was not close to where I left the Jeep.

When I entered the basin this morning on frozen ground, it was a balmy 8 degrees. When I decided the thawing mud I was avoiding wasn’t going to be limited to where I was walking, I drove out on “soft” ground … The Jeep’s outside temperature gauge read a downright tropical 26 degrees.

So it’s really hard to see in the pic, but Spring’s with Bruiser! He’s been alone for a while, and I hadn’t seen him for a while, so I suppose it’s only fitting that I find them together (only fitting in human terms).

Very nearby:

Fairly far east of where they were last week – Seven’s band. From left: Seven, Roja, Ze, Shane and Mona (in a fairly straight line across the bottom of the photo).

I also some some other elusive creatures I was happy to spot (though I’ve seen them since I last saw Bruiser): Duke, Twister and Cuatro. Still together and fairly close to Kreacher’s band.

And I got to this spot because I had seen two dark horses beyond a hill and through some trees … but it wasn’t who I thought it might be (though I later saw those horses, too). 😉

I thought it would be a longer trip, but as fast as it warmed up, I really did not want to get stuck in the mud! I did see a number of bands from the interior and had a nice hike and quiet visit with the horses I did walk out to. We have more chance for snow this weekend. I almost hate to wish for it when so much of the country has been slammed (including my brother in the Chicago area and uncle/aunt/cousins in Ohio), but we could sure use some more snow!

Duke with

20 10 2010

Bruiser and Tenaz, who is with …

Hollywood, of course.

Lessons from the herd

12 10 2010

Two fathers met in a wide valley and thought to meet with a swagger, each self-assured of his own dominance, while their families occupied themselves nearby – apart.

But then a wee daughter was curious and walked out toward the fray.

The fathers knew to protect the babe above all else – whether she was theirs or another’s.

Swagger dropped. Family men were calmed.

And all because of an innocent babe.

I have to admit I was nervous when I saw Winona walking directly toward Seven (seen at back left) and Comanche (center), who were together in the sniffing-striking posture. But I could see exactly when THEY became aware of her walking to them, and they broke apart, and that’s what you see here. Kestrel is grazing at left, in front of Seven. Cuatro (darker) and Twister are grazing at right. ‘Nona is with her adored stepdaddy, Comanche, center. Seven hung around just a little bit as if to say, well, I’m not afraid of you, and don’t take this as me backing down, but there are children present after all … then returned to his band.

Meanwhile, Bruiser in the foreground, and Spring, Shane, Mona and Ze in the background. The other horses are out farther and to the right.

Baby girl and ‘daddy, heading back to mama. She adores him, as I mentioned … and it’s clear the feeling is mutual. He’s simply a daddy wrapped around four tiny black hooves.

Back with mama, and all is well.

Meanwhile, look who came to visit:

Twister. 🙂 Isn’t he a handsome boy!

How do they know when to posture and when to nurture?

Elder … Not challenging, just watching Seven’s in the distance. This is what I was aiming at when Comanche then walked past, resulting in the photo a couple of posts earlier.

Followed by Winona and Kestrel.

Seven watching in return …

How astonishing are they?!

It seems to me you could illustrate a whole book on how humans *ought* to interact with each other and treat each other with photos – lessons – “from the herd” … Much like Cowboy Ethics, a collaboration by photographer David Stoecklein and writer James Owen.

Defend your family.

Children above all else.

Know when to walk away.

Be curious.

Know the land beneath your feet.

Learn from and respect your elders.

Live in the moment.


What else?

Fall boys

5 10 2010

Being a loner isn’t strictly a situation of “human terms.” A couple of our boys are – sometimes, according to some inner chord that strikes them – loners. When I first saw Mesa, he was alone. Mostly, since he’s been with the southside boys, then the pintos, he stays with company. But Duke has shown his sometimes-preference for being alone – before he had Raven and Corona and, especially, since he lost them back to Kreacher. And Bruiser had been alone for weeks. Talk about wondering what they’re thinking!

So I was glad to see him with Twister and Cuatro! In my own human terms, I’d have loved to have seen Duke with them!

Duke is still wandering, and Poco and Roach hang together, by themselves, but our other bachelors are at least buddied up with families – with “Steeldust’s band” and with the pintos. These boys were close to Comanche’s little family, which includes Kestrel and Winona, and they were briefly close to Seven’s while Mona was leading them across the flats.

Cuatro looks so much like his mama now, it’s hard to see markers that may hint at the other contributor to his genes! Love the red still in his mane. Twister looks so much like Grey/Traveler now, I can hardly see anything else when I look at him. I recently looked at some pix from when I first saw him – with Bruiser and Cinch! – how little he was! Already fuzzy – that was October, I think – keeping up with the big boys. Hasn’t been an easy life for this youngster – by human terms? – but he seems so self-assured and seems to take his “responsibility” for Cuatro seriously. Mona and Kestrel were very nearby, but they seemed only mildly interested in them, and Comanche was worried less about them than about elder Bruiser (how old IS Bruiser?) – though Bruise kept a pretty respectful distance, farther than the boys, who might have seemed part of the band if you didn’t know better.

Just love their little-boy faces! And Twister, who has always seemed small, looks now taller than stout Bruiser!