1 10 2010

I don’t even know what to say about this photo except that I had to share it. Comanche walked past me – with Kestrel and Winona – and past Bruiser in the background, who was standing in front of the unnamed promontory, one of the unmistakable landmarks of Spring Creek Basin. Near and far, the place and its natives are magic.

Bruiser, alone and wandering for a while by himself, has found Twister and Cuatro, and the three of them were together … Another elder for the youngsters – good for them, good for the herd.

Wet and dry, green and rain

6 08 2010

The basin is greener than I think I’ve ever seen it – even in spring. And it’s not just the “false” green, looking over the countryside and seeing the green of greasewood and saltbush and pinon/juniper – there’s also grass. Bright green tufts of it. Everywhere. Evidence of insane amounts of carving water iseverywhere – in some places, it was at least 3 feet deep. It’s been over the county road – and a(t least one) big mud flow prevents safe travel into the basin.

But hiking in from dysfunction junction was no problem. Not totally dry, but much drier than I had warned visitors it was likely to be!

Our wonderful friends Karen Keene Day (see her website in the blog roll) and her husband, F, and their friends R&K (and collectors of their art) visited the basin this week – from the lowlands of South Carolina! K&R said their house is at 16 feet. The basin is roughly 6,000 feet higher than that! I’m pretty sure I swatted at four mosquitoes.

I should have taken more pix of the wild and awesome evidence of the power of Ma Nature, but we were late to the basin already, and I wanted very much for them to see horses – if any kind of luck was with us.

The last time I was out – also with Karen – I was driving along the herd area, marveling at the water running in arroyos, thinking “look at this water! I wish horses were here to take advantage …” – and shazam – there were Shadow and Wind and David!

Would you believe luck struck again? I was thinking, “Please be visible for these folks from South Carolina. They really want to see you, and so do I …” – Can I say it again? It’s so much fun! SHAZAM!

David, our David. Isn’t he a handsome boy?

Shadow was perfectly content on the other side of the big arroyo, “hiding” behind greasewood, and this is the only time while we watched that I saw her actually look at us; I never saw her even lift her head.

Neither did Wind! I can’t believe how much he looks like Liberty, in color, at least.

There was still a possibility we’d see the pintos up the next drainage … and as we proceeded down the road, I spotted a pinto I thought at first was Corazon. But when I looked through the binocs, I realized it was Bruiser! He’s still by himself … but Lady Luck was completely on our side, and the pinto band was nearby. He’s keeping his distance, but he’s also keeping an eye on them.

With the second storm wave since Karen and I arrived passing across the north end of the basin (rain might have fallen on the north hills), and lightning flashing – but us in partial sunshine – we hiked in – on dry land. The side arroyos were dry, but the big arroyo that comes through that drainage was still muddy. No standing water that we saw in our brief glimpses, but I’d be astounded to learn that any possible “pond” in the basin is not holding water right now. We’re right smack dab in the middle of our normal monsoon season … but this isn’t quite normal!

We got up to within hailing distance of the ponies, and Ty, then Mesa finally saw us as they trailed after the band, slowing grazing along the base of “their” hill (really, aren’t all the hills theirs?!). Mesa came out between us and the band, not alarmed, and Corazon, before he knew what Mesa was looking at, came out to meet him.

Kiowa finally saw us – Maiku took advantage of her pause to grab a snack. Copper in the foreground, Chipeta behind Kiowa and Spook at right.

Back to grazing.

No foal yet from Chipeta …

Bruiser stayed near the base of the hill across the arroyo where I found the band last time, just watching.

We kept our eyes on the lightning and pretty soon decided to head back.

No agenda; just luck. Amazing.

Just amazing.

It started raining about dawn the next morning, and two hours later, it was still raining, so I thanked my lucky stars and headed home. A few weeks ago, it was so dry, all the ponds were dry, and the horses were relying on little trickles in secret pockets for their water. Now, it’s like a second spring in August. Monsoons in a Colorado summer – gotta love ’em!


Disappointment Creek (outside the herd area)

Boys with spots – and one grey

5 06 2010

This photo is actually from last week. I saw the boys again this week but from a greater distance. They were down on the sort of southern end of Poco and Roach’s territory, but I didn’t see the bay and sorrel boys.

Cinch is standing slightly uphill and in front of the other boys, but I don’t know whether that alone makes him look so much bigger. I think he’s a fairly big boy, and I know Twister is not very big, and Bruiser, while, well, a “bruiser” in terms of being short but stout, isn’t very tall, either! They’re all in good condition, though, and while they’re traveling quite a bit, don’t seem to have been too crazed by the “spring stampede.”

Dapple light

20 05 2010

Had a simply gorgeous time in the basin … despite the forecast that called for – you guessed it – rain/snow – again – right smack dab on my weekend. The forecasters were wrong! (Please forgive my wicked glee!) The sky looked threatening the whole way out, but then it was sunshine and layer upon layer of thick fluffy white clouds from here to the horizon. Ma Nature brewed her dark clouds over the La Sals to the northwest, and assistant Wind dutifully carried them east and south, but Storm’s corridor was just along the northern and eastern ridges and on down to the far southern reaches of Disappointment Valley and beyond, leaving the basin just a paradise on the edge of the world.

An example – this patch of sunlight illuminated the finger hill Bruiser, Twister and Cinch (reunited) were standing on while the ridge behind them stayed in shadow. They were looking down on Hollywood’s band, who eventually went north, while the boys moseyed down off the hill and across the arroyo and up onto the bench that carries the west-side loop road toward Round Top and points east.

Even more is blooming now – late this year. I’ve been keeping track, but – crazy! – I haven’t stopped to photograph the flowers yet. The paintbrush has been trying its best to find the sunshine and warm breath of spring, and more is blooming every week. Prince’s plume started last week … the globe mallow was out just this week – not so much in the basin but very much along the private road leading to the basin. Hardy phlox – white and pink – has been out for weeks and still blooms, some of the petals looking a bit windblown. Loco weed also pops up in places. Some isolated yellow daisies-something-or-other. The cheat grass is still green but starting to flag.  Greasewood is greener than green (it’s possible) and was budding last week. Water holes are dry or very shallow. One pond holds decent water, and a couple of bands are in the vicinity of Wildcat Spring. At least one band is using the catchment, but they have to range far for forage because it’s just not that great in that area. The claret cups are tightly furled within their nests of thorns … not blooming yet. I saw a couple of bunches of lupine (my very favorite wildflower) near Dolores, but that was it. We don’t typically get lupine in the basin (I’m so jealous of the opportunity on Pryor Mountain to photograph babies in fields of blue lupine!)), but there are spots along the Dolores-Norwood Road where they’ve been insane in past years. Given the great snow we had this winter, I’m looking forward to a great show of wildflowers here in Colorado this year.

The horses are mostly shed out now – last year’s youngsters still fuzzy in most cases. Nights still dipping into the 20s (occasionally) and 30s (commonly). The temp reached at least 72 while I was out. Just beautiful.

The first horses I saw were Chrome’s: Jif, Hayden, Two Boots, Cuatro and Chrome, taking his time, bringing up the rear. Can you tell that Jif is slick while Hayden is still fuzzy? Oddly enough, because he was born so late in the year, I’ve never seen Hayden shed out. His face is starting, though, and I think he’s going to stay sorrel – he’s going to be just as handsome a devil as his daddy!

Two Boots is starting to look a little closer … Can you see the little hunks of hair Hayden is trying to shed?

“Wait for me!” They walked on by and down the hill on a horse trail, then Chrome looked up from his lolly-gagging (grazing) and decided he was being left behind, so he went galloping after them.

I saw Seven’s close to Grey/Traveler’s close to Bounce’s, who turned out to be close to Kreacher’s who were close to … Luna’s. (Some stallion weirdness I’ll explain in a minute, so for now, it’s Luna’s band because everyone is following her!)

Didn’t take pix of Seven’s or Grey’s. Seven’s were very close to where I saw them last week. I just sat in the Jeep and watched them. Roja grazed and watched and watched and grazed for about 10 or 15 minutes, then oh-so-casually led her family away. She is so wary and so protective, and because I’ve witnessed them being chased (a couple of summers ago, after which I never saw Molly’s filly Starla again), I just don’t have much heart for even attempting to get too close for her comfort – which isn’t close at all.

Grey’s were moving toward the road on which I had stopped, so I enjoyed my vantage of being able to watch them as they grazed their way closer and eventually crossed to where Seven had had his band.

Who’s who? Doesn’t Whisper, left, look just like daddy Bounce? He’s going grey, though … I love seeing the resemblance.

Gaia and Liberty

And this girl is pulling a Luna on us – two weeks past her “due date,” and she barely looks pregnant at all. Even with her most recent spa treatment in evidence, isn’t she just beautiful?

Raven and Kootenai. You may remember a few posts ago, I referred to their mid-morning nap … here we are smack in the middle of their middle-of-the-afternoon nap!

Corona – no, she is NOT white! – Mona and Kreacher. I know she looks white – she’s blown out, too – but she’s not. She has this very unusual flecking of her palomino color … like Ma Nature couldn’t decide what color to paint her.

All but Mona, who was just off to the left.

And there’s baby Gideon with Mama Luna and Butch, Storm and Alpha at right. Steeldust was nearby but not too close.


Who could resist this gorgeous matriarch? One of the great grand dam(e)s of Spring Creek Basin.

Storm and Alpha watching Kreacher’s band. (And yes, he’s still nursing.)

While I was watching this, I kept one eye on Steeldust, who watched but never moved a hoof. Butch has bred Alpha in the past, but he didn’t now, though she’s clearly in heat.

Butch did a little dance (like a very slow motion passage) over to Steeldust, who didn’t go after him, but neither did he back down. It did provoke him to mark his territory, and Butch went back to Luna, who took the opportunity to walk away …

… followed by Alpha …

… to the very shallow nearby pond. Here’s Steeldust at left – rear – while Butch leaves a territory marker as Luna leads Gideon and Alpha and Storm around the pond – effectively separating Steeldust from the mares.

Luna walked around the pond, but Alpha stopped. Butch continued after Luna, and Steeldust stopped with Alpha.

Think that looks terrible?

How about this?

The good news is that BLM is supposed to have several more ponds – hopefully including this one – dug out because they’re all very shallow (because of the highly erodable soil). The bad news is that neither of the two ponds dug out finally last fall have water right now (I was so optimistic), and the ponds to be dug out aren’t even on the schedule until August or September.

Here’s Butch getting great enjoyment out of his “spa treatment”! Check out how he’s tilted his head and closed his eyes to avoid splashing mud. 😉

He splashed a few times, laid down just so his cheek appeared to touch mud, then got right back up again.

Kreacher, Mona and Raven watch Luna lead the band away from the pond. Butch is looking back at Alpha and the others.

They’re really all quite polite with each other. Whether that’s something conscious – “don’t want to get involved in THEIR drama” or “I think I have enough …” – or bonds keeping them together, who knows? The girls from Sand Wash Basin seem quite content with their boy.

Alegre napping at the base of the hill while the babies (not “babies” anymore!) graze in a bunch. Bounce was down a bit watching the two bands.

He has such a presence, but he’s really not a very big boy in size.

Our very own wild black stallion. He has a heart of gold.

Mahogany, Sundance and Mouse …

Kestrel, Winona and … Comanche, still guarding the girl and the babe!

Notice anybody missing?

There’s Aspen at far right …

Notice anything else, hmm, “odd”? Kestrel and Winona in the background … and in the foreground, Mahogany (front), surrounded by boys, left to right behind her: Mouse, Sundance and Aspen. And not quite ready to present her baby … but close …

Comanche … Hey, who’s that behind him?

Do you see? Recognize? Now do you see who was missing from Mahogany’s band?

Hannah and Sable. When I saw Mahogany – without Sable – I hoped fervently that she had joined her yearmate and big brother Pinon older half-sister Ember with Hook. This kind of thing makes me wonder how “off” our herd dynamic is with massive roundups that take most of the horses every two to four years. Hannah and Sable are yearlings. In a normal environment, I don’t think they’d have left their dams this soon. In both cases, they left before their mothers had even had this year’s foals.

Left to right: Pinon, Hook, Sable, Ember’s head, Hannah


I thought she was going to put on a show like Gideon did last week …

But this wee girl is more reserved than her uncle.

Mama and first-born daughter

Snack time

Love her expression here … *drinker of the wind*! Trying to catch a whiff of this weird two-legged.

Baby girl laid down when Kestrel was grazing with her head hidden from me by a greasewood bush. But then Kestrel grazed her way around her like this, and it looked to me like a little “hug” of the baby – a cocoon of sun-warmed grass and mama’s protective presence.

Comanche grazes by Kestrel as she stands over Winona. The other horses were never far away. I wonder whether Kestrel will continue to follow Mahogany or whether she and Comanche will eventually split off on their own.

Baby napping under guardian legs. Could anything be sweeter?! (Don’t answer that, and if you’ve made it this far, more sweetness is coming …)

With all those boys together, there’s bound to be a little of this. Mouse, left, and Sundance.

And then Hook had the audacity to strut up the hill from his little flock toward Comanche, Kestrel and Winona. Kestrel never looked up, and it didn’t – immediately – interrupt Winona’s nap – but Comanche took immediate notice. And Hook got a little shock:

He took off after him – HARD. I had started to leave them, so I missed the beginning stages of this chase with the camera.

So Hook, former lowest man on the bachelor totem pole, has a band of four now, and Comanche, former first sergeant for Steeldust’s band and then low on the bachelor pole that developed when SD’s band split, seems to have acquired a mare and her foal … and former Lt. Mouse seems to be still in that position – to Sundance, who seems to have been born into and at least grew up in the band? – with Aspen at the low end of THAT heirarchy. Following in the footsteps of low-man Kreacher and low-man Copper … Smarts, not necessarily brawn, with this group?! Or is the bottom of the heap the place to be when it comes to “acquiring” those that lag behind (whether youngsters or a mare that goes off to foal)? Always a myriad to ponder …

Hollywood’s band was almost the last I saw (I saw Cinch, Bruiser and Twister again, far off). Not too far from the road, and I was able to get a nice look at Piedra’s newest son.

No lupine … and greasewood doesn’t quite have the same luminous quality, but baby in a sea of green appeals just as well to my heart.

Piedra and her little boy – see how his star makes a heart at the top – like Hayden’s? Or another upside-down aspen leaf …

Baylee and Sage

After a bit, he got up to nurse, but I loved this look he’s throwing back over his shoulder.

Then Piedra decided that was enough exposure to a two-legged, and she walked down to Hollywood. Iya in the foreground. She turned to follow them, and I wish I’d been about five steps to the left or right because Holls bent his neck around to greet his son for a few seconds before Piedra turned and walked a bit farther before settling back to grazing. The whole moment was blocked because I was behind Iya in a direct path. Oy. As much as I love to capture the interactions between the mamas and their babies, I love to capture that between the stallions and babies – just more rare to see. They like to portray this stoic tough-guy front, but they’re big softies when it comes to babies! Just like all of us!

The Four Corners Back Country Horsemen’s annual wild horse count is this weekend – I hope you folks see all the horses and new babies and have weather as great as mid-week!

Struttin’ their stuff

15 04 2010

Wednesday, I found Bruiser, and he was alone. He did lead me – in a roundabout way – to the pinto band later in the day. But I sure wondered where the heck were Cinch and Twister …

Today, all was back to normal when he showed up again with Cinch and Twister not too long after a visit with Shadow and David and their baby. Friend TB also got to see the youngster, and we chatted long enough that the boys finally came down from a ridge – to the pond behind Round Top, or so we thought.

We waited out away from the pond so they could drink, but they really came strutting over to check out TB’s handsome palomino mustang!

Bruiser in the lead, Twister at right and Cinch at back left.

Bruiser and Twister. Twister is 3 this spring.

Bruiser at the “long trot”!

And flying!

He has grown over the past few months. He’s part of the “class of 2007” – roundup-year babies. Looks a lot like Cuatro … or vice versa …



And no display of strutting stallions would be complete without this, which looks dramatic but resulted in no injury to either party. 🙂

Cinch at left, Bruiser right

And the center of their attention?

This big handsome fellow is from White Mountain in Wyoming (which means, if I remember correctly, that he shares his home range with a certain also-handsome buckskin-pinto fellow). TB also has a mustang from the Twin Peaks area of CA/NV – a mustang advocate for sure!

It was certainly nice to see these elusive boys, and – even better – it was great to see them all together!

Also out on horseback today were herd area manager Bob Ball and a contingent of Forest Service/BLM folks, out to collect water samples from various sources within the basin – and enjoy the gorgeous day! I suppose they could call it “work,” but I hope they had a wonderful day and saw plenty of horses!

The faraway ponies

3 04 2010

Some horses were far away when I saw them. Some were mere horses … some were mountain goats!

From a ridge above Steeldust’s napping band, I saw deer … then the two pinto bachelors Bruiser and Cinch with orphan Twister. The pinto band was nearby, but David and Shadow, who had been close to Bruiser, Cinch and Twister the last couple of times I’d seen them, were nowhere in sight. While I watched from faraway, Mesa, lowest man on the pinto band totem pole, watched then walked out to have a little howdy-do with the other boys.

Veteran Bruiser makes “first” contact. Mesa, Cinch and the other stallions with the pinto band used to be part of the “southside boys” bachelor band.

From left: Corazon, Copper, Spook, Kiowa, Milagro and Chipeta

This made me go “hmm.” Reya, almost 3, stood napping over Ty, who was lying down. Interesting.

Bounce’s band were almost the last horses I saw: up on the flank of Lizard Mesa.

Do you see everybody? Can you see the steepness of the hillside?

How ’bout now?! 🙂 Bottom to top: Alegre, Whisper, Liberty, Bounce and Gaia!

Around another bend or four, I found these lovelies with their fawns of last year:

Good thing it’s not hunting season – the silly girls were not too worried, and I was able to photograph them, then drive right by them.

The last band I saw was Kreacher’s, on my way out.

Corona, Raven and Mona – Kreacher and Kootenai were back to the left. Snow lingering on the back eastern-boundary ridges makes for a dramatic background … defines one of the natural boundaries of the basin.


5 03 2010

It was April 3 last year before I reported in my notes that I did not see cattle in the basin. Shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that some cattle remain in the basin past their deadline to be out again this year.

That’s the herd area boundary fence. I’m on the road, just before crossing the cattle guard into the horses’ home.

She looks dark  – she’s dark red. No calf. The other cows I saw both have calves.

This was just one of those stellar kinds of day. It included horses and hikes and back to the Earth, staring wide-eyed and grateful at clouds in the turquoise heavens. Can you imagine it? It was warm, but there was a nip – still – to that returned March wind (ooh, yeah, it’s back). Perfect day to be walking around the far-out outback, a place filled to the brim with wild still-muddy magic.

So it’s a bit messy … life ain’t perfect. 😉

Steeldust’s mob were the first visible, so I made for them. They were napping as early clouds gave way to sunshine. Aspen and Hook are still hanging on. Storm, Hannah and Alpha were lying down when I arrived; Comanche, Pinon and Kestrel laid down while I visited. Ol’ Steely Dan has a few new scars. He continues to stick close to Alpha; Storm continues to take advantage of the mommy bar.

Nap time (back, left to right: Alpha, Storm and Steeldust; front from left: Sundance, Mahogany, Sable, Luna and Pinon)

Did you see this in the background of the above pic?

Then there was this …

How familiar does this look? (Notice Comanche giving them a wide berth in the background as Steeldust guards Alpha.)

Boy’s got it bad for the girl. 😉

Ember’s hanging out with big boys Aspen and Hook.

Kestrel and Mouse

Sleepy tired boy Pinon

The sun finally cleared the clouds, and I left the ponies to their naps (Butch makes an appearance here, behind Luna; SunnyD is beside her, Kestrel behind them).

All hills make for good mysteries – what’s over the summit? What’s around the bend? In the basin, the potential for horses to be around every bend, on the other side of every hill, below every ridge, is enormous.

Seven’s were out on the saddle, relaxed and soaking up the shine of late-winter sun.

At first glance, they were alone, but guess who was around another bend – or three … a ridge or two?

Pinto ponies

And look who else was closer:

Bruiser …

David and Shadow (oops! I thought I had put their picture into the post but realized later I didn’t) …

… and Cinch and Twister!

It was great to see them, but our visit didn’t last long. They decided they’d rather be on the other side of that hill, and I just didn’t have the oomph to continue on through the mud in the “away” direction. So I went back to share lunch with Seven’s.

OK, so they weren’t interested in what passed for my lunch, but we shared a little stretch of real estate between hills, bounded by ridges, together under the sun.

They were as relaxed as I’ve ever seen them, OK with me sitting on a branch, elevated above the mud.

They’ve been playing in the mud fields …

I might feel compelled to eat my shoe if I ever found out he was NOT a son of Grey/Traveler’s. If he was aged correctly, the boy is 10 this year (hard to believe, eh?). He certainly has gone grey-er in the past couple of years. Handsome, handsome mister … just like daddy.

Speaking of, two white “dots” sandwiching a dark speck way out yonder turned out to be my boy and Houdini and Terra. Seven decided to take a nap under a tree, so I hit the trail.

Headlights caught my eye, flashing as the truck to which they belonged popped over a hill on the road out yonder. The road was a little soft, a little dry, a little damp … I was surprised to see it. But before long, it stopped … hit reverse … discharged a camo-clothed passenger … swapped end for end, re-admitted the man and headed back the way it had come. I found their ruts later.

Bounce’s band came into view … then Hollywood’s. Then … Jif! She was walking up out of an arroyo kind of between me and Bounce’s band, and pretty quickly, Hayden and Cuatro, then Chrome, then Two Boots followed her. What a wonderful surprise! And a reminder how easy it is for horses to be out of sight very nearby.

Hayden is nursing.

Cuatro grazing with stepdaddy Chrome.

Cuatro grazing with stepbrother Hayden!


See the white dot, the dark dot and the grey dot “above” Jif? That’s Grey/Traveler, Terra and Houdini.

Sweet, sweet day in the company of many of those I hold dear. Always a wonderful way to spend a day.

Troubling encounter

5 11 2009

We’re almost to the end of hunting season. I was hoping we’d make it through with only the respectful people I’d seen thus far, but it wasn’t to be. Despite the fact that we reclaimed the old illegal road to Wildcat Spring, hunters apparently drove in a new “route” up on top of the next hill right above the spring! I guess they couldn’t read the very large sign at the entrance to the herd area telling ’em to stay on designated routes!

This is what the sign says: “Travel restricted to maintained roads. Cross country travel prohibited.”

Who thinks driving off the road and up onto a hill is OK? These guys.


It’s hard to see the trucks and stock trailer and utility trailer and big canvas tent up on the hill, but they’re there. Note the old road to Wildcat at lower left. Lots of tire traffic and some boot traffic to the boulders (and walking past) to check it out. One of the dead trees the students “planted” was knocked over, whether human-caused or natural, I don’t know. I stood it back up. Thank goodness for the boulders, methinks.

To make matters worse, three men – one on an ATV and two on a “gator” or “mule” or some little golf-cart thing – came up behind my Jeep while I was watching and photographing Kreacher’s band from the road, drove around me and sent the horses galloping away.


Check out the passenger shading his eyes so he can see the horses better. The carsonite sign at left marks the intersection with the road to Flat Top.


This was my next view of Kreacher’s band. 😦

I just read a really great Writers on the Range (High Country News) column written by a guy who used to be an avid off-road ATV rider … until the day he was hunting elk and a group of off-road ATV riders zoomed up and scared off the elk … and didn’t understand why the author was PO’d.

To go back in time to a more positive encounter, when I first passed Kreacher’s band, just on  the other side of the road from where this happened, I was heading back to get a closer look at the camp. I drove slowly past the band and took pix through my passenger’s side window. Then I noticed a truck coming up behind me. I drove on, watching carefully in my rear-view mirrors, but they were very respectful and also drove very slowly past the horses, who stayed right where they were, completely relaxed.

Do you get the point? Some visitors respected the horses and were able to get an amazing view of them. Then three visitors completely disrespected them, and the horses galloped away to protect themselves, making it impossible for anyone to enjoy them further at that time.

In addition to the fact that chasing/harassing  the horses is completely illegal, it’s just plain stupid, disrespectful to the horses and rude to other visitors. ARGH!

I sent an email to BLM that night, and I received a near-immediate reply that not only had they had law-enforcement rangers in the basin the day before but that they would follow up on my report. Very much appreciated.

Let’s go back to the beginning.

There were still patches of snow in the basin – more than I expected, truth be told – but it was obvious there had been plenty of vehicle traffic because the roads were mostly good (though a bit more rutted). I did hear what sounded like a stuck truck, but I could never figure out where it was coming from.

Kreacher’s were first on the flats below the catchment. There were a lot of human “visitors” in the basin. I parked up near Flat Top and hiked the old road around the hill. Grey/Traveler’s band was on the north side of the hill. I followed some ATV tracks that went up actually onto the hill … maybe before the sign went up … maybe ignored. I spent some time just visiting with Grey’s band but didn’t take any pictures, then kept going around to the “saddle.”

Hook and Twister were hanging out in the middle under some trees. Twister was lying down with Hook standing over him when I first saw them. 🙂 The trail was somewhat dry – and considerably drier than the ground right off the trail (snowmelt) – so I sat down on the trail to watch the boys.

Steeldust’s band was out by the west-side loop road; Hollywood’s were a little closer to Flat Top. They ended up going all the way over past the pond to the roller-coaster ridge, up on top, then back to the west end. Aspen was with them when I first saw them, but I didn’t realize until I looked through my photos at home that Hollywood’s followed them.

Bounce’s band was over by the west end of Knife Edge … without Molly and Liberty. I never did see them. (Also didn’t see Duke that day, or Chrome, Jif and baby Hayden.)

Cinch and Bruiser also were on the saddle – closer to Round Top – and then I saw David and Shadow back toward that far yucky water puddle. It and the one close to Flat Top both have a little water, and by the hoof prints, horses are drinking at both.


You can see the snow … and the salt in the soil around the puddle.


While I was watching David and Shadow, I saw another “shadow” under some trees in the middle of the saddle, between D&S and Cinch and Bruiser …


Ze, Roja and Seven … Bruiser in the background.



It’s so weird to see them without Molly and Liberty.

I went back around the hill – Grey/Traveler’s were right up at the base of the hill then – and took the horse trail to the pond. It’s shrinking every time I see it.

I was almost back to the main road when I saw the camp and went to investigate.

That’s when I passed Kreacher’s band the first time.


Corona has been playing in the mud. 🙂

And then on the way out …



Loved that halo-light on the ponies …


A little lovely light, a little lovely background … a little lovely wild.


It was such a wonderful end to the day … until the horses heard the ATV.

Let’s review again how the day really ended:


I want everyone to feel about the horses the way I do. It’s a rude realization when I’m reminded that’s not the way it is.


7 10 2009

Nothing like jumping back into life after a long vacation away from home. I’ll have to break this up or I’ll never get images/updates posted!

During my first visit to the basin after I got home, Jif and her baby were the second thing I noticed. The first was this:

Kreacher and Mona

Kreacher and Mona

Kudos to you if you recognize that Kootenai is missing from this picture; she was missing from the entire area. Changes like this always result in a clutch to my stomach, but I won’t leave you guessing as long as I was – she’s fine. But you’ll have to wait (or scroll down) to find out who she’s with now … You might be able to guess – like I did! That’s Filly Peak behind them. Not much of a geographic change for these ponies.

Grey/Traveler’s band was very nearby, still with Chrome, who’s still the bachelor on their heels. While the stallions aren’t fat because of their constant vigilance, and Houdini and Two Boots aren’t fat because they’re nursing foals, they all look to be in good condition. Jif looks wonderful.

Steeldust’s band was napping on top of the finger hills with bachelors Mouse and Comanche. Bachelors Hook and Twister were a bit down the hill toward the arroyo, and bachelors Cinch and Bruiser were very near the east-side loop road!

Cinch and Bruiser, Twister and Hook

Cinch and Bruiser, Twister and Hook

You never know where these spotted boys will show up.

Let’s pause the program for a moment to talk about the ponds. Nope, they weren’t dug out; Ma Nature intervened. The pond north of Flat Top has water in it, but it’s not full and it’s not deep. I didn’t hike back to check the pond south of Round Top. The pond below the roller-coaster ridge and the pond near the entrance by the road to the old trap site also have water again. That must have been some rain the basin got that kept me from visiting before my trek north! This brings us to most of the water sources having water again …

Poco and Roach appeared on the other side of the roller-coaster ridge from the pond … and Hollywood and his band were nowhere in sight. They showed up east of the road across from the valley between Knife Edge and Lizard Mesa!

Sage and Piedra

Sage and Piedra

Hollywood's band

Hollywood's band

Before I left the east pocket, I hiked back to check that pond – still water – and look for Seven’s – who I didn’t see. But up by the pond right by the road, a nice little surprise – and an answer.

Duke's band

Duke's band

All looks normal, right?



Ta da!

Did you guess? And how did it come about? Duke’s and Kreacher’s territories have been close – partially overlapping – but not that close. Duke and Kreacher did pal around in the not-too-distant past as part of the Bachelor 7. But I wonder if Kootenai wasn’t the force behind the change. Wonderful Duke. 🙂 He gets an instant family when (I think) he happens across Raven and baby Corona; now, his family has increased, randomly or …?

Corona and Raven

Corona and Raven

Corona and Kootenai

Corona and Kootenai

You’d think they’d known each other forever.

Corona and Raven

Corona and Raven



Who looks fabulous??

Nibbling Mama's ear

Nibbling Mama's ear

Any ideas on baby girl’s color? I’m still stumped. Love her curly mane. 🙂

Kootenai and Duke

Kootenai and Duke

Duke takes this addition to his family in stride. Such a gentleman.

Aspen was – alone – right around the corner. Bounce and his family were down by the arroyo at the northern end of the valley between Lizard Mesa and Knife Edge. Then it was back around to get a better look at Jif’s handsome little guy, and more pix will come later as I get them tweaked. The pinto band was visible from the Disappointment Road near the county line, so it turned out that Seven’s band and David and Shadow were the only ponies not seen during my return to my very own paradise, oh-so-close to home.

Bad news first

25 08 2009

Because there’s more good news, and I want to get this out and move on.

After a truly marvelous weekend, the very last thing I saw – that I didn’t see, more accurately – put a damper on the whole thing.

Low visibility

Low visibility

On my first pass down the Disappointment Road, showing our visitors the herd area boundary, I saw Cinch and Bruiser, then what looked like the pinto band walking away out of some trees … except that as they got into a more open area, I could see that Chipeta, her colt, Ty and Mesa were not right with the band. It became apparent that they weren’t just lagging behind, either.

We got to the cattle guard where the boundary ends, turned around and went back. I stopped at dysfunction junction to hike up a hill overlooking the road to see if I could see Kiowa’s group better and get a broader look downward.

Kiowa, Milagro and Spook

Kiowa, Milagro and Spook

They were heading up this ridge when I caught up with them, and yes, that is a stormy sky in the background. I’m hopeful the basin got more rain (part of the good news). Milagro got his name this weekend, simply by being a tiny, minor, extraordinary miracle. They all are, of course … Spook is Kiowa’s yearling daughter. Also with this band is Kiowa’s 2-year-old daughter, Reya, bay band stallion Copper and black-and-white pinto bachelor Corazon.

At the top, they disappeared into the trees. Chipeta and her beau “appeared” close to Cinch and Bruiser – who had wisely moved up a hillside on the other side of the arroyo to watch the goings-on from a safe position – and David and Shadow … and finally Mesa. The first picture is how I first saw them, mostly obscured by greasewood and other brush. So I still didn’t know at this point where her colt was …

Then David, in the background of that picture, crossed the arroyo, and when he came up, Chipeta spooked … and I could see that the foal was not immediately at her side. And then it was just a matter of confirming he was not there at all.



And that confirmed it; her colt is missing, presumed dead. Now I know I didn’t see him last weekend in the one quick flash of open ground they crossed because he wasn’t there to see.

Chipeta and her colt

Chipeta and her colt

He was likely 2-3 weeks old; this photo was from my only sighting of him, on Aug. 2. Chipeta got the PZP; she wasn’t supposed to have a foal. But she did, and so his was a life to be valued as much as any of them. Posthumously, I named him Joven, which simply means “young.” Rest in wild peace, little one.

Honeymoons over

Honeymoons over

Ty chased David away – and Mesa – then “urged” Chipeta away across the hillside. Moments later, Mesa was with them, and they were perfectly calm. My gut feeling is that with all the stallions around, little Joven may have been accidentally trampled. As far as I know, he was Chipeta’s first. She’s a terrible flirt anyway, and she probably couldn’t protect the youngster in the chaos. Now she seems to be in heat.

As you can also see from the first pic, Ty is definitely grey in the face, but his body is still remarkably dark.

Cinch and Bruiser

Cinch and Bruiser

The spotted pair were back in the south – they’re on the hill, watching the action below. All the horses were in this area because of a tiny seep in a corner of the arroyo that is part of the drainage down from the (dry) pond behind Round Top. Never much water in that area – WSA – of the herd area.

David and Shadow

David and Shadow

These two followed Ty and Chipeta and Mesa, and in this pic, they’re looking on while Ty drank at the seep, guarded by Mesa. Chipeta stayed in the arroyo next to Ty after she drank first.

So we’re back to 10 foals … and I’m spoiling the next post.