Our home range

17 10 2021

If you’re local – or even if you’re not local but will be in the area – please join us from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 23, at Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum, a couple of miles outside Dolores, Colorado, for an event to celebrate the yearlong exhibit of Colorado’s mustangs and the 50th anniversary of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. (Click on that “flyer-final” link above to see the PDF of the announcement.)

If you go: Tres Rios Field Office Manager Connie Clementson will give an introductory presentation and be there to answer questions. You’ll get to meet adopted Spring Creek Basin mustangs Whisper and Skipper (also featured in the exhibit on the panel of adopters and in the short film) with their humans, Tif Rodriguez and Keith Bean. In addition to providing the opportunity to meet these stellar ambassadors of Spring Creek Basin, Tif and Keith will talk about their adoption experiences and give tips about how to adopt a mustang. Kathryn Wilder will read excerpts from her book “Desert Chrome: Water, a Woman, and Wild Horses in the West.” Books won’t be available for sale at the event, but her tantalizing readings will leave you wanting information on how to purchase “Desert Chrome,” which she will happily provide. Visitors also can sign up to go through the exhibit in the museum with me and learn more about Colorado’s wild horses.

Hope to see a lot of mustang folks there!





More mares … and a stallion

18 09 2021

From left: Dundee, Rowan and Aiyanna. A little golden girl bookended by two dun girls – one with awesome spots! Not only is Aiyanna now our only dun pinto, she’s the only pinto in Spring Creek Basin with all solid legs. Raven, our black-and-white girl from Sand Wash Basin in 2008, has one stocking. πŸ™‚ All our homebred pinto ponies have white legs.

The Sunday after their release into Spring Creek Basin, I looked low and high, down and up, forth and back and forth again and all around for those girls. But though I saw most of the Spring Creek Basin mustangs, for the life of me, I couldn’t spot even a swishing tail or flicking ear of the new girls. My hunch was that they found a sheltered swale and hunkered down for the day and took long naps punctuated by contented grazing and deep swallows of good pond water.

Monday morning, I was in the basin shortly after sunrise, and voila! Not only were the mares right in sight, they were with a young stallion. A young stallion who had been, the night before, with his family a few miles to the south.

Even if I hadn’t known that, by the swirling movement of the horses, it was clear that introductions had been made later that night or even just a bit earlier that morning. His family was a bit split – his uncle, in particular, seemed perturbed that the young prince and not himself was the one to win the mares – and there was another family just up the hill from them, who also had been miles away the night before.

Here, the bands are going to water at Spring Creek Basin’s original/main water catchment. In the low-center of the pic are the two long, heavy-plastic aprons (inside a high fence) that catch rainwater and snow and funnel it downhill to the tank at lower left. Out of sight in this pic, farther left, is the trough. Just above the line of horses you can see at lower right, see the other, farther line of horses? That’s the other family that was nearby. When the scuffling started, they headed for the hills (Flat Top is just out of sight to the right) and another pond.

Two *other* bands were above me on the hill when I first spotted the new girls and stopped to watch, and we hung out together to watch the action unfurling below. Before long, they went back to grazing, and when the new girls and their semi-blended new family(s) dropped out of sight over the edge of the ridge east of the catchment aprons, I continued on to see where they were going.

As it turned out, they went south, and with my ankle situation, it was too much for me to follow on foot, so I went back out and around … thinking that, to see the new girls in their new home, with their new stallion, I’d by-gosh make the fairly short hike up the hill above the county road. As it turned out, they’d very thoughtfully and politely come down to within easy viewing of that road. πŸ™‚

So polite, these girls! Could they have paused for a nap in a more delightful setting than one with sunflowers blooming like sunshine all around them?! … You can just see the belly of their new boy beyond Dundee.

Another introduction is in order … for you readers to young Flash, the splashy grey-and-white pinto stallion at left. He’s a Spring Creek Basin native, and he’s the one who’s been keeping company with and stepping out with the young mares from Sand Wash Basin these past few days.

He’s the same age as Dundee, and so far, the association is working well for all concerned. πŸ™‚

I haven’t seen the girls drinking at the pond above which we welcomed them to Spring Creek Basin … but they’ve most definitely found the main water catchment. πŸ™‚ Water bar with a view! Hard to beat that!





A welcome gift

17 09 2021

Our BLM’ers are nothing if not thoughtful (and awesome). … And shy of the camera, I suspect. πŸ™‚

AFTER they’d been in the basin to finish the new-water-catchment project by installing the trough and fencing around the tank/roof structure, Garth Nelson (rangeland management specialist) emailed to say, “Surprise! Happy late birthday!” (Yes, it’s true, in the midst of the tornado-whirlwind, I celebrated a birthday. :))

He went on in his email:

“Daniel and I wanted to surprise you with the trough installation at the catchment. Attached are some pictures for you to enjoy. We filled up the trough about halfway and then left the valve turned off to conserve water for a dryer time. We do have plans for a shade cover but must wait until October to purchase materials. Happy Birthday!!!!!!!”

No girl has ever gotten a better birthday present – unless it was getting to see my folks and brother … or the gift of three beautiful and wild, lovely mustang mares! – than water for said mustangs in a parched desert range that had the great, good fortune of receiving rain not so long ago. πŸ™‚

The tank/roof structure is behind our right shoulder in this view.

Both the trough and the float (the cylindrical thing resting on the water in the trough) are unlike any I’ve ever seen before, but cool, huh? The horses of any given band will be able to spread out along it to drink. The three pipes at right protect the lid to the culvert section to the valve, below ground to protect it from freezing.

Doesn’t Daniel’s shirt match that brilliant Colorado sky perfectly?!

If this BLM thing doesn’t work out for Garth, I’d say he has a future in photography. He definitely seems to have learned the most important rule: The photographer gets to stay out of the pix. πŸ˜‰

THANK YOU, GARTH AND DANIEL, for finishing ‘er up! And Mike and Jim, who also worked on the project – water for mustangs in the desert. πŸ™‚





From Sand Wash Basin, with love

16 09 2021

In Spring Creek Basin, with much love and gratitude, we received a most precious gift this past Saturday: Three young mares named Rowan, Aiyanna and Dundee.

Yesterday on the blog: a quick teaser with an equally short explanation of why we periodically introduce mares to Spring Creek Basin for the genetic benefit of our necessarily small herd. Today: a much longer, illustrated tale of our very quick (and not-so-short) journey from the southwestern corner of Colorado to just south of the Wyoming border and back again (heavy on the back-again and release).

Last Thursday, Mike Jensen, our excellent Spring Creek Basin herd manager, called with a request. He was about to go on annual leave with his family, and asked, “Can you drive to Sand Wash Basin to collect three young mares to introduce to Spring Creek Basin?”

CAN I!!!!????????????????!!!!!!

I think I would have left that minute had practicalities and a *little* preparation not been necessary. πŸ™‚

By 9:30 the next morning, long-time advocate and friend Tif Rodriguez and I were speeding (as fast as you can safely go with an empty trailer) north.

At 5:30 Saturday morning, we met BLM Colorado’s on-range wild horse and burro specialist Ben Smith and another BLM employee in the dark parking lot of a Craig hotel, then followed west and north and into Sand Wash Basin as the sun rose.

By 11ish, we were back on the road heading south, now going MUCH slower with three precious bodies in the trailer. Tif and I joked that we needed “Precious Cargo: MUSTANGS” signs on the trailer to alert the drivers who stacked up behind us on the curvy roads. … But not a joke! We had three lovely Sand Wash Basin mustang mares in that trailer, and it was our responsibility and great honor to deliver them safely to Spring Creek Basin!

Shortly before 7 p.m., I backed the trailer down a faint doubletrack above a full pond, and with Tif primed to video the mares’ first steps to the rest of their lives, Kat quietly opened the trailer door.

… And then we waited. …

Dundee, at the back, was the first to see the open trailer door as the gateway to freedom.

And she was the first to make the leap to freedom!

Isn’t she lovely? She reminds me strongly of Kootenai, one of our 2008 introductees.

She looked back at her friends on the trailer and seemed to say, “C’mon out! The grass is EXCELLENT!”

But while there was immediate interest in what Dundee was doing out there, there’s also no denying that these girls were exhausted. They weren’t in a hurry to leave the safety of the trailer.

With the sun continuing its relentless march toward the western horizon, however, we wanted the girls to find food (in abundance) and water (right down the hill within sight of the trailer) with as much light left in the day as possible. So Tif stepped gently onto the runner at the front of the trailer, which gave the younger girls the encouragement they needed to take a closer look at their new home.

Two more flying leaps, and all three girls were on Spring Creek Basin soil!

Aren’t they divine?

Tif and I had discussed various scenarios that might happen upon their release from the trailer. The one thing I was sure of? That they would NOT go immediately to the water that was the humans’ No. 1 priority for them upon exit from the trailer after a seven-plus-hour road trip. Because you can show mustangs the water, but mustangs are mustangs, after all. And mustangs have their own priorities:

And that was to immediately start eating the green, green grasses of their new home! We made a very conscious decision to deliver them just uphill of a lovely, nice pond … with an abundance of galleta, grama, sand dropseed (native grasses) and greasewood, four-wing saltbush and tender Russian thistle (although it becomes tumbleweed later, at this stage of its green growth, the horses eat it with relish) also right there. (All the images of the girls off the trailer, except the very last one, were taken of them within 50 yards of it.)

Our iconic McKenna Peak (the pyramid-shaped hill) and Temple Butte in the background. We hope they come to love their new horizon (it’s all a little closer than the wide-open and far-away horizons of their Sand Wash Basin homeland) as much as we do.

By great good fortune, monsoon rains fell this summer throughout our region for the first time in many long years, and Spring Creek Basin grew her very best to welcome these lovely ladies to the rest of their wild lives.

Some additional random images from the basin that evening:

Rain and virga falling across our northwestern horizon, the rimrocks of Spring Creek canyon in the foreground and La Sal Mountains of Utah in the background.

Glorious sunset beyond our western horizon (in that direction lies the (main) entrance to Spring Creek Basin).

The pond below the mares’ release site.

This was yesterday’s blog-post pic, and it’s appropriate to end today’s blog post here (almost), with an image of Spring Creek Basin’s newest beauties. Light was fading, and our day was at an end, very happily and peacefully.

Rowan, Aiyanna and Dundee were face- and knee-deep in grass and vegetation, water was nearby (our main water catchment was a short distance to the east, in addition to the pond they initially ignored), a couple of our bands were within sight, and all was well within our small and magical world.

Dear Sand Wash Basin, thank you for the gift of three radiant and unique and utterly amazing mustang mares who now join our grateful family.

With love from Spring Creek Basin.





Three new faces

15 09 2021

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind – not all connected to mustangs and mustang endeavors (well, in my world, it’s all connected, really, but some of it was more tenuous than usual).

My Internet crashed (there may or may not have been an incident involving my tractor, the shredder and my dad … !), my ankle rolled (which may definitely have involved the tractor and me being in a hurry), which led to an ER visit (thanks, family, for being here!), a brace and crutches … family and friends visited … and left (LOADS of thanks to you all for doing what I couldn’t and felt like poop for not being able to do!) … and more friends visited … and I had only cell service, which, for me, involves driving out of the draw in which I live and up on the road to catch a signal – and thank goodness I’d just/already a week before replaced my phone (!), whose battery decided to give up the ghost (was it really THAT old?!) – and then there was a call, the most important call … which leads us to this post, to whet your appetites for another post. For now, a teaser and an introduction. (Whew!)

As many of you know, a roundup was conducted recently in Sand Wash Basin (a polite warning: no negativity of any kind will be tolerated here). Because Spring Creek Basin is relatively small in size (22,000 acres) with a correspondingly small herd (AML of 50 to 80 adult horses), in accordance with a recommendation years ago from equine geneticist Dr. Gus Cothran, we introduce mares periodically to help keep our herd’s genetics strong, healthy and viable.

A quick history lesson: In the mid- to late 1990s, three stallions were introduced. For various reasons, that didn’t go so well, though they contributed enormously to the current herd’s genetic and color makeup. In 2001 and again in 2008, three mares were introduced (six total), all from Sand Wash Basin, it being a Colorado mustang herd with characteristics similar to our herd. Now, in 2021, with our herd management area plan updated last year, which continues our PZP program and increased our appropriate management level (among other things), and the Sand Wash Basin roundup, it was time for another introduction.

We are extremely grateful for the opportunity to welcome these three young mares to Spring Creek Basin from Sand Wash Basin, to enable them to stay wild and to contribute their lovely and unique genetics to our herd.

Please welcome palomino yearling Rowan, dun pinto yearling Aiyanna and 2-year-old dun Dundee! The above photo of the girls was taken about 15 to 20 minutes after they stepped off the trailer into their new forever home in Spring Creek Basin.

Thank you to Spring Creek Basin’s BLM herd manager Mike Jensen and to BLM Colorado’s on-range wild horse and burro specialist Ben Smith. I have such enormous respect for you both.

Thank you to Stella Trueblood and Linda West with Sand Wash Advocate Team for picking these beauties for us and providing us with their names, ages, lineages and other information … and for being stalwart champions for Sand Wash Basin mustangs and our sisters in advocacy.

Thank you to Tif Rodriguez, who made the run with me to Sand Wash Basin and back on absolutely last-minute notice, and to Kat Wilder, who was in Spring Creek Basin to welcome us home and swing wide the trailer door!





Water catchment: phase 4.9

26 07 2021

Do you suppose we’ll get to phase 5 soon!? … I think so. πŸ™‚ Close. We’re SO close!

Those wily BLM’ers – Mike Jensen and new dad Daniel Chavez – hustled out to the basin without alert or fanfare last week and finished attaching the rest of the propanel sheets to the roof structure.

The last time I’d seen it, when Garth Nelson and Jim Cisco were out to attach the gutter and install three of four pipes, the roof covered half the structure. Because of rain in our forecast, they wanted to get the gutter installed so we could start catching SOME water.

Sure is shady under there! And think of that whole span of rain-catching marvelousness!

Just the end tank has to be piped, then the trough installed (the pipe to its destination is already in the ground) and the structure fenced to keep curious ponies from rubbing on tanks and posts and pawing at lids.

And what the heck is this, you ask?! It might be the strangest, most mind-bending pic I’ve ever posted on this blog. That’s a reflection – in WATER – of me gripping tightly my cellphone at the open lid on TOP of one of the water tanks. See it now? Even standing on the valve cover, I couldn’t quite see into the dark depths. Although I turned on the “flashlight” of my phone, I’m not sure it worked very well; you can see what you *can* see only by virtue of a little Photoshope lightening of shadows. But when I looked at my phone, I knew by the “white dot” – the reflection – that there was water TO reflect my phone and the lid and the metal roof above: I knew there was WATER. πŸ™‚

Wow, wowza and zowie Marie. πŸ™‚ That itself was worth a little dance (and it’s a good thing no ponies or humans were around to witness!).

And YES! We got our biggest rain to date later that evening. Perfect timing, guys. Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!





Water catchment: phase 4.5

14 07 2021

With this post, the blog and reality are caught up and meshed!

The guys showed up with the flatbed full of purlins – the last purlins required to weld to the roof structure on which to screw down the propanel sheets – and backed it right into the last section.

It was hot. Already. But they still had welding to do, which meant leather and Nomex and helmets for safety. Which meant – did I mention already? – hot.

Bonus: Backing the flatbed in under the structure meant that the purlins were close to where the guys hefted them into place on the steel pipes, and I had a higher vantage from which to take documentary photos. πŸ™‚ AND – on which to help hold the purlins steady (with my great and amazing strength!) while the guys welded them into place on either end. I’m tall, but I found it helpful to use one of the readily available rocks around to stand on for a couple extra inches to hold each of the purlins. The flatbed gave me a couple of extra FEET.

WIN!

You’ve seen the guys weld in multiple previous posts, so with this pic, fast forward a bit: All the purlins are welded in place across the whole roof structure! … So what the heck are those BLM’ers doing now?!

The last/top purlin is to Garth’s right. The pipe Daniel’s working on is the west-end pipe of the roof structure. (Note: There’s currently a fair amount of “extra,” which means that we can add purlins and propanel in the future for an even bigger roof surface.) Whatever they’re doing, it has the undivided attention of all three of us!

Our guys are craftsmen, and they’re rightly proud of their work. So Daniel “signed” it in beads of weld. πŸ™‚ That’s Garth in the pic, “chipping” the welds flat.

And he put the year on it, too. Forget the trials of 2020; 2021 is the year we’ll remember as the origin of the basin’s third water catchment for the mustangs.

We’ve thrown around a couple of name ideas for this particular catchment. It’s in the eastern end of wildcat valley (my name), beyond what we call wildcat spring. Wildcat catchment? With the new shade from the propanel, we were able to eat lunch right there – instead of up the hill under a tree. The whole structure is kind of a box. Lunchbox catchment? But I think we might have a winner here: BLM’ers marching, leading lines across the foreground … Abbey Road catchment, anyone? πŸ™‚ (Hey, we do like to laugh!)

Daniel got to work with the zz-zz.

And Garth got to work with the zz-zz.

Now I want to take you on a bit of a walk around the project, so you can see it from multiple directions.

This is basically at the southwestern corner looking northeastish.

Looking a bit more eastish. The road is just to my left.

Here, the road is just below me (you can see it at lower left … and as it continues on around the loop right in the center of the pic), and we’re looking southeastish toward McKenna Peak and Temple Butte.

An even bigger view … from near our previous lunch spot. πŸ™‚

And this is looking back to the southish (ever so slightly southwestish). That’s Filly Peak in the background, and if you know where to look, you can see the top of the tank at the main, original water catchment in Spring Creek Basin. πŸ™‚

Did I mention that it was hot? There might be some clouds over the horizons in these pix, but that didn’t mean any of those clouds were over our heads, over the basin. Hopefully, Mother Nature will take some pity on us before the next work day.

With that, we’re all caught up, and the blog reflects reality. Next steps: Finishing the propanel across the rest of the roof structure and installing the gutter across the front and the pipes from it to the tanks!





Water catchment: phase 4

12 07 2021

We’re now up to about phase 4 on the basin’s newest water-catchment project, though the phases are sort of, kind of starting to overlap a bit. It’s a big project! And my blogging is slightly behind our actual work, which is ongoing (it is hotter ‘n hell out there, I’m not kidding … last weekend, the mercury hit at least 104 in lower Disappointment Valley, which didn’t even set a record in the state of Colorado (because it was even hotter elsewhere, and other records WERE broken)).

On this day, Garth Nelson and Daniel Chavez, two of our BLM’ers-extraordinaire, welded the purlins in place that they’d previously brought out to the site. They wanted to make sure that the roof structure is super-solid and secure, so they welded them at fairly close intervals. This will come as a shock to … absolutely no one: It gets windy out here! The roof needs to be uber tight.

So Daniel got to welding.

And Garth got to welding. (By the way, for those worried about fire danger, the ground below the whole structure still is very much dirt. We are VERY aware of potential fire risk.)

Here’s an overview of where we were in the building process. It’s a bit hard to see from this perspective (and I’ve been trying to take pix from various perspectives!), but they’re just finishing the purlins across the middle section of the roof section. That’s the longest span – across the two middle tanks. West is behind Garth, and that part is done *now* … but at the time of this work day, they still had to get the remaining purlins from Durango (steel shortages affect everyone!).

In a project like this, there are loads of leading lines …

… and graphic lines! And it’s fun to take advantage of those arty bits, even in a serious project like this one. πŸ™‚ Behind Garth there, you can see the third/western section of the roof structure, which got “purlin’d” another day (that post is coming!).

When Garth and Daniel got the middle section of purlins welded, they started on the ROOF! These are the propanel (metal) sheets that will catch the rain and snow and convert it to drinkable water for the mustangs (via the gutter and pipes and other pipes and trough and float (!)). Exciting stuff!

Now, I have to tell you one of the most interesting things that I did NOT photograph about the getting of the propanel sheets to the basin. The day Daniel hauled out the pile of sheets (they’re 25 feet long from the top (right side of the pic) to where Garth is measuring in the pic above), he got stymied at the first Spring Creek crossing in Spring Creek Basin (which is probably about six-ish miles from the main county road). Why, you ask?

BECAUSE SPRING CREEK WAS RUNNING WITH WATER!!!!!!!!!!! πŸ™‚ It rained in the eastern part of the basin, and the creek arroyo ran for a little while.

So on this day, after the purlins were welded in place, we went back to get the propanel sheets and take them to the catchment site. Right before lunch. Perfect. πŸ™‚ (Also interesting note: Until we got the propanel sheets in place, which provided shade, our lunch spot was a short distance away, across the road and up a little slope under a lovely juniper tree. On our last work day, when it was almost a billion degrees, we lunched in the shade of the roof structure. :))

The first sheet, of course, was important to get screwed down straight on the frame to the steel purlins.

See those round green pieces? Those are going to be the lids for the black culvert pieces in front of each tank, at the bottom of which are the valves. The guys, those master welders, even made me a custom “key” so I can turn the valves on and off without crawling down on my belly to stick my arm down into the spider holes (they’re too deep for that anyway!). (I’ll get a pic of that key later.) The thicker green part will be a “riser” to go over the culvert, and the lid (with the white ring) will screw down on top. What are the silver “sticks” sticking up out of the culvert? Those are “drip edge” pieces of thin aluminum that will go all along the front line of purlins, under the propanel sheets. On another project like this that the guys have built, they found that rain water would sometimes just splash over/under the edge, missing the gutter. They installed these, and voila – problem solved. So we’re putting these edges under the propanel as we go along.

Interesting factoid: There’s still a bit of “bounce” to the roof, so being up there and walking around – staying on the purlins – was a little like walking on a trampoline. Daniel’s best quote from the entire project (thus far): “Now we know the roof can support 300 pounds of dude.” πŸ™‚ And they’ve said that about an inch of rain on this span of roof will put about 1,000 gallons of water in the tanks. There’s a particular formula – don’t ask me because I am NOT a math person – but Daniel and Garth ARE super smart dudes, and if they say it, I believe them! (Now we just need a whole gosh-darned inch of rain! … Wait … after the gutter is installed and piped to the tanks!)

And the water test. Yep! (Bonus, you can see the silver drip edge here, too.) You just have to imagine the gutter at this point… !

With a sky like that, I tried to get the guys to do their best Superman impressions. … They were too shy for that, but they’re still super heroes to me – and to the mustangs! πŸ™‚

On this particular day, we SUPER lucked out with the cloud cover and breeze that kept things relatively cool (OK, at least not HOT). With the two of them up there, zz-zzing the screws that fastened the propanel to the purlins beneath, it went pretty quickly.

Teamwork. πŸ™‚ Another of my favorite pix of the project! And that pole sticking out in the foreground of the pic marks the eastern third of the roof, which means that on just the first day of roof-attachment, they got a third of the panels in place.

Lest you all think it’s all work and no fun, let me disabuse you of that notion right now. πŸ™‚ Laughter is a big part of our camaraderie. I’m not totally sure what Daniel was doing here – I think the edge of the propanel sheet was just barely on enough of the purlin edge for Garth to tap a screw into, and the purlins, though welded, still have some give to them (hence the trampoline effect mentioned earlier), so he’s using his great and amazing strength (!) to pull the end (top) purlin closer to help Garth with the attachment.

The next day we worked in the basin (which was this past week) was crazy hot, but the guys showed up smiling, as always, and we got the rest of the purlins welded, and now the roof is just more than half covered in propanel sheets. Depending on continuing heat (the forecast shows some relief coming …) and availability, work will continue on the propanel attachment and getting the gutter in place and piped to the tops of the tanks.

One more little tidbit: I arrived first the last day we worked because the guys had to go to Durango to get the remaining purlins (to be welded) – from Dolores – and then all the way back out to Disappointment Valley. A band of horses was at the far east end of the little “mini valley” in this part of Spring Creek Basin, and their hoofprints were on the road, which is just, maybe, 50 yards from the catchment. … And not only there, but some brave pony or ponies came within about 10 yards of the eastern end of the structure. Eventually, we’re going to put up a fence around the structure so the horses won’t rub on things and chew on things, but they’re curious! … Gettin’ closer with each work day. πŸ™‚





‘Home on the Range’

4 06 2021

“Managing Wild Horses on Colorado’s Public Lands”

On the heels of this week’s feel-good good-news stories, here’s another one to end your week on a high: Through the end of the year, Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum (formerly called Anasazi Heritage Center) will host β€œHome on the Range: Managing Wild Horses on Colorado’s Public Lands,” an exhibit to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. Images and information about Colorado’s three herd management areas (Spring Creek Basin, Sand Wash Basin and Piceance-East Douglas) and one wild horse range (Little Book Cliffs) are included in the exhibit, as well as an adopters corner, which highlights a few awesome adopters of some of Spring Creek Basin’s awesome mustangs with a poster and short video. (Thank you to Tif Rodriguez and Whisper, Keith Bean and Skipper, Alice Billings and Liberty, Steve and Teresa Irick and Breeze and Sage, and Olivia Winter Holm and Ellie!)

The exhibit is a collaboration between CANM (Bridget Ambler), our local Tres Rios Field Office (Mike Jensen and Connie Clementson) and Colorado BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program (Ben Smith and Eric Coulter). I can’t begin to describe how incredible it looks. I walked through the doors, stopped dead in my tracks and burst into happy tears! The poor CANM employee who showed me in waited ever-so-politely for me to regain my senses (it took a little while). It’s THAT beautiful!

The center/museum is located on Colorado Highway 184 above the town of Dolores and McPhee Reservoir. If you’re in Southwest Colorado this year, please stop by to view the exhibit and the rest of the museum for a glimpse of ancient life here on the Colorado Plateau!

Below is a selection of photos of the exhibit. Really, it’s best viewed in person!

If you know me, you know that I’m the biggest emotional softie when it comes to my mustangs. Therefore, it will surprise none of you to read that when I drove up the road to the parking area below the building and saw handsome Hollywood and his beautiful mares, that was the first burst-into-tears event of the visit. Notice also the vertical sign on the side of the building in the background – also Hollywood. (Really, this guy should have his own star on a walk of fame!)

This was the next – and biggest – burst-into-tears moment: when I first walked into the exhibit hall and saw all those beautiful mustang faces. At right: Sand Wash Basin mustangs. In the background: Little Book Cliffs mustangs. At farthest left: Spring Creek Basin mustangs (the pic they used on the outside banner). Piceance-East Douglas mustang fans, don’t worry; your ponies are around the Sand Wash Basin wall. And the little section out of frame to the far left is the rest of the Spring Creek Basin area.

Right around the corner from the doors into the exhibit hall, the adopters are featured. Belatedly, I realized the mistake about Steve’s and Teresa’s mustangs: They’re both geldings. But I love the photos and quotes from everyone! These people all recognize the beauty and value of America’s mustangs (particularly our Spring Creek Basin mustangs), and I’m so glad BLM wanted to highlight their horses and parts of their stories. (The mustangs were adopted in 2005, 2007 and 2011.)

The exhibit also pays tribute to Colorado’s mustang advocacy groups – at least one for each herd in the state! Our mustangs are blessed to have people involved in every aspect of their observation and management (of course, we advocates know that WE are the blessed ones!).

No exhibit of mustang management in Colorado would be complete without a display of some of the tools of our fertility-control trade (on the wall across from this is an info-graphic panel about fertility control). We use CO2-powered darting rifles in Sand Wash Basin and in Spring Creek Basin, and they use .22-type rifles to dart in Little Book Cliffs. At upper left is a teeny branding tool for foals. Hopefully coming soon is a darting program in Piceance-East Douglas; all the pieces are being put in place.

Let’s see some pix of the pix (they are beautifully printed on canvas; each of them will go to the respective offices (Tres Rios, Grand Junction, White River and Little Snake) when the exhibit closes at the end of the year):

One of the walls of Piceance-East Douglas beauties.

A cozy corner of Little Book Cliffs mustangs with some of the astounding scenery shown. Part of Little Book Cliffs also is a wilderness study area (like McKenna Peak in Spring Creek Basin).

Some lovelies of Sand Wash Basin.

And of course, my most-beloved Spring Creek Basin wildies.

Deep, heartfelt gratitude to Bridget and Mike and everyone who conceived of and then brought this exhibit to reality. It didn’t open in January as planned because, you know, Covid, but it’s been open since mid-April and will be open the rest of the year (check the link at top of the page for visitor center/museum hours). (As of this writing, they’re following safety protocols with limited capacity in the building and social distancing.)

If you’re coming to or through Southwest Colorado in 2021, please, please, pretty-pretty please make a stop at Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum and take time to walk through, and/or sit, and very most definitely enjoy this exhibit of some of the mustangs that call Colorado home. We are SO proud of our mustangs!





No trails, no problem

2 11 2020

On Halloween, I had great fun hiking with a group from Telluride’s Sheep Mountain Alliance into a part of Spring Creek Basin that is overlapped by McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area.

Lexi and Mason from SMA brought five interested – and interesting – people to see this area that’s in the same county as Telluride (San Miguel) … and a world away climate- and geology- and geography-wise.

Disclaimer: The pic above of Juniper walking past McKenna Peak was NOT taken during our hike. πŸ™‚

We didn’t see any of our fabulous mustangs during our hike in the far southeastern part of the basin, but we did see a couple of tarantulas and lots of cool fossils (including a couple of faint but awesome nautilus impressions!). I got to talk about my favorite subject ever (I bet none of you can guess what that is … ;)), and Lexi talked to us about McKenna Peak and the CORE Act – the Colorado Recreation and Economy Act.

From the website:

“The CORE Act is the most significant and broadly-supported effort to protect Colorado’s most cherished lands, waters, and forests in a generation. The legislation would protect roughly 400,000 acres of public lands in Colorado, ensuring that future generations can always enjoy our state’s mountains, rivers and wildlife.”

McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area is proposed for inclusion in the San Juan Mountains area. This link shows the locations of the areas; scroll down to read a little more about McKenna Peak and see where it’s located. The entire WSA isn’t included, just the part in San Miguel County. As with anything else, politics plays a part. Our San Miguel County commissioners are fully supportive of this inclusion, just as they were of the naming of Temple Butte, which is in San Miguel County.

Regular readers know the shape of both McKenna Peak and Temple Butte as icons of our Spring Creek Basin horizon. Given our location and lack of specific trails, I don’t think we’ll be overrun with visitors. But how cool would it be to see the status of even part of this amazing landscape go from wilderness study area to full wilderness area? It’s protected from motorized/mechanized-vehicle use currently, which enables it to feel secluded and protected to the wild horses and other lives that know its wildness (even us humans).

Being able to share it with another few like-minded humans gave me great enjoyment. To see their wonder and appreciation of this landscape I love … well, to be perfectly honest, it made me happy. πŸ™‚