Patience

8 03 2011

A scattering of pix in this post … mostly it struck me how intent Fierro was on the goings-on, despite his family – and Steeldust – keeping him safely out of the fray.

The little guy with auntie Hannah (mama Ember’s little sister).

With other auntie Sable (mama’s little half-sister).

With Uncle Pinon (mama’s half-brother). I’m not at all sure why Pinon didn’t join the games … I suspect it has a little to do with the little mister and possibly a little more to do with the girls. He’s very attached to Ember – year-mates. Probably the only reason Hook tolerates him in the family … and I wonder, too, how long that will last … and until Pinon finds himself with Twister and Co. (or?) …

Hook and Fierro, Hannah, Sable and Ember below. Fierro had earlier tried to snuggle up to Hook, but Hook wasn’t having any of it at the time. Here, Hook walked up to Fierro, who is now looking back at stepdaddy’s attention.

Luna and Alpha trying their best to catch some shut-eye with all the goings-on (across the arroyo to the left). This was just after Butch had rejoined Luna after his little foray with the boys. Luna looks decent for a girl who has had multiple foals in a row (this will be her fifth foal since I’ve known her (Kestrel, Ember, Hannah, Gideon). I’d love to give her a rest … She should stay, not only because of her outside genetics (she and two others came from Sand Wash Basin in 2001) but because of her wise alpha-mare status (like Alpha above her).

Some of the boys’ roughhousing brought them down into the arroyo and up the hill a bit, and Steeldust charged down in warning – you can maybe see a little of the dust obscuring the saltbush below him. I found it so interesting that he didn’t need to wade in – knew it was play – and he had his own role – protecting Alpha. What a dynamic this little band has. How long will it be before Storm leaves mama? Will Steeldust and Alpha and Butch and Luna stay together? Mahogany and Sundance and Aspen left … at whose instigation? Will Butch eventually challenge Steeldust for Alpha, too? Steeldust backed down to him last spring … but Butch was focused on Luna and never challenged for Alpha. And with Butch’s “must-be-at-her-side-always” style, how many mares does he think he can care for? I think Alpha will stay with Luna as long as possible.

When Storm and Twister resumed their play after their intermission and greeting of baby Gideon – and Mouse stepped in – Gideon retreated to mama. Check out his body language. Doesn’t it scream “little brother sent home”? πŸ™‚ Patience, little.

Clearly still finding comfort with mama, who has just as clearly weaned him and wasn’t in the mood to baby him. He sought a snuggle, and she pinned her ears at him for his efforts. Though she didn’t mind his nearness – nor Butch’s, immediately on her other side. (I’m not sure I’d be less grumpy with a baby in the belly.)

Fierro was looking for somebody to “practice” on, and Sable seemed to fit the bill – at least briefly.

Twister and Cuatro walking up away from the arroyo. Storm followed closely – Duke and Mouse stayed below (grazing).Β  They paused at a stud pile – which Twister contributed to, which prompted yet another “discussion.” πŸ™‚

Hook eventually chased his group away over the ridge and to the next ridge – which led to them going the opposite direction as the others ended up going. But that little Fierro just couldn’t get enough!

And Hook couldn’t resist a last look, either. πŸ™‚





Jumping, Part II

5 03 2011

This was too cute not to share right away (and then I got carried away …). I was looking back for pix of Gideon with the big boys after I did the last post and found these. He came across the arroyo and was sniffing noses with Twister when Mister Mouse came striding up and sent Gideon went scurrying around to the other side of Storm.

I just adore this:

Mouse sniffing Twister, Twister sniffing Gideon over Storm’s back while Storm looks up the ridge at Hook’s!

Talk about jumping around. And this would probably have made for exceptionally interesting video to really tie it all together as I’m obviously failing to do. This, right here, is how I know without a shadow of a doubt the boys’ “fighting” was play – practice for a year or so in the future when it will be for real – to win or keep or add mares – to prove their strength and courage – and intelligence. That really struck me as I watched them spar. There’s definitely *thinking* at work – it’s not just brute strength – there’s craftiness and cunning – and obviously learned behavior. They circle – closely – shove their shoulders into each other … What do we do when walking behind a horse? We give them a LOT of room – or “don’t walk behind the horse,” parents tell children at the fair – or we talk to them, keep a hand on their side, hip, hindquarter, tail, as we walk right around them – close – too close for a kick to land.

Play and learning, youth and exuberance – a little showmanship? They learn their moves, they learn the moves of their peers. Steeldust is the only one I’ve ever seen with his courbette move – charge – rear – vertical leap. How did he learn that one? Fighting against bigger stallions? It certainly seemed to have helped him (and the chaos of the last roundup, too?). He had the biggest – by far – band after the last roundup.

The “before” pic to the top pic … Mouse approaching while Twister greets Gideon during a break in his play with Storm (behind).

Mouse is the lone bachelor left following Steeldust’s band – which is really Luna’s band. Spoiler: Mahogany, Sundance and Aspen are together – separate. (Only distance pix for documentation.) Mouse has been with the band since before Gideon was born. Gideon has never not known Mouse, though he’s always been on the outskirts – and always protective.

When Mouse got closer, Gideon spooked and ducked behind Storm (who is family) – and then the top photo. I couldn’t tell what sparked that … and what was Mouse’s motive to walk over in the first place? Protection? Curiosity? “Pick on someone your own size”? Though clearly Twister was not threatening the little guy in any way.

A few moments later:

Mouse wandered off again, Storm turned around. Storm and Gideon are the same ages (about) as Pinon and Fierro.

And here comes Mouse again. Isn’t that interesting?

Wide view (how *exquisite* is that light on the far hills!): Mouse and boys in the lower foreground, and above, left to right: Pinon, Fierro, Hook, Sable (Ember and Hannah behind).

I missed the “drama” of Steeldust hustling Fierro back to his band because I was so focused on the interactions of the closer boys, but …

Gideon takes advantage of the action to sneak a sniff of Mouse – they’re watching as Fierro walked past Hook and seemed on his way down the ridge to join the fun … but Luna and Butch and Alpha and Steeldust are at right – Steeldust on duty. Steely Dan put the kibosh to curious George’s track … and then this:

Check out Hook’s look – directly at Steeldust. Is that a “hey, thanks, man, I owe you one”? It appears I wasn’t the only one distracted by the play of boys. πŸ˜‰

(Again, that light in the background!)

And that’s all I have time for – work calls. More to come!





Jumping

5 03 2011

As I go through the images from the other day, I just want to share them all NOW. It takes longer to tell the stories that go with them … and the stories are what I most love to share. Oh, the dilemma.

Here are some that don’t have a particular story … almost between stories, if you will … just lovely.

Hook’s had been moseying along the top of the arroyo where the boys’ play was happening, and when mama Luna led the way away, Hook’s meandered on away, too. Another band was beyond not too far, so I moseyed along after Hook’s as the trail led – they diverged low, and I continued on the trail high up the spine of the ridge. The other horses are behind me, but there’s something that always gets me about a horse looking – somewhere, at some thing beyond your vision or ken to notice … The cloud was still over us, but stray sheets of light were randomly hitting the far hills. You can’t tell at all, but it was another windy day. πŸ™‚

Taken about the same time. Most of the horses were grazing with their butts to me. Fierro was broadside, gorgeous lit Knife Edge providing a stunning backdrop to his handsome little self.

Looking back as I went on up the trail … Hannah, looking at me, framed by half-siblings Pinon (left) and Hannah – who are (likely) full siblings.

Share now or wait till the play discussion? Hmm. When I came back from visiting the other band (all in good time), Hook’s had wandered lower from the trail that took me back to my destination. Little Fierro, who had watched the play with great interest but not been allowed to join in – by protector Steeldust and then right away by stepdaddy Hook – was practicing his moves with his best bud-“big brother”-favorite Uncle Pinon. πŸ™‚ I wish I’d been close enough for pix of THAT! Cuter ‘n heck! Such a progression … baby to colt to stallion … so much he has to learn.

As I jump from subject to subject, bear with me. It was a full, full, full day!





Merry bands of Hook and Hollywood

28 02 2011

Hook’s is an interesting tale (that I know) … young bachelor, bottom of the totem pole, following after his pals and Steeldust’s band. Last spring – early, probably at least this time of year – I started to notice Ember and Pinon together, at the edge of the band, Hook always nearby. And then they were together – separate from the band. Shortly, Hannah joined them … then Sable. Both fillies – both yearlings – left their family band before their mothers had even had that year’s foals (Mahogany lost hers; Luna’s Gideon is quite robust). Hook is an admirable band stallion, much more cautious of me now that he has a family to protect … except that all these youngsters have known me since the day they were born (Sable) or soon after, and the mother of two of them (Luna, dam of Ember and Hannah) is the most patient and tolerant mare in the basin, and in fact, was the first to use me to shed her pesky stallion. So Hook keeps a watchful eye, and the girls and Pinon treat my presence as acceptable.

Hollywood also has an interesting tale (OK, who doesn’t!). When I first started documenting the horses, the day Grey/Traveler was brought back to the basin after the roundup and his trip to Canon City and his three weeks in quarantine, Hollywood and Jif were the first other horses I found – close to Steeldust’s band, as they would be until Grey somehow managed to steal Jif right out from under the noses of Steeldust’s band and the closely-following Bachelor 7 the next April. Maybe Hollywood already had his eye on Piedra … in any case, rather than follow Jif (in Grey’s smaller band), he stayed with Steeldust’s bigger band (and still followed by the Bachelor 7 at that time) and wooed Piedra (yes, he really did), and eventually they broke off together into their own little band … followed shortly by Baylee, daughter of Mahogany (and Pinon’s elder sister). I have speculated that Piedra may be Baylee’s elder sister, and that’s why she followed … and that idea seemed strengthened by what happened with the siblings following into Hook’s band … but something has always nagged at me about Piedra’s more graceful appearance than Baylee or Pinon or Sable … and this year, particularly, I really start to doubt a blood-bond there. (Though they do share those ears!)

Ember had Fierro last July – already pregnant before she joined Hook’s band (likely sire, Mouse, though I can’t confirm). Shortly before Hannah left Steeldust’s band for Hook’s (sister Ember’s?), she managed to “stray” into Hollywood’s band. I was visiting Bounce’s (the calendar’s April photo was taken during that visit) and watched the chaos while they ignored it all (or seemed to). Hannah was frantic to get back to her mother’s family; Holls was just as adamant that she stay with him. As young as she was (yearling), I knew what that meant … I don’t know how she ended up with Holls, and I don’t know how long she was with him – running the whole time I watched at least – half an hour? An hour? – but she made it back to mama Luna. Very shortly after that, as I remember, she was with Hook and his little band. And now what do you see in the photo above? Like her sister Ember, she’ll be a mama at 2.

And Sable?

Switching back to Hollywood’s band, although coming-3-year-old Iya looks pregnant at a glance …

coming-4-year-old Baylee (elder sister of Pinon and Sable) seems still girlishly slim:

Bay-Baylee-girl

But Kestrel, who had Winona last year as a 3-year-old and elder sister of Ember and Hannah, kept her “condition” quiet until close before she foaled, so that’s just observation at this point.

Normal? Symptom of our small herd size – which is bigger now? Coming-4-year-old Reya’s condition is unknown. Her coming-3-year-old sister, Spook, lost her foal last year … Just something to make us go “hmm”?

Fierro and Ember, Pinon and Hook

Hannah

Baylee, Iya and Hollywood. I liked that I could see all their eyes. Bayles took another couple of steps that made an even better composition, but then she closed her eyes!

Iya and Holls

Pretty Piedra

Mama Piedra and her youngest, Tenaz

How toasty warm he must be in that fuzzy coat!

Tenaz and daddy Hollywood

This one is meant to show a comparison between Iya’s and Baylee’s bellies … Round Top at right, Brumley Point straight back – Tenaz at far right.

Brumley Point. To get your bearings, McKenna Peak and the unnamed promontory are to the left. The far background rimrock hills are outside the herd area.

We’ve talked about how wonderful it is to enjoy horses in their quiet moments. I am incredibly fortunate to spend such time with these horses that I can witness those moments. But they’re wild and ever watchful. Spooks do happen. πŸ™‚

Hollywood initiated a “charge” of maybe 30-50 yards? From in front of me to up the hill a little to my right, into the light …

So unfortunately out of focus …

They didn’t go far …

Calm again. Holls and Bayles … love that light illuminating his eye! Another of my favorite images of the day.

They are wild … sensitive to movement and sounds – and that darn mud made it hard to move in steady motion.

Moments after:

Piedra

Piedra and Sage

Hollywood and Sage … I just liked their shapes in the sunlight.

And bidding farewell when everything was back to calm. Love the little hitch to his nostril.

Of the pix of Holls and his band running – like or dislike? Why? Does it matter that you know “the rest of the story”? It happens … with or without my presence … It’s part of the story thread of the basin …

I still had a decent trek to the Jeep, in the mud … I didn’t know at this point what was waiting for me at the bend … But I knew I was deliriously happy, right then, right in those splendid moments in the wild American outback. Give and take. Still and in motion. Light and shadow. Questions and wonder and mystery. How much will we know? How much do we want – need – to know?





Random happiness

23 02 2011

Life got in the way of me posting yesterday (though I started one), so I didn’t quite make good on my promise to post every day for a week. The snow-weather that prevented weekend visits has given way to warm and wet (melting) weather now, so a visit to the basin this week may not be in my cards. The good news is I have a lot more photos from last week’s visit!

Here are some random images from the day that don’t necessarily fit into a “category” … they just are as they are.

Tenaz checks out some tasty morsel mama Piedra seems to have found.

Kestrel protested mildly, but Winona finally got her way.

Comanche – Kestrel and Winona were just up the hill to the right.

What a … stud! πŸ™‚ Isn’t he just wonderfully handsome?

Scenery interlude: All the near foreground is within Spring Creek Basin. The La Sal Mountains in the background are in Utah.

What caught my eye was that through-the-clouds spotlight on the mountains. A long lens is essential for photographing wildlife, and it’s also perfect for isolating parts of landscapes. The first two “layers” in the foreground are in Spring Creek Basin – the hills in front and the hills rising up behind. Then the next couple of layers are outside the basin, in Disappointment Valley. And the mountains beyond.

The entire foreground here is Spring Creek Basin.

Layers and layers of beauty

Fierro catches a snack surrounded by family – Sable just out of sight to the right.

More coming …





Some girls

20 02 2011

Can’t ignore the girls …

Iya will be 3 in late April, and I’m definitely expecting a baby out of that belly.

Iya and her best friend, Baylee. Bayles will be 4 … if she’s carrying a foal, she’s hiding it as well as Kestrel did last year.

Winona and mama Kestrel

Kestrel

Baby ‘Nona … growing up. I was looking at some older pix recently, and it’s amazing how much she looks like Kestrel when she was little. OK, probably not so amazing after all. πŸ™‚

Sweetest.

Winona

Hannah

Ember. She wasn’t as interested in me as in continuing her nap in the sunshine.

Curious Sable

Baylee

Iya and Baylee

Piedra

Raven at sunset. Looks like she’s growing a baby, too.

More girls – and boys – coming!





The bliss of snow

1 12 2010

A wee bit of snow have we in Colorado.

The ponies love it!

Duke expressing the bliss of the snow. I think it must be like ice cream for horses – they all get the same look on their faces when they eat it!

Hannah likes it!

After the dry seasons, it must be nice toΒ  get moisture just by eating it off the ground. They’re still looking for water in liquid form, though. Before and right after our last snowfall (Sunday, we got dumped on), it was pretty frigid, so now the horses have to break through ice in the ponds, even while they’re surrounded by frozen water everywhere!

It was cold enough to drive into the basin on snow and somewhat firm roads – but not too far. If you’re contemplating a visit, consider the “thaw factor.”

What a gorgeous day! Happy December, everyone!





Happy Thanksgiving!

25 11 2010

I am so thankful for the opportunity to get to know these incredible wild creatures. They give me so much more than I could ever return.

I am thankful …

I am thankful …

I am thankful …

I am thankful …

I am thankful …

I am thankful.





Alignment

18 11 2010

Hook’s band against the La Sal Mountains





Hannah, our Hannah

15 11 2010

This post is to give a shout out to a remarkable young woman who has supported our Colorado chapter of the National Mustang Association for the last couple of years, Hannah. Last year, Hannah sent $100 of her babysitting money to NMA/CO to be used in our efforts to advocate for the wild horses of Spring Creek Basin. This fall, she sent $100 again. Hannah, we so appreciate your interest in the horses!

I don’t very often (OK, maybe never) talk about our group, but I think it’s time to start “tooting our horn,” so to speak, and this may be a good time to start.

NMA/CO is a nonprofit chapter of the original organization, based in Utah, that oversees a wild horse sanctuary in Nevada. Members of that original organization had a hand in promoting the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range before the 1971 Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burro Act went into effect, an interesting fact I learned when I read Hope Ryden’s America’s Last Wild Horses. Locally, members have been staunch advocates of the Spring Creek Basin herd for more than a decade (approaching 15 years now, I believe). Our group focuses solely on the wild horses of Spring Creek Basin, and, interestingly, it was originally started at the request of a former BLM manager of the herd.

I got involved around the time of the 2007 roundup and now am president of the chapter. NMA/CO has done numerous projects in the basin, including removing old fences, building new fences and maintaining boundary fences; building the current water catchment, which provides the only source of fresh water to the horses in the basin (the other sources being extremely alkaline); providing boots to inmates in the inmate training program at Canon City; cutting and spraying tamarisk, also known as salt cedar; helping subsidize trips each spring for “alternative spring break” students from the University of Missouri who do projects on San Juan public lands in Southwest Colorado, including in the basin; trash pickup; and, perhaps the biggest project of all, buying and permanently retiring $40,000 worth of cattle AUMs in the basin several years ago, leaving only one grazing-rights holder, who runs cattle in the basin from Dec. 1 to Feb. 28. These are all projects Hannah and other members contribute to making happen for our wild horses.

Last year, I named the first filly born in Spring Creek Basin after young Hannah. The suggestion was put forward by a member of our board and unanimously – and enthusiastically! – approved by all.

Hannah-filly, now a yearling and thriving.

Hannah with her best friend, year-mate and half-sister, Sable.

Hannah-girl, thank you so much for your generous contributions to our Spring Creek Basin mustangs! You are thought of often, in fact, every time I see Hannah-filly!

From Hannah-filly and the rest of us, thank you!

NMA-news-10-fall

I hope this works … The above is a link to our current (Fall/Winter 2010) NMA/CO newsletter. As you can see (if it works!), we have a lot going on. I think it’s also time to start talking about management strategies we are encouraging in Spring Creek basin, which includes the use of fertility control. It’s about to be roundup year in the basin, and the more facts I can disseminate, the better informed people will be about our realities.

The first fact: Because of the herd population and the limited resources in the basin, a roundup is necessary. Second: With the future use of fertility control, we hope to slow (not stop) population growth and push roundups to as few and far between as possible. Local BLM is considering our proposal, and we hope that will have a favorable outcome.

More to come on this issue.