The coppers of sunset glow

5 02 2023

Doesn’t he look great? Hollywood is one of our elder stallions now – about 21 this year, if my original guess about his age when we first met was right. The last couple of years, he was looking a little lean. He doesn’t have a lieutenant, which probably contributes to his good condition. He and his band of lovely ladies do wander quite a lot. I may know relatively where to look for and find many of the other bands at any given time, but it’s always a wonder where Holls will be.

I’m really happy to see him looking so good. He may be the oldest band stallion in the basin now, but he also has one of the biggest bands!





Stripes

3 02 2023

While we wait for snow (that sticks), how about another pic of our lovely dun girls? While Aiyanna watches the pronghorns half a mile or so away, Dundee keeps her eyes on me. 🙂

Interesting how their dorsal stripes mimic some of the erosion ridges on far McKenna Peak, eh?





Squinty

31 01 2023

All that snow is BRIGHT under the Colorado sunshine! Alegre and the other mustangs do get a little squinty-eyed trying to keep out the glare.

Does she have some impressive wind knots or what?!





Nap with a view

27 01 2023

Sleepy, sleepy Skywalker. 🙂

All that snow acts as a giant light reflector, and while the air is cold, it also serves to create a very real warmth. And after filling their bellies, they’re very amenable to nice little naps!





Napping in the lap of white

21 01 2023

By the time the sun reappeared from the snow clouds, Tenaz and Skywalker and Sancho and the band had settled into naps. That sunshine *does* feel remarkably warm, especially after a blizzard wave!





Weathering winter

16 01 2023

Skywalker weathers the wind while we await the first of a few days of snow in the forecast.

Spoiler alert: It’s off to a rather slow start. We do have mud – from a decent little bit of rain – but the bit of snow that fell didn’t stick.

Good news: There’s a high percentage that we’ll get *some* sticking snow this week?!

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Today honors and celebrates the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and “focuses on civil rights issues and recognizes the use of nonviolence to promote change and calls for public service.” Those are calls we all should answer.





Kickin’ it up!

15 01 2023

One has to wonder whether bachelor Aspen was admiring Alegre as much as I was as she raced past, mud flying! He certainly looks to be in a posture of appreciation. 🙂





Sweet Winona

4 01 2023

I am so in love with just about every millimeter of this image! Other than a tiny sliver off the right side, it’s the full frame of what came out of the camera (*why* actual photo frames are made for sizes that require large slivers to be sliced off images as they come out of cameras, I will NEVER understand). After years (literally, her entire life) of being photographed, Winona is not the most cooperative of photographic subjects in Spring Creek Basin (I understand, I do, as I’m the one most often pointing a long tube in her direction!). This day, after a fresh blanket of snow that ranged from an inch in lower Disappointment Valley to a whopping 12 inches (or more) several miles up-valley, I longed to get a pic of her with that golden galleta from this past autumn with the blue-whites of the far ridges in one frame, so I was almost “shooting from the hip,” trying to keep her in focus as she walked across the little rise to join her family … and this was one of the results.

Since she was a little bitty buckskin baby (I did say that grey is our dominant color …?), when I foalsat (!) her as she napped in fields of light-lit grass on summer afternoons and evenings, mama Kestrel and daddy Comanche grazing nearby, I have loved, loved, loved, LOVED her. 🙂 And out of the thousands (?!) of photos I’ve taken of her, this one probably is my very most favorite ever.





Are the holidays over yet?

2 01 2023

Who else is experiencing holiday-season weariness? 🙂

Or maybe it was just a little shut-eye on a beautiful morning after a couple of inches of fresh snow! Buckeye wasn’t in the least interested in me hiking out to see how he and his band were doing. Snoozing was the order of the morning!

I love the holidays; really, I do! But endless ads and emails and sales and offers and ETCETERA – the commercialization – is endlessly wearying. 🙂 Take a lesson from Buckeye, and take a little nap. You’ll feel better for it!





12 from 2022

31 12 2022

Looking back helps us look forward (*when* it helps? sometimes I think looking forward is the only way to go … though I’m not very good at this myself). I think this is the third year of the (admittedly borrowed, in my case) tradition of posting 12 pix at the end of the year that represent each of the previous months. It has been a good year in Spring Creek Basin. After another less-than-positive winter and a dry spring, we had a second-in-a-row summer monsoon season and a relatively rainy early fall. Then things got dry again before we finally started to get snow a couple of weeks before Christmas.

Our excellent BLM partners – Mike Jensen, Garth Nelson and Daniel Chavez – put their enviable skills to work and built a second water catchment in the basin, starting in early summer and finishing in the fall. It’s another (our fourth) such project to catch and store liquid gold and bank it against continuing drought conditions; with the newest catchment, we have the storage capacity for 50,500 gallons of water. That’s really quite enormous (!). (Of course, we need Mother Nature’s continuing help in the form of snow and rain!)

We lost some horses (as we do every year), and we had some foals (as we do every year), and the herd and the range are in excellent and very good condition overall. In September, we celebrated our 11th anniversary since the last roundup. Fertility-control treatments continue apace, and because of the efficacy of the native PZP that we use, and the aforementioned good condition of horses and range, there’s (thankfully) nothing (no removals) on the horizon.

Without further ado, as 2022 comes to an end, let’s remember some scenes of Spring Creek Basin and its fabulous mustangs to carry us ahead into 2023 (some have been previously published here; others are new to the blog):

Tenaz (showing off his rarely-seen generous star with wind whipping aside his forelock) and the mustangs rang in the first day of 2022 with fresh snow! A handsome bay mustang does look rich and supremely healthy in new snow. I know I write that a lot with regard to bay mustangs, but really, have you ever seen a better color combination!? OK, OK … all of the other equine colors look pretty fabulous, too. 🙂

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Even baby horses like Lluvia love to catch fluttering snowflakes on their lips! They do make me laugh, these ponies (see yesterday’s post about laughing with friends!). 🙂 With their thick, insulating coats, mustangs are well adapted to winters in high desert areas such as Spring Creek Basin. Our winters are fairly mild, though we do have some frigid days … and snow!

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Dundee, Rowan and Aiyanna came from Sand Wash Basin in September 2021 and were welcomed here with monsoon-grown grasses. They filled out nicely that fall, but by March, they were a bit on the lean side. I think that had to do with their youth: Dundee was 2, and Rowan and Aiyanna were yearlings – all three still growing. They all blossomed throughout this year, as you’ve seen from recent pix of the girls. On this particular evening, they were high on a ridge on the west side of Filly Peak when another band appeared below, sending them into a gallop that I was thrilled to “capture” in that glorious golden light!

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We may not have gotten much snow last winter and not much rain in the spring, but because of the previous summer’s monsoon rains – which, after a period of tense waiting, filled all the ponds – we came through winter and into spring with full ponds, which meant fantastic water in April. One of the greatest joys of watching mustangs is seeing them splash and play in water in nearly-belly-deep ponds – and then drink long, thirst-quenching draughts. Again, these ponies do make me laugh!

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Corazon works his classic mustang-silhouette-at-sunset pose. He has really come into his own as a steady band stallion these last few years, and his son and daughter adore him. His son, in particular, is a mini-me who inherited both his black-and-white coat and his flank heart. Though Corazon’s namesake heart isn’t visible in this image, I think it’s one that does cause one’s heart to soar, just to see a mustang free in the wild, the glowing horizons fading into infinity.

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You’d never know it to look at them, but these sprightly creatures are sisters! Their mama was lovely Tesora, whom we sadly lost in February. She lives on in their spirit and beauty. Lluvia sticks close to big sister TaylorK, whom she knows more as an auntie. Family is – always – everything. (As they run, do you see the soaring bird in the pattern on Lluvia’s shoulder? She has another on her right shoulder.)

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With green all around him as the summer days advanced through July, Sundance made clear to another stallion, who was a bit closer than Sundance thought was appropriate, that his proximity was NOT appropriate. He does look rather intimidating, doesn’t he? Sundance is one of the most laid-back stallions out there (and really, they’re all fairly easy going, most of the time), and he’s also very protective – just like all of them. All it usually takes is a bit of posturing, sometimes some sniffing and nudging and squealing, and points are made! Successful conversation … without a word spoken.

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Speaking of proximity issues … ! These two boys are former longtime BFFs, with the sorrel previously the lieutenant of the grey. But then those roles reversed, and sorrel Braveheart wasn’t so generous as to allow Pitch to be HIS lieutenant. The more things change … eh?! Our bands are generally very stable, but the horses are wild, after all, and young stallions do grow up and seek families of their own – as do the fillies.

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Stepdaddy Braveheart is quite proud of and protective of his family of Winona and Reuben. (Remember that amazing grass this fall after the monsoon rains?!) This was a beautiful, warm evening when a few bands had gathered together (but not *too* close together), and I moseyed along with them as they grazed and moved from the northwest valley toward Spring Creek canyon. When the little threesome paused in the most photogenic spot possible, with iconic McKenna Peak and Temple Butte in the background, I couldn’t press the shutter fast or long enough! This is the photo I gave Connie Clementson upon her retirement as manager of Tres Rios Field Office in Dolores.

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In October, BLM wildland firefighters along with some Forest Service (San Juan National Forest) partners from around the region (including a crew from Monticello, Utah (Manti-La Sal National Forest)), conducted a prescribed burn to help maintain wildlife habitat on the ridge south of Spring Creek Basin that forms part of the southern reach of Disappointment Valley. Because of the moisture we had earlier in the summer, the three-day burn moved slowly and was well monitored by at least 30 firefighters. I don’t know what the total acreage was, but it wasn’t a huge area, and it mainly consisted of burning piles of old, fallen pinon and juniper trees so grasses can grow. To clarify, the burn was NOT in the basin. But the slowly drifting smoke – which was visible from the basin but didn’t blow over the basin – made for some dramatic scenes. As I remember, it rained a couple of days after the end of the burning, and our sky returned to its usual clear turquoise.

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Napping with pals is just about the best, most peaceful way to spend a lovely fall day in November. There were two bands and a group of young bachelors in fairly close proximity to each other when I hiked out to visit with them all, and it was such a soft, quiet, gentle evening among friends. The horses draw such comfort from each other … and I gain such amazing comfort from them. On these days, especially, I wish such peace was something that could be bottled and shot into space to rain down on people and places less fortunate than us.

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In early December, we were still pretty dry in the basin, but we had this little cherub to brighten the days. 🙂 She’s a classic example of grey foals being born a color (sorrel, bay, black, etc. – my family even has a grey Quarter Horse mare that was born palomino) and *greying out* – though our grey foals don’t often grey out as fast as this little girl. Mama Echo was born black. I think I’ve mentioned before that grey is the dominant color among the mustangs of Spring Creek Basin. In that way, too, these two are classics. 🙂

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As in years past, how about a bonus pic?

Winona and her son Reuben and one of the many amazing views from Spring Creek Basin, looking out across far lower Disappointment Valley to Utah’s La Sal Mountains, snowclad once again from fall onward. If that scene doesn’t scream (ever so quietly, of course) *peace*, I’m not sure what could. Their band and a couple of others had gathered at a pond, and they were walking away. I was trying to anticipate horses walking *across* that view, but mostly, they were lined straight out away from me as they left the water to return to their evening grazing. When I saw Winona – with confident baby Reuben leading the way – I was somewhat disappointed that they were so far away. … Then I realized that, to capture *that* view, my long lens needed the space of distance. Truly, sometimes it really *does* all come together!

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Thank you all for reading about and enjoying our Spring Creek Basin mustangs this year. Many special thanks to those of you who faithfully come up with comments every day (sometimes, it must be nearly as hard as it is to come up with blog-post titles)!

Here’s to a coming year with plenty of moisture (!), and full ponds and catchments, and forage that grows ’em up strong and healthy. To take to heart a lesson from the mustangs and other wildlife: Be present in the moment! Some times (sometimes? many times?), that’s ever so much better than looking back or worrying about what’s ahead. 🙂

Happy New Year’s Eve!