Mountain magic

22 01 2009

Go never to the wild with an agenda … If you’re silly enough to go with an agenda, be prepared to abandon it immediately.

That is a lesson I learned early on, and it continues to hold true. As late as driving along the herd area on the county road Sunday morning, I had one mission but no agenda. I had an idea where I wanted to park and hike in – not my favorite hike-in spot – but that idea was quickly abandoned when I happened to spot a white spot among white snow spots: the pintos. Hit reverse, back to my spot, through the fence and onward.

When you’re given horses, never ignore the gift.

Sharing snow

Sharing snow

The pinto girls and boy and their solid pals were below the bench that runs around the west side of their hill, grazing lazily in the sunshine. In this photo, Kiowa and Copper shared a patch of snow. Check out Copper’s expression.

Chipeta and admirers

Chipeta and admirers

Front to back: Corazon, Chipeta and Ty. I don’t quite understand the dynamics of this non-traditional family, but it makes for fun watching. Copper definitely seems to be back in charge, but he tends to leave Chipeta to her own devices. She’s a bit of a coquette, I think. If they get too close, she pins her ears warns them away. It’s a little dance they do.

Mesa and the girls

Mesa and the girls

We scared up some deer, and the horses walked on up to the top of the hill. Chipeta caught up to Kiowa, and Mesa paused to check me out before moseying out to lead the line.

I headed toward Round Top with the particularly vague idea of hiking to the summit to survey the area. At 10 a.m., the ground was still frozen. By at least 10:45 a.m., the thaw was well under way. Good thing I didn’t really want to march up the Top because I spotted horses out on the hill where the pinto band was last weekend.

Four horses total. Two together, Bruiser a little farther away and … David? By himself? Uh oh. The two horses together were Cinch and Shadow. Luckily, they waited until I hiked out to them to start the fireworks. (David saw me, but the others didn’t until after the show.)

I said no!

I said no!

Cinch got frisky, but yearling (actually, she’ll be 2 this spring) Shadow wasn’t willing to accept him, so she ran from him, occasionally firing a half-hearted kick at his chest.

Go away!

Go away!

Right after this, they suddenly stopped and started grazing (as best they could through the snow). David was right above them, watching them and me, and I thought Shadow might walk right up to him. But she didn’t. He finally turned around and went back down his side of the hill. Finally Bruiser noticed me, then Cinch, then Shadow. THEN she walked up the hill to David, and normalcy was restored.

Some magic

Some magic

They trotted down the hill toward an arroyo, then up the other side toward Round Top.

Another sort of chase

Another sort of chase

David finally had enough of Cinch being close to his girl and lunged at him. This was across the arroyo. They all trotted away together.

I continued on up toward Round Top, hiking past the pond on the way. Dry. Not even any snow in the bed of the pond. There’s a trail that goes up to the ridge on the southwest side of the saddle between the two Tops, which I’m starting to call the saddle trail. From there, I spotted, way off yonder in the amazingly far distance, what looked like Grey/Traveler’s band. I could pick out a grey – him or Houdini – and what looked like Twister.

Sleepy Seven

Sleepy Seven

Look who I found napping in the sunshine closest to Round Top. He was sort of uncharacteristically calm; I couldn’t believe he watched me while lying down. At first, I saw just him and Roja – grazing nearby – and was really looking around for old-girl Molly.

Sleepy Molly

Sleepy Molly

When I finally saw her, I realized that while focusing on Seven and Roja, I had walked right by Molly, who was napping under a tree, one of her habits. She looked at me for a minute, then seemed to realize that I was closer to her family than she was and trotted on back to them. Seven got to his feet and stretched, then started nickering to Molly, but it was a little odd – more like a colt nickering to his mother than a stallion nickering to his mare. I know that sounds weird, and it was.

Roja and Molly

Roja and Molly

These girls are close. I think Molly could be Roja’s dam.

Seven and his girls

Seven and his girls

Once they reunited, they didn’t go far, but I headed back up to the trail. I was glad to see these ponies.

After I saw Seven and the girls, I was pretty sure the far horses were, indeed, Traveler’s band, but they were way up to the northwest, and my Jeep was way back to the southwest. Because of the snow and mud and what promised to be a long walk not only to where the band was but then back to the Jeep, I decided to walk back to the Jeep, then drive up to the corral and hike from there.

Under the mountains

Under the mountains

The horses ended up being even farther along the hill above the corral than I thought. That’s Filly Peak sloping up to the right. Two Boots looking at me, Twister behind her, Houdini grazing, and Iya in front of her.

Houdini

Houdini

Mama Houdini. Random thought from the day: She should be about three months from foaling.

Traveler

Traveler

Handsome boy.

Horses, mountains

Horses, mountains

See the fence in the background? Behind the horses. That’s the boundary fence that eventually runs down to the county road. I’ve never been that close to that fence.

Bliss

Bliss

The promised image of Traveler enjoying a bite of snow. He really seemed to enjoy it!

Backside of Filly Peak

Backside of Filly Peak

Twister, Traveler and Jif with the southwest side of Filly Peak in the background.

Jif

Jif

Jif should have Traveler’s foal this spring, too.

Family

Family

A final look of the day at the ponies.

I took my time walking back across the hill and down to the Jeep, savoring the day and letting my tiredness catch up to me. The weather was particularly gorgeous; for January, it was nothing less than amazing. My mission of the day, by the way, was to find Grey. Fabulous day.

We’re supposed to get some snow in the next few days, so I won’t be making a trip to the basin this weekend. But I will be taking a trip to the Browning Ranch in Farmington, N.M., which acts as a holding facility for wild horses rounded up and removed from (at least) the Carson National Forest. Claude Steelman, photographer and author of the excellent book Colorado’s Wild Horses, adopted a yearling colt from the Carson and took him home last Thanksgiving. I’m going to meet up with Claude there and see what’s what.





Walkabout

1 12 2008
What a fanfabnomenal day! Look who I found:
Shadow and David

Shadow and David

It was a little crowded at the yucky water puddle between Flat Top and Round Top (ugh; couldn’t the ponies have chosen a better watering hole?). But the craziest thing was that until I got there, I was thinking that I wasn’t going to see many horses today.

We got snow/rain late last week, and the county road past the herd area was still wet and muddy in places. I decided not to tempt fate (call me paranoid) by driving the road to the basin’s main entrance, so I went down to the corrals instead. I hardly ever hike in from there because it’s a long walk to get to where you might start seeing horses. I headed toward the water catchment and the “front country” first because that’s where Grey/Traveler and Steeldust had their bands last weekend. The new girls were low on their north hills, but the area was otherwise devoid of horses. I did see someone driving out, though, so I guess the road wasn’t as bad as I had feared.

It was one of those crazy beautiful days where the clouds are playing games with the sunlight. When I first got there, most of the basin was under full sunshine, but clouds looked ominous to the south and west. There was evidence of the recent snowstorm along the tops of the near ridges and the far hills. Just astoundingly beautiful. But then the clouds covered the sun, and the rest of the day was cloudy over the basin. It was mostly sunny to the north, but by the time I left, clouds had almost completely veiled the La Sal Mountains, and the basin was purple against the sunshine turning the west hills gold.

Through the binoculars, from the road past the catchment, I spotted horses way down to the southeast. I thought they were Grey’s band, but I couldn’t tell for sure, and I couldn’t tell exactly where they were. As it turned out, they WERE Grey’s, and they were a bit east of Round Top. While I was heading toward them – before I realized quite how far they were yet – I spotted a black horse against the sky between Flat Top and Round Top. … Shadow? I hadn’t seen her or David for quite a while (almost as long as I had gone without seeing Seven and his girls), but I walked on up to the base of Round Top to see how far away Grey/Traveler was – and I was planning to take the Round Top trail back toward the corrals anyway. It turned out the silver boy and his family were still quite a distance from where the road ends at the base of Round Top (and where the trail takes off), so I made sure everyone was there (Iya still nursing), then hit the trail.

I was feeling a little disappointed that I hadn’t seen Steeldust’s big band … Who do you suppose I found hunkered down between the Tops?

A boy and his band

A boy and his band

Steely Dan, with some very muddy furballs masquerading as his sons and daughters!

Mud, Muddy and Muddier

Mud, Muddy and Muddier

Or is that Muddiest, Muddier and Muddy?! Butch, Sundance and Kestrel (possibly siblings). You can see they’re still wet, and that’s not a shadow on Kestrel’s side; it’s her very own swath of mud.

I don’t know if it was the nip in the air or something in the mud, err, water, but the ponies were feisty today! Ember was bucking around, and Kestrel, Butch and Sundance would be calm for a few moments – like in the photo above – then one would back into the other, and THEY would start playing around with each other! It was awesome to watch them feeling so good and being so silly!

Storm and Alpha

Storm and Alpha

Luna girl in the background. I think it was the mud. The mudballs were the silliest. 🙂

Invitation to play

Invitation to play

Innocent Storm … He’s still gullible.

Sweetening the invitation

Sweetening the invitation

Aww … such a sweet girl, giving kisses …

Gotcha!

Gotcha!

Is that just like a girl?

Look out!

Look out!

She looks fierce, doesn’t she?

Calm after the storm

Calm after the storm

No pun intended!

No rest

No rest

Then she was off with Pinon (poor boy – can’t resist).

One more

One more

And muddy Kestrel couldn’t resist, so she jumped right in … and Butch and Sundance came to play, too, but they all went and hid behind mamas …

Steeldust

Steeldust

And big daddy!

Lost boys

Lost boys

Breakaway boys Kreacher, Hook and Chrome were back with the band – hanging out here with Duke. That nasty-looking dark splotch on Chrome’s face is just mud.

Making friends

Making friends

But before Duke and the grey boys rejoined the band, Duke was thirsty enough to march up to the puddle for a drink – while David and Shadow were there. They were very respectful of each other.

Kreacher and Hook

Kreacher and Hook

Sweet boys.

Look who else was watching the goings-on:

Waiting patiently

Waiting patiently

They’re up by Round Top there. Funny that the yucky little water hole has become such a gathering place. Maybe I’m the only one who thinks it’s so yucky?!

David and Shadow

David and Shadow

These guys hung out at the water hole the whole time all the silliness was going on in Steeldust’s band. Maybe I wasn’t the only one entertained! 🙂

Fun day and a great walk – four and a half hours from corrals to corrals. One great big loop walkabout. Saw 34 of the 50 horses – all but the pinto family, the pinto boys, Poco, Bones and Roach, and Bounce’s band. The ground was soft, so the basin definitely got some of that rain and/or snow, though, like here, no snow remained.

A fanfabnomenal day!





Giving thanks

28 11 2008
Another beautiful morning

Another beautiful morning

As I write this post, it really is still Thanksgiving, even though I know the blog will say otherwise. Not that I can’t give thanks for the horses, and my time with them, any day of the year, but I just wanted to make that point. All these photos are from last Sunday. As you’ll see, it was a gorgeous day. Also as I write this post, it’s snowing. The basin is getting rain or snow or some combination. The horses are likely wet, but hopefully they’re as ready for this next season as they look. They – we – really need the moisture.

In the photo above, that’s Hollywood and Baylee near the road and the water catchment. Steeldust’s family and all the bachelors but Chrome, Kreacher and Hook also were there.

Big band

Big band

The horses were all very relaxed and calm Sunday morning about an hour after sunrise.

Steeldust, Alpha and Storm

Steeldust, Alpha and Storm

I included this photo as the start of a little visual journey. Soon after I took this photo, Storm laid down for a nap.

Sleepy boys

Sleepy boys

There’s Pinon standing over Storm, with Sundance snoozing behind them.

Daddy on guard

Daddy on guard

Slightly different angle. That’s Ember behind Steeldust.

So that’s nice, you’re thinking, but this isn’t much of a story. Maybe not, but all stories need a beginning. See, I took these photos from just down from the fenced-in water catchment. The light wasn’t the best from this angle, but it was the best angle to catch little Storm-chaser at his nap (and who can resist?). My back was to the northeast, where that hill drops off to the big “flat” below.

So I’m taking pix from a crouched position, and the horses are calm, and Storm is looking at me but not bothered enough to disturb his semi-nap. But then all of a sudden, all the horses looked up at me. What did I do? I hadn’t moved?

Hoofbeats. Behind me. Trotting.

Boo!

Boo!

I look back, and there’s Grey/Traveler trotting after Jif, who is trotting up over the edge of the hill and right past me! He’s trotting in this photo – can you see his eye looking at me? I think he was as surprised to see me as I was to see him!

Traveler and Jif

Traveler and Jif

He finally got her to stop there, where they’re looking at Steeldust’s band (who were all possibly just as surprised as the rest of us), who were looking back at them. I figured the rest of the band was coming up the trail, but they never showed up.

Sassy Jif

Sassy Jif

Moments later … “I’m going, already.”

Not too worried

Not too worried

He followed after her, pretty calm, as you can see here, but this is where the story (visually) got good.

The chase is on

The chase is on

Jif was being sassy and lolly-gagging along, so Grey/Traveler decided to push a little harder.

Cant catch me

Cant catch me

Now he’s starting to get a little mad.

Keep moving

Keep moving

I really thought the band was just out of sight below the edge of the hill.

Over the edge

Over the edge

They dropped over the edge, and I walked over slowly, expecting to see the other horses.

All calm on the eastern front

All calm on the eastern front

But they weren’t. I walked back to the Jeep and drove on down the hill and across the “flat,” where this photo was taken from the Jeep. Left to right: Jif, Houdini, Iya and Twister (Iya is just barely visible), and Two Boots. Grey/Traveler is just out of the picture at right. They were way away! (Relatively.) Why did Jif go running off like that? She’s kind of independent, but does she do that often? Another hmm. The end.

Not really, of course. I had spotted the new girls up on a hill around from the dry-pond trail, so that’s where I headed next.

Da girls

Da girls

They were out enjoying the sunshine, as calm and relaxed as Steeldust’s and Grey’s bands (minus the Jif incident).

Pretty little girl

Pretty little girl

Isn’t she cute?

Black mare

Black mare

Don’t let this angle fool you; she’s really a girl with (small) spots.

Cute n curious

Cute n curious

I walked across the hill below them to get them in better light, then sat down to hang out with them for a little while and see what they’d do. This little girl just walked on over, the better to see me. Black mare and apricot mare stayed back. Feeding their pal to the lion? Just waiting to see what the lion would do? Some friends, eh? Ha.

Let me just check out this saltbush ...

Let me just check out this saltbush ...

I love her curiosity. When she realized I a) wasn’t a lion and b) wasn’t going to eat her, she just went to grazing. She did that for several minutes then walked back to her pals to give them the scoop.

OK?

OK?

OK.

Showing her spots

Showing her spots

Watchful girl.

Little apricot

Little apricot

Calm enough to graze. I like it when that happens.

It was a really nice, quiet visit with these girls. I’m really quite fond of them!

I never expected to see Seven and his mares again Sunday, but I decided to go have a look anyway, just in case. Would you believe they were in the same exact place – a little closer to Flat Top – as where I found them Saturday? It’s where I last saw them in early October … and I’ve looked there every time I’ve been out there since – and never seen them until this weekend!

Seven

Seven

Handsome boy.

Molly and Roja

Molly and Roja

I didn’t stay with them long, and I didn’t take many photos. They were fine with me standing at a distance. I checked off the ridge but didn’t see any other horses.

Breakaway boys

Breakaway boys

Almost forgot this pic of the three boys who wandered away from the big band: Chrome at left, Hook and Kreacher. This was taken from the road, almost to the base of Round Top, looking eastish. Kind of a cool backdrop, eh?

I looked for Steeldust’s band on my way back out but wasn’t seeing them. From the north, I had seen them walking along the ridge toward the pond near the entrance, so I thought I might see them in that area. Sometimes, they’re where you’re least expecting them.

Steely Dan and fam

Steely Dan and fam

They were against the hill right inside the main entrance. They barely looked up from their grazing …

Aspen

Aspen

Except this guy. He was looking so handsome in the sunlight, I couldn’t resist taking his picture.

Ember and Luna

Ember and Luna

And this little girl. I keep thinking of all this year’s yearlings, how they looked last year when they were the age of this year’s babies. They grow so quickly. Ah … I’m so sentimental.

But wait! The story’s not yet over. Guess who I saw right from the county road on my way home?

Painted ponies

Painted ponies

I took pictures of them right from the fenceline off the road. Here, from front to back: Kiowa, Chipeta, Corazon, Reya and Spook.

Ty

Ty

Ty was back with the band. I guess he found family life more appealing than life as a single guy.

Muddy Mesa

Muddy Mesa

Big muddy boy. Copper was the farthest from the band and never came very close. The king is (driven away); long live the king? Corazon was right with the band … which isn’t unusual EXCEPT that Copper was so far away. So is Corazon the new head of family?

And that’s the Sunday story. Heartfelt thanks to my ponies, as always.





And on the seventh day …

26 11 2008
Seven and his girls

Seven and his girls

Look who decided to make an appearance: Seven, left, Molly and Roja. They were at the yucky little water hole between Flat Top and Round Top on Saturday with Bruiser and Cinch. Molly is showing her age, but she looks pretty good. Roja is downright fat! Seven is handsome as ever. That light patch on Molly’s hip is just dried mud, in case you were wondering, like I was.

I walked out to them on the trail that goes around the west side of Round Top and connects to the trail that runs along the ridge sort of south of Flat Top down to the water hole that has been dry since April. Right along that ridge trail is where Bruiser and Cinch were grazing. Seven saw me for quite a while as I was hiking, but the spotted boys were oblivious until I was fairly close.

Wide open invisible

Wide open invisible

This is Cinch, with Seven in the background. I was standing in the middle of the trail here, in full view of Seven, and I had expected Cinch and Bruiser to spot me much earlier than this. In fact, although you can see Cinch’s eye here, he still hasn’t noticed me.

Hello!

Hello!

Cinch pretends to finally notice Seven.

And hello!

And hello!

Now they see me. Bruiser on the left.

Boys

Boys

A wider shot showing Seven in the background.

Molly and Roja

Molly and Roja

See how fat is Roja? She’s the sorrel mare walking away. The white stuff is the salty stuff around the little water puddle. And that’s Molly looking at me.

Mr. Handsome

Mr. Handsome

Seven was not very happy about the proximity of the pinto stallions, but they insisted on sticking around.

Bruiser and Seven

Bruiser and Seven

Older and recent band stallion Bruiser seemed to recognize Seven’s dominance, and neither he nor Cinch put up much “fight.”

Arabian knight?

Arabian knight?

“How cool am I?” Seven seems to ask here. Isn’t he beautiful?

El Victorio

El Victorio

Very satisfied with himself.

Seven

Seven

I have definitely missed seeing this boy.

Molly, Seven and Roja

Molly, Seven and Roja

This was taken near the road to Round Top looking sort of northish, maybe slightly northeastish.

Boys with spots

Boys with spots

One more of Cinch, left, and Bruiser. What if Bruiser is Cinch’s sire? Similar faces, eh? But check out those little curvy hooks at the tips of Cinch’s ears! Cute!

Quiet time

Quiet time

Steeldust’s band was right along the base of the roller-coaster ridge, just a little southeast of the pond. They were fairly spread out. Mouse was close to the family band (seen above minus Kestrel, Steeldust and Mahogany and Pinon), Aspen, Comanche and Duke were hanging out with Hollywood, Piedra and Baylee, and the breakaway boys – Chrome, Kreacher and Hook – were even farther south. In the photo above, from left, Storm, Alpha, Ember and Luna, Butch (hard to see) and Sundance. You may not be able to see it in this small photo, but Ember is totally eyeing me even while having her snack.

Luna and Kestrel

Luna and Kestrel

Luna and her yearling filly, Kestrel. Even though yearling filly Baylee (Mahogany’s daughter) decided to join Hollywood’s little band with Piedra (who might be her big sister), Kestrel is still with the big family.

Luna and her babies

Luna and her babies

Luna and her youngest babies, Ember and Kestrel. And a bonus background. Can you guess? That’s Filly Peak way off yonder to the west.

Steeldust

Steeldust

Family man Steely Dan walking toward Luna (and Ember and Kestrel) with the beautiful La Sal Mountains in the background.

Pinon and Mahogany

Pinon and Mahogany

I think young Mr. Pinon is growing up to be such a handsome young man!

Alpha, Storm and Sundance

Alpha, Storm and Sundance

Storm looks slightly disembodied here, but he’s still lying down as in that first photo of the group.

Little prince

Little prince

A closer look …

Soooo sleepy

Soooo sleepy

Check out his wispy little “Trojan horse” mane!

Napping

Napping

Daddy Steeldust was taking advantage of the warm sunshine, too. Flat Top in the background.

Boo-boo

Boo-boo

Hollywood and Mouse got into a little play fight last Sunday while we watched them near the end of the day. Although none of us thought they were being at all serious, Hollywood came away with a cut on his lip, and Mouse has an apple-size swelling on his neck.

Hearts

Hearts

Say it with me now: Awwwww. I love how their faces seem to mimic the shape of a heart. Piedra, left, and Hollywood.

Alegre and Gaia

Alegre and Gaia

These last photos were actually taken at the very end of the day Friday (all the other pictures on this post were taken Saturday). Bounce and his girls were down on the other, north, side of the roller-coaster ridge.

Bounce m'boy

Bounce m'boy

Such a handsome boy! That’s McKenna Peak (thanks, Kathe and Bob) in the background, namesake of the McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area.
Only beautiful

Only beautiful

I love this boy, Bounce. And I love his look here.
Can you have too many beautiful weekends in the wild? As I’m writing this, it’s the day before Thanksgiving. I could never take the horses, their beauty and grace, for granted. My heartfelt thanks to them for what they teach me every time I’m with them.
I do still have some photos from Sunday to tweak and post, including more of Seven and his girls, and some from a lovely visit with the new girls. Over the course of the weekend, I saw all the horses but David and Shadow! (So now who’s the object of the wild horse chase, eh?) Thanks also to you readers who have come along in this journey of getting to know our Spring Creek Basin horses.




Glorious rain – Aug. 31, 2008

31 08 2008
Spring Creek running

Spring Creek running

We start this weekend’s story in the middle of the story. From the wilderness study area in the southern part of the herd area, I got chased out twice by monstrous black clouds and threatening thunder. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen clouds that downright ugly. Walking around with a personalized lightning-bolt-attractor in the form of a metal monopod … not the smartest thing I’ve been accused of. The storms dropped rain in a very localized area – they came in sort of stationary “waves” and never passed out of the very east “pocket” of the basin, right inside the boundary ridgeline.

Fast forward to my drive into the main part of the basin. So far so good – until I hit the Spring Creek crossing! OK, so it’s not exactly clear, but it has to be indicative of more and possibly better water upstream (the point of this is that I think Spring Creek originates in the east). Any water in the basin is a good thing. All that grass in the east is going to benefit from the rain, too, and that benefits the ponies! So I got out of the Jeep and did a happy dance before I took some pix for documentation purposes.

No cross here

No cross here

This photo, like the one above, was taken from about the same spot – about mid-stream just downstream of the crossing. This one isn’t as dramatic as the first, but from the two pictures, you can tell that water is running in two “streams.” What you might not be able to tell is how gushy the mud gets when it becomes mud!

In the first photo, the darker soil right above the water is the high-water mark! It was about 2.5-3 feet above the arroyo. The water went about 8-10 feet away from the flat of the crossing, which is at the top of the photo. Before I went to the basin this weekend, I decided to take my mountain bike. I walked through the creek in my sandals, carrying my bike, and rode from there. Awesome!

But … I’m getting ahead of myself.

My weekend visit to the horses started at the county road across from the south meadow, where I spotted Cinch, then Bruiser. Hoping to find the others (band and bachelors) also in the meadow, I parked and hiked in. (A quick re-cap: David Glynn alerted me to the change in status of the pinto band and the “southside boys” bachelor band. I found them all last weekend, and Bruiser – band stallion – was definitely out, but it was hard to tell who had become king of the hill, err, band.) This Saturday, Cinch and Bruiser were on the south side of the arroyo that runs out to the road and just at the base of a little hill the horses pass to get into the meadow. So I hiked in on the north side of the arroyo, which provides more tree cover. My main goal was more observation of the new combined band, not photography, so I stayed out of their view until I reached the discreet little deer trail that leads up to the top of the hill north of the meadow. The rest of the horses were not in the meadow, so I went on up.

When I didn’t see the other horses from up top, I headed back down on one of at least two routes that takes the horses to the meadow – the “high” route that crosses the arroyo earlier (farther east) and skirts the hill on the south side of that arroyo. (Both trails take the horses to the better grazing on the south side of the arroyo.) The trail I took has a heights-defying spot that seems in imminent danger of eroding into oblivion. Any fall from there – maybe 15 feet? – would hurt horse or human.

At the edge of the trees above the meadow, I stopped to ready my camera in case the boys were still there. Ready to go and looked up to see two curious dark faces – Cinch and Bruiser. 🙂 Cinch pranced around a little, but Bruiser was so calm, Cinch calmed down as well, and they posed for some pretty pictures. I took pix as I walked around them, and the thunder chased me back to the road.

Sweet boys

Sweet boys

It does help the more wary horses to have a calm compadre nearby. Bruiser walks OK, but I noted last weekend that he limps on his left front if he tries to trot. Cinch is sporting a “roached” look here. It’s longer and wispier than Roach’s was when his was roached, probably caused by his pals chewing on it.

My next likely area to search for horses is a big open area just south of the San Miguel/Dolores County line, also right off the county road. On first pass, I didn’t see any horses. But on the hillside just north of the big open: Seven’s band. They’ve done some traveling since the loss of the filly, from the east to the southwest part of the herd area.

Seven's band

Seven's band

Seven with Molly, center, and Roja. Old Molly is still a thin girl, but she’s sure to gain some weight without the filly nursing.

From where I stopped to see them, I spotted Corazon back in the big open (which does have hills and trees and arroyos). Perfect. Another big cloud was brewing in the east, but I was covered in sunshine, and the rain from the previous cloud hadn’t made it to my part of the herd area. So in I walked.

David and Shadow

David and Shadow

Hello! It’s always nice when the ponies find you! I was glad to see that once-bachelor David has been able to hold on to yearling filly Shadow, but I was a little worried about them being so close to the other band. And I worried that he’d tip my presence to the band. Not to fear on either account. They must have skirted past the band because I later saw them farther east, and the “new band” was still where I had originally spotted them.

All in the family

All in the family

Left to right noses at top: Spook, Kiowa, Reya, Chipeta and … drum roll, please … Copper, the mud-encrusted new king. Then Corazon (pinto), Mesa (bay) and Ty.

New family

New family

With top-of-the-heap status comes great responsibility. Copper’s guarding his new family from the bachelors, out of frame to the left.

Pinto girls

Pinto girls

Girls with spots. From left, mama Kiowa, her 2008 filly, Spook, 3-year-old Chipeta and Kiowa’s yearling filly, Reya. Very calm; very cool. And it was time to beat the thunder, so I walked away, leaving them very calm and very cool.

And that brings us back to raging Spring Creek.

I had spotted Steeldust’s band and the Bachelor 7 way around in the east at about the curve where the road heads south, so I headed that way by bike. It was way cool to get out of the Jeep and on the bike in the basin. I got off the bike at the washout. You could definitely see by the soil that it had rained hard back there. The horses didn’t seem to see me ride up, so I stood on the road on the other side of the washout until the bachelors saw me and alerted the band, then walked on down the road. They were up the hill away from the road … checked me out, then went back to grazing. A good problem to have, I guess!

Baby Storm was hammin’ it up, though, so I got some good pictures of the little boy.

Pinon nursing

Pinon nursing

Storm nursing

Storm nursing

By the time I got out to them, it was around 7ish – dinner time!

Baby boys

Baby boys

Pinon, left, is about 3 and a half months old, and Storm is about a month and a week old. Pinon has gotten a lot darker in the past few weeks.

Posin'

Posin'

No words necessary. 🙂

What kind of flowers?

What kind of flowers?

I thought I figured out what kind of flowers these are when they were blooming earlier this summer, but now I can’t remember and can’t find them in my wildflower book(s). They’re blooming – again – all over. (Notice the flowers in the previous pic with Storm. The flowers in this pic were at the edge of the little wash that leads out to the road washout. My bike was just on the other side of them.)

While I was watching Steeldust’s band grazing on the hillside, I spotted Bones, Poco and Bounce farther to the south. And that was Saturday. Really a fabulous day. The loss of the filly still bothers me, but humans who watch wild horses must adapt as they do. Always more to learn.

Sunday’s story is all about rain! I slept in the Jeep right inside the herd area boundary. Woke up around 1 a.m. after a dream that I woke up in the Jeep the next morning and it had snowed and a guy was skiing up the road into the basin! Reality: At 1 a.m., lightning was flashing sporadically to the west, but the sky was filled with stars (you really haven’t lived till you’ve seen that night sky – phenomenal), so I went back to sleep.

Woke up at 3:15 to rain tapping on the Jeep’s roof. I don’t recommend this, but I spent the rest of the night at the intersection at the county road … and woke up just before daylight to steady rain. If I hadn’t wanted to see my Grey-boy so badly, I’d have called it a day at 7 a.m. and headed for home. Yeah …

Long story short, I inched my way back into the basin but got stopped before the first “V” arroyo. The road was good till that point, but it took me awhile because I kept stopping to scan for horses. I stopped for good above that arroyo. By then, I had already spotted Steeldust’s band and the B7, and I had found Bounce, Alegre and Gaia way back in east park. So I had seen all but the one horse (and band) I wanted to see. It had stopped raining, and the sun had peeked through the clouds a couple of times, but huge dark clouds still loomed over the east ridge of the basin and back to the west. The length of looming almost had me convinced I could bike from there to see if I could find Grey/Traveler’s band around the far side of Lizard Mesa (east of Knife Ridge). Then I happened to spot something white far to the north.

Nine times out of 10, a white spot is a rock. The 10th time, you get lucky, and it’s Alpha, Houdini or Traveler. I grabbed the binoculars, and bingo, baby; there was my boy … and Houdini and Jif and Twister, and Two Boots and Iya, standing together under a tree. Did I say far to the north? I mean WAY far to the north. I mean way far northeastish of last August’s trap site. I mean so way far away I couldn’t see a way to get to them without a (really) long (long) hike.

About three minutes after I took some reference pictures, I checked the west clouds – uh oh. Big black cloud had become a grey sheet of rain. I really can’t stress enough to visitors that if it rains, you do NOT want to be in the basin OR on the road across private land that leads to the basin. You want to be on the good county road. I wouldn’t have so totally ignored my own advice – and believe me that it made me really nervous to be in the basin. But today is my birthday, and my birthday wish was to see my favorite boy. Wish granted. 🙂





Upsets

24 08 2008
The herd is one less. Molly’s sorrel filly, never named, is missing, presumed dead. Unfortunately, before this weekend, the last time I saw her was when the guy from Brighton chased her and her family, Aug. 2. I didn’t see Seven’s band when Karen and I were out. I don’t know how long she’s been gone. When I saw Seven, Molly and Roja on Saturday from the road south of “east park,” they were on a ridge at the edge of some trees. I couldn’t see their full bodies, and I first thought the baby was lying down napping. But when the three walked through some open areas and still the filly wasn’t visible, I got worried. I was so frantic to find the filly I didn’t take my camera when I hiked out to them, so I don’t have any pictures of the horses.

Nature. Life cycle. Whatever. It’s never a happy day when a 2-month-old filly disappears.

I couldn’t seem to function after that. I went sleepwalking back to the Jeep, then drove around to where Steeldust and the bachelors were grazing just off the road near Grey/Traveler and his band. Storm is growing so fast. Pinon is getting darker. Ember is such an old soul in her baby’s body. Iya has all but lost her sorrel shading and is very dark grey. I sat with them into the dark (it comes so quickly now) and took some comfort in their presence, their sounds: relaxed snorts, hooves on rocks, mama’s soft nicker.

I went to the basin this weekend with the head’s up that the pinto band and southern bachelor band were mixing things up. That was all the craziness I expected. Punch in the gut to later find out about Molly’s foal.

Bruiser is battered and on the outs. Saturday, he led me to the other horses far in the south, but Sunday, he was in that same area but alone. David stole the black yearling filly, Shadow, and they were right off the county road both days. Cinch, the darker pinto bachelor, was separate but close to the others Saturday. Copper (the muley red-bay bachelor) seems the closest to Kiowa, Chipeta, Reya and Spook, but Mesa (solid bay) and Corazon also are very close. It’s hard to tell who has taken the crown, so to speak. All the bachelors are heavily scarred.

Scars aside, the horses look great. Jif has gained weight and looks back to normal, if not a tiny bit chubbier (a petite mare if ever there was). They’re definitely drinking out of that full-again water hole just off the road back in the east. I stress that travelers should be careful traveling that loop road; the rain-caused erosion of some of those arroyo crossings has rendered them pretty tight. Actually, some big vehicle with wide tires and some kind of blade was in between Monday and Saturday and smoothed over some of the cuts and arroyos, including that wash just before you get to the herd area boundary. The tracks went up the road that splits off in the east (to Horse Park? Klondike Basin?), so the washout just past it is still, well, washed out. Not sure about the who/why on that road work, and I’m not sure about the long-term effectiveness of it.

I did see all the horses this weekend except the filly … but it wasn’t really the happy weekend I hoped for.

Met some other folks out in the basin Saturday. I have to say that when I saw their vehicle coming, I actually started to shake with flashbacks of the Brighton guy (and I met them before I realized Molly’s filly was gone), but they turned out to be super nice: a woman and her two daughters from Durango. From their descriptions, they had seen Poco, Bones and Roach, Seven’s band, Bounce’s band, Steeldust’s band and the Bachelor 7 before they got around to me, where I had just gotten back to the Jeep from taking some pix of Grey/Traveler and his family. They did everything right in their approach – slow and easy, and the horses looked but never budged. Excellent. They’re no strangers to the horses, either; they’ve been out to visit at least the past four years. They’re also fans of Claude Steelman! They have his book and a print of his beautiful photo “Traveler’s Return.” If you’re reading, very nice to meet you ladies.

If you’ve read this far, some photos. Try to keep the loss of Molly’s filly in perspective. I’m trying …

Shadow and David

Shadow and David

The first ponies I saw Saturday from the county road just south of the county line (in Dolores County). Last August, David had escaped from the herd area and was on some private property. The contractors took down the fence to the herd area and, using the helicopter and Shorty the Judas horse, they got him to run through the gate of the private property, across the road and into the herd area. He was never gathered. He hooked up with some then all of the “southern” bachelor band, which I call the “southside boys.” Now he has the beginnings of a family, and they’re well away from the others – at least for now.

Spook

Spook

This is Kiowa’s 2008 filly, Spook. In the very southern end of the herd area is a little “valley” with a big arroyo that runs away from the road as a drainage. It makes a nice route into the interior of the wilderness study area as well as a nice little barrier to photograph the horses.

Now what?

Now what?

The horses were going to or leaving water when I got down to the valley after following Bruiser down, so I didn’t stay too long. Cinch was separate from the band, but Bruiser kind of hooked up with him. Ty was just sort of following along. Copper seemed to be the one that could get closest to Kiowa and Spook, Reya and Chipeta. Corazon also was close, but Mesa seemed to be the enforcer keeping the others away. In the pic above: Chipeta and Copper under the tree; Corazon and Mesa in front; Kiowa and Spook in back.

Spook and Copper

Spook and Copper

Copper’s really the last one I would expect to take on “band stallion” status, given his subordinate attitude with the other bachelors. He’s not the clear leader, but only Mesa and Corazon were close to this close.

Grey/Traveler’s band was just off the loop road by the east hills when I got to the main part of the herd area later Saturday afternoon. They were very calm this time when they saw the Jeep. Good news.

Relaxed ponies

Relaxed ponies

Twister, Grey/Traveler, Houdini and Jif. See how much more “rounded” Jif looks? Better than the bony look she came back with after going missing back in June.

Bright, shiny, happy boy

Bright, shiny, happy boy

Grey/Traveler looking just downright beautiful – naturally!

Sissy, hide me!

Sissy, hide me!

Curious Iya is shy-girl. She pulled this same manuever also with Twister, but he doesn’t hide her as well because she’s almost as big as he is. Yearling Two Boots makes her stretch a little. These sisters are both Houdini’s daughters. Houdini was with the stallion Junior when she had Two Boots last year, so I’m pretty sure he’s Iya’s sire … but that doesn’t mean he’s Two Boots’ sire. Two Boots was born black, and Iya was born sorrel. You can’t really see her here, but she has just a little bit of red shading over her withers and back now; the rest is already dark grey!

Storm and Alpha

Storm and Alpha

The sun had already set by the time I got back to Steeldust’s band from Seven’s when I found out Molly’s filly is gone. I didn’t take many pix – lack of light and lack of motivation – but here’s one of Storm and Mama Alpha. He’ll be 4 weeks old Monday.

Do horses mourn? Do they grieve? Do they miss something – a baby – when it’s no longer there? No answers from me.

Basin sunrise

Basin sunrise

This morning, Steeldust’s band, the bachelors and Bounce, Alegre and Gaia were up on the east-west hill south of the loop road. Beautiful light. Another day in the basin. Life goes on.





Before and after

3 08 2008

Friday was one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had in the basin – up there with not finding Slate after the winter, worrying about Duke when he was lame and I couldn’t find him and wondering about Jif when she went missing. Read the next post for more information, but suffice to say I had the misfortune to come across a guy so clueless about wild horses he not only chased away the two bands (Poco’s and Seven’s) I was photographing by approaching them too close on foot with a short lens and a cell phone (a cell phone!!), but later I watched through binoculars as he chased Seven’s band, Grey/Traveler’s band, Steeldust’s band AND the Bachelor 7 down the road ahead of his pickup.

Before he chased them away, I did get some nice pictures of Seven’s band, and particularly Molly’s filly. Although I waited almost an hour before I drove on after the guy left, I saw only Steeldust’s band and the B7 from a distance – and they ran as soon as I stopped to look at them with the binoculars – and Seven’s hiding under some trees way back past the dry water hole east of “east park.”

Roach, Poco and Bones

Roach, Poco and Bones

Roach, Poco and Bones watching the guy approach them. At this point, he hadn’t gone back yet for his cell phone. I thought about including pictures of him but decided not to. I did send photos to the BLM herd area manager.

Seven's band

Seven's band

Seven, the filly, Molly and Roja, who apparently has been to the Wildcat Springs Spa for her mud bath! The filly doesn’t have a name yet; I’m waiting to see if David Glynn, who saw her first, wants to name her. Isn’t she a cutie? They all are, I know. 🙂

Until the guy showed up, I was counting my blessings to see Seven’s band like this. Molly, bless her old heart, is a very protective mama, and I haven’t had very many chances to take some good identification photos of her baby. This day, they were very calm, and I stayed a good distance away from them across the road and an arroyo – I’ve learned that in a lot of cases, the horses seem to regard arroyos as protective barriers. You can see Molly’s very prominent withers in the picture, but I think a lot of that is her basic conformation. She does seem to have gained a little weight, and she’s obviously feeding her filly well.

Running

Running

Poco, Roach and Bones after they ran past me and on south (behind me as I had been taking pictures). They paused momentarily, and I told Roach how sorry I was, then they galloped on down to the arroyo that runs along the base of that long hill. I never saw them again Friday or Saturday; at least they didn’t end up on the road with Seven’s and the others.

Chased away

Chased away

This is Seven’s band a few minutes later. After the guy chased Roach and Co. away, he turned his attention on Seven’s band, but those horses are not NEARLY as accommodating as Roach, and they immediately ran away. Unfortunately, they ran down farther to the road, and the guy ended up chasing them with his truck.

I didn’t see Bounce, Alegre or Gaia that day, so I hope they escaped. It has taken a long time to gain Alegre’s trust that I can drive by her without making her run.  I did see them Saturday, up in the low hills a little farther south from where I photographed Seven’s and Poco’s on Friday.

Threatening skies and rumbles chased me back around and out of the basin, and as I was leaving, I saw a single column of dark smoke away to the west outside the herd area. By the time I got to the county road, it was raining nicely, and I had a cell signal, so I called the public lands office. How cool are those guys?! The woman I talked to was pretty sure they (Forest Service, BLM, etc.(?)) were already on it.

Based on the tracks I saw leaving, I’m pretty sure he went out ahead of me (his tracks in, my tracks in; a third set as I was leaving).

One of my biggest disappointments – aside from the obvious – was that I still didn’t see Grey except from a very far distance. That’s two weeks I’ve gone without seeing him close enough to check his condition and that of his mares, the yearlings and Iya. I’m leaving the end of the week for vacation, so it will be a month of weekends before I see him again, and that’s hoping I see him when I go back out after I get back! I don’t worry too much when I don’t see the pintos or the southside boys, but it surely helps my soul to see my favorite boy regularly and know he’s OK.





A thousand emotions

15 07 2008

If one picture is worth a thousand words, the wild ones have filled me for a lifetime and beyond.  So here are a few favorite photos from the weekend to fill you, at least until next weekend.

Alpha with her band mates

Alpha with her band mates

Alpha seems perfectly content and in absolutely no hurry to have her foal.

Heave-ho!

Heave-ho!

Alpha laid down and rolled, and this is one in a sequence of photos I took of her getting back to her feet. That’s one big belly.

Rivals

Rivals

Hollywood, having successfully “wooed” Piedra and won her favor, now takes his duty to protect her very seriously. Mouse, meanwhile, doth protest. There’s a definite pecking order to the bachelors, and Mouse is on top. He gets the closest to the band, and his closest pal, Comanche, is allowed to get next closest. When they’re bored of standing around napping, Steeldust and Hollywood will go out and tease the bachelors, nibbling and sniffing, but never letting them anywhere near the band.

Stop following me!

Stop following me!

Does Pinon look slightly annoyed? His mama is just another step ahead of him, but he must have thought Steeldust (daddy) and Sundance were crowding him. Look at those ears and curled lip.

Lunch time

Lunch time

Pinon takes a lunch break.

Adults are so funny

Adults are so funny

Ember and Pinon seem to find Steeldust’s and Mahogany’s ground-level antics entertaining.

Pintos at sunset

Pintos at sunset

I found Kiowa, Spook and Chipeta with the rest of the pinto family just before sunset. They like to come down into a little “meadow” near the county road at dusk. I saw them one evening when I was leaving the area, so I checked the area Saturday, and sure enough, there they were. I’m really glad of every chance I have to see this band; they’re one of the most elusive.

Pintos at sunset

Pintos at sunset

The pintos went back up on a ridge, and I took this last shot of them at the end of the day.

Seven's band near sunrise

Seven's band near sunrise

Around 8:30 a.m. Sunday, Seven and his band were near the dry water hole off the doubletrack. Beautiful light illuminated the horses.

Seven and his girls

Seven and his girls

Molly is thin, but she’s feeding her baby well. The band didn’t find water at the pond, but they did find it in an arroyo a bit south.

Seven

Seven

Beautiful boy.

Bounce

Bounce

Bounce, Alegre and Gaia were above the road on one of those little hills around the loop in the east. Bounce took an intense interest in something just out of sight, but I didn’t see anything. Maybe, like a mother bird that will feign a broken wing, his feigned interest is meant to throw the observer off the trail so Bounce can lead his small family to safety. Alegre is usually quick to leave, but she didn’t seem too worried about me … maybe because of their height advantage.

Alegre and Gaia

Alegre and Gaia

Pretty girls. All the babies are still pretty fuzzy, but it’s interesting to watch their colors. I think Gaia, Ember and definitely Iya all will lose their sorrel coats and turn grey eventually.

During the weekend, I saw all the horses except Poco, Bones and Roach. It rained Saturday evening, but I did make it once around the loop. I was hoping to see Poco and see if he managed to get rid of the cactus spines in his face, but I never saw those horses. I was surprised to see that the water hole below the roller-coaster ridge road still has quite a bit of water.

The coolest photos I did NOT take this weekend: a bobcat that crossed the road ahead of me as I was leaving the basin to go down and check on the pintos, and two rattlesnakes – one coiled, one slithering – on the road in the dark. I looked at them with a flashlight from the safety of the Jeep. Youngsters, I think, with just a couple of buttons each.





Finally … still waiting … huh?

21 06 2008

Where to start?

Duke

Look who finally decided to make an appearance!

Duke

Duke saw me; I saw Duke. I think we surprised each other. Just to the left (his right) is the little entrance to Wildcat Spring off the main loop road. He shied at something I couldn’t see, and although I didn’t think too much about it at the time, it may prove significant …

Grey\'s band

This photo of Grey/Traveler’s band is similar to one I had on the previous post. Who’s missing? The significant part is that Jif is NOT just off to the side like she was outside the frame of the previous pic. She wasn’t anywhere. This is the “huh?” part of this post’s title.

Almost all the northern bands were clustered right in the same area, just north of the little water hole off the doubletrack (I’m afraid it’s going to be dry in another week or two). The only band missing was Seven’s, and I thought Jif might have been with them (however unlikely). They were farther to the south – no Jif. So then I started wondering if she’s with Duke – what he shied at. I saw him before I saw any of the other horses (except the pinto family, from the county road, on my drive to the basin), and I wasn’t looking for any other horse(s) with him. I really, really, really hope she’s with him because I don’t really like the alternative. It’s like a flashback to Slate’s disappearance.

And the “still waiting” comes to rest, of course, right squarely on Alpha’s (still-) round belly. She looks completely serene and calm (how many babies has she had??) … but no baby yet.

Grey\'s band with bachelors nearby

Grey/Traveler’s band in the background with some of the Bachelor 6 nearby. Left to right, the bachelors are (in order of heads): Hook, Chrome, Aspen, Kreacher. They’re not *quite* as close as they look because of the compression caused by the telephoto lens, but they’re pretty close. It was like being in the Pryors with all the bands so close.

Mouse and Steeldust\'s band

This is just to the right of the previous photo: Mouse and Steeldust’s band. Mouse and Comanche – and sometimes bold Kreacher – are hanging out fairly close to the band. These pix were taken right from the road, and they were all just napping. It was hot (mid-90s) and windy, and the gnats are ferocious.

Bounce, Alegre and Gaia

Bounce, Alegre and Gaia. Look how big she’s getting! I didn’t realize I’d caught Gaia and Bounce in the same stride until I saw the photos on the computer. I don’t know whether Bounce is Gaia’s sire or not. He was gathered with Slate, but Alegre was not gathered.

Hollywood watches over Ember

Hollywood is a fierce protector of his adopted family, even though he’s not the band stallion. But that evening, when the band went to water, he drank right beside Mouse and Comanche – although he *was* between them and the band!

Hollywood and Baylee

Later in the day, here he’s watching over Baylee while she took a little snooze.

Molly, filly, Roja

Finally got a good look at Molly’s foal – I think she’s another filly. She’s sorrel like Roja, and not a white marking on her – like Roja. If I’m right about the resemblance between Molly and Roja, Roja is baby’s big sister.

Seven

Seven, later in the day, as they were headed to water.

Pinon and Ember

Pinon and Ember were playing together late in the day and stopped to scratch each other’s backs. The sun was just barely gone from a far ridge. That’s daddy Steeldust at left.

These are my favorite two photos of the whole day:

Pinon and Ember at sunset

Pinon, left, and Ember, wild, wild babies. I love how the light just cradles them in its glow.

Hollywood watches over Pinon and Ember

That’s Hollywood at left, guarding the babies. The only thing I did to these last photos was “unsharp mask” and a little cropping. That’s just how they came out of the camera.

At the risk of being totally mushy, I have to say again that each time I’m able to enter the basin and share the horses’ world is a blessing unmatched. Their world goes on with or without me, and as wild and beautiful as they are, for them to allow me to sit back and observe them and take photos of them is just crazy cool. I’m grateful to them. This day was really the first time in a long time I saw them just hang out in the same place without being constantly on the move with the bachelors following.

Looking for Jif, I went up on the tall mesa just north (northeast?) of Knife Ridge so I could look down on the whole area the horses have been frequenting recently. I didn’t see her, but they were still there, snoozing in the sunshine, seemingly not nearly as bothered by the gnats as I was.

I wonder sometimes how they see their world, about all the trails and good grazing and drinking spots they hold in their memories. The foals are starting to nibble on things, following their mothers’ examples. (Luna, by the way, is fat. I’m sorry, girl, but there’s just no other word! Ember was 2 months old Thursday, and Luna is just as broad as Alpha.) That evening, I saw them go to the water hole, and I circled around the bachelors to see what they did. Mahogany led the way, but Luna drank first, followed by Alpha, then Mahogany, then the rest of the band. Mouse and Comanche weren’t shy; they stepped right up to the water and drank, so Hollywood joined them – like they were pals. Was he careful to drink between them and the band, or was that pure coincidence? Ha. Doubt it.

Two last photos:

Alpha

One of my favorite-ever photos of Alpha, taken just near sunset.

Bachelors running

And this one: Chrome, Aspen and Hook, running through the June sunshine just before sunset. Happy boys.





Back in the basin

18 06 2008

Molly had her foal

Yep.

Still pregnant

Nope.

And no sign of Duke.

Ms. Molly had her foal between June 3 and June 7. David Glynn, who visits the herd area frequently, provided news about the new foal while I was on vacation. He also emailed that he saw Duke this past weekend, not limping, and that he was interacting with some of the bands. Good news.

Molly is thinner than the other mares, but given her estimated age (older than 20!), that’s to be expected. This might be her last foal; she was gathered and released, and she got the immunocontraceptive. In her case, I think it might be beneficial for her overall health. I didn’t get very close to her, but her foal is a sorrel with the “muley” coloring around its muzzle. No telling yet if it’s a colt or a filly.

Alpha might be going for a world record gestation … or I have another theory. Last April, she was with Grey/Traveler, but she was gathered with a stallion I called Junior. She has always been one of the last to foal, and although I didn’t follow her (or the other horses) as closely in the past as I do now, I didn’t think it was quite this late when she foaled previously. So, what if, between Grey and Junior, she missed her heat and was bred a month “late”? She looks like she’s bagging up, so I hope she’s close.

Bachelor boys

The “other” bachelor group was down in the southwestern part of the herd area when I saw them, right from the county road. This photo shows all the boys but Ty, who was a short distance to the left. Here, from left: Cinch, Corazon, David, Copper and Mesa. I stopped and took pictures from over the roof of the Jeep until they “hid” behind some juniper trees. I moved down the fence until they moved into the open. They ran back and forth some as their wariness vied with their natural curiosity.

David, Mesa and Cinch

David (bay with the blaze), Mesa (solid bay) and Cinch.

Copper, Corazon and Mesa

Copper, Corazon and Mesa. Copper is a slight muley bay with left front and hind pasterns; his mane falls mostly on the right side of his neck. Mesa is solid bay; his mane falls on the left side of his neck.

Sweet boys

Copper and Ty (black). Such sweet boys.

With such a fortunate encounter for my first sighting of the horses since my return from vacation, I knew it was going to be a great day. I used four memory cards (of various storage) and *saved* almost 800 photos (I probably culled at least that many). I don’t know why I took so many pictures this particular day, but a friend suggested that maybe it was because I really missed the horses. 🙂 She might be right.

Alegre and Gaia; Molly and foal

The northern bands were all up in the northeastern part of the basin again … which is really, truly the eastern part. I tend to think of it as northeastern because it’s “in the back” as far as the loop road goes, and tucked under the natural boundary hills. But I looked at a map recently (who needs a map when you know where you’re going?), and realized it’s pretty well centrally east. In this photo, Alegre and Gaia are in the foreground, and Molly, her foal, Roja and Seven are in the background. You can see the road in the foreground.

Ember and Luna

Sweet baby Ember and mama Luna.

Grey\'s band, minus Jif

Grey/Traveler and his family also were in the area, closest to the water hole – what’s keeping all the bands in this area, I think. Jif was just a little apart from them.

Two Boots loves Twister

A picture like this is my favorite to take because it’s my favorite thing to see: interaction and evidence of affection among the horses. That’s Two Boots with her head over Twister’s back. They’re about shed out now. Two Boots shed out a lot lighter, even though she’s still dark grey. Last fall, she was *really* dark. And Twister is showing his pretty rosy grey color. Stepdaddy Grey in the background.

Pinon

Too cute! Pinon here, standing up nice and straight for the camera. Definitely a colt. His little dark patch is clearly visible here. I’ve noticed something similar on a couple of other horses: Luna has an ever-so-slightly-darker spot on her right barrel, behind her shoulder, and Comanche has a dark spot that’s maybe about the size of a baseball on his right barrel. Luna’s spot is bigger but almost unnoticeable.

Tres amigos

Back to front: Aspen, Chrome and Hook. While I was thinking about Duke, I realized the Bachelor 7 (six without Duke) have been dogging Steeldust’s band since just after I realized he was limping, around April 15.

Playing with an audience

Aspen and Hook decided to relieve the monotony by play fighting – with an audience. In the immediate vicinity were the other bachelors, Grey’s band, Steeldust’s band (of course) and Bounce’s family. Hook initiated the whole thing (tattle tale), and at one point, he got one foreleg up over Aspen’s back, and they went around in a full circle before Aspen was able to shake him off. Notice Mouse and Comanche snoozing in the background. That’s Kreacher at upper left, and in the middle ground is Grey and his band.

Gaia napping

I had walked out from the road, over a hill, through a couple of arroyos and up another hill to try to get a better look at Molly and her new foal and was returning to the Jeep when I saw Bounce, Alegre and Gaia closest to me and the other horses a little farther out. I took the above pix of Aspen and Hook, wishing I was closer to them, but then I had an opportunity to get a little closer to where Gaia had just laid down and Alegre was grazing. A juniper shielded me from Alegre, but Bounce had me in full view. Conspirator? I’m pretty sure that even Grey and some of the other horses also knew I was there, but I don’t think Alegre ever did. She grazed farther away from me and closer to the other horses (which were back toward the water hole), and I waited until they were gone before moseying on back to the road.

Alegre and Gaia near sunset

Alegre and Gaia near sunset, taken from the road.

I drove around the loop road twice, looking hard for Duke. Never did see him, but on my way out, I saw Poco, Bones and Roach at the water hole below the roller-coaster ridge road.

Roach at water hole

He’s in the (obviously) dry part of the water hole – photo taken from the ridge road. Poco and Bones were just behind him to the east. This water hole and the one in the east, off the doubletrack, are the only water holes I know of that still have water. Spring Creek has water in places. No sign of the horses anywhere near the water catchment.

Not quite full

Not quite full … but pretty cool.

It’s good to be back.