From Sand Wash Basin, with love

16 09 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

… And then we waited. …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aren’t they divine?

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

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

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

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

Some additional random images from the basin that evening:

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

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

The pond below the mares’ release site.

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

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

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

With love from Spring Creek Basin.

Three new faces

15 09 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


19 07 2010

The morning I found the tree on fire, I had seen bands at a distance and was headed out to visit them. After I called in the fire (with randomly and surprisingly found cell service), I went on to visit.

What a(nother) great surprise to find Duke with Twister (center) and Cinch (right)! Bruiser still not with the boys, but I’ve had a recent update from this weekend that he has been seen – alone but apparently just fine. I stopped the Jeep and took pix from it …

… but the boys “made a mad dash” anyway. πŸ™‚ Look at that handsome Duke! So elegant! His mind is on Cinch, and Cinch’s mind is on Duke, and young Twister (3 years old) is just happy to be part of the gang.

Stopped again. I didn’t know it at this point, and I’m not sure whether they did … but somebody(s) were up the hill in the trees ahead of them …

I drove on, looking for Hollywood’s band, which I had seen earlier, and it does seem like these boys – Cinch and Twister before Duke joined them – are hanging out close to Holls’ band again. Just below a little “rise” or “edge,” almost to the fence, I found them. They were napping under a tree, and the proximity to the fence was unfortunate because they felt the “squeeze” and immediately started walking out into the open. I stopped a little way on so I didn’t block them, then got out to watch the parade.

Iya leading – she’s not terribly long-legged for her size, but she is a big girl. Sage tossing his head against the gnats, big Tenaz and mama Piedra.

Hollywood in the lead, followed by Baylee, Piedra and Tenaz (Iya and Sage now bringing up the rear).

Piedra, Tenaz (look at him looking!) and Iya, sneaking in a sniff of baby where mama Piedra can’t warn her away. See the dapples in their summer-slick coats. πŸ™‚

Following Baylee. A couple of things about this image: First, see how big he is! His bay-black legs are starting to shed through his baby-fine . But do you see how much he resembles Hollywood? I think Sage tends to resemble Piedra, but this big boy definitely looks like daddy! He’s about a week away from being 3 months old.

Sage and Iya broke off for a little detour visit. Brave ones of the group, these two.

Meanwhile, Holls and the girls and his little mini-me waited at the stud pile(s) for them to catch up. πŸ™‚ Look at that handsome Tenaz – cute!!

On they went, then, heading up the valley toward the boys … who went closer to the hill and found …

Do you see them? Everybody in Kreacher’s (lower left) band is at least partially visible – though not very well, admittedly. πŸ™‚ Mona is above Kreacher; Kootenai is to the upper right; and nearly smack dab in the middle, you might be able to make out Raven’s legs through the tree … and immediately left of her, Corona.

Later, after I’d gone back to watch the fire and then was on my way out, I found them again:

Drinking at the trickle – found enough water to splash in! It collects a little below this but is pretty stagnant there; they drink uphill, where it comes out – a barely slurpable trickle, but clear. (Mona was just to the right.)

Curve of the day

27 06 2010

Some more pix from the first day of our visit last week.

Hayden and Jif. They were relaxed but shy and grazing.

Grey/Traveler’s band. Gemma is going grey first right over her butt and from a distance looks a little like an Appaloosa with a blanket pattern.

We saw a collared lizard on our walk back to Wildcat Spring, but it wasn’t interested in visiting with us. This guy, however, defended his rock – right in the middle of the road – while I drove right by him! He looks fierce, eh? But I think this was his way of venting some heat – although getting off that cooker of a rock may have helped, too! We had a nice breeze (not enough to rid us of the gnats), but it was warm – up to 92 by the Jeep’s gauge. I love these lizards’ bright colors and muscley little legs!

Hook’s band was only mildly interested in us. Right to left: Hannah, Sable, Hook, Ember and Pinon.

Toward the end of the day, we decided to take one more pass past Wildcat and had a nice surprise: Bounce’s and Kreacher’s bands, right off the road.

From left: Raven, Corona, Kootenai, Kreacher and Mona

Whisper and Liberty. They’re not as close as they appear, and Liberty is standing a bit farther up the hill. They look pretty similar in size here because of lens compression of the scene, but Liberty is still noticeably smaller than Whisper.

Whisper in the foreground and Alegre at right.

T spotted the almost-full moon coming up over the eastern ridges. This is looking out toward the east pocket. A little farther to the right would be McKenna Peak and the unnamed promontory.

Mona and Kootenai caught in a rare moment of affection. Usually Kootenai bugs Mona, who is very laidback, and Raven usually comes to her rescue by pinning her ears at Koot.

Kreacher, Raven and Kootenai walking toward us.

Kreacher, Raven and Corona. You can really see Corona’s wide blaze here in her mother’s shadow. She’s also still nursing.

We were able to sit with them for a bit in the evening light – wonderful! There’s Bounce in the background … and they’re watching some newcomers.

Seven and his band – Roja, Ze and Spring – were coming up toward Wildcat for an evening drink. They hadn’t been visible when we parked and walked out to sit just off the road with Bounce’s and Kreacher’s bands, but as it turned out, I had parked a bit “ahead” of where the trail comes out, and Seven was not pleased. (As a side note, can you see the extreme resemblance to Grey/Traveler??)

He trotted back and forth, looking hard and blowing at the Jeep while Roja stayed some distance back with Ze and Spring. I keep coming back to this, but they haven’t forgotten and so neither have I. It was almost two years ago that they were chased by a man in a truck. They remain extremely wary of not only people but also vehicles. It’s important to know here that although I was parked in their line of sight, the Jeep was not blocking their wayS to water. But because of their extreme sensitivity, it might as well have been. Most of the other bands respond very well to quiet, careful viewing, but Seven’s have never gotten over that incident – maybe others? This is their home, so we quietly walked back to the Jeep and drove away, taking the “danger” with us.

Roja and Spring – pic taken from the Jeep. Look how big Spring is! (I haven’t taken many pictures of her *because* of their wariness.) She looks so much like Molly. She has little black spots on her knees, and I’m sure her legs will darken. Check out Roja’s loooooong dredlock!

And Seven and Ze … now much calmer and at ease. A great sight to leave with.

Dapple light

20 05 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gaia and Liberty

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

… followed by Alpha …

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

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

Think that looks terrible?

How about this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mahogany, Sundance and Mouse …

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

Notice anybody missing?

There’s Aspen at far right …

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

Comanche … Hey, who’s that behind him?

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

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

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


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

But this wee girl is more reserved than her uncle.

Mama and first-born daughter

Snack time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baylee and Sage

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

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

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

The faraway ponies

3 04 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Threat of snow

7 02 2010

In reality, it was less than the weather man predicted, and I was able to drive into the basin. For all the snow where I live and all the snow out to the rim of Disappointment, the valley and basin have less than I expected. But the soil is wet – OK, it’s downright muddy – so I hope it still bodes well for our moisture there this year. And more is coming … it’s only February, after all!

I found little man Hayden and his family for the first time in two visits … and Iya, who was not with Grey/Traveler when I last visited two weeks ago, was not with them. Gone back to her mama? I don’t know; I didn’t see them this visit. In fact, with the cattle spread throughout the interior of the basin, it was difficult to spot horses at all. I do wonder how much the cattle disperse the horses. Report is that at least four cows have calved, and they’re being checked at least every other day, so there are good eyes watching. I still hope they’re all out on time this year.

Also found Kreacher’s band. Wait till you see Corona! Oddly enough, I didn’t see Steeldust’s, so I also don’t know whether Duke is still following them, but it made me realize it has been a long, long time since I’ve NOT seen Steely Dan’s band during a visit! But I did see a threesome I haven’t seen since better weather: Cinch, Bruiser – and Twister, still with them! They were close to David and his Shadow. And not close to them but close to me, on the road, the pintos. And a handful of deer and elk for good measure. Anyone know when deer and elk drop their antlers? I thought it was around now. Both the (young) bucks I saw still had their antlers (all the elk I saw were cows and last year’s calves).

Kreacher and his girls.

A little closer …

And a wee bit closer. Gotta love a zoom lens. πŸ™‚

Can you believe how she’s changed?? No doubt who her daddy is! Check out that wavy mane! Daddy must be Corona of Sand Wash Basin, otherwise known as “Fabio”! Oh, she is destined to break some hearts, isn’t she? πŸ™‚

Her “aunties” clearly adore her. Here, Kootenai is upset she’s not the one right next to the baby, and Mona is giving no ground.

But a few steps later, they were happy again.

Krazy Kreacher and Mona

Mama and her girl

Spent a little time with Chrome’s band next.

Welcome from the boys!

As mentioned, Iya was not with the band, and I wondered if she’d gone back to mama … Couldn’t confirm because I didn’t see Grey/Traveler’s band this visit.

Note the new scars on Chrome’s face. From scrapping …?

Snug as a baby bug in a fuzzy fur coat!

These two little boys are, well, typical little boys. Hayden has no idea he’s the baby of the family and is completely confident as first son of first mare. And he has the ‘tude I would expect of Grey’s son!

The innocent approach …

He just can’t resist …

Cuatro is a very tolerant “big brother.”

Hey … what are you doing there?!


Check out Cuatro’s lip.

But before long, the little couldn’t resist brother’s fuzzy cheek.

See how tolerant?

I can hardly stand the cuteness. πŸ™‚ Do you see the darker hair on the front of Hayden’s face? It’s like a long horseshoe-shaped whorl. I think Jif has it, but otherwise, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything like it before – and it didn’t show up until he was full into his winter coat.

And again, he can’t help himself!

Sheesh. πŸ™‚

Cuatro finally crossed the little arroyo to the left, and Hayden followed – actually right beside him – and THAT finally irritated Cuatro, who laid his ears back and snapped at him.

Meanwhile, mama Two Boots kept an eye on the proceedings but didn’t interfere. And Jif, who already had crossed, trusted her cheeky boy to follow her … eventually.

The boys finally settled to the business of filling growing-boy tummies. All the horses seem to have gotten into the habit now of eating snow. A little farther up this drainage, they paused in a particular place to take advantage of a particular drift.

Not far as the raven flies, Cinch, Bruiser and Twister were grazing close to David and Shadow … and a few elk and deer.

One big pretty girl. Doesn’t she look to be in great shape?

Two more beautiful girls.

And then the pinto band was very near the road!

From left: Spook, Kiowa, Mesa, Reya, Corazon and Chipeta, Ty and Copper.

Independent Milagro was just a bit to the left out of the frame of the first pic, facing away from the band, standing slightly uphill, taking a little nap!

I sat in the Jeep on the road long enough that three muley does started walking toward me on the road. The horses took quite an interest in them. At one point, they jumped the fence into the herd area … but within just a couple of minutes, they jumped out again.

Chipeta set herself as guardian, while the other horses mostly ignored the deer in the beginning. Ty, in the background, watched them, but he had stopped grazing and was just kind of dozing.

There’s everyone but Mesa, most now clearly watching the deer. I’m not sure where they came from exactly, and they didn’t seem to know where they were going.

So it was quite a nice little visit! Utah was visible all day, but by the time I headed home, my Colorado views (Sleeping Ute, Mesa Verde ridges, La Platas) had completely disappeared. My grandma’s favorite views were always farmground views – flat, low horizons – but I like my views “cluttered” with hills and crags and mountains. No views here means low clouds, which, now, means snow. Sure enough, about 10 miles from home, the flakes started hitting the windshield. I definitely offered some thanks to Mother Nature for the little weather window that allowed me to visit my ponies. πŸ™‚

Two ponds dug

25 11 2009

I have to start this post with the good news (there isn’t any bad): Two of our ponds finally got dug out! The work was done before the snow the weekend before last, but the dozer just left this past weekend. I think the ponds look fabulous, and they’re both deeper (much deeper!) and can’t help but provide more water sources for the horses next spring! I wish I could remember the contractor’s name; I’d thank him right here on the blog – thank you, contractor! Your work will provide a direct benefit to the horses! And thanks to BLM for starting the process rolling by securing the funds.

Let’s start with the pond behind/south of Round Top.

This what it looked like “un-dug.”

Here it is dug. Just imagine that baby filled with water!

Now here’s the other one, one of the “double ponds” off the far east loop road:

It blends in, doesn’t it? πŸ™‚ That’s OK – perfect, even! In the foreground is the wide arroyo the road crosses, and about midway up the left side IS the road … and up to the right, about midway, is the pond. (The second of the “double ponds” is back farther, closer to where the arroyo comes down from the east ridge.)

Here it is a little closer (zoomed in). I hiked back to it after a visit with Poco and Roach and just had my long lens. From closer, I couldn’t get nearly all the pond in any composition!

Another comparison:

This is the big pond below the roller-coaster ridge. Yes, it’s shrinking (it was the one pond that didn’t go dry in 2008; it did go dry this year, then filled back up), but look how shallow it looks compared to the ones that just got dug out! That’s serious siltification! (I have no idea whether that’s an actual word.)

Snow is still in patches throughout the basin, but the roads were mostly dry. It was a little soft back near the double ponds, so I didn’t go all the way around. Molly and Liberty and Duke remain elusive. I did see Seven’s but not Bounce’s, so Molly and her filly are a mystery right now (if Molly’s time has come, I’m expecting Liberty to show up with one of the other bands … maybe back with Seven, her sire, or with Bounce, who she and Molly spent at least a few days with after they left Seven’s band). Little Hayden is adjusting well to his abnormal babyhood. He’s fuzzy, and both Jif and stepdaddy Chrome are protective of him. I saw them just from a distance, walking along a ridge. Jif was leading, and Hayden was a short distance behind … with Chrome *right* behind him. He easily could have passed the youngster, but he stayed right with him, even stopping with him for a rest while Jif walked on till she realized they had stopped. Nothing’s more important than family, no matter the season. πŸ™‚

Poco has regained some weight he lost while he and Roach were with Hollywood’s band.

Roach, low man on the totem pole, still looks great.

I was having flashbacks with regard to Kreacher’s bandΒ  like with Seven’s band after they were chased last summer: I hadn’t seen them except very far away since the ATV hunters spooked them. Found them finally a bit out of their normal territory, but then they ended up on the west-side loop road and were completely calm when I gingerly approached them to say howdy.

Looking out toward the eastern ridge/boundary. It doesn’t look very snowy, but patches were hiding in the shadows of saltbush and grassy stuff! You can see the tracks from the dozer on the road.

Corona seems to have made a connection with Kootenai since Koot joined them with Duke.

I caught them during their late-afternoon nap …

By this time of year, the mamas seem to feel like their ever-more-independent babes regard them just as milk bars. But every now and then, you can still catch them in a tender moment …

And a mother-daughter portrait or two. πŸ™‚

Mona and Kootenai … still napping … on the other side of the road (no jokes!).

They’re very fuzzy (Kootenai, in particular, has a lush, furry coat; maybe it’s her color that makes it so apparent). Corona was a bit muddy, and the mud just accentuated her curls. πŸ™‚ She’s SO cute!

Just before sunset, I found Hollywood and his family, getting a drink at the Flat Top pond, which was on the dig-out list but didn’t get done because Mother Nature saw fit to rain enough just before it was to get done that water collected a bit here. About a third of that surface area (it didn’t fill) is dry again now.

This is the view from the road. It’s the opposite end that’s drying first.

Hollywood and his shadow. πŸ™‚

I wish all of you a happy Thanksgiving, no matter where you are or who you’re with. Other than my family, of course, I’m most thankful for the wild horses of Spring Creek Basin and elsewhere, and I’ll be gratefully and thankfully spending the holiday with them this year. Bounty of good life to you all!

Troubling encounter

5 11 2009

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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s go back to the beginning.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


Ze, Roja and Seven … Bruiser in the background.



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

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

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

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


Corona has been playing in the mud. πŸ™‚

And then on the way out …



Loved that halo-light on the ponies …


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


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

Let’s review again how the day really ended:


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


7 10 2009

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

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

Kreacher and Mona

Kreacher and Mona

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

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

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

Cinch and Bruiser, Twister and Hook

Cinch and Bruiser, Twister and Hook

You never know where these spotted boys will show up.

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

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

Sage and Piedra

Sage and Piedra

Hollywood's band

Hollywood's band

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

Duke's band

Duke's band

All looks normal, right?



Ta da!

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

Corona and Raven

Corona and Raven

Corona and Kootenai

Corona and Kootenai

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

Corona and Raven

Corona and Raven



Who looks fabulous??

Nibbling Mama's ear

Nibbling Mama's ear

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

Kootenai and Duke

Kootenai and Duke

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

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