Thinking back, looking ahead

23 09 2021

Long-time readers know and adore our Raven girl. She came from Sand Wash Basin in October 2008 as a 2-year-old. Red dun Mona and apricot dun Kootenai came with her. Raven has had a few foals; Mona and Kootenai had one each. Kootenai’s Mysterium has had a few foals; Mona’s Shane hasn’t yet had a surviving foal. Mona died several years ago after complications from having a foal, and Kootenai disappeared a couple of years later.

We also have offspring from the 2001 introduction of mares from Sand Wash Basin to Spring Creek Basin: Dun Hollywood comes from that lineage, and buckskin Luna’s line has been particularly prolific (she has great-great-grandbabies in the basin!).

Spring Creek Basin’s partnership with Sand Wash Basin goes back at least two decades now. … And with our new girls carrying on the tradition, I hope it continues for a long time to come!





More mares … and a stallion

18 09 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





A welcome gift

17 09 2021

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

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

He went on in his email:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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. 🙂

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

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

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

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

… And then we waited. …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aren’t they divine?

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

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

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

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

Some additional random images from the basin that evening:

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

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

The pond below the mares’ release site.

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

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

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

With love from Spring Creek Basin.





Three new faces

15 09 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Water from fire

19 08 2021

In remote Disappointment Valley, partnerships not only are valuable, they can be life-saving.

Our Spring Creek Basin mustangs got a boost in the water department from three different “departments” of wildfire-fighting crews recently. They had water left over from fighting a small fire (thank you!), and they very graciously offered the remaining water in two engines to the horses, pumping about 900 gallons of water onto one of the aprons at the main catchment.

On behalf of our mustangs, thank you VERY MUCH for your firefighting and for the gift of water for our mustangs!

From Cortez Fire Protection District: Matt and Brad.

From the Angelina, Sabine and Davy Crockett national forests and National Forests and Grasslands in Texas: Paul, Aurora, Danny, James and Jonesy – and Tracy (sp?), who’s working here as a dispatcher. They’re “on loan” to the Forest Service here in Colorado (Dolores Public Lands Office), replacing the previous crew (hi also to Matt, David and Marie!). Their connection is a firefighter named Bear, who came with a small crew to tackle a small fire I reported a few years ago. Bear now is serving in Texas with the U.S. Forest Service. Small world!

From the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control: Chris, Jim and Cory.

Big shout out to all of these fine men and women who work long hours in back-of-beyond places. … I bet they don’t often get to see (and help!) wild horses while out on assignment! Thank you, thank you, thank you … from all of us who love the mustangs!





Anticipatory gathering

6 08 2021

Who’s ready for the new catchment?

All of us, apparently! 🙂

They have a pond with water (!) fairly close to this location (as the mustang trots), but it was still pretty awesome to see a few bands gathered in wildcat valley very close to the new catchment. Mike Jensen has ordered trough floats, and when they come in, he and the guys will bring a trough and float to our location to install, and then our new catchment will be *fully operational*!





Water catchment: phase 4.9

26 07 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Water catchment: phase 4.75

18 07 2021

Sooner than I thought it would happen, Garth Nelson emailed me early in the morning last week and said he and Jim Cisco were coming out to install the gutter across the front of the catchment structure!

They beat me to the basin, and this was happening when I got there!

The propanel roof sheets are just halfway across, but with rain in this past week’s forecast – for later in the week at the time – Garth decided that it was a priority to get the gutter in place.

The ends of the pipes supporting the whole structure had to be cut a bit to make room for the gutter pieces, which were built/formed/constructed by a local business in Cortez. The guys did NOT bring that cool battery-powered band saw with which they were all completely in love, so Jim (pictured) and Garth had to make do with the ol’ sawzall. It worked; it just took longer (and went through a few blades).

Level says perfect!

Garth put a couple of beads of caulk between each new section of gutter.

Jim and Garth drilled holes at intervals in order to then run long screws to attach the gutters to the steel purlins.

And these little metal cylinders (held by Garth) acted as spacers to keep the gutters a uniform width.

They had to cut the ends of each of the steel pipes (four) to enable the gutter to be flush to the purlins.

And then with their great and amazing strength, they were able to break off the ends. 🙂

In no time (it seemed to me), they were down (up!) to the last gutter piece!

When the gutter pieces were attached all along the front of the catchment, it was time to install the pipes from the gutter to the tanks. Holes had to be drilled above each tank to put the pieces in the gutter to attach the pipes.

A little vertical …

… and a little horizontal! (These pieces actually slope a bit. :))

And it looked like this! These are the first two tanks, piped. Jim is tightening the fitting in the bottom of the gutter.

Here are three of the four tanks piped, and you can see the valve-culvert lids in place.

Then … things got really exciting. Jim drove out to the basin in his weed-spraying rig, which has the 200-gallon water tank on it. When the gutter was in place and the pipes were installed, he pulled up alongside the eastern end of the structure and started pumping water up to the top of the roof.

And this happened:

And you know what I did: I bawled like a happy baby. 🙂

Garth marked a few places that were leaking, to be recaulked.

Overall, it worked well, and I WISH that I could attach a recording of the SOUND of water trickling through the pipes and swirling into the tanks.

This all happened Monday, and early, early Wednesday morning, it rained. Again Wednesday night, it rained. 🙂

Now, we just have to finish the installation of the propanel sheets across the rest of the roof, pipe the fourth tank and install the trough (I think). Our very big project is very nearly complete!





Special update

14 07 2021

This screen capture from my Kindle showing the rain all over our wonderful (and parched) Southwest Colorado region stands alone and is worthy in itself of relief and rejoicing. 🙂 But, even as the post immediately below this one claimed to be updated as to the new catchment project, as of Monday afternoon (I drafted and scheduled it on Sunday), it was already outdated again. 🙂

So – spoiler alert – Garth Nelson and Jim Cisco came Monday and installed the gutter pieces all across the front of the new catchment and installed pipes to three of the four tanks, AND tested it with 200 gallons of water pumped up and sprayed over the roof (which now covers more than half the structure). Daniel Chavez and his wife, Destiny, had their baby (!), and Mike Jensen is engaged in less interesting but also important office work, and Garth wanted to get the gutter in place to start catching water and storing it before he heads north for a couple of weeks on a fire detail. … !!! Can you say perfect timing?!

So this morning, when I awoke to the musical and wonderful and what-the-heck-is-that-strange-noise sound of rain on my firewood box roof (also propanel, interestingly enough), I. Was. STOKED! 🙂 I’ve already cried to see the water flowing into the gutter from the water Garth and Jim sprayed up on the roof – and you’ll see it, too, when I can get the post composed – and this … well, let me just say there might have been some more moisture this morning, flowing inside the house. 🙂

Huge thanks again to all our BLM folks, for the roles they’ve played in every step of this process … to catch rainwater for our mustangs. 🙂 And thanks, of course, to Mother Nature, for the RAIN. Such a blessed relief!

(P.S. Spring Creek Basin is a bit eastish of the pin in the map above. And at 7:38 a.m. Colorado time, the sprinkles are only now slowing. It’s been raining since well before light.)