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.





A lot is even better

4 08 2021

So we had a bit of this:

And, because of skies like that the last couple of days from the east and southeast (the above pic is looking west), all our ponds now look like this:

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

🙂

Are we happy? Are you kidding?!

We are about a gazillion kinds of grateful. 🙂

Every time I rolled up to a pond and saw the reflection that meant water, I yelled, screamed and cried with joy. Nobody heard me but the wind … and Ma Nature. She knows our gratitude.





We. Have. PONDS!

31 08 2020

Storm helps illustrate the fact that at least three ponds in Spring Creek Basin now have water for the first time in months (and months and months). A very small portion of the pond behind him is reflecting the fiery sky, but the pond is much larger than that little reflection point.

Saturday’s drenching didn’t cover all of Spring Creek Basin, but it hit a good portion of the eastern region, from the east pocket in the north to the southern tip.

At least four bands are taking advantage of two of the ponds, and I’m pretty sure a fourth pond also has water. … I ran out of time to hike back to check it because I was having too much fun hanging out with ponies – and that was before the giant, heart-leaping thrill when I saw the first of the three ponds with water. (I might have yelled and screamed and hollered really, really loudly.)

Thanks to all for your hopes, prayers, wishes and dances! 🙂





Mud drench

18 05 2017

Copper

Copper

Magnificent mustangs must make mud baths marvelous!

Copper knows the value of spa treatments. 🙂

*************************************************************************************

Did anyone order rain?

Ma Nature delivered SNOW!

You really have to laugh at how well she came through for us. 🙂 It’s spring snow and packed with moisture.





Life, sustained

17 08 2014

We interrupt your regular mustang programming for a peek at other wildlife in Spring Creek Basin:

Tadpoles in the east-pocket pond!

Tadpoles in the east-pocket pond!

Tadpoles in the east-pocket pond!

Tadpoles in the east-pocket pond!

Whaaaat?! 🙂 Pretty crazy cool, huh? The east-pocket pond is the only pond that hasn’t been dug out in the last few years. It’s fairly small and fairly shallow, but it does hold water – and tadpoles!

After the recent rain, the two ponds that were dug out in June now also have water! In fact, all but one pond in the basin now are offering water to thirsty critters. 🙂





Slurp

6 08 2014

Hayden drinks from the east-pocket pond.

So much better than drinking out of muddy hoofprints. 🙂 Hayden drinks his fill from one of the ponds filled from recent rains in Spring Creek Basin.

(After this photo was taken and Hayden wandered off to graze, the musk thistle at back left met its demise at the point of my shovel.)





Green ‘n water

20 07 2013

Northwest pond has water.

+

Trapsite pond has water!

=

happy.

🙂

Two different ponds, previously dry. Both dug out last year.

Mustangs already have found both.





Reflections

29 03 2013

031813greysbanddrink

Grey/Traveler, center, drinks from a pond with his band, from left: Alegre, Maia, Mariah and Houdini. Water is the most precious resource of all in this high desert region.





Congratulations!

2 12 2012

The Tres Rios Field Office in Dolores, Colo., has honored Pati and David Temple with an award that recognizes their dedication during the last 15 years to the mustangs of Spring Creek Basin.

In 1997, Pati and David joined the board of the newly formed Colorado chapter of the National Mustang Association. They have served continuously on the board since then.

Some major projects have been completed in Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area at Pati and David’s urging:

* The water catchment in the basin was funded by NMA/CO – about $18,000. Although there are several ponds and seeps/springs, the catchment provides the horses with the only clean water source in Spring Creek Basin (the others being, at the least, very salty because of the alkaline soil).

* About a decade ago, NMA/CO raised $40,000 to buy cattle AUMs from a rancher who held grazing rights in the basin and, after a five-year struggle, succeeded in retiring those AUMs. Not only that, a grazing EA was prompted, which reduced the remaining AUMs and changed the grazing season to dormant-season grazing only (Dec. 1 until Feb. 28). The National Mustang Association, based in Utah, was instrumental in finally accomplishing this goal.

* Because of Pati and David, magazine subscriptions, horsemanship training videos and countless pairs of boots have been donated by NMA/CO to the inmate training program at the Canon City prison facility, where BLM has a short-term holding facility.

* Pati and David have assisted with the removal of old fences and wire from within the basin as well as construction of new boundary fences and the repair and maintenance of fences.

* For close to a decade, San Juan Mountains Association has hosted University of Missouri students during alternative spring break, which has included projects in the basin. David is an arborist, and NMA/CO regularly has funded chemical spray (Garlon) for tamarisk removal. David (pictured below at right) also has volunteered his time and expertise to help with eradication efforts.

0323asb-group

* Because of Pati’s single-minded determination and her refusal to give up on him, when Grey/Traveler was sent to Canon City at the end of the 2007 roundup, we got him back. Pati and David hosted him at their ranch for three weeks (quarantine) until he could be returned to Spring Creek Basin (pictured below). Long-time readers of this blog will know that he not only rebuilt a band, he has the largest band in the basin at the tender age of “aged,” as aged at the last (2011) roundup.

0919greygone

* Pati and David represent NMA/CO in our coalition advocacy group Disappointment Wild Bunch Partners. They bring to Wild Bunch – and BLM – all their historical knowledge of BLM management of Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area, as well as modern visions that fit with our advocacy goals, which they use to encourage new projects to benefit the horses. With the previous herd manager, one project Pati and David suggested and we convinced BLM to undertake was digging out ponds to increase storage capacity. Some hadn’t been dug out since the 1980s. In 2009, two ponds were dug out. In 2010, three ponds were dug out. In 2012, three ponds were dug out. All but two ponds in the basin have been dug out, and at least one of those still is on the priority list to BE dug out. Currently, in a desperately dry year, all but three ponds have water. To further illustrate how impressive this is – how visionary – ranchers throughout the region are hauling water to their cattle because water sources on their grazing allotments are dry.

112112doublepond

* Also as members of Wild Bunch, Pati and David are an integral part of the partnership with BLM that resulted in the Tres Rios Field Office being awarded $25,000 as part of the Director’s Challenge this year.

* NMA/CO always has championed the use of fertility control. In 2007, NMA/CO paid for five doses of PZP-22 to be administered to the released mares. In 2010, NMA/CO signed on to the proposal submitted to BLM for the implementation of a program to use native PZP in Spring Creek Basin to slow population growth and reduce the need for frequent roundups. Also in 2010, NMA/CO paid for my PZP training at the Science and Conservation Center in Billings, Mont. Then they paid for the darting rifle. When fertility control using native PZP was approved for the Spring Creek Basin herd ahead of the 2011 roundup, we were ready to volunteer.

* Pati and David have adopted several mustangs over many years (including those they’re riding in the photo of the plaque above). In 2011, they adopted yearling Rio (Grey/Traveler or Twister x Two Boots) and renamed him Sherwood, in honor of one of the founding members of NMA/CO. Pati is a genius at groundwork, and at 2 years old, Sherwood loads readily into a trailer and accepts a cinched saddle, among other things.

sherwood2

* In 2012, Hollywood and Piedra had a filly. She was named Temple in honor of Pati and David.

Temple, foreground; Madison, background.

Pati and David are true mustang angels in every sense of the words. Their passion about and commitment to mustangs, particularly Spring Creek Basin mustangs, is legendary in our part of the world. Personally, I am grateful to Pati and David a million-fold for their support and friendship. Their work has laid the foundation for the excellent health of the herd today and into the future. This list hits just the highlights, but I hope it conveys how inspiring they are and should be to mustang advocates everywhere. In addition, they are two of the nicest, most generous people you’ll ever know.

The plaque reads: Presented to David and Pati Temple. Thank you for your many years of unselfish commitment and dedication to the Spring Creek Basin Wild Horses and the Herd Management Area. The support that you have provided to the BLM has been invaluable to the long-term goal of a sustainable and healthy herd area in Disappointment Valley. Without your devotion to the horses, advocacy, hard work and persistence, many maintenance, enhancement and fertility control projects would not have been accomplished. November 2012. Bureau of Land Management Tres Rios Field Office.

The photo on the plaque, taken by Durango photographer Claude Steelman and featured in his book Colorado’s Wild Horses, shows Pati on Bandolier and David on Concho, their Sulphur Springs mustangs.

With appreciation beyond words and always grateful for you both, thank you, Pati and David, for your generosity, commitment and passion. It is contagious and has infected us all! And thank you, Tres Rios, for honoring Pati and David for all they have done for our mustangs.





Bay beauty

23 11 2012

Had a welcome sighting of this handsome bay boy:

Poco, sporting his fuzzy winter coat!

While I was taking pix of him, I hiked over to look at the double ponds to check the water status.

Good news!

The pond that was dug out in 2009 has good water! The second double pond – which was not dug out – has no water, but the center is muddy.

Interestingly, some of the ground between the road and the good pond was moist on the surface. Given that we haven’t had any moisture for a couple of weeks (and that, not much), that’s just something to “make ya go hmm.” Most of the ponds do still have water, and as noted in a couple of previous posts, there are some water-producing seeps in arroyos.

Keep dancing. Mother Nature, like BLM, moves at her own pace. 🙂