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!





His domain

14 09 2021

Maiku watches another band approach in the greasewood flats between his ridge and Spring Creek.

The sight of the lush galleta grass waving at his knees makes ME weak in the knees!

The Spring Creek arroyo gathers rainwater running from all the little arroyos in Spring Creek Basin and sends it all flowing out of the basin through the spectacular canyon between the rimrock ledges in the basin’s western edge. … The very edge of our beautiful world, as far as the mustangs are concerned!





Just a little wispy

13 09 2021

Mysterium and her mysterious, mystery fairy stylist(s) have undone her braids!





Dark girl running

12 09 2021

After the rain, the horses were greedily grazing on every bit of just-doused grass they could find. What an amazing time that must have been for them (let alone the human)! Then Cassidy Rain realized that Hayden had grazed his way across a road, and she decided that over THERE was better than over HERE, and away she went … glorious background the backdrop of the sound of her hooves in damp soil.





Shadow beauty

11 09 2021

Dear Shadow. Mostly, her natural and wild wariness can’t tolerate my even semi-close presence.

But sometimes. … Sometimes, I think she just stops a little longer than usual to wonder “what the heck is that two-legged *doing* over there?”

And then. … Then I catch her natural and wild loveliness. 🙂 Just for a moment. Just in a photo. Just in my memory.





Shy girl

10 09 2021

Come right out into the open, beautiful girl. There’s no hiding your coppery, glowing goodness!





Lovin’ the breeze

9 09 2021

When summer’s dry wind blows, often the best thing to do is enjoy the breeze – and that it’s blowing the buzzers elsewhere! Sweet Seneca knows the peace of that, sure enough.