I don't know about you, but I can hardly believe it has been a month since we left on our wild horse photography trip. We've had an amazing time and seen some wonderful things. We've also seen sad things. We've found old friends who we've photographed in the past, seen new horses and new foals but we have also missed some of our old friends.
Just about everywhere we went this spring has had a gather since we were here last. That means that, in some places, there are significantly fewer horses. It's been challenging to find horses in some areas, particularly in comparison to how it was our last two trips to the same places. It's not that the horses aren't there, but there are significantly fewer of them and we find them both scattered and in very small groups.
It isn't that we didn't expect that. It's just that the reality has been eye-opening!
Another big difference is the drought in the west. This has further scattered the horses. You might find a place where there is lush grass but no horses are there because there is no water. In order to find horses, you have to find the water. Water is at issue in Utah, Wyoming and Colorado and I expect it will be no different when we get to Nevada, Idaho and Oregon. Just about the entire western US is suffering a drought. It's going to be a hard year for the animals, horses included.
Even before I started the weekly blogs I had intended to do a weekly review of where we had been and what we had seen. You all know that I didn't do that even once. Instead, it seemed more appropriate to show you specific things that we had seen and experienced such as wild horse rhythms, foals playing and our day with the horses. Much has been left out. So this week, I'm going to review what we have seen so far. Of course, it can't be all of what we've seen, but at least some highlights. And yes, a video is included!
We spent the first week of our trip in Utah, first with a herd that we had photographed for the first time last spring and second with a herd that we had tried to photograph last year but couldn't get close to.
The first herd is very habituated to people. We have both fallen in love with these horses. They are not only beautiful but have a very healthy social structure.
One nice thing about being habituated to people is that is that the horses ignore you and go about their horsey business. And it was really fun to watch them go about that business...
The first thing we did when we got there was to check for horses that we knew. The first ones for me were the two cremello brothers that I fell in love with last year. I was delighted to see them and totally surprised at how much they looked alike now! They seemed to be just as bonded as they were a year ago.
What beauties these two have turned out to be and so unusual looking!!
The one eared palomino stallion was the 'leader' of a large bachelor band last year. This year he has a mare. He seems pretty pleased with himself but very cautious. He stayed around the edges of the large group making sure no one stole his lady!
Four of the five bay roan stallions were present and accounted for. I know the other old fella was around somewhere, probably roaming with some of the bachelors we saw in the area.
This bay roan was quite a poser last year and he didn't disappoint this year, either.
We also really like that gray stallion with the black points. He is a show off too!
The white (gray) stallion that roamed the edges of the larger herd last year was doing the same thing this year.
He appears to be an older horse, maybe one who has lost his mares and just isn't sure what he should do. It isn't that he is run off by any one (once in awhile) but more like he is choosing not to join in.
Of course, there were new horses too- or at least new to us. Not just foals, but horses we hadn't seen before.
One of the notable 'new' horses was this beautiful buckskin stallion. He was very standoffish. He was not only shy of us but shy of the other horses.
Another was this handsome pinto stallion. He joined in with a very large bachelor band. The buckskin was almost always on the fringes of this same bachelor band.
That bachelor band certainly created a lot of mischief!
There were the new foals- which is one of the main reasons we take a spring trip.
Then of course, there was the new foal that we saw just a few hours after she was born. She is little sister to the two cremello brothers and is with the grullo stallion's band.
His was the only band that was completely intact after the gather, which endeared him to us even more. What a testimony to both his abilities as a band stallion and to the bond that he and his mares share. He has five mares, two yearlings (the cremello colts) and two foals from this year.
Not everything we saw here was pleasant and happy. We saw a mare who had died giving birth and witnessed a small family band's reaction to seeing her. We watched for an hour while they worried and tentatively approached her. The whole event was very sad but yet it was comforting in some way how the horses fretted and grieved over the death of an apparent friend.
Our new friend Janet and her husband, Cliff took us out to help us photograph the very wild herd we had drooled over last year. We went back the next afternoon and concealed ourselves. I went high on a hill and Marty hid himself in the trees. We waited for two and a half hours for the horses to come into the waterhole. I videotaped them running in, drinking and running out. It took just about 15 minutes for 75 horses to water.
Many of you worried that they had not all gotten water, but there were two troughs and a pond there. As far as we could tell, every one of the horses watered.
There were some stunning horses and many of very unusual color and markings in this group.
I think I see a very unusual pintaloosa...
Yes, she is very pregnant!
The horse behind her has an almost gray eye. Very interesting looking!
After spending an entire day following the horses through their routine (last week's blog), we headed off to Wyoming...
We love the really wild horses, so we often try to find horses in unusual places. Did you know there are "Herd Areas" in many places? These are areas outside of the HMAs (Herd Management Areas) where horses live. It is BLM land but just not an HMA. We do find a lot of horses there and they do tend to be more wild. Sometimes, they are far from an HMA and sometimes we honestly don't know if we are inside or outside an HMA. It doesn't really matter, as long as we find horses!
We visited White Mountain HMA with our friend Robin for an afternoon. We wandered the edges of Red Desert and Adobe Town, ventured out in the middle of nowhere south and east of Rock Springs and just generally banged around looking for horses. As in Utah, we saw old friends, saw new horses, new foals but missed some of our old friends.
An old friend that we enjoyed photographing when we were here last (fall of 2010). He is a big guy and likely the sire of the lovely buttermilk buckskin two year old below.
What a handsome young stallion he is! We loved his color and those two blue eyes when we saw him a year and a half ago and love them still today! He also has a very nice disposition and seems still bonded with his dam.
He's going to be a big horse like his (supposed) sire. He already has a good start at that!
Yes, we found the Curlies! Not everyone we had seen before but a few, plus some new ones. This lovely sorrel Curly stallion with a flaxen mane and tail we saw on our last trip. We also saw this pretty cremello mare on that trip, but they were not together at the time. The yearling in the middle is also a Curly.
We even found a band of Curlies that were new to us. The band consisted of six Curlies and one smooth haired gray dapple mare (who was very pregnant, no doubt with a Curly foal!). You WILL be seeing more of this on my Facebook page!
We both got very excited when we saw this stallion. We thought it was "our" blue-eyed bay. He has one blue eye (our stallion has two blue eyes) and white socks, but much to our disappointment it wasn't him.
One of the biggest disappointments of our trip will be that we did not find him again.
One new horse to us was this very large, unusually colored stallion. He seems almost apricot in color, has a flaxen mane and tale and a very "roany" butt. He was also quite the poser!
We ventured out to the netherlands looking for horses one day. We never dreamt that we would find that beautiful white stallion from last year, but I'll be darned- there he was. He was even still with the large palomino stallion.
He is looking much older and is considerably thinner. I think it is his age versus feed, as the palomino he was with was quite plump! He's still very pretty though.
In the Red Desert HMA, we watched a beautiful and shy group of duns. That shyness reminded me of our Oregon Kigers.
A few miles further down the road we watched a stallion band try to figure out what we were all about.
The stallion on the right has two blue eyes...
With Robin's help, we found these two unusually colored horses; a red roan (?) and a black horse with a mostly white tail.
All in all, it was a satisfying week in Wyoming. But I still wish we had found our blue-eyed bay!
Off we went to Sand Wash Basin. This was our third trip here and it was quite different this time.
Before we could even get started though, stormy weather hit. We spent two days in the trailer waiting for the winds to calm down. It is so dusty, we simply could not photograph. Not to speak of keeping our tripods and cameras standing!
It was very dry in Sand Wash Basin. Most of the water is in the north end of the HMA. Hence, most of the horses were in the north end. We were lucky to see about 100 of the ~320 horses in Sand Wash Basin, including a couple we've seen before. Most we hadn't.
One of the first horses we saw was a family band with a new pinto foal. I think she is a filly, but I would never swear to such a thing! What a cutey!
Shortly after we saw this band, we saw Benson with his mare and yearling. Unfortunately, a few days later, we saw Benson all by himself. Poor guy!
Up high in the HMA, we saw many new horses we hadn't seen before. We spent a lot of time around the water trough, watching as the horses came into water.
I'm not telling you anything you don't already know when I say what gorgeous horses there are in Sand Wash Basin! This is one of those stallions with a never ending mane!
One of the younger stallions and quite a beautiful one!
A pretty family band waiting patiently to come into the waterhole. The stallion is the gray in the center.
As always, there were plenty of tussles at the waterhole.
Look at the dorsal stripe on that dun!
We never saw Picasso. Nancy Roberts told me his mare recently had a foal and he is off somewhere in seclusion. We didn't see Corona either. Two disappointments but overall, we had a good trip.
After Sand Wash Basin, we headed off to Piceance Creek. Unfortunately, between the gather last fall and the drought, we found it very difficult to find horses. After about 250 miles in the truck, we had found only about a dozen horses.
We were very disappointed by this. Piceance Creek has been one of our favorite spots and we've known it for its gorgeous bays of all hues!
We did find one pretty little family band. The stallion is the black horse in the back.
Lastly, we spent some time in Little Book Cliffs HMA, first by ourselves and then with Billie Guy Hutchings, a local resident who has spent many years documenting those lovely horses.
We were foiled by very bad wind and dust, be we managed to see some beautiful family bands and some exquisite scenery. It is a beautiful HMA!
Have YOU ever wanted to bury your nose in a handful of wildflowers? Wildflowers were blooming all over Little Book Cliffs. These are wild flax. I've often planted these delicate beauties in my garden and it is a joy to see a horse standing in a field of them! :-)
It was a very good month. Lots of new things to see and old friends to reacquaint ourselves with. We hope the next month is as satisfying! You'll know about it either way!!
Next, we're off to Nevada...
This week's video is of a lovely and quite large band with many palominos in it, from Wyoming. That little white foal is a cremello!
That is the wind you hear. Have I told you it is always windy in Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada and even southeastern Oregon? That is exactly why I sometimes shoot video with no sound...but then you can't hear the horses!
By the way, they kept on running- all the way to the waterhole. They made it in 5 minutes. It took us a half an hour to get there in the truck! LOL
See you next week!
Other Important Stuff...
If you liked this blog, you will likely like our DVD on wild horses; Wild Horses: Understanding the Natural Lives of Horses by Mary Ann Simonds, Marty and I. If you love wild horses, this is not to be missed! Photos and text are accompanied by the beautiful Native American style music by Grammy nominated musician, Diane Arkenstone. You can view a trailer and purchase the DVD ($14.95) at http://wildhorsesdvd.maryannsimonds.com/
Proceeds from this DVD help us to stay on the road, studying, documenting and photographing our country's beautiful wild horses. We thank you for your support.
I would like to give special recognition and thanks to Mary Ann. Through the years, she has been an invaluable resource for understanding wild horse behavior. Without her knowledge, expertise and willingness to teach, we would only be guessing at much of what we see. Thank you Mary Ann!
If you would like to learn more about horse behavior, both wild and domestic, visit her website at http://maryannsimonds.com
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