There has certainly been a gap between the end of our trip and wrapping up the final blog for this year. Once you get home, real life takes over. It's gotten harder and harder to find the time to sit myself down and do it!
Let's see. We ended the first half in...Nevada. And we were far from done in Nevada.
We ended with horses running. Well, guess what. We were far from done with horses running...
We'll start with Eastern Nevada.
Off we went to new territory. There are many HMAs in Nevada and we've only been to a fraction of them. We were excited to explore some of the ones in the far eastern part of Nevada.
We never just go. We always do our research. Talk to the wild horse specialists for the area we are interested in - usually several times. We try to find people who either live in the area or have visited before. We always talk to locals, who are sometimes the best source of information. We did all those things.
It just doesn't always work. This year the heat and drought have conspired to make things very challenging in terms of finding horses and we quickly found it was no different here.
However, our first trip out was encouraging. It seemed it was going to go well. The horses were right where we were told they would be and they were gorgeous!
There were three bands, all together. It was obvious they had just come from water as many of them were muddy. They were curious but pretty tolerant of us, though the light wasn't great.
You don't complain (well, actually, you do complain) when you find such lovely horses - you just start shooting and hope the sun comes out from behind that big black cloud!
We moved on after they wandered down into the valley.
We traveled twenty miles or so. No more horses. No sign. No nothing. OK. Maybe it wasn't going to be so easy.
The next morning we found the same groups of horses about 7 miles away from where they had been the previous night. The light was better, the horses just as beautiful.
This beautiful smokey palomino stallion really wanted to be friends with the bay stallion from another band. He kept nodding his head and trying to approach. It didn't work. The bay would have nothing to do with it.
After leaving the three bands, we drove. And drove. And drove. All over the hills. Through the valleys. Everywhere we'd been given directions on where we might see horses. No horses. Nada. No water. Nada. We were growing suspicious the horses were all high in the mountains where it was cooler and where the water was. We were discouraged.
A brief stop in the grocery store got us some new information. With some complicated directions and three failed attempts, we finally found the road we were looking for. Sure enough, there WERE horses there. And water!
Not only were there horses there, but a pure white horse (pink nose and underbelly but without blue eyes). He was gorgeous!
While bumping around roads looking for horses we found a ferruginous hawk's nest with four chicks in it. In all our years of wildlife and bird photography, that had never happened.
So, one morning we sat for four hours waiting hoping to get photos of the mother hawk feeding her babies. It didn't happen, but we did get some good shots, anyway.
Mama and two of her four chicks. This is not a scene that you see very often!
After a few days, we've moved further east to the Ely area. Again, a new area for us.
I'll bet you didn't know that a lot of driving is involved in finding wild horses. Or maybe you did. It is relatively common to have a hundred mile day. Sometimes it's more and sometimes less but that's a pretty average day. Wild horses are not typically near towns. You have to drive out and once out, you drive around. Sometimes a lot.
We had a drive of just about 75 miles to get to the road where we turned to find the horses. Then more driving. And more, particularly if you explore those four wheel drive roads that are sometimes the best places to find horses.
We got lucky! Just after we turned, there off to the right! A good sized family band! Yeah!
OK! Let's go!
There had been an old forest fire in the past and parts of the landscape were almost surreal with old dead trees. It makes for a neat background.
But maybe it's not quite as interesting as a foreground!
I'm sure this stallion felt he was hiding. Actually, he was doing a pretty good job of it.
Fortunately, he decided he needed to see those other horses over there and ran up on a hill. What a beauty he is!
We had a pretty good day. Certainly some of the horses ran away, but enough stayed that we managed to get a few shots. We felt it was definitely worth coming back the same day.
So, we made the trek the next day.
We were, of course, expecting the same sort of experience we'd had the first day. It wasn't to be though.
We didn't see a single one of the horses we'd seen the day before. Every single horse that we did see, ran! Away.
All three of these stallions were such an unusual color. If only they had stayed still!
The only one that didn't run was the one who hid!
So, if wild horse photographers can't find wild horses, just what do they do? They look for other things to photograph...
This old rock house was built right into the hillside.
We've only been to a couple of Utah herds and have always wanted to visit more. So, we arranged our trip to include an extra stop near Delta. Again, it was a jaunt out just to get to the road that lead to the HMA. This time we were pretty completely skunked.
We decided we'd rather move on to places we've seen before than keep running around trying to find new horses.
So, we were off to see our old friends.
The spring is always exciting. You can't wait to see the new foals. To see what bachelor might have acquired his first mare. To see what young stallions are now with a bachelor band. We weren't disappointed on any front.
The mares in this herd had nearly all had PZP (injectable birth control), so we didn't expect to see many new foals this spring. We were pleasantly surprised though. There were several.
We were very pleased to see a very new foal in the gray family band. Nearly all gray, except the stallion, who is a beautiful smokey grullo, it is always somewhat of a surprise to see what color the foals are. Last year the new addition was a pinto. This year, a pretty brown. Will he be a grullo?
This youngster appeared to be just a couple of days old and at this point, and was glued to his dam's side. Here he is with his dam, auntie and granddam. You can just see the stallion's ears in the background.
By the time we left nearly a week later, he was romping off by himself.
What a total cutie!
This new addition is from one of the bay roan stallion's family band.
His yearling big brother had his hands full with his new baby brother!
Speaking of brothers, one of our favorite foals from last year had a new baby brother too. These two are in the grullo stallion's band. Our favorite stallion in this herd and our favorite band.
Last year, I wondered if he would grow up to be a grullo pinto and it looks like he has. He has a dorsal stripe, as does his little brother.
In this same band the last two years were two other brothers, the perlino brothers. But they were not with the band this spring. Neither was one of their dams. I am guessing she was recruited by another stallion (though we didn't see her) and the brothers, who are very bonded, followed her. The new stallion wasn't likely to want two rowdy two year old stallions in his band and probably kicked them out. They had been "picked up" by a big bay stallion, who was new to us.
While they had always been very used to people, the bay stallion clearly was not. He would not let us get close at all. Anytime we were in the general vicinity, he ran them off. Oh no!
After a week with this herd, we had been only slightly close one time. The bay ran them off every time. He was a very pushy, ornery stallion and I took a dislike to his bossiness.
The last day, we saw the brothers way down the valley. We knew it would be our last opportunity to see and photograph them this year, so we set off to try to find a way to get close to them.
We saw them a long way away under a large juniper tree. We realized the bay was not with him. Hmmm....
We were working our way in their direction, when suddenly the bay came running over the hill toward the brothers. He began calling for them, running in circles. He ran up the valley, up the hill, circled back around and continued to call. We stopped and watched through our binoculars. The brothers did not respond, but hunkered under that juniper tree.
We decided not to give them away and just sat and watched to see what would happen.
The stallion ran almost all the way back to the other horses, at least a mile away, acting almost frantic. He called. After getting no response, he turned around and ran back to the area where the brothers were still under the tree. He called again and ran around looking high and low. The brothers stayed under the tree. The last we saw of them, the brothers were still under the tree and the bay was back with the large group of horses whinnying like his heart was broken.
I have no doubt he found his little family band again. The perlinos can be seen for miles because of their color. He surely saw them later- they couldn't stay under the tree forever. Though we weren't able to photograph them, I was happy to give them a short reprieve from that ornery, pushy stallion! I suspect when they get a little older and more confident, they will join a regular bachelor band, where they will be much happier, I'm sure!
We found out we weren't done with running horses. However, this time they were running toward us. Well, not really toward us, but toward the other horses in the band who were on the other side of us. You'd think they'd been separated from them for days when it had only been a half an hour or so. That was okay with us. We loved it!!
Can you believe this stallion's mane? Hubba Bubba!!
The stallion with the almost all gray harem...though he seems pretty enamored of his bay mare here!
Speaking of enamored, you were all pretty enamored
of this buckskin stallion last year. He is trying very hard
(and largely) succeeding, in becoming a lieutenant for
one of the stallions in the herd.
The oldest of the three bay roan stallions in the herd, he lost his harem a couple of years ago. He has been hanging with a bay stallion since. More about this boy later.
Another joy is watching the foals grow up, whether it's acting more like grown-ups or actually moving out on their own. These two brothers were quite bonded last year and constantly played this year. I couldn't believe their energy!
Do I know you?
Just like the big boys!
Big boys, you say?
It seems that on every trip we see something we've never seen before. Something that is unusual. Sometimes it's a good thing. Sometimes it's a bad thing. Sometimes it's a shocking thing. Like this time.
The large herd was quiet this particular morning. They were lazily grazing in the sun. Not much was going on and we were just hanging out with them.
Our favorite family band (grullo band stallion) was grazing along with the others. The youngest addition to the family flopped down in the grass. The only problem with this is that his family band kept on moving down the hill. Far enough down the hill that I knew he couldn't see them. I'm fairly certain they couldn't see him either.
I'm not sure how they got so far away. Perhaps, they thought he was with them. As parents, we've been there, haven't we?
Marty and I were watching. I made the comment that he was going to realize he'd been left behind and panic. As soon as he stood up and realized he couldn't see his family, I started a video.
He was one very unhappy foal! He started whinnying and then running back and forth. He was obviously distressed and confused.
He ran one way and couldn't see them. He turned around and ran the other way. He spotted a bay horse and I think he thought it was one of the bay mares in his band.
Unfortunately, it was not the bay mare from his band but a bay stallion. What happened next shocked both of us and certainly shocked the foal!
The bay stallion started chasing the foal. The foal started making a ruckus, which then caught the attention of other horses. One stallion and then another and another joined the chase. In the middle of this was the bay roan pictured above.
Generally, the other horses pay little attention to stallions running. However, this situation proved to be very different. Horses started running from every direction, both mares and stallions. Many appeared to be coming to the rescue of the foal, others seemed to want to know what was going on or were caught up in the excitement of the moment.
It didn't take more than a few seconds for the foal's band stallion to figure out what was going on. He ran into the middle of the stallions and went straight for the culprit.
The rest of the family band ran to the foal. The distress and concern on the faces of the other horses was amazing to see. Even the foal's big brother was obviously worried.
Reunited with mom, who clearly is not too happy at the moment.
Yes, that is a mark on his bottom, but the skin was not broken.
There's another lesson here and this one is for humans. We started out this quiet morning up on a hill with most of the horses down below us. There were a few up the hill but quite a ways away. By the time this whole scenario played itself out, we were literally surrounded by horses- about 60 distressed horses. They came from all directions when this happened. Horses were running toward us. As you can see from the photo above (and the video), the foal ended up right in front of us. Which means the other horses did too.
We are careful and do not get too close. We always watch stallions, in particular. There was no way we could have anticipated this or prepared for it. When horses started running, Marty and I got right next to each other and kept a careful eye out. I had to yell at one point so I didn't get run over.
You really can't be too careful and should never get too close to wild horses. Even when the horses are restful. Even when you know them and they know you. Stuff happens. This was a very good example...
All was well though. With the horses and with us. We left satisfied.
But before we left, we got a shot of that great big moon as it was closest to earth.
After a little over a week in Utah, we headed off to Wyoming. We love the horses there and had high hopes for this leg of our trip.
As we always do, we beat around a bit. We went back to places we'd been before and with the help of one of our Facebook fans, Amanda, we found some new horses too.
One of the prettiest dappled gray stallions we've ever seen anywhere. Oh my!
We moved on to the Great Divide Basin HMA east of Rock Springs. We didn't have a lot of success, but we did run into a pretty band of bachelors. It was worth the trip!
We also visited Salt Wells HMA, hoping to find the old white stallion that we saw the last two years. We did not find him but we did find the gorgeous black stallion and his very pretty black pinto mare we saw briefly last year. She had a minime pinto foal!
We were both mesmorized by these two!
And just across the road a stunning frame overo mare!
But we mostly concentrated on our old friends...
The stunning palomino roan stallion and the equally stunning dappled gray stallion.
The buckskin stallion and his buttermilk buckskin three year old with blue eyes.
I was surprised he is still with the band and from the looks of this, it won't likely be long before he's out with a bachelor band.
The stunning almost warbonnet stallion with his new Curly mare.
I just heard last week that he has lost her to another stallion. It's not at all unusual for a stallion to lose their first mare. I am hopeful he'll have another next spring and be able to hang onto her. I like this guy!
And speaking of Curlies...
I don't know for sure, but it wouldn't surprise me if these two Curlies were brothers.
One of our favorite Curlies. We are always delighted to see him!
New Curly Friends
Unfortunately, things can go wrong in the wild. Our week here proved to be a sad one.
We had the pleasure to see a newborn Curly foal. His dam was a Curly and while there is no way to know if the stallion is the sire, the band stallion was also a Curly.
This is the youngest Curly foal we've ever seen. We were delighted!
Unfortunately, by the end of the week the foal was gone.
We witnessed a fight between several stallions and it looked as if the foal got stepped on. He seemed to be okay for a few days but we noticed the mare wouldn't leave the area around the waterhole. She also was very protective of the foal, not letting the stallion get close to it.
Day after day, they were in the same place. Finally, on the next to the last day, we didn't see the foal. The mare was just standing and not eating. They were still near the waterhole.
The last day, they were away from the waterhole and at last, the mare was eating. There was no foal with them. I was crushed.
Very early in the week, we had realized there was a foal with deformed front legs, who also happened to be a Curly. He was getting around okay but was slow. The band stallion was very protective of him, always behind the band walking with him. Sometimes he would nudge him along, but generally, he just walked with him.
His dam, a black Curly mare, was watchful of her foal but you could tell it distressed her to be left behind the other mares. She was obviously torn between wanting to be with them and wanting to be with her foal. When they were not moving, she was very attentive, doing all the things a mama should do.
Other horses in the herd were curious about him and would often walk over to try to check him out. The entire band was protective of him, including the two year old buttermilk buckskin stallion.
It's hard to know what is going to happen with him. He seems to be otherwise healthy and is getting around alright. He certainly has a very caring and protective family band. As long as he can keep up with the other horses, he'll do okay. Only time will tell.
The final blow came our final morning with this herd.
We were watching the horses come into the waterhole from the other side. Suddenly one of the bands stopped in their tracks and seemed agitated and restless. They stopped eating, didn't come down to the waterhole and just hung around on the ridge above the waterhole. Other bands came and went, mostly from the side we were on. We knew something was bothering them but we couldn't tell what.
We were there about two and a half hours. Completely by coincidence, we decided to go out that way when we left. We took a wrong road and found ourselves just above the waterhole. The same band of horses was milling just off the road. We suddenly saw that the big palomino roan stallion had died, probably just a few hours before.
The band that was hanging around was not his band, yet they seemed quite disturbed. It looked as if they were trying to come in closer to check out the body. They moved off when we arrived and were headed down to water when we left.
We could see not obvious reason for his death. He had been in fine form the whole week and was fine the last time we saw him, two evenings before. Whether he had a sudden burst aneurysm, a heart attack or had been kicked in the wrong spot during a fight, no one knows. By the time the BLM horse specialist was able to get out there, he couldn't tell anything more than we could.
I had originally thought he had a lieutenant but later realized his lieutenant from last year had split off and had a harem of his own - some were mares that had originally been in the roan's band. Whether he will end up with the other mares and foals is only a hope. His band was the one staying on the hillside with the body, so there had obviously been strong bonds between them.
We had to go... Not a happy note to end it on. Not at all.
Rest in Peace beautiful boy.
You will surely be missed.
Reluctantly, we moved on. There was nothing to be done. It was time to start moving toward home.
We had a wonderful time in Idaho the previous spring. However, it had been almost six weeks earlier in the spring when we were there. It wasn't hot - in fact, it was far from it. There was also no drought like there is this year.
It proved to be a critical difference.
We put in our miles. We visited with the BLM wild horse specialist, we consulted with locals, we tried areas we'd been to the year before. We went to areas that hadn't been accessible the year before because they were wet.
We found one horse at 8300 foot elevation. Oh, we saw quite a number more down in the valley a few miles. However, these were WILD horses (as this one was) and we knew by the time we got down there, they'd be up the other side of the mountain.
He hesitated briefly before he ran off down a very steep hill. Then up another steep hill. And finally down into the valley several miles below.
The only other horses we saw were also miles away, with no access. Three bachelors made a brief appearance. Not a good ending to our wild horse trip.
There were severe thunderstorms and flash floods when we were there. We spent a few days in the trailer, waiting out the weather. However, we did make lemonade one day. No, not literally lemonade. We took the lemons handed to us and made lemonade. Oh, well. You get the picture. LOL
One of the last days there (we were there a week), we visited a popular ghost town an hour and a half or so away.
These hardy people had it hard in the old mining towns. The two we visited were circa 1880.
A full day away in a stagecoach from the nearest town, severe winter weather and no amenities, it wasn't a life for the faint of heart. The rock crushing machinery kept noise constant and very loud. I'm not sure how anyone stayed sane, particularly the women and children who had little to occupy themselves. Other than just trying to survive...
Of course, whole families often lived in these very small cabins.
The logs were still in very good shape in many of the homes and cabins. It seemed to be the roof that failed and then weather would eventually take down the rest.
Resourceful people...they flattened tin cans and used them between the logs and even for roofs of their homes.
The most fascinating thing to both of us were the old graveyards. They immediately brought home the reality of nineteenth century mountain living.
This was quite obviously fashioned after a baby bassinet
I'm quite certain there is not a woman on earth that wouldn't be affected by a grave marker like this...
The lack of lawlessness was evident as well. This is a small cemetery away from the others; a woman and her husband. Both were murdered (1879 and 1880). Her jilted lover was found murdered many years later.
The couple's deaths were so suspicious they did not bury them in the common cemetery. None of the murders were solved.
And then this...
All three children gone in a snowslide. The parents survived but the home was washed more than a 100 yards by the force of the snow.
So, our trip was over. We left for home.
It was not an ordinary trip. We had many disappointments. Many frustrating days. Many heartaches. In retrospect though, I would do it all over again. And again. And again. In fact, I probably will...
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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/
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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!