Well, we're on the road again!

We're starting our nine and half week trip in early May.  First we'll be in Oregon, then traveling to Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming and Utah.  

I am planning on blogging every week for the first three weeks and then every other week about our travels; where we've been, what we have seen and experienced.  I will update you on horses we've seen in the past and bring you new ones.  Of course, I will talk about the behaviors- one of my favorite things about wild horse photography.

New this year!  You can purchase any photo in the blog simply by clicking on it.  You will be taken to a new page where you can see the options available (everything from cards to canvases) and peruse all of the photos in that week's blog.

I will be going back and slowly enabling sales on my previous blogs too.  So, if you remember a photo from last year that you'd like to have, take a peek.  If it's not there yet, feel free to email me or message me on Facebook with the full name of the photo.  I'll take care of it!

I hope you will join us for the blogs.  If you'd like to subscribe to my feeds, go to the bottom of the page and click "Subscribe".  You will be notified when I post a new blog.  You can also subscribe to the website.  You will be notified when new photos are added.

Thank you for going along with us on our trip!

A Tale of Two Stallions (Cerbat Herd Area, Arizona)

April 09, 2015  •  15 Comments

While this blog is mostly about a very interesting meeting that we witnessed between two stallions, it is also about the Cerbat herd.  This is a very small heritage herd in western Arizona.  You will find information on the herd at the end of this blog.


We visited the Cerbat herd for the first time in February of 2014.  We saw only one band at the time, plus another band far on the hillside.  We were intrigued enough by the horses in this small Heritage herd to visit again in late March of 2015.


The first day there, we saw the same band we saw last year.  Named Blacksmith by the people in the area, he had the same mares and youngsters with him.  However, this time, he was far away on an inaccessible hillside.

Blacksmith and his band, 2014



We went back in the afternoon and saw another band, again far on the hillside above a waterhole.  We hoped they would come down to water, but they were finished and went up the hill instead of down.  Well, darn!



This tune is a familiar one to every wild horse photographer that I know!!


Not to be discouraged, we went back the next morning.  Nothing.  The afternoon….well, maybe.


There they were on the hillside again.  But were they coming down or going up?  Only time would tell.


We parked a good distance away, expecting they would be shy due to the new foal in the band.


It was an interesting band.  The bay stallion had a gray pregnant mare and a bay mare with a very young foal.  Not far away were two young stallions; a two year old and a yearling.  They were too young to be on their own but they didn’t appear to be with them in the usual sense.  The stallion never attempted to chase them away but they never made an effort to closely join them.  I wasn’t sure what to think.


We were trying to get some photos of them high on the hillside.  Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a horse running.  


A stallion.  Running.  Toward us.  This was more than a little exciting!




We thought, at the time, he was running for the waterhole.  He would have to come right past us.  Though he would still be some distance, at least we would have a chance to photograph him.  And he was a beauty!


Realizing the galloping stallion was likely to stir up the bay stallion up on the hill, we got ready.  Sure enough, the bay saw the roan and tore off the hill in his direction!



They tore into each other.  It looked like a fierce fight.  The roan was obviously older and considerably bigger but the bay held his own.






Suddenly they stopped fighting.  They tucked into each other.  Sniff, sniff.  Okay.  We’ve seen this.  Nothing new.  We’ve been around the block.   We’ve seen it all in the last ten plus years.  Yep.  Got it.


We were ready for the rest of the scenario, which we knew by heart.  Right.


They started to groom each other.  WHAT?


Now, I was talking tongue in cheek.  We are constantly surprised by wild horses.  However, after spending thousands of hours, months every year for a lot of years, with the wild ones, you DO think you know what is going to happen next.  It will always be exciting.  It will never be routine.  But you think you know…


In all the years and hundreds upon hundreds of stallion interactions/confrontations/discussions, we have never seen it end in *grooming*.  Never.






They were still a little edgy with each other.  But they stayed close together, nuzzling, grooming and yes, posturing…



Suddenly they both stopped, turned around, and stared at something behind us.



I see!  More horses behind us!


They both tore off toward the other horses.  I wasn’t sure what was happening.  Would there be a fight?  The sun was in our eyes and we couldn’t see much, other than the fact there were three horses.


The stallions raced to the other group.  



The next few photos will be backlit, as we were shooting straight into the sun.  There was no alternative and we didn’t want to miss this…



It appeared there was a pregnant mare, a two year old colt and a yearling.  





The colt immediately started grimacing.   It was his way of saying, “I don’t want to fight” to the two stallions.



The colt is grimacing to show the stallions he does not want to fight.



It quickly became apparent this was the roan’s band.


They were all excited.  But there was no fighting.


The bay stallion and the two year old proceeded to…play.  Play.  PLAY.  The roan stallion stood by, appearing uninterested in the shenanigans.




I glanced up on the hillside where the mares and young stallions had been left for nearly a half an hour.  You would not see this in any other herd.  It’s risky to leave mares unattended for any length of time.  But this is a small herd and apparently, there was no danger of the mares being stolen by another stallion.  The bay stallion acted as if he had no family at all.  He was having a heyday!



To my surprise, I saw the two young colts start to move in toward the mares.  Thinking this would upset the stallion, I kept my eyes glued to him.  They moved in close to the gray mare.  The bay stallion continued to ignore his family band.



After a few minutes, it was clear the bay roan’s mare wanted to go to water.  Enough of this boy stuff!  She started moving toward the waterhole.




 The bay stallion decided it was time to go back to his band.  




He clearly saw the young stallions with the gray mare.  He wasn’t upset.  He trotted back, unconcerned.




We were distracted by the bay roan’s band coming in for water.  What a lovely band!







If you want to know more about how a yearling can be so roaned out, read about the history of this herd at the end of the blog.




After they drank their fill, they wandered up the other side of the hill.

Starting up the hill





Once the bay stallion was back to his band, the colts drifted away again.  They didn’t appear afraid and the stallion was never aggressive.  Yet, they didn’t stay close.




They also drifted up the hill.  


The mare and foal made it to the top first.


The stallion followed with his pregnant mare.  She was heavy with foal and clearly didn’t want to move too fast.  He stayed close by her side.




The youngsters stayed below, grazing.




We were ready to go too.  The sun was almost gone.  It had been a good evening.  We’d seen something very interesting.  Something we’d never seen before.


My last view of the stallion was him looking over the top of the hill for the two colts.  It made me smile.





Before I talk about the history of this herd, I’d like to propose a couple of explanations for the behavior we had witnessed.  While we have a lot of experience with wild horses, I am not familiar with this herd.  Nor am I familiar with the two bands.  I can only guess what was behind the behaviors we witnessed.


I think it is very likely the bay and bay roan stallion are related.  The bay roan was probably old enough to be his sire.  They could have been brothers but I am going to guess the former.  Their stallion instincts came first, but once they got *that* out of their systems, they appeared to be happy to see each other and in fact, were quite affectionate toward each other.  I have never seen mature band stallions from different bands groom each other.  There almost had to be some connection between these two.


This herd is quite small and the majority of the horses live in the mountains.  Only two or three bands come down into residential areas.  That would mean they are likely very familiar with each other.  There is no big herd to band together, so perhaps, it is a delight to see another band.


I am guessing the two year old and yearling colts were not the bay stallion’s offspring.  They appeared to belong to the gray mare and they wasted no time joining her after the stallion left.  The stallion showed no aggression toward them and didn’t seem to be ready to run them off – thankfully, because they are too young to be alone – but he may be concerned about his other mare, who is not their dam and has just foaled, and is enforcing some distance between her and those young hormone-filled boys.  On the other hand, he seemed genuinely concerned when they didn’t immediately follow.  He stood on the top of the hill for quite some time, looking over at them.  


Whether my guesses are right or wrong, I loved seeing this.  A new type of interaction is always fascinating and a joy to see!


On to the history of this herd.  There are some interesting facts here.  I hope you will read on…


The Cerbat Horses
This is a very small heritage herd - The Cerbat Herd Area.  It is not an HMA, largely because there is so much private land mixed in with BLM land.


These are small horses that live in the desert. And I mean desert! Complete with minimal forage, scarce water and loads of cactus. Yet, these horses survive. Their small size is probably due to desert forage, yet they do not look thin - just small (14 - 16 hands).


At the most recent count, early in 2015, it was estimated 70 horses remain in the herd. Numbers are stable, probably because of cougar predation. Gathers haven't occurred in years. 


The terrain varies from the desert of the valley floor (~4000 ft) to the Cerbat Mountains - at ~7000 feet elevation.


One sources states, "The rare Mustangs of the Cerbat Mountain area of northwestern Arizona are some of the purest descendants of Spanish horses in the United States. Blood testing shows that they carry genetic markers typical of Spanish horses. They are also laterally gaited, with a gait similar to the Paso breeds, but not with such extreme action. Cerbat horses are mostly bay and chestnut but at least 50% are also roans, with the dun dilution also occurring. Cerbats are unusual in that roan foals are born roan, whereas in many other breeds roaning occurs only after the foal coat has been shed." [http://horse-genetics.com/Taos.html]


Which explains the very roaned yearling we saw!


Whether they are truly descendants of the Spanish is controversial. However, there is not much doubt they have been surviving in this unforgiving terrain for nearly 300 years!


From the BLM website:
The Cerbat HA is one of only two HA’s in Arizona known as home to wild horses. There are several popular beliefs concerning the origin of this particular herd. One theory is that the Cerbats are descendants of Spanish mustangs, introduced as early as the 1500s. A second theory is that these horses escaped from early explorers in the 1700s. Yet another belief is that the horses were abandoned by livestock ranchers in the early 1800s. Though the horses do typically show some signs of Spanish descent, their exact origin remains a matter of speculation by scientists. Regardless, this herd is protected by law. 


Population: About 60 wild horses roam the Cerbat HA today (~70 in 2015 – source BLM wild horse specialist for the herd). The population is relatively stable, and as a result, recruitment is fairly low. It is believed that the high density of mountain lions roaming within the HA keeps the wild horse population stable. The body size of a Cerbat horse is usually small, with an average weight ranging between 750 to 800 pounds and an average height of 14 to 16 hands. The horses are predominately bays, with numerous red, strawberry and blue roans. Other colors include grey, black, sorrel and dun. 


Management: The horses are managed as living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West. To date, an Appropriate Management Level has not been determined for the Cerbat wild horse population. With relatively stable numbers, removals by the BLM have not been necessary, and the habitation conditions remain good. 


We feel very lucky to have seen bands both years we visited. 


Lovely horses and a lovely setting. So very exotic for a northwestern girl!


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The Second Half of Our Trip (2013)

August 07, 2013  •  21 Comments

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.


Eastern Nevada- New Territory


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.



Long Drives

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.













Off to Utah

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.




Old Friends, New 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.



New Foals

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!!







Some More Old Friends



  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.













The Kids Are Growing Up

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?


















Stuff Happens

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.







Off to Wyoming

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.











New foals...














New families...






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

Oh Yeah!!




A Broken Heart Times Three


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...








You can purchase most of the photos from the blogs.  Just click on the photo you are interested in to be taken to a gallery where you can view options and purchase.  


Did you know you can subscribe to my blogs?  Though this is the last blog directly from our spring trip, you just never know when I might decide to do another- or for next year's blog, should I do so.  Just go to the bottom and click "Subscribe."  You will receive an email when each one is published.  This will work for Firefox and Internet Explorer.  If you use Google Chrome, you will need to check "Help" for instructions on how to subscribe to a RSS or a "feed".


If you would like to read my earlier blogs (this is number fifteen), just go to the "Blog" page, scroll to the bottom and click on the one you would like to read.  They are organized by year (six this year and nine in 2012), to make it a bit easier.


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 DVD and photo sales 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!

Week 7 - Bachelors!

June 30, 2013  •  9 Comments

Ahhh, one of my favorite subjects, not to say the most fun!


My friend Mary Ann asked me several years ago if I would rather be a (wild) stallion or mare.  I hesitated for about five seconds before answering, “Stallion!”


Now, why would I say that?  Stallions have a hard life.  All that fighting to get a harem and keep it; eventually losing the harem.  The risk of injury.  The hard work keeping everyone in line.


But.  Before they ever become a harem (band) stallion, they have years of unadulterated FUN!



The Path to Becoming a Harem Stallion


Every harem stallion was once a young foal.  Then he was a precocious young colt and then an older colt and then…well, you know what then.


For young foals, play is a constant feature.  You can see stallion behavior from early on, can’t you?


Maestro (right), Spring 2010



Yearling Colts



At this point, young colts are beginning to be full of mischief and full of themselves!!


They are pretty sure they have the world by the tail!




Sometimes yearlings are brazen enough to challenge a full grown stallion!
























This red roan stallion had the support of his palomino yearling.  I love these kinds of interactions.  They simply must be in the middle of everything!  LOL



Once the stallion decided he couldn’t be bothered with such an unimportant little guy, the two yearlings proceeded to practice being big stallions. 



























This kind of playing is good practice for when they need to know how to do the real thing (breeding).  You’ll commonly see young and even older bachelor stallions exhibiting this kind of behavior.













Shortly after this, they were joined by a third yearling.  Chaos!
















Occasionally, we see yearlings who want to be in a bachelor band.  They just won’t stay out of the older bachelors’ space.  Why they want to grow up so fast is beyond me.  But then I often say that about human children, too!!







South Steens Herd Management Area,  Spring 2011


Cochise, Ditto and Domino (left to right)














Sometimes something will happen and a yearling will end up in a bachelor band.  We’ve seen this a couple of times.  Generally, it occurs when something has happened to the dam, as was the case with Juniper from the South Steens HMA (Herd Management Area).  His dam died (of old age) when he was just a little over a year old.  They had been with a bachelor band prior to her death and he stayed with them after she was gone.  The next spring, all of the bachelors but Ditto had acquired mares.  Juniper and Ditto stayed together and appeared to be fast friends.  Age didn’t matter.









A year later, I would say this is a greeting, not a challenge, wouldn’t you?






Ditto and Juniper, Spring 2013










Two Year Olds

If you think yearlings can be a handful, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet!  Two year olds are so full of themselves, much like human teenagers.  They want to try everything, be in the middle of everything, challenge everything.  Being the mother of two boys and grandmother to grandsons, perhaps they have a special place in my life.  I adore two year olds!



Running far away from his band to roughhouse with another two year old was commonplace for one of my favorite youngsters, Cochise, from the South Steens HMA.  He was not worried about a thing – except having fun!!






Cochise playing, Spring 2012















Another commonly seen characteristic of two year olds is their curiosity, especially when it comes to what big daddy is doing.  This never fails to get a laugh out of me – never!






Idaho (palomino and bay roan) youngsters, Spring 2012




“Hey Dad, can I help?”  or maybe, it’s “Is that how you do it, Dad?”  Either way, it’s pretty amusing to watch!




The lack of good sense can get two year olds into trouble.  A couple of years ago, we watched a two year old roughhousing with another stallion just about in the middle of his band.  The trouble is, there was a young foal in the band.  The dam of the two was not happy and let her feelings be known. 



The foal, which just happens to be a colt, was immensely curious about what the older two are doing (not shown here).  Taking lessons? 





Utah, Spring 2011















Two year olds do end up in stallion bands on occasion.  Our two favorite perlino brothers (Utah) are with an older stallion this year.   I can only guess what might have caused that to happen, since they were part of the big grullo’s family band.



One of the perlino’s dams was not in the harem this spring.  It’s my guess that she was acquired by another stallion, the two year olds followed her and were kicked out of the band by the new stallion.



Unfortunately, they ended up with an older and very aggressive stallion.  While the brothers had been very habituated to people, the older stallion was not.  Whenever they got close to either the larger herd of horses or to us, the stallion would aggressively snake them away.  They were so nervous, they didn’t seem to know what to do.



At the end of our week there, we were determined to see and photograph them again.  We had seen them the first day there, but the stallion hadn’t allowed us to get close enough with even our big lenses since.



We knew they were hanging out way down the road.  Those two shine like beacons against the green hillside, so they are often easy to see.  This morning, interestingly, they looked like they were alone.  We tried to find a way down and eventually did find a road that went somewhat close. 



Suddenly the big stallion comes tearing toward us from a mile or so away – at a full out gallop and looking frantic.   He was obviously looking for his “harem.”



We watched curiously as the two brothers hid under a large juniper tree.  He stopped, calling, spinning and running all over.  The brothers did not respond in any way- they just hunkered under that tree.



The stallion ran part way back to the herd, turned around, came back and did it all over again.  Still no response from the brothers…



We opted to not give them away, but sat quietly in the truck, watching from a distance with the binoculars.



He finally turned, running for the herd.  The last we saw him, he was running all over that hill, calling and trying to find his little band, while the boys hunkered under that tree a mile away.



I seriously doubt they escaped from him.  You can see them from miles away.  Whatever kind of break they can get from him would be welcome, though.  I’m sure they’ll eventually escape or mature enough to say, “NO!”  In the meantime, at least they are with another horse who (more or less) knows the ropes.  Poor boys!




Utah, Spring, 2013












Three Year Olds


Usually by the time a young stallion is three years old, he’s been booted out of the family band by the harem stallion.  Why, you say?




Well, they are starting to get some real big ideas.  Ideas that seriously muck up the family dynamics.  They are bigger, stronger and want to fight the harem stallion for the rights to the mares.  Time to go get their own pad- and life!




That usually means a bachelor band.  They can hang out with likeminded young stallions and stay out of trouble.




Well, maybe not.  They still seem to get into plenty of trouble.



This spring, we’ve seen three year olds still in their natal (birth) band on two different occasions.



The first is Benson, who remains in Jack’s band (South Steens Herd Management Area).  I suspect (but don’t know) that Jack just doesn’t have the energy to run him out.  He has his hands full keeping the four stallions at bay.



I have heard from that Jack and Benson were fighting seriously.  Maybe he is closer to being kicked out on his own.  He needs to be!






Jack & Benson, Spring 2013













The second instance was a big surprise for us, for there seems no ready explanation for the three year old still being in the band.



A little background history; the three year old is the beautiful blue-eyed buttermilk buckskin from three years ago (Wyoming).  We revisited him again last spring.  He’s quite a stunning young boy.  The harem stallion is the big buckskin stallion that looks so much like Golden Boy.



This spring, he’s still in the middle of the family band.  The first few days we were here (we’re still here), things were pretty calm.  I thought maybe he was just so laid back he hadn’t earned that booting out yet.




Well, a couple of days ago, I was proven wrong.  Here he is fighting his harem stallion (yes, he could be his sire, but hey, one never knows).  I wonder how much longer it’s going to take?




















In a Bachelor Band At Last



So, what do you do when you are kicked out of your natal band?  Well, just about every young stallion will enter a bachelor band.  Yes, on occasion we’ve seen a lone young stallion, but it isn’t common and doesn’t seem to last long.



Bachelor bands vary from two stallions to a dozen or more.  I would say the average is four or five stallions, which is plenty of chaos!



Most of the “bands” of two stallions seem to consist of an older and a younger stallion.  Often, the older one, who has almost certainly loved and lost (had a harem and lost it), treats the younger stallion like one of his mares.  They can be very bossy and pushy, constantly snaking the younger stallion around.






Wyoming, Spring 2012














These two acted so much like a stallion and a mare, it took me a few minutes to realize the gray (white) stallion was not a mare.  There doesn’t seem to be a significant age difference here, but as you know, it can be hard to tell. 




Sometimes, though, it seems to be a true friendship, or one where the younger is looked after by the older.  Ditto and Juniper come to mind, but so do others.







These two have been together for at least a year.  No pushiness here, they seem just like good old fashioned friends.  (Utah, Spring 2013)













The younger stallion here was curious about us and the older one wanted to leave.  He wouldn’t leave his younger companion though.  He wasn’t pushy, wasn’t snaking, he just wouldn’t leave him.  It was touching.  (Idaho, Spring 2012)




















Some Stallion Bands


With so many lovely bachelor bands to choose from, it's hard to decide what to show you.  Here are some that stand out for us.



















This is one of the larger stallion bands we’ve seen.  There was plenty of chaos goin’ on here!  LOL  (Salt Wells HMA, Spring 2011)








One of the prettier stallion bands we’ve seen (South Steens, Spring 2013)














So What Goes On in a Stallion Band, Anyway?


Oh plenty!!



Stallion bands tend to stand on the edges of the larger group or groups.  There, they can observe what normal stallion behavior should be.  Learning by observation, shall we say?








Utah, Spring 2012


Getting the drift?














There is practicing going on...



It looks like he could need some more practice!  ;-)



Utah, Spring 2013













Of course, while hanging out learning, they tend to get a little bored.  That’s when the mischief starts!





Wyoming, Fall 2010





















Utah, Spring 2011

















Two Curly stallions

Wyoming, Spring 2012















It truly amazes me how long these youngsters can go on and on and on.  This is a long video, but I promise you it will be worth your time (particularly if you need a smile).  Note how the mature stallion runs in at one point to join them.  He doesn’t exactly participate but neither does he get in their face.




The buckskin is also a bachelor, now trying very hard to be a lieutenant to a harem stallion.  He doesn’t seem to like their presence at all.





Remember what I said about having fun?  LOL




Other Charming Traits of Bachelors



One of the other things I love about bachelors is their curiosity.  You can almost always always count on them coming to check you out.  That is a wonderful thing when you are a photographer, or even just a wild horse nut!























Idaho, Spring 2012





On several occasions, we’ve seen bachelor buddies “sharing” a mare.  I suspect they have been together for awhile and when one of them acquires a mare, they just don’t break up.



I used to think this was an odd situation, but I’ve seen it quite a number of times now.  It’s not exactly common, but neither is it uncommon.





Utah, Spring 2012


This little band was quite peaceful.  The band is still together and the mare now has a foal (Spring 2013). 











As a side story, this past year (2012), we watched a mature harem stallion run into this little band and breed the mare.  The young stallions just stood an watched.  When finished, the mature stallion turned and ran back to his own band.  See why I always say you can't tell who the sire is?



Of course, it doesn’t always work out this way.  Sometimes, there is constant fighting between the stallions and there is nothing but tension.  That happens too. 



So, just how long does a stallion live in a bachelor band?  It varies from a few years to all their lives.   Some stallions actually choose to stay in bachelor bands, just like human males may decide to be lifelong bachelors.  Maybe they just aren't aggressive or don't want to have to fight for a family.  Or maybe they are just having too much fun!





Mature Stallions Think Bachelors are Fun Too



Often, the mere presence of bachelors is enough to set off a mature stallion.  In fact, it’s the rule more often than the exception to the rule.



So, bachelors often are chased by mature stallions.  They don’t even have to do anything but be there.  They don’t even necessarily have to be close, just in the area.  I feel sorry for them when that happens.




Once in a blue moon though, the stallion band is joined by a mature stallion.  Not for challenging or fighting, but almost for a joyous break.  We saw that twice this spring.  Once, Cortez (South Steens Herd Management Area) joined a group of bachelors, flat out playing with them.  He raced across the meadow, chasing, biting and rearing and the bachelors willingly participated.  When he got that out of his system, he tossed his head and ran back to his band.  What a fun thing to see!!





Cortez playing, Spring 2013



You can see a little bit of that in the video too.  While he didn’t openly play, the mature stallion seemed to want to know what was up!




It Isn’t Always Young Bachelors



Not all bachelor bands are made up of young bachelors.  It’s not uncommon for an older stallion who has lost his harem to join up with a group of bachelors.  Usually, they’ll become the leader of the band and the younger ones seem to willingly defer to him.






Utah, Spring 2010












Single bachelors that don’t join up with a bachelor band can become trouble for the herd or for a single band.  Most notable are the four bachelors harassing Jack; Blue, Casper, Four Socks and Dibs.



Why the four have ganged up on one stallion is a mystery.  Perhaps, they sense he is vulnerable.  Perhaps, it’s something else.






Casper and Blue on the fringes of Jack’s band, Spring 2013












A single bachelor stallion will sometimes pick out a harem stallion to either try to steal a mare from or perhaps, become a self-imposed lieutenant.  They will continually pester, harass and pick at the stallion.  As we all know, the harem stallion can become injured while trying to fend the bachelor off.  Other times, the offending stallion is reluctantly accepted into the band as a lieutenant, as it appears in the case of Spitfire and Jack from the South Steens.




And Sometimes They Choose to Be Alone


We do see bachelor stallions alone.  Perhaps, it’s a personal choice.  I would suspect some older stallions just don’t want to deal with the shenanigans of the younger crowd.  Maybe they are content to be alone.  It’s hard to say, but most of the lone stallions we have seen have been both older and appear to be content with their place in the world.




Utah, Spring 2011



Of course, many bachelor stallions go on to acquire mares and harems of their own.  Not every one- it just doesn't work that way.



We always enjoy watching young stallions grow up, join a bachelor band for a few years and then finally acquire a mare.  :-)






You can purchase most of the photos from the blogs.  Just click on the photo you are interested in to be taken to a gallery where you can view options and purchase.  


Did you know you can subscribe to my blogs?  Just go to the bottom and click "Subscribe."  You will receive an email when each one is published.  This will work for Firefox and Internet Explorer.  If you use Google Chrome, you will need to check "Help" for instructions on how to subscribe to a RSS or a "feed".


If you would like to read my earlier blogs (there are thirteen), just go to the "Blog" page, scroll to the bottom and click on the one you would like to read.  They are organized by year (five this year and nine in 2012), to make it a bit easier.


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 DVD and photo sales 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!


Blog 4- The First Half

June 16, 2013  •  22 Comments

This is typical of what we see on those long, lonely roads...



The first half of what??? 


Well, the first half of our trip, of course!


We’re on the road for nine and a half weeks this time.  We’ll be going to Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and Idaho.  We will be visiting at least seventeen HMAs, a national wildlife refuge and at several herd areas (places where there are horses but not an HMA).


The drought has made this trip tough.  Everything from having horses moved to higher country, to disappearing water holes, poor forage and heat have affected our finding horses.  More about that later.


First Stop – Big Summit HMA, Oregon

We always try to make a stop in the Ochoco Forest to see the forest horses.  This year was no different.


This was the earliest we’d ever been there.  Usually we are there at the end of our trip instead of the beginning.  We went to the places we usually see them in the summer.  It was still spring though.  No doubt about it.


We went up the road.  Down the road.  Up the road again.  Hmmmm…


Apparently, the horses were on their way up to the higher country and that made it hard to find them.  They have trails that we would never be able to find.  We did finally locate a few horses and lo and behold, babies!  We didn’t get to see as many as we wanted, nor did we get as many photos as we usually do, but we weren’t skunked!



We only stayed two days, eager to get to our favorite horses!



Second Stop – South Steens HMA, Oregon


Those of you who have been following us for any length of time know that we consider the South Steens HMA our “home” HMA.  It’s where we’ve been photographing wild horses the longest.  We know most of the horses well, even if we don’t know their names.


It’s always a joy to be there.


We had been warned but were still surprised by the cracked, dry ground, sparse forage and dry waterhole when we got to the Hollywood Meadow, where the Hollywood Herd spends much of the year.


The Hollywood Herd was still using the mineral lick near the Hollywood Meadow and of course, they were still grazing in the meadow on the way.  They were having to go over the hill to a usually lesser used waterhole.  We had never seen them there before, so this was a surprise.


The waterhole is a big one.  Usually only one band at a time comes into a waterhole, with the rest waiting their turns.  However, there was room to accommodate many bands at a time here.  Such a treat!




Of course, that many bands at the waterhole at one time is a recipe for tension!























Arrow and Yellow Boy



One of our big concerns was Jack and his band. 




Jack's band




We knew from other photographers that he was under siege by four stallions.  He had been holding it together for some time, largely because the four were fighting each other as much as they were fighting with him.





Blue & Arrow















We were happy to see new foals and some cuties too.  There were new additions to just about every band we saw.  The newest foal that we saw was in Cortez’s band, Whisper’s new foal, Dark Feather, who had a rough start.  He seems to be doing well now, though.  I know there will be photographers there this weekend and I hope for an update on this little guy, as well as the rest of the Hollywood Herd.






Whisper and her foal, Dark Feather




There is just something about seeing a brand new foal that endears them to you forever.



Exactly one week after we arrived, we were surprised by the moving of the Hollywood Herd to higher ground by the BLM.  We weren’t surprised it was needed, just that it happened so suddenly.  While we tried a few times to find the horses “up there” we never successfully photographed them again.



Both of us are glad they are where forage and water is better, but we sure did miss our old friends!



During that same time, the weather was unpredictable.  We had many afternoons of thunderstorms.  I don’t know about you, but we don’t like to take our tripods out with lightning- it's the perfect lightning rod!  So we missed many opportunities to go out.  Not surprising really, it was May and May is very unpredictable in southeastern Oregon!



Kiger Mustang HMA


So unpredictable, that the first morning we went up to the Kiger HMA, it had snowed.  It’s not the first May snowstorm we’ve experienced in our years there, and it certainly wasn’t the heaviest.  In fact, it was just enough to make the setting quite magical!






We visited the Kigers three times but only found the one band of horses.  We aren’t complaining, of course, sometimes we *do* get skunked when it comes to the Kigers!










We tried to make the best out of our time there.  Between the weather and the horses being moved, we had to do *something*!



Birds in the campground...





Evening Grosbeak














Birds in the barbecue...

























Birds on Malheur National Wildlife Refuge...






Black-chinned Hummingbird














During our time there (18 days), we also trekked south to Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge to see if we could catch up with some burros.  We lucked out with one band, but otherwise, it was a quiet (and long) day.



















We tried not to be disappointed by our time there.  We were happy the horses were in a better place and also happy that it rained when it did.  The horses are always the first priority, but we missed them…




Stop Three – South of Winnemucca, Nevada


Next mission – burros in Nevada!  We didn’t have much time to spend here but we wanted at least a little.  We were able to go out twice.  Again, thunderstorms foiled us on two occasions.  Still, we had a little luck.



















We even found some of the wonderful pinto burros!




















While there, we found an old cemetery just below an abandoned mine.  There were nine graves, all with simple unmarked crosses of either rough wood or metal.  Three of the graves were clustered together, one of them small as if for a child.  They must have been buried together.  What a story there must be there!




You can see the abandoned town and mine in the background.




Stop Four- Reno/Carson City



We had been to the area before and we knew there had been gathers since we were there last.  That coupled with the drought made it harder to find horses.  Then overnight, the temperatures soared and the horses headed for the trees and the high country.




We weren’t totally skunked, but we sure had to work hard to find the few horses that we did find.




Oh, so you want to see that luscious black silver stallion again, huh?  OK.  ;-)





This is the only place outside of South Steens HMA we've ever seen a silver.  You can imagine my excitement!







Yes, that’s him in the middle of the scuffle!



Just like a two year old, isn't it?  LOL












We did see one of the longest manes we’ve ever seen on a horse.  He was one bored stallion, but you get what you get in this business!




















We had a high school graduation in there somewhere (Congratulations, Sara!) and then we were off again.  Back to the burros. 



Stop Five - South of Winnemucca, Nevada (or is it just an extension of Stop Three?)




We just hadn’t had enough!




This time, instead of being cold and rainy, it was hot!  The several days we were there, it was 97 degrees.  Way too hot for Washingtonians.  We think it’s hot when it’s 80!!




We toughed it out though.  It was definitely worth the trip back!  We saw two pure white burros, which we have never seen before!





You’ll just have to keep checking Facebook for the other one.  ;-)














Our last day there, we decided to take the long way back.  We had heard rumors of horses when we were there two years ago.  We couldn’t make it around then because it was too wet.  Talk about a contrast to this year!




It was a seven hour trek and we did, indeed, see wild horses.  We estimated that we saw 200 horses.  All of them were running away!







I do believe I promised you a video of that event, didn't I?






…every single one, with the exception of three young bachelors who were curious enough to give us a couple minutes of their time.







Running, but not running away - yet!














Then they ran away too!



Though it's been slim pickins' in most of the places we've been, it's still wonderful to be on the road.  We often forget how fortunate we are to be able to do what we do.  We might complain we only saw a handful of horses in a whole day's excursion, but we also know that many people will never be able to see any.  We are, indeed, fortunate!!




Next Stop- Eastern Nevada!

...then Utah, Wyoming and Idaho.  There is still a lot to come!




The next blog will be published on June 30.




You can purchase most of the photos from the blogs.  Just click on the photo you are interested in to be taken to a gallery where you can view options and purchase.  


Did you know you can subscribe to my blogs?  Just go to the bottom and click "Subscribe."  You will receive an email when each one is published.  This will work for Firefox and Internet Explorer.  If you use Google Chrome, you will need to check "Help" for instructions on how to subscribe to a RSS or a "feed".


If you would like to read my earlier blogs (there are eleven), just go to the "Blog" page, scroll to the bottom and click on the one you would like to read.  They are organized by year (four this year and nine in 2012), to make it a bit easier.


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 DVD and photo sales 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!


June 02, 2013  •  15 Comments


Oh, I know how you have been waiting for this one!  He is a favorite of many of you, and me too. 



It’s been a daunting task to do a whole blog on Jack.  In fact, I’ve been pretty overwhelmed by the whole thing!  This is going to be mostly a photographic blog.  We have so much to say, photographically, that is. 



Where to start?



First things first.  I just learned today that Jack is, indeed, freezebranded.  Since he is white, it is very difficult to see, not to speak of his mane usually covering that area.  His brand indicates that he was born in 2001.  Considering how long he has been a band stallion and how beat up he is, I am still picking my jaw up off the floor! 



I can only start at our beginning – the first time we photographed Jack.



We saw him some time before we ever got a decent photo of him, maybe even a couple of times.  How could you forget such a different looking horse?  He was pretty laid back, but yet, I don’t think we could have walked up to him.  Back in those days, we took all of our photos out of the truck, never knowing we could get out with the wild ones.



I’m not even sure when this photo was taken.  The date has either “fallen off” the photo or it was a slide.  Since I’m not home, I can’t even check.



What I *do* know is that Jack had two ears.  He almost looks odd to me now.  I’m so used to that half ear on one side.






We continued to see him off and on but we didn’t have any opportunity to get close again until 2008.  It was just a quick glimpse.  However, it was clear he was missing a half of his ear.  No one knows for sure how he lost it, but likely it was in a fight.  It doesn't surprise me, does it you?





When we finally saw him again in the fall of 2008, it was a splendid opportunity!



Like we often see now, there were many bands in the Hollywood Meadow.  I would guess maybe four or five, but it could have been more.  When horses are grouped together like that and moving around, it’s hard to tell who belongs to whom.



It was clear, though other stallions were present, that Jack was somewhat of a “big dog.”  The other stallions seemed to take their cues from him and he had them going all over that meadow!




































Though it was a bit messy with all those horses milling and running around, it did appear that several rather well known horses were with him at the time.





Chinook (front) and Charm (behind Jack with her head down)

















Ranger (third from left)

I strongly suspect that Ranger was Jack’s lieutenant, though I had no idea at that time there was such a thing!
















This red dun stallion has been seen by other photographers.  Perhaps, Yellow Boy and Four Sox were in his bands as foals.  Their sire?  While Yellow Boy certainly resembles him, remember, you just can’t know for sure.














Looky who is watching.  Golden Boy!


















It does appear there was a little tension between Jack and the Red Dun!














In 2009, it looked as if Ranger was still Jack’s lieutenant.  It’s a statement in itself that Charm’s foal looks so much like Ranger.  Remember, you just can’t tell who the sire is without DNA!






Ranger, Jack, Charm and her foal















In the fall of 2009, the South Steens horses were gathered.  Jack and many others were released, however, the family bands were completely dissembled and when they came back together there were different players.



Jack lost his position as band stallion and was now lieutenant to Majesty.



We had seen Majesty for several years by then but were still surprised when he displaced Jack.



An uneasy alliance was formed between the two but in the spring of 2010, it was clear that Jack was doing what a lieutenant is supposed to do.





That does not mean they didn’t still challenge each other once in awhile!




Chasing away those pesky stallions that would like to pick off a mare!















Jack and Phoenix

















Fighting those pesky stallions that would like to pick off a mare!  Jack and Cortez




Cortez took a particular dislike to Jack and was in his face constantly this spring.  This was the first time we could remember seeing Cortez and he came on strong!





































Watching out for the young’ens





















































The spring of 2011 was a peaceful one between Majesty and Jack.  They seemed to settle into their roles.





















Keeping an eye out for Cortez. Though he now had his own band and things had settled down, you could see that Jack wasn’t completely trusting.
















Checking for danger after leaving the waterhole.  A young Benson is just behind him.














Jack was still Majesty’s lieutenant in the Spring of 2012, when Majesty was mortality injured and humanely euthanized.  Since he was a fully accepted member of the band, with breeding rights too (comes with the job description), the transition was smooth.  Jack became the band stallion.



Sometime in the fall or winter of 2011/12, a stallion named Spitfire showed up.  He fought both Majesty and Jack and when Majesty died, he seemed to want to be Jack’s lieutenant in the worst way.



It was apparent that Jack was not keen on the idea.  While Spitfire did chase away other stallions as a lieutenant should…



















…he also continually challenged Jack.


























All in all though, things went along smoothly.  Life was even quiet and peaceful at times.





































                       Hattie with a very interested

Benson checking her out




























A hint of things to come…





Benson was a two year old and as full of himself as any two old colt can be!











2013  Under Siege


I think we were not alone in how surprised we were to see the chaos in Jack’s band this spring.  He was under siege from within and from without.



Benson, now three years old, should have been run out of his natal (birth) band by now.  He has all the raging hormones of a young stallion and is constantly stirring things up from within.



I suspect (but don’t know) that Jack has his hands so full with four mature stallions trying to take over his band that he doesn’t dare take the time to run Benson off.  If he were to be gone from the band that long, he would likely come back to it and find his band divided in four sections; one part for Blue, one for Dibbs, one for Four Socks and one for Casper!



Jack’s band.  You can see all those “extra” stallions in and among the band.











































                                                                                                                      Four Socks


















And last but not least…





















Of course, the object of everyone’s attention when we were there were Chardonnay and Hattie, the two mares with foals (at that point).




 Jack, Chardonnay and Hattie with foals, Jackie (Chardonnay) and Jester (Hattie)





There was nearly constant chaos in Jack’s band.  Jack is thin from constantly chasing the other stallions.  We watched the band trying to rest at one point and saw Blue walk over to each horse that was laying down and nudge them up on their feet.  It was difficult for anyone to really rest and relax.








Casper and Jack
















There was always so much chaos that it agitated other band stallions.  Now Jack had them to contend with…


Arrow & Jack












Spitfire was having a hard time.  He tried to help off and on, but he lost an eye this spring.  He seems to have lost a lot of his spunk, for good reason.  He did try though.






Spitfire chasing Blue












As much as I don't like it, I do believe that Jack is likely to lose his band this year.  I don’t know many stallions who could fend off four stallions from without and a feisty young stallion from within. 




What has saved him so far?  The fighting between the four stallions – which is almost constant.






                          Casper and Blue


















Blue and Dibs
















Even Blue and Cortez



Are you sensing a theme here?












So, for the moment, Jack is holding his own.  Now that they are in the high country, perhaps other stallions in the area will provide distractions for the four bachelors.  We can only hope!



No matter whether Jack keeps his band, loses part of it or even all of it, he has won our hearts.  He will always be a favorite!






Now for your videos.  Since I didn’t get the one loaded last week that went with South Steens- Part 2, I offer it at the end of this week’s blog.



First, something to smile about.  Hattie and her foal, Jester.  What a little pest!  LOL





And the video that should have been in your blog last week...






The next blog will be in two weeks.  Since one of the hardest things about creating a blog is deciding on a subject, I am gladly accepting suggestions!


There may be errors in this blog.  I apologize if there are.  I have the done the best I can do to research relationships and horse's names.



You can now purchase photos from the blogs.  Just click on the photo you are interested in to be taken to a gallery where you can view options and purchase.  


Did you know you can subscribe to my blogs?  Just go to the bottom and click "Subscribe."  You will receive an email when each one is published.  This will work for Firefox and Internet Explorer.  If you use Google Chrome, you will need to check "Help" for instructions on how to subscribe to a RSS or a "feed".


If you would like to read my earlier blogs (there are ten), just go to the "Blog" page, scroll to the bottom and click on the one you would like to read.  That is far easier than trying to scroll up and down and find which one you want.


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 DVD and photo sales 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



South Steens Wild Horses (Oregon) - Part Two

May 26, 2013  •  10 Comments


South Steens Wild Horses – Part Two

Now be sure you are up to date before you plow in.  You want to be up on the front half of this blog.  That said, this one will stand alone, though it is only part of the Hollywood Herd.  Be sure you catch up on Part One at some point.


On we go.  The Hollywood Herd…


Warning!  Warning!  I can’t possibly do *every* horse in the Hollywood Herd, but I will do my best to do the favorites and the big players.



Ranger is a remarkable stallion.  He certainly isn’t a beautiful guy on the outside, especially with that big nose of his, but while I may love the outside of a horse, I love the inside much more.  He is beautiful inside, and that is all that counts.



We first saw Ranger in 2008.  It was very hard to tell, but if I had to guess, I would say he was Jack’s lieutenant.





In 2009, he was with Charm.  While you can never tell (yeah, I know.  I keep saying that!), this foal is a rubber stamp of Ranger!





















He completely endeared us to him by standing by the foal for 45 minutes while Charm took a break.













After the gather in the fall of 2009, Ranger did not have a family band.  As testimony to his easy going nature, he just hung out with everyone.  He wasn’t in a bachelor band, though some of the bachelors would have loved to hang out with him.  He was patient – up to a point!



Ranger and Arrow playing nice







 Ranger & Arrow playing not so nice!













Ranger & Cortez









                                           Ranger & Yellow Boy








Finally!  In 2011, Ranger had a family again.  In fact, it was one of the flashiest family band around – three gorgeous pintos.





I’m generally very good about documenting individual bands but this spring, the horses were very tightly grouped.  This is the best I could do…














Of course, he was very protective of his band.  Not many horses would take on Honor back then, but Ranger didn't bat an eyelash...



While I have your attention....I do have your attention, right?  This photo is a good example of why you should keep your distance from wild horses,  even wild horses like Honor and Ranger, who are very used to people.  I was not close to either one but when they decided to tangle, they got in *my* space.  Even though this was taken with a large lens, this was plenty close enough for me!  If I'd been closer, I could have easily been injured.




His band was larger and more colorful in 2012.  




And he was doing a marvelous job.  I knew he would!  He is a calm, pretty unflappable stallion.  He takes good care of his family and is not overreactive.  







However, he *will* take care of business, when business needs taking care of!














Oh boy, even a big serious stallion likes a good scratch on a tree!














We were disappointed to not see Ranger this spring.  It’s the first time in many years that we haven’t.  I suspect he took his band to the high country where forage and water was more plentiful.  Smart guy!




Do you remember from last week that Sox and Shaman were in the same natal (birth) band?  Shaman’s brother?  Isn’t that interesting!


There almost couldn’t be more contrast between these two.  Shaman is shy and reclusive and Sox very confident.  While the average age for a stallion to acquire a mare is about 10 years old, Sox had a very large band at the tender age of six or seven years old. 


We didn’t see Sox early on, while we did see Shaman.




The first time we saw him, Sox was hanging out with Chokotay and another stallion in a small bachelor band in 2010.  Of course, we were taken with that wonderful mane of his.




Sox and Chokotay




This is one of my favorite stallion photos.  You might remember it in our wild horse DVD.










One year later Sox had a very large family band with him, complete with his own lieutenant, Cascade.  How such a youngster arranged that is beyond me, but he did.  I’m sure his stocky build and self confidence didn’t hurt a thing.



We had seen his old lieutenant Cascade around for a couple of years but I don’t recall him ever having a band of his own.






















                                     Sox snaking
































                                              Sox has some of the most beautiful mares.




                                His girls…














Aided by Cascade, Sox was even stronger in 2012.  Even an older stallion would have a hard time holding on to a family band of this size without some help. 






2012   Is it possible that he just gets more beautiful every year?




He may have lost a mare or two this year but his band is strong.  There seems to be a bit more conflict between him and his lieutenant, Cascade, who both want to have rights to his lead mare.  I can only tell you that there is absolutely no way to tell who the sire of next year’s foal will be.



Sox's band, May 2013



Oh yes.  Cortez!


Cortez is an up and coming stallion.  He has worked his way from one of those marauding stallions to having a very respectable family band of his own.


We may have seen him sooner, but our first significant memory of Cortez is in the spring of 2010.  He showed up in the Hollywood Meadow with a huge chip on his shoulder. 






He took an instant dislike to Jack.  Jack couldn’t even be within sight and Cortez was after him.
















I have to admit to not being overly fond of this cranky, pushy, reactive stallion.  Yes, he was just doing what stallions do when they are looking for their first family, but he was giving all my favorite stallions a very bad time!




















2011 brought a family band for Cortez.  Suddenly, he was in possession of Phoenix’s mare Noelle and yearling, Holly.  Oops. 



With a new family band, Cortez settled down.  Well, let’s say he settled down a little.  He was still feisty and edgy, in full defense mode of his newly gained family. 



























2012 brought more changes for Cortez.  He was still with his two buckskin mares, Noelle and Holly.  He had also added a very thin buckskin mare and a pinto mare to his harem. 




Still easily agitated, he seemed to be picking on Arrow, who just couldn’t seem to do anything right as far as Cortez was concerned.  Sound familiar?



























In late June 2012, when Golden Boy was severely injured, Cortez showed up just in time to acquire a couple of GB’s mares and foals.  Initially, he had just Delight and her foal.  It didn’t take long for him to change that.























                    Cortez and Blue, fighting for Golden Boy's mares, 2012




        Fall 2012, after acquiring Clover and Delight, along with their foals



Just a day or two after GB was euthanized, we watched Cortez casually stroll over to Domino’s band and walk away with a mare (Delight) and her foal.  Mr. Nonchalant!  LOL



This spring, Cortez is an old hand at the family band thing.  Delight and Clover disappeared this spring, but their offspring are still with him, as well as Holly, Noelle and Whisper.  All three mares have foals this year, and it’s a good bet they are all Cortez’s.  There’s no way to know for sure, of course, but it’s hard to imagine anyone sneaking in on Cortez!





What a feisty little stallion, Ditto is!  I have loved this stallion for a long time and I suspect I am not alone.


Ditto was the head honcho of a band of stallions for several years. 





















Though several of the other bachelors towered over him, he had no problem whatsoever keeping them all in line.  It was amusing to watch!


Ditto snaking Four Socks, 2010












In 2011, Lupe and her foal joined the bachelor band.  We’ve seen this before.  Perhaps, it’s because she felt safe, or maybe one of the bachelors in the band was in her natal band.  It’s hard to say, but she seemed quite content there.  It was a strange little band, but it worked!





Red Vogue, Yellow Boy, Lupe and her foal

Spring 2011














Later that fall, Jingles left Majesty’s band (perhaps she got left behind when the band moved on) and with Juniper in tow, joined the bachelor band.


Jingles died at the ripe old age of 27 in the winter of 2011-12.  




The spring of 2012 brought many changes.  Nearly all the bachelors in the band has acquired a family band.  All but Ditto and Juniper, that is.


I absolutely loved watched Ditto take care of Juniper, who was now a year and a half old and an orphan.  He was very affectionate and protective of him.




Just a couple weeks after this photo was taken, Golden Boy was gone.  Ditto was among the stallions that divided his mares up.  Juniper joined a bachelor band (he is still with them).




Ditto and his flashy band, May 2013















Just as he was with his bachelors, Lupe and her foal, and finally Juniper, Ditto is very affectionate.  I loved watching him interact with his little band at the mineral lick last week. 





Have I said yet how much I like this feisty little mustang stallion?











Ditto vs Dibs

I am just like you.  I have had a terrible time telling the difference between Ditto and Dibs.  I finally had some time to watch them together this past week, which helps tremendously.  Maybe this will help.


Ditto has a blue eye on the left and two white socks on his hind legs. 


Dibs has two brown eyes and four white socks.


Both have a pinto marking on their right side.  Ditto’s is more defined, while Dibs’ mark is more “swirly” (is there such a word?).


Ditto has a family band.  Dibs badly wants a family band and is currently tailing Jack and his band, along with three other bachelors.


                                                                                 Ditto (rear) & Dibs (front) 2011                                




Arrow is proving to be another very likeable young stallion.  He is moving up in the ranks and has a lovely family band.




We first saw Arrow as a young stallion in Ditto's bachelor band in 2010.
















He was still in the bachelor band in 2011 but he was becoming very feisty.  It was apparent he was ready to break out on his own and get his own family band.















Sure enough, in 2012, he did have a family band.  Interestingly (or maybe predictably), he had the mare Lupe and her colt, who had been living with the bachelor band the year before.













Doing what stallions are supposed to do –protecting his band.  He was certainly a busy boy!


                                                                                  Turnabout is fair play!




Has Arrow settled down this year?  Well…not really.  He is still one of the most reactive stallions in the Hollywood Herd.  He is *very* protective of his pretty family. 








Yellow Boy

Another member of Ditto’s bachelor band, he has come into his own. 


Yellow Boy isn’t yellow at all, but is a gorgeous light red dun.



Yellow Boy and Ditto have a "discussion."

Spring 2010



















                                                                                                                     Spring 2011

















Yellow Boy finally got his own family band in 2012 and has another one of those monochromatic band – all sorrels and one palomino.  They are very color coordinated!













Yellow Boy seems pretty mellow this year.  Not that he won’t confront any other stallions, but it takes something real to get him to react. 


Yellow Boy and his 2013 band




I have always loved Domino.  Not to diminish him at all, I am only going to post a few photos of him as a youngster and adult.  


He is a new band stallion and (I think) still struggling with the role.  He is young for a band stallion, having acquired three mares from Golden Boy last summer (the average age is 10 and Domino was about four when he got his mares).  He immediately lost one to Cortez, leaving him with a yearling and two mares.


He is pretty watchful of his two mares but ignores his yearling.  She wandered off twice in as many days and her dam doesn’t want to leave her.  The other day, Domino wasn’t paying attention once and was almost all the way to the mineral lick (and out of sight) before he realized his mares weren’t behind him.  He came tearing back over the hill at full speed.  Even then, he didn’t go down and snake his yearling back.


We watched her approach Shaman and his mare and foal and all Domino did was splash some water.  I think if Shaman had wanted to, he could have walked off with her and Domino wouldn’t have done a thing.


He certainly needs to learn more about being a good band stallion.  It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him as a bachelor again this spring.


He’ll get it right.  It just might not be this time…




Domino as a two year old, babysitting his brother.  He was in Honor's band at this time.











                                    Sparring with Chokotay after winning several of Golden Boy's mares and foals


                                                                          Domino’s band 2012






                Domino's band, May 2013
















Red Vogue

Red Vogue is another stallion who has his first mare.  Well, a mare (Saige) and a yearling that he stole from Shaman just last week.



Red Vogue is a beauty!





2010 with Little Brother

















          Still in the bachelor band














                                                  Red Vogue & Domino in the aftermath of Golden Boy's death






Red Vogue & Honor, May 2013

















Red Vogue with his new family band; Saige (center) and yearling from Shaman's band















I was really, really hoping I could offer another video this week, but after trying to load a neat one of five bands at the waterhole for over two days on slow wifi, I had to give up.  I'll try to make it up to you next week!



I am going to have to end this and I guess this is as good a place as any.  I have missed many horses, particularly those that don’t live with the Hollywood Herd.  A couple of those left out are favorite horses too; the silver bay, Cherokee, Renegade, the big blue roan we’ve seen only once.  The bachelors weren’t mentioned though Juniper is close to my heart, having seen him the first time when he was just a few days old.  I also didn’t talk about the four bachelors giving Jack such a hard time; Blue, Four Sox, Dibs and the palomino pinto.  There is Phoenix and Obsidian and the beautiful golden palomino stallion that is new to me.  Cooperhead and other horses we’ve seen through the years, some just once or twice.  What about the palomino youngsters that are in Jack’s band (Chardonnay’s offspring)?  Oh yes, there are at least a couple more blogs in there!


The biggest miss is Jack.  Not to worry.  He will have his own blog next week.


Then I’ll move on.  We have places to go and horses to see.  Surely, I’ll find a source for another blog in Utah.  Or Idaho.  Or Nevada.  Or Wyoming.  ;-)



You can now purchase photos from the blogs.  Just click on the photo you are interested in to be taken to a gallery where you can view options and purchase.  


Did you know you can subscribe to my blogs?  Just go to the bottom and click "Subscribe."  You will receive an email when each one is published.  This will work for Firefox and Internet Explorer.  If you use Google Chrome, you will need to check "Help" for instructions on how to subscribe to a RSS or a "feed".


If you would like to read my earlier blogs (there are ten), just go to the "Blog" page, scroll to the bottom and click on the one you would like to read.  That is far easier than trying to scroll up and down and find which one you want.


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 DVD and photo sales 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



South Steens Wild Horses (Oregon) -Part One

May 19, 2013  •  21 Comments


South Steens Wild Horses, Part One


Of course!  It was destined…


This could be a record breaking length blog, if I let it be.  In fact, it turned out so long that I have split it into two parts.  Part One this week and Part Two next week. 


Many of you know we have been coming here for years.  As far back as 2003, we saw wild horses here.  Back then, they were pretty wild.  They certainly didn’t walk up to you!


Back then, we came on vacations and would briefly visit.  We were focused on bird, wildlife and nature photography.  The more we learned about the horses, the more hooked we became. Over time, they dominated.  Now, it’s about all we can think about.  Oh yeah.  We’ll photograph a bird if it flies into the frame.  LOL


Somewhere about 2005, we got seriously hooked and began to spend more time here. So, the South Steens feels like home to us.  When I retired in 2008, we started expanding our horizons and traveling to different HMAs (nearly 30 now) but we still spend a minimum of three weeks a year here, trying to be here is both spring and fall.


I have a lot to say!  However, I think I will try to focus on some of the major players.  I hope that’s okay with you…


I do have to start with a disclaimer.  I have never been much for wild horse names (though I can now see the value of being able to identify the major players), so don’t be surprised if I don’t get the names correct.  I will do my best, with the help of some friends who know them better than me (the names, that is) and the horse charts for the South Steens.  I may even get a relationship or two wrong, but I will do the best I can do.


So.  Let’s see…where do I start?


The Hollywood Herd


Where else?


Bo (short for Bodacious)

Bo is one of the first horses we photographed in the South Steens.  Or at least, I should say, successfully photographed.  Early on, the horses we saw were always at a distance and we didn’t know we could walk anywhere near them.


So when we saw Bo tusseling with two other stallions along the road, we were delighted.  He was with a sorrel and Sundance.  Of course, we didn’t know Sundance then.


Bo must have been a teenager.  He was goofing around with the sorrel while Sundance mostly watched.  They ran along the fence that runs parallel to the highway, biting, kicking and rearing.  We were enthralled but the light was really bad.  We watched for awhile and then decided to move on.  We were gone for several hours.  When we came back along that stretch of highway, lo and behold, there they were doing the same thing. Teenagers!



























Bo looked a lot lighter then but there is no doubt it’s him.  I’ve compared his blaze and socks with other photos from that day.













He has darkened up, but most of all he has chunked up.  He is one very large stallion now.  Not necessarily tall, but bulky.  Not many stallions want to challenge him.


He must have been “baching it” for a few years.  We didn’t see Bo again until 2009 and he was still a bachelor. 




He’s definitely getting more husky, wouldn’t you say?





















After the fall 2009 gather, he acquired a nice little harem.  In fact, one of our favorite mares (I’ll bet she’s yours too), Charm, was with him, with her daughter, Saige.  More about Charm later…












Bo was very busy that spring.


Defending his new found family...







He added a new member to his harem in 2011 - a "minime."  I know you can never know who is the sire of a foal out there, but this one leaves little doubt, I think.


By this time, Saige was off with a stallion of her own.














 Tender moments...


















I just love it when foals mimic their parents like this.  Notice the ears?  In the next photo, Bo put his ears forward and so did the foal!

















No big surprise, Bo has held onto his mares and even added Calista in 2012.














And he’s still going strong.  He now has a look alike two year old, a yearling and foal from Charm and a new foal from Calista.  We’ll take that with a grain of salt, since you never know in the wild.  I think it’s a good bet he is the sire.  I can’t imagine him letting any other stallion on his turf!



2013  Bo's family band





















Bo's band going to the waterhole...





You simply could not talk about the Hollywood Herd without talking about Charm.


She is hands down, one of the prettiest mares we’ve ever seen.  With a mane that nearly goes to her knees and eyes that are doleful, she is mesmerizing to nearly everyone who sees her.


I believe she is a dunskin pinto.  She has a dorsal stripe and leg barring, sure markings of a dun.  Where that luscious mane came from is anyone’s guess.  I know of no one who saw her as a foal; at least that was confirmed without a shadow of a doubt.


She has never been freeze branded.  This doesn’t mean she hasn’t been gathered, but likely gathered and released at the trap site.  Good decision – she throws beautiful babies!  The fact that she’s never been freeze branded means we don’t know her age, though.  Is she old?  I don’t know.  It feels that way, but oh how easy it is to be wrong about that!


We first saw Charm in 2008 with Saige, who looks like a yearling or perhaps a two year old.  From what I can tell from the photos from then, she was with Ranger.  She was also with him in 2009.  The alternative is that Ranger was Jack’s lieutenant in 2009.  Confusing enough for you?





April 2008
















September 2008
















Her 2009 colt sure looks like Ranger.  Of course…















After the 2009 gather, Charm was with Bo.  She seemed comfortable with him and as you know, she is still with him.  Charm is pretty unflappable, but I like to think she is content.





Ranger’s foal?  Jack's foal?  Who knows?



We  don’t know what happened but the foal disappeared later that summer.












Charm and Saige, Spring 2010


This is one of my favorite photos from this year.
















Spring 2011
















                                                                                 Spring 2011




Charm's 2012 foal

















One thing you can say without a doubt, Charm has beautiful babies!!



Charm's 2013 foal



Like you, I hope this gorgeous mare keeps going strong for many more years to come!





The most famous of all the South Steens stallions?  I’m not sure, but this big dun is certainly well known and very popular.


He has what I would call, “stallion presence.”  In a very big way.  He’s also a very big boy.


Honor was born in 1998, which makes him 15 this year.  He’s still going strong as a band stallion, though his band has varied in size over the years.


I would be willing to guess (though I don’t know), he is responsible for many, if not most, of the duns and grullos in the Hollywood Herd.  I certainly do know he’s had several red duns and rich sorrels with flaxen manes and tails come out of his band.


I believe we first saw Honor in 2008, or at least that is the time we were closest.  He was with a mare that looked startlingly like Charm.  In fact, it took me awhile to realize it *wasn’t* her.


Have you ever seen that expression before?






May 2009

















Honor's band, Spring 2010


Yes, that is Domino.  Is Honor his sire?  No one knows...














Spring 2010

This is one of my all time favorite photos, and probably my favorite of a stallion and his foal.  Ahhh, the soft side of a stallion.  Love it!




Spring 2010

















Spring 2011


Honor's band seem smaller this year.














Spring 2011

















Interestingly, Honor was not with the Hollywood Herd when we were there in June of 2012.  We did see him in the backcountry, hanging out with the silver bay.  We didn’t get a single photo of him.



Not so for 2013.  He is right in the middle of the Hollywood Herd again.



Still going strong!




I can hear you all sigh.  Oh yes.  We sigh too.  What a beauty!!


I hope you'll forgive me if I have a whole slew of photos of Shaman!  He is most photogenic- and magnetic of stallions.  It seems that every time we noticed, both our cameras were swinging his way!  LOL


Our good friend, John Whelan, has a shot of Shaman and Sox which suggests they were both born in either 2004 or 2005 and came from the same natal (birth) band.






We first saw Shaman sometime later (2008), as a young bachelor stallion, though this looks as if he is standing next to his dam.














Shaman was a very busy young stallion in 2009.  He was all over the Hollywood Meadow, stirring up trouble.  We could never identify that he was with a bachelor band.  How could we?  He never stayed still!




Spring 2009
















Spring 2009















By 2010, it certainly appeared that Shaman had taken on the role of Honor’s lieutenant.  Whether Honor intended it or not, Shaman chased absolutely every stallion in the area.  The poor guy rarely rested…




Spring 2010

On the lookout















There he goes....




One of the stallions he took a particular dislike to in the spring of 2010.  If he was anywhere in the vicinity, Shaman took chase.














There he goes again!

















Looky who!  Four Socks!


















If anything, he was even busier in 2011.







Is it that mane?

















Or is it the blue eyes?  For me, it's both!!
















There were big changes for Shaman in 2012.  He finally acquired a mare and her foal (likely not his as he did not have a mare the year before).  With his first family, came big personality changes.  Instead of being in the middle of everything and full of self confidence, he suddenly became reclusive.  We found him far away from the Hollywood Herd, hanging out pretty much by himself.  There is no doubt he was going to protect that little family with everything he had.



Shaman's new family, Spring 2012






































This year he still had his pretty grulla mare but lost his yearling to Red Vogue just last week.  There is a foal with them.  Shaman's?  That's difficult to answer...













I will end with one of my favorite photos of Shaman...


Not to worry!  There is still a video!  ;-)


I know everyone has been concerned about Jack and his band.  It'll be another two weeks before I publish my blog about Jack, so I thought I would give you a video update.






As I said, Part Two next week.  Stay tuned!


You can now purchase any photos from the blogs.  Just click on the photo you are interested in to be taken to a gallery where you can view options and purchase.  I will be slowly enabling sales on previous blog photos but in the meantime, feel free to send me a message if you would like to purchase a photo that you do not find in our Wild Horses and Burros gallery on the website.


Did you know you can subscribe to my blogs?  Just go to the bottom and click "Subscribe."  You will receive an email when each one is published.  This will work for Firefox and Internet Explorer.  If you use Google Chrome, you will need to check "Help" for instructions on how to subscribe to a RSS or a "feed".


If you would like to read my earlier blogs (there are nine), just go to the "Blog" page, scroll to the bottom and click on the one you would like to read.  That is far easier than trying to scroll up and down and find which one you want.


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 DVD and photo sales 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



Week 9- Golden Boy: The Life and Death of a Stallion

July 02, 2012  •  13 Comments

It is with a very heavy heart that I tell you all that the stallion called Golden Boy was humanely euthanized on Wednesday of last week.  This blog is about the parts of his life that touched ours, including much of the last ten days of his life.


If you are against what we did to intervene in his end, this blog is not for you.  Yes, we went to the BLM with videos, immediately after we caught up with him a few days ago.  It is not less than what we would do for our own beloved animals (and have).  He possibly could have survived for weeks, maybe even months, but it would have been a gruesome and unkind ending.  For those who say it's "natural" to leave them alone to die, I would say yes, that's true.  Many wild horses die a natural death and are never seen- but in this case, humans did see him.  We simply could not let him die a so called "natural death."   We are relieved his pain is over.  We wouldn't, in fact, couldn't have done it another way.


If you are anti-BLM, this blog is not for you.  We have nothing but praise for the expediency, professionalism and compassion for the way the Burns BLM (Oregon) wild horse specialist  handled this situation, both for Golden Boy and for us.  When we took the videos to him and another person in the program, they were carefully looked at and the injuries were explained to us.  The wild horse specialist was on the Steens early the next morning, hiked for six hours looking for him and when he didn't find him, came back early the next morning.


If you want a fairy tale ending, this blog is not for you.  We all know that wild horses don't live fairy tale lives, right?


You may not want your young children to read this blog.  There is nothing graphic here but I have tried to be very honest about the situation as it evolved.  Golden Boy does not survive.  But he does go out valiantly.


You might wonder why I want to chronicle a stallion's end days.  It's because there is a great deal to be learned about the dynamics of wild horse families, the dynamics of the herds and how things shift with the passing of a stallion.   I certainly learned a lot.  There is much I don't understand still, but it was an amazing process.


If you are ready to read this week's blog, you will likely learn some things about wild horse behavior and herd dynamics.  I know I did.  This one is not about pretty pictures, funny stories or videos.  It is about the real life of a stallion, through Barbara's filter, which happens to be the only filter I have.  


I have screened the photos to the best of my ability to show Golden Boy at his best- there are no photos of his last day, other than the one where his mares are surrounding him.  This is intentional on my part.  It's not necessary for you to see see him as he looked the last few days of his life to know what happened.


Many of you know that we do not use names for the mustangs.  We have known the South Steens horses for many years and to suddenly have horses assigned human names has been difficult.  This is not the time for that though.  This once, I will use the horses names to the best of my ability, as I know many of you know them.  It will make the story easier for you to follow.


You will likely want a hanky.  Don't tell me that I didn't warn you.



We first saw Golden Boy in 2003 or 2004 and first photographed him in the spring of 2005.  At that time he had two mares and a newborn foal with him.  


We had seen wild horses before but they were always far away.  The Hollywood Herd has existed for a long time, but it wasn't the way it is now.  You rarely had horses walking to you like what happens commonly these days.




November 2005


Hanging out with McCloud. There were no mares with him at this time.














When I looked at these a few days ago, I was surprised to see how young he looked.  


Golden Boy did not have a freeze brand.  I'm sure he has been gathered, but was probably released at the trap sight, which sometimes happens with horses they definitely want on the range. He is estimated to be between 10- 14 years old by the wild horse specialist.







Golden Boy has never really been a member of the Hollywood Herd, though there have been times he has been living in close proximity to them.  We've seen him there, even this trip, but it's almost like he's cruising through.  We've seen him in the high country and in the back country.  He has gotten around!



Though we visited each year, we did not see him in 2006 or 2007.  In the spring of 2008, we saw him again with a band.  From that time on he always had a large band.




Yes, that is Majesty coming over the ridge.  


This sorrel mare was with Golden Boy to the end, even with a gather in between.











A little friction between Majesty and Golden Boy.  Spring 2008




Spring 2008



























Spring 2008




Golden Boy simply walked up to his young filly to check her out.  She must have been cranky that day because she bit him on the lip!  He blinked, shook his head as if to say "Women!" and walked slowly off.  LOL



Spring 2008









We can't say we've seen him every year.  In fact, there have been long stretches when we haven't seen him or have seen him from a long distance.   In fact, this wasn't exactly close range.  One Eared Jack is in the foreground, Charm and Sage on the far right.  In the Hollywood meadow, September 2008.





Fall 2008
















Spring 2009

















Spring 2009













Much to my surprise, the day this photo was taken, Golden Boy walked down the ridge, went behind our pickup and stopped on my side of the truck.  I gently opened my door and looked into his eyes at a distance of about 6 feet.  Today, this would not be a big deal, but at the time it wasn't a common occurence.  I was just beginning to realize it was safe to be closer than 100 yards to the horses, though I would never recommend approaching close, even now.  They are wild animals and unpredictable things can happen, even with the tamest appearing horses.


I learned over the years that Golden Boy had a very calm, quiet personality.  He would certainly defend his family but he would not go out of his way to look for trouble.    It certainly doesn't mean he wasn't ever seen "in action."  





Spring 2009













Snaking his mares.  He was a strong, capable stallion with a very stable family band.




We missed him in the spring and fall of 2010, though we spent two and a half months with the South Steens horses in the spring.  See how elusive he could be?





Spring 2011















Spring 2011, with his family band




Fall of 2011

With one of his wildly marked pinto fillies. For a buckskin, he certainly threw the color!













Golden Boy was seen by several photographers on Memorial Day weekend of this year and was healthy and fit.  By the time we arrived,  on June 17, the situation had changed.


The first thing that we noticed was his limp.  He had also lost a lot of weight since we had seen him last fall.  I thought at first that he had a hip injury, as it looked like he had lost muscle mass in his hip.  I was wrong about that- he had a foot or hoof injury.  Subsequently, it was discovered he also had a hock injury on the same side (left) and a few days later sustained a serious right knee injury.


As I reported on Facebook the first day we arrived in the South Steens, Blue was chasing Golden Boy and his mares.  Golden Boy was chasing him and while he was limping while walking, he ran without any problem.  I knew it wouldn't be good for his injured foot to run like that, but he was getting around relatively okay.



Fighting and chasing even in the waterhole.  June 17, 2012





























Golden Boy and his band, June 17, 2012


Over the next two days, we saw Blue harassing him more and more.  The first night he had gone up to the rimrock and put his band up against it so he only had to defend in front of him.  The next night he had done the same thing by backing his harem up against a fence.  He was only visible with high powered binoculars that second night and was not moving away, so we couldn't see how well he was doing.  The second night, the black and white 4 year old pinto, Domino, and his bachelor companion were hanging on one side of Golden Boy's band.  They didn't appear to be doing anything other than standing and watching when we saw them.  They were keeping the blue roan busy.


We couldn't find Golden Boy, his band or his hangers-on for four days, though we looked hard for them.


We finally found him a week after we first saw him.  He had deteriorated considerably and had a new and significant injury to his front right knee and his left hock, in addition to the foot or hoof injury on his left side.  He was having a difficult time walking.


Now he wasn't just being harassed by Blue but Domino and his sorrel stallion buddy, though the sorrel seemed more interested in being with Domino than acquiring a mare. Domino was becoming aggressive.  Bachelor stallions had showed up and were surrounding him on three sides- eleven bachelors, counting the blue roan, Domino and his friend.  


It seemed so odd.  The bachelors somehow knew...


Blue had his hands full keeping the other bachelors away but was also trying to breed Golden Boy's lead mare. We were surprised to watch her not only fight him but aggressively approach him- more like a stallion than a mare.  She was defending not only herself but the other mares, it seemed.



While Blue was busy on one side with the bachelors and the mare, Domino was trying to pick off Golden Boy's young bay mare, who may have been in estrus (season or heat).  Golden Boy was defending and Domino was, so far, backing away.  He had an injured eye, so the fighting had likely been going on awhile.  It was clear that he was becoming more and more aggressive.



We took the video we had taken the first day and the one from this particular night into the BLM the next day.  It was clear that the foot injury (left), knee injury (right) and hock injury (left) were not going to heal.  One of those injuries would have probably ended his life but three injuries made a very dismal prognosis.



The wild horse specialist did not find Golden Boy the next day, though he hiked for six hours in the area we had last seen him.  We found him the next morning and the wild horse specialist met us there.



The young bachelors were gone, with the exception of Domino and the sorrel.  However, mature stallions were now in the picture.  Dibs and Cortez were now actively fighting Golden Boy.  You all know how I talk about fighting as posturing or practicing and that it is not often serious.  What we witnessed this morning was the real thing- what probably happens in the winter or early spring when stallions fight for mares.  It was for real and it was not pretty.  



Interestingly, the mares were surrounding Golden Boy.  There was no doubt they were protecting him.  Marty has seen this with elk during hunting season, but I have never seen or heard of it.




The stallions were fighting each other viciously.  Every one of them had an injury of some kind. Golden Boy took on all comers, giving as good as he got, even though he was in very poor shape.  We were awed by his valiant fight.  There was no doubt where this would have ended had humans not intervened, but he was giving it his all.  He could not rear but he bit and kicked with his front legs.




Cortez and Blue


The blue roan has several injuries and is very obviously fatigued from a week of harassing Golden Boy.












Domino and Cortez


Dibbs would mainly dash in and out, rather than challenge one of the other stallions












Within an hour or so of this photo, Golden Boy was euthanized.  One of the last things he did was cover his lead mare.  I am still surprised he was capable of breeding considering he could barely walk.



When it was over, the mares were quickly divided up.  We did not see this but they were all gone within about 20 minutes.  





After about two and a half hours, we saw Domino with three of the mares and two foals.  The tables were suddenly turned- bachelor stallions were now circling Domino and his new band. Blue was obviously exhausted and did nothing more than hang around him.












It was no better that evening.  Even more stallions were coming out of the woodwork.  He had his hands full!














Even Shaman joined in, though he was not particularly aggressive.  It seemed like he was concerned he would lose his new mare and foal and just didn't want to leave them.














Cortez was nearby with a new addition to his harem- Golden Boy's lead mare.  



Cortez's lead mare was not very happy about this- she was chasing her at every opportunity.  Cortez covered his new mare multiple times, adding to the general discontent.  You can see the new addition standing at a distance from the family band.







Obviously missing were four of Golden Boy's band and Dibs.  Dibs had been hanging around in the junipers while the other mature stallions fought, just before Golden Boy was euthanized. He wasn't doing much fighting but he stayed close.  I thought it suspicious that both he and the mares were gone, but we couldn't find them.


Everything stayed much the same for the next three days.  Domino had his three mares and he was still being harassed by bachelor stallions. Even a few mature stallions, such as the silver bay, were hanging in the area.  He maintained control though.


Cortez was wisely off a ways with his band.  Golden Boy's sorrel pinto mare didn't look much happier but things had settled down a bit.





The evening of day three brought a sighting of Dibs.  Sure enough, the other four mares and yearlings were with him.


He was off by himself at a distance from other horses and from us, but there was no doubt it was them.  Three of the mares and foals are under the tree above Dibs, the mare and her yearling.








On day four there was a big surprise.  Domino was with his mares and Cortez with his.  They both went down to the waterhole with their bands.  We heard a lot of squealing and could see heads from their rearing but nothing else.  Suddenly, Cortez came running out with the young dunskin mare and her perlino (or cremello) foal.



We watched for about an hour and a half.  Cortez's lead mare was very unhappy about this new addition and was chasing her and the foal. She kept trying to run away, obviously thinking that being with Domino was safer than this new situation.  Domino looked defeated but never attempted to go for her.  Thankfully, Golden Boy's sorrel mare was settling in and seemed much more content.
As we drove down the hill, Dibs was a bit more visible with his mares, but still keeping them off by themselves.
One last update- last evening when we went up, Cortez had lost his sorrel mare to the pinto with the buckskin mare and cremello foal.
Dibs had one sorrel pinto mare with her buckskin pinto yearling and pinto foal from this year.
I am quite sure the shuffling has only just begun.
*****     *****     *****     *****     *****     *****     *****     *****     *****     *****     *****     *****     *****     *****
It is obvious that the situation with the mares is far from settled.  I believe that Domino, who has the qualities of someday being a very good band stallion, is not ready to have his own harem.  He is only 4 years old, which is quite young to keep a family band together.  I suspect that his mares will be picked off one by one by more mature stallions.
I think Cortez will keep his mares and maybe add to his harem.  He is showing patience and maturity.  He waited a full four days, until his new mare was comfortable in the band, before attempting and succeeding at stealing another.  He seems ready to have a big harem and is doing a good job.  He is keeping the mares from leaving by snaking them back, but he is not overly aggressive and is not being too pushy, though he has made sure the sorrel mare is bred by him.  He has attempted to cover the dunskin mare, who at the time we left, was not allowing that.
Things are still very unsettled and will likely change a few times before it's all over.
When I put aside my great sadness at Golden Boy's passing, I feel very privileged to have observed this transition.  Mature stallions die unobserved most of the time and all we know is that we don't see them again and the mares show up with different stallions in the spring.  
Several things stood out for me; how tough Golden Boy proved to be- literally fighting off other stallions to the end.  I am quite sure he would have not given up until he was completely incapable of defending his mares.  I don't think that was far away...
I was also struck and moved by how his lead mare fought off Blue and then his entire harem surrounded him when the mature stallions moved in.
I don't understand how the young stallions knew he was vulnerable nor why they moved off at the end and the mature stallions moved in.  What kind of signal was given that stallions from all over the HMA showed up at just the right time?
Young and older stallions demonstrated completely different behaviors when it was time to divide up the mares. Patience and timing made all the difference for Cortez, who, at least for now, has successfully added two mares to his harem.
Blue spent all his energy in the first couple of weeks and when the time came, he was too exhausted to fight for a mare.  Ironic.
Dibs must have moved in quietly, like he had been doing earlier, on the edges of Golden Boy's band and then moved his new harem far away from all the other horses.  So far, it has worked.  The mares appeared contented or at least at peace for the first time in quite awhile.
Cortez's lead mare is asserting herself and while it is uncomfortable to watch, it seems like a natural part of adding mares to the family band.  It's just as important to have a strong lead mare as a strong stallion.  It's clear the new mares will respect her position, or at least have no doubts about who is in charge.
Based on what we had seen with the mare death a couple of months ago, I had expected to see grieving behavior from Golden Boy's mares.  However, I think their exhaustion after weeks of harassment and the fact that several stallions moved in on them within seconds of Golden Boy going down, did not allow for that.  Early on, the mares that Domino had with him were very obviously trying to go back to the area where they had been with Golden Boy but he wasn't letting them.  I think it's possible they didn't even know he was gone.  The wild horse specialist told me that both Cortez and his lead mare walked very close to Golden Boy and checked him, even bumping noses with him, after he was down.
Lastly, I could not help thinking over and over, how different everything would have been, for both Golden Boy and his harem, if he had a lieutenant.  I have never known him to have a lieutenant.  He was always so strong, who would anticipate such a rapid transition for his band?  This was in such a sharp contrast to what happened with Majesty's band when he was euthanized- Jack simply took over and things went on as before.
It is no small thing for this herd to lose two very strong band stallions.  The whole herd seems very unsettled. Horses are moving around like we've never seen before.   There is a lot of fighting among the stallions, even before Golden Boy started deteriorating.  There are more injuries than we've ever seen.   It has been noted by many of us that come here frequently and also by the BLM, who are also concerned.  It's a good thing this herd has a lot of watchful eyes right now...
 I will end with my favorite photo of Golden Boy, from last fall.  What a beautiful boy!  He too, will be missed...








Week 8- Stallions!

June 24, 2012  •  22 Comments


One of my very favorite subjects!  I have been anticipating this blog for weeks.  The only thing I'm worried about is that it will be so long that you'll still be reading it *next* Sunday!


They Start As Cute Little Things


I have a handful of favorite young stallions.  I know that part of why they are my favorites is because I have first seen them when they were very young.  The other reason might be because they are so darned cute!


This little colt is from the South Steens HMA.  I was totally charmed by his looks and his precocious attitude.  He was bright, curious and always into something.


Spring 2010







A year later, he was still cute and still precocious.  Even though he was only a yearling, he thought he wanted to be in a stallion band.  He kept running over to check the big boys out.  Fortunately, the band stallion knew he was too young and shooed him back to his band.  He wasn't necessarily happy about that, but he went!












"Maybe if I bite his legs, he'll let me join the bachelor band!"














I shouldn't have been surprised to see him giving his band stallion a dickens of a time this spring.  He was a pest and was disciplined more than once.


A couple of days ago, he tore off the across the hillside to challenge a two year old from another band.  Now, mind you, he didn't challenge an older stallion, but one his own age.  See how smart he is?  This two year old is also giving HIS band stallion and lieutenant a hard time.  It must be a two year old's job!














South Steens HMA, Spring 2012








Family Duties Call

In contrast to all of the boyish antics, you will also see young stallions doing family type activities.




Playing with little brother.


South Steens HMA, Fall 2011















Walking with younger brother...



South Steens HMA, Spring 2010














Or babysitting...


I just love this softness!




South Steens HMA, Spring 2010








Practicing to Be a Band Stallion


But yes, they spend a lot of time practicing to be grown up stallions with their own families.  That means there is plenty of roughhousing going on...




You will see yearlings and two year olds playing roughly.  They can also do it without stopping for a breather.  On and on and on...




McCullough Peaks, Spring 2011


























If it gets too rough, mature stallions will break it up.  Mares will also break it up, usually with just a glare, if the older stallions are getting too close to young foals.


In this case, the gray yearling was from another band.  The black stallion let it go on until he thought it was too rowdy and then intervened.









As you might remember from an earlier blog, occasionally a young colt will decide to challenge a mature stallion- even one from another band. 


The yearling colt is "mouth clapping".  This is mostly done by young horses to older stallions to indicate they don't want to challenge. 


I thought he was pretty darned brave to do this, but all turned out fine.  He ended up rough housing with the yearling from the red roan's band.  More his size!!


Wyoming, Spring 2012






Here is another example of a young stallion mouth clapping as a mature stallion approaches him to check him out.



South Steens HMA, Spring 2012












As an aside, older stallions will yawn to another stallion when walking by.  This is to show a relaxed non-confrontational entry when entering his space.



Utah, Spring 2012










Bachelor Bands



Somewhere around the age of 3, stallions will leave their natal (birth) band.  They join with other stallions and usually stay with them until they get their own harem.  The average age for a stallion to get a mare or a harem is ten years old. 


So, they hang out with the boys for years!


Utah, Spring 2011








The size of stallion bands varies from two stallions to well over a dozen.  The largest we've seen is 14 bachelors. Now *they* can raise a ruckus!!



South Steens HMA, Spring 2012




This is one of the prettiest bachelor bands that we've seen.  They were also very fun to watch!          

McCullough Peaks HMA, Spring 2011





Utah, Spring 2011















Of course, these stallions were "practicing" to get their first mare- constantly!  They were really fun to watch.  There was never a dull moment...


This photo is from the spring of 2010.  It was much to my pleasure to see most of these stallions had their own harems this spring.


South Steens HMA, Spring 2010








Stallions can also peacefully coexist, such as these three South Steens stallions sharing a mineral lick. 


The black stallion now has a very large harem.  The chocolate silver (middle) is with three other bachelors. We haven't caught up with the bay yet this year.


South Steens HMA, Spring 2010







Stallion bands tend to hang out on the edges of the larger herd or other family bands, observing and learning.  As you probably remember, they will come into the waterhole after the other bands and even stallions with a single mare.  They know where they rank in the herd!   Utah, Spring 2011






Some stallions will live their entire lives in bachelor bands, choosing to live with their friends rather than fight for a harem.



South Steens HMA, Spring 2010









Some stallions will choose not to join a stallion band at all.  It seems that just about every herd we have visited has had one stallion that seems to prefer to stay alone. 


Most of the time, it appears this is the stallion's choice, though we have also seen a stallion trying to join a stallion band but not being let in by one or more stallions.


Many times, stallions will wander on their own for several days or weeks and then will show up with another stallion or with a small band.  Stallion bands are often in a state of flux, with stallions coming and going constantly.


This white stallion was alone but on the fringes of the larger herd last spring and again this spring.  He didn't show any particular interest in joining in with any of the stallion bands but just followed along behind the other horses.






Finally!  A Family Band of His Own



Whether a stallion has one mare or 14, he has his hands full watching out for them, keeping them safe and keeping other stallions from stealing their family away.



This vigilant stallion had a large harem of mares and foals last spring when we were there (Utah).  There was a gather early this year and he lost all but one mare.  He seemed even more watchful than last year and just a bit unhappy!












Stallions with large bands, like this bay from South Steens (Spring, 2012) more than have their hands full.  Most stallions with this many mares and foals (~14)  have a lieutenant to help them out.  More about that later...














As observers, one of the most entertaining behaviors of stallions is snaking.


Snaking is when a stallion puts his head down and crouches down to move his family.  This rarely involves touching them, though sometimes a gentle nudge with his nose will help things along.  Even the young foals respond, immediately jumping up when the stallion goes into his snaking position.


He might snake them away from another stallion, but it might be to take them in a different direction than they are headed, usually invisible to us.  We've watched mares who want to run away being snaked back to where they started- sometimes, you might recall, even right in front of us!




This foal didn't need a nudge!  The stallion only had to start walking his way, with head down and the foal got up.  This is typical.














Sometimes snaking is going on all over the place!  LOL


All three of these photos are from Utah, Spring 2011













The recently deceased silver pinto stallion from the South Steens HMA.  Fall, 2011















Defending His Harem


Yes, stallions fight, particularly in the spring when mares are in season.  As much as people are uncomfortable with this, it is the way they get mares.  


Injuries from fights can certainly happen; bites, pulled muscles, sprains and even more serious injuries, but they are not as common as most people think.  Most of the time, it is about posturing to the other stallion.  This is a bit like a man flexing his muscles or puffing up to make himself look bigger.  Actually, it's very like that.


There are differences in how stallions tussle with each other.  Youngsters “goof around”, sometimes 24/7.  They are at each other like 10 year olds (I have a couple of that age grandsons, so I know!).  This goofing around is important way for them to stay fit, but also to learn the skills they will eventually need to get a mare or a harem.  Of course, that won’t come too soon, as far as they are concerned!


If these youngsters, say 2 to 4 year olds, are challenged by a mature stallion they will immediately back down, if they don’t go out of their way to avoid it in the first place.  In no way do they have the size or the skills to win that kind of fight and they know it.


More mature bachelors, perhaps 4-10 years old, are usually a little more dignified about it.  Oh, don’t take me wrong, they will mix it up with other stallions in their bachelor band.  It usually isn’t constant though.  It might take an actual bump or some other offense- maybe a glance.  LOL 


Most of the time, I’ve never been able to tell what starts these things.  One moment they are standing side by side eating, the next they are at each other.  These fights are almost never serious and I’ve never seen blood drawn, though I have seen a few bloody aftereffects.  Again, they are important  for fitness and even more important for the “teenage” boys to refine their skills for when they will need them.  Most stallions will get their first mare or harem around the age of 10 years, give or take.  But believe me, they are “practicing” for years before that.


The closer they get to that age, the more serious the confrontations become and they are more likely to challenge a mature stallion.  They may start circling a family band, either alone or with other bachelors, just hoping they can pick a mare off.  Rarely does it work the way they want it to!  They sure can annoy the mature stallions though.  Can you imagine having a bunch of teenage boys just outside your front door all day and all night, trying to get your teenage daughter to climb out the window and join them?  Yep.  That annoying.


Then there are the older, mature stallions.  You won’t often see a mature stallion fighting constantly, though there are some with cantankerous, cranky, picky personalities that seem to go off at the least little thing.  The more mature stallions won’t run off at the drop of a hat though, not if they don’t want to lose their mare(s) to a stallion who is smart enough to take advantage of his absence.  


In spring when the mares are in estrus (in season or in heat), the mature stallions most certainly do fight.  Their hormones are raging and it sometimes doesn’t take much to get them going.  This is not true later in the year (except in the case of PZP, which is another story).  Things are usually peaceful in late summer, fall and winter.


Most stallion rumbles last a few seconds.  It may appear very dramatic if you look at a single photo, but most of the time it isn’t.  It’s all but ignored by the mares and foals about 90% of the time.  If you want to know how serious it is, just watch them.  If they are standing and eating, it’s nothing.  If they run, watch out, the stallions mean it this time.






We have all seen this pose before and most of us love it.    It's often the only thing that happens.  One stallion spies another, races to him and goes into this classic position.




                                                                                                          Utah, Spring 2011














This is three stallions, but two of them seem particularly interested (and offended) by each other.  Yes, we have seen three way confrontations.



South Steens HMA, Spring 2010












This white (gray) and buckskin stallions had "issues" with each other.  The two palominos and the bay roan running into the scene from the left are young stallions from the white stallion's family band.  Every time the older stallion would confront another stallion (which was often!), those three would run up as if to say, "Whatcha doin'?"  or maybe "Is *that* how you do it?"  It was quite amusing.


Idaho, Spring 2012








Another classic posturing move is for a stallion to arch their neck and tuck their head into the withers of the other stallion. This is a way to identify their opponent-by smell- even if they just did this same move a half an hour ago!


This is almost always accompanied by loud "squealing" and pawing at the ground.



Idaho, Spring 2012





Sometimes the confrontation will end right there.  Other times, it will escalate to something more.





Aggressive behavior toward other stallions is largely confined to spring.  When things settle down in late summer and fall and into the winter months, those same stallions that fought all spring are suddenly best friends.  One of the concerns with the use of PZP (Porcine Zona Pellucida Vaccine, an injectable birth control) is that mares cycle monthly.  This keeps the stallions fighting longer into the year.  



Bringing Up Baby


Stallions have a very bad reputation.  One of the things I have heard repeatedly is that stallions kill foals (their's and other's).  Things like this have occurred, but they are very rare.  We have certainly never seen it and I've only heard of it happening once or twice.  In fact, we have found stallions to be extremely nurturing when it comes to their offspring.




This stallion stood patiently by, babysitting the young foal for almost an hour, while mom went off to graze- and get a few moments peace.



South Steens HMA, Spring 2009












This isn't unusual stallion behavior, but actually quite common.



Both of these stallions have reputations for being rough and tumble, yet they both are quite content with babysitting.


Souths Steens HMA, Spring 2010









Part of the stallion's job is keeping everyone close and making sure no one gets left behind.  You'll often see them "rounding up" the youngsters; making sure they stay close to the band.  You'll usually see this behavior more frequently from the stallions versus the mares.


This and the next two photos are from the South Steens HMA, Spring 2010

























I have shown this photo to many people and so far, no one has guessed this is a stallion and his foal!














This is another photo that would be likely to be misunderstood.  The gray horse is a stallion, nuzzling his yearling.


These two had a very affectionate relationship.  We watched them all morning.  They played together and the stallion allowed the yearling to jump on him, bite him and pull his mane, unmercifully.  We didn't see him get impatient even once.  He had the patience of Job!


Sand Wash Basin, Spring 2011






















This is about the place where I would be telling him to "take it elsewhere."  LOL














This is another favorite of mine- and Mary Ann's too.  I've never had a person correctly identify this.  It is two stallions walking with a young foal.


I love Mary Ann's description of this- Dad and uncle are taking the youngster on a "field trip."  The foal is keyed into the stallions, mimicking their head and ear position and the two stallions are also keyed into him.  



I just love what this represents!

Nevada, Fall 2010






We have seen so many examples of tender stallion behavior.  In fact, according to Mary Ann Simonds' research,  90% of interactions between stallions and their families were nurturing behaviors.  


The stallion is on the far right with his nose tenderly on the back of his foal.


Kigers, Spring 2007







The concept of lieutenants was a new one to me.  But once you understand the concept,  it make perfect sense.


Kiger Mustang M7574

It all started with this photo that many of you will recognize as our Facebook profile photo.


These are two Kiger stallions.  We first saw them in the fall of 2005.  There was no doubt that the band stallion was the dun on the right.  However, when we came back the next spring, the black stallion was the band stallion.  What in the world was that about?


I emailed Mary Ann Simonds and explained what we had seen.  She told me about lieutenants.


Many stallions, by our observations since 2005, and especially those with big family bands, have lieutenants.  When the band stallion is injured or just needs some time off to recuperate from the rigors of breeding season, he'll turn the band over to the lieutenant.  When he is rested or healed, he'll take over again.


Because the lieutenant is an accepted part of the band, the mares accept him, even allowing him to breed them.  Yes, the band stallion allows him to breed.  We have watched this on several occasions- the band stallion totally ignores the whole thing.


Since learning about lieutenants, we have seen many examples of it.  We've seen some band stallions who have become lazy and fat, watching their lieutenants run after other stallions constantly.  They'll just stand complacently by watching.




Just because a stallion allows his lieutenant to breed, doesn't mean he's always going to be okay with that.  


This palomino was one of those lazy guys, watching his devoted lieutenant chase bachelor after bachelor away.  









This must be his favorite mare and I'd say she is pretty fond of him too - even though she was heavily pregnant, she allowed the palomino to breed her.  Yes, this happens.  Well, the lieutenant thought he should have his turn too.  Nope.  Not today.




Definitely NOT today!


No need to ask who won this very brief skirmish- the palomino!  A few minutes later, they were back to grazing side by side.  There was no lapse in the lieutenant's performance of his duties!  ;-)



Wyoming, Spring 2012











Ahhhh, the famous silver bay and his long time lieutenant.  You maybe thought I wasn't going to include him, didn't you?  ;-)  The silver bay has had up to 14 mares and foals in his harem, and while he is one tough stallion, even he can use the help!    Fall, 2010


Life Changes

Eventually every stallion is going to lose his band to a younger stallion.  It's part of the life cycle, and while it is a hard thing to watch, it's part of life in the wild.  It gives the younger stallions their time in the sun and is important to keeping the gene pool turning over.


Many of you know that this past week in the South Steens HMA,  there is a buckskin stallion in the process of losing his family band to a younger blue roan stallion.  The buckskin was recently injured (he was seen Memorial Day weekend by other photographers and was fine) and is limping badly.  The blue roan is taking advantage of this injury and is harassing him without mercy.  Though we haven't seen him for days, we suspect the blue roan has taken his mares and gone off somewhere.  If so, hopefully the buckskin will have time to heal and fatten back up for winter.  Whether or not he gets his mares back, only time will tell.



South Steens HMA

Spring  2012














We often see old stallions in with bachelor bands and even sometimes in with a family band.  They seem to adjust to their new roles and while some of them remain quite feisty, others seem quiet and settled in their retirement.




Stinkingwater HMA

Spring 2010









Other Cool Stallion Behavior


We have not been fortunate enough to witness many of the extraordinary things that stallions do, but I've certainly heard the stories.  Stories about stallions defending a very young foal from another stallion and then taking it back to it's band, witnessed and photographed by our friend and wild horse photographer, Pam Nickoles.  


You might have seen the story that circulated on Facebook and the internet recently about the stallion that pulled the filly out of the river in Arizona.  If you haven't seen this, it is worth your time.  Get your hanky first, though.



Mary Ann Simonds tells of several young stallions trying to care for an abandoned foal in Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge.


We personally witnessed an older stallion caring for his foal after the mare he had been with for 12 years died.  He would sometimes wander off but always came back to check on his offspring, according to rangers in Pryor Mountain HMA.  


I hope you have all learned some things about stallions.  Maybe your attitude is just a tad different toward these magnificent creatures.  I hope.....




You can purchase photos from this blog by clicking on the photo.  It will take you to another screen where you can look at options and purchase.  Thank you!

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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If you would like to read my earlier blogs, just go to the "Blog" page, scroll to the bottom and click on the one you would like to read.  That is far easier than trying to scroll up and down and find which one you want.





Just some eye candy to finish this week off; a few well known stallions and some not so well known.  It's by no means everyone, but I've tried to include some of our favorite stallion photos- and I'll bet you know most of these beauties.  See you next week!



Picasso, Sand Wash Basin HMA
















Pryor Mtn wild horses M7484

















                                                                                                                                           Cloud, Pryor Mtn HMA                                                                






Piceance Creek Wild Horses M112222















Colorado, Spring 2011






Wyoming Wild Horses M126297

















                                                                                                                                           Wyoming, Spring 2012



                                   McCullough Peaks Wild Horses M111631c_square
















                                                                                     McCullough Peaks, Spring 2011



Wyoming wild horses B5019



Wyoming, Fall 2010














South Steens HMA, Fall 2008















South Steens HMA, Spring 2011













                                      South Steens HMA, Spring 2006



RIP beautiful boy...

South Steens HMA, Spring 2010








Week 7- Miscellany, Odd & Ends and Stuff That Doesn't Go Anywhere Else

June 17, 2012  •  24 Comments

When you go on a trip the length that ours has been, there are going to be lots of unconnected events,  little moments in time that are exciting or special or interesting.  And that don't seem to fit on a Facebook post or need a blog of their own.  So, I am going to put this modge podge of things into one blog.  I hope you enjoy these little mini stories...


Take It Elsewhere!!

This little scenario was witnessed and photographed by Marty.  He doesn't know what exactly happened here because it happened very fast, but based on what he saw and what I later saw in the photos, I think I can put it together.  It might not be completely accurate, but I think it's pretty darned close.



We have seen mares defend their young foals from older foals.  We also saw a mare get very annoyed at her yearling when he was roughhousing with another stallion too close to her young foal.  She pinned her ears and rushed in and boy, did he quit what he was doing!  However, we haven't witnessed a mare get after a mature stallion before.



A little background here...this herd was gathered early this year.  All of the family groups were disrupted, except for one, which was surprisingly completely intact.  Stallions that had eight mares last year might have one or maybe three and most likely they were different mares than were with them before the gather.  One stallion suddenly found himself a bachelor again.  So, the family dynamics were different.  A yearling would be likely find himself in a band with a stallion that is more or less a stranger.  At the very least, he wouldn't be likely to be with the stallion from the band he was born into.  I can only guess this is stressful for yearling, particularly a colt.



This beautiful bay roan stallion was quite the scrapper.  He defended his family with gusto.  Those of you who follow me on Facebook will recognize him.



Apparently, he was offended by another stallion and was beginning to get agitated.  The yearling colt, who was standing next to his dam and little brother, saw the stallion coming and is showing his teeth.  This is to let the stallion know that he does not want to fight. 



The mare suddenly turned around, pinned her ears back and showed her teeth to the stallion.  What I don't know is if she is defending her yearling or she is afraid her young foal will get caught in something physical and was warning the stallion to back off.




The stallion is starting to turn away.  I don't think I'd want to tick her off, either!




She hasn't backed off one bit but now the stallion is looking down and away.




The stallion twirled and ran off the other way to finish his discussion with the gray stallion, but he didn't do it anywhere near the mare and her offspring.


This all happened very fast, so it was hard to tell exactly what was going on.  In fact, all four frames were shot in the same second.  However,  it was pretty clear he got the message from the mare to take it elsewhere!!



Head Nodding


This is a new concept for us.  I'm not sure why it is- we've been around a lot of horses in a lot of different places, but this is something new for us.



Head nodding, according to friend and wild horse expert, Mary Ann Simonds, is a horse's way of asking to come into another horse's space.  Once in a great while we have noticed a horse nodding to another.  But it has not been a common thing.



This was our third trip to Sand Wash Basin and we don't recall seeing it here before.  Suddenly though,  horses were nodding all over the place.  We saw a stallion nodding his head at the the leader of a large stallion band.  He had been following them for days and it was clear that he wanted to be a part of the band.  That makes perfect sense to me.



Later, we had a couple of horses nod at us.  Well, of course, we nodded back.  And forth.  And back.  And forth.  Hey....cool!



This family band from Sand Wash Basin took nodding to an extreme though- it was more like head bobbing.  They nodded all the way in to the water trough.  They nodded at the water trough.  They nodded leaving the water trough.  This didn't make sense.  It was almost like a human with a tic, but the whole band was doing it, including the foals.




Again, I turned to Mary Ann.  She viewed the video and commented, "This looks more like the movement horses do to get rid of tiny gnats that may fly up their nose or ears. It may have become a habit with this group as it does with some horses. My TB does it all summer long even when there are no bugs, as he is very sensitive. That is my take on this group -- very sensitive and then the young horses mimic older horses and it becomes a habit."



AHA!  Makes sense!



Sharing The Range


Have you ever thought about all the animals, birds and even reptiles that horses share the range with?  Life is abundant out there.  The fields and meadows where the horses graze are populated by many other birds and animals.  In fact, rather than being quiet, usually the air is filled with the sound of crickets and birds.



Here are a few of the animals and birds you might see with the horses...




Pronghorn Antelope are probably the most common animal you'll see on the range.  In fact, it is not uncommon to see them grazing side by side with the horses.  They do not eat the same grasses, however.


A couple of years ago, we saw an antelope fawn that had been separated from his mother in with a family band of horses.  I don't know how long they were together but it was at least the few days we were there.








Elk are also seen in areas where the wild horses live.  They might not be as companionable as antelope but they certainly are seen close together.


Wild horses and elk do have similar diets.












Mule deer


We've never seen deer and horses hanging out together but they do inhabit the same range.  White-tailed deer?  I'm not sure, but I wouldn't be at all surprised.













Well, this one was a surprise to us!  In some high elevations, where there is ample water and the right browse (such as willows), moose and wild horses may share water.  They don't have the same diet and I'm fairly certain they wouldn't hang around together, but hey, who knows?










We only saw a splash but we saw a lot of beaver dams and dens.  Their dams back the water up and willows and other vegetation grows.  Moose come in for the willows.  Other animals, such as horses come in for the water and the lush grass that grows around the edges of all that water.


Now, moose and beaver aren't by any means in every HMA (Herd Management Area), and we were surprised too,  but it does occur.  We saw it!






Other animals include ground squirrels, prairie dogs, fox, coyotes, bobcats, badger and more rarely, cougar and even wolf.  Cougar will prey on young, old or sick wild horses, though it is in only a few places that this is even slightly an issue.  One I can readily think of is Pryor Mountain.  As far as I have heard from wild horse specialists, wolves have not been known to do much more than pass through Herd Management Areas, though they are known to be occasionally in several HMAs.






Wherever there is water, you will find birds.  Even in the middle of the desert- or maybe I should say, especially in the middle of the desert!



This is a Wilson's Phalarope and she was swimming in a waterhole that the horses frequent.  By the way, Wilson's Phalarope is one of the few birds in the world that the female is prettier than the male.  How about that!







I couldn't resist putting this hilarious photo in.  It's not a drowned rat but a Long-billed Curlew.  I don't think I have to explain where he had been!


He and his mate were nesting close to the waterhole and had three chicks. 
















I have often heard mumblings about whether or not Sage Grouse and wild horses can coexist.  We have seen Sage Grouse in several HMAs and HAs (Herd Areas), so there is no doubt that they do.












Other birds that share the range with wild horses include Golden Eagles, Bald Eagles, hawks of all sorts, many small and large birds such as Western Meadowlarks, Western Bluebirds, Horned Larks and others.




Yes, there are rattlesnakes.  This is the first one we saw this year (we saw our second one a couple of days ago). 


Rattlesnakes are important for rodent control and will not go out of their way to attack humans.  You must have a healthy respect for them and watch out when you are out in dry areas (which is everywhere this year!) but they aren't so common as people might think.  I grew up in rattlesnake country, hiked all over creation with my dad and never saw one until I was an adult.


That said, I do wear snake gaiters to protect myself, especially this time of the year!





Much less intimidating and way more fun reptiles include Horned Toads.  Here, our friend Robin is gently holding him so you can see his size.  Horned Toads (apparently) make great pets and get much larger than this.




Other reptiles include many kinds of lizards and snakes other than rattlesnakes, such as Pacific Gopher Snakes and Bullsnakes.











Sheep graze on several HMAs that we have been to.  Generally, it is when they are being moved from winter range to summer range, but they will often spend weeks in an HMA.  This is true in Sand Wash Basin and in HMAs in Utah.  I am sure there are others, as well.



Last, but not least, cattle share the range with the horses.  In all but a few of the HMAs we have visited, cattle have been present.




It is a common misconception that horses and cattle have the same diet.  However,  horse's diets most resemble an elk's diet, not a cow's.











I hope that gives you a better sense of what it is like out there on an HMA.  Filled with birds and wildlife and seasoned with wild horses...




Flehmen Response


Have you ever seen a horse sniffing the air with his lips turned up?  Or maybe a deer or an elk?


We saw this a lot when we were photographing elk, moose and deer, largely because the most common time for us to be out there photographing was during the rut (breeding season).  We certainly knew they were smelling girls but didn't know what it was called.



Of course, I turned to Mary Ann, who could explain it in detail for me.  I will paraphrase her explanation.  The Flehmen response utilizes the vomeronasal organ, a part of the accessory olfactory system for chemical communication.  It is used strongly by stallions for reproductive "readiness".  It is also used to help process any strange or new smells in both stallions and mares.  This may convert or concentrate smell into a sort of "smell-taste" using the vomeronasal organ located in the roof of the mouth of horses.

I think you just had your science lesson for the day!
It might just be basic curiosity on my part to want to know what that was called.  But why in the world would I want you to know that?  Well, I have a pretty funny video of some out of control Flehmen response.    ;-)
You can probably guess that these three bachelors found where a mare had urinated and there is a pretty good chance that mare is in estrus (heat).  By the way, those are two Curly stallions and a warbonnet.  What a trio!



Less Than a Fight and More Than a Tussle

Everyone seems to enjoy the stallion photos, particularly if there is some action.  I was going to save this for my stallion blog.  However...


You've stuck with me through all the education stuff.  You have generously shared the blog.  So, I think you deserve a little reward.


It's hard to show the whole scenario when stallions have their little get togethers.   One or two photos really doesn't do it justice, though they might be neat to look at individually.  The series from beginning to end tells the whole story, with a little help from a human, anyway.


A lot of you are bothered by stallion fights.  I will tell you right now though, stallions are rarely hurt and it is even rarer to sustain a serious injury.  It is almost always about posturing- flexing the muscles, so to speak.  Making sure the other stallions know you are no push over.


Bachelors, especially young ones, will tussle, sometimes incessantly.  One bachelor band was at it just about every time we saw them, which was every day for several hours.  They just wouldn't quit.  Older bachelors are usually more settled than that but will still posture with each other and "fight."


Older stallions fight to either win mares or to keep their mares.  They will fight another mature stallion who is a perceived threat and they will fight a younger stallion that is trying to pick off a mare.  Some stallions, usually the older and more mature ones, are more tolerant and don't react too quickly.  Others will fly off the handle at the smallest little thing.   Sometimes, I swear, it may just be that one doesn't like the look of another stallion.


If you want to know if it is a serious fight, watch what the mares do.  If they scatter, it's probably a bit more serious.  If they keep eating, sleeping and rolling, it's a situation of "Ho hum.  There they go again..."


Most fights last a few seconds.   Are you surprised by that?  It's a 'flash in the pan."  Over in a jiffy.


This series of photos is one mature stallion (gray) who took offense at another (bay roan).  I have no idea what started it but it ended like most of them do, with no one hurt.  However, this one lasted a bit longer than usual.




It usually starts with one stallion taking offense at another.  He will run out to challenge the other and more often than not, the challenge is accepted.




Quite often, this posturing is all there is to it.  Both stallions will turn and run back to their bands after proving their masculinity to the other.









But these two decide to take it a bit further. 













































Suddenly they run over to the gray stallion's band.  The mares don't seem too concerned, though the buckskin is moving out of the way.














I'm getting the idea these two really don't like each other.  The mares still aren't overly concerned, though they all have their ears pinned.















Now the mares aren't so comfortable with what is going on.  This is a much longer confrontation than we typically see.


This isn't play fighting but two stallions who need to prove their strength to the other.













Time to get the mares out of there!



Do you see the bay roan smelling the ground?  It's very likely he marked his spot by "creating" a stallion pile (poop!).  Generally, the second stallion will "one up" him by pooping on top of his poop.  Yep.  That's what they do.  It's true.











One last word to make sure he really understood...















The gray stallion snakes his mares away- well away-
















and the bay roan runs back to his family band, tail high.



I wonder who "won"...















Well, that's it for this week.  It looks as if my internet connection is okay and there will be a blog next week.  Darn!  Just kidding.  ;-)



Oh wait!  I have a surprise for you.  We were talking about  birds and animals that share the range with the wild horses.  There is one little critter that I forgot to mention.   We have seen them on Warm Springs HMA and I would be willing to guess they are on others, since their habitat is dry, open country.



This is not a high quality video, but it is very precious.  In 14 years of photography, a good number of them spent photographing birds and wildlife, we have never had this opportunity.  It was taken at a distance with a very big lens on the window (we could not get out and set up our tripod), so there is a lot of shaking going on.  I muted the sound because it was windy and Marty and I couldn't stop the commentary- it was just so very cool!  I hope you enjoy this as much as we did!




There were seven chicks, by far the most we've ever seen.  We were lucky enough to photograph five fledgling Burrowing Owls a few years ago but they were all as big as their parents and were not fuzzy like babies (they were also flying already, though not real well).  I think, considering how uncoordinated these chicks were, they were newly out of the burrow.  While it's not about wild horses, this will be one of the highlights of our trip!



Other Important Stuff...

Many of you know that we partnered with Mary Ann Simonds for our wild horse DVD.  I would like to give special recognition and thanks to her.  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


If you are interested in the Wild Horse DVD by Mary Ann Simonds and us (if you love wild horses, this is not to be missed), you can view a trailer and purchase it here:



Did you know you can subscribe to my blogs?  Just go to the bottom and click "Subscribe."  You will receive an email when each one is published.  This will work for Firefox and Internet Explorer.  If you use Google Chrome (like I do), you will need to check "Help" for instructions on how to subscribe to a RSS or a "feed".


If you would like to read my earlier blogs, just go to the "Blog" page, scroll to the bottom and click on the one you would like to read.  That is far easier than trying to scroll up and down and find which one you want.


Thank you for visiting!


See you next week!















Week 6- Fun at the Waterhole

June 10, 2012  •  20 Comments

Fun at the Waterhole

Before you panic and think this will be a dry blog, hang on.  Water is such an important thing to wild horses (wild animals, in general) and you learn a lot about them by watching them at their watering holes.  I want to share some of the drama and fun that we have seen at waterholes in various places.


I promise you will be entertained and hopefully, educated a bit too.  Of course, there will be lots of photos and more than one video this time.


The Education Part

Let's just get this right out of the way.


I am not an authority on water in the west.  I have tried to confirm any information that I have put in this blog.  There may be misinformation but I have tried hard to give you an accurate view.


It's a very dry year in the western United States.  I have talked to people in the BLM offices everywhere we have gone, and most have been the wild horse specialist for the HMA (Herd Management Area) we are visiting.  There is plenty of concern about drought just about everywhere we have gone; Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and Oregon (though we aren't there yet).  Idaho seems to be in pretty good shape water-wise but it has been dry enough that there is little new grass in some areas.


Water levels, troughs, ponds, springs, etc will be closely watched this summer to make sure the horses are going to have enough water to sustain them.  In the past, emergency gathers have been done to take horses out of drought stricken HMAs and the horses later released when the water situation improved.  There are mutterings that may have to occur this year, but there is nothing definite.  It's a wait and see situation but it is a long time until rain can be expected to fill up those creeks and ponds.


Everywhere we have gone, we have seen dry troughs, dry waterholes, dry creeks.  Many of these watering places had water the last two times we were there, even in September, and this was May.  Grass is sparse in many areas since there was little rainfall.  Where we saw tall, lush grass, such as in Piceance Creek, we didn't find any horses- because the water source had dried up.


Many HMAs have ample water, even though it is a drought year.  There are hidden springs and while it is drier than usual, the horses will do fine.  They will have to work harder than usual but they will be able to find water.  However,  places that are dry normally, even in a year with good rainfall,  is where there may be problems.  Nevada comes to mind, of course, as it is mostly desert to begin with.


Only time will tell.  I do know there are people watching the situation very closely and it will not go unnoticed if water becomes critical in an area.


How Do Horses Get Their Water, Anyway?

I'm so glad you asked.  It's a complicated answer though.


Some places have year round creeks or springs.  Some creeks may appear dry but resurface in places.  The horses know where all those places are, even if we can't find them.



This is a year round creek in Idaho.  This water will not disappear any time soon!



Notice how the sagebrush goes right to the edge of the creek.  You can clearly tell just how far the water goes.  The vegetation around the creek is lush- which is why you can't see the horses well.









The BLM has developed many springs, putting in either water troughs or waterholes that are fed by the springs.  Of course, they stay filled as long as the spring has water.




This trough in Utah is fed by a natural spring.  Overflow dumps into a pond, which then empties into a creek bed.


Flow into many of the troughs is controlled by a regulator like modern toilets have.  When the water level drops, the "ball' drops and water is released into the trough.  Some troughs have no such regulators.  Water just runs into them freely.







Probably the most common type of waterhole that we have seen, is a natural spring which fills a bermed up area, like a man made pond, created specifically by the BLM for wildlife.  They are frequently shared by cattle and other animals in the area, such as Pronghorn Antelope or elk.  There is generally nothing pretty about them.




The stallion is standing on the berm, doing what stallions do- watching.


Yes, the water is almost always muddy.  This does not deter any wildlife from using it.  All animals, including horses, will drink out of a mud puddle, if there is one to be found.









We have found one BLM waterhole that was actually pretty.  We've never seen one before or since that had wildflowers around it!  Of course, it is likely this waterhole isn't used much, which is why it's so pretty!



This photo was taken in South Steens HMA (Oregon) in the spring of 2010.  It's hard to see but the edges are covered with small blue flowers.



Windmills have been used to pump water from wells in many western states since the days of the pioneers.  It's not unusual to see them even now.  We have seen windmills that pump water into large water troughs in several HMAs, most notably in Piceance Creek.  Of course, it depends on the depth the well is drilled to but I was told by a wild horse specialist last year that they only pull water from about 30 feet.  I am trying to confirm this and will update the blog when I do.




Alas, this is not our photo.  You would think with as many of these as we have seen, we take a picture of just one.  But no! 



This is very much like what we have seen, generally with a much smaller water trough.  I would assume that would be determined by how many animals are expected to use it and how much water is in the well.


We have seen many windmills with dry troughs this year.






More recently, the BLM has been installing solar pumps/wells.  These will pump to a greater depth than a windmill.  I am trying to get information on the difference between windmills and solar pumps and will update you when I do.



So far, the only solar wells we have seen are at Sand Wash Basin HMA, though I am sure there are others.


This particular trough has a regulator on it.  When the water level drops, it automatically pumps more water in.










Now that all the mechanics are done, let's have some fun...




Going to water is part of the wild horses' routine or rhythms.  How many times they go to water in the course of the day, I don't know, but undoubtedly it is several, including in the middle of the night.  Some herds go to water like clockwork.  You can go there at 4:30 and they will show up just about that time.  Others seem to come and go randomly.


According to friend and wild horse ecologist, Mary Ann Simonds,  horses will drink from 10 - 40 gals of water a day depending upon temperature, and movement.  Standing at rest in a stall on a nice temperature day and eating dry hay, they well drink 10-12 gals. Moving around out on the desert --most would prefer 25 gals. Wild horses do obtain some moisture from grasses in the spring and therefore get some water from plant material.  Some of the horses who live in dry desert climates seem to get by with less water than the more Northern horses.


We were quite surprised a couple of weeks ago when we went back to a water trough and pond that about 100 horses had been frequenting.  It was obvious they had not been using it for awhile.  Not only was the trough brimming, but so was the runoff pond, and a stream existed that hadn't been there when we were there three weeks earlier.  We had thought it was only a stream during the early spring!



Just Who Determines When to Go to Water?

We have watched horses going to water dozens of times.  It's a funny thing to watch.  One minute the horses are grazing peacefully, or sleeping or grooming or doing other horsey things.  The next thing you know, they are all headed in one direction.  It is very clear they are going somewhere and that somewhere is often the waterhole.


When you start really paying attention, you quickly see that it is usually started by a lead mare in one of the bands.  It doesn't seem to matter which band or where they fall in the whole scheme of things, but band after band will start to fall into line.  It  is interesting though, when a bachelor band goes to water, it does not usually start the parade.  From what I can see, though there are always exceptions to the rule, it is always a lead mare.  Now the mare might on occasion think the bachelors have a good idea and follow, but it usually seems to start with her.


Off she goes!




Many of you are familiar with the story of me following the herd of horses to water last spring.  It's my favorite story of the two stories I know.  Well, one of my favorite of one hundred stories, then!  LOL



Just like it usually happens, one mare decided it was time to go to water.  She started off, the rest of the near 100 horses followed and I followed behind, doing my very best to keep up.  Right!  I thought she was going to take the same route she had the day before.  I had followed then.  I knew where we were going.  Right!



Well, let me tell you!  They lead me on a merry chase over hill and dale, up, down, over, up again...  By the time I figured out where we were (about 45 minutes later), we on a very high hill!  Absolutely no way was I going down that!  I had to backtrack and sidehill down to get to the meadow where Marty was waiting with the truck (someone had to go for the 'wheels').  Lo' and behold, as soon as they got to the meadow, they walked down the road to the very same water trough they had gone to the day before.  Only this time we took the long way around!  Crazy horses!




Such a nice orderly line!  Of course, I am holding down the rear position.  Yes, that valley below is where they intended to go!  YIKES!




The mare will usually lead the band or even the whole herd to water, but somewhere along the way she will drop back.  The stallion almost always leads the way when they get close to the waterhole, trough or creek.









Time for a drink...







Rules and Protocols


Rules and protocols about the waterhole may differ from herd to herd, but I can assure you- there ARE rules.



Generally, the mature stallions and their bands come in first.  If there are a lot of "big guys", they still seem to take turns though there can be tension just as they get to the waterhole.  Next come the younger stallions and their bands, then the stallions with just one or two mares and finally the bachelors.  We have seen bachelor bands arrive at the waterhole earlier than the other bands and they will stand off a ways and wait until the other bands water, sometimes waiting a long time, if it's a big herd.  They know their place!



Many of you probably recall the video I did of the wild horses running into water.  The whole video was about 15 minutes long, so you saw a little snippet of it.  In this section, the horses have already come in single file and are breaking up to go to the trough in front, as well as a pond and trough in back.  Watch how certain bands stand and wait their turn.



Watch for the horses who are drinking to suddenly jump back.  The regulator has just dropped and water starts going into the trough again.  Now, I suspect this trough has been there for decades too, but they still don't trust that the water suddenly starts pouring in!






Bachelors watching and waiting their turn...














Fun and Games


This is what is fun!  Get a couple of family bands together at a trough or waterhole and trouble is bound to erupt!  Usually it's nothing serious, just a whole lot of posturing. 



Stallions get too close to another stallion's mare.  They get bumped.  They look sideways.  Who knows sometimes what sets it off?  But there is almost always action!






















Most of the time, the horses drink and then leave single file again.  Occasionally, though, they will hang around and eat or sleep even.












Uh OH.  The Waterhole is Dry!


This is a scenario that took place at Sand Wash Basin HMA.   Before you get overly concerned, the was ample water to be had, both here and nearby. 



I think the horses were confused by the fact their waterhole was empty.  They walked around it, sniffed at it, pawed at it and generally looked mystified.  There was a solar well with a trough right by the waterhole but it was pretty clear they were not used to it.  Most of them looked at it if as if it was a scarey alien.  They also didn't like the fact that the water would suddenly start running when the level went down.



Some of the bands that came in would walk around and around the trough taking the longest time to actually approach it.  Others would stand and look at it and then leave without getting water.  Others would come in faster, perhaps already mastering their discomfort, though they still didn't like it.



This is one band's approach.  It was agony watching this unfold.   I wanted to reassure them- or something!  LOL


I have shortened the length considerably so you don't go to sleep waiting for this stallion to approach the trough...






I trust this is a learning process and the horses will adjust to the water trough.  However, I was surprised when I found out that the water trough in the photo array below, which has the same mechanism to fill it, has been there for over 30 years.  Maybe adjustment is relative!




By the way, that bay roan is a big, tough band stallion!  ;-)



Methinks the bay mare is the braver of the two.  ;-)













































If You've Got Lemons, Make Lemonade


So, just what do you do if the waterhole is dry?  Well....




You can use it as a salt lick.  I'm sure those minerals are delish!












You can use it as a place to roll- it's nice soft dirt, after all!














And you know what happens when one horse rolls- others follow suit, of course!















Or you can use it as a playground...


















Oh yes, there are many uses...just use your imagination!


Don't you agree?  Waterholes are fun stuff!




Yes, I am concerned about the water situation in the west.  There are certain areas that are very concerning.  Historically, water has been brought into some of those areas that suffer the worst- when it is feasible and it isn't always feasible- for the horses and other wildlife in the area.  Emergency gathers may occur in areas where the water is seriously depleted,  but if they do, I feel confident it will be for the good of the horses.  I have seen how bad it is in May and early June.  There is a lot of summer left....



I will be trying to stay informed and will keep you informed as I get new information.



I hope you have learned something today.  I also hope you have been entertained.   :-)




Every blog takes between 12- 14 hours to create. Please let me know you are enjoying them.   I would be delighted if you shared with your friends and acquaintances.  Thank you!


Until next week...



Other Important Stuff...

Many of you know that we partnered with Mary Ann Simonds for our wild horse DVD.  I would like to give special recognition and thanks to her.  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


If you are interested in the Wild Horse DVD by Mary Ann Simonds and us (if you love wild horses, this is not to be missed), you can view a trailer and purchase it here:



Did you know you can subscribe to my blogs?  Just go to the bottom and click "Subscribe."  You will receive an email when each one is published.  This will work for Firefox and Internet Explorer.  If you use Google Chrome (like I do), you will need to check "Help" for instructions on how to subscribe.


As long as I have the interest in the blog, I will continue to publish every Sunday (unless we are without internet service or barring some other issue).  I will continue through our nine week wild horse photography trip (home on July 5).  We still have a lot of places to go and things to see, so come along with us!














June 03, 2012  •  30 Comments

Curly Horses


We have been very fortunate to find Curly Horses in the wild several times.  Most of you that have followed me for awhile know how very fascinated and enthralled I am with these horses.  How can I possibly resist a Curly blog?  I can't.  I will be using photos from both 2010 and 2012 but I don't think you'll mind that...



We did find Curlies this year, both new horses to us and Curlies that we saw and photographed in the fall of 2010.  All of these horses were in Wyoming, though I know there are Curlies in the wild in Nevada, as well.



Two years ago, we had absolutely no idea what a Curly was.  We had gone to the BLM office in Rock Springs and they told us with some enthusiasm there were Curlies "out there."  We smiled and said, "Oh, cool."



You might be as ignorant of Curlies as we were, though if you've hung around my Facebook page for very long, you've likely had a little education here and there.  So, now is a good time to give you some background on the Curly horse.  I am going to use several references, not being an expert myself.  I will list them and their websites at the end of the blog, if you'd like to further explore.



History of the Curly Horse in North America

The exact origin of the Curly horse is not known and is likely still hotly debated.  There are a couple of theories though.


It was once thought that these curly coated horses were ancestors of the Russian Bashkir of Bashkortostan.  That has recently been disproven.  This information came after the horses were dubbed "American Bashkir Curly", a title that has been more recently changed to the "American Curly Horse", based on the belief they are truly an American breed.  You may hear them called American Bashkir Curly, American Curly horse, North American Curly horse or just Curly Horse.




This is one of my favorite Curly photos- clearly showing the curly coat of one black stallion as compared to the smooth coat of the other.



I have heard those tight curls are called "crushed velvet."  They are certainly look like it!  I was lucky enough to feel a Curly's crushed velvet coat this spring at the Albany, Oregon Horse Expo and they are just about as soft as crushed velvet too!



Since the time of year makes a huge difference in their coat, I will tell you the time of year the photos were taken.


This is the fall of 2010 (September).

Most of the Curlies will have lost their curls by summer.











Back to theories...


According to ICHO (International Curly Horse Organization),

"The name isn't the only mystery surrounding this breed. Various theories have been proposed to explain the presence of the Curly horse in North America. Some have suggested that they came across the Bering Strait land bridge during the last ice age, but no fossil evidence has been found to support that. Others suggest that curly coated horses were imported while the Russians occupied parts of the West Coast of North America. However, Thomas' research shows there was no mention of the importation of horses into North America by Russian settlers in their ship logs. Horses were used on a limited basis during the Russian experimentation with farming during the late 1700s and early 1800s in present day Alaska. Stock breeding was not very successful with most settlements only able to keep a small number of cattle, sheep, pigs and perhaps chickens. In 1817 there were only sixteen horses in Russian America and they were more than likely the hardy Yakut and not the Bashkir or Lokai breeds. It is very unlikely that even this breed of horse could have made the treacherous journey from Alaska to Nevada.

Another theory is that a man by the name of Tom Dixon imported curly horses from northern India to Nevada around 1880. Although this theory cannot be fully proved or disproved the Curly horse was already present in America by that time. Evidence shows that Sioux Indians had Curly horses as early as 1801-02 and in his 1848 autobiography circus master, P. T. Barnum, writes of obtaining and exhibiting a curly horse .

As early as the late 1700s, sightings of curly horses were reported in South America. It seems possible, but cannot be concluded, that the Spanish conquistadors may have brought curly horses, or the curly gene, to South America, as there are several European breeds with curly hair. Another suggestion is that Norse or Celtic explorers brought curly horses to North America prior to 1492 but this theory has yet to be fully investigated. With all of these possibilities as to the origin of this unique breed no definitive answers have yet to be agreed upon.



In separate research, the CS Fund has done blood typing of 200 curly horse in the Serology Lab at UC-Davis. Although one can not definitively identify a horse's breed by it blood type characteristics there are characteristics common to an individual breed. This testing was seen as a method to determine if the Bashkir Curly did in fact display the blood characteristics of a distinct breed. The findings, however, were that the modern curly horse is not a genetically distinct breed, but has been crossed with many other breeds, particularly Quarter Horses and Morgans. The rare and unusual variants that did emerge from this testing are found only in feral horses or those breed based on feral herds. No single blood marker was found to be common in all curly horses."



Recent history of the Curlies began in Nevada, with rancher John Damele, who immigrated from Italy to Eureka, Nevada in 1879.  Years later, while checking cattle on his cattle ranch, John and his sons saw horses with curly hair running with the mustang wild-horse herds.  (Western Horseman, 2004)


According to the BLM, wild horses originated from many sources; primarily animals that were released by or escaped from Spanish explorers, ranchers, miners, the US Cavalry, and American Indians.  Ranchers actually "managed" their horses by releasing domestic breeds into the wild herds and then later collecting foals to build their herds.  Horses that were released depended on what the rancher or miner needed to do his work, including draft, Morgan, Thoroughbred, Arabian and others.


in a very interesting article in Western Horseman (on the ICHO website), in about 1931, the Dameles caught a Curly Horse from a mustang herd, broke the horse to ride, and later sold it.   According to Damele family history, this was their first experience with handling and training Curly Horses.  After a very brutal winter in 1932 the only horses the Damele family could find alive were Curly horses.  All of the straight-haired horses had perished.  They quickly realized that if  the Curlies could be broke to ride and turned into cow horses, they would be likely to stay alive when other horses would not survive the harsh central-Nevada winters.  The same thing happened in the winter of 1951-52 and the Dameles began seriously breeding Curlies that spring.



Curly mustangs are still found in Nevada, in the Eureka and Ely areas and in the Rock Springs, Wyoming area.  Perhaps, there are others.


Well, I can tell you.  Curlies are more than a little cool!

We knew immediately when we saw our first one, just what it was.  We reacted with more than a little enthusiasm!  LOL



It was the fall of 2010, our first trip to Wyoming.  We came upon our first group quite suddenly; three bay Curly stallions.  They were just about as mellow as you could possibly imagine- hardly blinking at our enthusiasm.  I was much more impressed by them that they were by me, I can tell you that!




This stallion had a very short mane, like many of the Curlies that we have seen, do.  There are tight curls along his mane and somewhat down his neck.  The other two were very similar to him.




Of course, the coats are what most distinguish a Curly horse and what sets it apart from other breeds of horses.  While we have only seen the coats of the mustangs in spring and fall, we did see a couple of domestic Curlies in their winter coat.    In winter, the hair coat has long curls, although most of the long, curly hair often is shed in the summer.   Mane and tail hair can also be curly, regardless of the coat.


There has been a great deal of variance in the horses we have seen.  In fact, from one extreme to the other.  We've seen horses in the fall with almost no mane and tail and very short hair to almost smooth coated Curlies, with just a few curls along their manes but with long dreadlocks for manes and tails and everything in between.  This spring we saw one with the tightest coat imaginable.



I have heard and read that the Curly Horse is hypoallergenic.  Their coat is much like a poodle's and they are also known to be hypoallergenic.   It is reported that people allergic to horses are more tolerant of Curlies.


Curlies also smell different- almost like lanolin on a sheep smells (I am attributing it to the lanolin, having some experience with sheepskins and spinning wool).  It's hard to explain, but it is definitely different.  Laugh at me, but I kept smelling my hand after I thoroughly rubbed a Curly down early this spring.



We would have been thrilled if those were the only Curlies we found were the three bay stallions, but they weren't.  What an array of color and curls we saw!




We quickly saw that Curlies can come in just about any color.  They also vary from almost smooth coat to "crushed velvet" and from long dreadlocks, like this stallion, to nearly no mane (and tail) at all.


This photo is from the fall of 2010.  We saw him again this spring.  Later, on that...


Let's just look at some photos now, okay?  I thought you might say that!



A close-up of the black stallion shown earlier.  I am told this is called "crushed velvet."



Fall, 2010












Fall, 2010



















It seems like the more we looked, the more Curlies we saw...




Fall 2010

One of the most unusual Curlies we saw, I am told she is an "extreme."  This is her summer coat.  She would have curls like all other Curlies in the winter, but loses her mane and tail in the summer.  I felt sorry for her- no tail to swish the flies off!



Fall 2010

I didn't even realize I had this photo until I was going through photos this winter.  I am totally intrigued by it.  I have never seen mustang twins in the wild but these two look so much alike.  What adorable youngsters!



Fall 2010

The "extreme" Curly mare is behind the black Curly.  You can see the black's sturdy build.  Do you suppose the stallion behind him is using those curls to rub his nose on?   It looks like a great idea to me!




Fall 2010

Another view of those dreadlocks






Fall 2010


A very interesting looking black Curly stallion.  He had almost a completely smooth coat, but his forelock and mane were a dead giveaway- we were looking at a Curly!






















Spring 2012


Well, we did see Curlies this year.  In fact, we saw more this year than in the fall of 2010.  There was a gather shortly after we were there.  I know many of the Curlies were released, both into the area they came from and into other HMAs around Rock Springs.  I also have it on good authority that all of the Curlies that were gathered were adopted and for higher than normal fees.  In other words- they are sought after horses!



The first one we saw was this gorgeous sorrel stallion with a flaxen mane and tail.  He is the same stallion with the dreadlocks from above.  This year he is with a lovely cremello mare, a sorrel mare and a couple of yearlings- one who is clearly a Curly (shown).





Will you take a look at that mane and tail and the curls on his legs?!! What a stunning stallion!!


























This black stallion was cruisin'!  He was all over the place, obviously looking for a mare.  As of the time we left, he was still alone and still harrassing the other stallions.  We last saw him around the edges of a Curly band.  A Curly band, you say?  UH HUH.



I am fairly confident this is the same black stallion that is featured above.  He has a lot more curls around his feet but this is his spring coat and the other photos are from fall.  What do you think?  The same guy?


He was hanging out with a interesting colored Curly (seal brown?) and the war bonnet that we saw in the fall of 2010.  What a trio they made!


























This was a fun shot to take.  Take a look at the feet and under his chin, not to speak of his mane, along his mane and his side.  OK.  All of him!!

























His buddy in the bachelor band.  I loved the color of this stallion!






























Fun, huh?



We thought we were in Curly heaven.  And then we saw a family band of 8 horses.  Six were clearly Curlies and maybe even a seventh.  I can't quite decide.  The one "anomaly" was a gray smooth coated mare who was very pregnant.  Suppose she is pregnant with a Curly foal?


Now, we've seen a lot of curls, but take a look at the yearling in the middle.  He has the tightest, thickest curls we've seen- even the domestic Curly we saw this winter!





He has so many curls, his head reminds me of a sheep!  Would I love to feel that coat!
























The stallion for the Curly band, returning from running off that pesky black Curly. 



One last thing before I show you the Curly video.   A word about their temperament.  I can tell you, from observing them in the wild, they seem like steady, pretty much unflappable horses.  Of course, they act like other wild horses, but they seem calm and relaxed in comparison.



Temperament and Physical Characteristics

According to ICHO, as well as many Curly owners that I have talked to, Curly Horses are intelligent, calm natured, and, when handled correctly, easily trained.  The horses share many physical characteristics with primitive horses, including wide-set eyes and strong cannon bones, and Curly Horses have particularly tough hooves, almost perfectly round in shape, which makes them good in rocky country. Some owners compare Curlies to mules because the Curly Horses think things through rather than panic when faced with unexpected situations.



Sources for More Information

I am grateful to the International Curly Horse Organization for generously letting me use information from their website.  If you would like to learn more about Curly horses, visit this wonderful website:



Other sources:


Curly Ranch   http://www.curlytranch.ca/history.html

American Bashkir Curly Association     http://www.abcregistry.org/

Wikipedia lists more links to Curly information     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curly_Horse


You can also find a page on Facebook for Curly lovers





Let's Tie It Up

On to the video.  Of course, it's the Curly band!  ;-)





Well, with all that, I hope I have tantalized you,  intrigued you and maybe educated you about these wonderful horses.

If I ever saw a blue roan Curly with two blue eyes, I'd be lookin' for some properrrrrteeeeeee.....




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


Did you know you can subscribe to my blogs?  Just go to the bottom and click "Subscribe."  You will receive an email when each one is published.  This will work for Firefox and Internet Explorer.  If you use Google Chrome (like I do), you will need to check "Help" for instructions on how to subscribe to a RSS or a "feed".


If you would like to read my earlier blogs, just go to the "Blog" page, scroll to the bottom and click on the one you would like to read.  That is far easier than trying to scroll up and down and find which one you want.



See you next week!

Week 4- The Month in Review

May 27, 2012  •  17 Comments

The Month in Review


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!!



Week 5-


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


Did you know you can subscribe to my blogs?  Just go to the bottom and click "Subscribe."  You will receive an email when each one is published.  This will work for Firefox and Internet Explorer.  If you use Google Chrome (like I do), you will need to check "Help" for instructions on how to subscribe to a RSS or a "feed".


If you would like to read my earlier blogs, just go to the "Blog" page, scroll to the bottom and click on the one you would like to read.  That is far easier than trying to scroll up and down and find which one you want.








Week 3- A Day in the Life

May 20, 2012  •  13 Comments

Have you ever wondered what wild horses do all day?  I certainly have.


We have spent whole days with the wild horses before.  However, usually we go find a place to rest in the middle of the day and then go find the horses again.  That is, if they haven't already wandered off on there own long before our rest period.


A couple of weeks ago we decided to spend the whole day with them, if it was possible (sometimes it just doesn't work that way).  It was our last day in Utah and we wanted to make it the best day that we could.


We arrived just as the sun was coming up.  The horses were out a ways in the meadow but we were hoping they were coming in soon.  From the previous mornings we had spent with them, it was about that time.  We were right.  It didn't take long for them to start to drift into the water hole.






As is typical with wild horses, they came in in groups; family band by family band.









































This particular waterhole had a trough and a pond.  A second trough was dry.  There was plenty of water for all though.



























Its always interesting to see about 40 horses share...



Of course, with that many horses in close proximity to each other, there are bound to be clashes. 









Stallions are bound to think another stallion is too close to his mares.  Or perhaps, that was his spot.  Who knows?












Notice how the mares are unfazed by all of this.  "Ho Hum.  There they go again!"


Family bands tend to take turns at the trough or the pond.  Well, mostly.  There is a heirarchy though.  Bachelors always wait until the last to drink, sometimes even after all of the other horses have left.  It doesn't mean they aren't creating all kinds of mischief on the edges of the herd though.  ;-)



We have spent a lot of time with horses at waterholes.  It is typical for them to come in and drink and then leave.  Even a herd of 75 horses, like the video I put on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, may take only 15 minutes to drink and then they go.  Not this time though.  For whatever reason, this group stayed around the waterhole for an hour.  The rested, ate, played in the water, and of course, the stallions did their "thing."








Some just hung out with their friends. 













We knew that all of the horses weren't here.  We had seen a large group behind a hill when we came in.  We suspected they would come to the waterhole sooner or later but we didn't know when.


The first clue they were coming was the large cloud of dust behind us.  A few minutes later, we could see it was horses.  They came in band by band, nearly in single file.





Can you count them? 




There are about 75 horses here, including the white stallion loosely bringing up the rear.



We fully expected them to come to the waterhole.  After all, we had seen all of these horses at this same waterhole several times now.  However, much to our surprise, they walked right past the water and kept going...

































Then I spotted my favorite family band.  The buckskin mare has a new foal- a very new one!  This shot is the closest we got to a complete family photo- and its the "going away" view!  LOL





And they kept going...














Of course, the boys had to stop and scuffle once in awhile but they just kept on going...




A close up of our new foal.  What an absolute cutie!  Mom shows signs that is has only been a few hours since birth.




The little ones have to stop and rest.  Its a long hike to where they are going.  Just where ARE they going?


Here the older foal in the family band is checking out the new member.










Mom is very protective and warns the older foal about being very careful.












We are following at a crawl in the pick-up.  We could run and not keep up with horses, even when they stop and graze and rest.  I found that out last year!


And we keep going and going.  We have never been this far up the road. 


AHA!  Another waterhole!  This one must be much better than the one they passed an hour or so ago.  The horses all stop here.  The horses at the first waterhole have joined them now.







The one eared palomino waits to go to water.  His mare has gone boldly forward (back center).

















The large group mills around the waterhole for awhile, just resting, grooming and even sleeping.













After watering, the horses drifted slowly away, eventually ending up on a small hill.  There they stayed for several hours, most of them sleeping.  Occasionally, we would see one of the bachelor's make a fuss, but generally it was very quiet.  We took our quiet time too, checking on them off and on with the binoculars.


Late in the afternoon, the horses began to move around a bit.  After a few minutes, it became apparent they were moving again.  Would they come back to the same waterhole?  Nooooo.... off they went in the direction we found them in the morning.


We're on the move again!



With an occasional stop to take a roll...




Or to take a nap...


Uh oh, maybe its not time for a nap after all!
















Time to get along there little one, we have places to go!













Sometimes in the chaos of moving, a foal will get displaced from mom.  This foal ran too far ahead and suddenly realized he didn't know where mom was.


























After a couple of attempts at other gray horses, including one cranky stallion (he shooed him off), he finally finds mom.  Maybe he'll stay closer this time!



Then there is something about being a bit toooo close- you CAN get a nose full of tail!


On and on we went, following the horses while they stopped to eat, sleep, roll, tussle with each other and just generally did what horses do.


We left the horses at dusk, in the meadow just above the first waterhole.  We had traveled over six miles from the first waterhole to the second and back again.  What an interesting day it was. 


A day in the life of a wild horse...







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


Did you know you can subscribe to my blogs?  Just go to the bottom and click "Subscribe."  You will receive an email when each one is published.  This will work for Firefox and Internet Explorer.  If you use Google Chrome (like I do), you will need to check "Help" for instructions on how to subscribe to a RSS or a "feed".


If you would like to read my earlier blogs, just go to the "Blog" page, scroll to the bottom and click on the one you would like to read.  That is far easier than trying to scroll up and down and find which one you want.



Until next week...








Week Two- Wyoming

May 13, 2012  •  15 Comments

Well, I thought I knew what I was going to do when I set out to blog weekly while we were on our trip.  I was going to do a week in review.  I have quickly discovered though, there are things that are too rich to pass up.


Before I get going on this story, I want to give Mary Ann Simonds, our partner in the wild horse DVD we recently published, much deserved credit for helping us to clarify this rich little scenario.  We have not seen this before, despite having been out with wild horses for years now, we still see new things.  How cool is that?



Let me start with some background here.


This red roan stallion has a little palomino band; a mare, yearling colt and young foal.  He was a very standoffish stallion, choosing to keep his band far away from both us and the other horses in the area.


This is one of the horses we saw a year and a half ago, by the way.  He had a palomino mare and other mares too.  I am assuming she is one and the same but it's very difficult to know.






While we were photographing the red roan and his band, this large palomino stallion came in with his large band and his lieutenant.  This is the same stallion that I posted on Facebook on Thursday.


Included in his band are three yearling colts. 


This photo only shows part of his band.







The two family bands are standing well apart from each other.  The red roan had run down to challenge the palomino when he first moved into the area but the palomino simply ignored him.  The red roan ran back to his band and stood on the ridge watching.


Suddenly, a buckskin yearling colt broke from the palomino's band and ran up to the red roan.  He is "grimacing" as he is approaching but he is approaching with confidence.  Okkkkkkkkk..... you really want to do that little boy?



  You can see he is traveling a long way- all by himself...














Approaching the stallion 

He is indicating with his head down and grimacing that he doesn't really want to fight, but he's still a bold youngster!




I am holding my breath here thinking this little guy may be getting himself into trouble.  Much to my surprise, the yearling's band stallion is not intervening.  In fact, he isn't paying any attention at all.


















Look who is suddenly interested.  Enter the palomino yearling from the red roan's band.  This is going to get interesting!











          He's nearly caught between the red roan and the yearling palomino, but he doesn't back down- not one whit!




Quite suddenly, the red roan stallion loses interest in the whole thing and runs back to his mare and foal.


No one from the palomino stallion's band is paying attention.  Still.












Next is a series of photos with the two yearlings playing.  They played together, between the two bands, for about seven minutes.


We have seen foals and yearlings from different bands play together, but it actually isn't very common.  It is usually very brief and every time it is quickly broken up by a mature stallion or by a mare, if it is a foal.  So, this seemed like a long time for the play to go on.







We thought this was a sign of dominance but Mary Ann explained it is usually not.  It's just 'horsing around'.  Maybe it is also practice for when a stallion is old enough to breed, so he can get it right when the pressure is on. 


I loved how intently the foal is watching all of this.  The mare and stallion are not paying any attention. 








Such a familiar mature stallion pose, isn't it?  Smelling each other...who are you?




























Yearlings seem to love to do two things; rear up and bite each other's legs.  Practice for the 'real thing' later.
















Three's A Crowd   

Suddenly another yearling colt from the palomino's band joins the fray.  Uh oh!  Caught in the middle!




Finally, the palomino stallion's lieutenant decides he'd better check it out.  He didn't do anything other than walk up to the group but the buckskin must have been feeling guilty.  He ran back to his band.














It's more of the same dance but with a different partner!


























The red roan spots another band in the distance.  He is getting very nervous.
















He decides it is time to remove himself and his family from the area.  The mare followed, but it was obvious that she was uncomfortable leaving her yearling behind.


It is hard to appreciate how far away the yearling palomino is from his band, but it quite a distance.








UH OH.  I messed up!  The yearling suddenly realizes he is not only far away from his band but that he is quickly being left behind!  He didn't waste any time catching up, believe you me!


Comments from Mary Ann

Mary Ann has seen young horses, especially colts, approach mature stallions in the field.  She called it "Truth or Dare" or better yet, "Neener, Neener".  It's a bit like they want to see what they can get away with.  Sometimes, when challenged or chased off by the mature stallion, they will run away with glee, their tail in the air.   Sounds a bit like human young boys, doesn't it?


Horse play like this is only seen in healthy social herds.  Horses that are stressed, do not exhibit play.  It is also a sign that the herd is healthy when the other mature horses allow yearlings from different bands to play together.  Even though it got a bit rough, especially when there were three yearlings, no one intervened, trusting all was okay.


This youngster was doing just fine until he realized he was being left behind by mom and dad.  UH OH, is right!  He almost bit off more than he could chew!  LOL




You all enjoyed the video so much last week, I thought I'd add another.  It doesn't have a thing to do with the rest of the blog.  Just some stand-alone fun!


Last week you saw young stallions doing what young stallions do- horse play.  Think of them as young teenage boys, constantly goofing around.  Believe me, they could have done that for hours on end.


This video is of older stallions.  It isn't playing but establishing leadership and determining ranking.  Think of them as 25 year old human young men, asserting themselves with each other.  It's no longer really goofing around, but establishing who is tougher than who.


The warbonnet (you may remember him- we photographed him in the fall of 2010) has been hanging out with two black Curly stallions for the past four or five days.  In this video, the group is approached by the hefty and aggressive black Curly stallion that I posted on Facebook yesterday.  You can see how much bigger and heavier he is than the other two.  The third stallion in the stallion band was smart about it and didn't enter into the fray.


The warbonnet really isn't much of a match for the black stallion.  He is still riled up when it is over and proceeds to get in his friend's face. 


Notice that no one was hurt, there was no blood shed and after it is all over, the two stallions go immediately back to eating.


This is very typical stallion behavior and frequently seen, particularly in the spring, during foaling time. 


Listen for the grunting, heavy breathing and screaming.  You've heard me talk about these sounds before and now you'll know what I mean.  If I could sprinkle in some 'essence of sage', you would be right there with me.


Yes, that is my trusting husband Marty, asking if I just got that on video!  LOL







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


Did you know you can subscribe to my blogs?  Just go to the bottom and click "Subscribe."  You will receive an email when each one is published.  This will work for Firefox and Internet Explorer.  If you use Google Chrome (like I do), you will need to check "Help" for instructions on how to subscribe to a RSS or a "feed".


If you would like to read my earlier blogs, just go to the "Blog" page, scroll to the bottom and click on the one you would like to read.  That is far easier than trying to scroll up and down and find which one you want.


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