Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Battle Weary Stallions - Part 1

A picture of LC's new truck.
Late yesterday evening, and after having been only partially successful in finding the wild horses the evening before, we again drove out the Greybull Highway this time determined to find them.
And curious to try out a new truck.
I did not realize until I went back to June blog posts looking for a previous entry about the horses just how much the BLM land has changed.
In only a short period of time the land has inevitably transitioned from wild flower filled and very green land back in June to the pictures that are here.
Very few wild flowers remain.  
And the green is already beginning to fade.
More browns and beiges.  Truly a short growing period:
We drove slowly along gravel and rutted out dirt paths for fifteen minutes wondering where wild horses wander to at this time of year.
They have thousands of acres to call their own so there was no way of knowing and no way of being sure that we would even find them.
It was about 7:30pm.  Still very warm.  Still with deep blue sky.  And with shadows already beginning to form along the low rocky and sandy ridge lines.
And then I saw a black spot off in the distance to my right.
And then another spot.  Yes that was them.
LC slowly worked his way along dusty roads and paths until we were close and stopped the truck.
While he gathered Jamie up from the back seat I excitedly but quietly veered off the trail and walked across sage filled land (watching for rattle snakes the entire time).
An entire herd was grazing around a small pond.
They were about 300 or 400 hundred yards away and this was the closest we had ever been to them.
They were amazing.
We see horses all the time in Cody.
Cody is cowboy country and horse country and ranch country.
But there is something very special about these mustangs.
Is it that they do not belong to anyone?  That they are free?  That unlike ranch horses who's owners dictate what they do and where they eat, these wild horses can roam wherever they choose and whenever they choose and at the time of their own choosing?  That they are their own masters?
It is all of the above.
It is all of the above that make them so special................
Once we found them around the pond we stayed in one place for a long time.
These animals so late in the day were calm and peaceful and content with each other.
I zoomed in and out with my camera trying to capture different animals, different families of animals, different angles as they grazed and drank and communed with each other.
There were a handful of young foals in the mix..............
We had been standing in one place for about 10 minutes and all the while I snapped pictures.
First it was one, and then another, and then a couple more until eventually all of these animals began to head away from the watering hole.
Eventually they would find themselves slowly walking together in a long line of almost 30 horses............
By the time the last of the horses disappeared behind the low ridge line LC, Jamie and I loaded back into the truck, turned it around and slowly headed back the way we had come, following the horses who were mostly paralleling the dirt road................
This late in the day the color in my pictures all look different - dependent on what direction I was taking a picture, where the sun was, how much light remained in the rapidly fading daylight, how far I was zooming in and out................
These animals have been protected all of their lives.
Living in the sanctuary of BLM land.
We spent a long time quietly watching them last night and although the herd was as a whole very calm there were some interesting behaviors we could see.
Mothers with foals did not want any other adult horse close to their babies, and did not hesitate to scare others away when they invaded their boundaries.
One stallion was with the herd.  Another one followed close by on the outside of the herd.
And one very battle scarred stallion followed from the opposite side of the dirt road.
We have seen many male deer and antelope around the area recently and it seems obvious to this amateur nature observer that there have been battles for dominance in this beautiful herd of horses very recently..............
In the every changing light of the opposite side of the trail I took many pictures of this stallion.
He was completely separated from the herd but following their direction anyway.
Slowly grazing and walking and following.
Not injured but very scarred from recent battle...............
Our lone and battle weary stallion in front of an increasingly purple sky.............

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