Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Wild Mustangs - Part 1

We had the most extraordinary and unexpected adventure yesterday.
Around 6pm last night I asked LC if he wanted to go out to McCullough Peaks to see if we could find the wild horses again.
We had not seen the horses since shortly after we arrived back in Wyoming a few months ago.
On that evening we found a small and young herd located close to the highway, and some of the mares were obviously pregnant.
I wanted to see if babies had been born, and now that the days are slowly but irrevocably becoming shorter I wanted to see them before the weather finally changed and it was cold here.
Leaving Jamie at the house we headed out the Greybull Highway for about 20 miles, turned left off the highway and entered BLM land.
As soon as we pulled onto the gravel BLM road we saw them.
A surprisingly large herd of antelope on the left side of the road, all grazing quietly.
Wanting to take pictures of these skittish and very fast moving animals, we stopped at the entrance and parked the truck.
Some of the antelopes immediately raised their head, wary and ready to bolt at the first sign of potential danger.
This was the closest we had been to antelopes since last year and we stayed in the truck, not wanting our movements to scare them away.
While talking quietly, LC had the best view of these strange looking speed-demons from his side of the truck and I handed him my camera, imploring him to take pictures of them.
Many of the pictures we took that I will post in the next couple of blog entries are a little faded out. 
"Close" is a relative term when talking about free ranging and free roaming animals.  That includes antelope and that includes wild mustangs.
With the fading sunlight and the distance these animals were from us, my little digital camera worked overtime as I (and we) shot over 300 pictures in the span of about 90 minutes last night, as we encountered many animals.
Click on any picture and a slide show of enlarged pictures should show up..............
After watching them contentedly and quietly graze close to the edge of the road for a long time LC eventually started up the truck again.
At the unexpected noise multiple heads popped up out of the sage brush, and when LC finally put the truck in gear and slowly pulled out of the dirt parking lot, these sweet and strange looking creatures bolted across the road and across the BLM land.
Thankfully we were driving slowly because as we rounded the bend in the road (above) we saw a young antelope nursing on its mother part way into the road. 
When they saw us both mother and baby made a run for it, quickly catching up with the saftey of the rest of the herd..............
A picture of the herd in real distance and real time..............
When the herd finally decided that they had put enough daylight and distance between us and them they stopped running.
LC stopped the truck in the middle of the gravel road so that I could take a few pictures of them out in the open..........
We were both so pleased to have unexpectedly seen the antelope but we were on the hunt for horses, and as LC slowly made his way along the road he looked deeply through endless wide-open plains to the left while I did the same to the right.
A mile or so later my excited man exclaimed "there they are!" 
I followed his pointing finger and saw them, appearing way off in the distance and all moving in the same direction in one very long line of slow moving, wild and free mustangs.
A quarter of a mile later we came to an intersection in the road - gravel road continued straight ahead and dirt road veered to the right.
We had been down the dirt road before, when we were in Wyoming last year and knew that they were coming from a large watering hole that was located behind a hill not far away.
They were a few hundred yards directly in front of us, and as I sat in the truck for a few moments watching them I realized two things:
1.  the entire herd was headed.......somewhere........only they knew for certain exactly where
2.  this was the biggest herd we had ever seen to this point
They were slowly making their way from the watering hole, and in one long single-minded line were headed across the road and into the shallow hills on the opposite side of the gravel road.
I climbed out the truck mesmerized by them.
I was always mesmerized by them.  They are so beautiful.
Some had already crossed over the road but I followed the line and realized that there must have been well over a hundred animals.
I snapped a few quick pictures without zooming my camera in, trying (unsuccessfully) to capture the magnitude of this very large herd...................
I looked to my right and realized that a van was headed in our direction, and quickly recognized it as being one of the vans that brings tourists on trips to view the horses.
As it drove closer to us LC walked over to talk to the driver while I continued to snap pictures of these beautiful animals who were slowly and methodically working their way to a place only they knew................
After leaving us the van turned onto the gravel road and slowly drove up the road, beyond the cattle guard where the horses had been crossing, and then disappeared from view.
As LC and I climbed back in the truck he told me that the driver had said a mare within the herd had died just recently, but he did not know how she had died.
With both of us thinking that the last of the herd had finally crossed over the road LC started the truck and slowly began to make his way further up the gravel road.
We got only a few yards before I looked to my right and was surprised to see three horses running right at us.
I quickly told LC "There's more horses.  Stop the truck!"
You cannot see them in this picture, but three horses all in a straight row were indeed running towards the truck.
I snapped this picture quickly, and then pulled my camera down and out of the way so that I could watch them.
They were obviously trying to catch up with the rest of the herd, veered to the right a little as they got closer to us so that they were now in front of us, and then slowed as they approached the road.
LC and I watched in amazement as these three horses backed down to a walk only 20 feet in front of the truck.
We had fully expected that they would simply cross over the road and meet up with the remainder of the herd.
But something was wrong................
These pictures were taken from inside the truck.
The dark brown horse led the way and as it got closer to us we at first thought that it was a stallion because the horse seemed to be so scarred up.  Quickly we realized that he was a she.
Stallions get scarred and bruised and beaten often in these herds as males battle for dominance and breeding rights.  But the girls.............why was she scarred up?
Neither of us could fathom a reason for her appearance and I watched her more closely, suddenly wondering what her story was...............
Wonder very quickly turned to worry.
This horse had been running when I first saw her.
As she walked closer to the road I had expected her to cross over but she did not.  She turned back from the road, walked in circles a couple of times, pawed at the ground a couple of times and then sat down.
And then lay down...............
LC and I sat in the truck looking at this horse and wondering what was happening.
Was she pregnant?  Was she in labor?
I did not think that she looked big enough to be pregnant, but had been so surprised by her actions that.................maybe she was.
She continued to lay there and LC and I continued to watch her, suddenly wondering and worrying about a wild horse that we had never seen before and did not know.
I found myself greatly hoping that she was alright.
She had been running.  She had not walked as though she were injured or sick.
The light brown yearling and the older black horse had been traveling with her, and when she went down the two others stayed close by, refusing to leave her............
The younger horse particularly seemed disturbed by her laying down, and as I looked at this very beautiful young horse I realized that she was very thin, and that possibly this downed horse was her mother.............
After laying on her side for 5 minutes or more, the adult finally sat up and then eventually climbed back up to a stand.
She was not pregnant.
Together the three horses walked in front of the truck, walked across the gravel road, and walked towards the rest of the very large herd.
LC and I stayed put, continuing to watch the threesome, wondering what was wrong with this horse.............
Looking to my right again I was surprised still one more time.
Did this herd never end??
These were all males, all healthy, all strong, all traveling together.
These stallions had an aura about them.  An aura of superiority.
They ruled this herd and ruled this land and they all knew it.
They slowly and methodically walked together - part of the herd but separate from the herd, owning the herd and ruling the herd.
I imagined that they battled fiercely among themselves when the time came, but for now they were one.
My Mountain Boy and I watched them, enthralled by their surprise appearance and their royal demeanour, as they crossed over the road and headed towards the rest of the now grazing herd.................
As the males pulled up the rear of the herd LC and I watched as they slowly began to graze and blend in with the rest of the herd.
I smiled at these beautiful animals.
They are truly wonderful and we continued further with our adventure last night, which will be another blog post.
As in wonderment as I was with the herd I was worried about the female.
She crossed over the road and was barely 30 feet onto the grass on the opposite side of the road before she again pawed at the ground, sat and then lay on the ground.................

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