Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Wild Mustangs - Part 2

When the last of the wild horses had finally passed across the gravel road and were all quietly grazing on the opposite side of the road, LC and I finally began to very slowly drive further.
We stopped often so that I could photograph these free animals and so that we could both enjoy them.
There is something incredibly peaceful about them...............
As LC and I stood greatly enjoying the huge herd of healthy animals, I found myself continually searching for the female that had so unexpectedly lay down close to the truck and was obviously in some kind of distress.
After she had crossed the road with the young buck-skin and the older stallion (I think that's what they were) she had walked only a short way before pawing at the ground, sitting and then lying down again.
She stood up a few minutes later, walked only a short way and sat down yet again.
And then again.
And then again.
I found myself really worrying about a horse that I did not know.
LC had made the observation that he did not think she was a wild mustang.
If that was the case then she had been dropped off on BLM land and had tried to become part of the herd.
If that was the case she was not used to eating the food that was available, and drinking the water that was available, on BLM land.
If that was the case, it would explain the bite marks and scars on her body.  The herd was rejecting her.
I did not recognize her as a non-mustang while we were out there that night, but when I downloaded the pictures I had taken of her and really had a good look at her I realized that LC was probably correct.
When my neighbor looked at the pictures the next day she agreed.  This was a domestic horse...............
I took many of the pictures above facing directly into the soon-setting-sun and took the pictures blind, having no idea how they would turn out.
When I had finally been blinded by the sun one too many times LC suggested that we drive beyond the herd, see if we could find a side road to the left, and find a place to take pictures so that the sun was at my back.
Great idea!
There was a dirt road just over the rise on the left and that veered off from the gravel road.
After pulling to a stop at the top of yet one more rise on that dirt road, I again climbed out of the truck pleased to be able to watch the horses quietly grazing without the sun in my eyes.
Good deal.............
Rather than the slow but methodical straight-line walking that the herd had been doing when we first saw them, the progress of the horses over the span of the last fifteen minutes had been a casual movement forward as they all focused on grazing.
By the time we had been standing at the top of the rise on the dirt road for fifteen minutes it began to dawn on LC and on me that they were heading irrevocably in our direction.
When I finally realized that, there was a brief period of mild concern.
We were not supposed to be within 500 feet of them.  We were not supposed to interfere with them in any way.
Neither one of us wanted to cause the  horses any concern.
As I watched them definitely continue to move in our direction LC and I stood beside the truck indecisive.
We did not want to leave.  We couldn't go back the way we had come because the horses were all beginning to mill on both sides of the dirt road directly in front of us.
If we drove further away from them we would drop down a small hill and they would be out of our sight.  We wondered whether even starting up the truck would startle them.
We were stationary and quiet.  They were quietly grazing and ignored us.
No.  We would stay where we were.
I had never ever imagined that we would be able to get close enough to hear the horses snorting and communicating with each other as they ate, but we did.
As with so many amazing animal encounters that we have had over the years this one happened suddenly and unexpectedly, and both LC and I were grateful for the experience...........................
Looking west..................
Looking east...............
When the small group of horses in the background of this picture unexpectedly circled up and became noisier I fully expected there to be some kind of tussle.
There was a lot of noise, a few brief flurries of activity as one horse or another pushed or nudged one of their peers, but no full blown fights developed.
Within a couple of minutes they all separated and went back to grazing.
As I watched the entire non-episode develop and then recede it reminded of the posturing that happens on a playground.
Like a bunch of kids, there were the bullies and the bullied and the kids who circle to watch the action..............
There is a rhythm to these horses that is all their own.
Last year we stood for a long time watching them drink at the large pond and then begin to wander away in single and double file at some seemingly predetermined time that was known only to them.
This year we watched the horses as they single and double filed their way across the desert plains, crossed the gravel road and began to graze again.
As one they slowly but assuredly made their way towards us where they grazed in one place again.
And then again - at some point that they all recognized, this wonderful and amazing herd began to slowly move away from our spot, graze their way up the hill and move away from us.
It was an amazing encounter...............
The female did slowly stand up and (on the outskirts of the herd) began to slowly walk in the same direction as the rest of the herd.
We took more pictures as we left and then took many more pictures of BLM land at sunset that I will post in another blog.
It was almost completely dark by the time we made it to the Greybull Highway and turned towards home...............

After I downloaded the pictures that I had taken I looked at our scarred and battered female.
And then looked at the too-thin light brown yearling that we believed to be her baby.
I agreed with LC.  She was not a mustang.
The next day I contacted the Cody office of Bureau of Land Management and spoke on the phone with the woman who oversees the herds out at McCullough Peaks.
After telling her what we had seen out there the night before she asked for a description of the horse and the yearling.  I told her that I had taken pictures of the horses and after getting her work email address told her that I would send the pictures to her.
My first email to the woman bounced back to me.  I resent.  It rebounced.
After the second attempt I called her and she gave me her personal email.
A few hours later the woman emailed me to say that she could not open the pictures - could I send only a couple at a time.
I sent three emails containing a total of six pictures, and told the lady that if she still could not open the pictures to let me know and I would bring my lap top down to her office.
Included in my email was a reiteration about our experience with the horse, a reiteration about my concern for her and what I thought was probably her baby, and please let me know how this turns out.
This morning I stopped by the BLM office to talk to the woman more about this horse, and I was told that she was out in the field.  Good.
This afternoon I received an email from the woman.
Definitely a domestic horse that was dumped out onto BLM land.  Probably having problems with the food and water sources out there.  Everyone looked fine when she went out there yesterday.  Thanks for letting me know about her - great to have an extra set of eyes out there.
I was angry.
I didn't know horses. I didn't know BLM policies. I didn't know the cultural or political climate of this place.
But I had worked in Juneau Alaska.  I knew when I was being warmly, and smilingly and politically correctly blown off.
Frustrated and feeling totally out of my element I talked to my neighbor - who can be an annoying old lady sometimes but she is someone who knows horses and knows Cody.
She asked me for the number to the BLM office and I gave it to her.
A few minutes later she walked to the house and told me that she had called the office.
The woman I had been communicating with was not in the office and so she talked to the supervisor there.
She expressed all the concerns that she and I and LC had expressed to each other.
A domestic horse unable to stomach BLM food and water.  Maybe it had been healthy and maybe it had not been healthy when it was dumped off - could it potentially infect the entire herd with something?  She was not welcome in the herd and was getting beaten up.  Her baby was too thin.
Why aren't she and her baby being taken out of the herd?
The man agreed with my neighbor and heard her concerns.  He is going to talk with the woman I had been communicating with and will call or email me back when they have decided what to do with them.
Sounds simple enough. 
I was eternally grateful to my neighbor for making the call. 
I should have made the call but was intimidated by things I knew little about and I should not have been. 
It was not rocket science.
I should have made the call but regardless, I am glad that somebody did.
I will write more when I know more..................

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