Friday, January 11, 2013

Wild Mustangs In Winter

It has been snowing heavily for the past 24 hours and looks like it will continue snowing for the next day or so.
Freezing cold temperatures, high winds, a socked in town with mountains that have disappeared into the grey of winter.
Such is winter in Wyoming.
Last week was also winter in Wyoming though, but on that day it was cold and crystal clear.
A wondrous and beautiful day that all but compelled both me and my Mountain Boy to be outside.
We drove out the Greybull Highway for about 20 miles, turned off the highway and onto BLM land and slowly drove on snow-covered gravel and dirt tracks in search of the wild mustangs.
I am continually in awe of the horses.
They live wild and free and protected on thousands of acres of wild land.
Land filled with hills, valleys, sage.  Little water.  Little shelter.
But they thrive and survive in this wild land, and every time we visit them LC and I fall in love with them just a little bit more.
There are a small handful of separate herds that wander and roam freely, and to watch them quietly living their lives is a joy.
Sometimes we have to cruise BLM land for a good while to find them.
And sometimes we are lucky enough to find them fairly quickly, and on this day we searched the barren and white landscape for only 10 minutes before we saw the tell tale "dark spots" off in the distance that told us the horses were close.
One lone horse standing watch over the horizon...............
As we pulled around a bend we found the rest of the herd.
It was late morning and these horses were quietly engaged in eating - valiantly searching for whatever food they could find on a ground that was covered with snow and filled with now dormant vegetation.
These animals have to survive alone and mostly without outside aid.
They are not provided with shelter.  Not food.  Not water.
There is little of each of those resources in this high desert plains environment, but somehow they have managed to carve out a life for themselves regardless of the challenges they face daily.
They are wonderful, hardy, sturdy, beautiful creatures who seem at peace with their world.............
We stopped the truck in the center of the trail, climbed out of the truck, carefully closed the doors so as to not startle them, and spent 20 minutes or so simply watching them and enjoying them.
They were a few hundred yards away from us, and my little digital camera had trouble zooming in so far, so some of the pictures are slightly out of focus. 
But they are in focus enough to get a good sense of what we saw during our time with them..............
Those would be the Big Horn Mountains in the distance.
50 miles away..............
Carter Mountain Range in the Southfork.
60 miles to the south.............
Click on any of the pictures and it will start a slide show of enlarged pictures.............
The lone horse - the one we first caught sight of - was still standing guard and standing alone, when we decided to pick up another trail to try and get pictures of the horses from a different angle.
I stood watching him for a few moments before climbing back into the truck, wondering exactly what he was thinking.
I have no idea about the thought processes of a horse  but he had not moved in the 20 minutes we had been at this place and I found him (and his seeming intensity) compelling............
Driving around to the back side of the hill that the horses were congregated on............
LC stopped the truck again.
Again in the middle of the trail.
And again I was acutely aware of the fact that we were living in a place where we knew absolutely that we would run into no other people.
The lone horse was a compelling presence and so was the knowledge that we were alone............
After climbing out of the truck again we slowly began to walk up the hill towards the herd.
Trying to get a little closer, but not too close.
I respect these animals too much to cause them any distress.
They were aware of us, glanced over towards us occasionally, but were not alarmed.
People and horses watching each other from a distance..............
I smiled when I saw these two horses.
They came walking up over the rise together and looking in our direction.
As they crested the small hill LC starting a running dialogue that reflected exactly what I was thinking.
The horses saying "Hey guys.....what's goin' on over here?"
They were curious.  Curious to know who we were, what we were, what we were doing.
So incredibly cool..............
Young foal standing close to momma............
Sweet, beautiful animals.
I love these trips to see the mustangs....................

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