2018: 1st Foal & How He Got His Name

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It was quite a surprise to hear that the first foal of 2018 was born in early February. The foal was born to the mare, Morgana, and sire, Johnston. When a foal is born there is great excitement and hope for the future of the Pryor Horses.

The foal was born into some tough conditions. The area has been hit with an arctic blast that has sent the temperatures down into sub-zero range with strong winds blowing the powdery snow. On the bright side, the area is filled with sheltered places perfect for hiding away from the wintry elements. Morgana is a very attentive mare, but she also has the help of her mother, Icara, to help care for the foal.

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Morgana and her foal. The foal’s grandmother, Icara, stands guard.

With a new foal, comes the responsibility of a name. Naming the horses has historic roots and was done mainly to identify and monitor the horses. The naming of the Pryor horses started long ago when Lynn Taylor, one of the first BLM wild horse specialists, started naming the stallions back about the time the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range became the first public wild horse range in the United States. Lynn used a combination of names and numbers to identify the horses. Then as time passed, Reverend Floyd Schweiger began keeping record of the bands of horses. He, along with other local wild horse enthusiasts, Jerry Tippetts and Patti Martin, began naming the horses. Just recently Patti described why and how horses were named. She and the Reverend would go up to the mountain every weekend. They began identifying the bands by the horses with unique colors and/or markings. These were the horses they named first. For example, they named “Flower” because she had a flower design on her middle. Flash got his name because of his “flashy” blaze and socks. Pencil was a mare who had a thin “pencil” like blaze. The horse that caught her attention was a young filly with unique, bright color. Patti named  the horse, “Phoenix Rising with the Sun.” What a perfect name for the horse now called Phoenix.  These names serve as the foundation of the naming and monitoring system the Mustang Center continues to use. The Reverend, Jerry, and Patti gave thoughtful names that often represented and honored the Spanish and Native American influence on the herd.

In 2000, the BLM initiated an alphabetical naming system and all foals born that year were given names that started with the letter “A.” In subsequent years foals were named with, B, C, D and so on. At that time, the BLM kept the names internal and we actually had to use the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) process to obtain a list that included all the names. The thinking was that the use of the names would promote anthropomorphism…the attribution of human characteristics to animals.

Around 2007, the BLM began using the Mustang Center’s horse list which included our names. Since that time, we have updated a form of the list that went back to Lynn Taylor’s time.  This is when Matthew Dillon served as the director of the Mustang Center. His rich background in natural sciences and history guided his use of interesting name choices. The system for naming developed further through this time with these guiding naming rules:

  1. The names will continue with the alphabetical naming system started by the BLM in 2000.
  2. The names will somehow link the lineage of the horse.
  3. The name does not duplicate another name used for a Pryor Horse.

With the first two rules, the name provides quick pieces of information about the horse: the age and the bloodline.

Back in the 1990’s Ginger Kathrens entered the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse world. She, too, began naming the horses. The names became well known through her beautiful documentaries about Cloud.

As a result, there were two primary naming systems for the Pryor Horses. Many of us just learned both names. However, as more and more people gained interest in the horses and with the growing use of social media, confusion grew. In 2014, the Mustang Center and The Cloud Foundation joined together to provide a single name for the foals.

Once we get a report of a horse, conversations begin to find the perfect name for a horse that meets the two primary considerations developed by Matthew. We sincerely appreciate the person who makes the first report. Our practice is to get input from that person regarding the name choice and then finalize a name collaboratively. It sometimes takes a week or so to come up with a name that is fitting for the horse.

So now we come back to Morgana’s foal. Bill Pickett of the National Park Service was the first reporter on Thursday, February 8. Since that time we have kept in contact with him regarding both gender information and name ideas.  On Friday, February 16, Kristen Collett determined that the foal is a colt.  We knew right away that that the name will start with an “S.” That is the easy part. The hard part is finding a suitable name that relates to a lineage. We have decided to carry on the King Arthur legend that goes back to Sir Lancelot. This beautiful apricot dun stallion was the sire of Merlin, a name taken from the wizard in the King Arthur legend. Merlin’s daughter, Morgana, in turn got her name from the sorceress in the same legend. And that is where the idea for her new foal was formed. The newest Pryor foal’s name is “Sorcerer” in honor of his mother, Morgana, and grandsire, Merlin. The word is defined to be one who is believed to have magical powers. This little one will have to work some magic to survive the cold wintry world he was born into!

Through this post, we hope you see the history of the names and the complexity of the naming process we use. We do appreciate ideas for names that match the criteria defined above.  So when a new foal is born, don’t hesitate to drop us a message or an email if you want to suggest a name. Who knows…it might be the perfect name for the next Pryor foal!

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Sorcerer….1st 2018 Pryor Mountain Wild Horse

 

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Published in: on February 18, 2018 at 5:18 pm  Comments (1)  

BLM Environmental Assessment (EA): Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range Bait/Water Trap Gather/Fertility Control

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The Young and the Old…Pryor females, Quillan & Pococeno

The BLM-Billings Field Office has issued a preliminary EA which is proposing a 2018 gather and a modified fertility control plan. Since the release of the plan, we have been very busy gaining understanding of the plan, reviewing and updating our large data base of historic horse records, and writing comments about the proposal. This plan is complex as it combines the two management methods of a gather/removal and fertility control. We have provided a link at the bottom of this post to access the proposal and submit comments. A brief summary of the plan is provided as well as some of the main points we will address in our comments.

The proposed action calls for the removal of 15-20 horses aged 1-4. It also proposes modifications of the fertility control with young mares ages 2 & 3 treated with ZonaStat-H. Mares 4 and above would not receive treatment until after they have successfully foaled twice. The gather process would consist of bait and/or water trapping. It would not utilize helicopters in the gather process. Decisions about the horses for removal would consist of a tiered system based on the number of offspring a mare has had. The target group of 1-4 was determined as young horses are more likely to adjust to a domestic setting and are more desirable by adopters. The rationale for the removal is due to deteriorating range conditions. The adequate management level (AML) of the Pryor Horses is 90-120 (excluding the current year’s foals). The proposed action calls for removals if the number of wild horses exceeds 5% of AML.

The Mustang Center will submit comments in regards to this plan. Our main recommendations include:

  • Population: We recommend using current counts of wild horses (at the present time this is about 155 horses). In addition, we have had a low foal birth rate for the past two years and a high death rate. This overall growth rate should be strongly considered when planning any removals.
  • Range Conditions: To address range deterioration, we recommend seeking out range management solutions rather than relying only on horse management solutions. The Herd Management Area Plan (HMAP) does offer range management including re-seeding and control of invasive species of plants. It isn’t easy to rehabilitate the fragile ecosystems of the Pryor Mountains, but we do encourage the BLM to seek out and implement possible solutions for improving the range conditions not just for the horses, but for the other wildlife in the area.
  • Fertility Control: For many years, the Pryor mares have been treated with PZP.  The last two years have shown the results of the management action with low foal crops. The proposed EA has modified the fertility control plan which we believe is beneficial to the herd. For one thing, the younger mares will receive treatment as 2 and 3 year olds, but not as 4 year olds. In addition, the age cap of 9 was removed. This meant that any horse who turned 10 went on treatments regardless of offspring. Now the mares will be left untreated until they have successfully foaled twice. We are supporting this change with the recommendation to better clarify the two-foal change.
  • Genetic Preservation: The Pryor horses are a small group with a limited gene pool. It is essential to make management decisions that would have the least impact on the gene pool. We support the proposal in this EA to collect genetic samples, but not just of the removed horses, but from as many horses as possible. The HMAP recommends ensuring that each mare has the opportunity to contribute genetically. We also believe that the stallion genetic contribution is essential. The Mustang Center maintains a chart of horse lineages that date back to the 1970’s. With this list it can easily be seen how many lines  have gone extinct due to natural mortality and removals.  The genetics of the herd do depend on having an adequate herd population with representation from as many horses as possible.
  • Removal Decisions: We would support the proposed action with modification to the proposed Tier Approach. A systematic process can be developed that includes management objectives as defined in the HMAP and included in this proposed EA. This system would evaluate the horses in the target group (ages 1-4) based on those objectives. The number of horses to be removed would be determined by this decision process, not by a pre-set number of horses. We are recommending a very cautious gather this year due to factors listed above of current herd demographics and the need to protect from genetic loss.

The Pryor Horses are a wonderful American treasure. 50 years ago, a group of local citizens led a national movement to preserve the small herd of wild horses which led to the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range as the first public wild horse area in the United States. The quest for their preservation continues today.

We do encourage people to submit comments in support of the Pryor Horses. Please use our comment ideas to provide background information, but put them in the context of your experiences/knowledge about wild horses and your interest in them. Make efforts to keep your comments positive and constructive.

Link to the preliminary EA: Comments are due to the BLM by February 16, 2018.

https://eplanning.blm.gov/epl-front-office/eplanning/projectSummary.do?methodName=renderDefaultProjectSummary&projectId=89925

Published in: on February 8, 2018 at 6:53 am  Comments (1)  

Wild Horse Program: Summary of Congressional Response to Budget Proposal

This past year, the wild horse world has been filled with the news about the Trump administration proposal for humane euthanasia of wild horses gathered and removed from their BLM herd management areas and living in short and long term holding facilities. The House and Senate have responded differently to this proposal: The House supports, and the Senate opposes, the Trump administration proposal. We have been keeping track of the process, and although there has been excellent coverage on other websites, we wanted to share the chronology that we have developed far.

The PMWMC board will provide input to the BLM’s planning process that uses our history of working cooperatively with the Billings Field Office on effective temporary fertility control for the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range to find ways to expand its use to a broader national scale. The board believes that effective on-the-range management in the BLM’s herd management areas, including temporary fertility control, would reduce the number and scale of gathers, lowering future costs of caring for wild horses in holding facilities. In the meantime, however, the answer is not to humanely euthanize healthy, unadoptable wild horses that are already in short and long term holding.

Back in June, Interior Secretary Zinke testified before House and Senate appropriation subcommittees responsible for funding the Interior Department which administers the Wild Horse program through the Bureau of Land Management. He testified in defense of the Trump administration’s proposal to allow federal funds to be used for humane euthanasia, citing an unsustainable growth in the costs of caring for wild horses in holding facilities.

In mid-June, the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee adopted language in its draft bill protecting wild horses from humane euthanasia:

“Appropriations herein made shall not be available for the destruction of healthy, unadopted, wild horses and burros in the care of the Bureau or its contractors or for the sale of wild horses and burros that results in their destruction for processing into commercial products.”

In July, however, the full House Appropriations Committee took up bills from each subcommittee. There were opportunities at that point for members to offer amendments to the Interior Subcommittee draft, and Rep. Stewart from Utah brought an amendment striking the subcommittee’s language restricting the use of funds for humane euthanasia, but keeping a restriction on sale for slaughter. The Committee passed the amendment by a voice vote (i.e. unanimous) and the process then moved to the Senate. This amendment would allow for humane euthanasia of wild horses in holding facilities.

Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee released its bill for the Department of Interior, and unlike the House version, it contained restrictive language similar to that of the House subcommittee. This bill would prohibit humane euthanasia on horses in holding facilities. Since the language in the final Congressional Appropriations has to be approved by both House and Senate, there is another step in the process: there has to be agreement on the final language, including whether to keep the restrictions on humane euthanasia or accept the Trump administration’s request.

The Congressional appropriations process is a moving target for anyone who is trying to keep up with the status of funding for the Wild Horse Program and how it could affect wild horses in holding corrals and pastures. We will keep tracking what is happening in Congress, and will try to answer any questions as time allows.

There was a separate question last summer about whether Congress should approve funds for USDA to conduct inspections at horse slaughter plants. Plants closed several years ago because, among other reasons, Congress restricted the use of funds for USDA inspectors. The House approved the inspection funds, but the Senate inserted the following language in its Agriculture Appropriations bill:

“None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to pay the salaries or expenses of personnel (1) to inspect horses under section 3 of the Federal Meat Inspection Act (21 U.S.C. 603); 11 (2) to inspect horses under section 903 of the 12 Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 13 1996 7 U.S.C. 1901 note; Public Law 104–127); (3) to implement or enforce section 352.19 of title 9, Code of Federal Regulations (or a successor regulation).”  House and Senate have to negotiate an agreement on this question too.

It is going to be harder to track what is happening during these final negotiations, but we will try to keep you informed. In the meantime, contact your elected representatives and let them know how you feel about these important issues.

PMWMC Board of Directors

 

Published in: on November 30, 2017 at 6:36 am  Comments (1)  

The Mighty Renegade

The story begins back in 2003 when Baja gained Washakie and her two-year old daughter, Bacardi, during a skirmish with Prince. Since that time, Baja and Washakie, have been inseparable. Fourteen years is a long time for a band to stay together in the Pryors, yet these two forged a strong and enduring bond. They were a striking matched dun pair. Baja was unmistakable with his  two-toned mane and tail and his strong, muscular build. Washakie shared Baja’s dun coloration and had soft, doe-like eyes. These two with Washakie’s blue roan daughter, Bacardi, became a fixture on the mountain. They were quite elusive and weren’t always seen, but when they were, there was no doubt to their identify.

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This was one of the first photos that Nancy took of Baja’s band. This was in May 2005. Bacardi had her first foal, stripe-y little grullo foal named Freedom. He did not live much longer.

We entered into 2017 with a bit of trepidation as both band leaders were aging. Baja, at 21, still looked in great shape with his thick build that was only beginning to show signs of aging. Washakie was showing her age. But why wouldn’t she? She had already borne 17 foals since her first, Morning Star, was born in 1996 and was a 21-year old band stallion. Daughter, Quahneah, was now a yearling. And it wasn’t long before it became evident that Washakie would be having her 18th foal. In June 2017, Washakie somehow acquired an injury on her withers which oozed with infection. Puncture wounds aren’t uncommon as the horses frequently go underneath tree branches for protection from the weather. At first there was no cause for concern and despite her injury, she grew heavy with her foal.

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June 14: Washakie and Quahneah

On July 12, 2017, Washakie’s foal was born. It was a little dun colt with a blazed face. The name Renegade was chosen as a synonym for “rebel”. This young foal had so many obstacles to overcome that he needed a rebellious spirit in order to survive.

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July 13, 2017: Renegade and his mother, Washakie

Renegade’s band was all watchful for him. He had two older sisters, Bacardi and Quahneah that were never far from the young foal.

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July 13, 2017: One of my favorite photos of Renegade with his mother and sister, Quahneah.

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July 13, 2017: Another sweet photo…Renegade with his mom and big sister, Bacardi.

At the time of Renegade’s birth, Baja was looking strong.

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July 13, 2017: Baja confronts Grijala as the two bands pass each other.

His aging mother was slowing down. In addition, his big sister, Quahneah, had not been weaned. Washakie was having to provide milk for both her yearling daughter and her newborn son.

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July 17, 2017: Renegade nursing..note Quahneah’s legs on the other side as she nurses.

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July 26, 2017: Nursing offspring

Both Baja and Bacardi tried to help by moving Quahneah away from Washakie. But Washakie, herself, didn’t have the strength to keep Quahneah from nursing. Despite all of this, Renegade seemed to thrive as he went about living the life of a Pryor foal.

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July 17, 2017: Bacardi positions herself between Quahneah and Washakie so Renegade can nurse alone.

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July 26: Baja snakes Quahneah away from Washakie.

Washakie’s injury kept plaguing the mare. It became apparent that her body weight was declining with the pressures of age, illness, and nursing two offspring. Many of us were concerned, including the BLM who was aware of the situation and monitored her onsite or through reports and photos from visitors.

Towards September Baja’s band became more and more elusive. They were occasionally seen moving quickly to and from watering holes. Washakie’s condition became even more concerning with her low body weight and the chronic oozing wound.

Near the end of September we got the first indication that something had happened. Bacardi and the yearling, Quahneah, were seen with London. By this time, London had matured into a strong, handsome stallion who had been keeping an eye on Baja’s band for over a year. Questions began as to the events that led up to the changing of the guard. Where was Baja? Where were Washakie and Renegade?

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This is how I will best remember Baja and Washakie….close together as a family.

On Tuesday, October 17, we were notified by the BLM that they were bringing Renegade off the mountain. Questions rushed through my head as we ran out to deliver some grass hay to the now three-month old foal. Renegade had been found with his sisters, Bacardi and Quahneah, there was no sign of Baja or Washakie. When the BLM discovered Renegade without his mother it seemed a good opportunity to intervene and possibly save his life.

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October 17, 2017: Renegade at Britton Springs. Without his mom around, his chances of survival in the wild were minimal.

Renegade spent two nights in a large pen at Britton Springs. His body condition was poor as he showed signs of malnutrition. Almost immediately he seemed to understand that we were there to help. When Steve first saw him, he quietly walked up to him, laid a hand across his back and said, “So you are the Mighty Renegade.”

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October 17, 2017: Renegade & Steve

The BLM quickly recognized that he needed more intensive care. In addition, horses are social animals and a young orphaned foal desperately needs companionship

On Wednesday, the BLM asked if we could bring Renegade to our place. The next day, Steve and Ryan loaded him up and brought him to his own special pen. We tried giving him some foal formula, but it was a battle.  He was much more interested in the grass hay that probably closely resembled the dry fall grasses he had been eating on the mountain.

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October 19, 2017: Renegade with Nancy

The next week, we signed adoption papers. Orphan foal adoptions are made possible in situations such as this. He was old enough to stand a chance for survival with specialized care. But he was not old enough to withstand the winter weather that will soon hit the Pryor Mountains.

Renegade, or the Mighty Renegade, as we have come to call him, still needs that strong spirit to fight the obstacles that have come into his young life. He is doing well with us, but you can still sense his loneliness for his family. You can still see the effects of limited nourishment. But you can also see the dun color from both parents. You can still see the two-tone mane and tail he got from his sire. And you can see those beautiful doe-like eyes of his mother. And in those eyes…you can see strength.

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Renegade…he has his mother’s eyes.

Neither Baja, nor Washakie have been seen since all these events happened. In all likelihood, Washakie is gone. Death would be the only explanation that would cause the separation of a mare so devoted to her foals. Baja’s status is uncertain and only time will reveal that answer.  I know there are so many of you who share the sadness of this news.  There is strength in knowing that Quahneah is there to carry on for Washakie and Baja, as well as the other generations that came from these two remarkable horses.

Please know that we would much rather watch Renegade growing up wild in his mountain home.  Though his life will be different here with us, you can be sure that Renegade will be given all that he needs to help him survive and serve as a reminder of Baja and Washakie’s great legacy. Our names may be on Renegade’s adoption papers, but he really belongs to all who watched and admired Baja and Washakie through their many years together on the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range.

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October 28, 2017: The Mighty Renegade

 

Published in: on October 28, 2017 at 4:18 pm  Comments (27)