December 16, 2007 – Lower Sykes Ridge

Sunday afternoon was a warm and sunny day, relatively speaking; and so we headed out to the Lower Sykes Ridge area. I spotted Exhiliration just near the entrance to the wild horse range.

Exhiliration

This was the same general area that the cows had been in. In talking to the BLM, they worked hard to get those cows off the day after I’d seen them. I didn’t see any cows, though there was plenty of evidence that they’d been in this area previously. There was also a dead cow near where Exhiliration was. If I were to guess based on my observations of it, I’d say that cow was part of the group of cows that had been in there.

Looking down into a drainage area further up, I was happy to see Seattle’s family.  Two of his mares were sunning themselves on a hill while the rest of the family grazed below.

Seattle’s family

Seattle’s family

The family is still complete with Seattle, three mares, a two year old colt, a filly foal, and a colt foal.

While looking down on them, we also spotted horses in the distance – A grulla and dun. I recognized the dun as Starbuck right away, and so I figured the grulla was the filly he recently acquired. However, after seeing the face of the grulla I knew for certain it was Merlin. We headed over in that direction to try and get a better look at them and their families. It seemed that their families must be fairly close due to the way they were behaving toward each other.

Upon getting a little closer, they were running together still.

Starbuck and Merlin

At this point, it really did seem like they were just interacting due to the proximity of their families. There was lots of chasing, posturing, noise making, and the like.

Starbuck and Merlin

Thus, we just quietly waited on a hill in hopes that they would eventually run back to their families so that we could go see them all. But they didn’t go to their families, and there was no sign that they were going to. They would have their interactions and then would both sniff the air and then repeat this cycle.

Merlin and Starbuck

Starbuck and Merlin

It didn’t take long for me to realize what was going on. These two had obviously lost their families, and they were confused and very angry. Looking closer, I also saw that they had injuries. Starbuck had some nicks on him, and Merlin’s mouth is injured. Eventually, the two started run again and ran down a hill together.

Starbuck and Merlin

When we were a distance away again, I looked at them with binoculars and they were continuing this behavior at the new spot they had run to. They must have just lost their families a day or two before and were working hard to find them.

At this point, I also used my binoculars to search a large area that horses can often be seen at this time of year. I caught a shining palomino coat in the sunset, and so I knew it was either White Cloud, Phoenix, or Blanca. Once I was at a better angle, I could tell that it was Teton’s family. Recall that there are many mountain horses who were once Dryhead horses and vice versa. This is how that all usually happens. This time of year, it isn’t uncommon to see horses like Teton and White Cloud with their families in the same areas that Dryhead horses have theirs.

Teton is one of my favorite horses to see in the winter due to the way his coat changes. He loses his roan with his winter coat and becomes black. He isn’t totally black yet, but he is getting close.

Teton

Phoenix’s coat is also a rich winter color, and their two year old colt is also losing his roan to become bay.

Phoenix

Fiesta

Teton’s family

There was one normal component of the family missing though – Stiles. It’s always seemed to be in his personality that he does not like being far from this family. I looked around where they were, and he was definitely not in the area.

Thus, I saw two stallions without their families and couldn’t account for a bachelor stallion. Could there be a relationship between these events, or is it all a coincidence? It’s impossible to know for sure without finding the involved horses. Though I only saw those horses, there are many others in the area that can easily remain hidden due to its size and topography.

I am pretty eager to get back to the area to see if I can determine anymore about this all, and I am hoping to get out by Saturday at the latest.

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Published in: on December 18, 2007 at 1:59 pm  Comments (4)  

Custer National Forest Travel Management Plan

Just as a last minute reminder, there is still time to put in comments for the Custer National Forest Travel Management Plan. December 19th is the last day. For more information about commenting, you can find it at:
http://www.fs.fed.us/r1/custer/projects/planning/nepa/d2_travel_mgmt/index.shtml.

There are still many letters to the editor rolling in on this issue as well, to read what other people have to say, you may want to go to the Billings Gazette and just do a search for things containing the word “Pryor.”

Some parts of the proposed plans do concern East Pryor Mountain, where the wild horse range is, so it might be worth commenting while there is still time.

Published in: on December 17, 2007 at 2:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

December 8, 2007 – Lower Sykes Ridge

For my first trip out to the range in a few weeks, I had a goal – To see some of the Dryhead horses. We went to the lower Sykes Ridge area for this as this is an area these horses can often be seen in this time of year.

The first horses that I found were Medicine Bow and Fiero.

Medicine Bow

Fiero

You may be wondering where the other usual member of this group, the blue roan, is. Last I’d known, he had been following his mother around; and I hope to see how that is turning out next time I go out.

Bristol and his young filly were also nearby these bachelors.

Bristol

While taking these pictures, I also caught a glimpse of another horse. On closer inspection, I saw that it was the bachelor Pepy.

Pepy

On the way back down, we saw some horses off in the distance; and so we hiked to them.

It was Sam and his mare.

Sam Hightail

Down from them was Admiral’s family.

Admiral

I caught another glimpse of a horse in some trees in the general area, and it turned out to be Exhilaration.

Exhilaration

On the way out of the wild horse range, I had somewhat of a surprise. I saw some animals walking along, but they were cows. Unless being trailed through there, cows aren’t supposed to be there. I’m not sure how they got in or if they are even still there, but I am sure the situation will be taken care of by the BLM very quickly.

Cows

As you can see, winter is setting in here. This really changes watching the wild horses. They are more difficult to find, and extra care must be taken to not stress them in any way as they need to conserve as much energy as possible. Thus, you’ll find that my pictures this time of year are perhaps not as exciting or sharp as I am taking them from a distance and cropping them heavily. Nonetheless, the horses are interesting to see in this setting and with their changing coats.

Published in: on December 10, 2007 at 1:42 pm  Leave a Comment