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.


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.


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



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.

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

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Matt;
    Thanks for sharing your visit to the range. I check your blog site nearly every day, if only for a minute or two. I love being able to check on the horses thru you, especially now that I’ve seen some of them for real.

    I was glad to see that Phoenix looks pretty good going into winter, considering her age and wound.

    There will always be a special place in my heart for Seattle and his band, since they were the first ones I saw up close when I visited the range. If you have time sometime, could you list the names of his mares and offspring for reference? I think it is interesting that all his band are the grulla and grullo, or black. They really show off the early mustang coloring, don’t they? And, if their family stays intact, they should keep it going strong for a while.

    Judging by Seattle’s lip lifting behavior and pursuit of one of the mares that I observed the last time I saw them out in the flats, I wouldn’t be surprised if there would be a late foal. Nothing for sure, but maybe…

    I was also wondering if Big Foot is closely related to Sam and Admiral, since he seems to share their stocky build, and their coloring.

    I read thru that BLM Evaluation document and found it (time consuming) and interesting. I really don’t feel qualified at this time to comment on much. I do have one thought, tho, and will share it with you for what it is worth. It seems to me that since a number of the horses are probably going to wind up being owned and handled by people, maybe it’s not a “totally bad” thing for them to feel comfortable to have people near them, on their own terms, tho, and not in any way that upsets their health or welfare. I know that’s always the hard part—to get some people to use good judgement and reasonable care. And since they ARE wild animals, each observer must accept responsibility for what happens to themselves. If they’ve talked to anyone in the know, or done any research, they are aware of the risks.

    I have many more questions and some information to share with you at another time. I will sign off for now.

    Greetings to you AND your family for a HAPPY NEW YEAR! Linda

  2. Matt, I really enjoy your blog. I hope to get there sometime soon. Could you please give some background on Stiles. Sometime he looks young and sometimes he looks much older. I really enjoy hearing the backgrounds of the families. Thanks so much for your time.

  3. very interesting.
    i’m adding in RSS Reader

  4. Stiles was born in 1998 to Cocomo and Scarlett. Cocomo is gone, but Scarlett is the roan mare with White Cloud. To the best of my knowledge, he is the only offspring of Cocomo on the range still. Stiles became one of my favorite of the horses early on as I was amazed at how he was largely responsible for the leading and protection of the old group of black bachelors that the BLM removed. I also think he is a great looking stallion. I do wish I knew what he was up to now, though.

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