November 24, 2009 – Warm Weather

Last Friday we went up into Burnt Timber to get some observations in. Spotting around, we located a lot of horses up on the mountaintop; and so we headed up there. Chino’s harem was the first we saw.

Nearby them were the harems of Baja, Mescalero, and Starman. The bachelors, Ferdinand, Galaxy, and Fiesta, also popped up over a nearby hill.

The bachelors kept moving down in the direction of where we’d spotted the horses earlier, so we headed that way too. The bachelors ended up stopping down the hill a short distance where they mingled with Teton’s harem. The horses were definitely tolerant of each other. The first horses we saw were in very close proximity as well. Like many of the roans, Teton is darkening up as his winter coat grows in.

Across the valley from Teton’s harem and the bachelors was another group of horses. Coronado’s harem was the first I came to.

It’s always great to see Halcyon’s foal still alive. Halcyon’s only two years old, but she seems to be taking good care of her daughter.

Nearby were also White Cloud, Custer, and Bolder’s harems.

I’ve always found Custer’s winter coat coloring to be really interesting.

So November 20 is pretty late for so many horses to still be grazing the upper meadows. I’m a little uncomfortable with the idea of them getting their winter weight on up there as there just isn’t a whole lot of forage left; this is a primary grazing area in the late spring and summer. What is prompting the horses to be up here when the mid-slope is full of quality forage? My best guess is a lack of water in the mid-slope now due to the warm weather we’ve been having. With all of the snow on the mountaintop, it is easy for the horses to get their water, as Washakie and Graciana (from Baja’s harem) are doing in this photograph. (I’m not sure what is with the bald spots on Washakie’s left neck and on her upper side, she’s had them for a while.)

There are definitely some harems in the mid-slope, such as Tecumseh, who was in the previous horse blog. These harems seem to be using the Burnt Timber guzzler, but they also seem to have other access to water in those areas. For example, there were pockets of snow in the forests that Tecumseh’s harem was near. As can be seen here, water is a big deal here. Though we usually associate water availability problems with the summer, it can even be a little bit of a problem this time of year. I’m not trying to cause an alarm that there will be some malnourished horses on the PMWHR this winter; I just think that it is interesting to describe the current horse distribution situation. It shouldn’t be too long before the mountain gets enough snow to push the horses off the top and down into the mid-slope, where there will also be snow available.

This all also serves as a good introduction to water sources on the PMWHR; this will be the topic of my next blog post.

Published in: on November 24, 2009 at 3:29 pm  Comments (16)  

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16 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Matt, thank you for the update, it is good to see the horses doing well and getting ready for winter, also for the other posts, especially that you are removing a fence that will provide them w/better access to forage.
    ake care, and have a Blessed Thanksgiving,

  2. Great pictures Matt! We sure appreciate the fact that you take the time to check on the horses. Water is definitely important. Like you said, they should have more snow in lower areas and hopefully will move there soon. Cute Halcyon baby. Winter is hard for them all.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

  3. Thanks for the update and photos. I know my own horses will eat snow in preference ot drink from the stock tank some times. I have an unrelated question though.
    In light of a suggestion that herd size management would be aided by mass castration of many of the wild stallions (who would then be released back into the wild) I wonder if there have been any mixed herds where geldings ran loose with mares and stallions and foals? Does any one know how geldings interact with intact family herds? Is Stiles, who was gelded going into an intact horse family? does anyone know how this proplsal would affect the wild herd dynamic?

    For now encouraging active predators, and your efforts to maximise the available grazeing area has been the best suggestions I have heard. And in case of an extreme winter or emergency, I don’t see anythign wrong with emergency hay drops. Elk are fed when the winters are too severe so why not horses?
    I read recently the HSUS supports Salazar’s idea of neutered herds in Eastern pastures. I guess they don’t understand the whole idea of WILD horses?

    Keep up the good work.

    • Gelding stallions seems to have a couple possible outcomes. First off, if gelded, stallions will not be producing testosterone; and so their level of aggression will go down. Thus, some stallions would likely lose the ambition to form harems if gelded. Others, like Stiles and other stallions of the Monero Mustangs Sanctuary are in the habit of forming harems. This could be due to the age at which they were gelded. There is thus a good chance that wild horse society could be affected if males were gelded.

      I personally think that having geldings in herds is a bad idea for a few reasons. First off, this is a method of population control that will not work well unless all of the males are gelded. I have heard of studies done in the past where stallions were made sterile, but their mares still conceived out of bachelors and the like. So long as one male is fertile, there will be foals conceived. Second off, I feel that wild horse population management should focus on supplementing natural mortality rates so that proper population sizes can be maintained. The goal isn’t to stop the horses from reproducing at all, it is just to slow their rate or reproduction. Having all gelding herds causes reproduction to stop; this does not create a sustainable future for the herd. Thus, I think that in herds needing extra population management, more viable solutions should be used. In addition to the factors you described, I feel that the use of PZP on mares is a much better solution for population control than gelding as it is less intrusive and does not cause any significant changes to the wild horses’ behavior. Often, I stop and think how crazy it is to think that we put people on the Moon; yet widespread scientific and sustainable methods of wild horse management still do not exist.

      • Thank You! That is excactly what my gut was telling me, but I am not expert enough to trust that yet! A long time ago I suggested gelding as a way of herd growth control and was told that that would be mankind imposing its idea of a good horse onthe wld herds as opposed to survival of the fitter horses. As I learned more about horses I changed my mind and began to question whether it was a viable idea at all. After all one stallion can impregnate a lot of horses.

        I know Ken Mcnabb is for the idea of gelded herds and against the idea of encouraging natural predators, largely because of the dangers to domestic livestock and people. I know those are valid concerns, as there have been lion attacks in our area on both livestock and children. But I do believe big cats should be hunted when they come around homes and ranches and left alone when they are on the wildlfe ranges.

        Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions!

      • Management will always focus on some desired trait. Often, the horses kept during roundups are those who exhibit the conformation that the wild horse specialist for that herd wants to see in that herd. While there definitely is a time and place where conformation should be taken into consideration, I am a bigger supporter of management through kinship. Of course, this is pretty hard to manage for unless someone like me is continually compiling this type of information. Our data is even only semicomplete as it is hard to accurately know who the sire is. There are other ways to further determine kinship, and I’d like to see this type of analysis come to the Pryors. All in all though, the emphasis is on allowing -every- horse the opportunity to have genetic representation on the range. This is another reason why I support fertility control over other population management methods like roundups or gelding.

        Definitely you’ll find people who are against the idea of having a lot of predators around for many different reasons. For me, it is something that needs to be considered very carefully. We definitely need to ask the same questions of predation that we ask of other management methods.

  4. Keep sending those pictures and journal of the range in the winter. It’s great to keep up on the herd. I didn’t realize how much horses will eat show, until an unusually snowy, cold 3 years ago, when I watched the horses and yearlings eat snow, as they were to lazy to walk to the stream which was chopped opened daily in order for them to have fresh water.

    On another note, what is the update on Stiles? Is he in his new home now?

    • The horses really are funny with snow. It really is nice for them, though, as it allows them to spread out more. Stiles will be heading down to New Mexico this week, and we are very excited for him.

  5. Thanks for the update, Matt, especially about Halcyon’s filly. I foolishly and quite helplessly fell in love with her during my visit, and looking back through my pictures I found myself wondering – hoping – about her current condition. The horses look great! I’m always thinking about the distribution of our bands, too, and why they go/stay where they do. All this information has an impact!!

  6. Why is the one horse so fat? Can horses have diabetes? We had a diabetic dog and she formed hairless patches on her coat that became infected later.

    Maybe the fat horse is pregnant?

    P.S. I thought PZP caused confusion amongst the stallions thinking those mares are “fair game.” Is that the dynamic, or do I misunderstand?

    Thanks, Matt.

    • We’ll definitely keep an eye on Washakie to see how she looks through the winter.

      There’s a lot of misinformation on PZP out there, and it has been well studied over the years so that its effects are actually quite well understood. In the near future, I will be discussing this information in depth.


  7. Good job, Matt! Keep doing what you can and what you know is best for the horses. We need STRONG, knowledgeable advocates if we’re going to keep our wild horses wild and free! Maybe one day we’ll have the opportunity to see the Pryor Mustangs – that would be a real treat!
    Thanks for your hard work!

    • It’s good hearing from you, Lynn! Thanks for your support, it means a lot to me. I hope you can come out sometime to see the herd too!

  8. Matt, Thanks for sharing the pictures! Especially of Chino and Herd…as you know he’s Hombre’s dad! They all look great! Happy Holidays!

    • Rebecca, I hope Hombre is doing well down there. I was looking at some of the photos I took of him late in the summer where he and Garcia were pestering old Sandman. Well, hope to hear how he’s doing sometime! Thanks!

      • Matt, Hombre is doing well. He is learning to trust me and transitioning to domestic life! I have been handling him on the ground and will probably start his under saddle training in the spring. Can you send me a link to those other pictures you took? I would love to see them!

        I always looks forward to your posts.

        Thanks, Rebecca

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