January 6, 2010 – New Year’s Changes

I made my first trip to the mountain of the year on Monday. Like most of the country, we were having forecasts of cold and snowy weather during the middle of the week; and so I was happy to get out on Monday before the storms arrived. (As a note, the storms, as predicted, never really arrived here in Lovell though the Pryors had a little snow last night.)

While I was gone, my dad had been able to get out on the range; and he found some new changes that I was interested to see. Heading into Sykes Ridge, we found a change. The two year old colt Hidatsa was apparently kicked out of Blizzard’s harem; he was with the bachelor Fiero.

What I find really interesting about this is that these two happen to be full brothers. However, they didn’t grow up together; Fiero was a bachelor when Hidatsa was born. It makes me wonder if they have any idea that they are brothers. They are certainly a pretty good looking pair. When my dad saw them while I was gone, Exhilaration was also with them. I think it would be great if he stayed with them more. We should also be seeing some other young males leaving their harems; there should be some pretty nice groups of bachelors out again this summer.

Down from them was another change that had happened – Cappuccino didn’t have Damsel, the blue roan mare.

He only had Guinevere and Galadriel. Galadriel’s looking pretty fuzzy with her winter coat.

After doing some scoping and hiking around to see the many horses in the Sykes area, I found Damsel. She was back with White Cloud’s harem, the harem she was taken from during the gather. (That’s her on the right.) It’s not unusual to think she would return to her likely father and former harem if she could.

I’ve been worried this would happen ever since Cappuccino moved from Mustang Flats over to the same area of Sykes that White Cloud’s been at. I am hoping that she will soon leave to another harem on her own.

You may wonder why I care so much about this type of thing happening. Well, it’s because at this size of herd, I think it’s really important to minimize close inbreeding. When there’s the potential for it to occur, I think it is reasonable to have some concern. There are a few cases like this right now, and they can really only sort themselves out at this point. I found one had been resolved, at least temporarily, on Burnt Timber when I found Teton. I always enjoy Teton’s seasonal color changes. This time of year he darkens up and can almost appear black at the peak of the winter.

When I recently saw Teton, he had the same mares he’s basically had all year, Phoenix and War Bonnet.

On Monday, though, Teton also had some new additions. He had War Bonnet’s daughter Heritage. I am happy she is with Teton as she has been with her likely father Lakota. It’s also fun seeing War Bonnet and Heritage together again.

Teton also had Brumby and her foal Jenny from Jackson.

I found Jackson further in with the remainder of his harem – Galena, Jasper, and Firestorm.

I am curious as to how this interchange between Jackson and Teton occurred. This is similar to what happened early last year with Jackson’s harem seemingly falling apart. It will be interesting to see if it comes back together this spring as it did last spring.

It’s amazing how much can change in a short amount of time out there. I find the winter interchange to be very intriguing. I look forward to getting back out next week as I am hoping I can locate some horses that I’ve found to be missing. I hope everyone had a great holiday season and is enjoying the new year!

Published in: on January 6, 2010 at 2:35 pm  Comments (36)  

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  1. Hi Matt,
    How wonderful to see the horses looking so fit. Is Brumby’s color the grullo or grulla? That is one of my favorite colors.
    It certainly is interesting how they’re moving around to different herds. Do they typically do this in the winter months?
    Thank you so much for the trips you and your Dad make to the mountains.

    • Yes, Brumby is a really pretty light grulla. The winter interchange is something that I’m still learning about each year. In past years, there wasn’t a whole lot of winter observation going on; people would just note that sometimes things were different than they were when the horses were last seen a lot in the early fall. I’m definitely seeing interchange now, though it is sometimes temporary and is pretty much back to normal in the spring. What I think is interesting about this is there isn’t an obvious motivating factor, like breeding season and summer interchange, to explain why this type of thing is happening now.

  2. nice! thanks!

  3. Matt, good to hear from you and this update on the horses. They all look good, fat and fuzzy to handle the cold winter weather.
    It is interesting to hear how the harems change, even in the winter;
    take care,

  4. Matt, I did have a question about a previous post, you mentioned Beauty as being the oldest horse on the mountain, whose harem is she with, and was she rounded up in September?

    • She is in Seattle’s harem. During the roundup, she slipped away from the helicopter when they were being brought in and then rejoined them after they were released. I was very relieved when I found her.

      • Hi, Matt! Your updates are VERY welcome, especially at this time of stressful and distressing news re. Calico. Beauty’s shrewdness during the chopper (what an apt nickname) roundup shows why the BLM wants to remove the older horses–despite their empty promises–so such wisdom doesn’t get passed on to the rest of the herd.

      • I think Beauty’s story during this really is interesting. I think this would have been close to the tenth time she would have been gathered if she had been brought in. Beauty really is a smart mare; she is sort of my standard on a quality lead mare.

      • Matt, so Beauty sort of said that “enough is enough!” she had apparently had enough of helicopters and corrals,
        good for her, hopefully, she will never have to experience this again,
        take care,
        just wondering, is Phoenix Cloud’s mother?

      • Yes, he was her 1995 foal. Phoenix has been a very productive mare. Prior to the gather, she was the mare with the most offspring on the range at 7. Sitka leads now with 6. Still, though, Phoenix has 5 offspring on the range. Genetic representation is, as you have probably noticed, something I am really into. I mention in my comment to Barb that I am a big fan of the Assateague Plan. One thing done there is to ensure that management does not cause the representation of individuals to be too big or too small, it attempts to equalize it. This of course reduces the probability that close inbreeding will occur.

      • Matt, I do remember now, I did read that post, glad she’s doing so well!

  5. Hi Matt!
    I’m relatively new to your site, but want to compliment you on your beautiful pictures and wonderful updates! Can’t wait to read the next one and see who’s where.

    • I’m happy you’ve found the site! Thanks for your compliments and support!

      • Hi again Matt! Just wanted to give you a little interesting tidbit. I currently live in Emigrant and my neighbor has a horse rescue sanctuary. On the last ’roundup’ she adopted the offspring of Bakken & Seattle. That is what brought this site to my attention and I’m glad it did. I recently adopted one of her recent rescue fillys and she is so very special. So…Keep up the great updates!

      • That’s cool you live in Emigrant. I haven’t been to the Paradise Valley in a long time. I think I actually got to spend a little time talking to your neighbor. I am so happy to hear that she is in such a great home up there. Hope you can come down here sometime!

  6. Matt,
    Haven’t heard anything about Fools Crow lately. Any news? Just need to know if the remaining bachelors are doing okay.

    • Teresa,
      He’s still doing very well. He and Medicine Bow still are taking care of that small harem together. I keep wondering what will happen next.

  7. Great pics Matt! It’s so cool to see Teton in his dark coat. That color change really is amazing! And, it’s good to see Phoenix looking pretty darn good for her age, considering the bad time she was having when I first found this blog. Hopefully, all the horses will be spared from having a terrible winter this year.

    Hopefully Cloud’s “coming-of-age” daughter will meet a handsome young bachelor soon, and run away with him. If that doesn’t happen, is there anything else that can be done to prevent the inbreeding? Seems like since our government organizations must interefere with the natural dynamics of horse society, maybe they’ll have to follow up with appropriate measures to deal with consequences of some of their actions. If only….

    Is Fiero related to Merlin? They sure seem to look a lot alike. I think Merlin is an exceptionally beautiful horse. Love his color and he has great conformation.

    I happened to be in the area of Mustang Flats, last June, where Fiero was dogging Blizzard and Durango’s bands, who were not real far from each other. Blizzard got sick of the aggravation after a while and proceeded to engage him in some serious action which finally took them about a mile away. I couldn’t see them for long from my vantage point, but I could sure hear them. Blizzard came galloping back, looking pretty proud of himself, and anxious about his harem. Earlier, Durango had even been thinking about moving in on a young mare in Blizzrd’s bunch that apparently was coming in heat, but Blizzard had discouraged that in no uncertain terms and Durango had given up pretty easily. Spring really is a nerve wracking time for the stallions.

    I also got some pictures of the bachelor group including Fools Crow, Medicine Bow and a couple of bays near the springs area in the red dirt hills of the Dryhead. They were all looking fine and feeling spirited when I saw them. If tpoling hasn’t seen anything newer than that of Fools Crow, you can give her my email address and I’ll share them with her, or you can forward the one of Fools Crow that I sent to you if you want. If not for the red mud caked on his nose and hooves, he would have looked just like a porcelain figurine standing in the ditch where they had found a little water source in the heat of the day.

    As always, THANKS so much for the updates and I love hearing your observations of the activities. It’s almost like being there—but not quite.

    Linda D

    • Well, the tricky thing with Damsel is that the BLM tried to fix the situation by relocating her to a different harem. It may have ended up working if the two harems hadn’t happened to winter in the same area. At least it did work, for now anyway, with Galadriel, who was in a similar situation. There’s a couple other incidents like this too. I’d probably not worry so much about it if I hadn’t seen the presumed sires trying to breed their daughters.

      Fiero is Merlin’s son. The two are virtually mirror images of each other. The blaze they are carrying on is passed down from Sir Lancelot, just like Durango and Blizzard are doing too. These Merlin descendants are particularly special as Merlin is the sole descendant of Wounded Knee.

      The group you saw with Fools Crow and Medicine Bow is actually a small and unusual harem that developed early in the summer. The two bays are Belle Starr and her son Hickok.

      It’s good hearing from you! Hope things are well and that you can come out again soon!

      • Enjoying your updates of the Pryor Mt.wild horses Matt.

        The Assateague Island ponies have had many studies done and this is one that explores the herd dynamics and might shed some light on the relationships of the mares and stallions.

        The Chincoteague ponies on the southern end of the island have had mares “moved” by the Firemen to different bands only to find that they have found their way back to the band they want to be with. Maybe they know something we humans don’t know! Interesting to watch.

      • Thanks for your link to the Assateague study. I wonder what else she found? I’ll see if she did followup on some of the questions she posed in the report. Assateague and Chincoteague are quite a contrast to each other as far as management goes. I am a very big fan of the “Assateague Plan.”

      • Matt, just curious about whether Damsel had PZP administered to her? I didn’t know if ALL mares returned had been treated or not,
        take care,

      • With some exceptions, all females two and older were treated. Damsel did get PZP. We’ll see if she foals this year, and then we’ll see what happens in those couple years of reduced fertility (as far as her staying or leaving the harem). Though she may not foal in the next couple of years after this year, we have to also remember that PZP can increase the lifespan of mares (this has been well studied) as reduced foaling leads to better body conditions. (This is likely why our oldest horses on the range are mares.) Thus, I wouldn’t give up on her having a nice healthy foal in the future.

  8. Thanks for the info clearing up the nature of the group with Medicine Bow and Fools Crow. I watched them come down from the ridge for quite a while, but didn’t stay long when I caught up with them near the springs area and really wasn’t aware of the difference in sex. At the time, I was being distracted by the appearance of Starbuck in the vicinity, and I was still trying to locate Bristol and his companion. So many horses, so little time. I can hardly wait to get back…

    Fools Crow really is a pretty horse and was sure looking good that day. I especially love the rich black that accents his kind of roan coat. It looks like velvet.


  9. What great photos of such lovely photos!

    My favourite is Phoenix. In case you didn’t figure it out from my question on the black horses, I’m a real sucker for cream dilutes, and I love Phoenix’s colour. It would sure be nice if she has passed the cream gene on…

    Wonderful photos, and lovely updates as always!

    • I’ve been intrigued with your questions on the cream gene too. Phoenix has been a very prolific mare on the mountain. At my count she has three offspring currently there now (Matthew, please correct me if this isn’t accurate). Of the three, both Cloud and Blanca are palomino in color. Fiesta is a beautiful bay roan that takes after his sire, Teton. The horse of interest to me is Galena. This is Blanca’s 2006 filly. She is a black horse; one that may be a smokey black. Matthew, what are your thoughts and maybe you have some recent pictures of Galena?

      • Phoenix has 5 offspring on range right now: Blanca, Beulah, White Cloud, Dove, and Fiesta. Three of these are expressing cream; Phoenix has had other cream offspring that are either removed or deceased now. It’s hard to say if Galena is smokey or not; we’ll probably have to wait and see what kind of offspring she has in the future. I’ll try to feature her with some closeup photos in my next blog post.

    • Phoenix has three cream carrying offspring on the mountain at this time, that we know of. These are White Cloud, Blanca, and Dove. Maybe some of her descendants are also carrying but not easily expressing? It’s hard to tell at this point, but maybe we’ll some day see some cream horses come out of them in the future. Another horse to consider in this is Hightail. She appears dun to us, and that’s what we describe her as. However, she is likely carrying cream as well due to her having Chino, who is a buckskin.

      • Nancy and Matthew, thanks for the replies! Your answers are very interesting! I wish I could have read them sooner, but we had a tragedy at home (mother-board). One of the reasons I’m so interested in the cream gene is that it’s relatively hard to pass along. It’s not recessive, so if the foal of a cream parent didn’t get it, that line is shut down for creams.

        And.. after reading Matthew’s account on Phoenix’s injury a few years ago, I love reading about this beautiful gal.

  10. Matt, Wonderful pics of fuzzy horses. Will there be any foals this year? Can there be any? Mar

    • Yes, there will be a normal foal crop this year. PZP has a lag time as it has no effect on pregnant mares. Mares that got pregnant in 2009 will have foals in 2010. However, there will likely be a reduced foal crop in 2011; this will be from PZP.

  11. Matt, thank you again for all the information, I appreciate the time you take to answer all of us.
    take care,

  12. Very nice photos and updates.
    I didn’t realize that horses changed color in the winter.
    Just curious, what are the consequences of close inbreeding and how would you go about minimizing that in a herd?

    • Thank you!

      The consequence of close inbreeding we don’t want to see is a problematic recessive gene coming out. If a problematic recessive is present in a particular family, there is an increased probability family members who breed could both pass on the recessive to their offspring. How I personally would like to see the potential for this minimized is to manage heavily for kinship. That is, if the horses are to be managed, make decisions that don’t cause individual family lines to get too big or too small. The database we have for the Pryors definitely allows for this. At this time, there are definitely cases of family members breeding together. Hopefully this doesn’t get to be a problem.

  13. Hi Matt!
    Again, awesome photos and information on how the horses are doing. They all look great. Your updates are so wonderful to get as we all can enjoy seeing them and how they are doing, even if we can’t get up there!
    Look forward to next update and Pix

  14. Maybe Cloud’s daughter Dancer(Damsel) rejoined Cloud and his band was because she bonded with the family very well or maybe she just didnt want to leave her father. I think she might have had a hard time when her mother Sitka died

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