January 7, 2010 – Updates & 2010 Foals

I apologize for the delay in posting this; I had meant to get it up before the holidays. Since I last wrote, there have been some relatively warmer days along with some very cold days. There have also been some more snowstorms. At this point, there is actually a pretty good amount of snow on the Range.

Due to winter winds, which are common there, Bighorn Canyon does have areas with little or no snow. However, in the Burnt Timber area, there is a good amount of snow on the ground. The horses basically have to dig through the snow for forage. As is often the case, interchange is fairly common right now. For example, when I spent time with Jackson’s harem earlier this week, he only had Galena and Jasper. Prior to that, he had his whole typical harem.

I’d originally planned to do a post on some of the 2010 foals, and so I’m going to keep up with that and put it in this post. I think it is interesting to watch how the foals grow up, and so I’ve prepared some photos of some of the foals over time. In the end, I’d like to maybe do posts that show how all of the 2010 foals have grown up. For now, here are five of them.

Duns, like Gabrielle’s colt Kodiak, often retain a coat color similar to that they were born with as they get bigger.

Kodiak - April 25, 2010

Kodiak - December 6, 2010

Admiral and Seneca’s colt Kapitan has also maintained his look as he’s grown up.

Kapitan - May 25, 2010

Kapitan - December 7, 2010

When she was first born, Jackson and Firestorm’s filly Kalahari looked like a plain bay. However, she has gradually changed into a pretty bay roan.

Kalahari - May 11, 2010

Kalahari - June 1, 2010

Kalahari - July 1, 2010

Kalahari - August 4, 2010

Kalahari - December 21, 2010

Teton and War Bonnet’s filly Kayenta is also roan, but she was born looking that way.

Kayenta - June 1, 2010

Kayenta - August 16, 2010

Kayenta - November 30, 2010

Sometimes foals really surprise me. Prince and Ireland’s foal Kerry was one of the 2010 foals that surprised me. When she was young, I really thought she looked like a dun. However, I think it would be more accurate to describe her as grulla roan now.

Kerry - May 26, 2010

Kerry - November 11, 2011


While I was gone, there were also some good questions that were posted. Since I didn’t get to them in a timely manner due to the holidays, I’ll post them here as they are relevant and interesting.

I have a question: In wolf populations, when there are scarce resources, the pack limits who will breed, and it’s usually the alpha female, thus insuring the best traits are passed on to the pack.

If the PZP program on Asseteague allows that every mare will have one live foal, and the populations are reduced to a point where there is no real demand on the resources, so the rate of survival for all is higher with less having to “prove” themselves, wouldn’t that interfere with the herds natural selection process and possibly create a scenario where inferior genes are passed onto the herd.

This question has a few parts to it. First, we start with the idea of the alpha female wolf passing on her genes during times of limited breeding. The genes that this particular individual passes on may actually not be the best as far as long-term survival goes, even if she is the alpha. Only time will tell if her descendants are suited for survival.

As far as horses go, though, this is a good question; and it is one that many have asked. In an Assateague-style management scenario, there is still the opportunity for natural selection to occur. Mares get the opportunity to reproduce. What happens to their offspring is decided by nature. Some mares will show more success in their descendants than others. This is a key part of this type of management: Every mare is allowed to have offspring on the range, whether or not the offspring or later descendants survive. On Assateague, it has become apparent which mare lines are stronger and suited for that ecosystem and which are weaker. This is different than a traditional gather style approach; this does not provide any guarantee that every female born will be allowed to reproduce. During the 2009 gather here, a majority of removed horses were never allowed to contribute to the herd’s gene pool before being removed. In the end, it comes down to the limited options that exist for wild horse management. Each has its pros and cons; and even if we don’t like them, they are all we have.

Wild animals know where they need to go to find food. Deer can hop over that fence with ease, but the wild horses are trapped unless they push it down and risk being take for just trying to survive.

I don’t know how things work in the Pryors. Do you throw hay when things get bad? If not, and it’s a matter of money, I’ll do my best to raise some. If it’s a matter of policy or philosophy not to feed the bands when they’re most in need – “the survival of the fittest” – I’ll be a lot more than disappointed in the management program.

You’ve touched on what I feel is a very important thing to remember here: The horses are fenced in. In historic times, if the horses were having trouble finding forage where they were, they would probably move someplace else where forage was better. (Given the current conditions and frequency of horse sightings along the Range boundary fences, I’d say there are some that would do this now if given the opportunity.) However, living in 2011 doesn’t allow for this. That said, I believe that there is the option of providing supplemental forage in the case of an emergency. I don’t know much about this other than some prior experiences here. During the bad winter of 77-78 here, locals tried to take hay out to the starving horses. Apparently, this ended up killing them as their systems were in poor shape and the hay poked holes in their digestive tract. I have also heard talk of over-nutrition being an issue in these situations. I will do some more research on this topic and answer it in a future post too. It should also be noted that some people have expressed interest in seeing the horses be allowed to starve to death in these types of situations.

Matt, are any of those good grazing areas the horses don’t use in the summer because of lack of water in areas that they may go to now with snow to fill their moisture needs?I hope so.

Yes, there are horses in some of those areas now. This was actually a concern of ours earlier on – If the areas that the water went into are also areas of winter range, then won’t that get to be a problem? As I’ve learned more about this, I’ve found that the goal is for the horses to spend time on these areas in the spring and then gradually move up the mountain as the warm months continue. By the time they get to the top, there will hopefully have been some time for the limited forage up there to develop before being grazed. Some of the horses may even choose to continue to spread out, and this would also reduce grazing pressure up top. By the time the majority of the herd came back down in the winter, though, they will come back to forage that has had time to grow in their absence.

I notice even though there is no fresh grass and they are digging for food, they all seem to look ‘fat and sassy’! Must be finding good grub!

Right now, most of the horses are definitely looking good. This is what we want to see. The worrisome time is around March. At this point, the horses will have less winter forage available and will have lost a good amount of weight. A reason that I’m unable to provide a ton of photos for the horses in these conditions is that I try not to be around them too much. I just don’t want to risk making them use more energy than they need, especially with them having to consume so much energy staying warm in these really cold, windy times that we’ve had a lot of lately. There are unfortunately some horses who didn’t come into the winter looking great. I think we may have lost a couple of older horses already this winter. But again, many of the horses look great right now; and let’s hope they can continue to remain so as we get into the later part of winter!

Published in: on January 7, 2011 at 3:41 pm  Comments (12)  

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12 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thanks so very much for such wonderful photos and educational info! I love the ‘baby’ pictures and the comparison now pictures! Great idea and so cool!

  2. Oh my gosh, Matt! I love that pic of Jackson! He is such a beautiful example of the old-style coyote dun. I’m once again reminded of why he is pretty much my favorite—altho the top 20 spots run REALLY close.

    I would love to get an 8X10, at least, of that picture. I’ll be in touch about whether or not that is a possibility and what the cost would be.

    The foal comparisons is a great idea…very interesting and they are all so beautiful. It will be so neat to see the changes in whichever ones I get to see when I get out there next.

    Stay warm, and my thoughts are with the horses thru the tough months ahead. Be sure to let us know if there is anything we could do to help.

  3. Thanks for the update Matt! It is great seeing how they change with their winter coats.

  4. Love the photos, Matt! It’s interesting to see the changes between the baby-coats and the winter coats! Always wonderful to hear your reports. You have so much insight and devotion.

  5. Matt — Really interested to see the photos of that Teton and War Bonnet filly. I don’t remember ever seeing another roan x roan progeny. I hope she survives and is successful in contributing genetically to the herd. War Bonnet is a very nice mare and I’m glad she is still out there putting babies on the range. Thanks for all your hard work up there! We really appreciate it!

    • I agree, this is a very interesting pairing with Teton and War Bonnet. Through the kinship project, I’ve actually found that the two are relatives – This is why they both are roan. (Teton’s maternal great uncle is War Bonnet’s likely sire.) Thanks for the comment and the support!

      • What happened to Jackson’s other mares like Firestorm and her filly? Are they with another stallion?

  6. How’s Red Raven’s daughter Halcyon and her filly Adelina? What does Adelina look like now? This year Im very excited because Flint’s son Jasper will be a bachelor stallion this year and he will become a band stallion in a few years

  7. What changing and unique colorations!

  8. Are there any updates on Cloud and his band? Have you seen Autumn and Kicks Alot lately and are they still with Red Raven and his family?

    • It has been a little while since I had a really good look at White Cloud’s full harem. At that time, they were all doing okay. I’m assuming that you are talking about Fool’s Gold and Kiva – They have been consistently with Coronado since the fall. I didn’t see them last time I was on the Range; but when I do, they are typically with him. Topper Too was still with W. Cloud last time I saw the harem. Chino didn’t have a grulla mare; you are probably thinking of the male Garcia. He is a bachelor now. I think by High Noon you are talking about Heritage. Heritage has had a lot of trouble this winter. Last time I saw her, she was not looking well; and her foal was no longer with her.

      • I guess Heritage’s colt didnt survive. How bad was Heritage? Do you think that she’ll survive the weather until spring?

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