2018: 1st Foal & How He Got His Name

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It was quite a surprise to hear that the first foal of 2018 was born in early February. The foal was born to the mare, Morgana, and sire, Johnston. When a foal is born there is great excitement and hope for the future of the Pryor Horses.

The foal was born into some tough conditions. The area has been hit with an arctic blast that has sent the temperatures down into sub-zero range with strong winds blowing the powdery snow. On the bright side, the area is filled with sheltered places perfect for hiding away from the wintry elements. Morgana is a very attentive mare, but she also has the help of her mother, Icara, to help care for the foal.

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Morgana and her foal. The foal’s grandmother, Icara, stands guard.

With a new foal, comes the responsibility of a name. Naming the horses has historic roots and was done mainly to identify and monitor the horses. The naming of the Pryor horses started long ago when Lynn Taylor, one of the first BLM wild horse specialists, started naming the stallions back about the time the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range became the first public wild horse range in the United States. Lynn used a combination of names and numbers to identify the horses. Then as time passed, Reverend Floyd Schweiger began keeping record of the bands of horses. He, along with other local wild horse enthusiasts, Jerry Tippetts and Patti Martin, began naming the horses. Just recently Patti described why and how horses were named. She and the Reverend would go up to the mountain every weekend. They began identifying the bands by the horses with unique colors and/or markings. These were the horses they named first. For example, they named “Flower” because she had a flower design on her middle. Flash got his name because of his “flashy” blaze and socks. Pencil was a mare who had a thin “pencil” like blaze. The horse that caught her attention was a young filly with unique, bright color. Patti named  the horse, “Phoenix Rising with the Sun.” What a perfect name for the horse now called Phoenix.  These names serve as the foundation of the naming and monitoring system the Mustang Center continues to use. The Reverend, Jerry, and Patti gave thoughtful names that often represented and honored the Spanish and Native American influence on the herd.

In 2000, the BLM initiated an alphabetical naming system and all foals born that year were given names that started with the letter “A.” In subsequent years foals were named with, B, C, D and so on. At that time, the BLM kept the names internal and we actually had to use the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) process to obtain a list that included all the names. The thinking was that the use of the names would promote anthropomorphism…the attribution of human characteristics to animals.

Around 2007, the BLM began using the Mustang Center’s horse list which included our names. Since that time, we have updated a form of the list that went back to Lynn Taylor’s time.  This is when Matthew Dillon served as the director of the Mustang Center. His rich background in natural sciences and history guided his use of interesting name choices. The system for naming developed further through this time with these guiding naming rules:

  1. The names will continue with the alphabetical naming system started by the BLM in 2000.
  2. The names will somehow link the lineage of the horse.
  3. The name does not duplicate another name used for a Pryor Horse.

With the first two rules, the name provides quick pieces of information about the horse: the age and the bloodline.

Back in the 1990’s Ginger Kathrens entered the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse world. She, too, began naming the horses. The names became well known through her beautiful documentaries about Cloud.

As a result, there were two primary naming systems for the Pryor Horses. Many of us just learned both names. However, as more and more people gained interest in the horses and with the growing use of social media, confusion grew. In 2014, the Mustang Center and The Cloud Foundation joined together to provide a single name for the foals.

Once we get a report of a horse, conversations begin to find the perfect name for a horse that meets the two primary considerations developed by Matthew. We sincerely appreciate the person who makes the first report. Our practice is to get input from that person regarding the name choice and then finalize a name collaboratively. It sometimes takes a week or so to come up with a name that is fitting for the horse.

So now we come back to Morgana’s foal. Bill Pickett of the National Park Service was the first reporter on Thursday, February 8. Since that time we have kept in contact with him regarding both gender information and name ideas.  On Friday, February 16, Kristen Collett determined that the foal is a colt.  We knew right away that that the name will start with an “S.” That is the easy part. The hard part is finding a suitable name that relates to a lineage. We have decided to carry on the King Arthur legend that goes back to Sir Lancelot. This beautiful apricot dun stallion was the sire of Merlin, a name taken from the wizard in the King Arthur legend. Merlin’s daughter, Morgana, in turn got her name from the sorceress in the same legend. And that is where the idea for her new foal was formed. The newest Pryor foal’s name is “Sorcerer” in honor of his mother, Morgana, and grandsire, Merlin. The word is defined to be one who is believed to have magical powers. This little one will have to work some magic to survive the cold wintry world he was born into!

Through this post, we hope you see the history of the names and the complexity of the naming process we use. We do appreciate ideas for names that match the criteria defined above.  So when a new foal is born, don’t hesitate to drop us a message or an email if you want to suggest a name. Who knows…it might be the perfect name for the next Pryor foal!

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Sorcerer….1st 2018 Pryor Mountain Wild Horse

 

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Published in: on February 18, 2018 at 5:18 pm  Comments (1)  

BLM Environmental Assessment (EA): Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range Bait/Water Trap Gather/Fertility Control

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The Young and the Old…Pryor females, Quillan & Pococeno

The BLM-Billings Field Office has issued a preliminary EA which is proposing a 2018 gather and a modified fertility control plan. Since the release of the plan, we have been very busy gaining understanding of the plan, reviewing and updating our large data base of historic horse records, and writing comments about the proposal. This plan is complex as it combines the two management methods of a gather/removal and fertility control. We have provided a link at the bottom of this post to access the proposal and submit comments. A brief summary of the plan is provided as well as some of the main points we will address in our comments.

The proposed action calls for the removal of 15-20 horses aged 1-4. It also proposes modifications of the fertility control with young mares ages 2 & 3 treated with ZonaStat-H. Mares 4 and above would not receive treatment until after they have successfully foaled twice. The gather process would consist of bait and/or water trapping. It would not utilize helicopters in the gather process. Decisions about the horses for removal would consist of a tiered system based on the number of offspring a mare has had. The target group of 1-4 was determined as young horses are more likely to adjust to a domestic setting and are more desirable by adopters. The rationale for the removal is due to deteriorating range conditions. The adequate management level (AML) of the Pryor Horses is 90-120 (excluding the current year’s foals). The proposed action calls for removals if the number of wild horses exceeds 5% of AML.

The Mustang Center will submit comments in regards to this plan. Our main recommendations include:

  • Population: We recommend using current counts of wild horses (at the present time this is about 155 horses). In addition, we have had a low foal birth rate for the past two years and a high death rate. This overall growth rate should be strongly considered when planning any removals.
  • Range Conditions: To address range deterioration, we recommend seeking out range management solutions rather than relying only on horse management solutions. The Herd Management Area Plan (HMAP) does offer range management including re-seeding and control of invasive species of plants. It isn’t easy to rehabilitate the fragile ecosystems of the Pryor Mountains, but we do encourage the BLM to seek out and implement possible solutions for improving the range conditions not just for the horses, but for the other wildlife in the area.
  • Fertility Control: For many years, the Pryor mares have been treated with PZP.  The last two years have shown the results of the management action with low foal crops. The proposed EA has modified the fertility control plan which we believe is beneficial to the herd. For one thing, the younger mares will receive treatment as 2 and 3 year olds, but not as 4 year olds. In addition, the age cap of 9 was removed. This meant that any horse who turned 10 went on treatments regardless of offspring. Now the mares will be left untreated until they have successfully foaled twice. We are supporting this change with the recommendation to better clarify the two-foal change.
  • Genetic Preservation: The Pryor horses are a small group with a limited gene pool. It is essential to make management decisions that would have the least impact on the gene pool. We support the proposal in this EA to collect genetic samples, but not just of the removed horses, but from as many horses as possible. The HMAP recommends ensuring that each mare has the opportunity to contribute genetically. We also believe that the stallion genetic contribution is essential. The Mustang Center maintains a chart of horse lineages that date back to the 1970’s. With this list it can easily be seen how many lines  have gone extinct due to natural mortality and removals.  The genetics of the herd do depend on having an adequate herd population with representation from as many horses as possible.
  • Removal Decisions: We would support the proposed action with modification to the proposed Tier Approach. A systematic process can be developed that includes management objectives as defined in the HMAP and included in this proposed EA. This system would evaluate the horses in the target group (ages 1-4) based on those objectives. The number of horses to be removed would be determined by this decision process, not by a pre-set number of horses. We are recommending a very cautious gather this year due to factors listed above of current herd demographics and the need to protect from genetic loss.

The Pryor Horses are a wonderful American treasure. 50 years ago, a group of local citizens led a national movement to preserve the small herd of wild horses which led to the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range as the first public wild horse area in the United States. The quest for their preservation continues today.

We do encourage people to submit comments in support of the Pryor Horses. Please use our comment ideas to provide background information, but put them in the context of your experiences/knowledge about wild horses and your interest in them. Make efforts to keep your comments positive and constructive.

Link to the preliminary EA: Comments are due to the BLM by February 16, 2018.

https://eplanning.blm.gov/epl-front-office/eplanning/projectSummary.do?methodName=renderDefaultProjectSummary&projectId=89925

Published in: on February 8, 2018 at 6:53 am  Comments (1)