Stallion Story

The behaviors of the stallions are, perhaps, one of the most interesting and exciting components of the wild horse world. While the most intense are the confrontations when two stallions go up in the air on hind legs, there are many more subtle behaviors that occur when one stallion works to maintain his band against one or more other stallions attempting to gain the power. Through a whole bunch of photos and a few words, witness the action between one band stallion, Chief Joseph and six bachelor stallions over the course of a little over an hour on a beautiful November day in the Pryor Mountains.

The morning began with the young bachelor stallion, Parry. He was grazing on the sagebrush land when something caught his attention.

When a horse moves into this attentive, or alert mode, it is best to take notice. Their powers of observation are keen and typically very accurate that there is something out there in that direction. Sure enough…Parry began moving quickly; first with a long-stride walk that broke into an easy-going lope. The golden dun horse looked spectacular against the red, Chugwater dirt background.

As Parry moved in the direction of the rising sun, it became apparent as to what caught his attention. Another horse had moved up from the water hole called Little Sykes Spring. This one was a stallion – a black stallion that came up to meet up with Parry. The two greeted each other with posturing movements of arched necks and high stepping legs.

Parry meets up with the black stallion

This encounter was brief as both stallions shifted their attention from each other to something coming up from the east. The eyes, ears, and body position tell the story. Parry’s ears and eyes are definitely focused on the distance. The black’s ears show a dual concern – partly on Parry and partly on whatever was in the distance.

Again the powers of observation were right on the mark as a pair of horses emerge into view. These two provided the key to identifying the black stallion. It was a bay roan mare and a dark-colored foal trailing behind her. It was Pilar and her 2020 colt, Ukiah. This proved that the black stallion was Chief Joseph.

Pilar is the 2015 daughter of the mare, La Brava, and the stallion, Irial. Ukiah is the son of the stallion, Hamlet.

Chief Joseph left Parry’s side and guided his band away from the intruder. He positioned his body between Parry and his mare. In turn, Pilar, shielded her foal with her body. The three trotted off in unison together.

This didn’t diminish Parry’s interest in the other horses. He circled around and took the lead.

Chief Joseph broke up the momentum. He cut Parry off from the forward motion. This allowed Pilar time to move Ukiah out of the line of potential fire.

Once Pilar and Ukiah have moved off, Joseph can turn his attention briefly back to Parry. The two engaged in a minor scuffle with the most action coming from Joseph’s mane.

After that, both stallions’ attention was once again drawn to something in the east. They separated and both stood at attention…such unbelievable beauty in this rugged land.

Parry headed off and left Joseph behind.

Parry had shifted his attention to two more bachelor stallions who had just appeared in the area. He ran right over to the grullo stallion, Hidatsa. This was not an adversarial meeting, rather just a morning greeting. The black stallion, Hawk appeared much more interested in his brother, Joseph, than the young stallion. Parry then continued walking out of the area.

Meanwhile on the other side of the sagebrush meadow, another bachelor stallion made his way down into the area where Joseph, Pilar, and Ukiah continued to graze. This was the young grullo stallion, Pax. He is one of the finest examples of grullo in the Pryors with his thick wither bars. At the age of five, he has matured into a handsome stallion. He has spent much of the summer roaming alone as a bachelor stallion. So as one five year old bachelor left, another came onto the scene and kicked up the action!

Joseph headed over to check out the newcomer. The colt, Ukiah, is not too young to learn the lessons of being a band stallion.

At first, Pax doesn’t seem to have much desire to engage in a confrontation with Joseph. After a quick, quiet greeting, Pax moves down the meadow toward Pilar and Ukiah.

The situation becomes tense for Joseph as Hawk and Hidatsa move to the northeast side of Joseph and his band. The next set of photos illustrate how hard the band stallions have to work to maintain their family. One one side, Joseph has Pax. On the other side, he has the two veteran bachelors, Hawk and Hidatsa. Smack dab in the middle are Pilar and Ukiah.

At first, Joseph goes back to size up the situation with Pax. Pax turns and walks off while Joseph turns an eye on Hawk and Hidatsa.

Next, Joseph moves over to check out Hawk. Both Hawk and Chief Joseph are the sons of the legendary Dryhead stallion, Seattle. Both have the jet black color of their sire. Again, Joseph is not overly concerned with Hawk and he walks back to the mare and colt.

At that point, Pax moves over to Hawk. This resulted in just a greeting and both were more interested in their surroundings than each other.

All of a sudden Pax seems to gain the courage to make a challenge. He moves confidently through the sage. Chief Joseph responds with a quick chase. Pax arches his neck, but retreats.

Joseph turns in the opposite direction and lopes back to make sure his band is safe from the other bachelors.

He moves closer to Hawk and gives the reminder of who is in charge here. Hawk obliges without a bit of hesitation.

There is no rest for Joseph. He turns back and notices Pax moving in again. Joseph breaks into a run and moves past Pilar and Ukiah. He, then, blasts at full speed towards the eager bachelor. This time Pax shows the willingness to stay around and challenge Joseph.

After a good, aggressive blast from both stallions, Pax turns away in defeat…for this battle anyway.

Joseph moves back and snakes Pilar back to her foal. What is happening on the other side to cause the stallion more concern?

Again Joseph feels the need to get back to Hawk. He charges over, takes a second to keep Hawk well in his place, then charges back to Pax.

At first, Pax turns and runs quickly!

But then he shows himself to be a formidable opponent and goes up against the more experienced stallion.

At the end of that intense battle, Pax was done. He turned away from Joseph and moved off to the east. Hawk and Hidatsa followed behind him. The three stallions met briefly and then moved off together.

At this point, it would be good to see Chief Joseph be able to just relax, but the hour of challenge wasn’t quite over for him. As soon as the trio of bachelors moved off, Hidalgo came down the same path that Pax had appeared from a short time ago. Following Hidalgo was Sundance.

Hidalgo gave Joseph a very brief challenge. Hidalgo has been one of those stallions who seems quite content with solitude. As a two-year old, Sundance seemed more interested in finding some good things to eat.

At the end of this exciting hour, Ukiah moved over to his mother, Pilar, for bit of breakfast.

Finally, Chief Joseph could enjoy some well-deserved relaxation. This short time showed many stallion behaviors of both the band stallions as they strive to keep the band and the bachelors whose goal is to gain a band of their own. Yes, the up-in-the air action is exciting, but often overlooked is the amount of running and chasing the stallions have to do to maintain the band. It is hard work for sure, but these stallions are driven to get and maintain a band.

Published in: on November 22, 2020 at 8:27 pm  Comments (7)  
Tags: , ,

Blizzard…A Tribute

By Nancy Cerroni

Perhaps this should start with an apology; an apology to all who loved Blizzard and have, in all likelihood been wondering about the beautiful “orange” stallion of the Dryhead. It was mid-July when we got the word that Blizzard’s remains had been found in the Dryhead. Shortly after Christie Marcus and I headed out to find him. We both carried a heart full of memories of this very special horse. No, we weren’t surprised to hear of his passing. But death is never easy, even when somewhat expected. With the series of difficult events from that time to now, I held the story of Blizzard in my heart. So please forgive me for holding onto this for all these months. The memories of this wild horse will stay with me and will be used to pay tribute to one of the Pryor legends.

Blizzard – 2001

Blizzard was an amazing presence in the Dryhead area of the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range. He had this almost explosive apricot dun color that glowed like sunshine against the sagebrush background of his home. Blizzard was born to the stallion, Durango, and mare, Waif, in 2001. Using Reverend Schweiger’s photos, Pryor Horse historian, Alessandro tells the story. In 2000, Durango’s band included the mare, Waif, and yearling colt, Medicine Bow. Medicine Bow had been orphaned at this early age when his mother, Twiggy died. So in 2001 when Blizzard was born, he had his parents along with a big brother.

The location of Reverend Schweiger’s photos show the family on Mustang Flats, an area that would be Blizzard’s home for the rest of this life. The photos tell the story of Blizzard and Durango. Blizzard and Medicine Bow, and Waif gently guiding her orphan son, Medicine Bow across the desert land.

Blizzard and Durango – 6/26/2005

My earliest memories of Blizzard were when he was a bachelor stallion. One time, he came thundering down a hill towards my son, Matthew and me. This strong powerful animal came full speed at us and just wouldn’t stop or move until he drew closer to us. And then he stopped and just hung out near Matthew. It was like he needed a little bit of companionship in his lonely bachelor world.

Blizzard comes looking for companionship – 6/29/2005

Blizzard and his brother, Medicine Bow, would frequently join together in their bachelor lives. The pair was striking with Blizzard’s apricot dun and Medicine Bow’s unique red dun sabino. The two were never hard to spot with their bright orange colors. The pair is a great example of the strong bonds formed by wild horses.

Medicine Bow & Durango – 2006 photo by Matthew Dillon
Blizzard and Lone Wolf – 6/4/2006

Blizzard soon showed a courage and boldness to challenge for a band of his own. It was in 2006, when he went head to head with the grullo stallion, Lone Wolf. Lone Wolf was lean and experienced. Blizzard gave it a good try, but backed down.

It is ironic that Blizzard first found success as a band stallion when he acquired Strawberry and her foal, Gem, from Lone Wolf somewhere in 2006-2007. The young apricot dun stallion had an innate ability as a band stallion. In 2008, he had a nice band with mares Strawberry and Sacajawea, along with two of Sacajawea’s offspring, Hidatsa and Isolde.

Jemez greets his new brother Kokopelli
Photo by Matthew Dillon

In 2009, Blizzard and Strawberry had a beautiful colt who was named Jemez. The following year, Jemez had a brother, Kokopelli. Both these young sons of Blizzard shared his striking apricot dun color although each carried their mother’s roan gene. Kokopelli was removed as a yearling, but Jemez became another one of the “orange” boys of the Dryhead.

Blizzard, band stallion of the Dryhead

In time, Blizzard took on the monarch of the Dryhead, Seattle, and acquired his mares Cascade and Bakken. In 2013, Bakken gave birth to the lovely dun filly, La Nina. The mares bonded well with Blizzard and the band endured for many years. In June 2017, life as a band stallion pretty much came to an end for Blizzard. He first came up against the stallion, Hidalgo. The battle was difficult with Blizzard sustaining serious injuries which he possibly never recovered from. He was valiant and tried to recover his band, but soon joined the ranks of the bachelor stallions once again.

For the next years of his life, Blizzard seemed content in his life of solitude. He was a gentle soul that moved freely from the Sykes area to the Dryhead. This horse could literally disappear for a long period of time, only to reappear in his familiar spots on Mustang Flats.

Blizzard and Morgana

One sweet moment in early 2018 was when Blizzard was found on Mustang Flats with the mare, Morgana, and her brand new foal, Sorcerer. Sorcerer had been born during a brutal storm in February. The band not only endured harsh weather, they also endured turmoil as Johnston struggled to keep his band together. On this day, Blizzard, the mare, and the foal were grazing contentedly. Blizzard was so protective of the mare and foal and kept a watchful eye out for any challengers. No, Blizzard was not able to keep his little band, but for that moment in time, he once again showed his gentle, yet watchful nature as a band stallion.

In January 2019, Christie Marcus took the last photo of Blizzard that I have seen. He was so beautiful with his soft eyes, flaxen mane and tail, and that brilliant coat. He was on Mustang Flats, his home, in the spot very near his final resting place. It is very likely that Blizzard died soon after this photo was taken.

Soon after Christie and I walked out to pay our respect, Christie went home and wrote her own tribute to this great horse. It is with her permission that I share it with all of you.

In the last few years, Blizzard could disappear in all the secret places in his rugged home. We would frequently wonder if he had made it of not…made it through the cold winters…made it through the hot summers. And then we might catch a glimpse of his bright orange color. A part of me will still think of him out there someplace…living his life as a Pryor Mountain Wild Horse.