If you’re expecting news of the new girls, stop reading now. Though I searched high and low and found all the horses but Bounce’s band and Seven’s band – and, well, the girls – I didn’t find the girls. At all. Not hide nor hair. I’ll tell you who they’re for sure NOT with (as of Sunday): not Steeldust’s band, not Traveler’s band, not Cinch and Bruiser, not the pintos, not Poco, Bones and Roach, not David and Shadow.
Maybe they’re wandering far afield, testing their new boundaries, walking new paths, learning the landscape of their new home. Maybe they’re looking for something familiar – a hill, a smell, something that reminds them of home that used to be. Maybe they’ll stay together; maybe they’ll split up and go their separate ways. Maybe I’ll find them next weekend.
It was a gorgeous weekend, but it’s so, so dry. We need rain. The horses seem to be wandering quite a bit. My human eyes don’t see much vegetation that looks scrumptious, but the horses look pretty good – even fat in some cases.
First up Saturday was the big band: Steeldust and the Bachelor 7. Right around the corner: Cinch and Bruiser. Hollywood is still hoarding his small harem but basically part of the band.
She’s hard to see in this photo, but the doe the horses are looking at is maybe the first deer I’ve seen in the area since early spring. She caught the attention of all the horses, who stood looking … until Storm suddenly bolted down the hill, which sent all the horses galloping.
They ran right down to the pond – the same one the new girls drank from Friday – drank, then wandered out into the open to the south and east.
Cinch and Bruiser followed them to the pond and had a little chat with some of the Bachelor 7, not visible here.
I drove on into the basin and around the loop and up toward the north, and kept the binoculars practically glued to my eyeballs. From Round Top, I saw David and Shadow, who have been elusive lately. They were at a little puddle – the one Grey and the youngsters and Bruiser were playing in last Sunday, I think – but a little separate. David waited for Shadow, who had wandered east. His patience won; she finally wandered back at a mosey, maybe an amble, and followed him across the trail and down to the little “valley” below (westish of) Flat Top and Round Top and out of sight.
From a hill in the north, I could see that Grey/Traveler was up by the water catchment – along with Steeldust’s band. I didn’t see any other horses that day.
Grey and his band were up by Filly Peak in the shade by the time I drove around to see them. Steeldust and the big band were nearby but east of the road and still in the light. Hanging out close to the bachelors were the pinto boys.
I took this picture of the boys from the Jeep. You can still see some mud on Bruiser, but he has shaken off most of what had him looking like a dark boy last weekend.
Hollywood with his girls, Baylee and Piedra, who was taking a cat nap in the late sunshine.
Last fall, I don’t remember seeing any of the foals nursing this late, but this year’s babies are still nursing. Ember, nursing in the photo above, is the oldest of this year’s foals. Pinon is the curious youngster at left.
And there’s little Storm, youngest baby in the basin.
All the babies – and big babies, too! – are getting fuzzy. The days are practically perfect, but sunset comes early, sunrise comes late, and it gets chilly under that endless night sky over Spring Creek Basin.
Late sunrises are good for a non-early-riser like me. Sunday, Steeldust and his entourage were down in the broad “valley” east of the water catchment. They stayed out there – generally speaking – most of the day. I drove around the loop and spotted Bones’ white face from the roller-coaster ridge road. I hiked down to make sure they were all there.
They were lounging by Spring Creek, which actually has flowing water! Not much, and shallow, but it has to be better than drinking from puddles.
These guys are pretty easy going, but I was lucky again to find them across an arroyo (Spring Creek).
It’s nice when they’re so worried they get a little shut-eye while I hang out with them.
I headed on out, passing Steeldust again on my way, and drove down the county road to hike in and look for the pintos – and see if the new girls were with them. They weren’t, but the pintos, still with Copper and the boys, were back in the vicinity of their “favorite” hill. The weirdest thing was that they moved between my first sighting of them and when I actually found them, so it took a little looking. So close, so hard to find. Probably more to that than I even know.
When I did find them, they were on a hill across a gap from where I was. As careful as I am with all the horses, I’m especially careful with this group because Kiowa has been so protective of Spook, this year’s baby. I’ve been trying to get her to know I can share their environment without being a danger to them. The weirdest thing about this encounter with them was that I “snuck” up on them in the open. I stood on my hill, occasionally taking a step or two forward, waiting for one of the eight to notice me. I finally got to the edge of my hill where it started to slope down to the arroyo between “my” hill and “their” hill and sat down, and hung out, and enjoyed watching them graze across the hill.
The horses were pretty well spread out, and I tried to look at them with fresh eyes: If I didn’t know them, what would be my first impression of the eight horses on the far hill? On the left side of the hill: Mesa and Copper. To the right of them: Chipeta and Corazon. Sort of in the middle: sisters Reya and Spook. On the right side of the hill: Kiowa and Ty. Because of their size, yearling Reya and baby Spook would be easy to identify. At one point, Spook marched over to Kiowa and started nursing. Pretty obvious relationship there.
Both the above are stallions; one I have identified as more in the band stallion position than any of the others. Which one do you think is most likely that stallion? The stallion on the left is bigger, his coat is sleek and shiny; he’s in good condition. The stallion on the left is smaller, he looks scrawnier; he may be a bit muddy, but he’s definitely scruffier. Fifty-fifty chance … guess? OK, it’s kind of a trick question. The stallion that looks like the king is at the bottom of the heap. What can I say? Mesa at left; Copper at right.
Here’s Corazon, left, and Chipeta, not far up the hill from Mesa and Copper. Copper wasn’t worried.
Back to the what-if-I-didn’t-know-them question. My first thought probably wouldn’t be a mare and a foal and a yearling with a bunch of stallions – or even another mare. Maybe I’d think most of the others also were mares. But which one was the stallion?
Of all things, I think it was my camera shutter that gave me away, and it was Mesa’s little fox ears that heard it. He’s the one that finally saw me. That led to Copper, Corazon and Chipeta becoming aware of me. They started walking toward Kiowa and the others, and finally, a little “stallion” behavior:
Once they were all together, they settled down again. At this point, neither Kiowa, Ty nor the babies had looked up or seemed to notice me.
This pic of the sisters was taken before the above photo, and Spook walked right over to mama to nurse. She was so funny afterward – almost “drunk” on her mother’s milk, she immediately fell asleep on her feet!
I watched for a few minutes longer, then got up to leave.
And this is what I saw when I turned for a last look. Only Mesa is missing from this family portrait.
The glam big band was still out in the open when I returned to the main part of the basin for another trip around the loop. Guess who I found out for a Sunday drive? Photographer Claude Steelman, his wife, Katie, and friends Steve and Lisa Mackey. They were excited to see Steeldust and company, and they reported seeing “your boy” (Grey/Traveler), drinking at the pond below the roller-coaster ridge, and Poco, Bones and Roach! I was happy they saw all those ponies. But they hadn’t seen anybody else, either.
Traveler and the fam were napping between the pond and Round Top when I got around to that area. Northish from the twin ponds, I spotted Bones again, with Roach or Poco under a nearby tree. I looked especially hard back in the east pocket for Bounce and/or Seven, but those ponies had other ideas this weekend.
On the way out, Steeldust and groupies again.
There’s my last glimpse of the wild beauties before I headed out of the basin around 5 p.m. To the far left, you can see Bruiser and Cinch.
Better luck next time! But how can you go wrong seeing so many horses? I did see Bounce, Alegre and Gaia last Sunday, but it’s been a few weeks now – since the tour – since I’ve seen Seven, Molly and Roja. I’d like to see Molly to check her condition.
If you didn’t stop reading, thank you on behalf of the horses. I can’t even say I’m disappointed, not seeing the new girls – I had anything but a disappointing weekend! They are elusive, but maybe it makes finding them all the more wonderful … and full of wonder. And there’s always next weekend!