Until I got to this point, I thought I had a lot to say about my most recent visit with the horses. Now, again, I’m speechless. The last time I was in the basin with them, I felt like I had walked into a painting, a place with the most lovely light and subjects so heavenly I could only weep with joy. The weather last weekend wasn’t so great, and I was still riding the high of the gift that was the previous weekend, so Saturday was my first visit in two weeks – it felt like forever.
Last weekend, I saw all the horses; this weekend, only the northern horses with the exception of Bounce and his girls. But – again – it was one sublime experience. It was sunny; it was cloudy. It was warm; there was a nip to the air. It was calm; it was breezy. The horses were as relaxed as I’ve ever seen them, I was the only two-legged for miles, and it was a day beyond treasure. Yes, again. I’m doing my best to spread the karma.
These ponies were the first I saw, in the flats by Spring Creek where Kreacher had his girls the last time I saw them.
Yep, he’s still with ‘em.
Leggy girl got bored watching me with the others, so she started grazing.
I guess Hollywood thought he was being ignored, so he trotted over.
Which, of course, made Aspen get a little closer to the girls.
One little happy (kinda) family.
And there they stayed while I walked back to the Jeep.
At that point, the only other four-leggeds I had seen were two cows – black and black baldy – both with tiny calves – in the valley below the water catchment, so I hooked down across Spring Creek again and up onto the road headed toward Round Top. Beyond eyesight, I caught sight of Mona, Kootenai and Kreacher way out on top of the east end of the east-west hill. Raven was out of sight. Also from the road, I spotted Grey and Houdini and Jif and the kids out toward Flat Top … and farther out between Round Top and Flat Top, Seven and his girls. I parked at Round Top and hit the trail. I decided to go find the threesome first because they were farthest away. By the time I got to the far trail, they had dropped down to the valley below the saddle.
Seven, if he was aged correctly by the contractors at the roundup, is coming on 9 this year. The wind was brisk by this time, so I dropped off the saddle on the calm side of a ridge and hunkered down where I could see the boy around the corner. I had seen the girls from the top, so I figured he’d go toward them and I could inch out to the end of the ridge and sit there and watch them. But no, he decides to walk in the opposite direction, which put him right down the hill from me – and me in plain sight. I sat there long enough in an uncomfortable position on the side of the ridge that my right leg and foot went to sleep. Ugh. Can you feel the pins and needles? It finally did wake up as I shifted weight as slowly as I could so I wouldn’t startle him. Finally he walked back toward the mares, and I could wake up my leg and move down to where I could see them all. He went behind some trees, so I went down the hill and over another, lower ridge, where I got in position among the roots of a gnarled old pinon (or juniper; I didn’t actually pay attention to which), which gave me a nice little frame to shoot through, though I was still pretty much in plain sight.
I kept thinking they’d hear my shutter click, at least, but the wind must have blown the sound away.
(Any Star Trek fans?) I think I know why Seven didn’t see me – he grazes with his eyes closed.
You can see old Molly is a bit on the thin side (she should NOT have a foal this year), and you can see just as well that pert Roja is as chubby as a fall apple (should be a baby in there).
I watched them for a bit then quietly got up and walked back up the nearest ridge to the saddle. Seven saw me and watched me walk away, but if the mares saw me, they never even looked up. Great visit with these wary ponies.
I picked up the trail to the yucky water hole to pick up the trail to the other water hole which leads on out around Flat Top. Got a yucky surprise.
It’s almost dry! Just two weeks ago there was more water. It’s never been a big puddle, but now it’s almost just mud.
There is water to the top of that awful pipe, which is jagged all around its top edge. There’s more water at the next puddle, but there’s also another pipe – under the surface of the water and also jagged. All you horse folks out there are cringing just like I was. I can’t believe a horse hasn’t stepped on or in that pipe yet and sliced his or her pastern open (good karma! good karma! good karma!). At the rate things are drying up out there … well, please help me pray for rain – or more snow. March is typically our wettest month, but it’s been dry and windy so far. No pix of the other water hole because I had put my camera back in my backpack.
When I got down (up? north) to Grey/Traveler and his band, only Jif was above the arroyo, and she was headed into it. If she saw me coming, she didn’t acknowledge me. So I waited until they came up to graze, then went down to investigate what they’re drinking. I didn’t take pix, but it will look like the picture where Bones was drinking later in the program – from muddy hoof prints. Dry, peeps; it’s damn dry out there.
Are you ever so happy, so in love, the emotion spills out of you in waves of tears? Guys, you can stop reading; I know this is the equivalent of a chick flick. Girls, am I right?
Is he not gorgeous? He amazes me.
The light was crazy. Clouds were low on the southern and southwestern horizon when I got there in the morning, but during the day, they covered the sky, they parted, they played tag with the ridges and hillsides, they turned Spring Creek Basin into a painter’s canvas, and the horses moved through that light like angels. I swear to you, it was unbelievable.
He came to stand at the edge of the arroyo while I stood in the bottom. He cocked a hip and listened to me ask for just a little more wild horse medicine for my friends (one of whom came through surgery last week with flying colors and a great prognosis). He stood in the wind and made my heart sing.
The babies tried not to act very curious – Twister at left, Two Boots at right.
A little land, a lotta sky.
Twister, right, adores Two Boots and doesn’t mind telling her so.
Houdini’s daughter Two Boots will be 2 around April 21. She was born black.
Twigs, that’s all that is. How do they get nutrition from twigs? Iya and Jif snack on twigs and look great.
Big baby girl will be 1 on April 27! She still has a glint of red in the right light, but from a distance, she looks black.
Houdini and Grey/Traveler
First (that I know of) for Jif, many-th for wise girl Houdini.
See what I mean about that light? This is looking to the north, maybe slightly northwestish.
Iya, Two Boots and Twister follow the adults to the arroyo, which they crossed.
On the other side. I like their arrangement, even though not a one of them is paying attention to me anymore.
It was a good walk back to the Jeep from where they were, and I had spied glowing Alpha up by the roller-coaster ridge, so I walked on toward them. They were out in the open when I got to them, grazing and moseying toward-ish Round Top, with the boys bringing up the rear.
Duke and Chrome were standing together again, and Hook was a short distance ahead of them, toward the band. These boys are the remnants of the Bachelor 7. Kreacher won the new girls; Aspen hung out with Hollywood until he stole those girls; Mouse slid into Hollywood’s old lieutenant spot reporting to Steeldust; Comanche, who was with Aspen until Aspen won the girls, is sort of Mouse’s sergeant now. So Duke, Chrome and Hook stick together loosely, wandering after the big band. And they’re all still hanging out down there in the roller-coaster ridge area, probably because there’s still water in that pond. It’s shrinking like the wicked witch, but it’s the best source of water out there now – still.
Duke, left, Chrome and Hook when Hook got nervous and ran back to Duke and Chrome.
When I was walking toward them, before I had the camera out, I saw Chrome and Hook mix it up. A few minutes after Hook rejoined the boys, he and Duke had a little talk. Who’s the common denominator there? Although in this case, at least, Duke was the instigator.
Knife Edge getting the sunshine as I left the boys to go see the family.
Almost forgot this one of Hook. He really did have a little hook at the end of his snip once, I promise. Still has a hint of his rosy shade.
Looking for a mid-May baby from this gal.
Tall, dark and cute as a bug! He’ll be 1 around May 13.
Steeldust was pretty content … but just wait.
Luna-girl was first to foal last year.
Old-soul girl will be 1 around April 18.
Kestrel, right, will be 2 this spring.
Do you see the crazy-light beauty I was blessed with?!
Our little Storm-chaser is closing in on his 8-month birthday. Big boy.
This was immediately after Steeldust had a little chat with Comanche – a little reminder, really. Steely Dan is looking back at the bachelor boys; Comanche may be looking at deer (I saw them later).
Comanche may have missed the message, though, because right after that, Steeldust took off after him. The butt just at the edge of the frame is Mouse’s.
Then Steeldust left Mouse in charge of putting the point on the argument; Comanche at right.
And Steeldust moved the band back in the direction from which they had just come. (Again, that light!)
Now a little visual story:
Kestrel and Sundance. All looks well so far, but note the ear.
Now she’s feeling crowded – you know how boys can be – so Kestrel pins her ears and shakes her head at Sundance (who might, maybe be her brother).
And that’s when mama Luna steps in.
Swift and sure are mama’s teeth! I don’t know if you can see it in this small pic, but she actually has a hunk of hide in her teeth! I don’t know if Luna had a goal in mind, if she went for Sundance because daughter got out of the way, but it sure put an end to that mischief!
At some point while I was with the band, I had spotted Poco farther eastish, so when the band swapped directions, I went on out to say hi to P, B & R – couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
Roach apparently thought I was one of the bachelors when I first approached because he came trotting out to greet me (they were some distance away but visible). I wish this photo even began to do justice to the scene, but Roach was just glowing like he was in a spotlight from the heavens. Once he realized it was me, though, he turned around and walked back to his pals.
See them all? Bones through Roach’s legs; Poco at right.
Bones went down to get a drink, and Poco turned to watch after her.
Lemme tell you what I see. She’s so relaxed she’s not even looking at me while she drinks down in an arroyo (where I’m standing is low, but in front of her is a big “wall”). I see muddy water filling sandy hoof prints (this is what it looked like where Grey and family were drinking). I see a big belly … And you can see how her right hip bone sticks up.
Just for laughs.
Soft light on the big red boy.
And that was the end of that visit. I didn’t know if Poco and Roach had been down to drink yet at that point (I didn’t think so), so I left ‘em to it and headed back toward the Jeep. At this point, I was on the northeastern side of Round Top, kinda near where that weird guzzler is, if you know where that is.
When I got back up on the flattish area where the band was (flat as in no arroyos for at least 100 feet), I spotted a group of muley does and last year’s fawns moving north in front of me. They were totally backlit by the sun, and I must not have been visible to them because they had their heads down and I was “behind” a high spot in the ground. I didn’t think I’d be able to get anywhere close to them to take pix before they took off, so I kept walking. But they didn’t see me, so when I got to a shallow arroyo, I hopped the line and moved north to come out a little ahead of them.
The big girl on the left may have been an alpha doe – if deer have such rankings. She froze like a statue and didn’t take her eyes off me – and what beautiful eyes she has! She stood like that so long – and I stood like I stood so long – that most of the others got bored and went back to browsing. Finally I stepped out from behind the camera (on my monopod), and they decided that was enough of that. Looks like they wintered as well as the horses.
It took me about four hours to visit those four bands (counting the bachelors with Steeldust’s band). Had a snack when I got back to the Jeep and just rested a bit to marvel. The temperature may have inched into the lower 50s. I saw 60 once on the Jeep’s display, but I don’t believe it for a second. Cool enough for a sweatshirt; warm enough to work up an arroyo-inspired sweat. You really just have to take time to sit back and take it all in while you’re out there. It’s not all picture taking and getting from point horses to point other horses.
I spend a lot of time thinking in practical terms – how old the foals are, when which mare might foal, how dry it is, how much we need more precip – but I also spend quite a bit of time wondering how to balance all I GET from the horses with how to give back. Is it even possible? What do they want from me? What can I give them that even comes close to comparing with all they give me? So I share with them, and I share them with you, and if you take a moment in your day to thnk of them and bless their wild hearts, maybe that’s a little bit close to enough. Maybe.
Looking for Bounce and his lovely ladies, I drove the roller-coaster ridge road to where it drops off the east side, then turned around and headed back without seeing them. Driving back toward the dugout, I looked for ‘em; never saw ‘em. They might have been feeling crowded and gone to the east side of Knife Edge. I also looked for Kreacher and the girls as I drove along the east-west hill (I suppose it’s probably more a northwest-southeast hill), but I didn’t see them, so I had started to think they had dropped down into that little valley between Knife Edge and Lizard Mesa (I think Bounce may have been down in the eastern end of that valley, but who knows).
Bada-bing. Up ahead, split on either side of the road: Mona and Kreacher on the west side, Raven and Kootenai on the east side. Black and apricot joined dun and grey, and I found them taking in the view …
The sun was heading toward the far horizon by this time, below a cloud bank. I’ve been there when the sun heads to California behind the clouds the whole way, and I’ve been there when it drops out of the clouds and floods the basin in gold so pure you wish you could bank it. Guess what happened? Just a little longer … The above pic is looking southwestish from right off the road close to the dugout intersection.
Just a tiny bit east (of what I call the finger hills), really. They had decided they wanted to re-cross the road (don’t ask why the horses cross the road).
Mr. Big, looking all kind of handsome.
And then …
That light … Kreacher-feature never looked so fine!
Spin me a story about complementary colors, and I’ll tell you the perfect complement to a blue-bird sky is a horse wild as the wind.
And just when you want more, I have to disappoint you. Sure, I took more photos, when I remembered to hit the shutter for enjoying all that amazing light on the horses, but the horses were (are) very uncooperative, showing me mostly butts as they wandered off over the hill to graze and nap. Kreacher actually walked away out of sight! Meanwhile, the girls let ‘im go; Kootenai nibbled, and Raven and Mona stopped to enjoy the sunshine with cocked hips and closed eyes. Imagine it. … Believe me, no picture could be better than what you can imagine.
OK, one more. Just before I dropped down the last hill on the road to cross Spring Creek, guess who surprised me? I took this from near the dugout, I think, to get the background:
Can’t end on a much better note than that, eh?
Wild horse magic! Pass it on!