My vacation to Yellowstone happened to coincide with adoption day at Britton Springs for the Pryor Mountain mustangs, so for the second time – and less happy circumstances – I visited this area and its unique Spanish horses.
Matt Dillon at the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center in Lovell, Wyo., has been an inspiration to me with his documentation work, leading me to first document the Spring Creek Basin horses after our August 2007 roundup in the hopes that we can do it with less stress to the horses next time. If you talk to Matt about the horses, you cannot help but be immediately impressed by his knowledge and passion for the Pryor Mountain mustangs.
I arrived at Britton Springs on Friday, Sept. 25, and was able to walk around the pens with Matt and trainer Ken McNabb, who grew up on a private inholding on the range (please correct me if I didn’t word that right?) and now lives nearby with his family. I also watched Ken’s first training demo that day with a big bay colt named Hipshot before going out to find some of the Dryhead horses (after Matt and a HSUS rep emptied my can of fix-a-flat into my tire, which had gone nearly flat from a screw! I got it fixed in Lovell and still had daylight left).
I drove through the Bighorn National Recreation Area as the sun sank closer and closer to the horizon, stopping in some of the places Matt had shown me two years ago, but I didn’t spot any horses on my first pass. I do recommend stopping at the Bighorn Canyon overlook – wow! I’m not used to seeing canyons like that outside Utah!I saw bighorn sheep two years ago but not this year.
I can’t remember the name now, but I turned around at a historic ranch (?) … and that’s when I spotted them – on a hillside right below the road where I couldn’t see them from above. I drove back up and parked on the side of the road and walked across to a hillside that gave me an open view of the horses where I wasn’t too close to them.
Matt later identified them for me: Dun stallion Cappuccino and his roan mare Guinevere – who were together before the roundup. They were released with the other two mares, blue roan Damsel and bay Galadriel. Pretty roan Guinevere is 19!
These two stayed very close together.
And these two stayed close together.
Classic Pryor mustang!
I saw just two more horses that evening, down by the lake, but I’m not sure which horses they were.
I didn’t see any other horses with these two, but the next morning, I saw two that looked like this, plus a foal and a young bay mare. Could these two have been Sam and Hightail?
The next morning, I went out early, hoping to find horses to photograph in early morning light before it was time for the adoption. I don’t like crowds of people, and I don’t like to see wild horses in pens. So getting out to find horses was equal parts joy and fortification.
My welcoming committee to the wild horse range were pheasants.
Then I found this little guy’s band right beside the road. He looks like Hannah, too (are you seeing a theme?). I saw him first and stopped to shoot from the Jeep …
… then I saw Admiral crossing the road behind me!
There was also a young bay mare, Halo of the Sun, and …
… the colt’s dam, Seneca.
Don’t you love that light? It’s really heavenly on dun horses.
Peek-a-boo! I think this is the colt Matt has said is Exhilaration’s little brother – they look so much alike!
I drove on to Mustang Flats and saw a few different bands that Matt later ID’d as Durango’s (apricot dun roan), Seattle’s (black), Cappuccino’s again and Blizzard’s (apricot dun). Most of them were a fair distance away, but I was able to walk out a short distance and visit with beautiful Blizzard.
Sacajawea and Hidatsa (I’m going off Matt’s description list, and I could be completely wrong, so help me if so?!)
This little guy, Jemez, is CUTE!
And very curious. The horses didn’t seem to mind me sitting with them for a while in the warming sunshine. I certainly loved it.
What a gorgeous boy! Blizzard
Jemez greets Hidatsa, a 2-year-old.
Jemez’s dam, Strawberry, napped behind a tree the whole time I was there.
Have you seen a common theme in these horses? They look fantastic.
Then I headed to Britton Springs for the adoption. Trucks and trailers lined the gravel road a considerable distance away from the facility. I saw a license plate from West Virginia, and Matt said some folks came from as far away as Florida. Maybe the fact that all the horses were adopted should have been perfectly well expected. I arrived in time to see the last part of Ken McNabb’s training demo that morning with a yearling colt named Isildur.
Ken McNabb talking to the crowd.
I liked him. He had a really nice, gentle way with the horses.
Isildur seemed to like him, too.
In the pen: 2-year-old Holster, yearling Itasca and 13-year-old Bo
Yearling filly Isleta – probably my own favorite – and 21-year-old Grumpy Grulla
Ghost Dancer and her grulla filly. Note the crowd gathered for the adoption in the background.
There was, indeed, quite a crowd gathered.
I stayed only through the first round of bidding, and you all know the rest of the story – that all 57 horses found homes.
By then I needed some wild magic (call it medicine), so I headed up the Crooked Creek Road to the top of Pryor Mountain. It’s a rough road, but according to what I’ve heard, it’s the easiest! More pix will come in a Part 2.