The desert is snow-bound. The ponies are as adapted as you might imagine, very fuzzy and rolling with the seasons. However, despite the water in frozen form all around them, at least some still prefer the liquid form and worked hard to get it from a little hoofprint puddle melted on the edge of the Flat Top pond.
The cattle are in now, of course, and though most don’t seem to have ventured far from their entry point – all across the northwest hills – a handful have made it to the finger hills. It’s easy enough to differentiate them from horses, but my eyes – first seeing dark specks in the distance – want to see horses.
From the top of the switchbacks above Slickrock, I was surprised to see nearly the whole upper portion of Disappointment brown and seemingly devoid of snow. Where the snow line seemed to start was back against the eastern ridge – above the basin – to my mind, at least, the valley’s heart. The snow was less than I expected but still significant – the snow was more than the mud. It made for easier walking but not easy.
The first band I saw was Grey/Traveler’s band – oh what a welcome sight! When I first saw them, they were just dark specks, even through the binoculars. White-faced Iya was the first one recognizable … then Terra and Houdini … then the silver boy, standing a distance away, facing away … no Two Boots and no Cuatro. My hunch – and yours, too, I bet – was later confirmed, but first I walked down the ridge to see whether Grey was looking at them around the end where I couldn’t see. Nope. I did scan the hills for Duke, but all I saw were bovine bodies.
Note the bits of hair missing. Probably from the scuffle that led to Two Boots and Cuatro going “missing.”
He gets this oh-so-blissful look on his face when he eats snow.
Houdini is weaning Terra from nursing. Terra is not happy about it.
Iya knows just what she’s going through.
Steeldust and his band weren’t very far away – close enough that I considered walking on to visit with them – but I could see that they were all accounted for (Aspen and Hook have gone off on their own again), and I wanted to find our little autumn baby. And from a higher vantage, I did. Lucky for me, going over to visit them didn’t require a farther-interior walk.
Two Boots and Cuatro are quite well … who’s that in the corner?
You’ve already guessed:
Chrome and Two Boots went to the puddle they’ve obviously started, and Jif went around the pond.
Two Boots bravely tried to drink right along with Chrome, which he tolerated for a little bit before he got irritated and started warning her – and Cuatro – away. It was disheartening to see them trying to drink that little bit of muddy water with all the snow around them.
He never actually kicked either of them, but he threatened several times.
The basin’s newest band. Sad to see my Grey-boy lose another mare, but I couldn’t feel too bad about it, watching Cuatro and Hayden race each other on the way to the pond. Naturally, Hayden won.
I didn’t have my camera out when they started running. Jif was leading the way to the pond on the north-south road, and I was on the road to Flat Top. Poor Little was lagging behind, and it seemed like he was as tired of walking through the snow as I was. Jif paused once but didn’t wait long. Cuatro trotted up to Hayden, which seemed to infuse him with energy, and they started galloping in circles. Then they hit the straight-away, and Little H really revved the engines, sprinting for the “finish line,” which was mama, of course. He won by a mile, flagged his tufty tail and looked back over his shoulder to make sure mama and his new big brother witnessed his victory! I sure wish I’d been able to get pictures of that, but it was a blast to watch. I didn’t have the opportunity to see them playing again … they spent a good 45 minutes at the pond trying to get water.
Cuatro makes a face after eating a mouthful of snow.
Hayden thought he’d give it a try, too.
Here he’s checking out some mud on the ice. Only Hayden ignored the water – I have seen him nibbling on plants, but he’s still mostly relying on mama’s milk. The little water left at the center of the pondbed is frozen solid.
By the time the little misters interacted again, they were nearly behind Jif, and within seconds, Chrome walked over to block them even further. Sheesh. Look how grey Cuatro’s face is already.
Then it was less than an hour to sunset, and I left the ponies, still trying to paw for sips of water. Rippled high clouds in the west lit up like the gates of heaven after the sun dropped below the horizon. To say it was stunning is an understandable understatement.
I was lucky enough to spot Seven, Roja and Ze just at the edge of daylight. Even from a distance, there’s no mistaking Roja’s rotund figure. She reminds me of a pony I grew up with … The deer were out, too, and I followed elk tracks through the snow. I imagined, by the size of his tracks, that he was a big, beautiful boy. A fitting end to a day in the wild.