The seasonal shuffling has begun. I’m a little surprised at the timing and two of the horses involved, but it’s one of those things that keep me guessing and wondering – and learning.
Though it is seemingly easier to spot horses against snow, I find it more difficult to make long-distance identifications against the glare. In the dry (non-snow) months, I look for our grey horses as clues to “there they are!” In the snow months, I look for the dark horses … but because of the glare, sometimes even the greys look dark against the snow – or sometimes are nearly invisible, depending on their shade! And though the basin is fairly “flat” compared with some herd areas I’ve visited, the horses can “hide” in plain sight depending on your vantage point.
Early in my visit this week, I spotted some horses in an area where I’ve been seeing horses each visit (also, interestingly, where I rarely see horses in the non-snow months, which makes me think they take advantage of the snow – moisture – to graze the area, which doesn’t have a close water source otherwise). But because of distance and glare and a tree-filled drainage and curve of a hill, I couldn’t see colors or even be sure I saw all the horses. One of the horses was a distance from the others, and it looked like Kootenai – but seemingly alone. Though I watched for several minutes, and the horse turned and grazed and walked a few steps and stood still, no other horses came into view nearby.
To set up the scene for what I saw next, let me retreat to my entrance into the basin, very soon after which, I saw most of Steeldust’s band in the area of a small pond. I couldn’t see them all because of hills (they were close enough to ID without the aid of binoculars) – in fact, in passing, I first thought it was Raven and Corona who caught my eye before I stopped and backed down the snowy hill. But it was dark-coated Storm and Alpha and Steeldust … and Butch … and Luna and Gideon … Mahogany … Aspen … and I didn’t see the others (Sundance and Mouse). I’ve seen them on all my recent visits, and the day was warm (33F), so I decided to drive a littlefarther in for a look before making a decision to stay or go on the soft and melting snow.
Fast forward past the sighting of the horses I mentioned above to the hill past the catchment, where I always stop for a good vantage to glass a wide portion of the basin. And down in the flats, running from west (where I’d originally seen them) to east, Steeldust’s band – mostly – led by … what’s this?! Corona!
Although I’d initially thought I saw Corona out of the corner of my eye, after I stopped the Jeep, I ID’d Alpha with certainty … but I can’t tell you that I didn’t see Corona because I just don’t know – but I didn’t see her after I stopped to look.
Storm followed Corona closely, and they were followed closely by mama Alpha and Steeldust … then, a few “lengths” back, Butch, Gideon and mama Luna trotting up the rear. I scanned behind them for Mahogany and Co. … but the scenery was clear of horses, all the way back to the area of the pond from which they’d come. I didn’t know it then, but later, right before I left, I spotted Mahogany and Sundance, Aspen and Mouse far to the northeast! And there’s the second split of the day for you. This split is not too surprising; they’ve been hanging out not far – but not close – to the main band (Luna’s band, truth be told) – for a while now.
Storm’s interest in Corona was seemingly friendly and polite – and clearly fresh. But how fresh … especially if I had, indeed, seen Kootenai where I did, quite a distance to the south – and invisible from the horses now with Corona? And my impression was that the band didn’t follow Corona as much as they followed one of their own – Storm – who followed Corona.
They stopped before a line of low hills below part of the road … and Corona angled off and started heading toward the road below the hill I was on. She stopped … resumed walking … stopped … resumed walking … The other horses – including Storm, stayed in a group where they had stopped and after a few minutes started grazing.
I walked out to get a better look at Corona, who eventually stopped on the road at a manure pile that she sniffed with apparently some interest. Then she cocked a hind leg and stood. I didn’t see any injuries – hadn’t seen any indication of a limp. When I was in a position that put semi-dark hills behind her, I could see by her puffs of breath that she was still breathing more rapidly than I’d have expected – not heaving but not the recovered breathing I thought she’d show … although the snow was not nearly as light and flaky as previous visits. It had a crust to the top that made walking a chore, though it was only about fetlock deep or so.
She seemed to see the horses out on the hill that I hadn’t yet identified, but I knew she couldn’t see the horse I thought was Kootenai – with her mother Raven in Kreacher’s band – from her position. I couldn’t see them from where I was, either. For whatever reason, she seemed content to stand on the road, and I eventually became concerned that I was blocking the direction she wanted to go – and that the softening snow might present difficulty to drive back out (it didn’t) – so I decided to leave her to her journey, whatever it might be.
She’s on the road there, though it’s hard to tell.
On the road standing next to the manure pile she found. It did look fairly fresh, though which horse dropped it, I don’t know – though perhaps she did?!
Still on the road …
What a view she has!
This was about the point when I left her. She had moved just off the road and was grazing here and there. I couldn’t see her puffs of breath anymore, she seemed very relaxed, and I want to emphasize that she never did look stressed, it was just something I noticed and couldn’t explain. She couldn’t have been running with Steeldust’s long given the short time interval between when I’d first seen them (whether she was with them then or not) and drive to where I’d stopped and seen the other horses, then out to where I saw her, but the snow was rather “grabby,” for lack of a better descriptor (!). It made me huff and puff, but I’m not nearly in the shape of the mustangs!
Corona will be 2 on April 29, so she’s very much a youngster. How did she get separated? And for how long? I doubt she got kicked out (yet) … maybe the bands were close … she and Storm got to playing … the bands went their separate ways, and Corona got left behind … decided to dally behind? Maybe it wasn’t Storm at all – or another band. Maybe she just wandered around behind a hill or down in an arroyo … It’s impossible to say how she came to be alone – other than for her. Maybe we’ll yet see her back with her family.
The other separation is one I don’t have a picture of because although I saw the band, I didn’t see Spring with them … and I can’t say she was NOT with them … just that I didn’t SEE her with them, though I watched for quite a long while during the time I spent with Chrome’s – which was the band on the hill I saw originally – above Kreacher’s band, with Raven and Kootenai.
I left the interior basin and drove around to hike in to the horses on the hill – and happily found them to be Chrome’s. I saw that it was, indeed, Kreacher’s band below them, and I had been hanging out with Chrome’s in the snow for a little while before I spotted another horse farther north – in Corona’s direction (I never did see Corona from this vantage, though if she’d been on the road, I should have).
Sizing this for the blog has made him even more difficult to see than in the original image file, but there’s the dark back of a horse about dead-center in the frame. Hook’s band had been hanging out in this general area, and I first thought it might be Pinon’s back.
But this was the first horse to come into full view, and again it’s hard to tell from this compressed file, but Roja made the band’s identification a snap!
There’s Seven, Mona and Shane almost hidden.
Seven closest, Ze behind the woody shrub, Roja in front of him, and Mona and Shane at left. I did positively ID Shane by her face markings and hind socks.
Roja at right, Ze in the middle, Mona and Shane at left. The other horses grazed around, but Shane napped standing up where she’s pictured there for quite a while. I wondered whether Spring was possibly down to the left. I wasn’t yet sure when I took this picture that the dark horse was Ze. He was born bay and is going grey but very subtly. Spring is dark bay (like Liberty), and I think she is, in fact, bay. I never saw two dark horses at the same time … though I can’t with conviction say that the dark horse I saw at any particular time was always Ze. The image compression makes him just look like a solid dark blob, but I was pretty sure it was Ze … and then he finally peed, and his identity was confirmed. Do you see the line of dirt in front of the horses? That’s the top edge of a little arroyo that they started crossing to the right (coming to the near side or toward the camera). Do you also see the edge of the little “hill” in front of Shane, who was also standing in a little arroyo or drainage? That was a little lower area, choked with (probably) greasewood, and it was hard to see into it. The horse I later ID’d as Ze went in – disappeared – reappeared as he grazed his way out …
You can be sure I’ll be looking specifically for Spring in future visits.
Jif in the foreground (and yikes – I should have shifted to hide the manure pile visible “under” her chin!), Kootenai looking at us in the background, and you can just see Raven’s back. They likely would have been out of sight of Seven’s band.
Always a surprise around the bend …