Finding wild horses can be tough. Consider this: in Sand Wash Basin there are a little more than 250 horses on about 160,000 square acres. In White Mountain and Little Colorado there might be 300 horses left post-roundup (if we’re very, very lucky) on almost a million acres.
It’s challenging, but not impossible. With a good vehicle, advice from friends/locals, and a pair of binoculars, horses invariably will show up. You’ll see juniper horses, rock horses, horse-shaped antelope… but eventually a speck will show up and it will be clear that this time, this time, it really is a horse.
But alas, intrepid readers, the horse finding woes are not over yet. Oh no. From there, one has to find a way to get to those little dark spots sticking out in the sage. I hope you like to hike.
It was a refreshing little walk that led me to my first foal sighting of 2012. I had seen two bands not too far off from where my tent was sitting and I thought “Hmmm. Horses!” Now my father would point out that exact thought goes through my head about 731 times a day… but I digress.
A short walk led to Prince’s band! Prince and his family were all grazing peacefully. Hopscotch, an adorable little medicine hat filly, was a very pleasant surprise.
Getting to three day old Mimi was a little more difficult. I spent Saturday evening exploring some of the two track roads in the area in order to get a better feel for the range. The two tracks must be travelled carefully, especially if you are borrowing someone elses vehicle. They can dry up out of nowhere, oftentimes while going down some steep hill or other which can lead to some hairy situations. Just remember, if there’s no physical evidence or vehicular damage, then it never happened.
I had finally found success with one. My goal was to travel it until sunset to see if it was a good road to try in the morning and then turn around and collapse into my sleeping bag. Life had other ideas. I was just looking for a good spot to turn the truck around when I spotted a white blur in the distance. Grabbing my binoculars, I figured I could always make a mental note to look in that general area tomorrow and… holy toaster oven, that’s Mingo!
Mingo is Picasso’s lovely little paint mare. She has some of the kindest eyes I have ever seen on a wild horse. She also had a foal, born not three days earlier. Well heck, how could I not go look?
I followed the road as close as I could get to the band. Thankfully, they were only about 1/3 of a mile off the road. Unfortunately, the sun had set. I hopped out of my car and started towards them going double time. Cue the James Bond theme.
Before me lay a lovely riparian area complete with a winding creek, waist high sage brush, and coyote dens. I dodged and weaved through the sage brush, leaping over the creek twice in a magnificent delay of skill … meaning I flailed about and barely made it across, the thought “NOOOOO! SAVE THE CAMERA!” flashing through my mind in slow motion. Sound dramatic? Welcome to my imagination. In actuality, I did run and I imagine I looked a little silly but that is one of the reasons I love taking these trips. On the wild horse range, no one can see you pretending to be a spy.
Little Mimi had been napping in the sage and jumped up closer to me than I would have liked. I backed up quickly, and quietly took a few photos before the small family peacefully moved off. It’s always important to remember to not get anywhere near a young foal – there’s no need to stress out mom or baby when you can go home and crop a picture closer in photoshop.
I headed back to the truck with the dying light (note to self: remember flashlight next time this scenario occurs) and boy it’s funny how much further it seems when you are heading back. There was no running, though I do confess to humming the theme music for Indiana Jones. As I wearily drove back to my tent, the moon helped to guide my way.
All in all, it was a perfect way to end an evening!
Post script: The next morning I was able to see Picasso, Mingo, Monet, and Mimi in broad daylight, making the events described above rather pointless. Unless the true point was to have an AWESOME time.
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