I have been pounding my head into a brick wall trying to write for the past week. This writing lark is not as easy as it sounded. Before I get started on the horses, I really quick wanted to send out congratulations to Kerry and Caryn at the birth of their baby boy, Ezra. Good luck and prayers for your new family!
I think that it is much more fun to write stories about bands or individuals, but I feel like I need a “State of the HMA” address to kick things off.
A few weeks ago I returned to the Whtie Mountain herd. It was with no small amount of trepidation that I loaded the truck and set my compass for Rock Springs, Wyoming. The last time I had been up there had been August for the roundup. Watching friends hit the trap and knowing that it would be the last time I saw them was, well, it was a punch in the gut.
It’s not that I was avoiding White Mountain per se, except, well, I was. I can claim lack of funds all I want but that only holds through the winter. I’ve been to Sand Wash Basin twice this Spring, after all. But it was much easier to ignore the rock that had made a home in my gut then to let everything come to the surface again. Sure it never quite went away, but after a couple months it was barely noticable.
The 6 hour drive up there was… interesting. I listened to music (pointendly ignoring the BLM playlist on my ipod) but it made me twitchy. So then I listened to talk radio but I kept yelling at the radio. A bit not good. I turned to unabridged books. Dull. Then back to talk radio… well, the miles still passed well enough. It rained on and off for half the trip. We need rain so desperately this year that I took it as a good sign.
I got into the HMA around 9 p.m. with the last of the light fading along the western horizon. It was a little eerie. I saw plenty of poop along the main road, but it was odd because I did not see a single stud pile. Strongly reminding myself that it is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence, I noted it and kept moving along. I briefly visited a lone bachelor but it was too dark to tell who he was – there were several stout little sorrels that fit his profile. The next morning I ran across him again and found it was Flax. He was the first of many lame, beat up stallions I would encounter.
I slept very poorly that night. There’s no real drama wrapped up in that, despite the tone of this post thus far. I never sleep on my first night. My brain keeps me awake with a never ending cacophony of “Is it dawn yet? What about now? I wonder if I can find horses right now and then just follow them for 6 hours so I’ll definitely be prepared come dawn…”
It took for-freaking-ever, but finally the clock struck 4 a.m. and I was off like a rocket. I had two and half days to spend up there, and I planned to spend the first looking for Gladiator (more on him later).
By the end of day 1, I had a pretty good inventory of which horses remained in the South. At the risk of giving away the punchline, there weren’t a whole lot. And what horses were still left were much more skittish than they were before. Horses who completely ignored me would turn tail and run when I was still over a mile away. I tried not to take it personally – I’d feel the same way in their position, I think.
Many of the bachelors were alone. The bachelors fall into two very opposite categories. The “younger” class of bachelors have seemed to accept that the pickings are slim and are unmarked – they aren’t even trying for mares.
Then there are the others. I found six stallions who were lame and others who seemed sound but were healing from horrible wounds. Feugo particularly broke my heart. When I first met Fuego, he had the blood of other stallions across his face. Several stallions challenged him, but none came close to beating him. Now he’s a picture of defeat. All of his mares were removed, and the battles written across his hide were clearly lot. He limps along with an old timer and a youngster. Who knows how long it will take him to rebuild a band, or if he ever will at all?
What mares are left are almost universally colorful – roans and paints. I suppose I understand the logic behind that but my little bay and chesnut loving self wanted to stomp my foot and scream “colorists!!!” White Mountain is not a colorful herd like Sand Wash Basin and darn it, I don’t want it to be. That is just me being a brat, though, since there were several lovely little solid colored mares who I was quite fond of and didn’t have a foal at their side, but who were removed none-the-less. Lame!
Saturday brought rain (hooray!). The teeny-tiny downside to this is that it ruined my plans to get deeper into the HMA to the North and West. But hey, NEVER wish away rain, right? And especially not this year. I thought about driving down the roads anyway because really, you can’t be stuck forever but with work on Monday I didn’t really fancy the idea of having to try to find a signal to call my citified boss and explain I was stuck in the middle of a desert because of a rain shower.
This did lead to my most brilliant idea yet (and that’s saying a lot). By noon, the storms were coming in, and rain was inevitable. I could have waited it out, maybe gone into town and gotten a shower at the truck stop, but where’s the fun in that? And it wasn’t like anyone was around to smell me anyway.
So instead I parked the truck, covered my camera with plastic bags (just in case), and set off down a ridge I knew horses liked to frequent. A little voice in my head that sounds a lot like Pam Nickoles told me how proud it wasthat I was going to elect to not be dumb (this time). Success! I thought.
And for the first two hours it was. I got a chance to see several bands I hadn’t located the day before, learned that you absolutely could get sunburnt through clouds, and had a rip roaring good time. It wasn’t until the wind started to really pick up that I stopped and remembered. Oh yeah. That rain bit…
I said a quick goodbye to Ender, and I’m happy to report that he has been hanging out with Heaven – not that you know who those two stallions are but don’t worry, you will. I started up a hill and in classic movie form, with a crack of thunder it started to rain.
My gelding from White Mountain, Bandit, hates rain. From the day I got him, if it was raining then he was huddling in the back of his shelter looking miserable. I never understood that until I visited White Mountain. This was not the first time I’ve been out in the rain up there, even if it was the worst. The wind carries the rain up there and the small droplets feel like needles driving into any skin left uncovered. Naturally, I was wearing a tank top, with only a vest for camera protection purposes. I knew better, but then, I’m not really known for thinking before rushing into adventure.
After a three mile walk back to the faithful truck, I was pretty knackered. Not so knackered that I didn’t wander around to find more horses of course! I went a ways to the West and started to head further North which was entirely unsuccesful. It’s a little eerie, really.
Sunday ended up being a bit of a bust as well. My own gelding, Ziggy, had a bit of a tummy ache back home – darn epic storms messed quite a few horses in the area up – and I headed home early. It is a testament to how much I love Ziggy that I did not feel even slightly tempted to stop for a bit in Divide Basin where several bands had clustered to a storm-created water hole near the interstate. He’s just fine, by the way.
I’m disappointed, though not surprised, that I did not locate more horses. Many of my friends are gone. I will be going up again towards the end of next week, so I hope I can access the roads I was too pansy to go down this trip.
Please note that all of my photos are protected by U.S. and International copyright laws. These photos may not be used, downloaded, or reproduced without my express permission. Photos are available for purchase at www.reevesimagery.com or you may email me to request a specific photo. Thanks!