Goonies Never Say Die!

I always have a mental checklist in my head when going to White Mountain.  Documenting a herd of horses is not any more difficult than going places that I do not actively document, but it does put a slightly different slant on how I spend my days in the herd.  In other herds my list consists of:

  • Find horses
  • Try not to get myself killed

My checklist for White Mountain this past weekend looked a little more like this:

  • Find Fibonacci & see what stallion she ended up with
  • Check in on Gladiator
  • See if Kerosene survived the winter (spoiler alert: she totally did and looks fabulous)
  • Explore new 2 tracks in the North
  • Try not to get myself killed


Saturday morning dawned cloudy and gray, but filled with promise.  As my friend and I drove along getting a feel for where the horses may be, a fuzzy black shape appeared right off the road in front of us.  Check off the first on my list!  Fibonacci is the only black horse who stays so far South, so it had to be her. But the band Fibonacci had joined was obscured by the hill.


After a simply agonizing and suspenseful wait of… oh, fifteen seconds or so, I had my answer.

Oh snap!


That’s right folks.  Our boy Gladiator has got himself a band!  There may have been some screaming upon discovery of this, but can you blame me?  I thought Gladiator was going to spend the rest of his life as a bachelor.  After the 2011 roundup, Gladiator never put any kind of effort towards winning a mare.  He would fight with band stallions when said band stallions were conveniently in the area, but even then it always felt more like he wanted the fight rather than the mares.


I’m still not sure what Gladiator’s feelings are on the subject of mares.  After all, he didn’t win another stallion’s mares so much as open a kindergarten.

Consider his new family, and my possible theories on how this could have shook down:

Fibonacci, 2 years old (Hypatia x removed stallion)

Fibonacci was in the process of leaving her family band last winter.  It seems a safe bet that Gladiator wooed her away from her other suitors. Or maybe she joined the group later and after seeing the other youngin’s all together she figured it looked like a fun party.


Belle, 4 years old (Aurora x ?)

This is the fourth band that Belle has been spotted with since 2012. She was last in Flax’s band with her dam Aurora. While this suited Aurora, I have always gotten the impression that Belle was less than thrilled to be back with her mother again. Flax is a paranoid band stallion and constantly fighting and moving his band away from anything he sees as a threat. Gladiator could have found an opportunity and taken it, or Belle could have gotten annoyed and branched out on her own again.

Belle's 2014 filly.  Likely sire: Fuego
Belle’s 2014 filly. Likely sire: Fuego

She’s sort of stuck going wherever mom goes.

Spitfire, 2013 daughter of Belle & Blitz
Spitfire, 1 yeard old (Belle x Blitz)

Ditto.  It’s fairly unusual for yearlings to not follow their dam during band changes, though it certainly can happen.

Verity, 2012 daughter of Elaine & Curly.  Her dam, Elaine, was also with a new stallion.  They may have been seperated in the chaos of the transition or...
Verity, 2 years old (Elaine x Curly)

Verity’s dam, Elaine, was also with a new stallion. Verity may have been seperated from her dam in the chaos of the transition or…

2013 son of Rosa and Curly.  He is very close with his sister, Verity.  It could be that he tagged along with her & Gladiator accepted him as part of a package deal.  Or, maybe when he was kicked out of the band she followed him.
August, 1 year old (Rosa x Curly)

August is very close with his older half-sister, Verity. It could be that he tagged along with her during the split in Curly’s band.  Or… he could have been kicked out of Curly’s band and Verity followed him.  Either way, Gladiator accepted him as part of a package deal.

Hawkeye.  2012 son of Acorn.  Formerly in Condor's band. Clearly he was kicked out of his family band, but I have no idea how or why Gladiator ended up taking him in.
Hawkeye, 2 years old (Acorn x ?)

Formerly in Condor’s band. Clearly he was kicked out of his family band, but I have no idea how or why Gladiator ended up taking him in.


So yeah, girls and boys.  I am always fascinated by stallions who will take in a colt that is not their own.  Gladiator not only took on one, but two, each from different bands.  Gladiator was friendly with both colts and treated them no differently than he did the fillies.


Anyway, watching this mishmash group hobble around the range is the greatest thing ever.  I’m not exaggerating.  First of all, as far as I can tell, they have an informal buddy system.  No one wanders off without another member of the band wandering with them.  That still isn’t exactly a great thing, since Gladiator spends half his time fetching whichever random duo decided to traipse off at any particularl moment.  He manages.   But believe me, there is a lot of wandering off going on. Gladiator is basically herding cats.


Kiddos this way
Kiddos this way
Kiddos that way
Kiddos that way
Kiddos in a line
Kiddos in a line
Kiddos diverging in a yellow wood
Kiddos diverging in a yellow wood
This stallions work is never done

What he really needs is a solid lead mare to keep it together.  Unfortunately, the closest thing that Gladiator has to a lead mare is Fibonacci, and she’s two.  She watched her mother lead, but this is her first time trying to put it into practice.


In spite of the challenges that come with having such a young band, they do seem to be getting on fairly well.  Everyone is healthy and for the most part, seem content with this arrangement.



Gladiator did have a moment where he got really disappointed that no one wanted to pick a fight with him.  Maybe he needed a break from all the babysitting?  All I know is he spent a considerable amount of time staring at nearby stallions looking really hopeful.

Gladiator had a brief break for playtime with Curly.  (Note: Curly was not playing)
Gladiator had a brief break for playtime with Curly. (Note: Curly was not playing)
Anyone else wanna have a go?  Anyone?  ...pretty please?
Anyone else wanna have a go? Anyone? …pretty please?


There was one small hitch over the weekend.  On Monday morning, Belle’s filly laid down for some well earned rest.  It had been a rough couple days for the little one.  Rain poured down every afternoon, and with her curly coat, she came out of these showers particularly damp and miserable.  There is little time to rest when you are the smallest member of such a rowdy bunch, so when an opportunity for a good long presented itself, she took it.


While the filly lay sacked out in the sage, Gladiator took an interest in her mom. In the ensuing dance of rejection, Gladiator and Belle both moved away from the oblivious filly.  Neither realized it for some time.



Orion took notice right away.

Orion was the stallion of the only southern band to evade the 2011 roundup.  His band lost three members over the winter, mostly his own offspring, but he still remains a powerful stallion in the South.  After briefly sniffing the filly, Orion stood over her while she slept.  This might be a kind stallion playing babysitter for a lone foal.  Or he may have been waiting for Belle to come collect her daughter, giving him an opening to steal Belle away. Clever boy!

Orion the babysitter
Orion the babysitter


Whatever his intentions, it did trigger the most slow-motion/high emotion drama around.  After a long while spent grazing and kicking Gladiator, Belle finally realized that she was missing something.  Belle called to her foal, asking the filly to return.  The foal  ignored her.  And kept ignoring her.  I don’t see how it could have slept through all the commotion her mom was making, but then, the filly was pretty tuckered out.


Gladiator seemed fairly unconcerned and kept grazing.  But he did slowly inch his way in the general direction of the filly.  And I do mean slowly.  I have seen snails move faster.  Belle, meanwhile, kept hollering and looking on with concern while the disobedient little filly kept napping.


After about ten minutes, Fibonacci, who had been grazing up the hill, seemed to get tired of the racket.  She moved back to Belle and Gladiator and looked prepared to go get the filly herself.  Fibonacci stopped shy of that, but her presence did seem to give Gladiator the kick in the pants he needed to get moving.  While Orion warned off a three year old colt from another band, Gladiator moved in.

Fibonacci to the rescue!
Fibonacci to the rescue!
Belle, Spitfire, & Hawkeye look on with concern
Belle, Spitfire, & Hawkeye look on with concern
Orion chasing young Chasma away
Orion chases young Chasma away, giving Gladiator’s band an opening to reclaim their youngest member
Getting Gladiator's butt in gear
Fibonacci gets Gladiator’s butt in gear


Crisis averted
Crisis averted


Once he was beside the foal, the danger was over.  He sniffed the foal, but let it sleep for a little longer.  After a few minutes, he nudged her up and reunited the wayward filly with her mama.  Thinking that Belle would be impressed with his “daring rescue”, Gladiator tried to woo her into a reward of his own.


Wakey wakey, troublemaker
Wakey wakey, troublemaker
Hey baby
Hey baby

It went about as well as one would expect.



As we left to go pack up the tent and head for home, the band was all together and grazing peacefully.  But can it last?  Will Gladiator be able to keep his big band of misfits together without the maturity and stability that only an older mare can bring?  Is this a  temporary arrangement or the beginning of something wonderful?


Who cares?  Knowing the future would take all the fun out of the present.  All that matters for now is that Gladiator has a band!!!!

Published by Rachel Reeves

I am a photographer who currently lives in the great state of Colorado. I love going out and photographing wild horses in their natural habitat, and look forward to being able to share a glimpse their world with you.

21 thoughts on “Goonies Never Say Die!

  1. I always love Gladiator updates. This was a surprise and delightful. Thanks Rachel! I love your description of his band, “open a kindergarten.” He always loves a good challenge–this seems to be his new challenge.

  2. hey there!! so glad you back to visiting the horses! the pics are more beautiful then ever! the horses has a very relaxed and peaceful look to them! 🙂 i love the band the Gladiator has put together !

  3. Yay Gladiator! Funny how shortly after I asked if he’d ever had a band, he goes and gets a new one 🙂 Maybe there will be a Gladiator baby next year!

    1. Yeah…you had me sweating there trying to decide how to answer that, Sarah. There may have been some fist shaking at the computer.

      I would love a Gladiator foal. Just so long as it doesn’t come from Belle. She needs a break so she can finish filling out herself.

  4. What a story! (Again).
    It’s good to see you, Rachel. And the horses look fantastic!
    It’s so green and lush looking, thanks to our incredible winter. :/
    It’s always fun to hear about Gladiator and the gang and who’s with who. Tell me, will Belles filly be given a name?
    You really got some beautiful pictures this trip.
    They always look like they’re posing for you. Prolly are. 😉

    1. The range is nicer than I have ever seen it this time of year. It is so wonderful!
      Belle’s filly will eventually get a name. I don’t generally name a foal until it is about a year old, so I have a chance to get a feel for their personality first.

  5. You’re showing us that horses are amazing creatures looking out for the welfare of each other’s young ones as in the case of Gladiator and Orion. In addition, Orion is a beautiful chestnut with his thick, long mane and a range toned body. He spells energy. What was the 3 yr old colt going to do with the sleeping baby filly? Did he have bad intentions do you think? Always love your narratives besides your pictures. You have a wonderful opportunity to observe them in the wild and share. Thank you.

    1. Not to put words in Rachel’s mouth, or depending on your perspective keyboard, I doubt Orion’s response had much to do with the foal, but more to do with mares. I also doubt the 3yo colt would have harmed the foal, since Fibonacci was checking out the situation Orion may have been reacting to her presence.

    2. Livi is correct! While Orion was watching over the foal, his band was off by themselves. The 3 year old, Chasma, took an interest in Orion’s yearling filly, that that is why Orion had to chase him off. I don’t think he would have had any bad intentions towards the foal at all – Chasma’s own band has two foals currently, and he was very gentle with when playing with them.

  6. It’s amazing how much we read into equine behavior when it’s probably just something very simple. Thanks for responding.

  7. Oh, Rachel, so good to have you photographing and writing again! Sorely missed both. Is Belle just a ‘party girl’?? She is the oldest mare in the bunch, and yet Fibonacci is more mature. This foal is baby #2 for her…so she was just a baby when she was bred to produce Spitfire? I remember the Aurora story…she flits from band to band too.

    1. Belle’s dam, Aurora, is a little… controlling? So Belle was very used to having her mother call all the shots, and I think that is why she is not as mature of Fibonacci. Belle would have been two when Spitfire was conceived and three when she foaled. It is certainly not ideal, but thankfully it is rare in most herds. It’s actually also rare for a mare to give birth two years in a row, yet alone one as young as she is.

      Aurora is still with Flax, but boy is Pippen ever giving Flax a run for his money! She has a little colt at her side too. I will need to write a short little update on them here too when I get a chance.

  8. Loved the story with the pictures to go along. Family life among the mustangs is the best of stories!

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