I am never sure how to write about the Pryor horses. When I go to a place like White Mountain, I can easily sit on a developing story for a few months to see what happens. That way when I do go to write, I can have a direction to go. That is part of the fun of spending so much time with a relatively unknown herd.
The Pryors is a little different. There are so many other excellent sources of information, all of whom visit the horses much more often than I am able to do. If writing about White Mountain is giving an exhibition piece, then writing about the Pryors is more like a celebrity gossip rag. I just want to get all my readers together in person at some tastefully decorated coffee shop and spend the next two hours sipping on some fancy sugary drink and dishing out who Audubon has been spotted with recently and OMG Isadora and Flint are so going to be splitting up. (She’s too good for him anyway)
So with that in mind, I think I will dish out the steamiest news on the bands that were spotted in no particular order. If you have any specific requests for who you want dirt on next, please let me know in the comments. Now keep in mind that most of the Dryhead horses were inaccessible via pickup truck, I did not get to hang out with Casper, and the M bachelors were hiding. Everyone else is fair game, though.
The weekend started off with a delightful trip up Burnt Timber in a truck borrowed from my pa. This was actually not as terrifying as I anticipated. That is probably because I was not the one driving. Lauryn is a wizard at driving up crazy rock steps, you see. In any case, we did not shred any tires or get stuck. Success!
I mention this primarily to let everyone know that Sage Creek and Crooked Creek are still not open. There is a ton of snow up there still thanks to the fabulously crazy winter. Burnt Timber Rd was dryish and the roads at the top were not bad, but we couldn’t reach the Forest Service fence in the truck, much less make it further into the Forest Service land. So anyone who is planning on going up should beware and definitely check to see if the better roads are open before making any attempts. Burnt Timber is a Jeep/ATV road and should only be attempted with a truck if it you are extremely patient and cautious.
Despite its pitfalls, there is one very good reason to head up Burnt Timber right now. Lauryn and I were grinding our way up mile by mile, when what should appear on the mid-ridges of Tillet but a grulla sprang before our cross-eyed, slightly manic eyes. It turns out Demure was down there, grazing along the road. With Jasper. That’s right. Jasper still has her. I bet you didn’t see that one coming.
Or more likely you totally saw this coming because you kept up on the Pryor Mustang Centers Facebook page and thus consider this old news. That works too.
Jasper is the five year old son of Feldspar and Flint. Five is extremely young to be a band stallion. A determined five year old like Jasper may be able to hold on to a mare for a while, but they rarely can keep a mare for very long. They are not big enough to fight off other stallions or experienced enough to win the loyalty of a mare.
Jasper, the clever boy, is intentionally keeping Demure far away from the rest of the herd who have made their way to the top of the mountain. Down lower Jasper does not have to worry about fighting off the bigger, more experienced stallions. Demure, meanwhile, has a chance for a little one-on-one time with Jasper to see if she likes him. (Newsflash: if she doesn’t it is probably because she’s crazy)
This will not last forever. The water source that Demure and Jasper are using is not going to be around all summer. It will not be too long until Jasper has no choice but to take Demure to the top of the mountain. Once Jasper and Demure are forced up top all bets are off.
Call me an optimist, but I think Jasper may actually be able to hold his own for a little while. I know, I know, this is likely wishful thinking but c’mon, everybody likes Jasper. If you don’t like Jasper, it’s probably because you’re a communist. I actually say this because the bachelor situation up top is very interesting this year. There are only a handful of bachelors that are old and experienced enough to take Demure from Jasper. On top of that, the massive upheaval that many bands have seen this year means there is a limited field of band stallions that would be willing to take the risk of adding a new mare to their bands. There is just too much instability.
I know that Encore is on everyone’s minds and hearts right now. Encore being the yearling daughter of Feldspar and Cloud. Earlier this year Encore was separated from her family band and ended up with a trio of bachelors: Knight, Inali, and London. How she ended up with such young stallions is anyone’s guess. Knight has control of the situation right now. London is Knight’s loyal sidekick. And Inali dogs the group, looking for an opening to steal Knight. Inali and Knight have been beating the snot out of each other battling over Encore.
Knight & Inali have stopped actively fighting each other. Instead, Knight is now running Encore ragged, chasing her up, down, and all around the mountaintop. This treatment is clearly wearing on Encore, who is tired and looking a little thin. Knight does not have the wisdom of Jasper. Instead of keeping Encore down lower, away from the other horses, he is keeping her above the tree line at all times. While all the other bands stayed in the trees, Encore and the feisty trio were up top and fully exposed to the elements all the time. In the three days that we were up they were snowed on, rained on, and exposed to harsh winds that were constantly blowing. The elements did not slow down the stallions, but the weather certainly contributed to Encore’s exhaustion and stress.
I am worried that Encore is going to get sick. At the same time, I do not think that this is a life-threatening situation for her just yet. It is a very bad situation none-the-less. London bred Encore while we watched. I have no doubt that Knight has done so as well if he is passively allowing London to behave in such a way.
While a mare can successfully have a foal as a two-year old, the foal is much less likely to survive and it is very hard on their growing bodies. Babies having babies is never a god thing, and Encore is smaller than many of the other yearling fillies on the mountain. Hopefully she does not conceive.
It does not help that the horses involved are very important too. Encore herself has two full brothers and one half-brother on the range, and it unlikely that anything will happen that would cause her to die. But the boys are another a story. Stallions can fight so hard that they injure themselves badly enough that they are never able to recover enough to become a band stallion and sometimes will even die from their wounds. Consider:
- Inali is the only horse on the range out of Inverness and Eclipse. So if something happens to him, both of their bloodlines will be lost forever
- London is one of only two offspring of Gold Rush, a mare who passed away in 2012. To my knowledge, Gold Rush was the only offspring of Sequoyah to successfully reproduce. She has no living offspring on the range. Unless she has another foal, which is unlikely, her two grandchildren, London & Ketchikan, are her only legacy
- Knight is the only Guinevere foal that stays on the mountain top. Guinevere does have other offspring, but they are older and stay in the Dryhead year-round. So Knight is not as unique as Inali or London, but it would be cool if he would choose to stay on the mountain and add a little fresh blood up top
There is a silver lining to this cloud. By Monday all of the established bands were at the top of the mountain too. There was nowhere for Knight & Inali to hide anymore. The boys are now stuck sharing water holes with stallions who are bigger, stronger, and smarter than they are. It is only a matter of time.
At one point the quartet was boxed in between the bachelors Jack and Chino. Neither Jack nor Chino showed interest in pursuing Encore, but with Knight and Inali so beat up it would not take much to take out all three stallions. Heck, a stallion with a stable band could easily sneak in and snake her away while Knight & Inali were fighting amongst themselves. No matter how it happens, I will be shocked if Encore does not end up in a new band very soon. Hopefully it will be a stable one with some older mares to dote on Encore while she gets some rest and puts her weight on. My vote goes to Duke, or maybe Baja because they need another youngster to combat the sheer cranky that Bacardi and Topper Too exude, but we can talk more about those bands later.
Niyaha is a yearling who is in a very different situation from Encore. Niyaha is the daughter of Audubon and Morning Star. Audubon is something of a mystery. She has been with the stallion Morning Star for some time. And yet for the past two years in a row, Audubon has left Morning Star in the month May and spent time with a different stallion. In 2013, Audubon went with Indigo Kid before returning to Morning Star.
This year Audubon has reappeared with … Hamlet! Clearly Audubon has great taste. Hamlet is a big, beefy black Forest Service boy. This is to say, Hamlet is one giant hunk of handsome.
As you might expect, Hamlet is very wary right now. He keeps his distance from the other stallions and was not too keen when Galaxy came over to visit. This is Hamlet’s first time acting as a band stallion, and Audubon doesn’t have the best track record. I think that Hamlet will succeed where Indigo Kid failed. Why? They are both fabulous stallions, but Hamlet has an advantage that Indigo Kid did not have: Niyaha likes him.
Hamlet is playing it smart, and I love him for that. Actually, it would probably be more accureate to say that Hamlet is playing it kind. While we were up there, Hamlet was a perfect gentleman to Niyaha. He acted more like a patient step-father than anything else. If that doesn’t keep him on Audubon’s good side then nothing will.
Audubon and Niyaha may end up returning to Morning Star yet. It would be a tough decision to be sure, but I have a hard time imagining that Niyaha would not choose to follow her mother. Even if Niyaha does follow Audubon and returns to her biological father, she would not stay in the band for very long. By the time she was two or three she would be ready to move on and seek out a stallion of her own.
None of us can know where Jasper, Encore, and Niyaha’s journeys will take them. Or how long those journeys will be. The lives of wild horses are difficult ones – they are filled with triumphs and hardships in equal measure. Not everyone will get a happy ending. But many will. And maybe it’s ultimately about the journey towards a happy ending anyway; that brutal long road that shapes a horse into who they are. It is that which makes the happy ending so worthwhile.