My First Trip to the Mountain

Cabaret and His Band in July 2010

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I changed my mind on the first official posting.  I had intended to tell you a bit about myself, but instead I have decided to share with you a few photos that I found while I was looking through my first trip to the Pryors.  Actually my first trip to the Pryors was during the round up in 2009, but that will be another story.  This was my first trip to the Dryhead and then to the top of the mountain.

For those of you that know nothing about the Pryors , it is pretty much divided (by the horses) into the Dryhead herd, which consists of approximately  45 horses and the mountain herd which consists of approximately 120 horses.  They stay separated like this for most of the year.  The only exceptions are in the winter months.  I am hoping to be able to see that first hand when I go over the first part of March.

The Dryhead is just that.  It is dry and very desert like.  There are some areas that are greener, but mostly it is very dry.  I often wonder how the horses can survive there, but they seemed to be doing just fine.  My Pryor horse Valerosa (whom I adopted in 2009) is from this area.

The mountain top is more lush, although it is not all rolling green meadows.  There are many areas that are rocky and very rough.   Those horses stay up there most of the warm months and then move down the mountain as the days turn darker and colder.

I will talk about the differences in the area in more detail on a different post, but I wanted to give everyone an idea of what I am talking about when I say “mountain top” or “Dryhead”.

It was July 2010.  I arrived in Lovell, Wyoming one summer evening. The Pryor Mountain Horse range is right on the Montana/Wyoming border, with most of it in Montana.   I was in a hurry to finally be able to see these horses, in their home, relaxed and away from the round-up.  The way it was meant to be.

It was too late in the day to head up to the top of the mountain, so I headed up the Dryhead.  It is only about a 20 minute drive from Lovell.  I headed out there about 7 pm, a little over 2 hours from dark.  I seemed to be the only one on the road in the Bighorn Canyon that night.  After driving a few miles and not seeing anything, I passed a sign labeled “Mustang Flats”.  I stopped to read it and looked off in the distance!  HORSES!  I was so excited!  I drove a bit further down the road and pulled off.  I grabbed my video camera and started walking.  I was about 100 feet from the road when I looked down at my feet.  In my hurry to get to the horses I realized that I was wearing my flip-flops.  Not a good idea in rattle snake country, but I was willing to take my chances this time.  I set up my camera.  Looking through the lens I realized that the horse I was seeing was my filly, Valerosa’s mother Sacajawea.  She was with Corona’s band.  I was pretty sure it was her, but at that time I really did not know any of the horses.  She was about the only one that I could be sure of.  After spending an hour watching, I decided that I should head back down, it was starting to get dark.  I drove slow, looking for more horses.  I was almost out of the range, when I came around a bend in the road and there in the middle of the road was Hightail, Admirals mother.  I did not know who she was at the time!  But she was a wild horse and I was going to follow her!  She led me down to the water where I saw Admiral and his band drinking.  It was a wonderful site.  The mosquitoes were really bad and it was getting dark, but I stayed and filmed and snapped some photos with my little “point and shoot” camera.  You can see this photo above.  The one of them at dusk, surrounded by the red light of the setting sun.

The next day I met some friends and we all got into my truck and made our way up the mountain.   I have to say,  I am pretty afraid of heights and the road going up was quite a test to my nerves!  I have gone up and down that road several times, never liking it, but it seems to get easier.  I know it is my way up to the horses, so I do it.  I have since found another way up that is not quite as scary, but every bit as rough.  So if you are planning on driving up yourself, you will need a 4 wheel drive car or truck.  I prefer a truck.

That July day was sunny and clear.  I could not have asked for a more beautiful day.  As we reached the Big Ice Cave area, we began to see signs of horses.  Stallion piles were in the middle of the road.  I did not know this until then that stallions like to poop on top of other stallions poop.  Kind of their calling card to say “I was here”.  Still no horses.  At that time in 2010 the new fence was not up to keep the horses off this area.  More on that in another post…

Finally just as we arrived on the top we saw horses.  EVERYWHERE.  I think we counted over 100 that day.  All surrounding us in a field of Lupine.  It seemed like a dream.  We pulled off the road and got out.  My first photos that day were that of Cabaret and his band.  I thought I would share them with you.  These were just taken with my little “point and shoot”.

Thinking about this first trip.  One of the first bands I saw in the Dryhead was Admiral.  He along with his son Kapitain (Climbs High) were killed by a drunk driver this past summer (2011).  The next band that I saw on the mountain top was Cabaret.  His band, Duchess, Kalika, and Jericho were found dead this year.  The young stallion Fortunatus, who was also with this band is missing and presumed to be dead.  I find this strange that the first Pryor Horses I saw are now dead.  So I felt I wanted to start my first official blog as a tribute to them.  I hope you enjoy seeing these photos as much as I did.  You can stop the photos from moving by just putting your arrow on the photo and clicking the stop square.

The beautiful sorrel stallion is Fortunatus.  The little foal is Kalika, Duchess is the beautiful black mare,  Cabaret is the stunning grullo and little Jericho is the black colt with the left hind sock.

Thank you Admiral, Kapitain, Cabaret, Duchess, Kalika, Jericho and Fortunatus.  You touched my heart and soul and gave me my first look into my new passion.  For that I thank you.

This is my most recent video of the horses:

10 thoughts on “My First Trip to the Mountain

  • The loss of Cabaret, Duchess, Kalika and Jericho is so tragic and just another feather in the cap of “man” getting involved and screwing things up. )= Love the fact that you are doing a blog, Sandy … it is awesome and I look forward to the next installment!

  • Thanks, Sandy , glad you set it up as you did so it is easy to picture in my mind as I read on.Oh, that must have been amazing to see them the first time, flip flops and all,lol….This is going to be great to read. So sad that the first horses you saw are now gone but the memories will always be there in your mind and the pictures you took…So glad your doing this, thanks..

  • This is fantastic, Sandy…makes me homesick for when we were there last summer. It is amazing that 7 of the horses you first saw, less than two years ago, are gone now, and not from old age…with this kind of herd reduction (and this is just a part of it), why the BLM thinks they “need” to further reduce the numbers is beyond any thinking person’s comprehension. Thanks for recording this for us all–it is likely, and very sadly, some of the last glimpses we will have of wild horses in this country.

    • Thank you Nancy. There are actually 15 horses that are no longer with us. 13 of those from last winter and 2 this summer. I will touch base on each of those horses in another blog.

  • I WILL DEFINTELY ENJOY YOUR BEAUTIFUL PHOTOS AND COMMENTARY. As I read your story of your first visit, I couldn’t help remembering my first trip in 07. It was late afternoon when I entered the dryhead on 37 for the first time, and the first horses I encountered were Hightail and Sam, within yards of the entrance of the Range. My heart was beating like mad with excitement as I watched them approach along Crooked Creek and cross the highway to graze in their favorite spots next to Crooked Creek Bay. Hightail, a beautiful “old bloodline” dun, had stopped in the road directly in front of my truck, making it difficult to get good pics, but then she moved on and I swear she knew I was a newcomer as she seemed to pose proudly—standing broadside, showing off her zebra striped legs, dorsal stripe, delicate black rimmed ears, highlighted mane and tail and wither stripes. She looked directly at me as if to say “I’m a Pryor Mountain Mustang and proud of it!” She and Sam were a special pair, and I saw them numerous times in that visit and subsequent ones. (RIP Sam, who was found with a broken leg and had to be put down just months before his son and grandson, Admiral and Kapitan were killed.) The next horses I saw were Seattle and his large family of nothing but grullos and blacks. Included in that first actual band that I saw, were the mares Sacajawea, Bakken, Beauty and Cascade, and a few youngsters. I ventured out toward where they were grazing trying to be very inconspicuous and not disturb them. I found a spot next to a large mahogany from which I could observe and photograph them. To my absolute surprise and delight, they eventually walked past me close enough that I could hear the gravel crunch under their hooves as they passed. That beautiful black stallion then stopped and stood majestically at the top of a rise to scan the Flats for any intruders, with a beautiful red/orange sunset behind him. I WAS LIVING MY DREAM. I could hardly breathe as I shared that moment in time with the horses—and the depth of the joy I feel each time I enter the Range has not diminished. I saw many other horses on that first visit, including numerous bachelors who frequented the midslopes, regal Jackson and his band, and many others on the mountain. I, too, have had to conquer my fears of dangerous places to get to the top, and every time I go I say “never again” by the time I get back to the bottom. But, I know I WILL do it again : ), just as soon as I can. Hope to see you there sometime Sandy. Sorry for rambling on. I’ll be brief with my comments in the future…

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