The Empty Meadow

I am doing this post to do two things.  One is to give everyone a little better look at the top of the mountain.  The other is to talk about an upper meadow that is not being used by the horses.

You can see the meadow I am talking about on the map below.   This meadow is in the location that I have marked “waterguzzler”.   I just did some Goggle Earth measurements and it is approximately 3/4 of a mile long and about 1/3 mile wide.   This is just the actual open area.  Below is a particle map of the range, via Google Earth.  I placed markers on it so everyone can see where I am talking about and also posted some photos of those marked areas so you can visualize the places.  You can click on the photos to make them larger.

Penn's Cabin, July 2011
Jupiter (Jasper) and Horizon (He Who) outside Penn's Cabin, August 2011
Photo by Lori Graham of the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center
Photo by Lori Graham of the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center

Mystic Pond/Spring and Custer's band, August, 2011
Krueger Pond, Duke's band (front), Teton's (Diamond) band back, October 2010

The Blm installed a water guzzler here a couple of years ago to encourage the horses to use this meadow.  The above photo was taken mid-September, 2011

The water guzzler works like this… It is installed on a slope.   The rain or snow melts in the fenced field above the holding tanks.  Then drains down to the holding tanks through pipes.  When I was there in August and again in September there was still plenty of water in the holding tank.

Why the horses are not using this meadow is a real mystery.  Both times that I hiked up to this meadow, once the end of August and once in mid-September, there were no horses.  I hiked all around the meadow and saw very little horse sign.  Some dried manure, a few old stallion piles.  One or two sets of prints in the mud around the water tank.

There is a lot of forage for them to eat up there and it would be really great if the horses would start utilizing this meadow.

I did some measures via goggle earth and from the Mystic Pond area (which is highly used by the horses) to the Empty Meadow, it is just about 1 mile.  Not a far walk for a horse.

Below is a view from just above the water guzzler, on the cliff.  You can see my marker on the map above, labeled “view”.

Here is another look at some of the meadow.  You can see how tall the forage is.  This was taken in mid-September, so the  grasses have started to dry out.

Empty Meadow, September, 2011

I am hoping that this year will be the year the horses decide to use this meadow.   I will be anxious to hike up there and see if they are and I will be sure to post what I find.

Thank you to Lori Graham of the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center in Lovell, Wyoming for her photos of Penn’s.


22 thoughts on “The Empty Meadow

  • So, the water guzzler is in the upper meadow, where the horses do not seem to go? Do you think the guzzler has anything to do with them not spending time there? That seems very odd being it is so close to where they seem to congregate more? The pics are amazing, breath taking…Especially love Mystic Pond, Spring and Custers band..(photo)..

    • Thanks Jeannie. No the horses were not using this area even before the water guzzler was installed. That is the reason they installed it. Their are other guzzlers on the mountain that they are using just fine.

      • Hmmmm, mystery, then…unless the forage is plenty where they go and have no need to go there…though they do move along and graze..I wanted to also know, the cabin in the pic, does someone live there, it is amazing

      • No one lives there. I will take a photo of the sign outside of it next time I am there. It was a homestead cabin. I have read the sign several times, but I don’t want to state anything wrong, so I will try and see if I can get what is written on it and post it here. There is a wood stove in there and it has been kept up by the BLM, I do know that. However it really smells of mice, would not recommend spending much time inside it.

  • Have you asked Ginger Kathrens of The Cloud Foundation what her thoughts are on this? Maybe with her knowledge on the area she would be the best person to ask.

    • I’ve spent time on the mountain with Ginger. I don’t think she knows the reason either. I also spent an afternoon last August (2011) with the BLM wild horse specialist Jared Byee, and a day on the mountain in October 2010 with Matt Dillon of the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Center.

  • Hi Sandy,
    Just a couple of thoughts on this. It could be that the reason the horses don’t use that meadow is because there is something in the soil there that makes the forage either less than inviting, or possibly even bad for them. I’m thinking along the lines of how when the winters are really bad in Yellowstone (REALLY deep snow), they say the buffalo are known to go to the areas where the warm waters and steam vents melt the snow—but, the bad thing about it is that there is arsenic in the soil and thus in the forage. Usually they don’t consume enough to kill them by spring, but it has been known to happen. Just a thought. Animals are pretty darn smart about stuff like that, but maybe it’s just a matter of it not being on their habitual route. It may just take a while for them to seek out or just run across the forage, as well as the new water sources, or maybe it will even take the desperation of a really dry year. The best person to ask about it would be Matt’s father who knows more about the geography and geology of the area and the habits of the horses than probably anyone else in the region. He has been observing the horses for a very long time with “boots on the ground year round”, and has served as Ginger’s guide and consultant for her movies. You can see his name in the credits. Last fall, he mentioned that some of the older lead mares and stallions WERE beginning to use some of the new guzzlers and forage near them, periodically. I just can’t remember which ones he mentioned. It was good news anyway. They are creatures of habit, and old habits are hard to break.

    Love the Google Earth stuff, and of course, your pics!

    • Thanks Linda. I have met Matt’s dad, Tom before on the mountain. I may contact him and see what he thinks. Hopefully it is that they are just not used to going up there. That is where Big Foot lived for a few years and died there last summer. (at the age of 25). So he was able to survive off of it.

      • Do you know where Bigfoot’s body was? In the winter, arent there water springs in the desert that the horses drink from?

      • Hi Jonathan, Yes, I know where Bigfoot’s body is. I saw it last summer. Yes, there are some places for them to drink. They also eat the snow too. They know what to do to survive.

  • PS The stripes on Horizon’s legs sure are prominent and sort of unusual. Reminds me very much of how Hidatsa’s were when I saw him in ’09. I have pics that show it, but they’re not real good. It was almost dark when I saw him and took them. His have lost some of the definition as he has matured. Have Horizon’s?

  • Great job Sandy! I love the pictures and all that you talk about.
    I have to agree with Linda in that Matts Dad could maybe tell you something about why the horses don’t use that area. Maybe, it is just that they are creatures of habit and they like it where they have been going for years and years. They must feel safe there. Possibly there have been mountain lions in that area or some kind of threat. Animals are difficult to figure out when they don’t do what we want them to do, for reasons of their own, and they cannot tell us.
    If I find anything out on that I will let you know.

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