I received several emails over the past week asking if I would tell Nacer’s complete story. There are a few other stories to share with you, but none as important or as painful as Nacer’s. I have decided to share this story first for a couple of reasons. The first being that her story needs to be told so that you can see a side of wild horses that I feel not many have witnessed. The second being, I need to tell it so I can then hopefully move on and look to the future.
I will state right from the beginning of this post: I will not apologize for my “human feelings” and interpretations of my observations. There are some that will find fault in my conclusions. But until they spend days with these horses at one time, I feel they can just suppress their options until they do so.
Nacer was born around 3 am, July 9, 2013. This night was not unlike many others that I have spent camping in the Pryors. I was awoke by the sound of horses outside my tent. There was a sound, that I could not detect what it meant. Since being around this wild horses, I can tell pretty well what different whinnies, nickers and squeals mean. But this was a little different. I wondered what was happening.
I do not have many windows in my tent, and I did not want to disturb the horses by going outside the tent. I was glad I did not, because I am sure I would have disturbed the birth of Nacer. LaBrava gave birth to her just 80 feet from my tent. For those of you that have camped with me, she gave birth right by where I hang the solar shower.
I returned later that day to photograph the afterbirth and the spot she had lied to give birth.
I tried to go back to sleep, and I might have. The sound of horses eating right outside my tent had a lulling effect on me.
The activity outside my tent was growing louder and more tense. I decided to try again to look out. It was now about 4 am. I saw Killian walk by my tent window and concluded that it was Bolder and band, just poking around my campsite like they often do. I lay back down. Only for a minute, because once again there was much commotion.
It was then that we saw LaBrava. Little Nacer (spanish for” To Be Born”) was nursing. She continued nursing for about 10 minutes. It was still barely light enough to see much. It was then that I realized I did not have my camera inside my tent. One of the only times I have not had it with me.
We were so happy and excited! A new little foal, and she had been born right by our tents. My happiness was short lived though, as I watched the scene play out.
We watched as several horses grouped around LaBrava and Nacer. It was hard to tell in the light who exactly they were, and it was very hard to see at all. I knew I must not get out, I did not want to disturb what seemed to be a peaceful scene. I had never witnessed a birth in the wild. I wondered if this was normal for other bands to gather around the new foal to welcome it into the world. It seemed like many more horses than what was in Coronado’s band, so I knew there were other bands there. And I had seen Killian,(his light color was easy to spot in the dark). so I knew Bolders was one of them.
They were moving closer to us and I took some photos with Amber’s phone. But wait, something wasn’t right here. LaBrava did not have her foal. Mescalero, Rosarita and Polaris had her now. What was going on?
Mescalero and his mares acted as if the little one was theres. I could see LaBrava looking on, just feet from them.
It was only a few minutes before Bolders band moved in on Mescalero. It was very apparent that they wanted the foal and wasted no time taking her from Rosarita and Polaris. They out numbered them by several horses, so it was not a hard thing to do.
Rosarita and Polaris tried to go back to get her, but Mescalero would not let it happen. We were sure that she was going to get killed, as the stallions fought right over her, knocking her down at one point during the fight and confusion.
After Mescalero chased his mares away, Baileys came in and claimed the new foal.
Baileys behavior was very disturbing. She acted as though she wanted the foal. One minute she acted like a caring mother, the next she would kick and bit Nacer.
While all this was happening with Bolder and his band, Coronado was just across the road with LaBrava watching her filly. At times she would whinny for her, it was really heartbreaking to witness.
Even though Baileys did not have any milk, she allowed Nacer to nurse on her for a short time.
Then Bolder and his band headed across the road in the direction of Coronado’s band. We were hopeful that mother and daughter would be reunited, but it was not to be so. At one point, LaBrava was just a few short feet away from her filly. But Bolder would not allow her to get near her and Coronado did not confront him over it or do anything to help LaBrava.
Morning Star’s band watched this scene unfold and at one point Bolder thought they were getting to close to the filly (and his band) and confronted Morning Star.
We continued to watch. I put my camera down. It was heartbreaking. At one point Baileys picked up the hours old filly by the neck and shook her. Nacer’s legs were flying around like a rag doll. Baileys dropped her and we were sure she was dead. But about 20 minutes later she got back up and continued to ask for love.
This year there have been several mares that have looked pregnant and then the next time someone sees them, they look thin as if they lost their foal. We wondered if a predator had gotten them. Maybe a mountain lion or perhaps the wolves had finally made their way over to the Pryors. But to learn that the predators were perhaps the horses, was something I did not want to except. But as I watched this scene unfold before me, I realized that it seemed to be true. Does this happen more often than we know about? If I had not seen it with my own eyes, it would have gone unnoticed. About an hour after daylight, a car came by and stopped. They did not know the horses and assumed that this new foal belonged to the band it was with. How many times does this happen? How many times does a foal intentionally get taken from a young mother and slowly starved to death? A shiver ran down my spine, just thinking about it.
I had texted Matt early in the morning letting him know what was happening. He said it was a very unusual occurrence and he had only seen it happen a few times. He told me that usually the foal will get back to where it needs to be. That gave us hope. I was under the impression that I could not step in, that I was to let nature take its course. But it was hard to watch. I did not like this nature. We watched Bolder and Bailey (and the rest of the band) take the young filly further from her mother.
None of us could continue to watch. We needed a break, but I found myself still wanting to follow her. I did not want to give up hope.
Little Naser lied down to take a nap and Bolder and his Band walked off leaving her there.
I was willing Bolder’s band to move on further. While Nacer napped, I watched Coronado’s band on the other side of the road from her and down the hill a bit. Little Nacer was waking up and for what ever reason started heading in the direction of her mother. I was thinking that maybe this would work itself off after all. But LaBrava was lying on her side and seemed to be in some pain. (Her head would raise and look back at her stomach. I have seen that look before in a horse that has coliced, so I knew she was in some pain). I wondered if she was having some complications from the birth.
I stopped taking photos and got back in the truck. I did not want to have anything happen to disturb this little filly from reaching her mother. It seemed she was making a direct line to her mom. She even lifted her little head up in the air and whinnied. We all sat in the truck holding our breathes, willing her to keep going. She was just about to step on the road when another car came up behind me and stopped. Nacer stopped and stared at the white car for several minutes. Then she did an about face and trotted further away from her mom and into the woods.
I could no longer see Nacer. She was down the hill and into the woods, not far from Bolder’s band. I decided not to look for her, as I was sure this would lead to more confusion for her. We headed back to camp for a break.
From our campsite, we could see Morning Star’s band. They had seen her in the woods and were trying to get a closer look.
It did not take Bolder’s band to make another move and claim the filly again.
We watched little Nacer keep up with Baileys. We than decided to head the way they were going, but instead of stopping to look for them, we continued down the road to see what the rest of the herd was doing. We needed a break from this painful scene.
On our way back, Bolder and his band was right along the road and we stayed for a while watching little Nacer try to nurse and then get kicked again. It was clear she was starting to get weaker, but she somehow still tried. Her will to live was strong. She had already traveled over a mile down the road and was still getting up every time Baileys kicked her over.
I had two young girls on this camping tour. Ages 11 and 12. Their grandmother and I decided it was becoming to painful for them to continue watching this, so we left little Nacer and went back to camp.
That night I heard the horses going by our campsite at full speed. Something was happening again tonight. We all hoped we would wake up to little Nacer reunited with her mom, LaBrava. It seemed unlikely, but I was still hoping for a miracle.
I woke to more commotion. I crept out of my tent just before day light. I was shocked at what I saw. Little Nacer had gone full circle. She was back near the area she had been born, 24 hours before. But this time she was with Gringo and his band. They seemed to be treating her much better than Baileys had. I watched her try and nurse first Beluah and then Ketchikan. Ketchikan was one of the mares who seems to have lost a foal. I wondered if maybe she still had some milk. Little Nacer seemed to be ever so slightly stronger, or was it my hopeful thinking? She even played around with some grass and seemed to be more aware of her surroundings.
Some of these photos are very grainy because it was not light out yet, and I lighted the photos just so you can see what was going on.
It was then that I saw Manuelita! Coronado’s band was just over the hill and again within feet of LaBrava’s filly. We all got very hopeful again.
And then LaBrava and Blue Sioux made another move towards Nacer. Still wanting to get her back, even after 24 hours.
LaBrava gave one last whinny to her young filly and was quickly moved off away from her.
I never saw anyone from Gringo’s band kick Nacer, but when she lied down to nap, Gringo moved the mares on and Nacer was alone again. Beluah and Kechikan reluctantly left her behind.
We watched her sleep and wondered if she would get up again. She did wake and immediately set out to find anyone. She spotted us over by my truck and began to trot towards us. She even put her little head up in the air and whinnied at us. She stopped under the Burnt Timber sign and stood there for several minutes before she lied down once again to sleep.
After talking with Nancy, Matt’s mom. I called Jared. It was then I learned that they could interfere with nature and take this young filly for some help. Jared said they would assess her condition and either euthanize her on the mountain or if they felt she was healthy enough, take her to get some help. She was about 31 hours old now.
Jared let me know that they had taken her to the vet. But despite Jared’s and Ryan’s efforts, Nacer did not make it.
When I was heading down the mountain on Monday, I saw Ryan heading up the mountain towards me. We stopped and talked for a minute. I thanked him for his efforts with Nacer. He said the vet told him that it is very hard to get a wild foal this young to take a bottle, and apparently that is why she did not make it. After all her efforts to live, she had simply not be able to conform to our human world and decided she would rather run with the other wild ones that had passed before her.
I don’t know what happened or why it happened. I do know that despite all the pain that she endured, she seemed to continue to fight.
And so, that is little Nacer’s story. I will never forget her. Perhaps little Nacer you will get another chance to do it over again someday and perhaps the outcome will be better.