February In The Pryors. Day 4. Peaceful

Burnt Timber area, 2-18-14
Burnt Timber area, 2-18-14

What is it about the Pryor Horses, or any wild horses for that matter?  They each give us a gift that if you take the time to listen and except it, it will change your life.  Forever.  Some people just want to go and see them, others want to feel their presence.  To me that is what it is all about.  Feel the horses and the land, it has much to offer.

On this trip I was given two very special people to share the horses with.  Ones that want to take the time to experience all that the horses have to offer.   People that don’t mind sitting for hours (in the snow!!) just watching and enjoying every little move or interaction.  Thank you Anh and Kimerlee for being there with me and sharing in my passion.

Firestorm, 2-18-14
Firestorm, 2-18-14

The morning of February 18 was clear and sunny.  The temperature was 25 as we left Lovell and headed towards Burnt Timber Road.  The expected high was to be 38 in Lovell.  A perfect day.  We were all looking forward to seeing more horses.

Along the way, we spotted another Bald Eagle perched in a tree.

American Bald Eagle
American Bald Eagle

We parked, unloaded Ophelia and loaded her back up with all of our camera equipment, lunches, water, shovels, emergency supplies and were headed up the frozen road by 9.  I was happy for the firm mud on the lower part of the road.   I also want to note and give thanks to Ginger for her tracks that she made in the snowy road just a few days before I got there.   For the most part they were still there, packed down, making our journey a bit easier.

I stopped where we had spotted Cappuccino and band and Jasper and Grijala the evening before.  Hiking over the hill, I only saw the two bachelors, still in the same area.  We decided to continue on.  My goal was to again get as far as the mine and park there where I would have a great view of the range.

We made it there with little trouble.  I do think that long red hill is a bit scary any time of the year (because of its narrowness), but in the winter, it can be a tad more-so.

I spent some time looking through my binoculars (wishing I had a scope!).  After a short time I suggested we leave Ophelia parked ( I knew the next part of the road was going to most likely be more difficult with very little room to turn around).  I love hiking and had a feeling that we may see Jackson and his band from where I had spotted them the afternoon before.

The hiking was pretty easy.  The road was packed down and we only sunk to our knees in the snow a couple of times.

Just a short way up the road, I caught a glimpse of some horses.  It was Phoenix, Warbonnet and Hernando.  Where was Half Moon and Missoula?  I thought perhaps they were ahead and I just missed seeing them.  Hernando had a very obvious limp.

Phoenix and Warbonnet, 2-18-14
Phoenix and Warbonnet, 2-18-14
Hernando
Hernando

I was hoping to see them again, once I got to the top of that hill.  Instead, I saw this:

Jacksons Band
Jacksons Band

While I was happy to see Jackson (always!!), I was also disappointed not to be able to get a closer look at Hernando and his new band.  I could see Jackson watching up the draw, so I assumed that Hernando was most likely down that way too.  I also heard a horse calling for others (Teton?)  and also the noise of a stallion trying to breed a mare.

Jackson watching something up the draw.
Jackson watching something up the draw.

We stopped in our tracks and let Jackson and his beautiful band get used to our presence before moving on.  I am especially careful in the winter months about my movements.  I do not want to be the cause of a horse expanding anymore energy than they normally would.  Patience is a great virtue to have with wild horses, especially in the winter.

Jacksons band lined up eating snow.
Jacksons band lined up eating snow.
Brumby and Galena
Brumby and Galena
Jackson and Maelstrom
Jackson and Maelstrom
Wide-anle look towards them.
Wide-anlge look towards them.
Heritage
Heritage
Heritage and Firestorm
Heritage and Firestorm
Moorcroft
Moorcroft
Moorcroft
Moorcroft

Once I saw them carrying on normally (grooming, grazing, not always focused on us), then and only then did we move pass them and away to a good place to “camp out”.

I was surprised and happy to see the bare ground and the amount of forage available to them in this area.  These horses don’t have open water from the guzzlers in this area.  The guzzlers are frozen in the winter months, so unless it is a warm day with some puddles, the snow is their only water source.  Amazing creatures, so strong with their will to survive.

I chose a big rock to sit and watch these amazing horses.  I love when they carry on as if we are not there.  It truly is a gift that they give us to see and I soaked up every minute of it.

Firestorm, wide-angle
Firestorm, wide-angle
Firestorm, Telephoto lens.
Firestorm, Telephoto lens.

I quickly spotted Hernando just below the hill from Jackson’s band.  He seemed nervous.  It was not the best place for him to be.  He kept looking up the hill every time a horse got closer to him.  But he could not see who it was, which added to his nervousness.  I still could not see Half Moon or Missoula and I found myself starting to worry about them.  I knew there was no way I could walk past Jackson and closer to them without disturbing them too much, so I stayed parked and waited.

Jackson Band.  Can you see Phoenix in this shot?
Jackson Band. Can you see Phoenix in this shot?
2-18-14
2-18-14
Hernando, Phoenix and Warbonnet
Hernando, Phoenix and Warbonnet
Phoenix, 2-18-14
Phoenix, 2-18-14
Jackson band
Jackson band

Brumby and Moorcoft were enjoying the slushy snow, which lead to some mutual grooming and then Moorcroft spent several minutes nursing.  That made me decide that Brumby was just round (as always) and not pregnant.  But of course I could be wrong.  We will just have to wait and see.

Brumby and Moorcroft
Brumby and Moorcroft
Brumby and Moorcroft
Brumby and Moorcroft
2-18-14
2-18-14
Brumby and Moorcroft
Brumby and Moorcroft
2-18-14
2-18-14
Brumby and Moorcroft
Brumby and Moorcroft
Firestorm
Firestorm
Maelstrom
Maelstrom
Nye and Malestrom
Nye and Malestrom
Nye and Maelstrom
Nye and Maelstrom
Niobrara
Niobrara
Firestorm
Firestorm
Wide-angle shot of the surrounding beauty.
Wide-angle shot of the surrounding beauty.
Looking the other direction.
Looking the other direction.

Hernando was getting even more nervous, as Heritage worked her way towards the hill directly above them.  Jackson sensed a change and went over to move his band back and check out the situation.

Hernando
Hernando

Wild in the Pryors

A very uneasy Hernando
A very uneasy Hernando
Hernando
Hernando

Wild in the Pryors

Wild in the Pryors
2-18-14 I love the look on Nye and Niobrara faces.
Hernando heads towards Jackson
Hernando heads towards Jackson
Hernando quickly retreats.
Hernando quickly retreats.
Jackson moves his band away from the ridge.
Jackson moves his band away from the ridge.

I could no longer see Hernando, Phoenix and Warbonnet and assumed they had worked their way further down.  Jackson stayed alert, but started to relax a bit more, appearing to nap in the warm sun, watching over Firestorm and Niobrara.

Jackson, Niobrara and Firestorm, 2-18-14
Jackson, Niobrara and Firestorm, 2-18-14
Moving over to watch Hernando
Moving over to watch Hernando
Jackson and Heritage watching Hernando.
Jackson and Heritage watching Hernando.

The band took Jackson que and began to move on over the ridge.

Niobrara and Firestorm
Niobrara and Firestorm
Firestorm
Firestorm
Firestorm
Firestorm

We waited until they were out of sight over the ridge before we decided to go up and see if we could see anything.  I snapped this photo of where Firestorm had been lying and where she had rolled.  I was surprised to see the imprint of the ribs and realized that she was still on the thin side this year, but better than the last.

Firestorm's snow imprint.
Firestorm’s snow imprint.

The horses were moving down the ridge.  I was a bit cautious on where we should go to look.  I knew that there was an avalanche warning in Western Montana on anything with more than a 30 degree slope.  Even though there was bare ground here, there was still plenty of deep snow around.  Those type of conditions could easily set off an avalanche.  Ice on top of snow with more snow on top of the ice.  Very unsettled layers.   I did not want to risk it.

We made our way a few feet down the road where I could just make out a place on the ridge that was bare.  I started to hike to it and got stuck, about 6 feet from the ridge.  With cameras and backpack, there was not way I could even attempt to “swim” up the rest of the way.  I turned around and snapped this photo of Kimerlee coming down.  I really thought it gave a good perspective.  You can see my tracks where I came down too.

2-18-14
2-18-14

We continued down the road looking for another place to the ridge.  I was concerned on the location of Jackson and did not want to risk disturbing them.  So we found a comfortable spot and sat and watched the location of everyone.  We could see the occasional head poke up on the ridge.

I still had not seen Half Moon and Missoula.  After several hours, I was beginning to think that they were not with Phoenix and Warbonnet.

Warbonnet and Phoenix
Warbonnet and Phoenix
Phoenix
Phoenix
Wide-angle of view of where we were now.
Wide-angle of view of where we were now.
Another wide-angle.
Another wide-angle.

At one point we watched Jackson run towards Hernando.  There was a very brief encounter between the two of them, then it was quiet.

While we sat there, we mapped out a possible way to get through the deep snow to the ridge.  We waited until we could not longer see Jackson.  It appeared they were moving back to the area where they were before.  We took this opportunity to slowly make our way up to the ridge.

As we approached the ridge, this is what I saw:  Heritage.  I have a soft spot for this beautiful mare.  She is the mother of my adopted Pryor, Kootenai.  I am so hoping that her plump shape means she is pregnant.  Heritage does not have any offspring on the range now.  A Heritage (daughter of Warbonnet and Lakota) would be a wonderful thing, not to mention that it would also be a Jackson offspring.

Heritage
Heritage
Heritage
Heritage
Heritage.  Her profile looks so much like Kootenais.
Heritage. Her profile looks so much like Kootenais.
Heritage and Jackson.
Heritage and Jackson.

The band did not seem to mind us being there.  We settled in the deep snow and watched them on the patch of bare ground,  enjoying their interaction with each other and soaking up their amazing presence.  It truly was a gift to be here and I treasured every second of it.

Jackson puts his ears back at Heritage
Jackson puts his ears back at Heritage
2-18-14
2-18-14
Jackson and Heritage
Jackson and Heritage
Jackson and Heritage
Jackson and Heritage

The young colt Maelstrom had grown into such a handsome boy.  Other than his color, he is beginning to look so much like Jackson.  He seems to be equally as confident as his father and will someday make an amazing band stallion.

Maelstrom and Jackson
Maelstrom and Jackson
2-18-14
2-18-14
Father and Son
Father and Son
Maelstrom and Jackson
Maelstrom and Jackson
2-18-14
2-18-14
Jackson
Jackson
Maelstrom
Maelstrom

Then they moved slightly up the ridge and gave us a blue sky background that seemed fake.   We all looked at each other in disbelief.  Was this really happening?

Kimerlee and I have birthdays soon, so we looked at each other and said ” Happy Birthday to us”!  I certainly do not need any more than what was given to me this day.

Jackson
Jackson
Jackson
Jackson
Jackson
Jackson
Jackson
Jackson
Maelstrom
Maelstrom
Maelstrom
Maelstrom

We watched the band slowly work their way off the ridge and to the other side of the road.  We took the opportunity to walk down the ridge a bit, but still did not see Hernando.

Kimerlee feeling the magic of the Pryors!
Kimerlee feeling the magic of the Pryors!
Kimerlee with Jacksons band in the background
Kimerlee with Jacksons band in the background
Anh making her way through the deep snow.
Anh making her way through the deep snow.
Jacksons Band
Jacksons Band
Jacksons band
Jacksons band

I left Kimerlee and Anh and hiked up a near-by hill to have a look around and snap some wide-angle shots.

2-18-14
2-18-14
High on Burnt Timber
High on Burnt Timber

I looked through my binoculars and  spotted some horses!  It was Doc and his band and with them were Half Moon and Missoula!!  I was relieved to see them and glad they were okay.

Demure looks to be pregnant.  I don’t think Half Moon is, but I hope I am wrong, if she is, it could very well be Teton’s last offspring.

Docs with Half Moon and Missoula
Docs with Half Moon and Missoula
Docs with Half Moon and Missoula
Docs with Half Moon and Missoula
Docs
Docs
Docs
Docs
Docs, 2-18-14
Docs, 2-18-14

Changes…my heart ached for Teton and hoped he was still okay.  It is the cycle of life for a band stallion to loss his band when he ages, but it did not make my heart ache any less.  I am happy for Hernando.  He is an amazing stallion.  Time will tell if he can hold on to what he now has.  The mountain changes by the day, and I wondered how things would shake out by spring.

I turned my focus back to Jackson’s band and watched them peacefully grazing.  What an amazing day we were having.

Jackson band
Jackson band
Anh and Kimerlee
Anh and Kimerlee

The day was turning late.  We needed to hike back to Ophelia and start to head down the mountain.  As we reached Ophelia, Anh spotted a lone horse way up on a hill.  I looked through the binoculars to get a better look.  It was Teton.  Could the rest of his band see him from where they were?  I think they could.  I certainly know from where Teton was he could most likely see them.

Wild in the Pryors

This day was filled with joy, sadness and peace.  We continued down the mountain, not seeing another horse, but feeling very full-filled.  We reached the bottom of the range, just as the sun was about to set.

2-18-14
2-18-14
Bighorn Mountains lit by the sunset.
Bighorn Mountains lit by the sunset.

Kimerlee Curyl is an amazing photographer and also a beautiful person inside and out.  I was happy to be able to share with her the Pryor Horses for the first time and look forward to many more meetings with her.  Anh has become a best friend and I was excited that she could join me on this trip.  Words can not express how great my time with these two amazing women were.

You can find out more about Kimerlee and see some of her gorgeous work by going to her website.  Click on Kimerlee to go there.

Sandy

Logo designed by Amber Bushnell
Logo designed by Amber Bushnell

37 thoughts on “February In The Pryors. Day 4. Peaceful

  1. Great post!!! Beautiful pictures, wonderful/insightful text! Thanks so much for sharing! It was worth the wait – and we didn’t have to wait very long! (also – lovin’ that wide angle!)

  2. All these changes make me want to visit the range and see for myself. It seems like Hernando might still be getting the hang of being a band stallion or he knows not to mess with Jackson. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Heritage and Half Moon foals. It would be nice for another Teton foal, and Heritage is so pretty I would love to see a foal from her. Is coyote dun roan possible or does that just say something about how little I know about horse genetics?

  3. 🙂 Boy, you can really see Jackson’s black-tipped ears in these pics. I hope the winter doesn’t stretch on too long for those horses who are beginning to become thin. Time will tell. Glad you had a great time. 🙂

  4. What an experience!! Demure sure does look pregnant and I hope she is, since Mandan is all she has. Do you know how big Half Moon looked before she had Missoula? I’m noticing that some pregnant mares don’t look so pregnant, and others are just large and are not pregnant. And I hope Heritage has a look-a-like daughter sometime in the next few years 🙂 I coyote dun roan would be awesome!! 😉

    1. Thanks Clarissa. You can see a photo of Half Moon when she was pregnant with Missoula in my archives, under March 2012. Of course she had Missoula mid-April that year, so if she is later this year she would not be as big.

      1. She did look pregnant then, though not huge. I think she’s too far away when you saw her to tell. We’ll see 🙂

  5. Gosh Maelstrom and Moorcroft are getting so big! Nye and Niobrara are too, but Maelstrom and Moorcroft are really looking like young stallions. Ha and it’s funny seeing Moorcroft still nursing even though he’s about the same size as Brumby. She’s tilted over on one side and he’s ducking down to try to get under her. They seem to have a close relationship, I wonder if she will have one of her “temper tantrums” and temporarily leave Jackson when he decides it’s time for Moorcroft to become a bachelor, since she doesn’t have another foal to take care of. I wonder if maybe Firestorm’s ribs were more visible in her snow angel because she was pressing against the snow while she was rolling. I’m glad she at least looks better than last year. Heritage has more of a plump or round look to her than she did last year, so that would be great if she is pregnant. I wonder if Heritage knew her mother was just down the hill and that’s why she kept heading over there. Haha in that picture of Jackson with his ears back where you said he was looking at her, I imagined him being like “Don’t even think about going back over there again.” I wonder if Hernando’s limping was the result of a confrontation with Doc over Half Moon and Missoula or if it was from his confrontations with Diamond. Ginger didn’t mention him having a limp though, but I don’t think they got as close of a look as you did. Were you able to tell if it was the same leg as the hock injury he had a few years ago? I’d imagine if another stallion managed to land a kick to that hock, it would definitely hurt quite a bit. The first time Jackson walked over to meet him, was there any confrontation? Or did Hernando start to walk to meet him and then decide to turn away. How did Pheonix and Warbonnet seem to be acting to you? I’m thinking they’re used to the lifestyle they’ve had with an established band stallion where it’s not a concern to be in the presence of another band. I’m sure with Hernando being so nervous he wanted his mares to move away to another area, so I’m thinking the mares must have been actively choosing to not move. From the pictures they didn’t seem to be uncomfortable with their close proximity to Jackson’s band. What did you think of the way they felt towards Hernando? Maybe Hernando’s limp will be an opportunity for Diamond to move in and take back Pheonix. I guess we will have to wait and see. Mandan is probably enjoying having Missoula with the band now too. Demure definitely looks to be pregnant. I’m glad! I also really really hope that Half Moon is pregnant as well.

    1. Hi Sarah, No I did not remember which back leg he was limping on, it happened too fast. The same thought crossed my mind about Heritage. I ALMOST got a photo together last August. They were both heading towards each other and then something happened that prevented them from doing it. I was so wanting that photo.

      I was unable to see the first interaction of Hernando and Jackson. By the time I arrived, Hernando had moved off a little bit away. I never got the feeling he was trying to challenge Jackson, more like he ended up there and was trying to make the best of it. When I saw them interact, Hernando was more than willing to leave. Their gestures were more bluffing rather than serious.

      As far as Warbonnet and Phoenix with Herando. I was not able to see most of it. But, I did see Hernando try to breed Phoenix, and she wanted nothing to do with it. I felt she was looking off looking for: 1. Teton or 2. Half Moon and Missoula or 3, Both. She did not seem content nor did she seem panicked to get away. I wish I could have had a better view of them. I never was able to observe Warbonnet with anyone other than Phoenix.

      1. I hope that maybe this summer Heritage and War Bonnet will get the chance to say hello and that you’ll be there with your camera to get that picture! From how you described Hernando I’d agree, that he probably didn’t want to challenge Jackson, but also knew he had to make some kind of gesture to stand his ground.

        I bet Pheonix was looking for Diamond/Teton. Half Moon, and Missoula. She’s smart, maybe she thought if she got close enough to Jackson’s band then Jackson might get rid of Hernando for her haha. And then she could do what she really wanted to do- find the missing members of her family. I really really hope we see Pheonix and Diamond end up back together. With Hernando being a new band stallion he may not be able to keep Pheonix if she is determined to go back to Diamond. He’s still trying to figure out how to be a band stallion, not a seasoned band stallion trying to add a new mare to his band. We’ll have to wait and see. Did Pheonix seem the be headed in the same direction to where Diamond was?

  6. Lovely pictures-thanks for sharing! Love hearing about all the horses, particularly Jackson’s band (I have to admit I am partial to them!) Firestorm’s mane looks a lot lighter in contrast with her dark winter coat, I still think she may be a sooty chestnut roan but I don’t suppose I’ll ever know haha 🙂

    Nye’s face looks so dark! Was that partially shadows, it looked nearly as dark as Jackson’s in that one picture! And Phoenix practically glows! Poor Teton, we are all rooting for him! Though as you point out Hernando is a worthy successor. All the wild horses drama is so intriguing 🙂

    It’s amazing how well they do in this weather, hopefully nicer weather is on it’s way for them!

  7. I have a question, now that I’m thinking about it 🙂 Would you happen to know if the mares foaled every year or if they had years off before the use of artificial years on/off of PZP use on the herd? 🙂

    1. Hi Clarissa, I am not sure about that. But I believe that some mares took a year off. That would be an interesting research project. I do have the lists back to 1993, I may pick a few out and go through and see what I can find out.

      1. I know some of the mares foaled pretty regularly every year, but there were also many who took a year off between pregnancies. I also look forward to anything you find in your records, Sandy 🙂

    1. Thanks Diane. It has been a pretty tough winter in the Pryors this year. I was glad that they (and us) had a break from the weather for a few days. But for the most part it has been a rough year for them. So yes, I would expect many of them to be thin. I was surprised at how well many others looked though.

      1. That is a hard question to answer. As with any mountainous place, “spring” does not always happen by the calendar. Hopefully by April there will be less snow, but there is always a chance for more snow storms. The top of the mountain where they go in in the summer months are often not free of snow until the end of June- the beginning of July.

  8. Very nice post….informative text and beautiful photos. That blue sky was amazing! Thanks for taking us all along on your adventure with you!

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