My friend Liz and I left Potomac, Montana at 6 am Friday morning. It was a beautiful day and by 2:00 pm, we were heading up Burnt Timber Road.
This would be my UTV, Ophelia’s second trip up the mountain. My latest routine when I start up the mountain is to get far enough up to be able to scan the vast range below me, trying to locate where there may be horses.
As I parked in my favorite place to do this, I looked up the hill and saw a horse. Quickly getting my binoculars, I realized it was Chino and took a quick couple photos of him before he headed over the ridge.
It was good to see him. I had not seen him since last summer and wondered if he had made it through this tough winter. Chino was born in 1993 and will be 21 years old this year. I felt lucky to spot him. I hoped I would see him up close later, and my wish would come true a few days later.
The horses can be hard to spot this time of year. I have found that if I go with no expectations, I feel lucky with each and every horse I see. And contrary to what some people think, I do not go “hunting” for new foals. Each and every one that I have been blessed to discover have just appeared before me and I feel honored and blessed if I am able to spot one. But my trips to the Pryors are much deeper than that. I go to see any and all horses, not just some, not just new foals. Every minute I spend on the mountain is a gift to me and I come home with a renewed soul.
Scanning down towards the water guzzlers, I spotted several horses below. We decided to head back down the road and hike back to that area.
I really enjoy hiking in this area. There a several horse paths to follow and we quickly came upon Mescalero’s band. Over the last couple months, Mescalero has acquired a few more band members. Half Moon and Missoula from Teton’s band and Broken Bow from Doc’s band. They all looked pretty good. Some thinner than others, but hopefully it won’t be long before they are able to put some weight back on.
From there we decided to hike over to the mineral lick. As I turned the first corner, I saw Doc and Demure. Demure’s colt, Mandan (born in May 2012) was not with them. I tried not to worry. Perhaps Doc had kicked him out and he was on his own.
Demure looked very pregnant. I remembered that Shawn had discovered Demure’s filly Naive (who died) at the end of May last year. Although Demure looked about to foal, I think she may have another week or so. I hope this foal is healthy and survives. Mandan is Demure’s only living offspring on the range. I saw the mark of the PZP dart on her right hip, and knew this year would be the last year that she would be able to foal.
They were making their way to the water guzzler and we continued down the path to the mineral lick.
It was then that I looked up and saw Cloud’s band. They seemed to be moving quickly. It wasn’t long before I discovered why. Santa Fe was now dogging this band. Cloud looked thinner than I have ever seen him look. I wondered how long Santa Fe had been dogging this band.
Cloud hung back to watch Santa Fe, while the rest of his band seemed unaffected and raced to the mineral lick.
We hiked closer to the mineral lick and saw some more horses already there. It was Gringo’s band along with Tecumseh, the former band stallion of this band. Tecumseh lost this band to Gringo in June 2012. He has not given up since that day, constantly following them. He has the battle scars to prove his determination. But today, they seemed to have worked out a new deal. Things were calm and Tecumseh and Galadrial stood close to each other, with this action not causing Gringo to show any sign of anger. I hoped for Tecumseh’s sake that they had reached a more peaceful deal. After almost 2 years, he needed a break. Tecumseh’s weight looked better than when I had last seen him, so I hoped that I was right.
It did not take long for Cloud’s band to realize that someone was where they wanted to be. They quickly came to a stop, trying to decide what to do.
Cloud had chased Santa Fe and he then came down and told his band to keep moving. They were out of sight in just a few seconds.
We stayed and watched Gringo’s band until they decided to leave. There was one member of this band that was missing. Jacinta. I wondered where she was and if she was okay. Was she off having a foal?
We waited a few minutes and then followed the same path. It would take us back towards the water guzzler where we would spot Cloud and Santa Fe again.
We decided to hike back to Ophelia and head back up the road to see who else we might spot. We were quickly rewarded, spotting Cappuccino and his band by the next water guzzler. Another member of this band was missing. McKeahnie. Had Cappuccino kicked him out too?
This band was uneasy with us there, and so we decided to leave them alone and continue back up the road.
Nearing the place where we had spent hours with Jackson and his band in February, we spotted Galaxy and his band. Ireland and Galaxy were enjoying some snow to quench their thrist. Again, except for Ireland and Galaxy, the rest of the band was very jumpy. I spotted the mark of the PZP dart on Maia. Her first year to be treated with the birth control drug. It looked like she was having a mild reaction to it. I was not able to get close enough to take a good photo of it, but I would have the opportunity to do it another day.
I am going to make a couple of guesses here. I believe Maia may be pregnant and I also believe that Hera is not.
Galaxy seemed to become irritated with our presence. It was getting late now, so we decided to turn around and head back down the mountain for the night. By the time we reached the truck at the bottom of Burnt Timber, it was almost 7:30. I love these long days.
We were looking forward to the next day when our friend Anh would be joining us. It had been a great first afternoon of our trip. The weather did not look too promising for the next few days, but I have learned to take each day as it comes, many times the weather changes. No need to worry about that now.