Obsidian and Moenkopi, July 21, 2014
Obsidian and Moenkopi, July 21, 2014

Here I am, almost to the day of Lakota’s death two years ago.  Has it really been two years?  It is hard to believe in some ways, but in others, it seems like it was much longer.

Since that day in July 2012 (LAKOTA) I have seen many births and deaths on the range.  I have learned to take them all in stride.  Not trying to let them all affect me, trying to be strong.  But it seems that each year that passes, there is one little soul that has touch my heart.  Last year it was little Nacer (NACER), this year it was a little soul that lived for just one short week.  I feel fortunate that I was able to see him on almost each of those days.

I had a wonderful group of woman for my tour in mid July this year.  It seems this year, I have had wonderful guests for each trip and miss them when we go our separate ways, bonded by the spirit of the Pryors.

It was our last afternoon and we were returning to the truck after an afternoon hike which we spent with several horses.  My guest from Iceland told me she had spotted a horse, so I looked through the binoculars and discovered a beautiful foal with the two-year old filly Moenkopi.  With the suggestion of my Iceland guest, we all decided his name should be Obsidian. (Obsidian)

Moenkopi and Obsidian, July 13th, 2014
Moenkopi and Obsidian, July 13th, 2014

This was to be Lakota’s first great-grand child.  I knew the odds of a two-year old raising a foal was slim.  But I have seen Maia (Galaxy band) doing an incredible job, and so I was hopeful.  Moenkopi looked healthy and at a good weight, which gave me even more hope.  Obsidian seemed liked a determined little guy, even though his size was small, there was a strong will that pushed him on, even in the minutes before he could no longer stand.

It seemed each day, I was blessed with the gift of seeing Capuccino and his band, and yesterday was no exception. I had spotted some horses towards Clouds island yesterday morning and my guests (from France) and I along with my good friend Lanie, decided to hike to see them.  It was a beautiful cool morning and we were all anxious to see the horses in this different setting.

Cappuccino and his band were the first that we came to.  This band does not always show itself.  They prefer to be left alone or give themselves on their terms.  I saw the “stink eye” look from Blanca, and knew that I had better move along, and so we did.

I only wish that all people who visited the range would treat the horses with respect, learn to read their body language, give them their space.  But this post is not about that, so I will not tell you more about what I witnessed on this day, not now anyway, this is not the time.

We continued to climb up a small hill and perched ourselves well above the several bands that showed themselves that morning.  Gringo, Duke, Galaxy, Blue Moon, Bolder, Cloud, Mescalero, Garcia, Doc and Garay.  All relaxing, playing, sparring and sleeping in the warm morning sun.

Some time passed (I am not sure how much, it seems that time stands still when I am watching them).  I looked over and saw Cappucinno and his band slowly making their way in front of us.


Moenkopi and her increasingly fragile colt Obsidian were the last to show themselves.  I was concerned when I had seen Obsidian the day before.  I had been gone from the mountain for one day and was suprised at how fragile he was looking.  He looked weak, very thin, but still had that determination about him that gave me hope he would somehow beat the odds that were against him.

Obsidian and Moenkopi, July 21, 2014
Obsidian and Moenkopi, July 21, 2014

Moenkopi loved this young colt.  Her every movement showed me that, and little Obsidian felt the same about his young mother.  I was touched to see them share many tender moments right in front of me yesterday morning.

Wild in the Pryors

Wild in the Pryors

Obsidian July 21, 2014
Obsidian July 21, 2014

I felt very lucky to witness this and had no idea that I would see this little one take his last breath in just a few minutes.  His determination was so obvious.  Moenkopi had milk, we saw it drip as this tiny little soul tried with all his might to nurse.  But he was never able to nurse for very long, he was too weak, for whatever reason.

Blanca joined these two during their last moments together.  Somehow they seemed to know, but he still tried very hard to live.

Blanca, Obsidian and Moenkopi, July 22, 2014.  Just minutes before he died.
Blanca, Obsidian and Moenkopi, July 22, 2014. Just minutes before he died.

Wild in the Pryors

And then, little Obsidian could no longer hold on.  We watched his little body drop to the ground.  At that moment, Moenkopi turned and touched her little son. And then she cried out.  With that cry came a reaction from the other bands that none of us expected.  All the horses turned and cried with her, with Doc’s band ( which included Moenkopi’s mother Galena) rushing towards them.  Cappuccino placed his strong body between Obsidian and Doc.  Letting him know he should not take another step.

Wild in the Pryors

As we watched this scene unfold before us, we still held out hope that little Obsidian would get up.  But he did not and we could see he was no longer breathing.  Sharing this moment, bonded us all together in a way that is hard to explain.  We will all be life long friends, a gift in a tragic moment.

The bands slowly started to move on, and we did as well.  We checked from a distance (through binoculars) on Moenkopi several times in the remainder of the day and into the evening.  Moenkopi would not leave her colt, she stood there for hours and hours, until it was too dark for me to see if she was still there.

Wild in the Pryors

This morning, she was not standing over his little body.  She and her band had moved on.

Life in the Pryors goes on, but it is not always easy.  Rest in Peace little Obsidian, I know you have caught up to Lakota by now.  He will help guide you.  Perhaps you will come back again, given another chance, and turn out to be the strong stallion I know you can be.



Logo designed by Amber Bushnell.  Wild in the Pryors and this logo is copyrighted.
Logo designed by Amber Bushnell. Wild in the Pryors and this logo is copyrighted.

47 thoughts on “Obsidian

  1. I am so sorry. You have been witness to two heart-breaking little lives this summer and last year. I know this one especially deepened your sorry as Lakota’s blood ran through Obsidian’s little body. My heart aches for you. Blessed that you were witness to the few days of his life and can share his brave struggle and how well he was cared for, so he can live on and be loved in our memory.

  2. What a heart wrenching story! Your photos beautifully detail and respectively illustrate the environment and the nurturing of a mother with her soon to be loss. The natural world isn’t always fair.

    You are very stoic and compassionate at what you do Sandy. With the utmost respect…

    Warm regards and love,



  3. So so sad and tragic. You can see from the pictures how much Moenkopi loved him. You can see the love in her eyes. And you can see he loved her too. They’re touching in almost every picture I’ve seen of them. I wonder if during the one day he somehow sustained an internal injury that left no outward signs. He was a beautiful boy. It must have been heart breaking to witness. I would have cried with Moenkopi as the other horses did. The sound of a mother crying for her son must have been the most heartwrenching sound. I know I would have cried through the day everytime I saw her still standing with him. I hope she gets another chance at motherhood one day. She hasnt had an easy life. Seperated from her mother and band at about 8 months of age, foaling as a two year old, and then losing her precious colt so soon and suddenly. At least he is with Lakota now and dancing through the meadows with a stronger body. I hope Moenkopi’s heart will heal.

  4. An incredibly moving story Sandy. You’re a gifted writer and photographer. Thank you so much for sharing your talents and passion. –Frank

    Frank Kline


  5. Oh Sandy, have no words, so sad. Little Obsidian will surely find his place in my Rainbowbridge-Project one day… I am with you, even only in thoughts.

  6. Poor little Obsidian…He should have had a long and beautiful life. I am so sad to hear that he didn´t make it. He looked healthy and fine when we saw him.
    Moenkopi was such a good and attentive mother and with Bianca´s help I was so sure this little guy would make it. But such is life in the wild…you never know.

  7. We had to put down our little Milou (family dog) on Monday so my eyes are involuntarily welling up as I read this since I’m still reeling from his death. His death was very similar to Obsidian’s in the fact that he could no longer get up and was too weak to walk on his own. But he got to live 15 long years whereas Obsidian only got to enjoy a few days. It’s sad when these things happen, whether it’s a family dog or a wild horse or any other animal that you are observing in its natural habitat. But I’m glad you share these moments with us because like humans, animals have their good moments and their bad moments.

  8. Bless you, Sandy, for capturing and sharing the poignant moment of Obsidian’s passing. He lived, he was given a name, and he will be remembered. Sending you loving thoughts and thanks.

  9. I have tears streaming down my face after reading this how very sad but so sweet at the same time. I love how the other horses gathered around to support the Moenkopi. I can only imagine the heartache you must have experienced watching from a distance feeling so helpless. Thanks for sharing this beautiful story!

  10. So very sad, Sandy, and we suffer and grieve with you and Obsidian’s family. I echo Diane’s sentiments. And, like you said, he did his best to live. Now he has joined the legions of spirit horses who bring nobility and beauty to the land at the end of the rainbow bridge. I feel sure Moenkopi will accept the fate that was dealt and go on as she must. She did her best as well. How can anyone question the essence of horses after reading your account of this sad occasion?

  11. Moenkopi’s devotion and love for her foal brought tears to my eyes as I read about his last moments with his mother and great-grandmother; how the other horses responded to her cry of anguish. I think this should show that animals have feelings and are capable of love and emotions and communicating them.
    When I first learned he had not survived a few days ago I feared he was killed in a battle by a stallion or something of the sort. If anything, we can be thankful that even though this death is hard to witness and to take, he died in peace, and not in a violent tragedy. And he was loved and well cared for by his family.

  12. I was so sad to hear that Obsidian didn’t make it and your account of his death was so heartbreaking; I can’t imagine being there to witness it. Thank you for sharing with us though-as others have said, I found the bond between Moenkopi and Obsidian extremely touching, as well as the actions of the other horses around them. They really are amazing animals. Poor Moenkopi, I hope she has a chance to be a mother again. Also, like Clarissa said above, while it is tragic that Obsidian wasn’t physically strong enough to make it, at least his death wasn’t a violent one. RIP little Obsidian. 😦

    1. I meant to say that you caught such beautiful pictures of the bond between mare and foal. It is very clear that Obsidian was so loved in his short life.

  13. Thank you Sandy for your post. Your words are mine and we will never forget this drama that we witness together.
    Obsidian was looking so weak… And when we saw him fall down, we all expected he would stand up again…
    I know you ponder every words of your blog but I have to say here that more than Obsidian’s death, what choked me that day was the behavior of some “paparazzi”. I know that some of them are reading this and they will recognize themselves.
    Like for all the mammals, it’s tough for a mother to loose a baby. Moenkopi spent most of the afternoon and probably most of the night close to Obsidian’s dead body. Well, I should say “try” to do it.
    A few ladies, without any consideration for the Moenkopi, didn’t respect the elementals rules that we should all follow while close to the wild horses. I’ve seen them trying to get close to the dead colt and they violated many BLM’s rules :
    “do not approach closer than 100 feet to any wild horses” was the first and most obvious violated rule.
    “do not place yourself between members of a horse family group” : Moenkopi was left alone by her band who was grazing a few yards away. But the paparazzi ladies were right in the middle of the path of Moenkopi back to Cappuccino’s band. Hopefully, the other stallions didn’t wanted her and they sent Moenkopi back to her band. At least, they, the stallions, were feeling that the mare was mourning her baby.
    “Do not engage in activity that interrupts wild horses’ current behavior” was the third rule violated. Like I said, Moenkopi was mourning her baby. It was obvious. I still can’t understand why those ladies don’t have the common sens to respect this.
    Obsidian’s death was dramatic. But the paparazzi ladies’ behavior was shameful.

    1. Thank you Cedric! I am so sorry that you and your family had to witness not only Obsidian’s death, but to also witness the incredibly stupid actions of some individuals before, during and after his death. Hopefully the rest of our time made up for that. Hugs to you and your beautiful family, looking forward to seeing you again!

    2. I don’t know if your were referring to me when you mentioned the behavior of the paparazzi ladies. I resent this title. I am very passionate about photographing the mustangs of the Pryors & have been following them for years. I have always respected & given them their necessary space & privacy. They have become so gentle & desensitized to humans that before you know it, they are almost on top of you. I have always moved the proper distance away. I certainly understand & comply with the rules of the mountain, so please don’t put us all in the same catagory.

      1. Dixie, I know you and I consider us friends. However, after spending several hours with all the horses that morning, myself, my guests and my friends decided to completely leave that part of the mountain (once we realized Obsidian had died)and leave Moenkopi and the rest of the horses in peace to carry on how they needed to carry on without any human interference.

        Each of us have to make our own choices and have to live with them. That is what we decided to choose, instead, we hiked to a Vision Quest, leaving them in peace, trying to find our own peace. There were other horses here and there for us to watch.

        We were all ashamed and sadden when we saw 4 people over in that area, sometimes within 50 feet or less from Moenkopi and her dead foal.

        Cedric and his family came all the way from France to see the horses, and never once considered that they were giving up time with the horses. Their first thought and mine were to just leave them alone until Moenkopi completly left the area (which was the following morning).

        I was not going to make this public knowledge, but since these comments have been made, I decided to do so.

  14. Your account were honest, heartbreaking and very, very touching. Thank you for your accounts and documentation of these beautiful creatures. You are careful, truthful and respectful in your capturing such moments in their lives…thank you for that! I hope to return one day. Run free, sweet Obsidian!

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