Pryor Foal # 3 Deceased


I have been wondering how to write this post.  It has been especially difficult for me to write the words that I don’t want to read.  How could something so perfect and strong have a turn in their short life that makes them lose everything in just a few short minutes.  A new life born to a 2-year-old inexperienced filly.  She was able to nurse and receive the life-giving colostrum, cleaned up of the from the birth that surrounded her.  Then somehow disrupted and displaced, torn from her mother and lost with a band she wasn’t meant to be with.

It was just 4 years ago that I had this exact story play out in front of me, and it seemed this was a re-run of a very bad movie that I did not want to see the ending of .  What are the odds that this could be happening again?  Read my post from 4 years ago NACER.


It started out like any beautiful morning on the mountain.  My guests from this trip were down watching the horses just below where the camp was set up.  I was cleaning up camp and enjoying a few minutes drinking my coffee and photographing Morning Star and his band.  I had just returned to my truck when I looked down the road and saw  Micheal Francis (a fellow long time Pryor photographer, he has been taking photos of the horses since the early 80’s, here is his website: FRANCIS) waving his arms at me.  I quickly got back in my truck and drove towards him.  He said “there’s a new foal down there”.  “Who is it?”, I said.  “I’m waiting for you to tell me that”, he said.  I looked down the cliff.  I immediately saw Doc’s band.  Firestorm had a foal by her.  This was surprising as I knew Firestorm was not pregnant this year.  I then thought perhaps it could be Jasmine’s as many of us are hoping and think that she is pregnant.  But she still looked round and it confused me even more.


Who did this precious new life belong to?  It seemed it was no one in this band, and I was worried how this had happened.  It seemed Firestorm wanted this little one (she had lost her last foal last fall).  Her mothering instincts were in full gear.  Whenever this little one tried to approach Doc, the band stallion, Firestorm would insert herself between them.  But when the filly tried to nurse her, she would kick it away.  We all watched from far above them, hoping that this scene would have a different ending to the one just  four short years ago.

I immediately called and reported the birth to  Jerrie at the BLM,  Jerrie is the new Wild Horse Specialist at the Billing, Mt office.  She replaced Jared Bybee.  I had just met and talked to her the day before.   I told her I would monitor the situation  and report to her what was going on.  I respected her decision to “let nature take its course”.

We watched the scene unfold below us.  Irial’s band was near-by and their two-year old filly Pele (Penny) seemed overly interested in the new foal.  Could it be hers?  I remembered seeing a similar young filly 4 years ago show the same interest in Nacer.  I was convinced she could be the mother of this little filly.

Pele (Penny) watching the new foal

After a couple of hours, it was clear that Firestorm had her fill of this new foal.   It was not hers, and she made it clear she wanted nothing more to do with it.  It was painful to watch her kick, bite and shake this innocent life.  It was then that I realized this story was not going to have a fairytale ending.


The Pryors are a wild, real life story.  Whether we want to admit it or not, life here is not a fairy tale; it is hard, real and not always happy.  We were witness to this just a few days ago.

The foal was clearly getting tired and weak.   She needed nourishment, and none of the mares in this band could give it to her.  I was sure that we might witness the end of her life before our eyes.  It was then that the wind began blow and the rain and sleet began to fall.  The horses all ran for cover in the trees quite a distance up hill.  Little Ryden kept up with them, following into the trees.  My heart sank as I was sure I wouldn’t be able to keep track of her now.

I left and came back a few hours later.  I could still make out her tiny body in the trees next to who she thought was her mom.  I checked one more time before the dark came, it would be the last time I saw her.

Abbie and I decided to name her after a woman who had just passed away this week.   Hope Ryden.  Hope was very instrumental in the passage of the 1971 Wild Horse and Burro Act.  Our wish is that this little one could have lived a full life on the range, in honor of this wonderful woman, but it was not to be.  You can read more about Hope Ryden by clicking on HOPE

We may never know for sure who the mother was.  But Abbie and I noticed a young coming 3-year-old filly looking especially thin last night.

Oceana, June 20, 2017. Photo by Abbie Branchflower
Oceana, June 29, 2017. Photo by Abbie Branchflower

Please, if you notice a new foal,  set aside your wish to capture the perfect photo and stay away.  The mare and foal need time to bond, this is a very critical time.  We never know what the impact of our actions could be on a new life.

Rest in Peace little Hope Ryden.  I know you will be entertained by the silly and loving Fiesta, given wise advise by Lakota and held close by Winemucca.    IMG_9368

Ryden (Hope) born June 28, 2017.  Daughter of Oceana and Grijala?

25 thoughts on “Pryor Foal # 3 Deceased

  • I’m sorry Sandy you had to witness this again. This reminds me of a story I read once when a young mare stayed close to her dam and sire and her mother chased her new foal away. That might not be the case for this young life but its awful to think of Ryden suffering.

  • Oh no, I’m so sorry you had to see this happen once more, and I cannot even imagine how distressing it must have been to watch. Poor little Ryden.

  • Oh Dear Lord and Sandy I am sitting here in tears. We know that nature needs to take care of nature but this just broke my heart. No other words

  • Thank you for writing such a thoughtful post about a young life that was lost too soon. It was hard to read about but it must have been a hundred times harder for you actually being there and seeing it playing out. I was really hoping this wouldn’t end the same way as Nacer and somehow this little one would be reunited with her mother but sadly it wasn’t to be. It’s always sad when they die so young but it’s a part of nature we have to accept if we choose to follow the lives of wild animals.

    I think a lot of people get a bit carried away with all these romantic ideas of the horses living “wild and free” but the reality is being a wild animal isn’t that great a lot of the time and as hard as it is to read about, I think it’s important for people to see both sides of the coin.

    RIP little Ryden. You touched a lot of lives in the short time you were in the world.

  • What a unique little beauty she was. Her special heritage of being a wild mustang is now history so we can never forget……(correction on story, birth was “June” 28 2017)

  • Heart wrenching post, Sandy. Beautifully & compassionately stated and photographed – yes, people need to see the cruel photos too. It is life in the wild, it is also life with animals. Sometimes, it just isn’t pretty. Phoebe (above) made a better statement than I could about the dangers of “romanticizing”. Thank You for this post. I was hoping against hope for a better outcome. But you and Abbie gave the little foal “Hope (Ryden)”, and your last statement says it all.

  • Such a sad situation and I’m sorry you had to be the one to watch it all play out again. It’s not always easy loving these horses. I am glad though that she did find herself in the company of other horses who led her to shelter and she did not end up alone on that cold and rainy night. Likely passing away as she laid down to sleep that night was probably the best we could have hoped for her at that point.
    I’m not sure if you were able to get a good look or not but if Pele/Penny or Oceana is her mom they should be really bagged up with a very full udder. Possibly, but not necessarily,  even dripping milk with it being in such excess and no foal to nurse.

    • Thanks Sarah. We have been looking, but sometimes that is hard to see on a young maiden mare, especially through binoculars. Are best guess is that it is Oceana. She has been acting a bit off too.

  • Although I felt this was to be the outcome, it sure doesn’t make it any easier to read it or witness it. Mother Nature is a cruel mistress but it is because of her “rules of survival” that the strong survive. I feel for this baby’s confusion, hurt, pain and loss. Thank you Sandy for sharing and bringing some of the harsh realities home of the life of a wild horse.

  • Ok thank you sandy for your answer I would like to know who is your favorite horse in pryors and if you could make “history” coronado and blue sioux as you have done for winnemuca thank you for your answers and thank you for your articles well explain Even if I would always know more about the pryors and sorry for my english i am french

  • Thank you Sandy. I know how much yogurt heart hurts witnessing this scene play out again. I especially want to thank you for reminding people no matter how exciting it is to find/see a new foal, respect their new life and stay far away! Horses react to pressure of presence and your presence to get that first beautiful photo adds pressure for horse(s) to move. I am not saying what happened in this instance, but asking people to simply be mindful. It truly is a matter of life and death for that new foal . Again, thank you Sandy and Abbie too.

  • Very sad news, we don’t even know for sure who were this foal’s parents. With only one living foal this year and the remaing pregnants mares only a handful, i am worried about their survival this winter. If the foals will be born this late will they be strong enough to survive the cold?
    I am also a bit shocked from Firestorm’s behaviour since she raised so many foals and always thought of her as caring, perhaps if she wasn’t drugged and had a new foal herself she wouldn’t feel the need to kidnapp the baby. But i understand its in Horse’s nature, if we want them to remain wild then we have to prepare for some wild and cruel behaviour like in any wild animal.
    I was also wondering about the ratio between mares and bachelors or stallions, are they too many stallions up there and there for harassing the bands more? And with birth control some band stallions don’t even get to pass their genes and maybe all this also causes issues like this one.

    On the bright side with fewer horses being born , there will be no reason for round ups and similar tacticts

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