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.
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.
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.