This year will be the 4th year of “Lakota’s Gift”. For the past 4 seasons, I have awarded a four day camping trip to an inspiring Pryor Mountain Wild Horse follower in honor of my favorite horse, Lakota. This person needs to be passionate about this special herd of horses and have some basic knowledge about them.
To be considered for this award, please submit an essay telling why you should be awarded this gift. Please include some information about yourself, what you know about the horses and what you hope to give back to the horses by being selected for this award. All essays must be submitted by February 1, 2017.
All trips start and end in Cody, Wyoming.
Past recipients of this award have been: Jonathan Stander, Brianna Harvey, Abbie Branchflower and Lexi.
You can submit your essay to this email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Below is a slideshow of some of the many photos that I have taken of Lakota. Please give it sometime to upload before trying to view.
This will be my second year giving camping tours. I no longer give day trips, but the PMWMC is, so contact them if you would like to go on a day trip.
This year I decided to give back. I feel so fortunate to be able to share my passion with others. My goal this year, was to give a trip to a young person who could carry on their passion and share it with others their age. This year, I awarded those trips to two people. Jonathan S. and Brianna H. Brianna just recently graduated from High School and Jonathan is in High School. I hope by doing this, these two will carry on the torch (so to speak) and encourage others their age to become aware of not only the Pryor Horses, but all the other wild horses in the US.
I am calling this award, “Lakota’s gift” and I think he would approve. It is hard to believe that it has been two years since his death.
If you are interested in being the recipient of next summers gift, contact me on why and how your feel this way. Here is the deal: you must pay for your own transportation to Lovell, Wyoming. After that, your mountain top trip will be a gift. It may be a 3 or 4 day trip and includes camping gear if needed and all your food and mountain top transport with me. (value: $800- $1,100 ). I of course can provide references if needed. You can email me at: email@example.com.
The start of my camping season in the Pryors is just around the corner. Amber and I are planning a trip to the top of the mountain in June. I will be there a few times before that, but that is when the camping season starts for me.
This will be my forth summer camping up there. The first year (2010) I spent 10 days there, 2011, I spent 14 days there, 2012, I spent 33 days there. This year I will be in the Pryors for over 50 days. I sense a trend here. I wonder what next year will bring.
With that in mind, I started to think about Lakota, and how much a part of those trips he had been. I miss him, there is no denying it and I hope I don’t bore you with this post. But I thought that perhaps going through all the photos of my days in the Pryors would help me miss him less. There was some comfort in it, but it actually made me miss him more. All those “less than perfect” shots that I passed by of him and his band the first time around, suddenly looked perfect to me. I didn’t care about the shadows, focus, or composition, I just became grateful for every photo I had of him. I miss you my friend.
I decided to share these never before seen, less than perfect shots of Lakota, I hope you are touched by them as much as I have been. A few of them are repeats, but not many.
I first knew who Lakota was in October of 2010. You can read my post, LAKOTA to learn more about his history and this meeting.
I was just learning all of the horses then, it was confusing and I doubted I would ever be able to learn and recognize all of the stallions, let alone all of the mares and new foals. But now, on my forth year to the Pryors, I think I know them all very well. With the amount of time I have spent with the horses and with the amount of time I spend studying them at home when I am not there, I would say maybe I have a bachelors degree in the Pryor Mountain Wild Horses. Not a masters degree like some I know, but a very solid bachelors. That was a fun thought to think about. I am not mentioning this to brag, but I have studied in college (many years ago) and I realize that I have probably put in more dedicated time studying the Pryor Horses than I ever did studying in college.
So with my knowledge of today, and my goal of trying not to miss him so much, I decided to spend some time watching video and looking through photos to see when exactly the first time I saw Lakota was.
I found out that the first time I saw Lakota was in August of 2010. He was with his band, by Kreuger Pond. I even have video of him that day. (you can see this footage in the video I have posted at the end of this post. His 2010 band is at about 2:30 into the video. There is also many footage of him in other years throughout this video). His band then consisted of Quelle Colour (pregnant with Kohl), Blanca with her foal Kalispell, Half Moon with her foal, Kiowa and Heritage with her foal Kootenai. I had no way of knowing then, that in two years, I would be able to look out my window of my house everyday and see two of these foals, now almost 3 years old. (Kiowa and Kootenai)
I would next see Lakota and his band in October 2010.
I would not see Lakota again, until July 2011. Today, I found many photos that I had never published from that trip. That is when Grijala was fighting Lakota for his band. We woke up on our first day with this band surrounding us. They seemed comfortable with us at our campsite, and stayed several hours.
It was then that I fell in love with Lakota. I had admired him before now, but this was the day I fell in love with him. I spent enough time with him that morning, to feel his strength, pain, and determination. He was the perfect stallion to me, and I begin to find myself being sucked into the world with him. Even after I left the mountain, I worried about him and what was happening. I learned that Grijala would take the band from him and he would be alone. My heart broke with his.
While we were there that day in July 2011, we watched this scene unfold before our eyes. The still moments, the very thought-out moves and the interaction among the band was even more apparent to me today as I relived that morning.
I returned to the mountain the following month (August) with my daughter Amber. We only got one very brief view of Lakota. It was just before dark. He was heading to Kreuger Pond, and he was alone.
In September I would again go to the mountain, but I would not see him that trip. Then in October I was there for just a day. You know the story if you have read my post Lakota. I would see him just as I was about to leave the mountain.
My heart broke even more that day as I watched him. There was a look in his eyes that made me sad. His will to live seemed to leaving him. I had heard stories of stallions that just give up after they loose their bands, I hoped he would not be one of them. I worried about him all winter.
In March of 2012 I headed to the Pryors. It was my birthday. I was hoping to see Lakota, but I knew that the chances would be very slim. The horses are so spread out this time of year, and travel is very limited.
I saw him. It was just a chance finding really. You can read about that day by clicking THE GIFT.
Lakota gave me one of the best birthday presents I have ever had. Showing himself to me. He looked great too. The winter had been kind to him and he had put on a lot of weight since I had seen him last.
I would not see him in April when I returned, but in May 2012, he gave me another very special gift. You can read about that encounter, by clicking on Finding Lakota.
It was one of the most incredible moments of my life and most definitely the most incredible moments I have ever had with a wild horse. I will always remember it. Every time I head up Burnt Timber road, I point out this spot to whom ever is with me. I don’t care if they don’t care to hear it. I say it out loud every time. I will never forget that day.
I was so happy and excited for Lakota. He looked so good and that sparkle was back in his eye. I heard from Shawn a few weeks later that he was dogging Grijala, trying to get his band back. I thought “Good for you Lakota”. Even though he was 20, I had every confidence that he would prevail and win his band back, or at least Quelle Colour, his faithful and devoted long time mare.
But it was not to be.
I returned the middle of June, only being away for 3 weeks. I received a text from Matt on the first evening I was there. “Lakota is injured”, the text read. I was lucky to find a place where I had fairly good cell service and called Matt. He told me Lakota was down Burnt Timber Road a ways. The next day, my friend Linda and I headed down in search of him. We passed Grijala and his band way down in a valley below us. Continuing down the road, not much further, was Lakota, looking down towards his former band.
I knew right away by looking at the pain in his eyes that it was not good. Linda and I tried to have hope and we managed to have some. But I think I knew deep down that my first thought was the right one. Lakota would never win his beautiful chestnut mare back. He would be lucky to survive this injury. You can read more about that day by clicking on Healing Thoughts For Lakota. I did not know that these would be the last photos I would have of him alive.
I kept in contact with other people that were on the mountain after I left. (thank you Ginger and Jared). Some saw him, and I held out hope he would make it through this injury.
I returned 3 weeks later and spent most of my time searching for him. I never found him. It was heartbreaking. You can read about that trip by clicking on Searching For Lakota.
Two weeks later, my phone rang. It was Jared and he said the words I did not want to hear. “I euthanized Lakota last night.” It was July 24, 2012. I weeped for days and I still do, even I as write this post. Click on Remembering Lakota.
I made several trips to the mountain last summer, after Lakota’s death. Lori, Shawn and I held a memorial a week after Lakota died. And you know what? He died where he knew I could always find and see him. Not far from my campsite. I believe it was his last gift to me. It was apparent he had been there for some time. There was a perfect circle (about 20 feet) of eaten grass around his body. He could not move any longer and so he stayed and ate what he could.
One of the first things I will do on my first trip up the mountain this year, will be to visit Lakota. By now, I am sure I will have to pick up his bones and carefully stack what is left of him by the memorial that I made last July.
I hope as time passes, my pain will subside. I just hope the ache in my heart and in the pit of my stomach, that I am feeling as I write this, will pass some. Not all though.
I do have some comfort when I look out the window at his young son, Kootenai. As each day passes, he looks more and more like his father. I know that a part of Lakota lives on through him and his daughter Kiowa.
I am also sure that Lakota’s spirit is living on, on top of the mountain. I feel it every time I am there. I am sure he will be running through the lupine again this year, just like I saw him in July of 2011. My Spirit Horse.
I thought I would do a short post this morning and share some photos with you of Kootenai and Kiowa in their new home.
They rode home in the trailer really well. I separated them for the ride, just to be on the safe side. But they seem to be so close already, I think it would have been fine if they had ridden together.
Kiowa was in the back and so when we opened the door for her to come out, she just stood there. She is a lot more timid than Kootenai. We let her stand there for a while, but after about 5 minutes I gently reached in and touched her back. She still did not move, so I just started petting her back. After about another 30 seconds she left the trailer. We opened the divider and Kootenai hurried to get out after her. Their legs were a bit wobbly from the ride, but they quickly recovered and started eating and drinking.
I feel really lucky that I was able to get both of Lakota’s offspring. Kootenai is the son of Lakota and Hertiage and Kiowa is the daughter of Lakota and Half Moon (Missoula’s mom). I never really noticed how much Kootenai is starting to look like Lakota, but I can defiantly see it now that he is home with me. He is only 2 and I am sure as he matures it will be even more apparent. What a gift to have part of Lakota here with me.
Kootenai has already touched my hand with his nose several times and even let me touch his forehead and pick up his bangs. This of course was all on his terms. I put their hay on the ground and then sat there just outside their fence with my hand resting on the fence for them to smell. Kiowa is pretty shy, but she watches her brother and came within about 4 inches to sniff it late yesterday afternoon.
I think that with all the days I spend on the range camping (it will be well over 30 days this year) and seeing these beautiful horses that they must recognize me. I hope that gives them some extra comfort, being with someone they know.
I am really glad that they have each other. I think it makes it easier on them. They started playing a little late yesterday evening and now as I look out the window at them they are taking a nap in the morning sun together. Kootenai is laying down and Kiowa is standing beside him.
I first saw these two in August of 2010. At the time I did not know the horses very well, so I did not realize it was Lakota and his band that I saw until I looked through the photos a few weeks ago.
The next time I saw them was in October of 2010.
I feel really lucky to have been able to watch these two grow on the range. I wish they could have stayed to live out their lives free like both their father Lakota ( 1992-July 2012) and mothers Half Moon and Heritage, but it was not to be.
But if they cannot be free, I am happy and blessed that they can be with me. I will be sure to post updates on them often.
I thought I would give you a brief mountain update. Much more to come in the next several days, but here is just a taste.
Lori and I had a fantastic trip up the mountain. We laughed, we cried. It was a very emotional trip on many levels.
We had a memorial for Lakota. Lori,Shawn and I stacked several rocks into a small pile near his body. Lori and I added a few personal small things to it. A couple of feathers, a crystal. I have some of his tail hair to keep. It still does not seem real to me.
Lakota continues to touch my soul. He chose his final resting place not far from where I camp (about 1/4 mile away). Thousands and thousands of acres, and he is in clear view from my campsite. That is truly amazing to me and another gift that he was able to give me. That may sound strange to some, but being able to look out across the meadow and see him several times a day, gave me peace. To know that I will see him every time I go, gave me peace.
I went to visit him and added a rock each day I was there.
The removal was also going on. It was hard and painful to watch, and we did not spend much time there. But I will say that what I did see was that Jared Bybee and his assistant Ryan were caring, compassionate and respectful to the horses and they handled them with care. It will be over soon and life can go back to the normal peace of the mountain. As we left the mountain this afternoon, they had July and her colt in the pen.
Below are a small collection of photos for you. I promise I will give you many more in the days to follow.
This was a post I was really hoping that I would not have to write, at least not for a very long time. But, I think I knew this deep down when I was there 3 weeks ago and could not find Lakota. I really hated leaving the mountain that day without seeing him one last time. But, I am sure maybe Lakota wanted it that way.
I just received a call this morning from Jared Bybee. He told me he had to euthanize Lakota last night. He said he was suffering badly, and that his leg was broken. I was afraid Lakota was suffering. He had endured this injury since the middle of June. Click on Lakota to read about that and from that post you can read all my posts that I wrote about him and if you did not know this, Lakota was my favorite horse.
Lakota was born on the Pryor Mountain range in 1992 to the mare Tonopah (who still lives on the mountain) and the stallion Blacky. Lakota died July 23, 2012 at the age of 20. He was born wild and died wild. He leaves a great legacy on the mountain.
The gift he gave me in May was something that I will always remember. Thank you Lakota. I will remember you always and I will remember how strong and great you were.
“Not life, but good life, is to be chiefly valued. ” ― Socrates And Lakota had a good life.
Rest in Peace my dear friend.
Thank you Jared for calling me and not letting Lakota suffer any more.
I have been getting some requests for a logo for Wild in the Pryors. I had not given it much thought, but because of my requests I decided to pursue it.
I consulted the best artist in Missoula, Montana to do the job. I would settle for nothing less than her.
Amber Bushnell finished her MFA in Media Arts (Integrated Digital Media option) at the University of Montana in May 2011. Currently, along with being an online adjunct instructor for the University of Montana’s Media Arts Department, an artist, and freelance designer, she works as the Lead Designer / Creative Director for 2 of YouTube’s New Original Channels: SciShow & CrashCourse Biology. Her focuses and interests are in illustration, color, installations, experience design, live visual performance (VJing), animation, public art, interactive design, and collaboration. Most of her work combines digital and analog art methods with close attention to color, and she weaves historic and cultural details within her designs. Throughout her on going projects she strives to give viewers an experience, and hope to positively influence them with delight in discovery and curiosity.She has presented her work in Brooklyn, NY at the Pandemic Gallery, twice at Digital Graffiti Festival in Alys Beach, Florida (2010 & 2011), and a number of times in Missoula, MT including the Missoula Art Museum, Wilma Theatre, The Historic Missoula Mercantile (Macy’s Building), International Wild Life Film Festival, Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, and First Night Missoula.
I spent an entire day working with Amber. I wanted my logo to be of Lakota. Below is the photo I gave Amber to work from.
I wanted more mane showing in the logo. Since Lakota’s mane falls to the left, we decided to flip the design so that the mane could be on the correct side.
Here is the finished product. We may make some slight adjustments. For printing, it will be completely in black and white.
The best part about working with Amber is that she is my daughter! And her payment will be that I will be taking her to the Pryors in August for a mother daughter trip! Because not only is Amber a talented artist, but she also has a deep passion for the Pryor Horses, just like her mom!
To read more about Amber and to see what other work she has done, you can click on Amber, or go to the right of this post and click on Amber Studio!
I am just going to say it right away. I did not find Lakota.
It is easier for me to be strong when I am on the mountain. I try to tell myself up there that these are wild horses. Things happen. Sometimes I can’t quite remember that and burst into tears up there, but most of the time I am strong.
I was this time. Then I got in the truck and started heading down the mountain towards home. I was still okay. Then I plugged in my ipod and it started playing. You know what I mean, some song that you downloaded started playing. One of those “tug at your heart” kind of songs. That is what happened yesterday morning as I headed down the mountain towards Bridger. I started to cry, hard. Luckily, I knew the road well and I could only drive about 10 miles an hour, so no one was in any danger. Why was it that the ipod would not quit playing those songs? The tears would not stop and by the time I got to Bridger my eyes looked like I had been in a fight. We stopped to have breakfast there, and I am sure the waitress felt very sorry for me, because she seemed to be extra nice.
Let me back up a bit and tell you about my search for Lakota. I arrived on the mountain early afternoon of the 7th. After changing a flat tire on the truck and setting up camp, I went down Burnt Timber Road to try to find Lakota. And that was pretty much what I did for the next 3 1/2 days. Search for Lakota. I did spend some time off and on with the other bands, but a lot of the time I was hiking around looking for Lakota.
The last time someone saw him was on July the 2nd. I thought for sure I knew where he would be. It is so dry up there right now, that water is very limited. I thought Lakota might be getting water from a little ice cave not far from where he was last seen. Either that or at the red mud hole that Shawn had shown me 2 weeks ago.
The mud hole was dried up. I saw a big black bear there, but no horses. At the ice cave were 6 tents. It was a group of people who were spending time mapping out the ice cave. I know nothing about that. They were nice enough people, but I was concerned that they may have driven Lakota off with all the activity around there. I left them my card (with the image of Lakota on the front and back) and asked them to call or text me if they saw him. I hiked to the ice cave just in case they had missed seeing his tracks. Nothing. The were there for a couple of days and I asked each day if they had seen Lakota.
I stopped everyone coming up Burnt Timber or heading down, gave them my card and asked them to watch for him.
I tried to think about where he might go for water. It not only was dry up there, but hot and I knew that he would need to go for water.
The next water hole was off towards the fence line, more than a mile away or more away. A hard mile. Especially for a horse with a hurt leg. It was down a steep hill over a huge meadow and down another hill. I hiked it and looked around the water hole. I then hiked up the next hill above the water hole and sat for over an hour watching and looking through the binoculars. Nothing.
And so went the days, hiking and driving looking for Lakota. I did not find him.
I really did not want to leave without finding him. It was a very hard thing to do. I will be back in a few weeks. I am hoping that someone can find him before then. I will let you know if hear anything.
I will be leaving for the Pryors in a few days. Yes, I know, it has only been 2 weeks since I was last there. I will be taking a couple of friends that have never been to the Pryors before.
I also want to spend some time with Lakota and see how he is doing.
Someone this week asked me a question. At first I was offended by the question they asked. But after thinking about it for a while, I decided that not everyone is as passionate about these wild horses as I am. The question they asked me was: ” Is it really worth it? Is it really worth going up all that way to take photos of horses just eating?” Ummm… Right away I thought of my business cards. I have a photo of Lakota “just eating”, I wondered why that never occurred to me. I really loved that photo of him, but he was, “just eating”.
I finally figured how to explain what going to the Pryors is for me. On my last trip, heading up the mountain, I was in the truck by myself, so I had a lot of time to think. I wondered if I would ever tire of going up this road. But as soon as I drove through the gates of the range I realized that would never happen. It dawned on me how to attempt to explain my feelings. I said it out loud to Linda a couple of times. “Every time I come up here it is like Christmas morning.” Remember when you were a kid the feeling of Christmas morning?
That is about as good as I can get to explain how I feel. I have a passion for these horses that sometimes is unexplainable. I enjoy getting to know each horse. Yes, some I have made a deeper connection with than others. But each horse up there is very special to me. I never get tired of it.
So back to the question I was asked. “Is it worth it?” I think that for some, it probably is not worth it. Some will probably be bored and only see “horses eating”. I see a lot more, just by the way I look at them.
I guess you can say these Pryor Mountain Wild Horses are my passion.
What one sees in their surrounds and what ones passion is can be different for each person. Instead of being offended by the comment that was made to me, it made me realize and look at just how much these horses mean to me. I like watching them “just eat,” and that is okay.
So, I head to the Pryors again, in just a few days. I am looking forward to Christmas in July and watching the horses just eat.
All photos are available for purchase. Contact me for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org
I know many of you are wondering about Lakota and how he is doing. If you do not know about his injury, please click LAKOTA.
I just got an email from my friend Shawn. He found Lakota today. He is still not putting any weight on his leg. But he does not look any thinner than he did last week, which is good. Shawn said the wound looks to be healing up with a bit of pus oozing from it.
I was prepared for the worse, so this is good news to me. It has been so hot and I was afraid if Lakota had not found water that he would not have survived.
Thank you so much Shawn for this news.
I will let you know when I hear more. I will be there again soon. Stay strong Lakota!