I woke up just before dawn on my first full day on the mountain. That would be around 5:15 here in Montana. It was a clear, cool morning. I quietly got up and walked out with my camera in hand. Linda was not far behind me. I looked down the road a short way and saw Teton and his band grazing in the first light.
Not too far from them was Galaxy and his band.
I chose my campsite because of the location. Sometimes the wind is quite strong here, but other wise it is perfect. I love the way the sun comes up in the morning behind the trees. There almost always seems to be horses close by, both day and night. It is in between two water sources, so there is a lot of traffic that goes by. I sometimes joke that I could just sit in a chair all day and all the horses would eventually go right by me. Of course I don’t just sit there, but I suppose I could and I would see a lot of horses.
This morning was no different and I watched several bands coming my way. We were the only humans on the mountain top that morning. I especially love those days. Sometimes (and only a very few times) someone else drives up the mountain early. Usually the “day trippers” don’t show up until noon. I prefer the latter. I took a deep breath of the clean mountain air and watched the horses.
Ireland looked especially beautiful in the light. I took several shots of her and thought I would share more than one with you.
I turned the opposite direction and there was Kierra looking back at me.
The rest of Cloud’s band began to come over the hill. Cloud’s young son, Mica really likes me. It seems that whenever he sees me he will head right for me. I hoped he would not see me now.
Mica was not able to get Kierra up, so he decided he would take a nap right beside her.
A few of the other horses in the band decided to take a nap in the sun. We just stood in the morning sun and watched.
Feldspar and Cloud then saw something and became very alert. Linda and I had seen two bears earlier that morning and I wondered if maybe that was what they were looking at.
Whatever it was, Cloud decided to gather his band up and move them on.
Then Cloud felt there was some danger ahead and went up to the front of the band to see what it was. It was more bands of horses, and they all took off down the hill to greet them.
If you have followed my blog since I started writing it in February, you know that I have a very strong feeling for one horse, Lakota. If you have not read my posts about him, just click on the title and it will take you to them. Lakota. The Gift.Finding Lakota. We seem to have a connection.
The first evening after arriving on the mountain top to camp, I received a message from Matt. We talked for a while about the horses and what I had seen that evening. The last thing Matt said to me was “Lakota is injured.” He told me the area that he was in last when he had seen him the day before. It was dark by now and so I would have to wait until the next morning to look for him. I didn’t sleep.
Lakota is a strong and wise stallion. He lost his band last summer and seemed to take the loss hard. He recovered from that and when I saw him in May he had gained weight and looked really good. I heard that for the last couple weeks he had been following his old band, whom the stallion Grijala had taken from him. I was proud of him and hopeful he would be like the stallion Chino (who is 21 this year). Chino lost his band a couple of years ago and got them back. I wished the same for Lakota. Lakota is 20 this year.
The next morning my friend Linda and I went to look for Lakota. The first band I saw was Lakota’s old band with the stallion Grijalla. They were down in a deep meadow below. I went just a short ways and saw Lakota on a cliff above them.
He was standing and so I was hopeful his injury was not too bad. I could see that he had his right front leg bent.
Lakota, June 18, 2012
Then he started to move.
He put no weight on that leg. It was painful to watch him try to walk, but he did. He would pivot around on his back legs and hop with his front leg. He moaned.
At first I thought his leg might be broke. But it appears to be a deep wound down low on his leg.
I felt my tears start, it was so hard to see this strong stallion hurt. I wondered if he would survive this. I was not ready for him to leave this life.
He was about one mile from any water hole to drink from. I doubted he would be able to make it that far. I felt a bit better when I looked around and saw two large mud puddles with water in them that he could get to. I was thankful for the recent rains. He was in an area that had a lot of green forage, so if he was able to eat, he would have a chance. He started to graze a little, but not much. It wasn’t long before he decided to lie down. Would he be able to get back up?
It was really hitting me hard. I know he is a wild horse. They get injured, they die. Life is not easy for them here on this roughed range. But I had seen him recover from the loss of his band last year and I just wished for him to have a few years of contentment and peace before he died. AND I wanted him to be here. I did not want to think what it would be like if he was not here. I watched him sleep for a while and hoped he could get back up. It was difficult to listen to his moans.
I don’t know how this injury happened. We can only guess. My guess is it involved Grijala somehow.
As the tears continued to fall I kept whispering to him “You can do it Lakota, I know you can.” I hoped somehow my words would help him heal.
Then I watched him rise to his feet. It is difficult enough for a horse with four strong legs to get up off the ground, but Lakota did it with only three.
I stayed with him for a while more. We would check on him several times a day while we were there.
The next day when we saw him he was lying down. After a few minutes he got back up. It seemed to be a bit easier than the day before. He seemed to be eating with more intent today. He seemed to be moving just a tiny bit better. He put a very, very, very slight bit of weight on his injured leg. He seemed to be healing.
That evening when I checked on him he had moved more than I had seen him move over the last few days. I was hopeful.
Our last night in the Pryors brought a snow storm and strong winds. It was 31 that morning with 20- 30 mile an hour winds. For a brief few minutes the wind stopped and sun came out. Then the wind started again. I knew we should head down the mountain as soon as we could, while we could. I wanted to check on Lakota one more time.
I was happy for the snow. This meant that Lakota would have plenty of moisture for at least one day. The puddles would fill up more.
I could see his tracks in the snow. It was easy to tell it was him. One of his hoofs would make a drag mark in the snow. We followed his tracks for a while, but never found him. His tracks would go in and out of trees and it was hard to determine which way he had gone.
It was really hard to leave not being able to find him. But I knew we had too. Staying up on the mountain any longer in this weather was not a wise thing to do. Even though it was June, it could snow enough to keep us from being able to get down. So we left.
I cried off and on for Lakota on my drive home. I hoped I will hear soon that he is healing.
I hope I see you soon Lakota. Remember how great you are and try to stay strong.
Sorry for not posting for a while. I just got back from several days in the Pryors. It was a wonderful trip and I have a lot to share. I saw several foals and I promise to update you on all of that and more. But right now I want to tell you of a special encounter that I had with my favorite horse Lakota. You can read more about Lakota on my posts : LAKOTA and also THE GIFT. Click on either of those and it will take you to those posts.
I hesitated sharing this story. It was a very emotional and moving experience and I was not sure I wanted to share it. But I decided I should.
The last time I saw Lakota was in March. I did not see him when I was there in April. He looked good when I saw him in March, so I knew he had made it through the winter. I was not worried about him. But I was relieved to see him. He will be 20 this year, so I know my time with him may be limited. I hope he ends up being one of those horses that everyone refers to as ” the oldest horse on the range”. But I want to cherish every encounter with him and not assume that he will be one of those horses.
I don’t know what it is that makes our connection special. If anyone has horses or any animals, you may know what I mean. We are lucky to have these connections with some of the many animals that pass through our lives. But there are a few that are more special than others. A “heart” animal, is what some call it. I have never experienced this with a wild animal, but I believe that Lakota is one of those.
My husband Bill was joining me for this trip. This would be his third trip to the Pryors. I was excited to show him Burnt Timber road. He had never gone up it before. I will share in another post who else we saw that day.
We parked the ATV and set out to hike down to one of the water guzzlers off of Burnt Timber Road. I was leading the way. Just as we started out I heard Bill whispered loudly “Sandy”. I turned and he pointed to a horse that was just up the road from where we had parked. I am not sure how I missed seeing him. But I turned and there stood Lakota.
What I am about to tell you, many may think it is not true. But I swear to you it happened as I am about to describe.
Lakota appeared to be napping in the sun. He did not move his head or look in my direction for the first few minutes.
I slowly walked around him and went across the road on the other side.
I spent several minutes taking photos of him. It was so good to see him. He looked great. What happened next will always stay fresh in my mind. I can hardly believe it happened.
I whispered very softly, “Lakota it’s me”. I did not really expect him to react to that. But he turned his head towards me and opened his eyes.
Then, he slowly walked across the road towards me
And then he did something that really surprised me…he laid down.
He seemed to go back to sleep. I relaxed and enjoyed the time I was given with him.
There were no other horses or people around. It was a very quiet and peaceful time.
After a little while ( I never looked at my watch), he even flopped over on his side.
I stopped taking photos and just sat on the ground and soaked up what was happening.
Lakota only stayed on his side for a few minutes. Very briefly the thought occurred to me that maybe he was sick. It seemed so unusual for a wild stallion to lie down in the presence of humans. But he looked good and did not appear to be sick.
After a while he finally got up.
This time when I looked at Lakota I saw that not only had his outside battle wounds from last summer healed completely but it appeared that his inside ones had too. As you will read in my Lakota post, he lost his entire band to a young stallion named Grijala.
Lakota seemed to be content and relaxed with his new quiet and uneventful life. Maybe after 15 or more years protecting and fighting for his band it felt good to be on his own with no other horse to worry about except for himself. It was nice to think that, and I was not sad for him like I was when I saw him in October of last year.
I spent a while longer watching him. We then decided that we should leave him alone and move on. I then realized that I was in the wrong spot to hike to the guzzler. We got in the ATV and slowly moved past Lakota. He continued to nap in the sun.
I parked the ATV again and we hiked down to the guzzler. There were no horses there. It had been so dry here, that most of the water was gone in the guzzler. There were only a few inches at the very bottom. I hoped it would rain some more before the hot summer months arrived.
When we got back up to the ATV, I turned and there was Lakota. Slowly working his way towards us, grazing along the way. He briefly left and greeted the 4 bachelor boys, Hamlet, Hernado, Inali and Knight. Then continued down the road. We once again passed him. Every time we stopped, I turned back and I could see Lakota making his way towards us. This went on for a few miles. I stopped and took some more photos of him and we continued on our way. We were gone for a couple of hours and were headed back down the road.
As we came to the open area, there was Lakota again. It seemed like he was waiting for me. I stopped the ATV and got off. We looked at each other for about a minute and then he turned and took a path into the woods.
I was extremely grateful to have the time I had with Lakota. He seemed relaxed and I think he enjoyed spending some time with me. Once again, (I said this in my first Lakota post), I try not to humanize these horses, but sometimes (and it always seems to be with Lakota), I can not help it. I was filled with love and emotion for this stallion. I was moved to tears.
I don’t know when I will see Lakota again. I hope it is soon.
ps: Just wanted to let everyone know that at all times I remained at a respectful distance from him. He is a wild stallion and I respect him and always give him his space.
I first met Lakota in October 2010. I know that I had seen him before on a couple of my other trips, but this was the first time I actually knew who he was. I was spending the day on the mountain with my friend Wendy H. from Billings and Matt Dillon from the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center.
We met Matt near the intersection of Burnt Timber Road and Sykes Ridge Road. He immediately told us that Quelle Colour had her foal and wanted to check on her. This was pretty late in the year to have a foal, I thought, and worried if she would make it through the winter.
When I saw Lakota in October of 2010 his band consisted of: his lead mare Quelle Colour, Kole, Mariah, Kalispell (2010), Half Moon and Kiowa (New Moon) (2010), Heritage (High Noon) and Koda (Kootenai) (2010). Heritage and her foal were in the trees that day, so I was unable to get any photos of them.
Kiowa is a solid dun. Although she was born with a hernia, it has healed and is gone now. She is a real beauty with the perfect Spanish looks, the only foal out of Half Moon and Lakota. She should be allowed to stay on the range and pass on her bloodline to future generations.
I asked Matt if he thought Kole would make it through the winter. He said he was pretty sure she would because Lakota was such a good stallion. Lakota took very good care of his band and would know where the best place to go that winter to protect her. I was instantly in love with this big beautiful grullo stallion. He is one of my favorites, I have several favorites, but he is really up there on the list. No one knew as we looked at little Kole that she would most likely be his last foal.
We will talk more about that later in this post. But now, with the help of my blog partner Alex, we are going to go back to the year Lakota was born, 1992.
Lakota was born in 1992 to the mare Tonapah and the stallion Blacky. Tonapah was stolen by the red roan stallion Jeronimo before or shortly after Lakota was born. In 1993 Tonapah had another foal, War Bonnet, who was sired by Jeronimo.
In 1994 Lakota was gathered in a round-up with his band. He became a bachelor upon his release. Even as a two-year old he was much bigger and more muscular than other two-year old colts. Not much is known about his bachelor years. Approximately in the year 2000 he won his first mare Quelle Colour, who was the only chestnut mare on the range. He obviously prefers red heads!
The following year (2001) Lakota, Quelle Colour and her black foal were captured in a round-up. But once again they released Lakota and his little band with one surprise addition. A beautiful Palomino mare named Blanca(Mariah) was added to his band, because her band stallion was removed.
So Lakota’s band grew by one and in 2003 he acquired the mare War Bonnet (his chestnut roan half sister born when he was a yearling) from the band stallion Teton/Diamond.
Lakota had several foals during the years. In 2005 he had three foals including a buckskin filly from Blanca (Mariah). But that year both Blanca’s (Mariah) filly and War bonnets foal died. Leaving only one foal, Quelle Colours black filly, but in 2006 he would lose that filly as well. She was removed in the bait trap gather that year.
The spring of 2006 brought Lakota two more foals. Blanca (Mariah) gave birth to a black filly named Galena and Quelle Colour gave birth to a black colt name Galaxy.
In 2007 Lakota’s band had grown. During the winter he had acquired 3 new members to his band. The grulla mare Demure, her mother Broken Bow and the yearling Filly Gabrielle.
That year Lakota had two foals. One was a dun colt out of Blanca (Mariah). His name was Hunkpapa, but he was removed in the 2009 round-up as a two-year old bachelor. The other foal was a roan foal named Heritage. She is a reflection of her mother War Bonnet.
In the spring of 2008 Lakota’s handsome son Galaxy (who is another one of my favorites) became a bachelor. The winter of 2009-2010 Lakota lost his mare War Bonnet to the stallion Teton (Diamond).
So now we are back to the year 2010. That winter (2010-2011) Lakota lost part of his band. Half Moon and her beautiful filly, Kiowa (New Moon) were taken by the stallion Teton (Diamond). The mare Blanca (Mariah) was taken by the handsome dun stallion Cappuccino. In the process Blanca’s healthy dun colt Kalispell (pictured at the top of this post), mysteriously disappeared. Heritage (High Noon),was taken by the stallion Jackson. Her colt Koda (Kootenai) was separated from her and now lives with Cappuccino’s band. Even though Koda(Kootenai) is line-bred, he appears to be healthy.
When I arrived on top of the mountain July 24th, 2011 I was hoping that I would see a lot of horses. There were two bands that I really wanted to see. The last two that I had seen last fall, Cabaret’s and Lakota’s. We know that I would not be able to find Cabaret.
I was bringing 4 other woman, one of them my daughter Amber, all of whom had never been to the Pryor’s. I was looking forward to Amber seeing the horses and the Pryor’s. I wanted her to know how special this place was. We arrived late in the afternoon and set up camp. We saw several bands that evening. I knew it would be a good trip.
As Amber slept soundly on the other side of the tent, I lay awake. The sounds of thundering hoofs, whinnies and stallion cries kept me awake. There was some peace that night as the stallion cries quieted and I heard the quiet sound of the horses munching grass outside my tent.
When I awoke around 5 that morning, there was a little bit of light in the sky. I love Montana with its long summer nights and early sunrises. July was a perfect time to be there. I lay there for a few minutes and then quietly unzipped the tent and went outside. I was the first one up.
It was low light and I was not using a tripod, so most of my early morning shots before the sun rose are a bit blurry. I thought I would share this one anyway. It is of Lakota and Grijala running in the early light.
At the time I took that photo I did not realize that it was Lakota. As I watched, they moved closer to my camp site.
I realized as I looked around me that this was Lakota’s new band. He had lost some, but this strong stallion had helped his young filly Kole survive the worst winter in 50 years. She had grown into a beautiful, soon to be yearling over the winter.
Not only had Lakota helped his filly Kole to survive, but he had also taken in another yearling. Young Knight was also with his band. Knight is the son of Gunivere and Cappucino. Gunivere (at age 21) did not look healthy the summer of 2010 when I saw her, and I don’t think any of us thought she would make it through the winter. I believe she held on for Knight as long as she could. Kind Lakota had taken him in and he looked wonderful!
As I looked around I also realized who the other stallion was. He was the young bachelor stallion Grijala (2006). He was trying to take Lakota’s band! Both Lakota and Grijala had open wounds.
One minute they were grazing peacefully, the next fighting.
We all watched this for an hour or so, and then they moved on.
I saw Lakota once the end of August when I was there. He was alone then, but I had heard that he had Jenny and Knight for a while before that.
I did not see him in September.
In the early part of October I was about to leave the mountain. There was a storm approaching and I wanted to start back down before it hit. Just as I was about to get into my truck and leave, I turned and saw a horse coming towards me.
It was Lakota, and he was alone. I had been watching Jackson’s band and they were still there in the meadow below the road. I watched Lakota approach. As he got closer to me I noticed the lifeless look to his eyes.
He was still the beautiful stallion that I had fallen in love with a year ago, but his eyes lacked the spark that I remembered. His outside wounds had healed, but it was clear his inside ones were still there. He approached Jackson slowly. I hoped that Jackson would not be too hard on him. What I saw next really touched my soul. These two stallions, Jackson (1998) and Lakota (1992) greeted each other tenderly. I try not to humanize these horses, but sometimes it is hard to see clearly. As I watched, Jackson gently touched Lakota. For less than a minute they paused. Then Lakota continued to walk on, alone.
I stood there for a few minutes and looked up. There coming the same way that Lakota had come, were four more horses. They were Quelle Colour, Grijala, Kole and Knight. Jenny was missing, but I last heard she was with the stallion Santa Fe.
I watched the beautiful Sorral Red head mare follow her stallion that she had been with since 2000. It was clear she was following him. I knew they were on their way to Krueger Pond.
I got in my truck and headed to the pond. I got out and ran towards the pond. The only horse I saw was Lakota.
I waited, hoping that Quelle Colour was close behind. She did not come and Lakota continued walking alone. My heart broke as I watched him continue down the fence line of the range. I hope I see you soon Lakota. Remember how great you are and try to stay strong.
Thank you Deb Little and Lori Graham for your photos! Thank you Alex for Lakota’s history! Don’t forget to click the photos to enlarge them. Also you can push “follow” at the top of this page and you will get an email when my next post comes out!