Yesterday we celebrated our granddaughter Marin turning 11 months old, and us being on the road traveling for 9 months. It was a memorable day, that’s for sure. We spent it in a unique way.
Seems like every child at some point falls in love with majestic horses galloping across the plains with manes flaming behind them. They love the smell of them; we’ve even had a daughter who delighted in mucking out their stalls, just wanting to be near a horse.
Kathe lives not far from where we are camped for the summer, and through her work, her volunteerism and social connections she arranged for our family to take a 2 hour drive out to the Spring Creek Basin Wild Horse Management Area and meet up with T.J. Holmes who is intimately involved in the management of up to 65 wild horses grazing on nearly 22,000 acres of BLM (Bureau of Land Management) Land.
T.J. gets out of her red truck and boisterously fires away our names as we each approach to meet her…..she’s peeked at my blog and been practising…..but stumbles over Gaelyn (though TJ remembers she was known for introducing herself as “Hi, I’m Friendly”). Her name recall for virtual strangers gives just a small indication of what she remembers about her beloved wild horses.
We split people up between Kathe and T.J.’s 4×4’s. We leave the van on the side of the road and caravan with the ladies “in the know”. Both Kathe and T.J. come alive teaching about the history of these wild horses, about the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, about “Wild Horse Annie” (Velma Johnston).
Driving with these women was a good idea.
It isn’t very long before we rise over a hill and spot horses. Four herds actually near one another, not far from the only source of fresh water in the basin. Most of the local water has high water content so the horses favour here where there is a catchment system set up. If there hasn’t been enough water fall they can fill up the tank by truck. It’s been a dry summer.
Hierarchy is obvious. The stallion takes his staunch stance slightly apart from the mares and foals. Sometimes there’s an extra stallion (no mare of his own) that helps protects a particular herd. If there is any challenge he takes care of it, doing the dirty work so the lead stallion can take care of the mares.
We were able to see several foals, the youngest only having been born 4 days ago of which we’ve submitted the suggested name of Maple (a touch of Canadian!) or Canuck.
We had planned to hike up Roundtop Mountain to get a good 360 view of the Spring Creek Basin but with an eye on the approaching rain clouds we decided we didn’t have enough time. The roads here would turn snotty if wet and we didn’t want to risk that so we turned around.
Returning, the several herds we had viewed earlier seemed fine to share the same field with us as we ate our lunch near the water catchment. It was quite amazing that they weren’t disturbed by our presence. The ate on their side, we ate on ours.
The winds were picking up, lightening bolted behind the encircling mountains, and we decided it was best to head back to where we had left the van.
Upon approaching the van the drizzles were just starting. We made a quick passenger adjustment, most of us settling back into our van and had just started heading for the main road when the golfball- sized drops began to hit the windshield. We booted it, Everette driving the van like a dune-buggy to Anders’ delight (Go, Daddy, Go!) all the way out of the herding area.
T.J. has some horses on the property where she lives, just a couple of miles down the road from the BLM land. She invited us to drive towards her home to see them up by the road where they had just been spotted. There were about twenty of them. At the sight of her red truck coming they got excited and started running towards her house. We followed along the road, mesmerized by their flowing manes, their rippled bodies moving up over the hills and down thru the arroyos, the colours weaving together in and out.
They arrived back at T.J.’s and then rushed up and over the hills and kept on going. Maybe to graze in another pasture….who knows. But we so appreciated the show they gave us, running for miles near the road so we could admire their beauty.
We learned so much today I can’t even begin to tell you. About the dart fertility drug program that T.J. has been trained to do to help manage the numbers of horses (based on how much the land can realistically sustain). Or the helicopter round-ups to collect excess horses to put up for adoption or transport to holding facilities (more than 30,000 horses held there indefinitely), with activists denouncing it all. There are problems managing the wild horses, no matter which side of the fence you stand on. Things I had never thought about. Never been concerned about. Because I just didn’t know.
Rain was pelting down, the ditches starting to swell, the hills disappearing behind mists. We dared to venture into the small Nash cemetery with tombstones dating back to the 1800’s, some old stones some new marble, tucked under trees and behind bushes. We slipped our way back to the vehicles, our shoes coated in gumbo.
Check out the gorgeous horse pictures of TJ’s on her blog Spring Creek Basin Mustangs