“Nub Ear” – Fifteen Mile HMA

August 9, 2009

One of the most remote Herd Management Areas Tom and I have been to (so far) is located between Meeteetse and Worland, WY. Both times we’ve visited the horses there, we never saw another person. No tire tracks, no structures, no sounds – no indication of people in any way. It was so far out in the “boonies,” it felt like we were in a movie playing the parts of the only two people left on earth. But at least there’s an upside to our script – some wild horses are left too.

The Fifteen Mile horses were VERY hard to approach and photograph. They were cautious and kept their distance. We didn’t see many bands, but the roads were in bad shape so we really couldn’t explore much either. I walked quite a bit, but it was pretty spooky to tell you the truth. Both Tom and I felt like we were being “watched.” We were extra careful and walked out together when we saw horses (we did have a mishap at this location, but that’s another story for a later date). A couple of times, I was lucky and had a stallion come up for a closer look, but they were gone as soon as they heard my camera. Except for a stallion I call “Nub Ear.”

Nub Ear is a muscular, bay boy who is missing most of his right ear. I envisioned him losing it in a fight with another stallion since Nub Ear has a pretty good sized band that I’m sure he must have to defend regularly. Although skittish and protective of his group, he allowed me time to observe. One of his mares and two younger studs came running up to me to see what I was. I found their curiosity very amusing. They didn’t seem particularly bothered by the fact that I stood on two legs rather than four and hung around quite a while before Nub Ear gathered them up and moved them just a little further away from me.

My first sighting of Nub Ear - April, 2008

My first sighting of Nub Ear - April, 2008

One of Nub Ear's mares and 2 younger studs come in closer to investigate me

One of Nub Ear's mares and 2 younger studs come in closer to investigate me

Nub Ear on the left with some of his band

Nub Ear on the left with some of his band

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Nub Ear

Nub Ear

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The sun was going down and we really didn’t want to chance getting lost in this particular area, so we decided to head out. I thanked Nub Ear for sharing his family with me and told him I’d be back to check on him soon. In July, 2008, that’s exactly what we did. And, Nub Ear was pretty much in the same location as we’d found him in April. There was a new addition to the family – what a little cutie. It was good to see them and just as before, Nub Ear was tolerant of my presence. His band was the only one we saw on that trip. Most of the roads were washed out, but we were lucky and managed to get on one that took us to where we’d remembered seeing Nub Ear in April.

Nub Ear and his band - July, 2008

Nub Ear and his band - July, 2008

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Nub Ear moves his family in my direction

Nub Ear moves his family in my direction

The fact that this stallion is missing most of his ear certainly doesn’t take away from him in the least. I say it just adds character. I hope that when we make it back to the Fifteen Mile range, we’ll be able to find and photograph this beautifully unique boy and his family again.

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13 Responses to ““Nub Ear” – Fifteen Mile HMA”

  1. Lynn Bauer Says:

    Great shots, Pam!! Good for you – going way out in the “boonies” like that! They’re beautiful – I bet Nub Ear has some great stories to tell! Thanks for posting these!
    Lynn 🙂

  2. Holly Says:

    one of the things that strikes every time I see photos of the wild horse(s) is what good shape they are in. Not only are they in good flesh but they are also pretty fit. The stallions are chunky, wide bodied boys and the girls, even the new moms that have a heavy nursing load look good. It makes me look at the nursing mares I see in paddocks and wonder why they don’t always look so good. Especially considering the scrub (or what looks like scrub) I see the wild horses live in.

  3. pnickoles Says:

    Lynn – thanks as always for your comments. I bet you’re right about Nub Ear having a tale or two. I wish I could get out to the HMA’s more often to follow up on the horse’s stories. All I need is more hours in a day! 🙂

    Holly – you’re so right too. The horses always seem to look really good. I was told that the vegetation on these ranges is very high in protein. It must be. Thank goodness, they just seem to manage very well on very little. You wouldn’t believe their feet either. Perfect. Truly amazing animals.

  4. TJ Says:

    Wow – they’re gorgeous horses in that band! Nub Ear is one handsome fella! I think the horses know how to be found by those who really want to see them. 🙂 Great look at a little-known band!
    TJ

  5. pnickoles Says:

    I know how you like those bays TJ! 🙂 I thought Nub Ear was handsome too. I really hope to find him again. There was a gather planned for this HMA last year, but I don’t think it happened. I wish someone locally would “adopt” and monitor this HMA like you do the Spring Creek horses, like Matt does the Pryor’s and Billie does the Little Book Cliffs. I don’t think many people even know they’re out there.

  6. Holly Says:

    “I don’t think many people even know they’re out there.”

    and maybe that is a good thing.

  7. Lona Says:

    You always write so beautifully Pam! And your photographs are almost as stunning and perfect as the mustangs themselves.
    Our frigid winters here often causes frostbite, I’ve seen quite a few mustangs wo have lost ears, or tips of ears…but it is not beyond the realm of possibility he lost it in a fight either.

    My husband works over around Worland fairly often…someday I think I’ll hide away in his tool box and sneak up there with him so I can see the horses too, lol. Or maybe saddle up Metawa and have him guide me in 🙂

    A little thought to ponder….Metawa will go out of his way to munch on sage, while bypassing green grasses…I wonder if it is a acqired taste he grew up on and now enjoys…savors…as a reminder of his days in the wild

  8. Michelle Says:

    Nub ear is such a beautiful dark rich bay. Amazing depth of color!

  9. pnickoles Says:

    Thanks Lona. I have seen many frostbitten ears, but Nub Ear’s ear 🙂 looks different – it’s ragged and torn which is what led me to wonder if it was the outcome of a fight. Just a guess of course. As for the sage, I read on another Mustang blog that sage has healing properties for wild horses…

    Michelle – you’re always looking at things with an artist’s eyes. I really enjoy/admire your perspective.


  10. Hi Pam,
    I loved seeing these photos of “Nub Ear” and his band, and reading the story about them, and how you found them. I’m so thankful that we have these amazing stories of nature at its rawest.
    Looking at the face of Nub Ear, I feel his power, his determination and intenseity to protect his family. what a privelge to see this.
    Thank you,
    Karen

    Karen Keene Day

  11. pnickoles Says:

    Karen – thank you so much for your comments. I agree with you 100%. I always feel privileged when in the presence of the wild ones.

  12. SHIRLEY LE GARDE Says:

    THIS IS ONE BEAUTIFUL HORSE. MY LAST HORSE CARRIED THE BLOOD LINES OF GRAYHOUND AND OKLAHOMA STAR AND MANY A TIME I HAVE SEEN HIM STAND LIKE THIS. RIDING HIM WAS SOMETHING YOU REMEMBERED. YOU ARE VERY TUNED INTO THE HORSES, YOU CAN FEEL THEIR SPIRIT AND THEY FEEL YOURS. TO BE ACCEPTED BY THEM IS A GREAT GIFT. KEEP UP YOUR PICTURES AND YOUR STORIES AS THEY ARE A GIFT FROM THE WILD ONES.


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