“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.
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.
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.