Dishpan Butte Wild Horses

November 1, 2009

Backtracking a bit to September (after the roundup). When we left the Pryor’s, we decided to head towards a herd area we’d never been to before – part of the North Lander Complex in Wyoming. I had heard a roundup was going to be conducted there, so I hoped to see the horses before that occurred.

Upon entering the Dishpan Butte HMA, we came upon this band. The first wild horses I’ve seen with blankets. I was pretty excited…and they were pretty nervous.




After the spotted band of horses left, Tom and I drove around for quite a while. We didn’t see any more horses, so we went across the highway to another HMA; Conant Creek (or it could’ve possibly been Rock Creek Mountain). Over there, we never saw a single horse (and very little sign), but we did come across many cattle and the usual range wildlife of sage grouse and antelope.



We hadn’t made it in too far when we were stopped by a very muddy creek that looked like it could swallow up the Jeep, so we turned around and went back to Dishpan Butte. Our luck improved by late afternoon.


Mare and foal


They moved so beautifully and effortlessly through the sagebrush


The stallion in the group


The entire family


Again, these horses were nervous and did not hang around


The grey stallion and his mare


The mare and foal from a more comfortable distance for them

I walked a ways and finally spotted horses over a hill. They were a little less uneasy with me and as I got closer, I realized why. It was a small group of bachelor stallions. The bachelors are always easier to approach and usually less cautious. Most of the time, they’re very curious. I really enjoy spending time with the bachelor bands.


A curious bachelor band


The grey boy is trying to catch my scent, but the breeze is not in his favor


They're distracted by something off in the distance


They start to move off



What is it that they see?


Aha, it's the grey band stallion. Apparently, he thinks these bachelors are a bit too close to his family and is on a mission to chase them away


They start to leave and the grey band stallion calls off the chase


But, like I mentioned, the bachelors are curious and as soon as the grey stallion was out of sight, they stopped and started towards me again. Love these guys.





My Halloween photo from a previous post - the grey stallion is spooked by something in the sagebrush


We finally say our good-byes to each other

I am always grateful that the horses allow me these glimpses into their lives. It’s such a privilege.

On our way back, on the same 2-track we’d come in on, we came upon a scene that had unfolded while I’d been off taking pictures. Wildlife drama. A prairie falcon had just killed a sage grouse.


We decided to call it a night and find a place to camp. We headed down the highway until we found a forest service road. We took a little 2-track road off the main dirt road until it dead-ended at a fenceline. We were shocked to find a perfect little parking pad at the end of the road in the middle of no where. No where. Well Tom, he was pretty happy about the find as it meant it would be a lot easier to level the Jeep (for sleeping without a head rush) and unload the gear onto a cleaner surface. It felt like “cheating” to me. We were supposed to be roughing it, but I suppose we’d been directed to this slab of concrete for a purpose. So there we were, somewhere in rugged, remote Wyoming, watching the day come to a colorful close…on a parking lot.


The next morning, we loaded up (Tom was right – with the exception of some moths that moved in overnight, our gear stayed really clean) and drove back to Dishpan Butte.

The spotted band had moved back to the area where we had first found them. I felt bad that they appeared so troubled by my presence. I stayed way back and stood very still hoping they’d relax a little.


Running to regroup with the rest of the band





They trot off to find a place devoid of humans

The next family of horses I spotted made me work for their photos. They were a long ways off, but it was early, I was still fresh and willing to make the effort.


They grey on the left is the band stallion


The band stallion


This was a very nervous bunch too



This mare had quite a mane





I didn’t want to push these guys, so I hiked back to the Jeep and we continued to drive through the herd area in search of more horses.

Out of the corner of my eye (I’m blessed with wonderful peripheral vision) I caught a glimpse of something white in the distance between hills. Tom saw nothing, but I convinced him to try to find a 2-track that went west where I think I’ve seen something. He locates a road and we’re on it for a while before I start to doubt that I saw anything. We both decide to go over “one more hill” before turning around. And there they were, just over that next hill. A large group of mostly white (grey) horses. Even I wondered how I managed to see these guys. Cool!


They must have felt threatened in the valley where we spotted them and they head towards more open ground


Some colored horses in the group too


They have to pass by me to get to open ground - I leave them plenty of room in hopes they won't just keep running


All the pretty horses - never seen so many greys in one band together









They settle briefly to look at me


But they're taking no chances and off they go

Tom and I were at Dishpan Butte for almost 2 full days. We counted just over 30 horses. I began to wonder about the timing of the roundup. Had it already taken place? It would sure explain the low count and just how uneasy the horses were. When we got home, I e-mailed the Lander BLM office and got my answer. The gather had taken place in July.

“We gathered 1053 horses and removed 804 from the 4 (four) different HMA’s. We returned 245 horses to the various HMA’s in which they were rounded up. We returned 50 horses to the Dishpan Butte HMA and missed 10-20 horses in the there is probably 60 – 70 horses in the Dishpan Butte HMA.”

The North Lander Complex is approximately 375,000 acres for the small number of wild horses that are left. Heartbreaking. What I failed to ask, and what the BLM range specialist failed to mention when I e-mailed was the number of fatalities that occurred during this roundup. I was extremely saddened by the staggering number of horses taken off the ranges, but devastated to learn that 17 horses died and 7 of those were foals (the full story can be read HERE). I just can’t understand the continued annihilation of the herds. When will it stop? When will people become so enraged that they come together to do something to save our wonderous herds of wild horses? I choose to think that most people are just unaware – if they fully understood what the mustangs were going through, surely they’d be much more proactive.

Through these posts and photographs, that is the story I’m trying to tell, along with so many other wild horse advocates. Please, share, share and share our information with whoever will listen…before it’s too late.

(Wild Horse News, Information and Links)

18 Responses to “Dishpan Butte Wild Horses”

  1. Pam, How can we ever recover these horses? Gelded and shot with PZP and families destroyed. These beauties are wonderful. They are the survivors and should be left there and who ever they recover one day returned. What is happening is so unnecessary. Thank you for showing us all the pretty horses. Mar

  2. TJ Says:

    The horses are so beautiful. It’s impossible to believe there’s room for cattle on our land but not horses. Thanks for showing them to us and increasing our awareness. We just need to make the government, who should be protecting them, aware that we want our wild horses truly protected!

  3. Jim Horns Says:

    just beautiful ~ as I’ve gotten closer to the Lakota people I’ve become more aware of these horses, the Apaloosa being of special importance

  4. pnickoles Says:

    Marilyn – all we can do is try to enlighten and educate folks on what is happening. So many people just don’t even realize wild horses are still out there. At least for now. And they’re not just a bunch of rag tag nags. They’re beautiful, healthy, strong and smart. Such a tragic loss for all Americans.

  5. pnickoles Says:

    TJ – I know how much these horses mean to you as well. We just have to keep on doing what we do…our part in bringing about awareness. I’m so glad to have you alongside to talk me through the dark times. You’re a blessing for sure.

  6. pnickoles Says:

    Jim – thanks for stopping by. I see you’re a friend of Nancy’s who I just “met” through my Blog. So glad to have more people who appreciate these wonderful horses! Thanks for your comments.

  7. Sandy Elmore Says:

    Pam, Your photos are not just photos, but tell a story even without words. You truly have a gift. Thanks for telling their stories and sharing them with us, getting the word out…
    Bill and I enjoyed starting our Sunday looking at them.


  8. Sloan King Says:

    Thank you for sharing the photos and story. It is really hard to see these groups and families knowing that others just like them have had to suffer so much. At the same time, it helps to see the free ones.

  9. Judy Says:

    Awesome pictures!

  10. Lovely pictures, Pam. And very sad news about the roundup.

    To be quite honest, I don’t think people truly understand what the wild really is. Wolves are being killed after having been taken off the endangered species list. Buffalo are shot, no questions asked, if they leave their designated Yellowstone range. Prairie dogs are drowned, shot, and poisoned to the point of possibly needing to be put on the endangered species list. Wild Mustangs being removed is a part of this mentality of Western culture that nature can and should be controlled and “managed.” All of these things are connected, and I just don’t think the majority of people know how to think about – or what to do about – keeping the wild wild.

  11. pnickoles Says:

    Thanks Sandy – that’s seems to be my purpose. Trying to get the word out. Thanks for your help with that. 🙂

  12. pnickoles Says:

    Sloan – I agree with you. It’s so hard to imagine what all the other horses who are no longer free have gone through and lost. Let’s hope we can do something about the ones that are still out there, and soon.

  13. pnickoles Says:

    Anne – I just don’t even know what to say because I think you may be right… 😦

  14. Pam, that’s one of the things my nonprofit, Tapestry Institute, tries to do – reconnect people to the natural world. Western culture has taken humans so far out of it that they just don’t understand what wild is anymore. The Mustangs in our horse program really help with this because they are of the land. That’s what makes them such an incredible breed of horse and so unique. We also operate out of Indigenous worldview – our founder is a Choctaw scientist, and half our board is Native American – which really puts people in a different worldview when they get involved in our programs. In that worldview, we are all connected, so we can experience and understand nature and wild differently then in Western culture.

    Your photos are a great way to help people understand the wild. At Tapestry, we use art as part of one of the ways of knowing – mythic knowing, actually – so I believe your photos are very important in helping the wild Mustangs.

  15. How do I get in touch with Anne Belasco? ‘Tapestry’ sounds very normal to me… Mar

  16. pnickoles Says:

    Hi Marilyn,

    Here is the website for Tapestry:

    Good grief – they’re right here in Colorado. Maybe they’ll invite us for a tour of the facilities?

  17. Thanks, They are not far away. It may be good to explore this. Mar

  18. We moved to Elizabeth, CO at the end of August. We aren’t in a permanent location yet – we’ve had to move 3 times in 3 years after our catastrophic wildfire caused us to leave our beloved ranch in northwestern Nebraska. We currently have Women and Horse Retreats here, and we’re about to launch our Balance-Center-Connection Riding Program.

    You can reach me best at anne @ .

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