El Mariachi and Hope Update

November 8, 2009

I decided to hold off sharing the Green Mountain and Stewart Creek Woming HMA horses for just a bit. I felt it was about time for a feel good story to balance the more difficult news of late concerning our wild horses.

On October 16th (which took a long time coming!), Tom and I flew down to Arizona for a quick visit with El Mariachi, Hope and Michael (Blake). I was SO excited about getting down to see everyone again.


The first picture I took from the road up to the ranch. El Mariachi and Hope. El Mariachi has definitely filled out.

I knew Michael was probably working in his studio (and Michael would expect no less from me – HA!), so Tom and I stopped off at the barn first and went down to try to find the horses near the creek area where we had seen them as we drove up.


And there they were just in front of me. Still not particularly interested in being too close, but such is the nature of a wild horse. So darn good to see them again!


Peeking out at me


I wonder if he knows how my heart smiles whenever I see him


Such a handsome boy


I see you pretty girl



Hope has recovered as well - she looks good



Hanging out with the other horses - so peaceful




This was a big step for Hope - to lay down in front of me and roll. Not long ago, she would never have considered letting her guard down like that.


We heard, then saw Michael on the road in his old pickup (which he LOVES). It’s the very vehicle he drove to the Black Hills of South Dakota to film “Dances With Wolves.” Guess I can understand why it means so much to him.


Hope spots Michael on the road


A view of the landscape


That's Hope at the bottom of the photo

I’d gotten my horsey fix for the moment, so we followed Michael up to the ranch house. He had all sorts of news to share. Though we e-mail and talk on the phone periodically, it’s really good to spend some “real” time with him. Michael has a ton of stories about his life and all of them are interesting (some of those stories can be found in his book, “Like a Running Dog” – a fascinating read).

Later that afternoon we had the opportunity to meet professional photographer Lori Faith Merritt. Lori lives in Arizona and had met Michael about a month earlier at a fundraising event in Tucson where he had invited her to come out to the ranch at some point. Through a series of events, Lori and I connected and it was decided that she would come out to the ranch during our visit. Lori was very easy to be around, an obvious lover of all things horsey and a talented photographer. I really love her work. It was a pleasure to get to know her a little bit. I hope we’ll see her again on one of our trips and next time, we’d love to meet her husband William too (a western/cowboy music singer).


Pointing out who's who to Lori


Lori Faith Merritt




Little Boy had some cactus in his cheek and he patiently stands for Lori as she pulls the spines out for him.


And then he thanks Lori for her kindness


Lori told me that every photographer needs their own photographer. Thanks for the photo Lori. Standing in front of Twelve's grave.


Early evening means dinner time for the horses. They head up to the barn and Lori and I hang out and watch them.


El Mariachi and Hope hear someone coming down the road


It's their favorite person - Michael.


Michael and Lori

The horses were fed and the four of us chatted away until the sun went down. Then we all went up to the ranch house and talked some more. For Tom and I, it had been a long, but very satisfying and enjoyable day.

Next morning, Tom and I were down at the barn early to check on the horses, serve up breakfast and tackle a few chores.


The dogs, Timid, Diana and Scout escort us to the barn


Pretty feisty first thing in the morning - Timid and Diana


It's so peaceful just to sit with the horses in the morning. No one around. Just the sounds of the land and its critters.

El Mariachi has actually gained a little too much weight back, so his feed has been modified and cut back a bit. Because of his experience, he may have food issues for quite some time.


I just had to share this photo. Look at that beautiful foot. El Mariachi's feet look fabulous again. The rocky terrain ensures that his feet will stay naturally trimmed and healthy. Hope's feet were in worse condition, but they look almost as good.


Tommy cleaning water tanks



Diana can't resist a clean, cool drink


Tomas supervises Tom's poop removal efforts

Around 1:00, we headed up into the Santa Rita mountains in southern Arizona. We were going to meet Marianne Blake and the Blake children; Quanah, Monahsetah (Mo) and Lozen. Marianne and I had e-mailed, but hadn’t met yet. I knew by our letters that we had alot in common, but I was still a little nervous. Turns out, I didn’t need to be. She put us right at ease and took us on a tour of the ranch and all its animals.


This is Lucky. An orphaned Brangus calf that the family took home and cared for. I'm told that Lucky thinks she's a Bassett hound! She actually guards the house, just like a dog would. Too funny.


And this is one of Lucky's role models - Cowboy.


And Bean Bag - all tuckered out.

Since I can’t do the critter introductions justice, I’ll just post the information Marianne sent me about them. Notice her great sense of humor.

“Lucky The Cow, about 7 months, orphaned twice, thinks she’s an oversized, good-looking, smart (HA!) Basset hound.
Bean Bag and Cowboy, Lucky’s brothers, true hound dogs.
The horses:
Lilly, one year old filly.
Luna Sombra, almost nine months.
Frost Bite, Luna’s mama.
Penelope, AKA Grandma (Lozen’s horse), age unknown.
Burrito, Monahsetah’s gelding. AKA Don Rito because of his Mafia ways when it comes to feeding and loving.
Skinfaxe, almost two year old stallion. AKA MiniWinney.
Mark, plus forty year old gelding. Slightly senile. The self-appointed traffic cop of this outfit.
Rambler, over 30 year old gelding. Reservation horse, Hollywood Ham and con artist.
Cookie, 7 1/2 year old blue roan, Hancock, quarterhorse mare. Temperamental during feeding time. Curious and trouble prone.
And finally there’s Rosebud – 4 year old daughter of Cookie, major trouble maker, escape artist extraordinaire, curious, cowhorse who’s afraid of the very dangerous horse eating rocks and boulders covering the ground in this area.”


Monahsetah (she let me call her Mo since I had so much trouble with her beautiful name) and Mark - the 40+ year old gelding.


Rambler - the 30+ year old Reservation horse.


Monahsetah with Cookie (enjoying a good scratch)


Tom gives young Lilly a good scratch


Marianne, Lilly and Tom


Marianne (pronounced Marianna - she's Danish) and Tom


Monahsetah and Lucky as Cowboy looks on.


Lozen watches Rick (family friend and business partner) trim the plaster of Paris horse she's just made.


Quanah reaches for a ball. It was so nice to see all the kids playing outdoors, making things and enjoying the animals.

They had stories of their own to tell about each 4-legged family member, (Marianne is a huge animal lover) the cattle they raise and some of their misadventures with them. Despite what they told us (there’s a certain bull I don’t want to meet), Marianne and Rick invited us to go up into the mountains to check cattle with them on a future visit. I just have to figure out a safe way to bring my camera with me when we go. πŸ™‚

Along with the ranch and the cattle, Marianne owns a publishing company called Hrymfaxe (http://www.hrymfaxe.com – be sure to watch for an exciting announcement from Hrymfaxe). She also owns Double Eagle Films, Inc. and has the rights to “The Holy Road,” the sequel to “Dances With Wolves.” Right now, it looks like she’ll be making the movie in the summer of next year. Something to look forward to. Very cool!

We visited for 2-3 hours and then headed back to Michael’s for some evening shots of the horses before we had to leave way too early the next morning for home. We didn’t get those evening shots however. We got back, started talking with Michael and before we realized it, the sun was disappearing. Tom and I hurried down to the barn, but only got a few shots of the fading light over the horizon. It was beautiful.





We walked back up to the house in total darkness. Lori had told us that the tarantulas come out at night which made us both a little uneasy about our footsteps as we followed the road. Luckily, we had no squishy encounters.

We had to leave the ranch at about 4:00 AM the next morning to make our flight. We gave ourselves an extra 10 minutes so that we’d have time to say goodbye to the horses. What a wonderful time of day that is in Arizona. Cool, slight breeze and so quiet. The horses must’ve thought we were crazy, but we talked to them briefly and then headed down the road. Until next time…


A painting of El Mariachi and Hope made by Monahsetah for Michael's birthday. I love it.

(Below is some video that I took with a point ‘n shoot camera that my Mom lets Tom use on our trips. It was an experiment, I don’t know how to edit so please excuse the noise of the wind, but I hope you enjoy the very short clip of an evening feeding. Maybe I’ll do better next time. :-)).

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26 Responses to “El Mariachi and Hope Update”

  1. Sandy Elmore Says:

    Thanks for sharing Pam. It was so good to see El Mariachi and Hope looking so good and actually a little fat! πŸ™‚

  2. TJ Says:

    Pam!! What a WONDERFUL post! I have tears (of joy!) in my eyes after reading about your visit! LOVE that painting by Monahsetah of Hope and El Mariachi!!! You can really tell how that boy and his girl have touched the lives of this family (and, it seems, everyone who comes in contact with them). Sounds like a much-too-short and much-needed visit to Arizona. I was thinking how plump EM looked, and then you mentioned his feed needing to be cut back and his lasting food issues … And his foot! Seeing just the pic of his foot, I was thinking there had to be something wrong for you to post a pic of just his hoof, and I was thinking “there’s nothing wrong with THAT hoof,” and then I read what you put in the caption. πŸ™‚ Oh, and Miss Hope. What a gorgeous girl. Love, love, love all these images – and what they must mean to you, down your own long road.
    Thank you for this happy story!!

  3. pnickoles Says:

    Hi Sandy – El Mariachi is a little chunk, but it’s because he worries so much about food now. Knowing that breaks my heart, but for his own good, his feed has been cut. He’s short on muscle tone as well, but I know everything will balance itself out given enough time. Both of them have been through so much.

  4. Deb Williams Says:

    Pam, I absolutely love your updates!! The horses look wonderful, and what a privilege to peek into the ranch of Michael and family. And the sunset photos……beyond gorgeous!!
    I couldn’t make the video play though. Some little glitch, I’m sure.
    Thanks again

  5. pnickoles Says:

    Hi TJ – I know it took a long time to get this post done, but it’s still such an emotional thing for me. And, El Mariachi’s food issues are so troubling. It’s something I feel really bad about. Again, I hope that with enough time, things will come around and they’ll learn that food is something they’ll never have to worry about again. And I know it’s weird to show just a photo of a hoof, but I was so happy to see how they’ve changed. El Mariachi always had such perfect feet. Now he does again. And Hope is close behind. Her feet were terrible. I can’t wait to get back down there to see the next changes. πŸ™‚

  6. pnickoles Says:

    Hi Deb – I’m so glad you enjoy the updates and photos. I think YouTube must have been down, but I’ll look into the video problem. Thanks for your comments!

  7. Billie Says:


    They look wonderful! So glad they are doing so well. You were lucky to find someone like Michael to care for them. He must be a truly special man. May EM and Hope have a wonderful life now.


  8. Pam,

    These photos are so AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!

    They tell such a great story, all on their own. Amazing – you did such a great job on them!!!!


  9. What a delight to see this post and be a part of it. I look forward to being with you again. We are truly kindred spirits. Blessings…

  10. […] soon about meeting Pam Nickoles and the Mustangs, El Mariachi, soon. In the meantime, please enjoy this posting by Pam that includes photographs of me at Michael Blake’s […]

  11. Barb Griffith Says:

    What a blessing to see, through your beautiful photography and video, how healthy and happy EM and Hope are now. Thank you for sharing them with me. I am grateful for what you do and your friendship too. Thank you Pam and Tom!

  12. Toni Sinka-Weimer Says:

    I was just asking about El Mariachi! He looks fabulous! I feel very selfish following his journey and all your hard work. Thank you for sharing the experience!

  13. HeatherinNS Says:

    Beautiful, Pam.
    They are restored to their former glory. The whole blog was wonderful, thanks!

    I’m so sorry El Mariachi is having food issues. My little Arabian gelding was starved for a couple of months, nothing like the 3 X’ers, but he is now a BOAR about his vittles. Pushing, yelling… (like a stallion would bellow)
    so sad that he feels he’d better take by force what he should have got, all along. Hopefully time will heal him…

  14. hey pam..bravo !
    man he looks good
    still what i see when i look at his pi in the wild on my bedroom wall…is now..more fat …less muscle..feet look pretty darn great again !
    he is hapy and wonderful..just interesting to analyze nature vs nurture…we try and have to ! but there is no replacement for absolute wild …
    i pray they will leave some wild..i know you all do too !

  15. Dave Huss Says:

    Oh Pam! El Mariachi looks sooooo goood! Would you plese give Mr. Blake a big hug or at least a great big thank you from us. Your post made my heart feel good this evening. Sometimes it gets a little dark in my heart but you and Mr. Blake have broken through it this evening with a BIG ray of sunshine. Thank You !!

  16. Cindy Says:

    Hi Pam,

    Glad to hear that you finally had your long awaited visit with your boy and his Hope. They look terrific!! My two also had food issues when they first arrived, they have leveled out some and aren’t SO preoccupied these days. I’m sure with time and routine El Mariachi will mellow too. Their photos were amazing and the horses look very well. The sunset photos looked like a very familiar sky to me. πŸ™‚

    I hope you get to venture out to AZ again very soon.

    Take care,

  17. Pam, It was a delight to wake up and find this post today. El Mariachi and Hope do look beautiful. I love the way they sprout out of the cactus in some photos! Thank you and Michael Blake and family for letting us peek into their lives in the desert. The horses seem incredibly peaceful and that will help them heal more as time passes. Security holds them anew. This story is an inspiration to me and gives me hope for the future that lies unknown. Mar

  18. kate bremer Says:

    Thank you Pam: I love reading of the community of horses and those who love them and all of the other fellow inhabitants of our planet. Ah Ho!

  19. Laura Houston Says:

    Love the update and wonderfull ranch pictures. What a sweet family of horse-lovers!

    The pair look so much better and very happy. Great to see those healthy mustang hooves have returned aswell.

  20. pnickoles Says:

    I’m falling a little behind here in my thanks to everyone. πŸ™‚

    I’m amazed how these horses have touched so many. I appreciate all the comments and well wishes for them and the Blake family. El Mariachi and Hope have had quite a journey. They seem at peace now and that is such a gift. I’m grateful to everyone that had a hand in giving that back to them and to the people who continue to care about how they’re doing.

  21. How wonderful to see the horses happy and healthy again! Thank you for sharing this wonderful story and your wonderful photos! πŸ™‚

  22. Pam~ OMGosh!!! Those pictures are fantastic!! I LOVE the 2 pictures of Little Boy and Lori!! Brought tears to my eyes!! And that 40 + year old gelding is gorgeous!!! Oh it sounds like you had a splendid time!! I am so glad to hear a good story!

  23. […] story (another update from October, 2009): https://nickolesphotography.wordpress.com/2009/11/08/el-mariachi-and-hope-update/ Possibly related posts: (automatically generated) Posted in Wild Horses | 21 Comments »Tags: […]

  24. Jan Says:

    I could spend all day (and nearly have!) Only just realizing, what I’ve been reading up til now, is all from 2009! I’ve got some catching up to do!

    They look GREAT! Nuf said (for now!) I’m out πŸ˜‰

    XOX to you Pam!

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