Fifteen Mile HMA – June, 2010

July 31, 2010

Backtracking to June, we spent the first day of our vacation at the Fifteen Mile HMA outside of Worland, WY. It was my hope that I’d be able to find my favorite stallion there – a handsome boy I call “Nub Ear.” There’s been no word about him since the roundup last Fall.

(Click on the images for larger/sharper views.)

We entered what we call the main entrance and noticed several water sources were relatively full. That is always a welcome sight in a horse range.

Especially when the horses have other animals they share the resources with.

The cactus was blooming and we watched a brightly colored bird doing his best to be noticed by a potential mate.

Male Brewer's Blackbird

Despite driving across most of that main road (until we hit a wash out we couldn’t navigate), we didn’t see a single horse. It’s unbelievably sad to be in a wild horse range without seeing any horses at all. How many were left and where were they?

We decided to go back to the spot where we had always found Nub Ear. There we spotted a lone horse running with determination towards something I couldn’t yet see. I got out of the Jeep and started walking and that’s when I figured out what had his attention. It was an antelope and for as far as I could see, the only other animal in the area. I watched the stallion continue towards the antelope until it finally decided to take off.

Running towards the only other animal in the vicinity - an antelope.

The stallion just stood there and watched the antelope run off and then he turned around and looked at me. Guess that’s when he decided to give me a try.

Without a lot of hesitation, the stallion came closer and closer. As his image got larger in my lens, I watched a beautiful young stallion coming into view. Though I’ve said this a few times before, this horse was somehow familiar. He looked very much like a younger, lighter colored version of the stallion that once roamed the same area – Nub Ear. Of course this boy had both of his ears intact, but still, his movements, his build – all similar to Nub Ear. I wondered if this boy was one of his offspring.

Trying to catch my scent

There is a little trick I use when I visit any wild horse range. I wear the same perfume spritzed in my hair (it’s a musk) so that I smell a bit different than most humans the horses may encounter. It is also my hope that most of the horses I see more than once remember that smell and that their experience with me was not one to fear. Maybe this young stallion recognized something familiar about me as well.

What a solid, healthy young boy

I was even more convinced that this boy had to be related to Nub Ear when I was able to see his face up close.

What a sweet, sweet face on this stallion. It appeared that all he wanted was for me to stick around a while. So I did. I talked to him and he just listened. It was such a wonderful, yet bittersweet experience. I wondered if he’d come to this spot looking for his family the same way I had. My heart ached thinking about it.

What a gorgeous horse

He allowed me to get very close for this last portrait. What a privilege.

I stayed as long as we had light. I hated to leave him and as I did, his eyes followed me. Even as we drove away, he continued to watch. Tears fell for him. Be careful handsome boy and may you find the family you so desperately search for.

Fast forward to the end of our trip. I was going through the images on my laptop on the drive home. My poor husband. I was looking at the computer and crying. It occurred to me that I had some old files from this HMA still stored on my laptop and when I decided to do a little research, I found out right away that this young stallion had indeed been part of Nub Ear’s band and I had several images of him from over the years.

As a yearling.

Appx 6 months later with Nub Ear and the rest of his family.

Now I had a full blown heartache. He had been back looking for his missing family…and they weren’t there.

There is no way that these horses lives are not affected by the roundups and the removal of their families. There must be a more effective way of managing these very social and family-oriented animals. To witness this devastation over and over makes me even more committed to do my part to see those changes made.

Click on the image for a larger/sharper view.

If Nub Ear no longer roams free on this range, at least his legacy lives on…


(Photos are for viewing purposes only. Images are copyright protected and owned solely by Pam Nickoles Photography. No reproduction or downloading permitted. Feel free to share the link, not the images. To share, click on the blog entry title. The permanent link will be displayed in your browser’s address bar. Copy this address to share.)

31 Responses to “Fifteen Mile HMA – June, 2010”


  1. Pam, I am so glad you found this lovely boy. It makes me cry, too, for what has become of his family? This is the shame of the West; the destruction of our wild herds. Thanks, hugs, mar

  2. Julie R. Says:

    Wow, what a beautiful, raw, heart-wrenching experience. And this stallion’s physical attributes and unquestionable beauty offers yet another example of how these beauties thrive, if only we let ’em run! THANK YOU Pam, for being eyes to lovers of the wild ones!

  3. sandra longley Says:

    Your photos and history with these horses are so very important. They have all become a part of our conciousness, our family and our loss..Such a brutal waste, so much land and so few horses left…horses seek out companionship and are a herd animal, so cruel for him to have no one, they need groups for survival as well, we wish him well on his journey, and hope when you find him again he has companions, and let us hope, unlike his father, he never experiences the full measure of the brutality of mankind.

  4. Carol Bader Says:

    Pam what a beautiful photo, you really catch the kind eye he has, I hope he finds his family. Itbreaks my heart to see what thy’re doing to one of Gods most beautiful creations. I hope to come out there some day .

  5. Cindi Says:

    It is so sad that you were only able to find 1 horse in a Herd Management Area.

    The BLM must be made aware of effects of roundups on the horses.

  6. elliroo Says:

    There is an old legend about the stallion Eclipse and his “nightmares”.

    http://www.hoofbeats-in-heaven.com/praise/The_No_More_Night_Mares/

    They wait for all who come to the star path. The great sorrow is we send so very very many.

  7. Karen Says:

    This left me in tears. Where did the rest of his herd go? What fear, he must be feeling.

  8. Jim Tourangeau Says:

    If he is still alone after how long since that area’s purge he has to be the only one left. If BLM can sneak horses to slaughter then why couldn’t 15-20 girls (and a couple young rivals to spar with) be nite hauled back wouldn’t be fifteen mile blood but it would be a start… Yes???

  9. pnickoles Says:

    I am told by other observers of this HMA that there are indeed horses there. We just weren’t able to find but the one, lone stallion. I need to spend more than a day there to really search out where the others may be hiding, but it certainly makes you wonder about the numbers. And, we’ve never seen a lot of horses any time we’ve gone to this HMA. Whether or not Nub Ear and most of his family were taken during the roundup, I just don’t know, but they did split the family apart by pushing them off their land and separating stallions, babies and mares – even if they were re-released. There just has to be a better way. These horses deserve so much more.

  10. pnickoles Says:

    Jim – it’s against the law to introduce other, “foreign” horses into a Herd Management Area. Outside horses may carry disease and/or possibly genetic defects such as HYPP. And, this land area is too rough for anything but a Mustang. While I understand the desire, we as advocates (and horse lovers) must follow the rules and be a good example to other folks who are working to save our remaining wild horses.

  11. Linda H Says:

    Thank you for sharing–what a beautiful stallion and what a poignant story. When will this end?

  12. pnickoles Says:

    I wish I knew Linda…

  13. Maggie Frazier Says:

    Pam
    Thanks for the wonderful pictures and sharing the knowledge you have of these individual horses.
    Cried to think of this young horse being alone enough to chase after an antelope(and a human)
    for companionship. But hope when you go back you can find some more of his kind still there
    Maggie

  14. Maggie Frazier Says:

    Another thing – this colt sure does NOT look the least bit malnourished or lacking for any food source, now does he?
    Maggie

  15. TJ Says:

    Echo all that has been said. Tears running down my face as I read this … Magnificent tribute, Pam. Stunning horse. I hope Nub ear is still out there, but I’m glad this boy definitely is still wild. Fantastic work you do bringing images of these horses to us to view and and be able to dream wild!

  16. Jeannie Jacobs Parisi Says:

    Awww, Pam, I am crying and that is nothing new as it is usually a few times a week I find myself in tears for the disbandment and round up of these magnificent spell binding horses. My only sence of peace is that one day they will all roam, once again,together and free in the heaven that God has waiting for us and animal’s.
    Thank you from my heart for sharing this…

  17. Morgan Griffith Says:

    Pam I love the photos you take. They are all so beautiful and you really capture the essence of that horse. This reminds me of when the horse next door died who was best friends with my Great Dane. She pulled me down there for 3 months looking for Hoss. Your photos are the story of what is happening on our ranges, the history we all can see. Thank you Pam

  18. sandra longley Says:

    So, do you have a name yet for this handsome young man?

  19. anumpeshi Says:

    I am trying to see thru my tears as i read your story,Thunder beings/Mustangs are Legend
    They come from the stars to bring the Heavens down,to awaken mankind to truth,love,compassion and Freedom,they know all that is, they are intelligent beyond humans, they come from a much higher vibration than mankind,and they are our teachers, our wisdom keepers and when they are gone,we will have no way to cross that bridge to the rainbow Heavens,wakaya,i pray for mankind to awaken in his heart, to allow all freedoms to arsie and to reign once again,as the great Thunder Gods they truly are,wakaya

  20. Jerry Cook Says:

    Pam, another set of fine photos. And the markings on him are so close to the head markings on Nub Ear too. I made another trip to the Fifteen Mile area about a week after you were there and was able to find several of the other horses out there. I am going to look at some of the photos and see if I can identify this big boy. I still wasn’t able to locate Nub Ear himself, but am hoping that he is still there. I will send you an email about what I found on this last trip.

  21. Puller Lanigan Says:

    Obviously, we are crying with you over the loss of these beautiful creatures.

  22. pnickoles Says:

    Thanks everyone for your comments. Someone brought up that this young stallion may have already been kicked out of Nub Ear’s band (the band stallions send the young studs off to find their own range and families when they reach a certain age – varies, but 2-3 is typical) prior to the roundup. That may be. He may have escaped the helicopter or he may have been re-released and returned to familiar territory. I wish I knew his story, but the fact that he even wanted to be in my company suggests that he might be having a hard time locating other bachelors or mares to form a band with or the competition may be too tough. This range had the sex ratio skewed. No mares were treated with fertility drugs. From the BLM representative of the HMA after the roundup: “Best estimate of horses currently in HMA: 89 horses (52 studs, 37 mares), very close to 60/40 stud/mare ratio.” That’s not alot of horses…

  23. Nancy Roberts Says:

    I love the band of all bays, I’ve never seen that before. Thanks for sharing your story. I hope this guy finds friends. This is shameful what they are doing to our sacred herds. I feel sick about it. I don’t know what I’ll do when the Sand Wash herd gets rounded up….so sad to even think about it. Anyway love your special photos…always! Nancy and Odakota


  24. Pam,
    The photographs you take of these gorgeous creatures go right to my heart…
    I receive updates on the situation from a good friend in the US; knowing how sad this ongoing story is, I often have to steel myself before I dare open her mustang-related emails – alas, when it is a link to your site, I am always rewarded with a greater understanding of them and with the amazing images you create.
    I just wanted to take a moment to let you know that there are people all over the world rooting for the American Mustang, and for you and everyone who works so hard to help hands-on. I send many of your blog entries on to my family in Germany and to friends around the globe so that there is more awareness about this.
    Many thanks for what you do for these innocent creatures who are at the mercy of not so innocent humans!
    Best of luck from Panama,
    Nicole

  25. Starr Potter Says:

    What a wast, Why can’t they leave these animals alone, They are our history. Without history how will our children learn.One day they will be like the buffalo. We won’t do any thing untill it is to late. Thanks for sharing your story with us. I too hope he finds a family to roam with someday, what a beauty to be wasted man should be ashame of him self. I hope someday these animals can roam in peace without fear of man. Run free my man and live in peace

  26. Tara Bruning Says:

    Where is Nub ear? Is he in holding somewhere? We would like to know what happened to this beautiful and healthy Bay family??

  27. pnickoles Says:

    Nancy – I can’t even think about that. At least they should have a couple of years yet since the last one was in 2008.

    Nicole – your note just made my day. It’s important to me to inform and try to stay as positive as possible while doing it (which isn’t always easy with their situation as we know). It’s always gratifying to hear that people all over the world are rooting for our horses. Just wish we could say the same about our own government.

    Run free indeed – thanks Starr.

    Tara – there was a roundup in this HMA last fall. 301 horses were shipped to the Rock Springs temporary holding/adoption facility. I have no idea what became of this herd or of Nub Ear.

    We are going back this month to try again. I will let you all know if we find more horses…

  28. pnickoles Says:

    Nicole – thank you so much for sharing my blog with your friends and family as well! That means a lot to me. 🙂

    To EVERYONE that takes the time to read, share and comment – it really does mean a lot to me and I thank you.

  29. Gabbie Says:

    Gosh, the story brought tears to my eyes. BEAUTIFUL pictures of a beautiful horse!

  30. Tara Bruning Says:

    Have you been able to locate “nub ear” or any of his family in holding?? Where do you think he is? Do you think something has happened to him?

  31. pnickoles Says:

    Thanks Gabbie – he is a gorgeous young stallion.

    Tara – I’ve not been able to find Nub Ear on the range. Unfortunately, I have no idea what may have become of him or his family after the roundup. I really miss seeing that boy. 😦


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