Piceance Creek HMA, 3-2011 (Day 1)
April 9, 2011
I couldn’t stand it anymore, I needed a wild horse fix, but traveling to the horse ranges in March is still a bit early in the season, especially this season. It’s been a very snowy winter in the high country. Snowpack across the state is 115 percent above average as of this week. In the past, we’ve arrived at our destination only to have to turn right back around when roads were completely impassable. We ventured out to Adobe Town one winter, started down the road from the highway and came upon drifts that were higher than the Jeep. Our journey ended. I was hoping for better luck on this trip.
We figured our best chance was to take a paved road on the southern side of the HMA and work our way up. We’ve seen horses off this road before, but I had no idea where they wintered. Pretty quickly we realized that most of the dirt roads were going to be too muddy to travel. Oh well. We were out enjoying the drive and scenery (along with our dogs) and we had the full weekend to look for horses along access we did have.
We drove the full length of the road without seeing a single horse. Then on the way back, I saw a herd off to the right (they hide so darn well), but they were behind a fence. I wasn’t sure if they were on BLM land or not, but luckily for us, there was an natural gas employee parked at a pad that I could ask.
He looked at me rather suspiciously when we first approached his truck, but when I told him we were there looking for wild horses, he became quite friendly and informative. He told me the horses stayed in this particular area year round and that the horses I’d spotted were indeed on BLM land. I just needed to hop over the fence. Cool. When I’ve asked an oil or gas employee about the wild horses, they’ve been friendly and helpful 100% of the time. They seem to enjoy having the horses out there to view while they go about their work.
Tom helped me across the fence and I started hiking out to the horses. I was back in my element. That magical, peaceful feeling was beginning to take hold. It was quite chilly, overcast and windy, but it just didn’t matter. I was in beautiful country and there were wild horses in front of me.
(Click on the images for clearer/sharper views)
I wasn’t sure how close the band stallion would let me get. He was pretty uneasy, so I just waited and watched for a bit. I don’t like to stress horses in any season, but it’s particularly important not to in the winter or just coming out of winter when they need to be conserving their energy. After such a tough season, I was anxious to get a look at their condition, but I still needed to get a little closer.
This group looks to be in pretty good shape.
Even taking my time working my way up to them, they decide to take off. Hopefully, they won’t go far if I just stay where I’m at.
They just disappear into their surroundings. I walked parallel to where they had gone hoping they wouldn’t feel pursued, allowing me another glimpse.
My tactic worked. It often does. The band stallion never took his eyes off me, but he didn’t move his family and he actually allowed me to move towards them.
Before they felt pressured to leave, I thanked the horses for allowing my visit and headed for the Jeep.
We decided to try the eastern boundary road next. As we were driving along, I noticed something that I wanted to look at more closely and had Tom pull the Jeep over. Just as I suspected. It looked like a new life was about to enter the world and we were here to see it. Not a wild horse, but pretty amazing regardless.
(Warning – somewhat graphic photos to follow)
Just as the little one stood up for the first time, the rancher who owns the cows drove up and stopped to speak with us. I was hoping he didn’t mind that we were parked and photographing. Nope. He told us that he could get us much closer if we liked. These cows were used to him being around checking on them and their newborns. It wouldn’t be a problem at all. We just needed to follow him down into the pasture. Off we went.
We left Mama and her little one and tried to find the kind rancher who had allowed us to photograph them. We couldn’t find him anywhere. He must have gone over a hill checking on new mothers. In case he could see us somehow, we waved good-bye and headed down the road.
We didn’t get too far when I noticed horses in a pasture. They looked like wild ones to me, so again, I had Tom pull over. We have seen horse sign all up and down this highway (which has a constant flow of semis on it – scary). It wasn’t totally improbable for these to be wild horses outside of the HMA. I got out and took a few pictures.
We hadn’t been there very long when the same rancher drove up beside us. Great – now we could thank him in person. We chatted for a while about the cows and calves and then I asked him about the horses in the field. “Those are wild horses” he told me. He had contacted the BLM about them. (They are young and off the range). He wanted to know what they’d do with them and was told that they’d be taken to Canon City for possible adoption.
Well, this rancher has owned Mustangs before. He knows there are too many horses in holding and not enough homes for them. He asked the BLM if he could adopt them. Since he was already an approved adopter, the BLM agreed. Of course, this brought up a whole new topic of conversation and we stood around for quite a while talking about wild horses, ranching, the BLM, etc. We weren’t completely on the same page, but we weren’t really that far off either. Here was a guy that could see both sides and was rational when discussing them. He also spoke about the importance of going slowly and gently when working with a wild horse. I liked him right away.
It was time to head to town, but we kept an eye on the hillside just in case. You know, somehow that always seems to pan out for us.
Not even able to get into the interior of the HMA and look how many horses we managed to see. And a birth as well. What a great day.
Almost into town when I get my final shot of the evening.
Day two to follow…
Update – Day two post: https://nickolesphotography.wordpress.com/2011/04/17/piceance-creek-hma-3-2011-day-2/
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