Losing His Family

September 2, 2011

There’s a certain Piceance Creek stallion that has been my favorite for several years now. On our first trip to this HMA, he and his mare along with their new foal were the only horses we spotted the entire day. So, as you can probably imagine, he made quite an impression on me.

This was taken back in 2006. He's younger and darker, but the same handsome boy. I refer to him as "Handsome," but it's not really a name, just an observation. 🙂

In May of 2010, I came across this stallion (and the same mare) again and wrote about it here:
The Newborn: http://wp.me/pqR49-1By

And there was a follow-up story about them here:
Fate Of The Newborn: http://wp.me/pqR49-1VT

Is this not one handsome stallion? (2010)

Our first trip out to Piceance Creek this year was in March (Day Onehttp://wp.me/pqR49-2b5 and Day Two: http://wp.me/pqR49-2dv). Though we spent two days driving around, I couldn’t find the Handsome gray stallion and his family. It had been a pretty severe winter so of course I was worried about how they had fared.

It was the end of May before we could get out to the range again. We drove to the “pasture” area where many horses are known to frequent – Handsome’s band included. Again, he was nowhere to be found. We drove very slowly to the west and finally, I saw something in the tall brush.

It was Handsome, but something was definitely amiss. Right away I noticed his torn right ear. I had to get a closer look. I got out and picked my way through the thick growth towards him.

I could now see that he’d been through quite a battle. He stared at me briefly and then slowly turned and limped away. Oh no I thought – he’s lame too. My stomach hurt seeing him like this. I wondered how long ago it had happened. And what had become of his family?

He didn’t venture far from me. It was pretty evident that movement caused him pain. I backed off and walked around a corner. To my relief, I saw two familiar faces.

A very pregnant roan mare with her yearling filly.

But that was the extent of the members of his family. What had happened to all the rest? Had they been won by another stallion? Obviously, Handsome had put up quite a fight trying to keep them. It was hard to believe that Pretty Mare (from “The Newborn” post) was no longer with this boy. I know it’s natural, but changes can also be hard to accept. I felt genuine sorrow for Handsome’s loss.

I stayed with this diminished family for about 20 minutes before they started to move away. That was my cue to end the visit. Handsome had chosen this secluded spot to try to recover and I didn’t want to push him away from it. I wished the family well and left.

Tom and I were pretty quiet as we continued to drive west. Just a few miles down the road, some of my questions were answered.

Handsome's stolen family

And here is the stallion that had managed to steal them away from Handsome

I didn’t recognize this boy. I could see that he had taken a few licks from Handsome. I’m sure it had been a hard-won victory. I wondered how old this stallion was (I’m guessing that Handsome is 10+ years old). Was he younger and stronger than the aging, gray band stallion? Was this the black’s first family? The questions made me wish I could be up there every day to follow the stories of these horses and know more of the answers.

Pretty mare (on the left) with this year's foal

And shortly after we arrived, the black stallion bred Pretty Mare. It's good for genetic diversity I told myself with a twinge of sadness.

Pretty Mare appeared to like the new protector.

The black stallion had had enough of us and snaked his new family away. I haven't seen any of these horses again.

The weekend of June 4th, we went back to Piceance Creek. Anxious to see about Handsome, we drove to the “pasture.” This time, he was there. A good thing. That meant he was feeling stronger as there are several bands that live in the area year round and he would have to be up to a challenge to keep what remained of his family.

He was healing, but still lame. And, he was being dogged by a bay stallion who was also lame. Despite their conditions, the quest to gain and retain a family continued.

He looked better and he still had the two girls.

June 19th – a surprise on this trip out.

The roan mare has a new filly by her side. 🙂

Big sister keeps an eye on me while the little one enjoys a roll in the grass.

The bay stallion is still dogging Handsome and his family.

Both still have lameness issues, but Handsome is moving more freely than the last time I saw him. Yay!

Moving his family away from the bay stallion.

The wounds are healing

On August 6th and 7th, we were back on the range, but both days we rode with the BLM. I took more notes than photos since they were taking the time to show us around the boundaries and answer some of my many questions. I did see Handsome and his family from a distance. He and the three girls were still together.

August 19th: My Mom, Tom and our friend Jim Westin have joined us – first time for my Mom in almost two years. We had just dropped down from the beautiful Cathedral Bluffs area and were driving down 24X Road. There to my left, a group of horses. We found a two-track and managed to get close enough that Mom could see the group well. It took me a second, because I’d never seen him this far to the northwest of the pasture, but I realize it’s Handsome and his family. Woo Hoo! Mom and Jim get to see my favorite stallion.

He looks great!

They didn’t run from us, so I don’t know if he’s still lame or not, but typical of a Mustang, it appears he’s made a nice recovery.

August 20th: Parting shots.

This would be my last opportunity to see this boy before the scheduled roundup at the end of the month. The wounds have healed and he’s managed to keep part of his family, but he may still be lame. When the helicopter comes, he’ll be forced to run and he’ll most certainly lose his girls. Any one of them may be injured as they’re run to the trap site, sorted and/or transported.

Some change I can learn to accept, but what lies ahead for this boy and the other horses of this HMA will never make sense to me. Yes, the horses need to be managed, but there is a much better and more humane way to achieve the goal – grounding the helicopters should be at the top of the list.

I have to hope that I have not seen the last of this incredible stallion on his home range…

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23 Responses to “Losing His Family”


  1. So So sad…thinking of these helicopter round-ups really hurts…I do hope you will meet him again…and also all the others horses…
    Thanks as allways for sharing your photos and storys Pam.
    //Marie

  2. janine Says:

    Oh, I hope he can hold onto his small family. He is so pretty and I am glad he is healed up and I also hope the lameness has gone? Thanks for the awesome story and amazing pictures you take!!! Janine


  3. Thanks for this story. I hope he hides on that day. It is unbelievably cruel to terrify these animals with helicopters. Thanks for giving faces to the victims of this human caused brutality. Beautiful beautiful pictures.

  4. Beth Ann Daye Says:

    Thank you for this beautiful but sad story. They do well, even healing from wounds, on their own. Why do they have to be treated this way??? !!!

  5. Janet Ortega Says:

    This is a great picture story. I think the only way to stop the BLM from doing these savage roundups is to come together and get the big guy out that runs the BLM. The house and the senate can’t even agree on the budget and they’re too busy filling their greedy pockets to care about some wild horses in nowhere land to be bothered. It’s going to take action and a lot of people to change this and money! I’ll bet the gas and the oil industry are behind this whole thing money talks and you know what walks! Thanks for reading my vent!

  6. Kerry Says:

    If only someone could adopt these as a family group (I don’t have the money, nor do I know if the BLM would let them all be adopted together), I know of a great mountain top they could be “re-homed” too (it’s a national forest that is just crying out for some wild horses). It would have to be a covert re-homing.

  7. Shelva Says:

    Again, Thanks Pamela: this family is soooooo beautiful, I pray somehow they escape the roundups…..Thanks again….


  8. Thanks Pam for these beautiful pictures that give us a glimpse of the life of a Mustang. It definitely makes it much harder to hear of the roundups when you get to “know” the horses as individuals. Bless you for bringing Handsome’s story to us through your pictures.

  9. Katrine Pett Says:

    Your documentation and wonderful photos of these blessed horses is very important- the acknowledgement of thier very being and thier family lives and stories over the years is something truly special and I am grateful to you and yours Pam,love,light and laughter! Katrine.

  10. Mar Wargo Says:

    It gets harder to comment all the time. It is wonderful you can show us this series of events and the beautiful horses. The total disregard for them from BLM is beyond my understanding also. I do not want them to be touched by BLM any longer. There is no better reason for this than to give their land to other users. But it is not what we want. These wild horses are living as they should. Why must they lose everything? What must we do? The pain this causes in the wild ones and the humans who love them is immeasurable at this point. Thank you Pam. Your respect and dedication is profound. hugs, mar

  11. Karen McLain Says:

    What a wonderful post about this stallion who touched your heart. He is indeed Handsome. I am always so amazed at the way they heal. I too, regret the price he will pay at the round up. Thanks for sharing his beauty with us.

  12. Kim Michels Says:

    Hi Pam,

    What a beautiful story. I’m so glad you shared it. Your post “New Born” from last year tied to this story is my favorite. The tenderness you captured brought tears to my eyes more than once; and I have viewed that post several times.

    Kim

  13. Kerry Says:

    Mar Wargo, you ask what can we do? You can support Laura Liegh in her lawsuits, and the WHFF (Wild Horse Freedom Fund), and support The Cloud Foundation. (Every $5 helps) You can send your letters, emails and comments to your senators and represintatives when one of these organizations is staging a response. Tell your friends and neighbors. Tell strangers. Set up a booth at your local library, hand out information. Would Pam mind if I took these pictures and story and edited them for a handout? (all credit given of course). Cloud captured the heart of the nation and children, but there are many more like Handsome and El Marachi, those that are not common household names. Make them so.

  14. Roxy Says:

    “Handsome” is an understatement – but perhaps there are no “human” words adequate for any of our wild ones.

    Thank you again for bringing them into our living rooms and lives. A picture is a thousand words of any kind.

    May they run free.

  15. Maggie Frazier Says:

    Great pictures & comments – certainly brings the plight of the horses home to me – if only the “large & in charge” would listen to us –
    Glad your mom is doing well & got a chance to see this Handsome boy & his girls.
    Sure do hope they are are well hidden when the helicopters come. They DO need to be grounded.
    Maggie

  16. Dutch Henry Says:

    Wonderful pics & comments THANK YOU!…So sad. How do we stop the gathering & helicopters? I write stories and to get them published, can’t tell the whole truth…God bless you for all you do, Pam…


  17. I hope they all escape the clutches of the BLM. We all know what they do to horses with lameness issues. They kill them don’t they? If this gorgeous animal is lame, or gets more lame from them aggravating this injury during capture…..

  18. westinimages Says:

    “The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that’s the essence of inhumanity”

    George Bernard Shaw

    Keep making us aware…..and pray we not be indifferent….better to light a candle than curse the darkness.
    Without even a candle, how dark would be that darkness.

  19. Lethie Says:

    Thank you for the post and story about Handsome. I wonder too what will bappen to him and all the others. I just wish that they could live free without being managed at all. I don’t have the answers or even know the questions… I’m glad that some progress was made about the use of helicoptors, but for how long? Such a sad situation for all of them.

  20. Craig Downer Says:

    Very colorful pictures and nice behavior shots. Thanks

  21. winddrinkers Says:

    Beautiful images to share with your poignant story. I can see why you worried about handsome. He is a beauty & did go to battle in a big way, evidenced by your shots. sad he lost most of his family. Nature seems so cruel at times, yet not as cruel as man lately.

    I hate the thought that any of these horses might be removed from their freedom, their home, their families & our eyes & hearts.

    Thank you so much for sharing Pam.

  22. Linda H Says:

    Thank you for this poignant reminder of the impending roundup and its effects on these magnificent, resilient animals like Handsome!

  23. DB Says:

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful story on this gorgeous stallion and his family. Let’s hope he is spared during the roundups, and his family (somehow) is left in tact to live in freedom. Your photos are beautiful Pam…and this touches my heart immensely. We have to stop these roundups.


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