East Douglas Wild Horses

November 20, 2012

This September was my first experience in the East Douglas portion of the Piceance Creek/East Douglas HMA in Colorado. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Piceance Creek area, but this was all new territory and horses. It’s always so much fun to explore unfamiliar areas.

On this trip, we were pretty much winging it since we had a general idea of where we should be, but no directions. We were driving along a main road when I looked down a side road and caught a glimpse of something. I had Tom turn around to make sure of what I saw, and then we headed down that side road.

Can you see it? A poop pile there in the curve of the road! A good sign. It means horses!

Click on the photos for larger/sharper views

We continued down the road, not knowing anything about what lay ahead. There was a very deep arroyo that followed the road to our left and the road got pretty narrow in places.

Wow – we did good! Found a water source right off the bat. Always a good place to look for horses (and other wildlife). And, it was full which is also important.

The road was starting to get kind of “iffy” and since we didn’t have any idea where it went or how much rougher it would get, we parked the Jeep and I got out to hike a bit before subjecting our vehicle to anything more extreme. Along the way, I saw these prints.

I think I was only gone for about 10 minutes, but when I got back, Tom had some pretty exciting news to share with me.

He said he was just standing at the water hole when he heard some crashing in the trees behind him and then he saw 3 horses come running to the water. I think they were as shocked as Tom was since they just stood staring at him for a moment and then took off again. No, he didn’t have a camera and I couldn’t believe I missed them! In any case, Tom described the horses to me (a bay, a gray and a black) and it was satisfying just to see how much he obviously enjoyed the encounter.

We hung out in the area for about an hour to see if anything else would come along, but nothing did and as we watched storm clouds building, we decided we’d better head out before the rain started.

As we were driving out, I was watching the canyon walls for “rock art” (pictographs or petroglyphs) which we’d been looking at all day during our Canyon Pintado tour that had brought us out this direction to begin with. As I was scanning, I noticed some movement and spots of color below the walls. Horses! Hmmm…a black and a gray. Tom took a look and announced those were “his” horses! I was going to get to see them afterall.

And then the bay came into view.

And they were off!

It was a somewhat narrow canyon, so we just drove beside them. They’re a fair distance away though, until the canyon starts to tighten down even more.

I think we were too close for comfort for them (we were across 2 arroyos, but I get the feeling these horses don’t see as many people) and they turned back and started up the slope.

Looks like something got the bay’s tail. It’s pretty short!

The black and the bay are both mares. The gray is the stallion.

They move so easily across the rocks and steep terrain. Is it any wonder I want a Mustang for trail riding?!

Heading straight up.

They stopped briefly to take in our position.

They climb so effortlessly as they continue to the top of the hill.

Almost there.

It didn’t take long at all to put us behind them. They were the only horses we saw, but we went back the next day and began the search all over again. We were not disappointed either.

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The Newborn

June 10, 2010

Back in mid-May, Tom and I made a trip to the Piceance Creek/East Douglas HMA near Meeker, CO. This was our fourth visit to this range. In the three previous trips, we’d been skunked twice. On our very first outing, we saw our only Piceance Creek horses and it was a grand total of three. A small family – a gorgeous stallion, his mare and a young foal. Below is a picture from that trip in 2006.

Piceance Creek family - 2006

We were absolutely determined to see horses on this trip. Some friends who live in Meeker provided us with a few good maps of the area that we felt sure would increase our chances. (Thanks Danny and Ginger). There had been recent sightings within the HMA, but our day began with lots of rain. We were relegated to the paved roads that skirted the boundary. Still we were hopeful that we’d find some of the wild horses that had eluded us over the years.

Jackpot – I couldn’t believe it. We’d gone as far as we could go on a paved road and as we were turning around, I noticed a band that had been hidden from our view when we drove past going the opposite direction. I spied a tiny creature in the grass with an anxious mare standing nearby. He didn’t even look completely dry (but hard to be sure since it was/had been raining). Probably only hours old – a newborn. I was so excited, but knew I needed to be extra conscious around the new mother. I kept a respectable distance – grateful for the opportunity to observe this remarkable new life.

The mare paws the ground attempting to encourage the newborn to try to get up

And so the little stud colt tries to get those long legs underneath him

He weaves and wobbles quite a bit

He finally manages to work his way towards his mama

She moves away from the little guy so that he'll continue his efforts to get to her. Wild youngsters need to be mobile as soon as possible to avoid predators.


The other band membes are anxious to check out the new addition, but the mare wants no part of it. She keeps the other horses from getting too close to the newborn.

Back off!

It was interesting to watch the little one - he had no idea where to go for nourishment and made circles around the mare searching for what instinct told him he needed.

Another band member wants to check out the youngster - the mare sends a warning via her pinned ears to stay away

The band members circle the mare and foal looking for their opportunity to get a closer look.

The mare nudges the little one in an attempt to guide it to its first drink. The vital colostrum - a milk-like substance that jump-starts a newborn's immune system.

Another warning

The mare keeps the youngster moving

Still searching...

The band stallion - isn't he something?!

Going around in circles

The mare decides to lay down for a minute...and that's all she gets.

The bay makes a move towards the foal, but his mama is a watchful one.

And she's up as quickly as she went down

These two seem to have established a truce

The little guy dozes off - it's hard to tell, but there is a dribble of white on his lower lip. Paydirt - a good start for this wild youngster.

The most amazing thing about this whole encounter? The mare and stallion felt “familiar” to me, so after coming home, blowing up and carefully comparing images, I realized that they are the same mare and stallion that I photographed in 2006! Both have lightened up a bit over the years, but it’s them. That whole morning with the family and their newborn was worth all those years in between…

(There is a roundup scheduled for this Herd Management Area beginning August 1st. I hope I haven’t seen the last of this family and they their freedom).

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Some good news for a Colorado herd of wild horses: http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/20295785/detail.html


I never understood the reasons claimed to zero out this herd (and of course wrote a letter in protest along with many other folks). I’ve been to the area 3 times and only seen horses (and only a small group of 3 at that) on one of those trips. The other trips consisted of alot of horse “sign,” but no horses. I’m going to happily put this HMA back on my list of areas and horses to photograph. Many thanks to those who participated in the efforts to get this reprieve for the Colorado horses. (And thanks to Deanne Stillman for sending the news link and to Joe Camp for his excellent story of what transpired).

East Douglas-Piceance Creek family, 2006.

East Douglas-Piceance Creek family, 2006.


East Douglas-Piceance Creek stallion

East Douglas-Piceance Creek stallion

This little mare was so pretty. I hope she found a wonderful home during this adoption event. There was alot of interest in her.

East Douglas-Piceance Creek mare at BLM adoption. Jefferson County Fairgrounds, Golden, CO May, 2008

East Douglas-Piceance Creek mare at BLM adoption. Jefferson County Fairgrounds, Golden, CO May, 2008

DouglasCreekMare-s copy

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