Part three and the final post from our trip to Arizona to see the wild ones. Mostly just a pictorial. Images from our last morning with the horses.

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In the mornings, El Mariachi and Hope can almost always be found in a little pocket of vegetation beside the other horse's paddock area where El Mariachi can keep an eye on everyone throughout the night. Always the sentry.

Working his way around to the barn area for breakfast.

With Hope following close behind

Beautiful light on a beautiful boy

Hope hears Tom in the barn

Ready for their feed

I never tire of just watching them eat.

I decided to leave the horses in peace and walked around the property just enjoying the morning and sights.

Hope watches Tom go about cleaning

Time to be out and about


We were running out of time, but both Tom and I wanted to take another hike before heading to town. It’s difficult terrain to do our usual trail blazing, but I think we did pretty well for the most part.

This is one amazing cat - he followed us out for quite a distance. He looks like a mini mountain lion out there in the desert (Michael's description that is just so fitting).


Timid and Diana came with us too.

I don't know how he manages it on almost every trip (since I've never been bothered), but Tom is snagged by another Jumping Cholla. HA!

And what’s the best way for a black dog to cool off after a hike in the desert? Why, a dip in the pool of course! ๐Ÿ™‚

The very athletic Diana

Another wonderful visit with Michael and all the critters. We very much appreciate the privilege of spending time at Wolf House.

Part One of this series:

Part Two of this series:

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Just a few days before we were to leave on our trip to Arizona, I found out that a Facebook buddy of mine was going to be in Tucson at the same time we were. I had the privilege of being with Aleta when she saw her very first wild horses in Sand Wash Basin, CO, we both attended a wild horse event featuring Michael Blake and Ginger Kathrens and a wild horse rally in Boulder, CO. So of course (with Michael’s permission) I asked her if she’d like to come out to the ranch while she was in town.

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Aleta with Shelby

Aleta brought her cousin Amy with her (also a horse person). Little Boy clearly thinks she's found the right spot to scratch.

Aleta with Little Boy


Gypsy (on the right) nuzzles Smudge who is a bit uneasy with us in the paddock.

We headed out to the arena to watch El Mariachi and Hope for a bit before they decided they needed some space and raced out to the rest of the property.

Respecting the horse’s wishes, we let them be and went up to Wolf House to visit with Michael. Always gracious and generous, Michael spent some time visiting with us before taking us all down to his studio. There he shared stories that went with some of the many photos and posters on the walls, signed books and shared some tracks from one of his CD’s. I think a good time was had by all. ๐Ÿ™‚

After some lunch with Aleta and Amy in town (thanks you guys!), Tom and I went back to the ranch and just hung out. We put the wild ones up for the afternoon and let the rest of the horses out.

Gypsy and Smudge



Before we knew it, it was time for the evening feeding. Michael had told me that El Mariachi has an affection for carrots, so I tossed one out for him while Tom was getting the other horses fed. Though he hesitated to accept my gesture, the carrot proved too tempting. ๐Ÿ™‚

El Mariachi and Hope are more comfortable with us if we’re sitting in the car, so we parked near their stall just to watch them eat for a while before calling it a night.

Dark clouds again, but still no rain.

Bright and early the next day, we left the ranch to meet up with a couple more Facebook buddies. We’d met Cindy and Jacky on a previous visit. We piled them into the car at the meet spot and drove on to the Phoenix area where we were going to pick up Karen, a wonderful painter.

Karen showed us around her place where we met her dogs and horses before she took us out to one of the areas she draws her inspiration from. I was ready for a nice hike to see more of the Arizona desert, but what we got was quite the adventure!

Our guide, Karen McLain

Dry wash area

That's Karen in a forested area that made young Jacky feel like she was in a Harry Potter movie. ๐Ÿ™‚

It was beautiful and interesting terrain. I could see why Karen liked it out there.

Cindy spotted this tree with a cactus growing on it.

Yup, getting pretty dark - just after I took this photo, the sky opened up on us.

Okay, so we’ll get a little wet. No big deal. We’ll just tuck our cameras inside our coats. Surely it wouldn’t rain that long. Afterall, Arizona is so dry. HA!

We got pummelled as rain turned into hail!

On our return hike, the ground turned into little streams and the trail became a slippery mess, especially as we went up and down some washes. I was pulling up the rear and had just told Tom to be careful when his legs went out from under him and from one direction to the next. With arms flailing, he somehow managed to stay upright, but joked about feeling like he had just performed something you’d see in a cartoon. We both laughed – Tom was grateful I was the only one who’d witnessed his gymnastics.

When we finally got back to the car, the need to document this event took over and I snapped this photo of our drenched companions – my little point and shoot hasn’t worked properly since.

L-R: Jacky, Cindy, Karen and Tom.

We were soaked – I mean completely SOAKED – and we were all still smiling and joking. My kind of folks. Karen suggested that despite our condition and appearance, we should get some lunch. And so we did. What a sight we were. Wet and cold, we sat there chatting away. Water was still dripping off my pony-tail and down my back. Brrr… Still, a good time because of the cheerful company.

We said our good-byes to Karen and pointed the car towards Tucson with the heater blasting (there was short stop at Target for some warm socks for Jacky). ๐Ÿ™‚

We dropped off Cindy and Jacky and continued south. Despite how it turned out, we had spent the day with some great people and shared an adventure we would all remember for quite a while.

As Tom and I made our way to the ranch, we were treated to this rainbow. What a fitting final photo.

Part 3 (the final chapter) to follow…

Part One of this series:

Part Three of this series:

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We caught one of those really late flights into Tucson on a Thursday night, signed for our rental car and drove to the hotel nearby. We were beat. It had been a work day for both of us. Now it was past midnight, but I had a hard time falling asleep knowing that in the morning, we would be driving to the ranch to see El Mariachi, Hope and Michael Blake. I was like a little kid – so excited.

We were up early and on our way. We figured the horses would probably still be eating breakfast by the time we arrived.

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We're almost there - the road to Michael's ranch.

And there he is – enjoying his breakfast and wondering who the visitors are. SO good to see him!

Not comfortable with strangers, the horses leave the barn area for the acreage where they keep a constant eye on us.

I decided to follow them to see about some photos, but they made a big circle around me and went back to the barn. ๐Ÿ™‚

We spent a bit of time saying hello to the other horses and then decided to go up to Wolf House to see Michael. We parked next to his old truck and I cracked up when Meowski popped up from inside to greet us.

Hello Meowski!

It’s always great to see Michael too. We caught up a bit and then went back down to the horses so Michael could work.

Something has Hope's attention

The horses were headed down to the creek area, so Tom and I decided to tag along, enjoy the cool air and scenery.

I noticed this freshly chewed cactus plant. Wonder what was dining on this just before we showed up?

I think whatever it was might live under this rock ledge

We heard some whistling so we started back towards the barn. It was Michael letting us know it was time to put the wild ones in the arena and let the other horses out for the afternoon.

The horses know this routine pretty well. El Mariachi and Hope went right into the arena.

Michael has more horses than he did the last time we visited. He rescued three Mustang mares that were slaughter bound. They live with Tomas and Little Boy and seem to be adjusting well to their new lives and home.

L-R: Gypsy, Little Boy and Tomas

Michael with Gypsy

Shelby has really distinct markings

With the horses penned up for the afternoon, Tom and I decided it would be a good time to hike into the national forest and back up to the grotto.

Looking down at the horses and yes, El Mariachi is still watching us. Ever alert that boy.

No water in the grotto this time, but with those clouds, maybe there will be.

We’re joined by Diana and Timid.

And Scout came along as well. Tough old girl she is.

Diana is a beautiful Belgian Shepherd - a rescue of course.

Big, gorgeous landscapes all around

The afternoon flew by and it was time to feed. Back to the barn.

This is Smudge. I got very few pictures of her. Smudge is really distrusting and didn’t want anything to do with us. I hate to think what she’s been through.

Time to put the girls, Tomas and Little Boy back into their paddock area for the night. They seem to get along well, sharing stalls and eating together. Both Little Boy and Tomas seem happy with the female companionship.

L-R: Tomas, Gypsy, Shelby and Little Boy in the back

Michael says goodnight to Shelby

One more photo of El Mariachi.

We spent the evening listening to more of Michael’s stories and chatting away until we all called it a night. Tomorrow we were looking forward to guests at the ranch.

I slept like a baby…

Part Two of this series:

Part Three of this series:

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Photo Of The Week – 2/23/11

February 24, 2011

Since we just returned from Arizona, it seems appropriate to feature El Mariachi as the Photo of the Week. Both he and Hope look wonderful. I hope to have a full post about our trip uploaded in the next week or two. What a great time we had visiting the horses, Michael Blake and several Facebook buddies.

For those that don’t yet know the story of these two horses, here is the link: “Rescuing An American Icon.”

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Our departure to Arizona didn’t seem certain when we started for the airport. There was a winter storm warning in effect and the early morning ride to the airport was a little tense with the sideways blowing snow. But, we boarded on time and it looked like we were about to go from snow to sun in just a couple of hours. We were delayed at bit while we went through the de-icing procedure (never experienced that before!), but despite the weather, we had a smooth and uneventful flight.

This trip was going to be extra special because we were bringing my niece Ariel along as well as my Mom, who is now in remission.

Upon our arrival, we met up with long-time and dear friends, John and Judy Austin. They winter in Tucson, so they were able to follow us out to the ranch to meet Michael and the horses.

You have to drive your vehicle through the creek to get to Michael's ranch. This was the first time we've seen it with the water running. Arizona has gotten a lot of rain so far this year.

This is the creek that runs through Michael's property.

Our first view of the horses. L-R: Hope, Little Boy and El Mariachi

It was so good to see Little Boy standing with El Mariachi and Hope. When Michael’s mare, and Little Boy’s constant companion Samantha died in December, Little Boy went through a very rough period. He was off his feed, got sick and Michael worried that he might lose both of them. But, he seems to have turned a corner and he’s hanging out with the two wild horses more who seem perfectly happy to have him around.

Hope and El Mariachi

It wasn’t long before Michael came down from Wolf House and joined us all at the barn. Of course, we were equally as happy to see him too! ๐Ÿ™‚

Michael with Tomas

L-R: Mom, Judy, John and Michael (with Tomas)

L-R: Me, Michael, Mom, John and Judy

Ariel with Little Boy

Little Boy, Michael and Ariel. Little Boy is so sweet. Here he's using Michael to rub his head on.

L-R: John, Michael, Ariel and Tommy (taking photos).

Ariel and Tomas

Tomas wants just a little taste of Ariel's shirt

Handsome boy

Tired of posing...

We hung around the barn for quite a while and then the horses decided to venture out onto the rest of the property.

Hope hides amongst the cacti

Shy girl Hope

Little Boy

We were a little early for most of the desert flowers, but we did see some blooming already

More signs of Spring. A nest with eggs wonderfully protected in a jumping cholla cactus.

It was so nice to see the horses's creek flowing. I know they must enjoy it too.

Hoof prints!

Tomas next to a Saguaro cactus

Peeking out at me

A horse can really hide in all that vegetation

Hope is such a pretty little mare. Love her sweet face, her big, soft eyes and her cute little white eyelashes.

Playfully biting El Mariachi on the leg

After visiting with the horses for about an hour, John and Judy headed home while the rest of us went up to Wolf House to relax and spend some time with Michael. He’s so interesting and always wants to know how we’re doing as well. It was fun to see how comfortable Ariel was with Michael too. She’s very outgoing and seems to engage people easily. I was happy she was able to come (though we missed her twin sister Tai and fiance Kirk!).

We were all beat, so we left for our motel just before dark after saying goodnight to the horses.

All of us managed to get up early Saturday for morning light photos back at the ranch. Early morning and late afternoon are the best times to photograph and are my favorite times of the day anyway.

I just can't take too many photos of this gorgeous horse

Ariel takes her Grammie down to the arena to see the horses

Tommy decided to take a short hike while we visited with the horses

Tomas is such a character. He just has to touch or taste everything.

What a goofball

After visiting with the horses for a bit, we all headed up to Michael’s studio to see him off. He had been invited to share an “incredible” experience with his long-time friend Kevin Costner who was performing with his band “Kevin Costner and Modern West” in Germany and Slovakia. All you can say is WOW to that, right? I’d be gone too! (Modern West also has a Facebook page –!/kevincostnerandmodernwest?ref=ts – and guess who signed on as a fan?).

Mom with Michael

L-R: Me, Ariel, Michael and Mom (with Diana and Scout).

Michael and Tommy standing against the truck that Michael drove out to the Black Hills of South Dakota to film his Academy Award winning movie, Dances With Wolves.

(Upon his return, I asked Michael about his trip and he shared this with me: “Kevin Costner’s Modern West is a unique blend of great star power from Kevin and magnificent, inspiring music from a band that plays as if there is no tomorrow. Although they have drawn large crowds in America their recent tour of Europe has never been equaled according to foreign promoters. Modern West played almost thirty shows in six weeks in virtually every country. Each performance drew between 1,500 and 2,000 viewers. Many came to see Kevin Costner but all the young and the old were blown away by the thrilling music and singing Kevin and Modern West bestowed on them. I was given the opportunity to see the last five shows of the tour…four in Germany and one in Slovakia. Each one was remarkable in many different ways but at the end, what they played and sang on stage made memories that will last. Kevin is currently involved in several different films but Modern West will play a few shows in America and Canada through the rest of 2010. Music has been this writer’s greatest inspiration and Modern West is deeply connected with all the rest that have filled my heart and soul with belief in life.”)

This photo hangs in Michael's barn. It was taken at the Academy Awards in 1991. It took a tumble and is a little bruised, but a memory like this one looks good in any condition. L-R: Jim Wilson, Kevin Costner and Michael Blake with their Oscars from Dances With Wolves.

Before Michael left for the airport, he suggested that Tom, Ariel and I check out the “grotto” which was just outside his property in the national park. Michael said it was a very unique and beautiful area along the creek. The three of us grabbed some drinks and our cameras and with Diana as our guide, we started following a path that would lead us to the fence line.

Ariel and Tom - Tom was attacked by a Jumping Cholla cactus on the way. He said it really did seem to jump out at him and then it just stuck to him. Michael's friend Rick (who was taking care of the critters) helped Tom rid himself of the prickly aggressor. Of course Ariel and I taunted him about the ambush afterwards.

Our guide, Diana

Looking back at the ranch - the arrow points to a tiny El Mariachi walking along the creek

El Mariachi and Tomas

Looking back towards the ranch from the national park trail

After we hiked way past the grotto, we finally turned around and eventually found it. Diana is looking at the grotto area, but it's still pretty hard to make out.

Ariel and Diana at the grotto. What a wonderful reprieve for a black dog in the desert - even though the temps were perfect during our stay (in the 70's and low 80's).

Me and Ariel at the grotto

Me, Diana and Tom

Diana in the lower left corner looking towards the ranch

The hike to the grotto was a wonderful way to enjoy the surroundings when it wasn’t blazing hot outside. It was nice of Michael to share his little treasure with us.

On our way back to the motel, we took a scenic drive through Saguaro National Park. I’d hoped to see both a Gila monster and a desert tortoise, but I was told it was still a little early for the Gila monster to be out and about. Maybe next time. It’s a beautiful drive if you’re ever in the area.

John and Judy shared a very good Mexican restaurant with us Saturday evening. Family, good friends, good beer, margaritas and food. Perfect way to end the day.

Sunday morning, we left Mom to enjoy a leisurely breakfast with John and Judy while Ariel, Tom and I drove out to see the horses. We were meeting a new friend and her daughter at the gate house to the ranch.

I had “met” Cindy Cartwright through this blog. She’d made a comment on a post about the horses (she lives in Arizona) and we corresponded back and forth (we’re Facebook friends as well where Cindy is a very active animal welfare advocate). Cindy told me about her beautiful Mustang mare Sierra that she had rescued along with another horse. I had hoped to photograph her mare while we were visiting. Tragically, Cindy lost her Sierra just two days before we arrived. I didn’t even know what to say when she shared her heartbreaking news. I knew the loss was devastating. Despite the circumstances, Cindy still wanted to get together, so I asked her if she’d like to come out to the ranch to meet the horses.

Read Cindy’s touching story of Sierra with many photos here:

Good morning boy

Ariel and Little Boy

Cindy's daughter Jacky, Little Boy and Ariel

Jacky with Tomas. Jacky is a real horse and animal lover.

Tom gently rubs Little Boy's eyes for him. He likes it!

Watching the horses enjoy the morning together

Ariel gave her cameras a real workout. I was proud of her!

Our new friend Cindy.

Cindy, Jacky and Little Boy

Jacky with Little Boy

Little Boy

You can barely see his hooves in the air, but the arrow points to a rolling El Mariachi

All together grazing

Using Little Boy as a scratching post

Sharing a drink at the creek

Back at the arena

Michael was very generous (as usual) with Ariel and gave her several of his books. She finished this one, Like A Running Dog, and started on Dances With Wolves while we were there. She's an avid reader and writer. And, Michael has a new fan.

Jacky with Timid

How can such a pretty girl...

Make such a face!

We crammed alot of activities into the limited time we had, so after visiting with Cindy, Jacky and the horses for a couple of hours, it was time to pick up Mom and drive over to the Santa Rita mountains to share lunch with Marianne Blake and the kids (delicious home-made bread and chicken – yumm!).

Lozen with her brother Quanah and Lucky. Look how big Lucky is getting!

Marianne and Rosebud

Rick shoes the famous Breeze as Cowboy (the bassett hound) supervises.

Having been shod, it's time for a bath!

Lozen and Ariel love on and admire Breeze

Monahsetah riding Burito who is AKA Don Rito or just The Don. He's a Quarterhorse, trained for roping and cattle. He's about 12 years old.

Rick surprised Ariel when he told her to climb aboard Breeze and go for a ride with everyone. Ariel has two horses of her own so she wasn’t afraid to take him up on his offer.

Monahsetah, Lozen and Ariel take off for a ride around the property

Marianne (on Rosebud) and Quanah (on Cookie)

From Marianne: “Cookie is about 8 or 9. She’s Quanah’s horse now and he likes to call her Massive Mama. His fear of riding Massive Mama vanished after a couple of minutes on my back pasture and they are now a terror. Although she is trained, has been ridden a fair amount (Rick rode her a couple of months before Quanah started on her) she has never enjoyed being a riding horse until now. It just breaks my heart (in a good way) to see the love my boy and Cookie share. He can’t keep his hands off her and she just can’t get enough. Just goes to prove that horses react to patience, love and true happiness.”

Lozen on FrostBite. Frostbite is about 4 years old. Marianne told me Frostbite's sire was Blue Dot, of the Valentine Quarterhorse line and her mama a great draft horse. Frostbite is really starting to enjoy riding, outings and human love.

Mom and Tom watching all the horsey activity

Ariel and Breeze

Breeze is around 15 or 16 years old. He’s a Paint/QH, famous (in most of Tucson) for his speed and heart. He’s a sought-after cow horse and, in his younger days, received a 2nd place in the Women’s National Barrel Competition. Breeze was also the co-star in Michael’s documentary, “The American West – On The Road With Michael Blake.” Check out the film photos featuring Michael and Breeze at the link below:

Doesn't it look like she's having a great time on that horse?

Ariel said that Breeze was the best trained horse she’s ever ridden. What a treat. (Thanks Rick!) She also commented how sweet the girls were to her; asking Ariel if she was okay, did she want to trot, etc. and how cool it was to see the whole family riding their horses together – how much fun that must be to enjoy on a regular basis like these guys do.

Another full day, but we still wanted to go back to the ranch to say goodnight to the horses. We arrived in late afternoon and of course, the horses thought it must be dinner time so they started towards the barn in a hurry.

El Mariachi and Tomas

Hope and Tomas

All four feet off the ground! He's flying!

Such a pretty mover

Hope rubbing her itchies away on El Mariachi

Hope sportin' a new doo

It was Monday already – the time had gone by so quickly. We made one last trip out to the ranch to see the horses.

El Mariachi finds a tree to take care of an itch

It was so interesting to watch the following interaction between El Mariachi and Tomas. It tells me that El Mariachi must truly be in a good place in his head if he’s playing, and comfortable enough to do so while we observe. Mutual grooming and playtime. A joy to watch.

Tomas came over to see what Ariel was up to. He's always curious and interested in people.

The horses wandered out of the arena and down to the creek area as we were getting ready to leave. I followed them down the road a bit and took the last two shots of El Mariachi before we said goodbye and headed to the airport. He posed beautifully for me.

I left the ranch feeling very grateful to Michael (again) for giving the horses such a peaceful existence. I spent enough time with them to see that they’ve adjusted well and seem very content in their new home. El Mariachi appeared to be much more relaxed, he’s carrying a better weight and seems to have willingly taken on both Little Boy and Tomas as his herdmates. Although El Mariachi has lost his freedom out on the range, thanks to Michael’s generosity, he’s still able to have what he probably values almost as much – a family.

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(Photos are for viewing purposes only. Images are copyright protected and owned solely by Pam Nickoles Photography. No reproduction permitted. Feel free to share the link, not the images.)


Michael Blake’s books are available through Hrymfaxe LLC (Marianne’s publishing company) and there’s the added bonus that Hrymfaxe will donate 25% off the retail prices of all titles by Michael to charities listed on the site (if you’re a rescue or an organization of any humantarian cause, be sure to apply for this very generous opportunity!

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