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! 🙂

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. 🙂

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. 🙂

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. 🙂

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). 🙂

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. 🙂

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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The “Email Subscription” link automatically alerts you to new posts. Stay updated and subscribe today!

(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.)

ISPMB Needs Our Help

May 19, 2010

A message from Karen Sussman of the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros:


As many of you know, ISPMB has been a leader in the field of wild horse and burro protection since our inception in 1960. Along with our first president, Wild Horse Annie, we were instrumental in getting federal legislation passed in 1971 – otherwise there would be no wild horses left on public lands today.

Well just as important, ISPMB is conducting research on our four herds creating a model for wild horse management – something sorely needed since it has been 39 years that the Act passed without BLM knowing much about herd behaviors. Our findings show that we may now be facing losing the extraordinary wisdom that was so inherent in the wild horse herds. This wisdom kept a very powerful social order intact with healthy behavioral modeling passed on to future generations. The loss of this wise modeling has caused the herds to double their fertility rates.

How did this happen? It has happened over the past twenty years since BLM went from gate cuts to selective removal. When BLM took all the horses that they wanted with gate cuts regardless of age, they still left many band structures intact that were never rounded up. With selective removal, BLM captures the entire herd or as many as they can and they separate the stallions from their harems and remove the five and under horses for the adoption program releasing all horses over the age of five. As the older horses are released, many of the older stallions never reclaim their mares because of the younger aged stallions taking advantage of an opportunity to steal mares. Often stallions as young as six will take mares. If that six year old stallion had a mentor who was only six when he was born, the educational process deteriorates. You can see over a period of 20 years how the mentoring and education process has been threatened. Consequently, you see younger and younger mares getting pregnant by younger and younger stallions.

How do we know this! ISPMB has been studying herd behavior now for eleven years with our own herds. We were fortunate and did not even know in the beginning that we acquired two of the healthiest herds left in our country – the White Sands and Gila herds. Neither herd had been gathered in decades of time leaving their social structures intact. We have the same stallions in charge of their mares now for eleven years. It did not become apparent to us until we acquired our third herd (Catnip) that we were observing truly the most natural and healthy behaviors in wild horse herds. The Catnip herd displays all the behaviors of horses that have suffered constant removals as the US Fish and Wildlife Agency had planned the elimination of wild horses from Sheldon Wildlife Refuge where they originated.

We are at the pinnacle of our studies here in South Dakota. We will have Princeton University coming in June to collaborate with us on our behavioral studies. This is extremely exciting as ISPMB begins a new study – how to infuse healthy behavioral modeling in herds that have suffered from the ongoing devastation of their harem structures.


I didn’t think I would ever have to say this; but unless we get funding, ISPMB may have to disperse it herds. This would mean the end of our studies and the end of our ability to stop the helicopter roundups on public lands. Yes, with our studies, we believe we have enough evidence to show that helicopter round ups are destroying the very nature of our wild horses on public lands. ISPMB has one of the longest ongoing studies on wild horses that have remained intact without human intrusions. Our studies are creating the perfect model for management of wild horses on public lands. We have come off a very cold winter, snow continuing as of last week and now the cold rains. We are feeding three of our herds.


If everyone on this list gave just $5.00, we would have enough hay for a month! If you could pledge monthly, we would have enough funding to keep our project going forever! Statistics show that only 3% of people respond to requests! We hope this time that we will hear from everyone. The future of all wild horses depends upon your call to action.



Any Donation is Appreciated!

The website address:

A Message from Michael Blake, Author of “Dances With Wolves

By the late 1890’s America had slaughtered more than twenty million Buffalo. A few devoted citizens managed to save roughly five hundred. In doing so, those incredible animals were saved from leaving the earth.

Today, America’s Wild Horses, primary resources in making America a major country in this world, are being captured, killed and slaughtered by corrupt, money-hungry American agencies. Removing them from life on earth is moving faster than ever.

Karen Sussman, like the few who rescued Buffalo, has devoted herself and her organization (ISPMB) to saving Wild Horses from extinction. At present she is maintaining more than five-hundred magnificent creatures that were saved from death…but keeping them alive with food alone is an increasing struggle. Whether rich or poor, any individuals who can donate even a few dollars to help eliminate loss of these lives will be significant. Destruction of the atmosphere, oceans, land and even Wild Horses is moving humanity closer to its own removal.

Any donation, even from those of us currently jobless, will represent standing up not just for ourselves, but for the Creator who brought the marvelous and deeply connected life to this tiny planet.

(As many of you know, Karen Sussman is also the one that helped me facilitate the placement of El Mariachi and Hope into Michael Blake’s care. Please help her maintain her amazing herds and continue her important work if you can – thank you).

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