Last weekend, we were back at Piceance Creek/East Douglas for a quick trip to see the horses. While there, we met up with new friend and fellow wild horse lover, Rachel Reeves (she is too much fun – thanks for joining us Rachel!). Not far into the HMA, we came upon some horses and got out to photograph.

Click on the images for larger/sharper views

Bachelor stallions

Hi Rachel! 🙂

While we were out, I kept hearing screams – youngster screams. After the bachelors moved off, I tried to determine where the calls were coming from. And then I spotted them. I asked Rachel if she was game for photographing something other than horses for a minute and of course, she was.

This was a good location for these baby red-tailed hawks. I couldn’t safely climb up from any angle.

Aren’t they amazing? Momma hawk buzzed us a few times, so we didn’t stay long, but finding these guys made me think about some of the other wildlife Tom and I have seen while in search of the wild horses. So, I thought I’d share some of those images with you just for fun. The ranges have so much to offer and the variety of wildlife is part of the appeal. I don’t know exactly what all of these creatures are, so I will give only location if I’m not certain and maybe some of you can fill in the blanks.

In no particular order and certainly not fully representative of what’s out there. 🙂

Close enough to the Piceance Creek HMA to include, a family of bald eagles.

The little eaglet calls out to its parents

Pryor Mountain HMA in Montana

Handheld image taken with a long lens very early morning - so not crystal clear - of a black bear. Pryor Mountains, MT

Lucky dragonfly - Big Horn Canyon - Pryor Mountains, MT

Toad. Not sure what kind. Big Horn Canyon, Pryor Mtns, MT

Turkey vulture - Big Horn Canyon, Pryor Mtns., MT

Horned lark - McCullough Peaks HMA near Cody, WY

Desert cottontail - McCullough Peaks HMA, WY

Pronghorn - Green Mtn HMA, Wyoming

Sage grouse - Green Mtn HMA, WY

Elk - White Mountain HMA near Rock Springs, WY

Meadowlark - White Mountain HMA, WY

Killdeer - Salt Wells HMA, WY

Badger - Salt Wells HMA, WY

Pronghorn - Salt Wells HMA, WY

Mule deer - Adobe Town HMA, WY

I have no idea what these little guys are (Meadow lark?), but they were so well camouflaged that I almost stepped on them! McCullough Peaks HMA, WY

Baby birds - McCullough Peaks HMA, WY

MacGillvray’s warbler - Piceance Creek/East Douglas HMA, CO

Bull snake - McCullough Peaks HMA, WY

Chipmunk - Chippy. They're all chippies to me. 🙂 Red Desert , WY

Bluebird - Fifteen Mile HMA, WY

Grasshopper - Red Desert, WY

Coyote - Fifteen Mile HMA, WY

Dragonfly - Piceance Creek/East Douglas HMA, CO

Duck - Piceance Creek/East Douglas HMA, CO

Shackleford Banks, Outer Banks, NC

A little bird hitchhiking on the back of a Banker pony (which they are sometimes called). Shackleford Banks, Outer Banks, NC

Shackleford Banks, Outer Banks, NC

Shackleford Banks, Outer Banks, NC

Chippy - Piceance Creek/East Douglas HMA, CO

Lizard - Piceance Creek/East Douglas HMA, CO

Horned toad - McCullough Peaks HMA, WY

Corolla, Outer Banks, NC

Corolla - Outer Banks, NC

North Carolina deer - Corolla, Outer Banks, NC

Corolla, Outer Banks, NC

Geese - Corolla, Outer Banks, NC

Carrot Island - Outer Banks, NC

I have no idea what kind of bird, but they sang beautifully and had a mud nest close to the red-tailed hawks. Piceance Creek/East Douglas HMA, CO

At the entrance to the mud nest. Piceance Creek HMA, CO

Proximity of the mud nest to the hawk's nest - Piceance Creek/East Douglas HMA, CO

Location and view of the mud nest. Coyotes were yipping in the valley while I took these pictures. Very eerie since their voices echoed all around me.

Brewer's Blackbird - Fifteen Mile HMA, WY

Some kind of ground squirrel - Piceance Creek/East Douglas HMA, CO

Jerusalem cricket - Salt Wells HMA, WY.

Burrowing owl - Sand Wash Basin HMA, CO

Robins bathing - Pryor Mtn HMA, MT

Golden eagle - Adobe Town HMA, WY

Red-tailed hawk - Adobe Town HMA, WY

Bighorn ram - Little Book Cliffs HMA, CO

Northern Shrike - Fifteen Mile HMA, WY

Rattlesnake - Sand Wash Basin HMA, CO

Prairie falcon - Dishpan Butte HMA, WY

Solitary sandpiper - Great Divide Basin HMA, WY

Marmot - Pryor Mtn HMA, MT

Jackrabbit - McCullough Peaks HMA, WY

Cottontail - Sand Wash Basin HMA, CO

Pronghorn babies - McCullough Peaks HMA, WY

While I love and admire all the wildlife, the only reason I have any of these photos to share with you is because I went out specifically to see the wild horses. They are the main attraction. They are my passion, my inspiration and they are what draws me out to these remote and remarkable locations.

Photos are for viewing purposes only. Images by Pam Nickoles Photography, along with all site content are copyright protected and owned solely by Pam Nickoles Photography. Photos and/or text may not be used, downloaded or reproduced in any form without express written permission from Pam Nickoles Photography. Feel free to share, but please respect my copyright.

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A Shackleford Banks stallion sends the sand flyin’ after a roll near the shoreline of the island. These guys are also known as “Banker Ponies” but they are horses with a Spanish ancestory. Outer Banks, North Carolina.

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Wild Horse and Burro Roundup Protest – Saturday, February 13, Noon-3 PM – Estes Park, CO. Meet in front of Bond Park across the street from City Hall, which is at the intersection of MacGregor and Elkhorn, (the main street through town). Bring signs!

(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.)

Wild Horse DVDs

December 10, 2009

Just a reminder that these DVDs make great gifts and were created in an effort to bring much needed awareness to people who have never seen or don’t even realize that wild horses still exist (at least for now). The DVDs are available individually or as a set with special pricing through my website:

“Our Wild Horses II” (my second DVD) is also available through the equestrian catalog, “Back in the Saddle.”

These DVDs portray the beauty of our magnificent wild horses in their wild homes accompanied by some very moving and powerful musical selections. The second DVD also comes with a reference booklet that provides any information known about the horses in each photo (location, name, etc).

“Our Wild Horses” is $19.95 plus $2.75 shipping (up to 2 DVDs)
“Our Wild Horses II” is $29.95 plus $2.75 shipping (up to 2 DVDs)
The set of both DVDs is $44.95 plus $2.75 shipping per set

Anyone that already has one or both of these DVDs, please feel free to share your own thoughts (in the comments section) about the DVD(s) that might help explain them more fully to the people who may be interested in knowing more. Thanks so much!

Wild Horse Viewing

February 7, 2009

I thought I might offer some tips and thoughts from our most successful wild horse viewing trips…in case you decide you’d like to venture out to see these magnificent creatures on your own. These are my personal observations, beliefs and experiences, and as such, are offered only as guidelines.

My husband and I have developed what we call our “wild horse etiquette” that we follow when we enter any HMA or herd area. Please be sure that as you enter an HMA, you follow any official regulations that are posted at entrances. I know, for example, that the McCullough Peaks HMA near Cody, WY has a 500 foot viewing distance rule – and they enforce it. It is really hard for me to judge distance, but I do my best to honor that rule while photographing there. It’s generally only an issue with the more accessible horses that have become somewhat habituated to people. Other, more remote bands within the HMA will enforce that viewing distance themselves!

We stay on the roads. If there is a 2-track, we’ll use those as well. I’m always prepared to do alot of walking. A lot.

We try to determine where the watering holes are. These are good places to look for horses, but we try not to be so close to these sources that horses will avoid drinking due to our presence. 

Krueger Pond - Pryor Mountains, MT

Krueger Pond - Pryor Mountains, MT

When approaching a band, I don’t try to sneak up on them. I try not to startle them either (with a slamming car door as I get out). I walk out towards them with a happy mental image while silently projecting that I’m only there to admire, not harass. (Crazy? My aunt, a lifetime horsewoman, is convinced horses can read our minds so we should always visualize good and happy things when we’re around them – and I believe her). I approach and stop if I sense a lot of uneasiness from the horses. I take my first shots (which are sometimes my only shots). I call these my “horse dot” images. If the herd settles down, I move forward. I let them take me in and work my way closer if I can. My desire is to observe their natural behavior which isn’t necessarily glimpsing their hindquarters as they disappear in a cloud of dust, but it does happen, especially in the less visited areas.

Bachelor bands of horses are often the most curious and will generally come the closest to investigate. The bachelors can be a lot of fun. Bands with foals are more wary. I try not to disturb them by getting too close. I find the herd dynamics fascinating and the solitude of the range therapeutic. I’m constantly amazed by what I observe. I’ve acquainted myself with specific individuals over the years and I’ve seen their distinct personalities emerge. Of course I have my favorites, but I marvel at them all.

McCullough Peaks, WY bachelor band.

McCullough Peaks, WY bachelor band.

We don’t bait or otherwise attempt to feed wild horses. Doing so can make them very sick or even kill them. Take the tragic example that occurred at Shackleford Banks, NC. In this blurb from their website, it tells the story of a very special white, orphaned foal. “On January 2, 1997, we found Spirit’s remains, along with the body of a young mare whose company he had kept since the roundup in November of 1996. His death was the result of human interference; probably well meant, but nonetheless devastating. .” Though they don’t mention specifics, hearsay is that someone left some sort of food source out for the horses that they couldn’t digest. While visiting the Pryor Mountain horses of Montana a couple of years ago, we witnessed a visitor attempting to offer bread and carrots to the wild horses. If it isn’t natural to their habitat, please assume it isn’t good for their system.

Shackleford Banks horses. They are also known as Banker Ponies, but they are not ponies.

Shackleford Banks horses. They are also known as Banker Ponies, but they are not ponies.

A bachelor boy with a buddy - Shackleford Banks, NC.

A bachelor boy with a buddy - Shackleford Banks, NC.

When we hit a high spot anywhere on the range, we get out and take a look around (especially behind us). It’s a good opportunity to “scan” for the tell tale sign of wild horses (stud piles, dust, etc) and you can sometimes hear them – which is why, even though it’s dusty, I like to drive with the windows at least partially down and the radio off.

We don’t usually take our dogs when we visit the ranges. The biggest reason is, it’s just too darn hot and there are alot of snakes, spiders, cactus, etc. Most of the areas are remote and getting veterinary treatment in a timely manner just isn’t practical. We have taken the dogs with us for winter and early spring shots, but we let them out only when there are no horses in the vicinity. If you do take a dog, I would try to keep it leashed. Dogs have natural instincts and even the best trained animal may find itself chasing a band of horses that are spooked into running at the sight of a perceived predator. Foals are especially vulnerable in this circumstance. And there’s no telling what a protective mare or stallion may do to your dog if it gets too close.

Though these are harmless Bull Snakes, we have seen enough Rattlesnakes to worry about our dogs encountering one in these range areas - McCullough Peaks, WY

Though these are harmless Bull Snakes, we have seen enough Rattlesnakes to worry about our dogs encountering one in these range areas - McCullough Peaks, WY

Speaking of the little ones, as a side note – typical foaling season is from March through mid July. It is really important to keep your distance during these months or a mare may become stressed and abandon her foal. My photos from “The Stallion and the Foal” series may have come about from this very scenario. There was a happy outcome for the foal in my images, but many are not so fortunate. Without the mare’s milk and protection, they starve or are taken by predators. 

“The Stallion and the Foal” video:

For documentation purposes, I take many “reference” shots of individual horses and range conditions. It’s good information to have for comparison from year to year. I also document injured and deceased animals when I find them.

When we see trash or wire as we’re walking in the ranges, we pick it up or take it out of harm’s way. If you have a domestic horse, you understand how easy it is for them to embed the only nail in the paddock/pasture into a hoof or cut themselves on the tiniest loose flap of tin on the barn, etc. Murphy’s Law – if they can get into trouble, they seem to. My Vet actually nicknamed my young gelding “Good for Business” if that tells you anything about my personal experiences. Wild horses don’t have the luxury of veterinary care, so if we see something that could cause potential trouble for them, we try our best to correct or remove it. 

Wire that Tom rolled up from Sand Wash Basin HMA.

Wire that Tom rolled up while I was out photographing the horses at Sand Wash Basin HMA.

For safety’s sake, let someone know your general location, always have a good map or GPS device, carry tools (we’ve blown tires and even our car battery on some of the extreme terrain), extra food, water and clothing. And, be aware of weather conditions. Even when we are mindful, we’ve been stuck in the horse ranges more than once due to a quick moving storm which creates impassable roads. It’s good to take all the extra precautions so that if you happen to get caught in this kind of situation, it doesn’t become an emergency – just a minor inconvenience (part of the adventure!) that you’re prepared for. (One more tip: a large trash bag works wonders as a rain slicker in a pinch!).

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