Winter Travels

Winter sun warmth
Winter sun warmth

One of the best way to lift one’s spirit on a cold winter day is to travel out west to visit our beautiful Alberta Mountain Horses.  We are able to do this a few times a week and so enjoy the time we are able to spend with the horses and other wildlife, observing and photographing them.

One of the few paints left
One of the few paints left

This time of the year we are usually in our vehicle or snowshoeing into out-of-the-way meadows to see which horses may be there.  This week we had snowshoed into some large open meadows that were away from any roads.  It was here we again found a paint mare that we knew was in the area, but had not seen for over a year.

Mom and her foal
Mom and her foal

The beautiful mare was with her stallion and one other mare with foal at side.  They seemed to wonder what strange creatures we were as we shuffled through the snow.

The investigators
The investigators

On another day we were exploring back trails and drove into a large clearcut to find a young stud and his mare. The pair were feeding on the grass left exposed from the snow by the young pine trees. They were so curious of us as we stood outside the vehicle taking pictures, that they gave up feeding and approached right up to us. What a beautiful thrill!

Beauty in motion
Beauty in motion

If it snows, even just a little, we pack up our vehicle and head for the hills. The fresh snow will always tell us many tales of what animals are moving about. That was the case just the other day where we came across a herd led by a beautiful black stallion.

Black beauty
Black beauty

Over the years we have been able to come to know him and his herd very well. We also feel so privileged that they accept us, and allow us to almost mingle into the herd. He is such an impressive specimen – brave, strong and intelligent.

That day the snow had just ended as we travelled into their valley. It became immediately obvious of how protective he must be of his herd. Even with us, his demeanour exudes that of confidence. For on the road we found extremely fresh tracks of a pack of wolves probably numbering at least eight.

Wolf tracks
Wolf tracks

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These tracks were right in front of where the stallion’s herd of four mares and a foal were feeding in the meadow. It appeared to us that the pack, who were obviously hunting, gathered together to check out the possibility of their next meal.
As we have observed in the past though, the wolves will not challenge a healthy herd stallion. We imagine that they paced about and howled at their plight before they took off down the road to find an easier meal.

Safe!
Safe!

This is a photograph of his black mare and her colt who is definitely taking after his sire. He is a brave little boy and below is his lead mare.

Always on alert
Always on alert

The stability of a herd with a stallion is impressive to witness and still brings a smile to our face. However, it is the hijinks of a band of bachelor studs that can make you laugh at times. Such is the case when we came across a group of bachelors on a pipeline right-of-way. The boys were testing each other out by honing their fighting skills.

The test
The test

These two were really going at each other while the others ran around seemingly excited by the antics of this pair.  The altercation went on for several minutes as we watched and took pictures. Then all of a sudden we were spotted and off they ran, all of them kicking up their heels and bucking. It appeared that they took great joy and were having fun as they flew through the snow.

Conference
Conference

The group then stopped briefly in a grove of trees maybe to discuss what to do next. Then they were gone again.

Off they go
Off they go

Through our travels it is so good to see that all these horses are in such good condition at this point in the winter. This also holds true for all the other wildlife too that shares this land. It is so wonderful to see all these sites and animals as we travel about.

Auction . . . or Adoption?

One of our purposes over the years is to be able to deal with those wild horses that find themselves getting into trouble on private property that borders the forestry. In doing this we have been able to push some of these horses back into the forestry thereby alleviating the problem to the land owners. In other cases we have assisted some of these owners by purchasing electric fencing to secure their property. Then in other times WHOAS has assisted them by repairing their wire fences. All this has always been done in our best efforts to assure the welfare of the wild horses. Otherwise these situations would have been dealt with by another agency, which has happened, and the horses have been rounded up and sent to auction.

There have been other incidents where none of these solutions were going to work and in these situations WHOAS was called upon to remove the horses through the issue of proper government permits. Although this is not what WHOAS would wish, it is what has to happen to save these wild horses.

A few weeks ago WHOAS received a request from Rangeland Management, Environment and Parks, to see if we could remove a young stallion who was bothering horses on private land. This boy was definitely a problem, crashing the fences trying to get into the pens of the private landowner. No matter what, he would just not stay away and even an electric fence was not working. Therefore, there was no choice but for WHOAS to catch him up. With our experienced volunteers, we were able to coax him into a pen behind our trailer. Then we were totally taken aback when, almost on his own, he jumped in.  We then transported him to our rescue/handling facility.

Meet “Buddy”

"Buddy"
“Buddy”

Here, although not free, he was to begin a new life. As with all the other horses we have rescued, his gentling process has begun. The intelligence of these wild horses has shown through quickly as he has already accepted being haltered, led about and put into a stall.

Before we can put him up for adoption, his gentling has to be worked on and he must be gelded. At this point we will find a suitable forever home for him. WHOAS does have an extensive adoption process to assure that the welfare of the horse is paramount.

WHOAS has always been, and continues to be, committed to the welfare of all our Alberta mountain horses. We are fortunate enough to have a strong team of knowledgeable volunteers and a humane and safe handling facility. All this has been accomplished through our own funding and made possible by those who have donated to WHOAS over the years to help these beautiful creatures.

Christmas Day With The Horses

 

Beautiful Boy
Beautiful Boy

Christmas day, temperature -16C, skies blue and bright with winter sunshine and a light covering of new snow on the ground.  What is a person to do, but go visit our wonderful wild horses and so off we went.  Anyways with some of the negative happenings out there recently we like to keep an eye on what is going on out there.

Winter feeding
Winter feeding

Travelling west into the forestry you could quickly tell with the little bit of fresh snow, how recently the horses had been around.  With the cold temperatures the horses we began to find were out in the sunshine, pawing their way down to the grass.

Enjoying the sun
Enjoying the sun

Then too there were some that just wanted to relax and feel what warmth the sun had.

Charming young boy
Charming young boy

This year with the small amount of snow, (4-8″) in almost all of their range, the horses are having an easier time of it.  It also allows them to move about more extensively to find forage, probably even more than they do in the summer months. Compared to a couple of winters ago, confined by the deep snow,  you would find the herds on every trip, in the same areas.  This also makes it easier on us to travel the backroads to check up on the horses.

Lonely  wanderer
Protective Herd Stallion

Travelling down a seldom used trail we came across this impressive stallion who had his herd out in an open clearcut.  Right way he moved toward us to snort out his warning.  He had two mares, both bays and a unique coloured filly with him.

Absolutely beautiful
Absolutely beautiful
What are they mom?
What are they mom?

Standing beside her mare, we marvelled at her Palamino colouring and where the genes that caused it originated from.  Having had enough of these strangers the herd decided it was time to leave, with the stallion taking up the rear, being protector of herd.

Off the go
Off they go

Being such a beautiful day we put on many kilometres checking several areas where we know the horses like to winter.

Socks
Socks

Rounding a bend on a trail we came across our most favourite stallion who many years ago we had named “Socks”. He was first seen as a yearling in 2003. At that time he impressed us so much as when his sire came out to challenge us and along came the little boy to help his dad. It was amusing to watch as his father stomped his foot in warning, Socks mimicked him stomping his little hoof too! In 2007 he was our calendar cover boy. At one point in his prime, he had a herd of 13 mares and foals. Then in 2012 we came across him where he had lost the fight to a much stronger, younger stallion and had lost his herd. At that time I feared that he may not survive.  The next year though we were so delighted to find him again with two mares and looking so proud.

Baby on board
Baby on board

This day when we found his herd, his five mares and two foals were with him enjoying the sunshine. These two are definitely pregnant.

In great shape
In great shape

This is one of his foals and as with all the young ones we’ve seen so far, they are all in such good body condition and looking so strong.

Almost twins
Almost twins

Being one of the shortest days of the year, the sun started to set so early, but we found this beauty with her herd in the last rays of the day.

Blond beauty
Blond beauty

With that we headed home for our Christmas dinner. Wishing all the wild horses a Merry Christmas from their supporters. WHOAS appreciates all visitors to the back country who keep an eye on the welfare of these magnificent animals.

 

Thanks to our Supporters

Sunny winter afternoon
Sunny winter afternoon

WHOAS appreciates the fund raising supports from the Canadian Wild Horses, Cathi Betts and Lorraine Stubbs. They showed a special screening of the documentary, “Unbranded” at the University of Guelph with all donations received being donated to WHOAS. CWH have been a great supporter and advocate for our Alberta wild horses and our work to protect and save them.

A wildie colt
A wildie colt

Another fund raising event was hosted by Lynne Harrison, artist, from her Silver Tree Studio in Canmore. She hosted this special event to bring attention to the wild horses and again our work for them. Some of her wonderful artwork centres on our beautiful wild horses. Several draws were made featuring items donated by her and other artists who were in attendance with all proceeds going to WHOAS. If you are in the Canmore area, Lynne is also selling our calendars.

Last rays of winter sun
Last rays of winter sun

Along with these two events, we continue to receive your support through online donations and the purchase of our calendar. It is important to note that all monies raised does goes directly back into our work. All donations now receive charitable tax receipts. Thanks to each and every one of you.

Talking back
Talking back

With hunting season now closed as of November 30, the back country has quieted down. This is allowing the horses and other wildlife to settle into normality. This young stallion was letting us know of how he felt having his picture taken on a beautiful winter’s afternoon. Chances of viewing the horses is becoming easier now.

Serenity
Serenity

This young colt was quite relaxed and paid little attention to us when we were approaching his herd for photographs. With blue skies, the late afternoon winter sunshine seems to accentuate his beauty. Such a treasure!

First Snows of Winter

November snowstorm
November snowstorm

It took until almost the end of November before snows started to blanket our wild horse country. The late arrival of the snow allowed the horses the opportunity to easily find forage and thus build up their body condition going into the colder months. Right now until November 30th the annual hunting season is in full swing and the back roads are extremely busy with this extra traffic. This tends to keep the horses on high alert and away from easily accessible areas.

Under cover
Under cover

One of our observations is that the horses have started to gather together again. This behaviour allows for better protection and survival against all elements including predators in the harsher period to come.

Where the easier feeding is
Where the easier feeding is

As the horses begin to gather, the younger horses follow the more mature herds into wintering areas.  It is in the huge cutblocks where the replanted trees are well established that it is still easy to find exposed grasses under them. If the snow accumulates deeper, these resilient animals will change their feeding ranges to different areas. Always on the move, the horses are adept at surviving in sometimes very hostile conditions.

Staying close
Staying close

Moving into the winter season, you will also find the younger bachelor groups starting to hang out on the fringes of the established dominant stallion herds. Here these 2 boys were found trying to join up with one of these established herds. The stallion will allow them stay within close proximity so long as they don’t cross the “invisible line”. For these young horses, is quite important to allow them to learn and survive as they mature.

Alert and beautiful
Alert and beautiful

At this time of year the horses tend to cover more territory in their quest for adequate feed. This beautiful stallion is leading his family through this cutblock.

Just a reminder that our 2016 Calendar makes an excellent Christmas present for your family members and your horse loving friends. Just click Purchase a Calendar on the top of this page to order one.

May We Never Forget

 

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May we remember our brave men and women that have died or fought for our freedom and those that still serve our country.

Freedom fighters
Freedom

I would hope that we can also take a moment to remember the millions of horses that also died on the battle fields.  Horses throughout the history of mankind have always served us with little thanks for the important part they have played in our heritage and history.

The current Canadian Horse Journal’s Hoofbeat magazine has excellent articles on their service to us and our country.  The most poignant one is a story by Jess Hallas-Kilcoyne called, The Real War Horses – Faithful Unto Death.  In it she has several stories about the different roles these played in this war.  It is in this article she tells of the over 4 million horses on both sides that perished due to this conflict.   Some of these horses (hundreds) came from the areas where their descendants, our wild horses of today still roam.

"Goodbye Old Man"
“Goodbye Old Man”

So as these horses fought for our freedom WHOAS will continue our efforts to allow the descendants of these magnificent animals to remain free and wild.  These are our Alberta Wild Horses.