Every year WHOAS is called upon to rescue young bachelor stallions that get themselves into trouble on private land next to the forestry. A lot of the time we are able to push the horses further back away from private land. Then in other cases, we have assisted the landowner with fence repairs or electric fencing to help them deal with the wayward boys.
These 3 boys, however, continued to break down fences and tried to steal domestic mares. Several attempts were made to stop this but to no avail. In such cases like this, in past years, the landowner would have somebody come in to remove the horses who were then likely sold to the meat buyers. WHOAS has stepped in and now offers to rescue these horses. We then take them to our handling facility where we work on gentling them so that they are safe to handle. We then try to find them suitable forever homes. We would rather see them free, but . . . auction or adoption?
We have attached a short Youtube video showing a typical day in the gentling process. All work with these horses is done by a team of very dedicated and experienced volunteers who have a love and passion for these beautiful horses. You can see the respect they have for these creatures in the way that they handle and talk to them. This definitely shows in the way these horses quickly respond.
If you feel you would like to take on the responsibility of adopting one of these boys, please send us an email to request our adoption application.
Summer is here and the rains have finally come to our Alberta Foothills which has certainly brought on the grass along with beautiful flowers and other plants. This has definitely been beneficial to our wild horses. Here one family group is at a mineral lick and another group patiently awaits it’s turn. Altogether there are 6 foals, 3 in each herd.
As we travelled along the back country trails we continued to run into numerous groups with most of them having at least one foal with them.
This little one is getting help from mom’s tail swishing to keep the hoards of black flies away.
This year in our travels we have started to find more and more Paint (spotted) horses. After so many years of finding very few of them, it is interesting to see how the colour gene has resurfaced. Back in the 60s and 70s there used to be a large number of Paints roaming with the herds. During this period, despite some claims that the wild horses are just recently growing in numbers, records show that there were estimated to be around 2,000 – 3,000 horses roaming free in the central Alberta foothills.
On one particular day we were so thrilled to find a herd with a beautiful Paint stallion along with two Paint mares. What was so exciting was the fact that two of the mares also had Paint foals with them.
In this picture you can see this year’s Paint foal standing next to its yearling brother who is almost solid black, despite having the same sire.
While photographing the herd, there were three other groups in the immediate area including one 3-year old sorrel stud with flaxen mane who was trying assert some sort of dominance.
When the young boy got too close to the Paint mares, a discussion ensued!
The golden boy quickly got the hint and moved on to test another stallion who was close by.
When this challenge also failed, he wandered off leaving the other herds to peacefully feed.
It is certainly nice to see so many foals thriving so far this summer. Hopefully the survival rate for the foals will be higher than it has been in past years. Through all this beautiful and wonderful new life we get to observe, occasionally we come across a tragedy. Such was the case this past Sunday when we found an approximately 3-year old stud who had impaled himself on an Alberta survey marker. How it happened we do not know, nor do we want to negatively speculate. The metal marker was bent and he must have run into it, piercing into his chest and heart area. He extricated himself but died nearby. Apparently these markers, called monuments, are not used anymore and are left throughout public lands. This just shows that the life of our wild horses is not an easy one.
But to leave you on a positive note, here is another baby picture of a yearling colt and his new brother.
Remember to order your raffle tickets for a chance to win the Heartland prize. They are $10 and can be ordered online. Just click on the Heartland Prize Fundraiser page at the top of our webpage. Good luck and thanks for supporting WHOAS.
We spend a considerable amount of time travelling throughout wild horse country to document, observe and photograph the Alberta wild horses. Just to see them on any given day, after all these years, still brings joy to our hearts. Every once in a while though, we get to witness horse behaviour that makes us laugh and smile.
One day we came across a beautiful herd with three healthy foals hanging around a mineral lick. As we watched and photographed, one of the younger foals decided to take a break and lay down. His herd mate decided he wanted to play.
It was amusing to watch him go and start bugging his friend.
We laughed as what appeared to us the little one objecting to the interruption in his nap time! The pestering continued until he had to get up.
Once the older foal had his way he left his buddy alone and went over and had a drink from mom.
On another day we came across a family herd where the mature stallion was allowing a younger stud to hang in close to his herd. What happened next was one of those things about horses that made us laugh.
Another young stud with flaxen mane and tail came out of the trees a little ways away from the tranquil setting that we were watching. He seemed to be checking out whether he could join in.
As he walked further into the meadow we could see that he had many skirmishes already this spring as his body was full of scars from bites and kicks. As he stood there he seemed to be analyzing the situation – should I go or should I leave?
As soon as he made his intentions clear that he was going to come into where the herd and another young boy were, things began to happen. As he came closer the other young stud decided to go out and confront the intruder. The whole time the herd stallion stayed in the shade of the trees and just watched.
As you can see these two had met before – more bites and kick marks apparent. All of a sudden as the bay coloured stud got close he shifted it into high gear and took off after the flaxen boy.
Wheeling around off the two went kicking and bucking. With ears pinned back, the bay boy meant business. As in all incidences of young studs and stallions confronting each other, no lasting harm was to occur.
At an invisible boundary, the bay boy put on his brakes and let the loser run off, before returning to the herd. When he made it back to the herd, the big stallion came out to greet him but also show that he was still “the boss.”
Meanwhile the other young fellow was left to wander off again until it was time for the next challenge. Such is the life of young wild horse studs!
We also thought we would update you on the young foal that was rescued a few weeks ago by WHOAS members. Young “Coulter”, about a month old now, is living with two older geldings who have adopted him. They nurture him with some affection and also make sure he learns proper horse behaviour. He enjoys his warm, foal replacement milk several times a day and is thriving and growing every day.
We would like to acknowledge the quick response from the oil companies who owned the well site lease where the foal was rescued last Sunday. Today we saw that workers had removed the barb wire and were in the process of taking out the posts at this location. We just want to say thanks, so this little guy whose family is in that area too will be safe.
On Sunday, May 15th, WHOAS received several phone calls about a wild horse very young foal that was tangled up in some barbwire west of Sundre. In response to this urgent call several members quickly attended at the site to try to help the little fellow. Upon arrival they found the foal hanging upside down with both hind feet tangled tightly in the wire. They immediately put a shirt over his head to calm him down and then commenced to cut him loose.
Using a soft cotton rope they configured a halter and come-along to get him over to the awaiting truck.
It is important to note that the mare and her herd had been moved off by the stallion. In order to ensure the survival of his whole herd, this stallion would not allow the mare to remain or return. As unfortunate as it may seem, it is just nature’s way. Luckily, in this case, the foal was found and rescued, but one wonders how many other times this may happen and the ending is different. We do know there are a number of wolves and one black bear in this immediate area. The foal would have not survived the night.
It is a sad commentary that a lot of these abandoned well sites, as in this case, are surrounded by barbwire fences that have been allowed to fall into disrepair. This well site, owned by Apache oil, has been in this state at least for the last four years. Not only a danger to the wild horses, but also to the deer, elk and moose. There is no need to have these abandoned sites fenced in if there is no well head present.
Attempts were made both this day and on Monday to locate the herd and his mare to no avail and so it was brought to a member’s ranch who had a proper box stall and lots of experience dealing with orphan foals. WHOAS did obtain as soon as possible the proper paper work from Alberta Environment and Parks
(AEP) to keep this foal and rehabilitate it for future adoption.
It was fortunate the little colt’s wounds were not that serious and his legs were okay. At his new digs, he was administered first aide and introduced to milk replacer, hay and water. Being a quick learner, by his second feeding, he was drinking his milk directly from a bucket and thoroughly enjoying it.
The little boy did not even struggle that much when cold water was applied to his wounds to help reduce the swelling.
It was extremely heartwarming to watch this little fellow meeting the resident group. The two big boys were so gentle nuzzling and mouthing this new little fellow seemingly to assure him it would be okay here.
The snows went early this spring and for the past month we have had almost no moisture in our Alberta foothills. This has made a lot of wild horse country a volatile tinder box. Such was the case on Monday April 18 when a carelessly discarded cigarette started a fire along an oil lease road south of Gooey’s corner. It was fortunate that there was such a quick response from the Alberta Wildfire Response Unit and the Sundre fire department, who managed with the aid of helicopters and planes carrying fire retardant, to keep the fire contained to around 15 hectares. We want to commend all those first responders for their hard work and dedication.
The area of the fire is one of our favourite areas to visit and ride in. Right at this location there is a small family of three horses that have been living there all winter.
The area where the fire was located is still cordoned off and we have been unable to check on Taima and his family. Being that they are all mature horses, we have no doubt that they were able to flee to safety. However, this may not have been the case if the fire had grown and/or there were young foals with the herd.
We can only strongly encourage all users of the forestry to be extra careful at this time due to the extreme fire hazard. These fires can not only endanger wildlife and the wild horses, it can also destroy private property. Just remember, this land belongs to all of us.
The two young foals belong to this stunning stallion and his herd. They are part of the reason we are trying to get this message of being fire smart when using the back country. We are starting to see more foals with the herds and hopefully the rain will come which will bring on the green grass and diminish the fire hazard.
So far without moisture, the grass is so slow coming it is causing the herds to be continually moving and substantially more than they normally would this time of year. This can be particularly hard on the new foals.
This beautiful mare also lived close to the fire area. She was heavy in foal when this picture was taken in early March. Nature sometimes can be harsh and it was with heavy hearts that we found her dead 10 days ago. It is hard to determine what may have happened, but as we have seen in the past, any birth complications with the wild horse mare usually results in death. In death though, other creatures benefit with being able to feed on the remains. This includes the ravens, the eagles, the wolves, and in this case, a grizzly bear also.
Life does go on with the wild horses and it is instances like seeing this young yearling galloping happily back to his herd, all four feet off the ground, that cheer us up. As he joined his herd, he tucked himself right into the chest of his sire. This certainly made us smile.
Please remember – be fire smart in order to assure the safety of these beautiful creatures.
Spring has finally arrived and the back country is starting to show signs of its arrival. Here one of our most recognizable yearlings strikes a pose with its mom. We took the time yesterday to tour around looking for new life, after we had completed our chores at the handling facility. You know, poop patrol!
As we checked on the different herds we came across this beautiful stallion who let us know what he thought of us and our dogs. Blowing and snorting he made sure his mares were safe before hightailing it through the tall timber.
There’s high jinx happening in horse country! The patriarch “Socks” is missing two of his mares that we saw a month ago. Now he somehow gained a roan mare showing that he still has it, despite his age!
As we continued along we also came across one of our calendar boys, Dakota, whom we had not seen for sometime.
This magnificent boy was moving down the hill to join his family who were feeding on the new grass coming up alongside a running stream.
As we continued to see if any new foals were on the ground, we came across Socks Jr. looking stunning in the warm spring sunshine. As we watched we suddenly saw one of his mares and something very small beside her – a very new foal. How exciting!
As is typical with the wildies, they are so protective of their newborns, she allowed us only a short glimpse before she led the little one off. It amazes us to watch these newborns’ ability to be up and travelling through the deadfall beside their moms.
After arriving at the WHOAS facility, we found that one of the resident herd mares had given birth to this little filly. She is such a good and protective mom.
WHOAS has applied the contraceptive vaccine to all the mares belonging to the herd stallion, Portero. You may be wondering why she produced a foal this year. Last year she was the first one to foal in the early spring. We were waiting til after the foaling to administer the vaccine to her. However, she was impregnated by Portero before receiving the first dose. She now has been boosted which will give her a three-year pregnancy break. This truly shows that the vaccine is not harmful to the mares and they can produce healthy foals.
Watch the Gallery updates for new pictures of the wild horse foals we come across. We will also pick one of the foals that children can enter a contest to name the foal. All entries will receive a 4 x 6 picture and the winner will receive a 11 x 14 matted print of the foal that they named. Watch for the start of this contest appearing soon on our website.