Winter Snows

The snow has finally come to the hills and mountains in wild horse country and is starting to really accumulate. This beautiful stallion stands proud keeping an eye on his family on a hillside where the sun and wind still can expose the grasses.

Here is his small family group, two pretty mares and a yearling colt. They hardly moved at all as they watched us, letting the warmth of the sun melt the snow from their backs. The snow on the back of a horse indicates they are in good health with plenty of body fat built up to help them endure the cold temperatures of winter.

The horses we have been following are all looking healthy and strong. This little filly had no trouble keeping up with mom.

Even as the snow deepens it is still very soft and easy to paw through for the horses as they feed. Also next to the tree lines, there is still lots of totally exposed forage. Mom and her son are taking advantage of this.

The sun stays lower on the horizon now and late in the afternoon it highlighted this mare’s lovely mane.

This past summer there was so much human activity in the forestry that it kept the horses always on the move and seeking areas that could offer them some solitude. For a brief time the amount of traffic on the back roads diminished and the horses began appearing in more open areas again. With the November snows though, comes the Alberta big game hunting season and lots of traffic again on the back roads.

Although most hunters are very ethical there are still those individuals out there that view these wild horses with disdain. They are the ones that blame the horses for there being allegedly no deer or elk for them to harvest. It is with sadness and some anger that we have been notified of and found two wild horses that had been shot and killed. One was up in the Clearwater, a 3 -4 year old young stud and the other, a 7-9 year old mare, was killed along the South James River. Both beautiful horses that deserved to live, but were killed for no reason.

This magnificent stallion so exemplifies the beauty of our Alberta wild horses and why WHOAS and other groups continue to work so hard to get them better protected.

We continue to travel the back roads to document and monitor the horses. By doing so we are able to experience such peaceful beauty as the pregnant mare above and her stallion enjoy the sunshine. She is very pregnant and healthy and we hope to be able to witness her offspring come springtime.

We leave you with this photograph of this beautiful black mare, her black foal and her very pregnant “auntie”.

You can help WHOAS in our work to protect and save our wild horses by clicking on the link at the top of this page to order our yearly fundraising calendar. Again it contains beautiful photographs of the horses and the stories about how they live. As we a charitable society, we can provide tax receipts for any donations. All the funds goes towards the horses.

Lest We Forget

I take this day to remember all the horses and other animals that served Canada and other nations in all the wars we have gone through. November 11 is a day of remembrance for them and all the brave men and women who fought for a freedom and those still serving to protect us.

Millions of horses were casualties of the wars and in Alberta hundreds of wild horses were rounded up and sent over seas to join the fight for freedom. So the wild horses that still roam our Alberta foothills deserve respect for some of them may be descendants of those horses that served our country.

Here is a poem by Neil Andrew that really conveys my thoughts on remembering.

I spoke to you in whispers
As shells made the ground beneath us quake 
We both trembled in that crater
A toxic muddy bloody lake
I spoke to you and pulled your ears
To try and quell your fearful eye
As bullets whizzed through the raindrops
And we watched the men around us die
I spoke to you in stable tones
A quiet tranquil voice
At least I volunteered to fight
You didn’t get to make the choice
I spoke to you of old times
Perhaps you went before the plough
And pulled the haycart from the meadow
Far from where we’re dying now
I spoke to you of grooming 
Of when the ploughman made you shine
Not the shrapnel wounds and bleeding flanks
Mane filled with mud and wire and grime
I spoke to you of courage
As gas filled the Flanders air
Watched you struggle in the mud
Harness acting like a snare
I spoke to you of peaceful fields
Grazing beneath a setting sun
Time to rest your torn and tired body
Your working day is done
I spoke to you of promises
If from this maelstrom I survive
By pen and prose and poetry
I’ll keep your sacrifice alive
I spoke to you of legacy
For when this hellish time is through
All those who hauled or charged or carried
Will be regarded heroes too
I spoke to you in dulcet tones
Your eye told me you understood
As I squeezed my trigger to bring you peace
The the only way I could
And I spoke to you in whispers…… Neil Andrew

3 Seasons In One Week

In Alberta the seasons can change so quickly – from plus 20 C for a few days, then -10 C with a strong north wind and snow the next. This is how it was at the end of October. In our travels one day it was snowing heavily and it was accumulating on the back country trails. It didn’t bother the wild horses at all.

This small family group found an open hillside where the grass was still exposed and they did not have to paw to find enough feed. Another horse in the herd seemingly looked quite familiar to us, perhaps an offspring of the mighty Portero, our resident herd stallion at the WHOAS rescue/handling facility.

The similarities between the two, with the mane and body colouring is very interesting. This herd inhabits crown land just a short distance from Portero’s old territory.

This young stud was by himself and seeking a little protection from the snowfall in the pine trees. Even when the snow gets much deeper, underneath the pines there will always be some grasses exposed. This is where you will find them.

A few days later the sun had come out and we started our day driving roads that had become extremely icy. It was much warmer this day and the horses were out warming up in the sunshine. As we rounded the corner we came across this beautiful young colt and his dam. It appeared that they were all by themselves. We got out the binoculars and started glassing for their stallion and any other horses. Surprise! Standing on the other side of the vehicle, not 10 feet away from us was the stallion.

An old warrior, missing part of his left ear, he just stared at us, knowing we meant no harm, just a picture.

As we traveled along the roads soon became slushy, then muddy and the snow was melting quickly. This beautiful stallion had his family out in an open area, unafraid and quietly feeding.

This little filly was part of his herd and is now learning how to paw the snow aside to find the best grass. They learn this behaviour from the other herd members.

As the day went along, the warmed up and as we moved further north, there was far less snow. We found this family soaking up the rays. As you can see, four of them were snoozing in the warmth. Can you tell who is related?!

One of the reasons we went this way that day was to try and find this pair. In a previous post we had mentioned this foal all alone without a mare by his side. He was with his stallion then and this day we were delighted to find them together still. The foal had gained weight and was looking very healthy. We are hopeful he will make it through the winter with the guidance and protection of his dad. And look, later in the day the snow is all gone!

Toward the end of the day we had another treat. Here is Snow Queen and her herd. The foals in the herd are growing and are strong and very healthy. There was not a sound to be heard as they easily travelled through this old clear cut. What a way to end the day!

A few days later it was plus 20C. The roads were dusty and all the horses we saw were out in the open on the hillsides foraging. Perhaps they knew what was coming today? Outside our window there is a white sheet of blowing snow and even our own horses are tucked away in the protection of the trees.

We ended our day with the wonderful opportunity to photograph this magnificent stallion and his herd. What a beauty!

Fall Travels

What a beautiful time of year to travel into wild horse country.  The fall colours are brilliant and the weather is picture perfect. Taking advantage of this, we travelled out west to photograph the landscape and the wild horses. The roads and trails are dry making access into some areas much easier.

We weren’t the only ones taking advantage of the dry roadways. Here the lead mare is taking her herd toward a little stream just down the way. It was a spectacular day and we came across a large number of horses to enjoy and photograph.

We came across these two young stallions enjoying the warm sunshine in this open meadow. There was plentiful grass for them to eat but they decided to engage in typical young horse behaviour – play fighting. The unusual colouration of the roan boy was interesting to see. If you look closely at the first picture you can see he has a white dorsal stripe running down his back, where normally many other horses would have a black one. Usually neither parties will sustain any serious injuries.

This beautiful dappled grey stallion has a small band standing near a mineral lick and fresh water just in front of him. His foal has grown and is strong and healthy.

As we travelled we enjoyed seeing the herds doing so well. Just look at this beautiful mare and her foal.

The day that we were out the west winds were blowing strong and a great many of the herds we came across were taking advantage of the wind to keep the horrendous little flies at bay. Here is one of our recognizable herds which has several colour variations in its members. This was the case in almost all the herds we saw. This made the day special with lots of horse colours and the fall season colours too.

Another beautiful coloured mare and here you can see the black dorsal stripe we mentioned.

As we rounded a corner on a back trail, in a meadow we found a large herd with these two adorable young colts. The stud was a powerful red roan and there were four other coloured variations within the mares, so neat! As the mares fed peacefully in the clearing, these two young hooligans ran off and started to push and shove playfully. They kept it up for a long period of time until reprimanded by their mares.

Another tranquil scene.

We came across another herd with this mare and her tiny foal, likely only about three weeks old. The mare is in extremely good condition, strong and healthy, and should be able to sustain her baby going into the winter. Every once in awhile we come across these late foals and as long as Mother Nature is not too harsh, they can survive. The baby was able to follow the mare and her herd through this clear cut debris without too much difficulty. In such clearings next to the logs, grass can be found that is still fresh and green providing excellent nutrition.

Not everything we find is at it should be. Here this young colt has apparently lost his mare and we looked all about to see if she was around. It was just him and we presume his sire by themselves. As we watched, the two walked off together. We are hopeful that the stallion will be able to afford it enough protection and guidance to him that he will survive. We will be trying to find them again to see how things are going.

We are pleased to announce that our 18th edition of our fundraising calendar is now available. We have been able to keep our costs the same as last year, so $25 each which includes postage and handling. This will be our only major fundraiser at this time.

The link to order is now open and you can find it at the top of the WHOAS website page. We want to thank everyone for your continued support during these difficult times. Stay well.

Summertime

After a cold spring that was hard on the horses, the rains finally came and the hillsides have turned green quickly. The grass for all wildlife is finally quite abundant and this has helped the horses regain better body condition. It also helped the mares to produce healthy foals.

This photo was taken earlier just when the grass was starting to come. You can see by this mare that the foaling and late spring was hard on her. Since that time though the mares and their babies have been thriving.

Mom and babe catching up to their herd.

This little one as you can see was extremely jubilant running around in the warm sunshine finally having to put the brakes on as it came to the ditch.

It was so nice in our travels to come across two old friends, Snow Queen and Mystical Spirit, both with foals at side. The whole herd that they belong to is growing and thriving.

This little one was enjoying the warm sunshine.

The evening sunshine highlighted this pair that exemplifies the beauty of our Alberta wild horses.

The herd at rest.

The youngest one of this herd trying out his need for speed!

It was such a joy to watch these two young ones going at each other for over 10 minutes with neither one wanting to quit. Here’s a short video clip of their and another foal’s antics. The first part we called “Itchy.”

As we have said, the early part of this year was very hard on a lot of the wild horses including the early-born foals. It is such a pleasure to go out now and see them growing and thriving with lots of forage. Along with the wild horse foals, the bear cubs, the elk calves, and the deer fawns that we have seen are all doing okay now. What a wonderful province we live in to be able to see the diversity of wildlife that we have! We leave you with last picture of this little one standing so proud and free.

 

Wildies Rescued

This spring was extremely hard on the wild horses especially those that live close to the east boundary of the forestry. The snow became very deep and crusted over causing great difficulty for not only the horses but other wildlife to find feed. As has happened in the past some of these animals strayed onto private land and became a problem to the land owners. WHOAS was called in by some of these land owners to help deal with these perceived problem horses.

This lovely sorrel stallion was one of two that had to be caught up and brought to our handling facility. Once caught up it is illegal for us to relocate them back into the forestry. Therefore we have no option other than to bring them in and begin the process of getting them ready for an adoptive home. All in all this year 12 horses in total were rescued by WHOAS and now have started a new life under our care.

Here are some of the horses who we have begun working with and who will be looking for new adoptive homes in the future.

Here are three yearling stud colts from the two herds we took in. They are a long ways off from being ready for adoption. With so many horses at the site right now, it will take some time to gentle these boys, geld them and freeze brand them. Once we feel they are ready we will advertise them and encourage visitors to come and meet them. Right now because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are unable to take in visitors for the safety of our volunteers. So watch this website for updates.

Here is the second stallion that was brought in – a beautiful boy.

There were five mature mares that also had to be caught up. Many of them are likely pregnant. WHOAS will allow them to safely have their foals and so they and their babies will be with us for awhile. When ready for adoption, the mares and their foals will go together. In all likelihood, these mature girls will only be pasture horses.

Along with these horses, we also have two other young studs and a yearling filly that will be looking for new homes. More pictures to follow.

This is Diablo who we have had over the winter and will be going for training and will be available for adoption after that.

As you can see, we are busy! We have our dedicated team of volunteers who are doing a wonderful job providing care for these beautiful wildies. Lots of hay being munched so your continued support is always appreciated and important.

 

 

Urgent Rescue

On Thursday, WHOAS received a call from a concerned truck driver that there was a mare down in a narrow ditch that couldn’t get up, west of Caroline. Upon receiving the phone call, we quickly grabbed some gear and headed out as fast as we could. It took us almost an hour to find her and we were happy to see an RCMP officer there with another person waiting for our arrival. It was obvious that the mare had been struggling for some time and was heavy in foal. She was exhausted. Despite the gravity of the situation, it was wonderful to see that the stallion never left her and was standing guard.

Here we were planning the best way to get her upright and uninjured. If you look closely toward the last truck, you can see the stallion urging us on.

It was determined the best way to get her out was to dig away the dirt piled up at her back so that she could be rolled and get her feet under her. Here Cst. McIntyre of the Rocky Mountain House RCMP takes his turn at the shovelling.  No more pictures as it was all hands on deck to get her onto her feet. As soon as she got up she raced off joined by the stallion and the other two mares of the small herd. We will do some follow-up to make sure she is okay.

We want to thank the concerned citizens who called us and the RCMP for their assistance.

 

A Little Cheering Up Video

This is the mighty Portero, the herd stallion of our resident herd at the WHOAS handling facility.  Always there to greet you and protect his herd, he is still magnificent in his senior years.

With everything that is happening in our world right now and with so many self isolating and staying home, we thought that this video would bring a little cheer to the wild horse lovers.  It is a photo-show set to music showing our Alberta wild horses throughout the year and seasons.  We hope that you enjoy it.

Stay safe, stay home and take good care of yourselves and your friends and family.

https://youtu.be/jUstoDs3XYI

May 2 Fundraising Banquet Cancelled

Unfortunately we are letting you know that due to the uncertainty about the unfolding of the COVID-19 virus, we feel it prudent to cancel our dinner this May 2. We are refunding any orders we have received to date and look forward to planning another event next year.

Information Session

WHOAS had to reschedule the information session that we had planned in December for the Sheep River Library in Turner Valley due to a snow storm that enveloped the area.  The new date is Jan 16, 2020.  We still have some calendars  available and will have them for sale at this event.

WHOAS will continue to host information sessions in the new year, throughout the province.   As well we can give presentations to 4H groups, schools and other interested organizations at their request.

On behalf of our beautiful wild horses we wish you all a great new year.