Sunday night, October 3, I was sitting at home when late in the evening the phone rang. On the line was a friend of mine Bunny, who with her husand Al, hail from Grand Prairie. They had been down, riding the west country looking for wild horses and they had come across a 2-3 month old foal who appeared to be in distress. It had company but, the company was two young studs, there was no mom around. They attempted to see what they could do, but were unable to catch the young thing and they did have to head all the way back home. Hence the phone call.
I had to work Monday but promised Bunny that as soon as I could get off work, I would head out to the location where they had spotted the foal and see what I could find or do. Monday afternoon I slipped out of work a little early, grabbed a lariat, blankets and some soft rope and off I went. Travelling in my vehicle I toured up and down the trail where they had last seen the foal. I did see wild horses and will expand on that later. However, I had no luck finding the two young studs or foal.
I then decide to go out on foot and explore further back into the clearcuts. I travelled into several of the clearings looking for some sort of sign. The sun got lower and the light began to fade as I continued to look. Just as I was way in the back of one cut block, in a muddy patch, there was some fresh huge grizzly tracks. The hair on my neck went up as I tried to hurriedly picked my way through the stumps and ground clutter, back to the vehicle. In the dark I stumbled through it, unable to see very much, but on high alert for bear.
When I got back to the vehicle I sat there quietly thinking about the foal and hoping for the best for it. One thing does keep my hopes up that I still may find it alive is that there were no flocks of ravens around. They tell all when you are in the forest and that meant that there was nothing fresh dead in the area. I prayed for the foal and started back home.
The reason I titled this The Life Of A Wild Horse is how I was thinking at the time. This year has been a good year for the wild horse foals. We have rescued some and a good percentage of the 2010 crop are doing fine. However foal mortality this year is still around 20%. The life of a mare can be a hard one also, as the stallion’s herd grows, the dynamics of the herd mares changes also. When foaling there are no vets to come to their aid if something is wrong. They, with the help of the stallion, will try to protect their foal from anything, even if it may cause them harm. Occasionally also they or a foal will be injured when another stallion challenges the herd boss. Life is not easy and nature at times can be harsh, especially in winter.
Then while looking for the foal, I came across one of the stallions that if knew so well, I fully realized the hardships these magnificent creatures face. For what I came across was a stud we called Socks.
My ex-wife and I had come across him in the middle of a snowstorm several years back. He made an immediate impression on us both at the time with, his high white markings on his left rear leg. He was just starting his herd and had two mares and yearling with him. Over the next few years, everytime we came across him he would always put a show on for us. He was so photogenic and has appeared in our WHOAS calendar two or three times. I also have photos of him on the walls of my home.
This time things were tragically different and my heart broke. He was with another lone stud. Socks was beaten up pretty bad with gouges and bite marks covering his body. He had gone past his prime and had just lost his herd to an up coming dominant stallion. He was looking so forlorn and I cried for him. I could not even take any pictures of Socks as I care to remember him in all his glory.
The fight of the stallions can be ferocious at times and sometimes even fatal. Most of the time though, the victor chases off the vanquished with no real harm done. Though, sometimes there are broken bones and or open wounds from the biting and kicking that takes place when they fight. When fighting the squealing can be heard echoing through the hills.
Socks will wander off on his own and his life will end quietly. It has been such a pleasure of mine to have known this stallion. He has filled my heart with joy several times. One time I came across him as he pranced out in front of his herd toward me, trying to protect them. One of that years colts came running after his dad and put on a bluff just like he did to warn me off. What a thrill.
It is not only him, it is all the wild horses I have come across over the years that bring such joy to my soul. The pleasure I take in photographing them so that others can enjoy and see their beauty, is immense.
Wednesday is my day off and I bet you can guess where I am going and what I will be trying to do. Maybe I can find someone to help me. Thanks to you all for your support of your wild horses.
2011 WHOAS Calendars will be available by November 1, 2010.