Winters First Blast

This week saw the first real blast of winter hit the Wild Horse Country, west of Sundre.  I live alone and I had the day off so what else can I do but go check on the horses.  It was minus 23 when I left home and headed out. In the hills, the snow ranged from 10 -15 inches in depth.  This and the cold would give me a good indication of how the horses are doing in this first cold snap.

Young Bachlors
Young Bachlors



The snow was deep and I really had to pay attention to the trails as I drove into my first location to look.  The horses were a little hard to find first thing in the morning, due to the fact that hunting season is in full swing and there has been more traffic than normal.   This makes all the creatures a little more cautious.



 As I prowled the back trails I started to see more horse and managed to get close on the odd herd. However some of the herds with the younger mares that had a foal at their side were extremely skittish. I continued to try different trails and the horses all appeared to be in excellent shape.

Soaking in the rays of sunshine
Soaking in the rays of sunshine


 Then way back in one of the valley’s I saw my friend “Hombre”. He is one of the stallions that has always knew me and would always pose to get his picture taken.  His herd is about the same size as last year.   There are three healthy foals and they are still nursing off their moms in order to maintain their strength.  


Mom's milk
Mom's milk


As winter strenghtens it grip on Horse Country, the young horses need this little bit of extra energy in order to survive as they are not as adept at foraging  as the adults.  Then I watched in fascination as “Hombre” started to roll in the snow, to clean his coat. It was that particular moment, that I knew how blessed I am in being able to be with the wild horses on such a beautiful cold day.  What better way to spend it, the housework and laundry could wait, I laughed.

Cold bath
Cold bath

The wild horses and even my own  horses do this in order to loosen up their coat from ice and snow in order for their coats to give them better insulation from the cold.

Then down one back trail, all of a sudden there was a large flock of ravens lifting off the ground, along with a bald and golden eagle.  My heart started race a little in fear, for this is how in the past we had found so many of the wild horses that had been shot and killed in this area.

There were about 30 ravens there at a kill site.  If you are out in the woods, listen and look for the ravens as they will tell you everything that is going on in their country, especially in the winter months.

]Ravens Circling

I went into investigate, hoping and praying that it was not a horse.  It was not.  What I came across was the carcass of a fresh cougar kill, a young white tail fawn.    The deer and the wild horses are the fovorite prey of the cougars out here.  In fact one male cat which was collared and tracked, reportedly killed 14 wild horses over a one year period.  That is nature at work and I can hold nothing against the cougar for doing what it was born to do.

Relieved, down the road I continued. I was particularly interest in one herd.  In it was a young late born foal, which is at the most only around four months old.  Mortality among these late born foals can be extremely high, depending on the winter.  I really needed to see that it was okay right now. 

Then there they were, Wylie’s herd.  The young wild horse that we had rescued a few years ago had come from this particular herd. You can read about his progress further back in the blog.  Then there in the middle was the little fellow I had been worried about.  He would watch the adult horses paw at the snow to expose the grass and then he would do the same.  It really did bring a smile to my face.and joy to my heart.  Snow covered his back and I knew that for now he was just fine. What and end to a beautiful day.

The little guy
The little guy

I will continue to monitor him and two other young foals that have come across, including the “Scruffy” little one I reported on earlier.  Hoping that I do not have to intervene and that they will all come through our Alberta winter in good shape. I will keep you posted.

Tomorrow though, I am afraid that the housework will have to wait again, because I would sure like a nice photo of an adult cougar.  I have a blind and nice warm clothes and that is where I will be at first light in the morning.

Help support WHOAS work in protecting your wild horses and purchase a 2011 wild horse calendar.  Information is here on this site on how to go about getting your copy.

Thanks for your support.


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