A Hard Time of the Year

March can be a very hard time of the year for the wild horses. This year is proving to be extremely hard for the horses to find any forage as the snow cover in most areas of their range is still plentiful and can be crusted over. This young boy with his two friends are in an area where the west winds and sunshine have melted the snow off the exposed slopes. This certainly isn’t true to the areas north and east.

Even though there are exposed areas of grass, there is not much left and the horses have to be on constant move in order to find enough to eat. Due to conditions like these, there can high mortality on the younger, older and pregnant horses. There’s not much nutrition left and the temperatures have not warmed that much to get spring moving along. This is the time of year too where the younger studs can be pushed out of the herd by both the family stallion and the expecting mares.

Some of the herds move high up into the hills in the clearcut areas where hopefully the sun and wind has diminished the snow pack.

In the meantime other herds will move into the muskeg meadows to find the grass underneath the bushes and trees.

This young mare is taking advantage of some dry ground to enjoy the warm sunshine. On our travels this day we found areas where the snow was still a foot and half deep to areas where it was getting close to being gone. These areas in particular are the ones the horses are seeking out this time of year.

This young stud found an area along an open creek to enjoy the sunshine and readily available grass. In these exposed areas there was a sign of hope with a hint of green showing.

Another sign that the winter has been harsh on the horses, especially the young ones, is the prevalence of winter lice. You can see the telltale signs of the infestation on the black colt. He has lost a lot of hair trying to alleviate the itching that these parasites cause. The second boy is not as bad but again it is in the neck area where they have trouble rubbing. Winter lice are also to be seen on moose where it can take a terrible toll on that population. As long as the horses can find enough feed to keep their strength up, this condition will go away when weather warms and the horses can shed their winter coats. An interesting point we noted is that we only saw horses with the condition in only one small area of their range. Any of the horses we saw with this condition were all doing okay. What they really need is a good mud bath! Come on spring.

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