Wild Horses of Shackleford Banks, NC
In October of 2017, I spent a day off the North Carolina coast with the horses that life on Shackleford Island. It was a gloomy day of fog and drizzle, and the place had a lot of "mood" to it. At one point, as I walked along the edge of the water, I spotted a horse skull. As I approached it, I realized exactly how the poor horse must have met her demise. Quick sand! In one step, I went from solid footing, to sinking up to my thighs. Every time I moved, I seemed to sink another inch or two, and I quickly realized that I needed to get out of there or end up stuck, just like the poor horse whose skull I was staring at. I carefully leaned into a more horizontal position to distribute my weight over a larger area, and I sort of "swam" myself out of the mud, very nearly losing my shoes in the process. Back on solid ground, I was a little shaken up. I was also, obviously, completely covered in mud, with no way of really cleaning myself up. I brushed myself off as best I could, but by the time the ferry picked me up at the end of the day, I'm sure I looked like I had been living on the island for a month!
Pryor Mountain Mustangs, 2017
We had a wonderful time visiting the Pryor Mountain mustangs this summer. However, my mood is somber as I process my video and photographs from the trip. With the BLM Advisory board formally recommending euthanasia of up to 90,000 mustangs as a management option (including horses in long-term holding and horses still on the range in HMAs that are deemed to be in excess of the AML), it is hard to remain optimistic. The Pryor mustangs are well-managed on the range using hormonal contraception and are supported by well-organized and passionate wild horse advocates. Although removals may occasionally be necessary, these horses are almost certain to find good homes. It's the rest of the wild horses that have me and many others so worried. Particularly in Nevada, which is home to the largest proportion of mustangs but seems to face the most intractable challenges when it comes to establishing management policies that will ensure that healthy horses can continue to live on a healthy range.
Maven and Blue
Maven spent several months boarded at a barn nearby during the summer of 2017. I moved him their mainly to see whether he would be happier living among a herd of geldings. The loss of his buddy Junior seemed to have left a big hole in his life, and I wondered if he longed for more playful companionship. Indeed, he fit in with this lovely group so well. Within the first few minutes of being introduced, he bonded with a horse named Blue. This video shows their introduction. I love seeing the intensity of the communication here, and I admire how friendly they both are as they feel each other out.
Unfortunately, Maven had a bad reaction to something in the environment at that barn and wasn't able to stay there. He came home after a few months of trying various things. I'm now more convinced than ever that Maven needs a gelding to pal around with.
We'll find a way.
This spring and summer, I gathered video clips of my herd as they shared their evening meal at dusk. Maven and Nova were reunited in May after 18 months of separation, and I was interested in watching how they relate to each other. They shared company and comfort over their hay on these warm evenings, but there remains a grief that clings to all of us. Nova, I think, is reminded of Legend and is also surely missing friends that she made while out on lease. Maven still grieves for Junior and longs for a more physical sort of play than what Nova enjoys. These two are very bonded, but they don't quite relieve each other of their individual heartbreak. Love and sadness are both palpable here.
Pryor Mountain, 2016
This year, Jenna and I camped on the mountain for three nights. I mainly focused on still photography, but did get enough footage to put together a little video of various groups cavorting at Krueger Pond. The band of young bachelors was a favorite, with London and Mato Ska seeming like they are nearly ready to contend for mares. The yearling Pride seemed like he missed Missoula and wished he were old enough to tag a long with the big boys. Give it another year, sweet boy. During this trip, I enjoyed getting to know Blanca and the rest of Cappuccino's band; up-close encounters with Garay and his yearling filly Petite Colour; wonderful moments with Encore and Knight; getting to know Baja, Washakie, and her new baby Quanneah; and saying goodbye to the oldest horse in Pryor history, Winnemuca. It was special to share my love of the mountain with my sister. Cloud's absence was felt deeply.
April 26, 2016
Nearly 2 years to the day after Legend died, we said goodbye to Junior, who I found colicking by the barn that morning. Thank you for spending your final years with us, Juni. We miss you everyday.
Pryor Mountain, 2015
A compilation of scenes from my 2015 trip to "the mountain". Shayne and I camped for two nights and were fortunate enough to see Cloud consistently the trip. I scattered Legend's ashes at Cloud's feet on this trip; sat with the young Pride and his family during a spectacular sunrise; followed Galaxy's band in the pre-dawn mist, with Electra and Pegasus, just 24 hours old; watched Cloud battle his brother Red Raven from the rocks above Mystic Pond as the two of them dogged Hamlet's band; witnessed an all-out stallion stampede as the filly Naiyaha attempted to leave Hamlet and her mother Audobon to join Jupiter with Maia and her colt Oro; fell in love with the smokey senior stallion Chino; spectated all the action with Maelstrom and Mckennie, such nice young bachelors, who lost their freedom just a few weeks later, and spent my last half hour of the trip sitting in the sun while Cloud grazed nearby.
On the anniversary of Legend's death, I found myself unable to sleep. I stayed up all night cutting this video together to the song "I Quit My Job" by Old Man Leudecke. Making the video was a comforting process as I passed through the painful memories of that same night, one year earlier. It occurs to me that Legend played a huge role in bringing this little herd together. Caveat was born just 6 days before he died, and I think he did consider himself her father. He paced the fence relentlessly the day of her birth and blocked other horses from coming near Max Pedro. The day that Legend got sick, I found him outside his pasture, having somehow climbed through the fence. He was standing at the ponies' stall, watching over them. Maven and Junior both came to me within about a month of Legend's passing. Had he not died, we wouldn't have found each other. Painful as it was for me to lose my boy, his departure from this world was the event that set the wheels in motion for me to be able to enjoy this beautiful day caught on film, one year later.