Cloud's Legacy: The Wild Stallion Returns
Filmmaker Ginger Kathrens' Life with Cloud

Several years ago, I received a telephone call from the popular host of the PBS WILD AMERICA series, Marty Stouffer. He had a documentary film assignment in mind for me. “I want to make a film about mustangs,” Marty explained. “Interested in shooting it for me?” I immediately said yes. I hadn’t had a horse since I was a teenager, but Marty thought I knew a lot about horses. I was excited but worried. In my experience, horses just stood around in fields and grazed. How could I make an interesting TV show about that? I was completely ignorant about the complex and fascinating world of wild horses.

Raven

In March 1994, I stood in the chill of pre-dawn on a red desert hilltop ready to start filming. The desert lay at the base of flat-topped mountains the Crow Indians call the Arrowheads, a wilderness home for black bears, mountain lions, bighorn sheep, mule deer, golden eagles, coyotes, and about 175 wild horses

I held my breath as six wild horses wandered from behind a hill and into a sea of blue green sage. I focused my 600mm lens on a newborn foal, with a huge diamond-shaped star, trotting to keep up with his pale buckskin mother. A grulla mare, her black yearling son, and a striking palomino filly followed. Some distance away was the stallion — black as night with a white snip on the end of his aquiline nose. When I stood up and bent back over the camera, the stallion saw me and pranced forward, shaking his head in agitation.

He stared, snorted, and wheeled. In perfect synchrony, his family ran away with the stallion galloping in the rear to protect his family from the deadly silhouette on the hill. It was a moment I will never forget. Even then, I felt a deep connection to the black stallion. I later learned his name was Raven.

After the reaction of Raven’s band to me and my camera, I believed I would need to film from a blind. So, when the snow melted, I navigated the miserable road to sub-alpine meadows atop the mountain. I stationed myself on a cliff above a water hole. Nestled between boulders, I felt confident my camera and I were virtually invisible.

Within minutes, a golden dun stallion named Shaman approached. As his large band drank, the stallion jerked his head into the air, sniffed and looked up. I did not blink. Suddenly, he snorted explosively and the entire band raced away, leaving me alone in my cliff blind. That worked well, I told myself, surveying a horseless meadow. Not only could wild horses see any movement, they could smell any danger. I needed to rethink my strategy.

Over the next few days as I sat in frustration, Raven and his family appeared. Day after day, they seemed to find me rather than the other way around. I began waving at them — something told me to be quietly conspicuous. I watched to see the direction they were traveling and set up my camera ahead of them. Over time they paid me the highest compliment a wild animal can pay a wildlife filmmaker: they ignored me.

By now there were three foals in Raven’s band, the one I named Diamond (who was turning into a blue roan), a solid grulla, and a strawberry roan colt with a huge star. In September, the two younger brothers died in a Bureau of Land Management roundup. It was a tragic loss for Raven’s family and a shocking end to an idyllic summer for me. The following spring, nothing could keep me from returning to see if Raven’s family could recover from their horrible loss.

Cloud

It was late May. I was intently filming a three-year-old stallion trying to breed his father’s newly acquired mare. When the older stallion returned, his son innocently clacked his teeth like a foal, as if to say “Don’t hurt me, I’m little.” Young stallions are usually ousted from their bands at two to avoid in-breeding, and this three-year-old was pushing his luck.

Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flash of white in the forest. Seconds later, Raven’s palomino mare broke out of the trees with her newborn and led him right past my camera. The colt was just hours old and he tottered to keep up with his mother. He was unlike any foal on the Arrowheads, for he was nearly white. The band was on an uphill trek and I followed. Within a half-hour, they arrived at a snowbank under dense trees. This was their water source until water holes on the mountaintop melted. The colt sniffed the cold whiteness and collapsed in a heap in the shade. As I watched him breathe I counted his ribs. I had never seen a newborn foal. Were they all this fragile? I named the colt Cloud and prayed he would live.

Two weeks later, the frail colt had blossomed, displaying the boldness that would become his trademark. His two sisters were several months older than Cloud, and targets for his teasing, especially when they were sleeping. He would nibble on their manes and pull their ears. He galloped around circular stands of firs like it was his own personal racecourse. Round and round he flew, seeming never to tire.

When Raven thought his little fillies had wandered too far from the band, he gently reprimanded them by snaking them home, laying his ears back and lowering his head. Cloud mimicked his father and, when a little filly came to visit, he laid his ears flat, dipped his head low and chased her away. Everything he did that summer led me to conclude, “One day you will become a great band stallion like your father.”

When summer ended, so did my filming for WILD AMERICA.

Return to the Arrowheads

For nearly two years I filmed throughout the world. But I was haunted by Raven, Cloud, and the family. They had captured my imagination and my heart.

Fortunately I was hired to produce another film that included wild horses, so I returned to the Arrowheads. I was better prepared this time. I had learned that their communication, so subtle one moment and broad the next, was reminiscent of wolves. Each family member had a place in the hierarchy of the band. Parental discipline was clear, consistent, and fair. And the ritual encounters of the stallions were unforgettable. From a distance their high-pitched shrieks echoed through the forests and canyons.

Cloud was celebrating his second birthday on the day I returned to the Arrowheads. I found that Raven had kicked both him and his brother Diamond out of the band. Finding them would prove to be a challenge, for bachelors roam unpredictably and for long distances.

Using binoculars, I surveyed the vast ridges of Tillet where Cloud was born, and across a deep, impassable canyon to Sykes Ridge with its hundreds of rippling fingers and shallow canyons. A white horse! It had to be Cloud. Five hours later, I was on Sykes. Cloud looked up and I waved. Remember me? I was relieved when he went back to playing with a dun bachelor, spinning and nipping at the smaller stallion’s legs. What a beauty. His coat gleamed and his body was well-developed for only a two-year-old.

Over the summer he interacted with the other bachelors on the mountain, running across flower-strewn meadows, dashing just close enough to the family bands to rile the band stallions. Like a gang of rowdy teenage boys, bachelors are freedom personified.

In the fall, another roundup shattered the tranquility of the Arrowheads. Of the bachelors captured, only Cloud was released, because of his unusual color. I searched everywhere for him over the next two months. When the snow began falling, I lost hope of finding him and feared he might be dead.

In the spring I returned to the mountain, not knowing what I might find. If Cloud were alive, he would surely follow the green grass to the top of the mountain. While I was filming a band of horses running to water, I spotted bachelors racing over the hill and Cloud was right in the middle of them. He was alive!

As a four-year-old, Cloud made an unusual decision. He began to dog one of the toughest band stallions on the mountain, Mateo, a burley bay in his prime and built like a sumo wrestler. Never mind that most stallions are at least six when they attempt to start a family. Cloud’s strategy: follow as closely as he dared and get the shorter stallion to chase him. He would eventually wear the bay down and steal his mares. The game lasted all summer. In the end, it was Cloud who wore out, and went lame.

He joined a group of bachelors living far outside the horse range. He went into winter thin, lame and listless. This time, I thought he might be gone forever.

But Cloud appeared the next spring as a five-year-old, and he had changed. He was lean, mean, and determined to start his own family. He fought the powerful blue roan stallion Plenty Coups for his mares. Cloud’s strategy was the same. During one grueling chase, Plenty Coups made a misstep. The stallion hobbled to a halt, licking the blood running down his leg. Then he continued to give chase — on three legs. Days later, when fog sealed the mountain in a gray shroud, I returned home to Colorado, not knowing the outcome of their epic struggle.

Later that summer, I rode my once-wild horse, Trace, to find Cloud. We saw Plenty Coups at a spring-fed water hole. He had lost his whole band, his mares divided among various stallions.

Only a quarter of a mile away, Trace and I located Cloud. Ironically, he was not with a Plenty Coups mare but an older grulla female named Queen. The mare had given birth to a sickly foal and when her band left, she and her yearling son stayed with the foal. Cloud found them and stood quietly by the mare’s side. When the foal died, the mare and son stayed with Cloud. And so, not in a clash of teeth and hooves but in a moment of stillness, the young stallion achieved his goal of starting his own family.

Cloud’s Legacy

Two Christmases ago at sunset I spotted a glow amongst dark junipers on a hill near the mouth of Cougar Canyon. It was my first glimpse of Cloud in winter! In March, I returned to the mouth of the canyon but Cloud was not to be found. So I hiked through the snow-choked canyon and onto the windswept ridges of Sykes. I saw a red dun with a grulla. Queen? Bachelors were dogging Cloud’s mare. If he were alive Cloud would never allow this. Once again, I was seized with fear and worry.

By early June, I had still not located Cloud. Then, near the spring-fed water hole, he appeared! He followed down the muddy slope by a blue roan mare and her yearling daughter. The mare was Sitka, Shaman’s lead mare. I couldn’t imagine Cloud taking her from the formidable stallion.

Equally startling, below the snow-fed water hole, I spotted what looked like a light-colored rock in the grass that I hadn’t seen before. I focused my long lens on the shape. It was a colt with a huge star. When the baby stood, I gasped. It had a white mane and tail. A palomino! Nearby was Plenty Coups’ black mare with Shaman. It was clear to me I was looking at Cloud’s son. Cloud had bred the black mare, perhaps in the fog after Plenty Coups was injured. Yet, the young stallion could not hold on to her.

In July, Sitka foaled and Cloud had his first foal to raise. Though not of his blood, the little grulla would become his son in every other sense of the word. I named him Flint and he would one day need every bit of toughness his name implies.

Predation was high that summer. Mountain lions preyed on nearly a third of the foals and Cloud’s light colored son was a vulnerable target. Marauding bachelors harassed Cloud’s family. A roundup separated families and a wildfire threatened to destroy all the wild horses. Through it all, Cloud survived, as bold and brave as the precocious little white colt who first captured my heart.

–Ginger Kathrens

  • Owned by Miss Kitty & Dixie

    I LOVED this show that aired last night. I’m new to owning horses – got my first at age 45. Would love to hear how Cloud is doing today. Ginger did such a great job, I feel like I got to know the bands personally. Thanks for bringing such a great show.

  • Debbie O’Connor

    Thank you, Ginger, for making me feel like I was on the range with you. Horses are very special creatures, and I believe that anyone who watched your program was touched with that same message.

  • Emily

    I am so crazy about Cloud and horses! I may only be a tween girl, but I still love them all! (12 years old) When I read on the website that there was going to be a Cloud III, I screamed and threw my hat off! When I saw the picture of Image, Rain, and Cloud, I was thinking, “Is Image a filly? I just know that she is Cloud’s daughter.” Image and Bolder are my favorites of Cloud’s offspring and grandkids. But what I don’t get is, is Rain Image’s mom or Sitka’s yearling daughter?
    And another question that haunts me is: In the Cloud III introduction, it says the mares are being shot with infertility drugs, and in 2006 there was an untimely death of Cloud’s little son. Which son was it? I just hope it wasn’t true.

    But I found out about Cloud not long ago. I was searching the Internet for horses, and BAM! Cloud appears. I also look in a little “Breyer” magazine at their horses and saw a Cloud playset, with Cloud, Sitka, Bolder, and Flint. I told my mom, “Mom! Look! We should get this. That stallion is beautiful!” So a few weeks later, I got the playset and just about went crazy. Then, I found out there was a Cloud movie and I went even more crazy! So we ordered it from our local library twice and I watched it over and over. (DVD with Part 1, 2, and extra feature) Now, I own a DVD of Cloud! I love Cloud so much!!
    Thanks, Ginger, for discovering Cloud and Raven.

    -Emily

    (P.S. – Sorry this is very long, I like to explain detail.)

  • Merebeth Weller

    It was so refreshing to actually watch something
    on television that was not depressing (except the BLM roundup). I fast forwarded that part on my DVR…Nature is not always easy to view but when you see it at it’s finest with such beauty, serenity and solitude it is unforgetable. The horses show such patience and tolerance of Ginger. THey just sensed she would do them no harm. There is no greater compliment when an animal accepts us. Thanks from the bottom of my heart…I laughed, smiled and cried…and forgot about all other issues going on in this crazy world right now. Would love an update!!!

  • Raquel Gennusa

    I was wondering if I went to the mountains that was in if I could see him. What part of the mountains is cloud from?

  • Sam

    OMG! thank you soooo much Ginger…. I love horses and people I know say they are just stupid horses and they understand nothing and are worthless and stupid. They should watch this. Every horse is special to me and Cloud now sits in my heart along with his mares, foals, and of course Red Raven…. This really shows the struggles, rewards, and fears of wild horses and how intelligent they really can be.
    I was also glad when they grew so used to you. I would die to do what you do..
    (Keep Cloud coming!)
    Sam

  • Ivy

    I just love what you are doing. I love horses!!! I am just 13 years old. Cloud is one of the greatest horse I have seen. I saved my horse Cinder a mustang. I live in Montana, I was wonding wore is cloud and it is pritty county were he is! I love to just walt and study my horse.
    My dream job would to do what you do!!!!
    Ivy
    Ps please keep uploading vidoes on Cloud

  • liz.G

    i love storm hes such a cutie

  • liz.g

    i have three horses but there arabians two are half arabones a bey and ones a chestnut and one per arabian she black and the black had a baby her name is nia shes a yearling now shes the chestnut
    and ellie is six and i.m plaining on breeding her

  • Rebecka

    I’m from sweden and I have never seen any of theese videos, but I’m think that you are an amazing woman who can do this and find the horses and rember all the names! I think that you are doing a great job! I don’t have an own horse, but I’m grooming and riding my friends horse two times a week. But we don’t have that much money in my family, so I will probably have to stop that. But where can I see the videos?

  • a

    interesting love horses!

  • roxy

    URGENT

    Cloud and his herd are once again targeted for roundup the end of this month.

    Cloud may not even be free on the range when the 3rd program aires!

    Please go the The Cloud foundataion web and write, e-mail phone President Obama and Rep Salazar and all the others to stop these round-ups until we have some real science and investigation about what is dong on. Tell all your firends – I read on one web that every contact is counted as represtative of 5 public opinions.

    Just last month, on my birthday no less, I was heart broken to learn that a whole herd had been rounded up in Colorado. What the heck is going on? I thought BLM couldn’t feed the ones thay already have in captivity. Folks – this is shananigans!

  • Deana

    Can’t wait to see what happens next!

  • Kathlien troth

    So happy to see what happen next …… i love horse and so happy poeple are trying to keep them wild. thank you pbs for the kids webstite and the nature webstite my family is set!!!!

  • Dolores G Thiel

    It’s this story that I watched as a kid that got me into drawing for donation to wild animals and their protection. Between Ginger and Paul Atkinson, you guys really helped in giving me that push which has helped me to raise to the challenge, with hundreds in my group ready to draw for donation to wild animals and their protection in FreeNatureArts foundation. On our behalf, this movie moved us all and we can’t ever thank you enough for doing such a Documentary!

    I hope to see more about Cloud and his family, but more then anything I hope your bond lasts through this lifetime Ginger, you love Cloud and his family as I do my Cardinals, and that’s a bond that can never be broken.

  • Shirley

    I hope you make a fourth movie about Cloud and his family and all the wild horses that roam the arrowhead and sykes and all the mountain range where Cloud was born and grew up,right along with his family of foals that were born and raised there.or shall I say I hope are still roaming free Cloud and his family.Ever since I watched the video’s you made of Cloud and his life growing up,I have wished I could see him and the family in real life for myself.Cloud and all the wild horses are magnificent and we need to save each and every one of them.And get rid of the BLM,we don’t need them and the wild horses and burro’s definitely don’t need them either.

  • Francis

    I hope Ginger make a fourth movie or video od cloud. I’ve been following the 3 movies you made and watched them like 5 time already and I mean that. After Cloud, I hope you make another one for Flint or Storm. I’m really scared that the BLM might take him.

  • Milisabelle

    Not sure I can follow the storyof Cloud now…..Heard that Blm were forced to released him because of pulbicity, but they still won, because head mare and second stallion headed for slaughter and mares released with him sterilized…. no more Cloud genetics…. they won…..Please let there be some people who bought related horses and keep them entire so his genetics are not lost forever! It is horrible to watch from Canada and not even be able to write to a ‘REpresentative’ in your Congress to make a difference.
    Gien health and money, I would go buy them myself and save them from annihilation or slaughter…

  • Patricia Strong, MSW

    First, I agree with all of the highly commendatory messages above. Ginger Kathrens is an amazing lady and to be highly praised for all she has contributed and is contributing.
    As a horse owner and breeder for years, it drives me a bit mad to see Cloud described as WHITE. He is not., perhaps for an instant he appeared so.
    A dear friend had an American Albino mare, WHITE, with pink skin and dark blue eyes. The love of her life and an amazing creature. CLOUD is not WHITE.

  • IONAMAY PHILLIPS

    HELLO , i JUST WATCHED THE CLOUD AND HIS BAND , i WAS WONDERING WHAT HAPPENED TO THE MARE THE BUMP ON HER SAID? HAVE A WONDERFULL NEW YEAR . THANKS iONAMAY

  • Fatimah

    Is there any updates on the families and the out come of their exisistance?

  • Frances Town

    I too would like to know what happened with Sitka. That lump is worrying!

  • Francesca Dodd

    Dear Ginger
    Thank you so much for your beautiful work! What a beautiful gift for all of us. Its breathtaking Congratulations!

    I know now more about horses that 2 hours ago, and would love to see more of Cloud and his family.
    Hope Sitka has an easy delivery and the family makes it again to grace the prairies that so rightfully belongs to them.

    Thank you PBS for your awesome programing and for bringing awareness to the amazing gift of mother nature.

    Happy New year, best wishes to Ginger, PBS, Cloud and his family.

    Francesca

  • Anna from Alaska

    What an amazing film to watch on my first day of the new year! This is amazing, I didn’t know much about wild horses, what a society! Thank you for making this film and showing it to us!

  • Katie Ladd

    Dear Ginger,
    My name is Katie Ladd, and I’m 14 years old and I live in a small town of Orland, ME. I’ve been learning to ride horses since i was about 10 years old. I’ve been wondering how to reach you because I want to become a large animal vet when I go to college and I would like to learn more about horses while i’m around them. I want to learn about them from a personal aspect like you did. Please if you would e-mail me. thanks :)
    Sincerly,
    Katie Ladd

  • casey

    the photography was amazing.can’t wait to see more of your work

  • Madison

    Hello Ginger,My name is Madison and I am 8-9 years old and I am a pretty big fan of Cloud.Ever since I found this website and watched all three Cloud episodes,I fell in love with Cloud and his whole family.I’ve learned so much from Cloud,Raven,Sitka,Boulder,Flint,Plennycoo and the rest of the horses.I’ve always wanted to be a rancher and film wild horses like you.I felt pretty bad for what happened to Plennycoo and Dusty.We must also think of something to stop these roundups.Why would people do such a thing?
    Madison

  • Hanna

    Hi im Hanna im 13 years old i was wondering if cloud is still alive to this day i wrote this please tell me thanks :)

  • Julia Harris

    Hi I am 9 years old I love horses very much. I have a great Imagination with horses I love watching your episode I think its great Julia

  • Monica M.

    I looove cloud! I’m wondering just exactly how cloud is doing right now! I hope that he is A-okay. If he is otherwise I shall be very put out. I can’t wait to see him again. I wonder where his journies will lead Ginger Katherens, and everybody else!
    Monica M.
    11 years old

  • Monica M.

    Dear Ginger, Just wonderingcould you e-mail things that I can do to help cloud and his family?
    Monica M
    11 years old

  • Amanda Langschultz

    I am a current student in college. My goal is to help stop BLM round ups! I get my Business degree within one more semester. My plan is to rescue and rehabilitate wild horses in order to return them into the wild. I am concerned of Cloud’s whereabout’s.

  • Signa Bowie

    Although not normally a horse person, I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed these two installments and will watch the third in eager anticipation. And Katherine, you really do Marty Stouffer proud (I think). PBS RULES!

  • Signa Bowie

    I’m sorry Ginger Kathrens for the above; called you Katherine. I’m old; it happens. Love Ya!

  • Julie Victoria

    I am in love with Cloud. I would like an update on him. What can I do to help. I would like to e-mail Mrs. Ginger K.
    Julie Victoria 313 585 5864

  • lakisha

    i love cloud my family calls me crazy for waching him online and on tv but i tell them he is an amazing hores but they wont belive me but i dont care what they say i love that hores and ween i get my owen place i am going to raz my owen horses

  • Lorraine

    In Gingers Kathren’s page ” Life with Cloud: she states Only a quarter of a mile away, Trace and I located Cloud. Ironically, he was not with a Plenty Coups mare but an older grulla female named Queen. The mare had given birth to a sickly foal and when her band left, she and her yearling son stayed with the foal. Cloud found them and stood quietly by the mare’s side. When the foal died, the mare and son stayed with Cloud. And so, not in a clash of teeth and hooves but in a moment of stillness, the young stallion achieved his goal of starting his own family.
    In the film and in her writing she never tells us how she came to this conclusion. Where did this info come from if she just located Cloud a quarter of a mile away. Did she find Cloud and just assume this or did she witness this- the camera nor the writing gives evidence. Very unclear and I am looking for clarification.

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  • Mary Collier

    This is to Ginger. I have a 16 year old son named Christopher. He loves hearing about cloud and his family. Is there any info out here on all his offspring and mares. He would love to come to montana and see cloud and to meet you Ginger. Any info also on Gingers email addy. Would love to be able to email her and talk to her on behalf of my son. We love reading and seeing all the photos on cloud,. Thanks for all your hard work on the wild horses there.

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    System Restore is quick and easy. I’m not a computer buff but…but…but…

  • Pitty

    Hello Ginger, Here a question from Holland “the netherlands” Is Cloud still alive?

    Kind Regards

    Pitty

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