The Cloud Blog
Holiday 2010 Update on Cloud and his family, from filmmaker Ginger Kathrens

Winter arrived with a fury in Cloud’s Montana home. When Challenge Associate Producer, Makendra Silverman, and intern Lindsey Kasl, and I arrived in early December the mountain was cloaked in white from top to bottom. The snow-clogged road onto Sykes Ridge was impassable. Even the paved highway in the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area was challenging. Beautiful wild horses and Bighorn sheep roamed near the edge of the Bighorn Canyon.

Just inside the boundary of the horse range, near Crooked Creek, we spent time with the stocky bay colt I named Climbs High and his family. I was able to photograph Climbs High at the base of a high hill when he was a few minutes old this past May.

Even before the colt was dry, he followed his mother to the top of, not just one high hill, but two! Hence his name. I am amazed at the toughness of these newborns and the fitness of all the horses, despite sparce desert rations.

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Climbs High

We braved the snow on Tillett Ridge road on our second day, driving up a ways and then walking out a mile or so to the edge of Big Coulee canyon to glass onto the ridges of Sykes where we hoped to see Cloud. Unable to see a single horse, I panned my spotting scope down onto the distant flats near the mouth of Big Coulee. I could make out shimmering, unidentifiable shapes of horses in the desert. Then, in the shadow of a dark horse, I spotted a colt lying in the snow. He was cryptic, but unmistakable. It was Cloud’s grandson, the white colt I call Echo, the son of Bolder and his black mare, Cascade. Watching precocious Echo, born in April of this year, has been a déjà vu experience for me—like flashing back 15 years when my journey with Cloud was just beginning. That evening, Makendra, Lindsey, and I made a plan to try to access the area, hoping Bolder and his family might still be in the same location. The next morning we were out early for what would be a long, memorable hike.

landscape

It was a beautiful winter morning as we set off on foot across a wide flat and dropped into a small canyon that wound toward what we hoped would be the sagebrush flats at the mouth of Big Coulee. Red canyon walls soared above us as we followed a highway of horse tracks in the snow. About an hour later I was elated when we saw the sagebrush flats ahead. From the sage we hiked up onto Turkey Flats. What we eventually found while hiking in the flats was a pale horse. It was Cloud and his family!

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We walked closer and could see that all were in excellent health and seemed content as they moved snow with their sensitive noses and pawed to uncover sparse, but highly nutritious, tufts of grass. The baby of the family, Breeze, a dark filly who is the daughter of Aztec and Cloud, has sapphire blue eyes that will likely darken as she grows. What a furry doll. Cloud was his usual busy self, occasionally snaking the family to keep them together and pushing them in the direction he had chosen.

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Jasmine & Breeze above; Cloud snakes Jasmine below


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Since the death of his powerful lead mare, Sitka, he has assumed the duties of both lead mare and band stallion. We sat down a ways off, hoping to have lunch with the family, but Cloud had other ideas. He signaled them to walk on, following behind as they meandered off in the direction of the red buttes. Later in the day Lindsey spotted horses running in the distance and I recognized the sooty palomino before he disappeared around a rocky hillside. Bolder! As we hiked closer I realized we had found not only Bolder and his family, but also Flint and his band. How lucky, I thought. But something was amiss.

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Bolder was snaking Flint’s mare, Feldspar, and their son Jasper and little filly, Agate.

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Flint whinnied for his family but stood with his new mare, Sequoyah and her son. Bolder’s acquisition must have taken place within the past 24 hours. When I had glassed down onto the desert flats from Tillett Ridge the afternoon before Flint’s three-some were not with Bolder’s band. Flint whinnied again and Bolder turned to give him a dirty look.

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Nearby Echo and Cascade expelled puffs of steamy breath as they grazed and glanced over at Flint on the nearby hillside. Then Echo turned to stare at me. His dark eyes framed in white were riveting. I pray that this true legacy of Cloud will live forever free. I know he is a target. Although he is not famous like his grandfather, he possesses that magnetic Cloud spirit which has inspired so many to fight for wild horse freedom.

In the dying light, we left the bands, not sure of what might happen. I like to imagine the “Flintstones” are all back together by now. What a privilege to spend time in the presence of any wild horses, let along those I have known for their entire lives. Such is the case with Cloud, Bolder and Flint’s entire bands—I have known each and every one of them since they were foals. And I fear for their future. At the current rate of removals, Dr. Caroline Betts, Associate Professor of Economist at the University of Southern California, “predicts rapid extinction in 11 years” of all wild horses and burros!

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Jasper and Texas meet

16 years ago, when I just first stepped into the world of wild horses, I was blown away. I began my filming knowing absolutely nothing about their social ties and how complicated their lives and relations might be. At that time I could find no books or papers about wild horse behavior. Luckily, I had a teacher named Raven. By the time his son Cloud was born, the black stallion and his mares had impressed upon me the importance of family—it means everything to a wild horse.

Wild horses are unique among our hooved wild animals in that they alone live in a family unit with a father present 365 days a year. I have watched these gallant males fight and battle to keep their families together, overcoming injury and incredible odds. I have seen young stallions obtain mares and start their own families, mares demonstrate incredible loyalty to their stallions and their herd mates. I have laughed as the foals played. I have cried when they lost their lives to mountain lions. But I have reveled in knowing that here wild nature was calling the shots, making a stronger wild herd while nurturing their main predator. The hardest part for me is watching them lose their freedom in the roundups. In 2009, I filmed Cloud face off with an offending helicopter at close range, and later attempt to return to the capture pens to rescue members of his family who were not to be set free.

Many of you may not know that the Billings BLM threatened in a recent newspaper article to remove Cloud and his few remaining offspring from their Pryor Mountain home in Montana. I am pleased to report that both the Director of the BLM and the Chief of the Wild Horse and Burro Program have told us that there are no plans to remove Cloud.

We continue to work to preserve Cloud’s legacy. 15 year-old Cloud has only one son, Bolder and four daughters. His brother, his daughter and five of his grandchildren were removed in 2009. We are working to protect his few grand foals as well—especially Echo, his pale palomino grandson who mirrors Cloud in both looks and spirit.

My wish for the New Year is that Echo and all wild horses and burros can remain in the wild, keeping what they value most, their freedom and their families.

Happy Trails!
Ginger

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  • connie j cunningham

    ginger, this was such a pleasure to read and gaze upon the beautiful photos.

    thank you so much!

  • Debra McDaid

    Hi

    Please continue to keep us updated. While I know a great deal about horses, I know so much more about wild horses now due to you and Cloud and his grand family and friends.

    I have two horses at present, stbs, one Tattoo is a kind gelding that we rescued, and we love, the other is my colt (now four) Che, he is a stud colt, and if ever a horse could live free and wild it is this one. He looks at life as a preditor, not prey… at 12000 pounds he might find it tough to get enough food!!!! He is tough and arrogant, and more horse than any other I have ever had… after watching the stud horses in your films, I see much of him and Tattoo’s relationship and why they act the way the do towards one another… they love each other, but Tattoo get’s annoyed with Che, who is young and loves to play and rough house…

    Please continue to keep your wild family wild, and know that there are many people who support you.

    Take care

    deb

  • Cindy Jorgensen

    Ginger, please keep on with your recordings of this group. I Am a horse lover, yes, for these to be keep in the wild. I truly loved the infor and pictures you have provided. Might chat with you later. Be careful out there.

  • Karen

    GOD BLESS YOU~
    I PRAY everyday Cloud & his legacy will be kept ALIVE & FREE~

  • Jaden & Emily

    HI,
    We are 11 yrs old and we watch Clouds Legacy ALL THE TIME!!!
    About Us:
    We are horse lovers, we have a friend her name Natalie, She wants to do every thing listed below…So do we :]…
    When we get older we want to travel to Montana & see Cloud, Bolder,Red Raven and all of Clouds Herd.
    Let us explain this differently. We are young and plan to follow our wish ,for our future, to become like you. To follow herds of horses and to help them yet keep them wild and free.
    Is there something we are missing in our plan? Like something that needs to be, like something doesn’t fit into our plan as horse lovers that will try our best to stop horse abuse and slaughter?
    Thank you And GOD BLESS <3
    Your Fans,
    Jaden & Emily <3
    AGAIN
    GOD BLESS YOU
    CLOUD
    AND
    BOULDER!!!!!
    :]

  • Jaden & Emily

    The correct time was 12:36 In the afternoon
    GOD BLESS
    SORRY

  • Jadens & Emilys Thought

    Jadens Thought:
    How could they take the wild horses away?!?!
    Let nature be
    poor Cloud
    Emilys thought:
    Why isnt there a law that people cant take an important animal away from their family and home? It just doesn’t make sense.

  • Jonathan Stander

    Poor Flint. I can’t believe he lost his family to Bolder. Bolder must have sneaked Feldspar, Agate, and Jasper away while Flint wasn’t looking. I know Flint will win them back in the spring or in the summer. I heard that Texas’s daughter Autumn and Autumn’s filly Kicks Alot were with Red Raven and his band.

  • Karen Haus Grandpre

    The pictures as always are very good, Your dedication I hope will prove to be rewarding. GOD BLESS YOU for the work you do! May it catch on with the American public!

  • Richard Noble

    Thank you for the update. I really enjoyed this show.

  • sandy squire

    Please let us all know what we can do to keep Cloud free, if anything. I adopted a baby mustang years ago from the Calico mountains.

  • Stacey

    Jaden & Emily……….
    You to have a big hearst!!!
    Just like Ginger!!!!!
    And cloud!!!!
    I love you Ginger!!!!thank you for the picks :)
    Your True FAN!!!
    Stacey!

  • thaddeus hudson

    Boulder is so magnificent looking! Red Raven used to be the 2nd most beautiful horse to me there (cloud 1st) but now I think Clouds son has taken that spot. I cant believe its been as long as it has. I`ve watched the horses grow up and start their own families and Bolder has always attracted me to him. I remember how young he was when he took Shamans mares from him. I knew he was special then and as you can see, Clouds blood is strong in him by his son Ecoh. Cloud is still magnificent as he has always been to me. I wonder how old he will be before HIS greatness has run its course. I`m very glad I have these films because they have tought me so much about love and family and survival even when family is difficult to keep together because of all the ways it can be torn appart (BLM,lions, winters). If the BLM is having so much trouble with their buget, tell them to not have roundups so often and they can save money and a lot of trouble for ALL of us. Especially the wild horses and boros.

  • Caramell

    Was Image one of them to get taken away. I hope not :(

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