After a meeting in Billings several weeks ago with Senate staffers, the BLM, Forest Service, and concerned Billings wild horse advocates regarding legal expansion of the range, I traveled to the Pryors to visit Cloud, his family and herd. Susan Sutherland, a Chicago-area wild horse advocate and owner of Bravo, a gorgeous three-year-old Pryor wild horse, accompanied me on this latest adventure. Once up on the mountain top, we witnessed quite a drama. Prince, a dun band stallion, was being dogged by four bachelor stallions: Custer, Cloud’s step-son Flint, Mateo (the former band stallion that Cloud had dogged as a four-year-old), and even old Bigfoot (a crippled 22-year-old former band stallion with a heart as big as all outdoors).
Flint was trying to recover his lovely young mare, Feldspar, whom he acquired this spring and bred. Apparently, he had been unable to hold on to her when challenged by Prince, a long-time band stallion who is 15 years old. Also in Prince’s band are Cloud’s younger sister, Electra, who years ago was in Mateo’s band; Bolder’s mother, Pococeno; and Mateo’s former lead mare, Winnemucca.
Poor Prince had part of his lower lip torn away and looked skeletal but was bravely hanging onto his family. We believe it was Flint that had done the damage to Prince while fighting. During the course of watching the bachelors circling the band, Flint looked up to the top of a hill and whinnied. I expected to see Cloud crest the hill. Instead, Flint galloped off and then returned with a two-year-old bay filly and her foal. He snaked them past us at breakneck speed, and Susan and I dashed for the car, hoping we might catch a glimpse of them from the road.
We could just see the top of Flint’s head some distance away and began hiking. Flint was snaking the filly and her foal, a little bay we named Isaac. It is unusual for a two-year-old to foal, but it does happen and in many cases the foal does not live. However, Isaac has so far beat the odds and has no problem keeping up with his mother. The three would graze a bit, then Flint would try to breed the filly, who resisted him and ran — only to be snaked back by a persistent Flint. I have no idea whether he still has the young mare and her son. Although we don’t wish any harm to come to Prince, we do hope Flint will be able to get Feldspar back too. Stay tuned!
On our last day on the mountain we were glassing up to the top of Tony Island where we could see horses, but we were not sure who we were looking at, until Image wandered out from behind a tree. Then, Cloud followed. Some bands have a signature animal that makes the entire group easy to identify. Obviously, Cloud is one of those stand-outs, and little Image looked like a white beacon high on the far away hill.
We also saw two of the three September foals while we were on the mountain. All three mares had received the infertility drug PZP years ago, and the result is years of infertility followed by an out-of-season foal. This is dangerous for the mares and their babies as winter is tough enough in Montana without having to nurse a newborn. One mare, who had the December filly in 2005 had yet another out-of-season filly to try to raise.
The BLM did not administer PZP this year, which we applaud, although I think they may continue giving this experimental drug again next year. We will continue to call attention to the awful side effects of the drug and demand that no more mares be injected. Cloud’s beautiful seven-year-old black mare has never foaled. His eight-year-old grulla mare, Aztec, gave birth to her first foal, Shadow, last September as you may recall. Both Aztec and Shadow suffered together through one of the worst winters I have seen on the Pryors. They are testimony to the strength of wild horses and the importance of a stable family band. You can read more about the effects of PZP in the Pryors by going to the Cloud Foundation Web site.
Wild Horse Summit
Also, I’ve just returned from the Wild Horse Summit that was held in Las Vegas on October 11-12. The main purpose of the summit was the discussion of strategies to prevent the killing of 33,000 wild horses currently in BLM holding facilities around the country and to keep the few mustangs still remaining on the range in viable enough numbers to persist into the future. My hope is that the lively debate and sharing of information will help us with a more unified approach that works for the animals. We need to take this information and move forward. Simply having this summit sent a strong message to the BLM about the importance and value of our wild horses.
You can get information about other upcoming events on the Cloud Foundation Web site.
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