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S22 Ep6

Cloud's Legacy: The Wild Stallion Returns

Premiere: 11/23/2003

In the sequel to "Cloud: Wild Stallion of the Rockies," filmmaker Ginger Kathrens continues his chronicle of the lives of horses living wild and free in the mountains of Montana, picking up Cloud's story as he embarks on life as a stallion.

Cloud's Legacy: The Wild Stallion Returns



Watch the drama unfold as Cloud struggles to keep his family intact in the face of challenges both natural and man made.

In 1995, while filming wild horses in the mountains of Montana, Ginger Kathrens discovered a striking, almost pure white colt just hours after his birth. Kathrens named him Cloud. She feared that his distinctive coat would make him an obvious target for mountain lions; but he survived and Kathrens continued to follow him in his adventures. In Cloud: Wild Stallion of the Rockies this wild horse developed from a bumbling, unsteady colt into an adventurous, defiant youth.

In Cloud’s Legacy: The Wild Stallion Returns, Cloud is now a band stallion with a mare and her children, a yearling and a foal. Meanwhile, Cloud’s own child, which has a telltale golden coat, lives with another herd and will never know him as his father.

As the seasons pass, foals are born, brothers fight against one another for control of mates, and Cloud’s legacy grows. Threats come not only from rivals, but from government agencies struggling to manage both human and equine interests. Yet the biggest trial Cloud’s herd faces is yet to come: surviving an out-of-control wildfire that that threatens their lives and home.

Join these legendary wild horses on their adventures on NATURE’s Cloud’s Legacy: The Wild Stallion Returns.

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A co-production of Taurus Productions and Thirteen/WNET New York

This program was produced by Thirteen/WNET New York, which is solely responsible for its content.

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( ) ( ) NARRATOR: In the mountains of Montana lives a wild stallion named Cloud.

Captivated by this special colt from the day he was born, filmmaker Ginger Kathrens has chronicled his life for seven years.

Immersing herself in his world, she discovers what lies at the heart of wild horse society-- the deep need for family.

But family life for wild horses is hard to hold on to.

Every few years, a government roundup threatens to tear it apart.

Cloud is captured, but because of his extraordinary color, he is allowed to go free.

As wild horses go to auction, Ginger adopts a yearling she names Trace.

Cloud returns home to the top of the Arrowheads.

( ) To win his own mares and claim a family, he challenges his great rival, Plenty Coups.

It's an epic battle, and one of many.

But in a twist of fate, Cloud finds a family in a moment of friendship when he stands by an abandoned mare and her yearling.

In this second episode, it's six years into Cloud's story.

Now there are two sons in his life-- one to raise who is not of his blood, the other, his spitting image, but who will never know Cloud as his father.

And this time, an all-consuming force sweeps down on the horses as Ginger Kathrens takes us back to their mountain stronghold.

KATHRENS: Over the next two years, I continue to follow Cloud and the wild horses of the Arrowheads.

This story is... is like a great book for me.

It's one I can't put down.

The horses have become like extended members of my family, and it's been an emotional roller coaster.

In those two years, there has been tremendous drought, killer lightning storms and a wildfire that threatened all the wild horses.

Every time I come to the mountain, I wonder who's survived and what's happened in this next chapter in Cloud's life.

This program was made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

And by contributions to your PBS stations from viewers like you.

Thank you.

KATHRENS: Winter passes, and most of spring, before I can again walk the top of the Arrowhead Mountains, the sacred heart of Crow Indian country.

Wild horses roam the Arrowheads in dynamic, ever-changing family groups called bands.

Gangs of young bachelors are always on the prowl, and mares can be stolen from a band stallion who isn't on his toes.

I see Plenty Coups coming, and to my amazement, he has a new family.

What a resilient stallion.

He lost all his mares last year while fighting Cloud.

Now he's stolen an entire band.

But he's always been special.

He's much like the famous Crow chief he is named for.

Plenty Coups created his first family by gathering up orphaned foals; the great chief did the same with children.

A water hole is always a good place to look for horses.

And above it, Cloud appears.

He has a new family, too-- a blue roan mare and her daughter.

I recognize the mare.

She was the lead mare to one of the strongest of the Arrowhead stallions.

In years past, the hill above the water hole would still be covered in snow, but not this year.

Spring has been warm, and the receding snow has turned to mud.

Cloud looks great-- a little klutzy, but great.

I wish he could tell me what happened and how he came to have this new family.

Less than a mile away, a snow-fed water hole is a magnet for wild horse bands.

It's a popular place in spring and offers great opportunities to photograph wild horses.

On a warm day like today, it's drawn an unusually large crowd.

Even a trio of mule deer bucks comes to cool off.

As I watch, I notice a newborn foal near the edge of the big drift-- a palomino baby.

He has a big star, and on the end of his nose, a pink snip-- just like Cloud.

Could this be Cloud's son?

Cloud's the only one I can think of who could father a palomino colt out of a black mare.

But how did this happen?

I'll call you Little Cloud.

It's not a very original name, but accurate, I'm sure.

His black mother also has a blue roan yearling like Plenty Coups.

That's it.

She was with Plenty Coups when Cloud injured him last year.

Plenty Coups lost all his mares, and Cloud bred the black mare, but he wasn't strong enough yet to hold on to her.

He lost her to this golden dun stallion, Shaman.

Shaman's much more experienced than a novice like Cloud, so the veteran stallion added the black mare to his band.

Cloud, his mare and her daughter are making their way to water.

So is Cloud's little brother, Red Raven, and his family.

Red Raven's band, though larger, is lower-ranking than Cloud's family.

They wait on the hill while Cloud's family drinks.

As a youngster, Cloud rarely even got wet and I've never seen him really enjoy playing in the water.

Until today.

Red Raven's family gets closer as Cloud's band finishes their play.

Red Raven is only a five-year-old, but already he's managed to keep a mare.

Their young daughter is the same age as Little Cloud.

There's a relaxed air about Cloud and his mare and yearling.

The mare is named Sitka, and she is clearly pregnant.

I'm anxious to see how Cloud might react to a newborn foal.

( ) Wild babies of all kinds are appearing on the Arrowhead Mountains in early summer.

Most wild horse foals have already been born when I spot Sitka's newborn on the mountaintop in July.

This is Cloud's first foal to watch over and protect.

Though not his by blood, the colt was to become his son in every other sense of the word.

I name him Flint, for the rocks so common in the Arrowheads, rocks the Crow Indians once fashioned into arrow points.

At the time, I didn't realize Flint would one day need every bit of toughness his name implies.

A week after Flint is born, Sitka comes into her fall heat, and Cloud is interested.

Cloud courts the mare, gently talking to her.

But she plays hard to get.

( ) This may actually stimulate the stallion to pursue her more vigorously.

Cloud's father, the magnificent black stallion Raven, can smell Sitka in heat.

In time, Sitka accepts Cloud.

Raven is drawn to Sitka.

Cloud puts his foot down.

His father or not, Cloud will not allow Raven or any other stallion to get too close to Sitka.

Like two respectful warriors, father and son agree to disagree.

( ) Raven, the grand patriarch of the mountain, returns to his family.

Flint, perhaps imitating Cloud, decides to work his charms on his unimpressed sister.

But his playfulness contrasts with Little Cloud on the other side of the meadow.

For hours I watch him sleep and stand still.

He doesn't nurse and even swallows with difficulty.

Flint is full of vitality... while Little Cloud seems sick.

When Sitka leads her family away, I follow.

Cloud needs to be particularly cautious now with his mare in heat.

Stallions trying to steal her could prove dangerous for the mare and fatal for Flint, who could be trampled in a battle.

When Cloud spots a large group of bachelors nearby, he moves decisively.

The bachelors don't seem to notice the stallion bearing down on them.

Watching Cloud chase the bachelors away reminds me of a time when Cloud was just Flint's age.

Two stallions working together stole Raven's family while he was off cavorting with other bachelors.

It seemed like a terrifying time for Cloud as he desperately tried to keep up with his fleeing mother.

Raven finally ran the bachelors off, but I think the trauma might be something that Cloud, even now, has never forgotten.

Much of a foal's character is shaped by his parents.

Flint has a strong role model in Cloud.

The next day begins with the rumble of distant thunder.

( ) I see band after band of wild horses migrate into the valley below.

This is strange, so many together.

Cloud and his family... Little Cloud with Shaman's band... and a dozen other family groups.

( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) Then lightning strikes the cliff top to my right and they all stampede.

There must be some 70 horses altogether.

( ) Little Cloud's mother leads Shaman and the band into the tall trees.

Horses that raced out of the bowl begin returning as the storm passes.

The temperature drops and the breeze is cool-- just the right ingredients for foals to kick up their heels.

( ) But one colt isn't feeling frisky.

I watch Little Cloud lay for hours under the tree, and when his family moves away, he doesn't follow.

I fear Cloud's son may be dying.

I return to see a vulture circling.

But it's an old stallion that has died, and four different bears come to the banquet.

A dead horse is a protein-rich prize, and the bears never fail to take advantage of their windfall, twisting and contorting the body to access the tastiest parts of the carcass.

( ) On one of the highest points of the horse range, I find another body-- gallant Plenty Coups, struck and killed by lightning.

But even in death, he's special.

Months pass and the bears never disturb him.

Over time, his carcass simply dries up, leaving a perfectly mummified corpse.

Some things defy explanation, and that is the case with Plenty Coups.

( ) But August is not without a happy surprise.

Little Cloud has survived his illness, and Shaman's band has a late-summer addition to the family-- a spitfire of a colt.

( ) Yet even the foal fails to awaken Little Cloud's spirit.

I wonder if the bright little colt that skied on the snowfield just a few months ago will ever return.

For naive newborns, even vigorous ones like this baby, the forest edges can be dangerous.

Nearly one-third of the Arrowhead foals will be killed by mountain lions this summer.

This foal, so full of life, is to be one of the last.

Why do certain foals live and others die?

It seems that fate plays a leading role in this wilderness drama.

For reasons I will never fully understand, Little Cloud survives.

( ) In a surprise late-summer theft, Cloud steals a mare and two yearlings, doubling the size of his band.

It's essential the group quickly accept each other and Sitka is the key.

If she rejects the younger females, Cloud cannot hold them together.

( ) Cloud staves off a charge by an older band stallion and takes the offensive.

Within a few short weeks, Cloud commands a family that actually acts like a family.

Flint is thrilled with the situation, claiming the bay yearling as a playmate.

The precocious colt even breaks up Cloud's grooming sessions with the filly.

Overnight a skiff of snow falls along with the temperature.

After a visit to the water hole, spirits are high.

( ) Flint tries to get everyone to play.

But in just a few days, Flint and his extended family will be torn apart, and Cloud will be powerless to stop it.

( ) A roundup has begun.

A Judas horse trained to run into the corrals is released to lure the social wild horses into the trap.

The Bureau of Land Management is in charge of managing wild horses on public lands.

Their objective is to keep the population small.

( ) Along with other bands, Shaman's family with Little Cloud is captured.

( ) The chopper flies off in search of more horses while Little Cloud stands exhausted in the corrals.

His gallop over rocky trails has left him stiff and footsore.

Then I see Cloud's family running in the desert.

Later I learned that it took the chopper pilot four tries to bring them all the way in.

In all, the band must have run over 30 miles, perhaps far more.

( ) Ironically, the band was selected for capture because the new members of Cloud's family are targeted for sale.

They're taken from Cloud, whose loud protests are ignored.

( ) ( ) KATHRENS: Every horse captured is run through a chute, including Cloud.

Blood drawn confirms he is Little Cloud's father.

It also establishes the link between the Arrowhead herd and the horses of the Spanish conquistadors.

Horses not to be auctioned off are released.

Cloud's brother, Red Raven, his mare, Blue Sioux, and their daughter are released together.

Most of Shaman's band is released.

Little Cloud's foot and muscle soreness is nearly gone.

Of the family bands, only Cloud's little group remains confined, because Flint has been seriously injured and can barely walk.

Whether he can recover from being run too far too fast is in doubt.

( ) Weeks later, the auction of the wild horses begins with Flint's future still in limbo.

( ) The sale marks the end of freedom for 46 horses.

AUCTIONEER: I've got 875 and nine.

Nine and a quarter, nine and a quarter, yes! Nine and a quarter.

Adopted at nine and a quarter-- thank you.

KATHRENS: A few days later, good news: Flint is improved and the vet believes he can recover.

( ) So that Flint can receive treatment, he, his mother and sister are separated from a frantic Cloud.

( ) MAN: There's where we got the drainage.

It came right out the top there-- the hole where the abscess broke and drained.

And here was where we found the abscess, and there's still a little bit of drainage there.

( ) WOMAN: How long do you figure, Lyle, that that will stay on?

LYLE: Probably, where he's out moving, just even a couple of days, if we even get it that long.

Okay, Justin, you can let that foot down.

KATHRENS: Without excellent care, Flint might have faced euthanasia.

( ) ( ) Now he has a chance to live free.

Cloud's family is finally released.

It's a long journey for a lame colt-- 18 miles on a rocky trail... through the desert, up the ridges of Sykes... and onto the mountaintop.

The horses freed earlier reclaimed the high meadows weeks before.

I watch as Red Raven and Blue Sioux groom each other affectionately.

On a rocky ridge, I spot Shaman's band.

Little Cloud is looking fine.

Nearby, a coyote hunts grasshoppers.

I'm thrilled to find Flint.

He watches the young coyote warily.

Flint is still so lame, I wonder if he will ever race across the wide meadows again.

His very survival depends on his parents, for he could never outrun a serious predator.

I half expect Cloud to run the coyote off, but he's wise enough to know that a young coyote poses little threat.

A month later, I search again for horses.

On a far hillside, I spot Cloud's band.

Flint has lived up to his name.

He still limps, but the tough little colt has survived.

Near the band, I see Red Raven's mare, Blue Sioux, and her filly... and Cloud.

Then in a gully a short distance away, I notice Red Raven.

Can this be?

Cloud has clearly stolen his brother's family.

Blue Sioux longingly watches her stallion.

Cloud has his work cut out for him.

An unwilling mare is difficult to hold on to.

And though Red Raven joins the ranks of the footloose bachelors, I doubt he will simply fade away.

When snow forces the horses to abandon the mountaintop, I lose track of Cloud.

Months pass without a sighting on Sykes Ridge, so I try another strategy.

My wild horse, Trace, and I begin searching the winding, interconnected desert canyons, following a highway of horse tracks.

Large herds of mule deer winter in the low country, attracting their major predator, the mountain lion.

The trail leads Trace and me out of the canyon and up onto a rocky flat.

Good boy, Trace.

How long Cloud has been watching us, I'm not sure.

In any case, I'm excited to see him and all the family.

Except all of them are not here.

Sitka is missing.

I wave as I always do to let them know it's just me-- nothing to fear.

I can't imagine that Sitka would leave Flint behind unless she were forced... or she's dead.

If she's dead, the chances of a Cloud foal this summer are gone.

Why did they come down here anyway, where the pickings are slim and they have to dig for food and eat dried-up weeds?

Maybe I do know the reason.

Cloud came down here where he knew Red Raven would not follow.

But did Cloud lose Sitka in the process?

Trace and I look for her until a snowstorm blankets the low country.

Later I try looking on foot, but the horse range is far too vast.

I'll have to wait for spring.

In early May, I spot Cloud's band easily, and to my amazement, Sitka is back.

She leads the band to snow banks above the Bighorn Canyon.

I wish Sitka could tell me where she's been.

She seems okay, but as I get a closer look, I see a huge lump in her flank.

A colt?

An injury?

Or both?

All the horses look a little rough.

Even Cloud looks a bit thin, but that's to be expected at this time of the year.

What is unexpected is Cloud's attitude.

He's restless and aggressive.

( ) For no reason that I can see, he picks a fight with a band stallion.

Even though bachelor stallions are nowhere near, he charges out after them, driving them even farther away.

( ) He's uncharacteristically domineering with his band, snaking them first one way, then another.

Days pass before I discover the source of his insecurity.

It's Red Raven.

How long has he been lurking, and what does he have in mind?

As Cloud's drama unfolds on one ridge, his son's plays out on another.

Little Cloud is actually roughhousing, sparring with another coming yearling.

It's the first time I've seen him play since he was a snow-sliding newborn.

Finally he has come of age, and his actions earn him his very own name.

He has become bolder and that is what I begin to call him-- Bolder.

Early June on Sykes Ridge, and I'm surprised to see family bands of horses here now.

I know of no water, and the snow appears melted.

Where, then, are Shaman and Cloud's bands drinking?

During the course of several days I watch, hoping to solve the riddle.

Instead I get caught up in another.

Blue Sioux disappears one morning, and I assume she's gone to foal.

Cloud paces the ridge line waiting for her to return.

( ) Her filly whinnies for her mother.

The day passes and no Blue Sioux.

I drive back up the mountain wondering why she hasn't returned.

( ) Shortly after sunup, I walk to the hilltop above the cabin.

I see Cloud's palomino mother and her band below.

When I look to my right I see... Red Raven?

It Red Raven with Blue Sioux, and at her feet, a new foal.


The mare left Cloud at the only time he would let her freely go.

She walked miles to the mountaintop, where she joined Red Raven and had their baby.

But her extraordinary behavior doesn't stop here.

It will be at least a week before she's in heat, but she lets Red Raven mount her.

Red Raven and Blue Sioux certainly seem to share a special devotion.

Meanwhile, way down on Sykes Ridge, the riddle of the missing water source has yet to be solved.

When I spot Bolder's family traveling with a purpose, I grab my camera and try to follow.

They drop out of sight over the edge of the Bighorn Canyon and I keep walking.

I stumble onto a nearly invisible trail that leads down into the forest.

Only a half mile down the trail, I spot Bolder and Shaman going away from me.

Then I see Cloud.

He's followed by the band.

First Cloud, then Sitka and the others climb a steep path to a tall cliff.

Nature has created a kind of refrigerator under the sheltered overhang.

Even in June, in a year where little moisture has fallen, there is still a bit of snow.

On the mountaintop, even in a drought, the high meadows are a vibrant green.

I find many of the wild horses in a secluded valley where stallions are courting their mares.

A newborn is leaping lupine on legs just hours old.

And then I see Shaman's band and Bolder.

The pale yearling has shed his winter rags and sports a coat that gleams like a gold coin.

Not far away, his father, too, has finally found his way to the top.

With Sitka in the lead, the band reaches their summer home.

( ) Cloud's aggression toward the bachelors is gone.

This is a game played strictly for fun.

When Cloud returns to his family, I get a good look at a very pregnant Sitka.

Besides her big belly, the lump in her flank is huge.

Is her colt in the wrong position?

( ) This may be a pregnancy gone very wrong.

When I leave them in early summer, I fear for the mare but never imagine the danger they would come to face in a few short weeks.

( ) On a Monday in mid-July, I get a call.

A fire has broken out in a canyon called Crooked Creek adjacent to the horse range and is burning out of control.

I'm packed and on my way to Montana a few hours later.

After years of drought and one lightning storm after another, my worst fears are realized.

As the crow flies, the fire is only two miles from the high meadows of the horse range.

Weeks of 100-degree temperatures coupled with stiff winds cause the blaze to explode.

( ) Thousands of acres are torched in a matter of minutes.

Expert fire-fighting units are called in but are unfamiliar with where the horses might run if the blaze reaches them.

That is the major... that and to the left and right of that road is the major point that they would come down to get out of a fire in the forest.

Okay, okay... You guys are going to get this thing stopped, though, before then.

That's the plan.

( ) We sure hope so.


( ) KATHRENS: 500-gallon buckets are filled with pond water and flown into the canyons.

The fight to save the Arrowhead Mountains becomes an aerial battle.

The distant chopper looks like a toy armed with a thimbleful of water to toss on the inferno.

Afternoon winds churn the flames and another thousand acres goes up in smoke.

Winds begin blowing out of the west driving the blaze toward the horse range.

Slurry bombers carrying fire retardant are called in.

( ) Firefighters keep to the high ground, for there are no safe routes into or out of the canyons.

Roads in and out of the Arrowheads are closed until further notice.

Then overnight, rain falls, the temperature drops, and the winds die.

The fire smolders like a sleeping dragon.

Helicopters monitor the burned hillsides and ravines looking for flare-ups.

The spectacular canyon where Cloud once wintered is a charred wasteland.

As if someone drew a line, the burn stops and the green forest begins.

Finally I'm allowed back on the mountain, excited but frightened at what I might find.

Above a water hole, I spot Shaman's band with Bolder, looking even more golden than the last time I saw him.

If any of the horses I've seen so far suffered in the fire, it doesn't show.

I follow Bolder into the open meadows near Red Raven, Blue Sioux and their son.

Now two months old, the colt is unafraid but a little overmatched.

From a distance, I spot Cloud.

I hike closer and see him again.

Where's the band?

Then in a sunny opening, I find them all... plus one-- a sturdy foal with a big star, a dark version of his father.

A storm cloud... I'll call you Storm.

His mother still has her bulge but looks well.

Storm likes his big brother.

Now it's Storm's turn to pester and payback time for Flint.

Cloud asks the band to move off.

A stallion is too close for comfort.

Everyone but Storm does what Cloud asks.

The colt stares back defiantly at his father.

Cloud is quick to discipline his son.

Both Flint and Bolder are sleek yearlings.

What's in store for them is uncertain.

They could live a life of freedom with a chance to lead their own family bands, or they could be targeted for removal in the next roundup.

If Storm is to survive the coming winter, he'll need a healthy mother, and Sitka's condition remains troubling.

But Cloud's future seems certain: He will live and die on the mountain where he was born.

I wish the same for his legacy, to roam wild and free in a kingdom of wild horses.

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