Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Black Horse of Sand Wash Basin HMA "Bear" (Monday's) Challenge Painting #71

Bear from Sand Wash Basin HMA.

6 by 9 inch Watercolor
by LindaLMartin

There are a number of black horses at Sand Wash Basin HMA I have painted several early in the challenge. Today’s horse is Bear.  Bear is a band stallion. He has one mare, Ellie and one filly, Flirt. Flirt I painted for the Golden horses of SWB. It is possible that Bear is not actually Flirt’s father that perhaps in fighting for a mare he captured Ellie and her filly after Ellie was bred. This is something that happens a lot on the range. Bear is a relatively younger stallion, however, from the photo documentation of the horse watchers in SWB he carries numerous battle scars. Sometimes they make him appear older than he is.
Close up of Brand and Reference Photography
Courtesy of  Sally Wright. Used by Permission.
Bear is significant because he is one of the few SWB horses to have a freeze brand. Most of the wild mustangs on the SWB HMA are free of brands. The BLM will not usually Brand A mustang from the SWB  after a roundup unless the mustang is  to be removed permanently. Once removed stallions are generally gelded and they are placed in holding pens unless they are adopted out.
There has been some discussion among the Sand Wash Basin horse watchers about Bear’s brand and where he came from.  Sometimes it’s difficult to read a brand unless the horse has been shaved or has shed out his winter coat.  Another thing that makes it difficult is if during branding the horse moves around allot and either blurs or has a double brand either in part of wholly. For a stallion such as Bear shaving his neck to see the brand more clearly is out of the question. However  photographer Sally Wright did an excellent job in capturing Bear’s Brand so  we could all look at it.
The BML has branding Keys so you can read the symbols and tell what his numbers are.  All Branded horses from BLM managed ranges have a U followed by  two symbols over each other  for the year of birth and then  a 6 digit number that is underlined. The first two numbers in the 6 digit number tell the state where the horse was gathered. The remaining numbers are the Federal Registration numbers.
There are also two additional brands that one might see on a BLM Mustang. The second is an Additional U with the regular brand. These horses are Sales Authority Horses and are generally sold for lower prices as they have been offered for adoption three times and were not successfully adopted. The Third is a number branded on the rump of older horses that are not considered adoptable because of age or other reasons. Generally these horses are destined for  Long Term Holding. Sometimes they are chosen to be in a program called the Mustang Make Over that is run by The Mustang Heritage Foundation .  More on that tomorrow.
Bear  showing his freeze brand. Freeze brands are always on the left side of the Mustang's neck. Mustangs destine for long term Holding will have a number on thier left hip as well. Sales Authority Horses will have an additonal U on their  neck as well.
Just a note the type of Branding that is used to brand wild Mustangs is not the  old hot iron type. It is  freeze branding. Freeze branding is more humane in that it doesn’t harm the horse or cause pain. It simply causes the pigment in the hair to change to white leaving an image in the shape of the implement used.


  1. Lovely painting Linda!!! Another interesting fact about freeze marking is every breed in existence has their own symbol. Every horse can be branded with the freeze mark and they are secure because there is no way they can be altered, unlike most traditional ranch brands. Other breeds are branded with their breed registry symbol, their year of birth and their registration number. The Arabians are the most common breed to use the freeze mark but I really considered branding all mine with one when we moved closer to the city.

  2. Thank you so much for including that. I had thought about writing that about the Arabians.I remember back in the day when Freezebranding first begain. All the horseman's mags talked about it. Everyone was griping about how it would mess up their highpriced show horses. Now you rarely see an Arab with out them although its not manditory. I do remember also the ongoing trouble with over branding. It hadnt occured to me that its not possible to alter a freeze brand.

    I know we have been hearing alot about wild horses that move while being branded and they get a blurred or sometimes crooked symbol. But the brand has to match up with the color and discription. I think the brand importance is a lot different legally west of the Mississippi than it is here. Here they are tattooed, freeze branded and sometimes micro chipped.