|Olga and PJ|
9 by 6 inch watercolor
Olga and PJ
In the Fall of 2010, John Wagner, one of the wildlife photographers who frequents Sand Wash Basin HMA made a wonderful discovery. Olga, the beautiful deep bay mare of Picasso had dropped a late foal. This precocious fuzzy pinto bay colt was all over the place. Because of his sire’s distinctive coat and because John was the first to see him and photograph him he named him Picasso Junior or PJ.
PJ quickly became a favorite of the Sand Wash Basin Wild Horses Club and horse watchers visiting the Sand Wash Basin. This spring it was noticed that Olga and PJ were no longer with Picasso. However, it will take several more months of drying weather before horse watchers can get in to see which herd Olga is running with.
The key thing about wild horses is the continuous change in circumstances. Mares often are switched out to different stallions after having a foal or two in one band stallion’s care. Sometimes they leave their yearling and two year old behind with the stallion, then go on to make a new family with a different stallion who has won them in competition. This switching out of mares among stronger and more powerful stallions actually benefits the herd population by helping to ensure the herd’s genetic diversity, while allowing only the strongest stallions to breed.
|PJ Fall of 2010|
Photo by John Wagner. Used by permission
Olga is also an important Sand Wash Basin Mustang Mare, not just for her pretty athletic son or that she ran with Picasso, but also because she was one of 60 Sand Wash Basin mares to be chosen for the PZP Birth Control Study being conducted by the Humane Society of The United States. The 5 year study will be over in 2012.
The idea, from the study, is to see if populations of wild horses can be controlled by darting rather than frequent round ups. This is very much how wild horse herds are managed Assateague Island in Maryland under the National Park Service. There the Assateague wild horses in a herd that is managed to about 150 horses on the north island are never rounded up or removed. They are completely managed by the use of the PZP birth control method.
Some other eastern herds are managed using this method as well. One of the concerns many people have about PZP is that if administered at the wrong time a mare might foal later in the season. There is some documentation that foals are born in the middle of winter, in some cases. In warmer climates that might not harm the foal or mare but in a place like Sand Wash Basin in Northern Colorado, with it harsh winters, a mare and foal face almost insurmountable challenges in surviving. In nature a mare generally foals in the spring and on occasion late in summer or early fall. Olga’s 2010 foal was born just a few months before the harshest weather of the year hit the range.
Both the Olga and her son, PJ were in unusually good condition when spotted in November 2010 so we are all hopeful to hear they have been spotted on the Sand Wash Basin any day now.
Wishing all All the Moms A very happy Mother’s Day.