Friday, June 3, 2011

The Eyes Have it: "Snowman" of Sand Wash Basin HMA Challenge Painting #123

Snowman and the importance of  Safe Range Etiquette when visiting the Wild Horse Areas

"Eye of Wild"
Snowman of Sand Wash Basin HMA
5 by 7 inch watercolor
By LindaLMartinArtist
Watching a wild herd of mustangs and documenting it is indeed an exciting activity. Of course our knowledge is limited to those who spot and photograph and come back to share with us what happens.

There are a growing number of those who are going out now and reporting back to those of us who cant visit the Sand Wash Basin HMA, located outside of Craig, Colorado. What is so exciting, is now we have several regular photographers in our loose association, Sand Wash Basin Wild Horses Club, that not only spot and document but they verify sightings. Each is developing their own list to share. We are more than bird or herd watchers, we are also all very emotionally involved in the dynamics of the band families and the daily drama as it unfolds.

Battle scarred Snowman of Sand Wash Basin HMA
Photo by Horse Watcher Nancy Roberts
Used by permission
One such drama is the ongoing saga of  Cowboy and Snowman. These two bachelor stallions palled around all winter then separated as more mares came into season this spring.  Their purpose was to challenge band stallions for the right to breed and have their own harem of mares. Snowman spent a good portion of his winter and spring battling it out trying to keep and maintain a herd.  Battle Weary and  bloodied, the stallion has been of significant concern to the horse watchers and photographers in the past few months.

With good documentation we watched the photos and the accounts of Snowman’s slow recovery. And recently he seemed to be healing well and had joined up with his buddy Cowboy again. And at last spotting Cowboy, Snowman and  another bachelor stallion, Voodoo were paling around together. Horses like company and one thing we have seen documented time and again is that when not off chasing mares the stallions generally have preferences in company when on their own.

Not only is our passion for the herds of the Sand Wash Basin HMA profound as we move forward but also is our responsibility in sharing information and working together for the preservation and yes protection of the herds. It is important that  as new people join with us  who have no experience with horses that while managed by the BLM, they are indeed wild horses and have been wild for generations before the 1971 Mustang Protection Act.

Wild Mustang Horses have learned from generation to generation to think and make decisions for themselves and they are not dependent upon man for their survival when left to their own devices. And as such they have no interest nor knowledge of domestic horse etiquette when dealing with humans. Desensitizing wild horses to humans also presents other unforeseen hazards to wild horses that could also open up visitors to the range to  injury and the horses to harm.

 In order to insure their safety we must also limit our direct contact with these horses and teach others to do the same.
If you are new to watching  Wild Horses on the Range, here are some things that you can do to keep the horses and yourself safe: 

 ~Keeping our distance. (some say about the length of a city bus or 30'ft; however a wild horse can cover that distance really fast. I would say don't get any closer than 60 ft or about the length of a house and the farther the better)
~Waving off young horses that in curiosity come too close to photographers and spotters.
~Using Telephoto lenses on cameras so as not to invade the horses space.
 ~Making sure that food and litter are not left out where they could damage the environment or teach the horses that people are food sources.
~Remembering that while sometimes water sources and salt licks are good opportunities for photo ops, visitors should take care to stay far enough away not to impede horses from coming and going. Remember that a safe distance will keep you from being trampled if two stallions are posturing. A lot of fighting takes place when opposing bands and stallions come into close contact.
 ~Be careful not to get between mares and foals or stallions and their bands. Horses are highly protective of their weak and young and will come after anything they perceive as a threat.
~Always look for the band stallion first and keep an eye on him. If he seems nervous and unsettled either you are too close or another threat is near that you cannot see.
~ Learn to recognize that a settled band will be quietly grazing and some of the younger horses will even lay down and take a nap. Being a good watcher/spotter means you want the horses to feel comfortable enough to act normally.
~If you come upon a herd suddenly in your car, stop the car if they begin to run. To chase a herd  or  wild horse with a car or any vehicle is illegal  harassment  and is dangerous to the young and infirmed. If you witness anyone doing this please report them to the BLM office in Craig. Do not try to confront them but if you are able get a snapshot of their vehicle license or catch them in the act is helpful.

Horse spotting is a wonderful activity and allows us all access to the open range to see them at their wild best. We must remember our first and foremost goal is to keep the horses happy and safe in their natural environment. We want all the horse watchers to be safe as well and have a wonderful and successful trip to see The Wild Horses of the Sand Wash Basin HMA.  

You can read more about the Sand Wash Basin Wild Horses at the club page on Facebook: 

or on the Sand Wash Basin Wild Horses Blog:

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