Girls Horse Club Blog

INTERACTIVE VIEW: TJ Holmes

Published by • Mar 19th, 2010 • Category: Interactive View, March for Wild Horses

UPDATE MARCH 27th, 2010: The Interactive View is closed. Many thanks to TJ Holmes for visiting our virtual barn and answering our questions. Please read the comments for some great stories about the mustangs of Spring Creek Basin and insight into the plight of wild horses on U.S. lands. And don’t forget to visit TJ at her blog, Wild Horses of Spring Creek Basin »

AN INTRODUCTION FROM ROCHLIA

Girls are connected to horses and horses connect girls. During GHC’s winter break I was bored and randomly searched the internet for information about wild horses. After awhile I came upon some pictures of two beautiful horses named Poco and Bones. I wanted to learn more about them, and finally found TJ Holmes’ wonderful blog about both horses as well as the other mustangs of Spring Creek, Colorado. I immediately fell in love with her wild horses and their world.

Now TJ is here to share her knowledge with us! Read her story below, then if you have a question about wild mustangs, just enter it in the comments.

Thank you so much TJ, for sharing your knowledge of horses with others, and welcome to Girls Horse Club!

Rochlia

TJ’S STORY

I’ve been a horse girl all my life. My parents met showing horses (4-H and other) when they were in high school. I share my name — Tracey Jo — with a champion barrel racer they read about in Western Horseman magazine. I’ve been riding since I was 6 months old; they’d hold me in front, and I’d nod off to the rhythm of the horse’s walk. When it was time to get off, so goes the tale, I’d wake up, see that I wasn’t on the horse, and start crying and reaching for the horse!

I also was in different 4-H clubs as we moved around with the Army. While we lived in Germany, I was even an honorary member of my grandma’s 4-H club, where she was an adviser for more than 40 years. I was lucky enough to have horses with me all through college (Texas A&M), but then I managed to go into a low-paying career in journalism. My horse contact now is when I go home to Texas to visit my parents (a couple of times a year) and with the wild horses of Spring Creek Basin (most weekends)!

I am an avid advocate of all wild horses (have visited Little Book Cliffs and Sand Wash Basin in Colorado, McCullough Peaks in Wyoming and Pryor Mountain in Wyoming and Montana) and feel that while there are many challenges involved with managing our mustangs successfully, it CAN be done with respect to their incredible resiliency, adaptability and strong family bonds. They are amazing animals, and we owe them a protected future. Watching wild horses is an incredible experience, and I learn from them every time I am with them.

Grey
Photo © TJ Holmes

GREY’S STORY

This is one of my very favorite pictures of my very favorite wild stallion. He’s “officially” known as Traveler, and I supposed I might call him that, too, but I knew him for a few years before I knew he had a name, and I’ve always called him Grey, short for Sir Grey. I’ve known two extraordinary horses in my life, and Grey is one of them.

The picture was taken in April 2007, a few months before a roundup when all the horses in Grey’s band were removed, and he was “mistakenly” also removed (we had asked and been told that he would remain in the basin — he is that known and beloved by many people) and taken to Canon City, to the prison facility there, which is the home of an inmate-wild horse training program as well as a short-term holding facility for mustangs. I was one of three women who went to get him back. The BLM told us if we could ID him, we could take him home.

Grey had to be kept in “quarantine” for what turned into three weeks, so he was out of the basin for one full month. He was released Sept. 19, 2007, and was alone and/or with a bachelor band for a few months. In early March, he stole a mare and her foal, and by April, he had stolen another mare. Today he has just one mare (the original, Houdini, who, interestingly, had been with him even the 2005 roundup) and their daughter, but he also has two confirmed offspring in the basin. I think at least two others, a mare and a stallion, are also his offspring. What a success story!

* * * * * * * * * *

UPDATE MARCH 27th, 2010: The Interactive View is closed. Many thanks to TJ Holmes for visiting our virtual barn and answering our questions. Please read the comments for some great stories about the mustangs of Spring Creek Basin and insight into the plight of wild horses on U.S. lands.  And don’t forget to visit TJ at her blog, Wild Horses of Spring Creek Basin »

57 Nickers »

  1. Hi TJ,

    Welcome to GHC, and thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge with us! I’d like to start us off with an important question…

    If you’ve read any of the March for Wild Horses stories and poems, it’s probably no surprise that GHCers are VERY passionate about and inspired by wild horses, and very concerned about their future. In your educated opinion, what steps should be taken to assure America’s wild mustangs are protected and preserved for future generations?

    Sincerely,

    LeadMare

    P.S. Rochlia, thank you SO much for introducing us to TJ!

  2. Hi Tj! Just wanted to tell you I’m so excited for today! Good [horseshoe] luck!!! I’ll start out with a question :] Who is your favorite mare on the range?

  3. Hi TJ! Welcome to the Girls horse club “Stable”! How did you first meet Grey? Were you spending time following his band? *Nickers* He’s beautiful!

  4. Ms. Holmes, I must say you have a very intriguing life. I only wish that I could have been riding as long as you have. Even though I’ve just started taking lessons in the last two years at 16 years of age, its better late than never. Question, how exactly do you track the mustangs? Meaning, what do you look for?
    Your photography is champion work. I pray to see Wild horses in person one day.

    thanks for visiting
    ~HorseFeathers

  5. Howdy all! I also am very excited to be here! I HAVE read some of your amazing stories and poems and seen some of your photo work, and all I can say is WOWOWOW! The talent exhibited here is unbelievable. Horses everywhere are the beneficiaries of all your creativity!

    To start, Lead Mare’s question has a pretty complex “answer,” and I don’t have the complete – or only – one. Since I started documenting the Spring Creek Basin herd – which I did with inspiration from folks who have LONG documented the Little Book Cliffs (Colorado) and Pryor Mountain (Montana and Wyoming) herds – I’ve thought that an independent count needs to be made of the West’s wild horse herds. Because there are so many horses in so many out-of-the-way places, and that country is some of America’s most remote and geographically difficult, BLM (Bureau of Land Management, which has responsibility for managing our mustangs) uses a lot of statistical/computer models to try to count the horses. The agency is understaffed and underfunded in most cases, and they just can’t get out and do what the people in LBC and Pryor Mountain and I have done. Also, Spring Creek Basin is fairly tiny – 22,000 acres with an appropriate management level (AML) of just 35-65 horses. Forty-three horses were left after our last roundup in 2007, and it wasn’t too hard to spend a concentrated amount of time looking for and documenting the horses. But when you’re talking about, say, 2,000 horses on half a million acres? That means lots of time and lots of manpower. But I think it is unfair to “estimate” a number and then “estimate” how many is “ideal.” As Madelaina – I think – in her very excellent compilation of facts realized, we once protected mustangs because they were “fast disappearing.” Now our government is rounding them up by the thousands. To go into slightly political territory, how can “27,000” mustangs be a goal when there are 2 million to 3 million head of cattle grazing some of those same lands? I think a real count is necessary, I think mustangs should remain on lands to which they are entitled – “where they were found” – at the time of the 1971 Wild Free-roaming Horse and Burro Act (horses have been removed from, I think, about a third of their original ranges), I think they should be given priority on those lands, I think fertility control such as PZP should be implemented in a conscientious manner (scientific studies about PZP – from one-year to multi-year doses – is ongoing), and I think grassroots volunteer advocacy groups should get involved and work with local (to them) herd area managers. That’s what we’re doing! I’m involved with the Colorado chapter of the National Mustang Association, and in that capacity and as documenter of the herd, I’m a representative to a small group called the Disappointment Wild Bunch Partners, which is solely concerned with the welfare of the Spring Creek Basin mustangs. Other members of that group are a fellow NMA/CO board member, members of two local Back Country Horsemen groups and a member of a nonprofit partner group to San Juan Public Lands, of which the basin is a part.

    Whew! It’s a big issue … feel free to ask other questions or have me explain any of the above??

    Rochlia, dearheart – thanks for getting so involved on the blog and showing such enthusiasm for our Spring Creek Basin horses! Maybe one day you’ll be able to visit, and I would be honored to take you to see our mustangs. I was with a group one day looking for horses, and we found Bounce’s band, but we couldn’t see Alegre, his mare. On our second pass on the road below him, I finally had to insist that the driver stop so I could hike up the hill through the trees to make sure she was, in fact, with the band. Another person went with me, and when we finally spotted her, I heaved a sigh of relief and said, “I had to check … she’s one of my favorites.” He correctly and astutely pointed out: “I think they’re all your favorites.” :) Alegre does hold a special place in my heart because (at least) I think she’s Grey’s daughter (the mare alluded to in the info about the pic above). Alpha, once Grey’s favorite mare but in another band since just before the last roundup, has been a perennial favorite. In fact, I think Alegre is their daughter because she reminds me of a filly from years ago that I KNOW was their daughter. “Alegre” is a combination of Alpha’s name and Grey’s name. … They’re all my favorites. :)

    Gypsy Vanner – thank you! What a great place for horse-crazy girls! I first met Grey the very first time I visited the basin, back in the fall of 2002. I was writing an article for the newspaper where I worked, and that was how I first found out about the herd! The editor asked if anyone would like to write an article about the “local” wild horses, which were a favorite of the publisher. “Oooh me, me! Pick me!” It wasn’t a hard decision. ;) Grey was younger then, of course, and darker, and full of fire and spirit and extremely protective of his band. I found them over near Round Top, and as I started tentatively walking out toward them, he came strutting forward to meet me – then I realized there wasn’t a tree in the vicinity behind which to hide if necessary! But although he was fiercely protective, he showed no sign of hurting me as long as I kept my distance – which, of course, I did! Another stallion with a smaller band came into sight, and all the horses galloped – literally – into the sunset. I took a picture of them disappearing over a ridge with the La Sal Mountains of Utah in the distance … and that became the lead picture that ran with the article. He is an amazing horse and, to me, symbolizes every mustang who deserves freedom.

  6. Hi! Have you ever found a gelding in a wild herd, that someone turned loose or lost?

  7. Wow, I just read your comment, TJ, and I noticed that you said Grey was darker when he was younger. So he got lighter with age. Sort of like the Phantom Stallion in Terri Farley’s books (which, btw, are my absolute FAVORITES!). Anyway, what are your favorite horse books?

  8. I did’nt know that about Alegre’s name! That is so neat! Shadow’s my favorite :] she has so much spirit!

  9. Hello, TJ! First, I’d like to thank you for taking time out of your life with the horses and your day-to-day life to visit us and answer our questions, some of which have very long answers! Second of all, you are one of my idols! I admire your passion for horses and your beliefs, and I feel strongly that you are one of the few people whom actually have interacted with the wild horses enough to know them and bond with them. =D I hope that some day, I can be like YOU, visiting with the wild horses and documenting them. Thirdly, I’d like to ask you a couple of questions…. My first question is this: Have you ever discovered a horse that comes right up to you, as if it were domesticated? My second question: Have you ever watched a wild foal being born? And my third and final question: What is your favorite ‘story’ that you like to tell about the wild horses?

    Thanks so much for taking time out of your life to answer all of our questions! We all admire you AND the wild horses that you document and interact with. =D Hope to ‘see’ ya ’round!

    Yours Truly,
    Victory Cowgirl
    P.S. At the barn where I ride, we have a little girl taking horse riding lessons that just adopted a BLM mustang. The mustang’s name is Twilight, and she’s a sweetheart! Just lettin’ ya know that one of the mustangs that unfortunately was captured now has a nice and loving home! =D Thanks!

  10. Hi TJ, nickers and whinnies for your much appreciated visit to GHC! Welcome, and thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. A pat (or nuzzle) on the back for you, Rochlia, for making this interactive view possible! Thanks for your efforts :)

    Grey, from what I’ve seen and heard, is a magnificent mustang indeed. He seems to be a perfect example of the beautiful horses we need to protect. My question is, what are all of the things we can do to protect him and all the other horses? And is it possible to volunteer or participate in some way to assist in an accurate count of the wild mustangs? Thanks a lot!

  11. Hi TJ, I think that that stallion looks exactly like the real Traveler that Robert E. Lee rode! I just have 1 question for you: What is the fiercest stallion fight you’ve ever seen? Welcome to GHC, by the way! :)

  12. HorseFeathers – You’re right – it’s never too late to start riding! With any luck, you’ll be riding all your life! My documentation project started from inspiration from other people doing this work because I saw the tremendous opportunity to change the status quo in how wild horses are managed. I was so affected by the 2007 roundup in SCB, the first one I’d ever witnessed. I was shaking and crying when Grey’s band was run in … and I knew there had to be a better way. By documenting the horses, it’s possible to “gather” them a little differently, more humanely. From the BLM’s view, though, “bait trapping” takes longer and is more expensive in the short term. Bait trapping involves enticing horses to a corral or pen “trap” with a bait – the person I know who does this, Dan Elkins of New Mexico, uses a mineral mix. As of now, we haven’t been able to change our BLM office’s mind about using bait trapping over helicopters, but we don’t plan to quit advocating for it! Back to the tracking or documentation of the horses, I thought it would “end” when I knew I had identified/counted all the horses. Two and a half years later, if I’m not visiting them every weekend, I miss them! :) So it has evolved to keeping track of all kinds of information, from ages to genders to estimating herd population growth … my very favorite thing about tracking the horses is observing their behavior!

    (I know my answers can be long … if ya’ll don’t mind, I don’t! I’ve never been known for brevity!)

    Julie – I have not found any geldings in Spring Creek Basin. I believe the sorrel stallion I call Roach was released or escaped and abandoned. His name has a story behind it, too. When I first saw him, in May 2004, not only was he with Poco (this was way before they had names), he had a roached mane/forelock and an extremely skimpy tail! I think he was young then, maybe 2 or 3? I’ve seen some uneven manes and manes tangled with “witch knots,” but I’ve never known a wild horse to so precisely roach his mane! To explain a “roached” mane, this is a mane that is trimmed – usually with clippers – along the neck – think of a man’s military-style buzz cut. Polo ponies often have roached manes to keep the reins from getting tangled (and I suppose it’s less time-consuming than braiding!). Fortunately, we have not had a problem – since I’ve been documenting the horses – with people abandoning domestic horses in the herd area.

    Mustang23 – Yes, indeed, Grey was much darker when I first met him. In fact, one Back Country Horsemen member said he looked “blue” as a youngster! Lipizzaner foals are born dark and mature to “white.” Our grey horses in the basin have been born sorrel, black and bay. Whisper was born very dark and still is, but he’s obviously greying. Cuatro was born sort of brownish and is definitely going grey; his mother, Two Boots, was born black! My “pink boys,” Butch and Sundance were likely born sorrel and have retained their reddish hue. Mouse and Comanche and Piedra were likely born bay and are greying with a brownish tone. Ty, a bachelor stallion with the pintos, fooled me into thinking he was black until last year when I started to notice his face and mane was “grizzled”! As far as books … I read, re-read and re-re-read all of Walter Farley’s “Black Stallion” books when I was a kid! Interestingly, I particularly loved the “Flame” books about the stallion on the island with the labyrinth of tunnels filled with relics from Spanish conquistadors. I still have boxes and boxes and boxes filled with the horse books I read as a kid! Oh, and I also loved a couple of books by a British author … the girl’s name was Ginny, I think?

    Rochlia – Shadow’s a cutie, for sure. She should have David’s foal this spring! I’m pretty sure there’s a little bulge to that belly!

    VictoryCowgirl – There are many wild horse advocates, many of whom go about their business quietly and under the radar. I started the blog after reading Billie’s blog about the Little Book Cliffs mustangs and Matt’s blog about the Pryor Mountain mustangs (both are linked on my blog roll, and I encourage all of you to keep up with those herds as well!). I’m a relative newcomer to mustang advocacy, but as many of you have proven, it’s never too late to start. I hope ALL of you are able to visit wild horses, and I hope you will all continue to add your voices to the insistence that they be protected as part of this country’s amazing heritage. Then you’ll be MY hero! :) To your questions: No, I haven’t discovered a wild horse that will actively seek human companionship. Although my presence must in some way alter their natural behavior, I try to remain an observer. I have had the horses come close to me while I sit with them, but I don’t make any attempt to touch them or entice them to come to me. Most of the horses have become very comfortable with my presence and continue grazing – some even lie down with me nearby – what a gift! Hollywood has done a good job portraying the elegance and mystery and spirit of mustangs, but the horses actually rarely spend time galloping with the wind or fighting each other. Wild horse life is, by and large, a pretty peaceful existence. I hope my photos reflect this more normal behavior. No, I have never been so blessed to see a wild foal actually being born, but I have seen them so new to this planet that their dam still has blood covering her hind legs from the birth, have seen them so new they’re still wobbly. :) Favorite story … As with books, I don’t think I can narrow it down – I have so many to tell! One of my favorite stories, I guess, involves a couple from California who visited the horses last summer. They had never seen horses in the wild before, in fact, knew them only through movies. They kept exclaiming how cool it was to see the horses, in the wild. I think it made their year, and their splendid delight in the horses definitely made ME happy! As far as the little girl and her mustang, Twilight, I will tell you that people I know and have talked with who have adopted a mustang are hooked. They are mustang people for life. We can’t, unfortunately, keep them all wild – the West is a finite space – and so I always love to hear about people who love their mustangs! And my favorite adoption story of all time is about our Spring Creek Basin mustang who was rounded up in 2007 and went to the prison in Canon City, where he caught the eye of an inmate who so believed in him that he named the young buckskin Justice and trained him as if he might eventually catch the eye of the U.S. Border Patrol. That amazing little horse, just a year and a half out of the wild, walked the streets of Washington, D.C., for President Obama’s inauguration parade. How’s that for a favorite story!

    Madelaina – Fantastic job on that excellent information you compiled about BLM and mustangs! And I am in awe of your photographic/illustration talents! You make the images just come alive! I am a firm believer in education – of all kinds. Knowledge is power – it sounds cliche, but it’s true. “All” things is very broad in this very broad and rather complicated issue. My first advice is to continue to learn everything you can about the issue – and from all angles. I don’t mean to sound vague and/or not provide an actual answer. You wonderful girls are already on the right track by what you’re doing through Girls Horse Club! Writing about mustangs, learning about mustangs, gathering information and sharing it with each other about mustangs. Do not underestimate this step! Some people want all roundups to stop, period. My opinion – and it is just that – is that roundups will not cease. Horses breed, horses have foals, foals grow up, conceive, have foals of their own. The West, socially, is simply not as big as it was at the turn of the last century. Most herd management areas are fenced or otherwise bounded by land forms that keep mustangs in a particular place. That place may be 22,000 or 220,000 or 2.2 million acres – it is still finite. When our horses – more than 100 – were rounded up in 2007, they weren’t what I’d call skinny, but they were definitely lean. That was in August. By October, with fewer horses competing for finite resources, the remaining horses looked pretty great. They can’t roam anymore, like deer and elk, following the seasons to better grazing and water. So they must have some human intervention – management – and we owe it to them to manage them WELL. There are tools to do that, and they need to be used. As far as your last question, I wish I had an answer for you because I would volunteer for that in a heartbeat, too! But I don’t know of that happening on a large scale – yet!

    Huskyhorsegirl – Thanks for the welcome! I think he was named after Robert E. Lee’s Traveler (though I think Lee’s stallion’s name was spelled “Traveller”?) because of his commanding presence! He’s always had something “extra” about him that sets him apart from the others. I have been fortunate to have never witnessed a truly fierce stallion fight. … No, I’m sorry, I take that back. To my great dismay, the fiercest stallion fight I saw involved Grey, fighting stallions in their holding pen at the roundup when contractors mistakenly put a mare – Grey’s mare – in with the stallions. It was horrible, compounded by the fact of having just witnessed all the horses chased in by helicopter and choused by the cowboys with their plastic-bag-tipped sticks. :( Most of their fights are fairly “ritualistic” – they are great readers of body language! The worst after-effect of a fight I never saw resulted in the stallion Duke losing his mare and her foal and limping alone since last October.

    If you’re still reading after this long post, thank you all again for having me! You have fabulous questions, and your passion for mustangs is contagious! It raises my energy level on their behalf! I wish I could whisk you all out to the basin to meet the ponies! :) Bring on more questions!

  13. Your photography is amazing! I wish I could go out and just spend hours watching mustangs. It must be so peaceful! My question for you is this- What could a girl that does not live in the US do to help stop roundups? All of the petitions that I’ve seen or all of the places to send complents all say that you have to live in the US.

    Thank you for being here!

  14. Wow! A lot of comments already! I don’t have time now, but I’ll make sure to read them later. I don’t have any questions as of the moment. But I will prolly later. Right now I’m busy. :) lol.

    Welcome TJ! I hope your “stay” at ghc is awesome!! :)

  15. Hi TJ! Welcome to GHC!

  16. Hi, Toppyrocks! It is incredibly peaceful – usually – to watch the mustangs, to spend time with them as they graze … If you have horses, in a pasture, and ever spend time with them in that setting, that’s what it’s like – except you can’t touch these guys and they won’t come nibbling closer to see whether you have a carrot. :) Just their sounds, the nearly ever-present wind, an occasional plane flying overhead. Then they mosey on … sometimes I leave when they do and go looking for other horses, but sometimes I stay for a while, just to drink it all in. You bring up an interesting point about not living in the U.S. I would caution all of you, though, that *stopping* roundups is not really the way to think about things (again, my opinion). Many advocacy groups have called for a moratorium on roundups until a full count can be made, and I like this way of thinking and support it wholeheartedly. I do think that in many cases, BLM is rounding up excessive numbers of wild horses to make way for extractive resources – cattle, oil and gas, uranium, hunting – but it’s also true that resources are finite. What I’d like to see is a shift in thinking to *slowing population growth* so roundups don’t have to occur so frequently. That’s the thinking we’re we’re trying to shift at our local BLM office for our Spring Creek Basin mustangs. But in actual answer to your question, I don’t see any reason why you can’t write directly.

    Here’s a link to comment to BLM on their Wild Horse and Burro Program page (no need for personal information, it says): http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/wild_horse_and_burro/wh_b_contact_us.html

    Here’s also an “action” page on the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign Web site: http://www.wildhorsepreservation.com/action.html

    It doesn’t hurt to send letters/emails directly to some of the people influencing the Wild Horse and Burro Program. I surely appreciate your support of our American mustangs!

  17. Oh…my..goodness, Shadow’s going to have a baby!!! :] This will be her first, won’t it? When should the next round-up occur at Spring Creek? Have the BLM taken wild horses away before?

  18. I’ve already learned so much, just reading your comments alone, not to mention every other source of info i’ve managed to find. Thanks again sooo much for doing this!

  19. Hi TJ!
    Grey’s official name is Traveler? That is so cool. Robert E. Lee was a great man. He had great horses, too. Here’s a link to learn more about Lee’s two most famous horses, Traveller and Lucy Long:
    http://www.civilwarhome.com/leeshorses.htm
    One question: What’s your favorite movie?

  20. Thanks for your reply, TJ! I greatly appreciate you taking time to answer my questions… =D It sounds like you have a great time with the wild horses! I have never actually seen a foal being born, so I was just wondering if you had. So… Again, welcome to GHC, and I hope that you have a great ‘stay’. *nickers a welcome* =D Thanks again for replying to my questions… I will be sure to check out your blog frequently! Cya later!

  21. Thank you for answering and giving those links. I will be sure to look at them. I have a few more questions for you. How much time do you get to spend out following the mustangs and photographing them? Also, do the mustangs trust you now or recognize you? Will they let you get close, or at least closer then other people? Or do they just ingore people?

  22. Rochlia – I can’t say for *absolute* certainty, but she’s been with him more than a year now, and I do believe I can see a little “thickening” of her barrel. I don’t see those guys all the time, but I will be keeping my eye on her – expectant! Yes, it will be her first – she’ll be 3 years old this year. The next roundup will likely be in September 2011. Not looking forward to it, but hopefully some of our hard work will pay off. And yes, BLM has taken many horses previously. At the last roundup, in 2007, 70-some horses were removed. The most recent previous roundups were held in 2005 and in 2000 … I just don’t know the previous years.

    Jonannah and Mustang23 – I’m having a great time “meeting” you all! Your enthusiasm is contagious!

    Narnian Rose – What fascinating accounts of Traveller and some other horses of Gen. Lee’s! I think my favorite movie ever is “Dances With Wolves.” I find it hard to watch, though. One movie I never mind seeing again and again is “Man From Snowy River.” Wow – that hill sequence! Brumbies and mustangs – hardiest of the hardy! Also, as with the books, I loved “The Black Stallion” with the young boy who played Alec and old Mickey Rooney as the trainer. I have to say I love Viggo Mortenson as an actor and was SO happy to find out that he is a mustang advocate! Also, one of the horses that played “Hidalgo” (OK, also a favorite!) – the one Mr. Mortenson purchased afterward – is named TJ! I always watch the horses in movies, even when they’re not the “stars,” and I love the scene in, I think it’s “Return of the King” (Lord of the Rings), where Aragorn calms the big bay horse (isn’t he gorgeous?) that belonged to Eowyn’s cousin.

    Victory Cowgirl – Thanks for asking questions! Hope my answers help.

    Toppyrocks – When the weather is good, I’m out in the basin every weekend. I recently took a new job, and my “weekends” are during the week. I spend at least one of my weekend days in the basin (again, when weather is good), but when foaling starts here in another couple of weeks, I’ll spend both days, camping overnight. It takes me two hours to drive from my house to the basin, but I can hardly bear to let a week go by without visiting the horses now! As a photographer, of course, I love early morning and evening light, but most of all, I just love spending all day out in the basin, with the horses – usually with no one else around! If I go just for the day, I try to get there as early as possible, and I usually stay till dark or pretty close. I do think the horses recognize me – I have spent a lot of time with them during the past two-plus years! In fact, the past two autumns, when I first go out in a bulky coat when the weather turns chilly – giving me a different “outline” – the horses give me their version of a “double-take,” and I talk to them to let them know it’s me! They are extremely watchful – of all people and vehicles. One of my goals in my interactions with them has been to make sure my visits are on THEIR terms. I think if I take care to visit them with respect, not only can I have wonderful visits with them, but the other people who follow to see the horses also will have that opportunity because the horses may have learned that – maybe – vehicles will travel slowly and not chase them. There have been some bad apples, of course, but most people are very respectful visitors! Even when they’re calmly grazing, believe me, they are never ignoring you! :)

  23. TJ, in your last reply to Narnian Rose, I noticed you mentioned the movie “The Man from Snowy River”. I LOVE that movie, and I wouldn’t mind watching it a million times over again! Some of the horses – especially the grey one that the boy helps the girl make a rope halter for – are just GORGEOUS! =D Well, that was pretty random of me, but I just couldn’t resist!! =P Well, thanks again for answering my questions – your answers really helped!

  24. Ahhhhh. “The Man from Snowy River”! My Granny has the soundtrack. When I was little we used to listen to it when she babysat me.
    I like the movie, too.

  25. I’m heartsick at how many horses they’ve taken from Spring Creek. Do you know about how many they will take in 2011? I love Lord of the Rings[my name is elvish :], Man from Snowy River and Hidalgo too! Does anyone like the Silver Brumby? I love both the movie and the books!

  26. HI TJ! I was wondering, what sort of cameras do you use when you take photos of the horses? Your photos are amazing!

  27. Victory Cowgirl and Narnian Rose – Check out photographer Pam Nickoles’ DVD “Our Wild Horses II”: http://www.nickolesphotography.com/HTML/dvd-2.htm . If you love “Man From Snowy River” and the music, you will LOVE that DVD of photos set to music, which includes sections set to the music of composer Bruce Rowland, who did the MFSR soundtrack! This also is a good opportunity for me to plug Pam’s Web site and blog (http://nickolesphotography.wordpress.com/) – she’s an awesome photographer and advocate for wild horses, and I’m so proud to count her as a friend.

    Rochlia – You and me both. My best guess is that BLM will take roughly the same number of horses in 2011 that they did in 2007 – about 80. Among BLM’s quirks is the habit of not counting foals – even though contractors (those who round up the horses) do. (This has to do with guessing some foals may not make it through their first year … but as BLM rarely knows the numbers of horses let alone foals born each year, it seems a specifically unnecessary precaution.) The only thing I can figure is that – at least in this case – BLM lets the population get so far above AML (35-65) to entice contractors to come round up more horses. Close to or slightly more than 100 horses (including foals) will be in the basin by September 2011, so BLM will have to remove about 65 horses to get down to the low end of the AML. Fifty-nine horses (including last year’s foals – about to be yearlings) currently call the basin home, so in a strict numbers sense, half the horses there now won’t be there by October 2011. :( I think it’s safe to say (though still sadly) that many of the foals born this year and surely next will be among those removed, but that’s only (roughly) 30 total, which means realistically that we’ll bid farewell to about half the current horses (and I’m praying many, many find good homes with adopters). I’ve been told I might have some say in who stays … but the flip side of that coin is making some decisions about who goes. I am struggling mightily with that … :(

  28. What wonderful photos & a fantastic conversation to sit in on! Brilliant from all sides!

  29. My goodness! All these famous horse girls!! Ms. Farley, I love love LOVE your books!! I was hoping for more of the Wild Horse Island books, but it’s all good. Thank you for writing!! :)

  30. ok, it’s time for me to stop asking depressing questions! What is your favorite book genre?
    Today I visited my friend’s horse, Roanie, to feed and water him while she’s on vacation. He really likes me and is always nuzzling and kissing me :] He makes me soo happy!!

  31. Thanks so much for coming here, Mrs. Farley! I’m part of your email-chain and love getting updates about the wild horses!

  32. I have another question… Actually, I have a few more questions, TJ. My first question is thus: What is your favorite music genre? What about book genre? My next question is: what is the coat color you see met frequently out there with the horses? And by coat color, I definently mean horse coat color! =] And my next question is more of a request… What can you tell me about the stallion bald Chrome?

    Thanks again, TJ,
    VC =]

  33. Terri – Howdy and thanks for coming by! Loved reading through your interview, too! These girls are awesome (no question – they’re horse girls!)!

    Rochlia – Sometimes you have to ask the “depressing” questions … particularly on this issue. I want to be as upbeat as possible, but sometimes it’s a very frustrating endeavor, trying to work with the powers that be to protect our wild horses. But every gift they give me makes it ALL worthwhile – I want to be adamant on that point. As far as books – and this answers part of Jumper’s question, too – I like to read a variety of topics, most related to horses and/or natural resources. My major in college (Texas A&M – any current or future Aggies out there?) was in natural resources, and my “day job” is journalist (copy editor/page designer) … which I suppose adds up to a healthy curiosity about the world around me – mostly the natural world. :) I recently read “America’s Last Wild Horses” by Hope Ryden and finished “Mustang: The Saga of the Wild Horse in the American West” by Deanne Stillman. Both, in some ways, are very hard to read … but both are invaluable to understand today’s issues and past history. I also recently read “The Soul of a Horse” by Joe Camp – awesome! It reminded me of a super nice family from the Denver area who adopted two of our Spring Creek Basin boys and learned from the horses themselves (as well as read and watched everything they could get their hands on). Oddly enough, I’m also working my way through the Sherlock Holmes stories. You didn’t ask about TV shows, but I like the CSI-type shows for the puzzle-solving aspect. As a kid, I loved reading “Lord of the Rings” type fantasy books – oh, there was an awesome series about gifted children who could communicate with special horses who chose them … they became part of sort of an elite protection unit. I’m blanking on the author/series name right now; I’ll find it later. Loved to read about you visiting your friend’s horse! Sounds like he’s done a bit of “choosing” you as well!

    I’ll be back in a bit to answer more questions – I see I almost overlooked Leopard Appaloosa above my last post.

  34. Leopard Appaloosa – I use Canon cameras. Currently, my main camera is a Canon 50D, and I use a 100-400mm lens to photograph the horses. But here’s my best advice: Your camera is just YOUR tool with which to make pictures. Whether you have a $100 camera or a $10,000 camera, your best asset is you – your creativity, your vision, your way of seeing the world. One thing I love about photographing the horses – anything, really – is that although I’m taking pictures of the same horses, I’m never taking the same pictures! I love photographing horses most of all, of course, but I also love to photograph wildlife and nature. When I was editor of the small weekly paper I worked at, my very favorite thing was to shoot sports – all sports. And I loved being able to highlight a different athlete every week to run with the story about the game. If you have a camera, go to town! Shoot everything and anything! And have fun!

    Jumper/VC – I talked about books in my earlier reply to Rochlia. I love books. Some girls collect shoes; I collect books. :) I listen to country music, as a general genre, but I like a bit of an alternative or eclectic flavor – a little folksy – and I like cowboy music from the likes of Ian Tyson, Dave Stamey and R.W. Hampton. I recently became a fan of Clay Canfield on Facebook – he has a song called “Wild Horses” that had tears streaming down my cheeks. And I can’t forget about one of my very favorite musicians, whom I fairly recently discovered: Templeton Thompson! I know she also had an interview here on Girls Horse Club! Her “Girls and Horses” is my theme song! Also love her upbeat, optimistic attitude. On to (horse) coat color: Grey is the most common color in the basin. This is another of the things I keep track of. The second most common color is bay. Several sorrels were rounded up and removed in 2007, and now we have just three: Roja, Roach and Gaia. I’m waiting to see what color baby Hayden is … He’s red now, but Daddy is grey (Grey!), and Mama is dun … It’s one of the fun parts of watching the babies grow up – what color will they be! Other colors are dun (four), black (three), buckskin (two), pinto (bay and white and black and white – eight) and one palomino (she’s a very subtle, very light shade, but she’s more palomino than anything else, and her daddy, from Sand Wash Basin, is palomino). The other horses are all some shade of grey or bay!

    Well, Chrome. When I first met him, he was part of a bachelor band that I came to call the Bachelor 7 – and Grey was on and off a member. He’s pretty tall, especially compared with most of the other horses, probably in the 15-hand range. He’s fairly young … maybe in the 5- to 8-year-old range. He’s another young stallion that has surprised me by seeming to be somewhat low on the bachelor totem pole who ended up gathering mares. Copper, band stallion of the pinto group, and Kreacher, who has the three introduced mares, also fall into that category. Last summer, Chrome started shadowing Grey’s band. Aspen, a bay bachelor, was with them on and off, but Chrome was persistent. Grey actually lost weight going into the fall because he was constantly on guard. Into the fall, it seemed like Chrome was going to make Two Boots, a 2-year-old with a foal, his first acquisition, so I was surprised when he first stole Jif, a year or two older but also a first-time mom. He stole her about two weeks after her colt, Hayden, was born. A few weeks or a month later, he succeeded in stealing Two Boots – or maybe Grey kicked her out. Earlier this year, the yearling filly in his band, Iya, turned up missing. I thought she might have followed her sister Two Boots to Chrome’s band, but no! She’s with another band – Hollywood’s. She is not Grey’s biological daughter, but she was born into his band the spring he stole her (and Two Boots’) mother, Houdini. Are you following this? :) Grey still has Houdini and their almost-yearling daughter, Terra. Terra and Hayden are the only horses I know for sure are Grey’s offspring, though I also think Alegre and young stallion (well, he’s about 10 this year) Seven are his. Chrome is a good band stallion, and he has always been gentle with the babies, even when he was following Grey. Terra would hang back some with him. I have to say I have never seen any of the stallions display less-than-gentle behavior with the youngsters. ALL the horses are so family oriented – no matter their relationship! It’s those relationships I find most fascinating! Did I answer your question, or did you have something specific in mind for knowing about him?

  35. Thanks for answering my questions TJ. I have one more. Can you think of a moment of your life that seemed the most intense? In instance that you had to act or think fast in?

    ~HorseFeathers

  36. Yay! I was hoping that you liked country! Thanks for answering my questions… I love how you are so in-detail with your answers, and how they are so lengthly!

    As for about Chrome, you pretty much answered the questions that I had in mind. =D I really am curious about Chrome, because he’s my favorite, can you tell? So, pretty much, Chrome now has Jif, the 3 or 4 year old first-time mom with the colt Hayden, and Two Boots as well? So Iya was with Grey, but then she ended up with Hollywood’s band, correct? Iya was born into Grey’s band – before she was stolen, obviously – out of Houdini, whom is both Iya and Two Boots’ mom. Grey has Houdini and the yearling daughter, Terra, in their band as well. Is all of that correct? I’m hoping to be able to follow all of this information about the horses… I’m so into it it’s crazy. =D I have to say that Iya and Baylee have similar looks to me. I know that they might not really look alike – people who hang around horses that look very similar tend to say “What? They don’t look alike at all!” – but I sure do think so! I saw the picture of Baylee rolling (on you blog)… and then getting up butt first! What’s up with that? Oh, wait… I just took a second look at those pictures and Baylee’s blaze is a bit thinner than Iya’s. Just listen to me! Rambling on like that! My apologies.

    Back on topic… yes, that pretty much did answer all of my questions about Chrome. But I have a few more: 1) Do you know who Chrome’s parents are? 2) Does Chrome have any biological offspring that you know about? 3) Have you any idea if Chrome has any siblings?

    Thanks again!
    Yours,
    V.C. (Formally Jumper)

  37. Hi TJ! Thank you so much for answering all of our questions!
    Two questions: What’s your favorite food? And What are your favorite horse books?
    Seeya,
    NR

  38. TJ, thanks for answering my question!

  39. HorseFeathers – Wow, a great question that has me thinking intensely! Lots of situations with people and/or animals could require a person to think fast on their feet to avoid someone getting hurt. My job as a journalist sometimes involves quick thinking on deadline. Sometimes, with animals – especially horses – you can see a “wreck” coming and take steps to avoid it, like a dangling lead rope or an open gate, horse heading right for it … I am just blanking on actual situations in my life that don’t involve quick thinking to avoid an idiot driver pulling out in front of me or some other such incident! Bad drivers annoy me immensely. I guess one thing I keep coming back to that got my adrenaline pumping was a few years ago near Christmas, I was home on vacation and my parents had gone to the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas with friends. Texas in December is usually pretty enjoyable, but a cold front blew in – the wind picked up, the temperature plummeted, and sleet came right with the storm. I was there by myself with lots of horses to take care of. Cold? No problem. Cold AND sleety, icy rain? Our horses are on pasture with just scattered sheds. It all turned out fine in the end, but I was a wreck for a while. I guess the moral is to do the best you can with the resources at your disposal, and never underestimate the power of your own brain!

    V.C. (Jumper)! :) – Chrome is a cool horse to be your favorite, and yes! As in your comments on the blog, you’ve got it absolutely right! Iya to me looks like a bit of a throwback to maybe some drafty ancestors. Even as a baby, she was enormous. Baylee and Pinon – full brother and sister – look a lot alike, and they both look a lot like their dam, Mahogany, in Steeldust’s band. Just to throw something else at you, I also think the stallion David, who has Rochlia’s favorite mare, Shadow, is Mahogany’s offspring! Unfortunately, I don’t know who Chrome’s parents are … but my guess is they’ve been rounded up and removed. He does resemble the “pink boys” – Butch and Sundance – a little, maybe, but I’m not even entirely sure who their parents are (though I’m leaning heavily toward the thought that they’re Luna’s sons … and possibly twins). I don’t know for sure whether Chrome has any offspring, but my guess on that is no because of his likely age and, until recently, bachelor status. Those Bachelor 7 boys – except Grey and Duke – are all roughly the same age, I think … older than 5, younger than 10? It’s certainly possible that he has siblings … do you mean still in the basin? I’m not so sure. He seems taller than the other horses – might have been born in a good year with lots of forage – and with a slightly more “upright” carriage. I like to see the young stallions do well. A few more may end up with mares this year as the 3-year-old fillies start to “come of age.”

    Narnian Rose – Ya’ll have such great questions, and I enjoy talking about the mustangs more than just about anything! I’m very happy to have this opportunity to provide answers to some of your questions! “What’s my favorite food” is my favorite question of all, though, because I get to answer this: “Anything my mom makes!” :) Unfortunately for me, I’m long past living at home, and I didn’t inherit her skill in the kitchen – nor her patience for actually spending time in the kitchen! But every time I go home, believe me, she feeds me well! My favorite thing she makes: a beef and spinache quiche with homemade crust. My mom, grandma and great-grandma all were gardners and canners – and my mom carries on to this day. She always has a garden, so we like lots of fresh vegetables, and they have fruit trees, so she makes homemade jams (plum and peach, particularly) – oh, and her homemade pickles are to-die-for! Books – I like just about every book about horses ever written – and read my fair share as a kid! I recently found out about a new book out about Velma Johnston – better known as Wild Horse Annie. That’s definitely on my wish list. And I found the books I was thinking about the other night: The author is Mercedes Lackey – any of her “Herald of Valdemar” series. While I wouldn’t say those are strictly “horse books,” they definitely had me wishing for a horse with whom I was telepathically connected! I also was a big fan of Marguerite Henry growing up – loved “Misty of Chincoteague,” of course, but my favorite always was “King of the Wind,” about the Goldolphin Arabian. “The Black Stallion” series was definitely a favorite.

  40. Thank you so much for your answer and comments TJ :D I’m so happy you like the photo-illustrations, but no doubt they don’t compare to the real mustangs out there and your lovely photography.

    I’m constantly puzzled at how there are so many more effective and better options out there, yet people don’t take them into account. Nobody wants to see the horses starving or unhealthy, and I can sort of see what the government is trying to do with the round-ups, but the mustangs are suffering so much at these gathers and the holding facilities. It’s not fair to take away their freedom like this when there are other choices.

    If you don’t mind me asking another question, what is it about mustangs that inspires you to most, or takes you away to that “far away place” away from the rest of the world?

  41. Hi TJ!
    Homemade jam! Mmmmmm. My Granny makes grape jelly and it’s great.
    Yep, I’m not a great cook, either. Ask anyone who ate my last batch of brownies. Disaster.
    I LOVE the Misty series. I’ve read “Sea Star” at least three times. The only Misty book I haven’t read in “Misty’s Twilight”. Have you read that one?
    Seeya,
    NR

  42. TJ – Wow! That whole mustang genealogy can be quite confusing! =D Well, you sure are dedicated to those mustangs, to remember/know all of that! One more question – Have you ever seen a stallion purposefully kill a foal? I know that’s a bit of a gruesome question, but it just popped into my mind. Thanks!

    ~V.C.~

  43. Hey Tj,
    Just wondering, who is Shadow’s father? And are you going to D.C. tomorrow? To all who are- good luck and God bless!! [I saw your post today!] :] and I saw Baylee, she is so cute!

  44. Madelaina – Maybe nothing compares to actually seeing mustangs in the wild, but there is some simply stunning photography out there, and your illustrations are just phenomenal! And please ask me anything! That’s why I’m here! (And I hope even after my week is up, any of you will feel comfortable contacting me via my blog if you have other questions.) You’re in good company in your puzzlement … I think almost every advocate alive wonders the exact same thing. I have been corresponding a little with a scientist who reminded me again the root of the problem: “This approach (PZP – fertility control) attacks the real problem, which is reproduction, rather than the symptom of ‘too many horses.'” The one-year PZP vaccine currently has the most data behind it and seems to be the most successful, but other scientists are working on multi-year vaccines – a dose that would be given once and prevent pregnancies for two, three, four years. No one I know is in favor of permanently sterilizing wild horses (and there are many misconceptions floating around about PZP – I recommend Matt Dillon’s excellent PZP series on his blog: http://pryorwild.wordpress.com/category/pzp/). You are absolutely right – viable alternatives exist, and BLM continues to prefer the status quo. I am as puzzled as you are. What inspires me most about mustangs is at once simple … and amazingly complex – just like the horses themselves. They are hardy. They are fragile. They are wonderfully complex in their social systems and bonds. They are refreshingly simple in their actions and reactions. They are adaptable. They are graceful. They are innocent. They carry the weight of their ancestors’ long history. They are curious and brave and easily frightened. They are bold and fearless and defensive of their families. They live in the harshest environments – to which man has committed them – and they thrive. They are independent. They are dependent (we have fenced them into these herd management areas and it is incumbent upon us that their basic needs of water and forage are met). In a perfect world, they could manage just fine without us (witness those few horses returned to the continent … the millions repopulating the continent … the devastation wrought upon them by generations of “mustangers” …). In many, many instances where they’ve been adopted, their adopters become so enamored of them as to say “I’ll never have but another mustang.” They are stunning. They are so much more. I have to say that with the basin being, literally, a “far away place,” both in terms of geography and people, it’s easy to enter that magic world … the magic of their world. I don’t understand the people who would doom them to absolute removal or extinction by zoo far from their home ranges. I can only imagine those people must have small, shallow lives governed by the almighty dollar without knowing the treasure of what money cannot provide. Mustangs should not be a myth or something about which to “remember when.” Not ever.

    Narnian Rose – Aren’t grannies great! Mine were awesome … and are much missed. One of them was a horse girl herself (she and her sisters rode their ponies to school, and their dad – my great-grandpa – farmed with horses!). My advice – leave the making of brownies to your granny! ;) I don’t think I read “Misty’s Twilight.” Newer, I think? I’m sure I’ve read “Sea Star” but not as much as “Misty” and a looooong time ago. :)

  45. VC – They’re like family, these horses. It’s the attention of love and fascination! :) While I do not doubt it has happened – including a rather famous incident of it filmed by a celebrated filmmaker and advocate, I myself have NEVER witnessed a stallion being other than gentle with foals and young horses. The first year or two after the roundup in Spring Creek Basin, there was much social chaos as the horses tried to re-establish themselves after their families were ripped apart. The foals were born into bands that were headed NOT by their biological sires. Stallions stole mares just before foals were born and mares just after foals were born (it still happens). The stallions treated all the babies like they were their own. Look at our orphans. To answer Rochlia’s question about Shadow, I do not know who her sire is, but I knew her mother, Ceal. They were with the pinto band, then led by Bruiser (now a bachlor). As Ceal lost weight that winter, they were by themselves. In a conclusion very similar to Molly and her last daughter, Liberty, Shadow ended up with the pintos after Ceal died. Like Bounce’s band, who took in Liberty as one of their own, the pintos took in Shadow … until the bachelor boys apparently ganged up on Bruiser, kicking him out and taking over – and David, one of that group, cleverly made off with then-yearling Shadow! When I first found Twister, a month after the roundup, he was with two pintos. I realized I recognized one I had photographed earlier that spring – a stallion. I assumed the other was a mare, even while wondering how two pintos produced a rose-grey colt, until I realized it was, indeed a stallion (Cinch)! So in that case, two bachelor stallions adopted the orphan! Twister soon after adopted by Houdini and Two Boots (they’re the same age – 3 this spring) when they were with Seven. I believe Seven hooked up with Houdini shortly after his release (he was rounded up and was one of the released stallions; Houdini was never rounded up, even though her band was … hence her name!). He eventually lost them to Grey in March – Iya was born the end of April that year. (Two Boots and Iya likely are full sisters, despite their somewhat dissimilar appearance – it was a grey stallion I called Junior because of his uncanny resemblance to Grey (maybe a son); he was rounded up and removed.) To continue the soap opera, Seven stole Molly and Roja (possibly mother-daughter) from Kreacher, if you can believe that. Molly was rounded up and released; neither Kreacher nor Roja were rounded up. Kreacher waffled between the Bachelor 7 and the “southside boys” – the bachelors, including David, who deposed Bruiser – and settled with the Bachelor 7 … until he stole the three introduced mares in December, a couple of months after they came from Sand Wash Basin! Well, the whole point of all that is to say that in my experience, the stallions have taken care of all the youngsters they’re in contact with – no matter how they come to be “family”!

    Rochlia – I answered your question about Shadow above … I first met her mother in 2004 – she was with Roach and Poco! She was a nice old mare whose time finally came … like Molly’s. But between 2004 and 2006, I don’t know who she was with. And no, I’m not going to Washington – thought I’d just share the information. I bet a lot of people ARE going. I’m headed to the basin tomorrow for a pony visit. :) I haven’t even gotten through my pictures from last week, but I can’t wait to get back out and see them!

  46. I looked through your blog yestarday and it was great! I love how all the horses look so different, and there aren’t very many chestnuts. Here’s a few more questions: when did you start photographing wild horses, and did you do any other photography before that? Also, did you photgraph wild horses other places before spring creek basin?

    I love their fuzz coats!

  47. Hi TJ, are there any other wild horse photography websites that you know of? Just wondering. Thanks!

  48. p.s: your blog is awesome! (sorry i sorta forgot to put that in the above comment) :)

  49. Hi TJ!
    Grannies are awesome! The two of us speak from experience!
    One question: How did you get interested in wild horse photography?

  50. TJ, your comments are so thought-provoking. Your descriptions are amazing, and your way with words is phenomenal. I said that to say this: If you decide to take up writing, let me know! I’ll do my best to buy the book! The way the mustangs are related is kind of confusing, and I liked how you said it was like a soap opera. Everyone’s got babies by everyone else!! lol but I’d LOOVE to see some wild horses in the wild. But pictures are going to have to do. sigh… :(

  51. TJ – I understand what you’re saying with the whole concept of all of the horses treating each other like family, even though it is unreasonable and untrue to say that they ar all directly related. Also, I see now that what some people write in books is untrue – stallions do not usually kill another stallions’ offspring. In my mind, it is very reasonable to say that the horses are all like family, even though most aren’t biological family. Thank you so much for answering my questions, and I’ll cya ’round! =D
    ~V.C.~

  52. Sorry, my username keeps getting messed up because I use different computers to post comments. Sorry bout that, guys!
    ~V.C.~

  53. Hello, horse girls! I hope ya’ll had a wonderful day today! I was out in Spring Creek Basin with my beloved beauties! I saw all but three of the horses – Duke, David and Shadow. Some I saw from a distance and a few I had nice, peaceful visits with. I’ll answer today’s questions, then give ya’ll the full rundown!

    Toppyrocks – Quite a few sorrels or chestnuts were rounded up, but none were released. Roach and Roja were never rounded up, and Gaia was born in 2008. Interestingly, I know some folks who adopted Spring Creek Basin mustangs – a husband and wife, and the grandson of a man who has adopted two. Their three horses are sorrel with big, wide blazes like Gaia’s! I first visited Spring Creek Basin in 2002 and started taking pictures of the horses. I started taking photography seriously when I moved to Colorado in 2001. I love to photograph wildlife and nature, as well as horses, and Yellowstone National Park is one of my other favorite places on Earth! I’ve also photographed mustangs in Little Book Cliffs (near Grand Junction, Colo.), Sand Wash Basin (north of Grand Junction near the little town of Craig), McCullough Peaks (east of Cody, Wyo.) and Pryor Mountain (north of Lovell, Wyo., in northern Wyoming and southern Montana). I love their fuzzy coats, too!

    Huskyhorsegirl – You bet! I think I’ve mentioned Pam Nickoles (http://www.nickolesphotography.com/HTML/wildhorses2.htm). She has photographed a very wide variety of wild horse herds – including Spring Creek Basin. Carol Walker is another Colorado photographer who is a wild horse advocate (http://www.livingimagescjw.com/portfolios.php). I also like the photography of Mark Terrell (http://wildhorsesofnevadaphoto.com/default.aspx). And there’s Lynne Pomeranz, who has the book “Among Wild Horses” about the Pryor Mountain mustangs (http://www.lynnepomeranz.com/). Another one: http://mesteno.blogspot.com/. Mike Jackson from Wyoming (http://www.mikejacksonphotography.com/ – click on “Wild Mustangs” on the left). Jerry Sintz, retired BLM employee (http://www.jerrysintz.com/). Give those a try. I bet you can find hours of viewing! :) Also be sure to check out these blogs by people who observe and document horses in the wild (the first two are my inspirations for my own blog!): Pryor Mountain – http://pryorwild.wordpress.com/; Little Book Cliffs – http://wildhorsefever.spaces.live.com/; Sand Wash Basin – http://sandwashwildhorses.blogspot.com/.

    Narnian Rose – Grannies are, indeed, fabulous. Grandpas, too! I never really set out to be a “wild horse photographer” … I set out to view wild horses … and took my camera along. By the time I started my documentation project, I had more experience with photography, and it was a natural fit to pair photography and the horses. I love photographing them, their expressions and behaviors and interactions!

    Mustang 23 – Thank you so much! If I ever write a book, I’ll do my best to let you know! It really is sometimes like a soap opera. :) It’s a small “cast” and a limited “stage”! Never, never give up on your dream of seeing horses in the wild. :)

    VC – I think in some of the instances I’ve seen or read about when stallions were observed killing a foal, that foal was injured or sickly. I’ve been fortunate in my experiences with our foals all being healthy. We have lost two foals since I’ve started documenting the horses, but I don’t know the reason in either case. The important thing to know is that with wild horses, social bonds are very, very important.

    The first thing I did when I got to the basin today was a bit of maintenance. There is a big “water catchment” in the herd area. Two heavy-duty rubber-type liners collect snow and rain water and funnel it by pipes to a large steel tank (I think it’s 16,000 gallons). Then there are two drinking troughs, also attached by pipes – these are all basically downhill from one another – the collection liners to the tank to the troughs. We turn a faucet off at the tank at the start of cold weather, then turn it on again in the spring. Floats in each trough keep the water from overflowing and draining out of the tank. The soil in the basin is very “alkaline,” which basically means it’s very salty. It’s not good quality. The water from the catchment is basically the horses’ only source of *fresh* water. Several bands make use of it, but some never come to that part of the herd area. The float in the smaller trough broke, so our National Mustang Association replaced it – and that was my maintenance project today so I could turn the water back on.

    I spotted Hayden and Jif from the road near the catchment, but trees kept me from seeing Chrome, Two Boots and Cuatro until later, on my way out. They were quite a distance away on what I call the corral hill. I could also see horses out on another hill, to the interior of the basin – they turned out to be Hollywood’s band. Toward the south, in an area close to where I think they must have been last week when I didn’t see them, Steeldust’s band! While driving out to a point from which to park and hike, I passed Seven’s band.

    There was a little stallion action going on when I approached Steeldust’s band. He’s the band stallion, but his band includes two young stallions (his sons? possibly about 4 years old), two “near” bachelors that I call the “lieutenant” and “first sergeant,” and two “hangers-on” that used to be part of the Bachelor 7. Having so many stallions around makes it … hmm … “interesting”! But as I reached them, they were settling down for their midafternoon nap. So I sat on the edge of a shallow arroyo … and very nearly fell asleep with them! While I sat with them, all the youngsters and a couple of the stallions laid down! I love it when they’re so relaxed with me nearby. (Eight of the 16 horses laid down.) But that old wind was just howling, and though it wasn’t really cold by itself (up to mid-50s while I was there), the wind was chilly, so pretty soon I got up and tiptoed away to check one of the ponds that was dug out last fall.

    The soil in the basin, in addition to being very alkaline, is very silty and erodes easily. The ponds “silt in” and become shallow and then don’t hold much water. This was the one project BLM worked with us to start last year. We hope to get more dug out this year. I was happy to see it has some water! And from my ridgetop vantage point, I got a pleasant surprise: three bachelor boys and orphan Twister (one stallion is the original pinto band stallion, Bruiser, and the other is one of the stallions who adopted Twister after the roundup, Cinch; an aside: Bruiser has quite a bit of white, and Cinch is darker, but they look enough alike I think Bruiser could possibly be Cinch’s sire … and such a relationship may be why Cinch went with him rather than stay with his bachelor pals after they kicked Bruiser out of the band). The pinto band was nearby, and one of those bachelors, Mesa, went over to have a chat with the above boys. The almost-3-year-old pinto filly, Reya, was standing apart from her bandmates when I saw them, and I could see a dark shape at her feet, but they were far enough away, it was hard to make out what it was, even with the binoculars. I finally got to a vantage where I could tell: It was the very dark grey bachelor, Ty. Hmm. So has he stolen her? I’ve been wondering whether she’ll have a foal this year … and who the sire would be! But when he got up from his nap, he led her toward the band, so no certainty there. That’s also an area where David and Shadow like to hang out – and Cinch, Bruiser and Twister have been hanging out with them – but they were not to be seen today.

    Steeldust’s band had awakened from their naps and were grazing their way toward my ridge – maybe heading to water in the pond? – so I hit another trail to head back and stay out of their way (there are many trails crisscrossing the basin made by the horses and by wildlife like deer and elk). (As it turned out, I could see them at least an hour later, having finally hit the top of that ridge, so I don’t think I was in their way at all.) While walking out to Steeldust’s band initially, I spotted Grey’s band! I have seen the boy and his girls my last most recent visits but not close for a few weeks. They were just off the road on what I call the “roller-coaster ridge,” so I returned to my Jeep and drove over to them … stopping to photograph Seven, Roja and Ze on my way. They are fairly skittish of people, so I didn’t walk down to them but stayed on the ridge. Had a wonderful visit with my boy and his girls. Terra, his daughter, looks wonderful, and Houdini, his mare (Terra’s mom), also looks fabulous, about a month or so away from having her next baby! Here’s something: Terra was born May 1 (definitely; I have to estimate most of the foals’ birthdays, but I know for certain Terra was born early May 1 because I saw Houdini late April 30!) And May 1 is my brother’s birthday! It’s also the estimated birthday I gave pinto filly Spook, who will be 2 this year.

    The roads are all dry enough to drive all the way around the loop road in the basin, which I found out today when I did it for the first time this year. I stopped to check the second dugout pond (only two were done last year) … and that’s when I saw Poco and Roach – for the first time since late November last year! I had missed the boys. It was bittersweet to find them near where their mare, Bones, died last spring trying to have her foal. But they look great, and it was wonderful to visit with them.

    On around the loop I went, knowing Bounce’s band was likely the only band I might see back in the far eastern side of the basin. Who do you suppose I saw, playing “billie goat” up on the side of what I call Lizard Mesa? :) His mare, Alegre, and yearling son Whisper were at the base, but Gaia and orphan Liberty were high up the slope with him! No fear of heights, those ponies!

    I checked a couple of other ponds along the way – great to see them full of water. The horses will be back in that eastern area soon because grass starts there earlier than anywhere else. It’s “cheat grass,” which is invasive and not ideal, but it’s abundant in that part of the basin in early spring.

    As I was headed back toward the main entrance/exit of the basin, I spotted Raven and Corona … followed by their bandmates, Mona, Kootenai and stallion Kreacher. Those three mares came from Sand Wash Basin in northwestern Colorado to enhance our herd genetics (because our herd is so small, it is not genetically viable on its own without the introduction periodically of some outside bloodlines). And I saw Chrome’s band – all accounted for – still on corral hill – as I left. I checked the water troughs at the catchment one last time to make sure the floats were working and started the long drive home. One last look for Duke … Nope.

    So it turned out I saw all but three of our 59 mustangs! :) In spirit, each of you were with me on today’s journey. Tomorrow (Friday) is my last day of this interview, and it has been a wonderful, wonderful experience! Thank you all so much for your questions and interest in the mustangs of Spring Creek Basin! Keep writing, practice your photography and never stop dreaming of mustangs! I’ll answer any further questions you may have here, but please do feel free to contact me via my blog. Ask lots of questions, learn all you can and dream big! :)

  54. Thanks for answering my question, TJ! I’ll make sure to check out those links. :)

  55. It’s the last day. ‘sniff’ :[ Thanks soo much!! :] One more question from me- How tame are the horses at Spring Creek? Do they let you pet them?

  56. TJ! That’s amazing that you saw all but three of the 59 mustangs all in one day! Most of the time, I don’t even get to see all of my horses in one day… so that’s cool that you got to see all of yours! =D I’m telling you, it’s going to be sad when the interview is over… But I promise that I’ll keep in touch with you via your blog! =) Thanks again for answering all of my questions, and I sure do hope that one day, you can be featured on this blog again. Thanks once again, and I hope to see/talk to you soon, and I have hopes that one day I shall meet you. See you around, and I’ve gotta say…. THANK YOU! We’re gonna miss you, TJ!
    Your Thankful Pal,
    ~V.C.~

  57. Huskyhorsegirl – I’m sure those sites will lead you to others!

    Rochlia – As they say, it’s not good-bye! You can always contact me via the Spring Creek Wild blog – as you already do! Our wild horses are very much wild. :) Some are more tolerant than others, but no, there is no petting going on! I think the ones who allow me close enough to observe them allow it because they’ve learned I respect their boundaries and eventually leave – without ever threatening them. And that is the way to visit mustangs – with respect! :)

    VC – How many horses do you have? It’s always a lucky day when I see so many of the horses! And please do stay in touch! I plan to keep checking in here to see what you girls are up to in the world of horses. :) I will be honored to meet you one day and give you a tour of the basin!