Welcome to the blog by Marylu Weber

This blog contains dozens of posts and photos of the wild, feral horses from the park and some of the people involved with them. These horses are owned by the park and not managed by the BLM. To see most of the photos, scroll to the bottom of this page. To find earlier posts of interest go to Blog Archive on the right and follow this guide:

For some of the history of the horses and people involved:

Wild Horses of Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Tom Tescher's Story
The Boicourts
The Roundup

The Sale

For some of the special horses' stories:
Fire's Story
Whisper's Story
Our Boys Come Home
Dancing with a Wild Horse
Whit's Story

The Dance Continues
Training Update

More Dancing with Hawk
More Training for Hawk
Bashful, the Steps of His Life

Post of Interest:
Four Stallion Fight
Hazards, Did I Mention Hazards?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The North Dakota Badlands Horse Registry is proud and honored to announce the signing of an agreement between Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the North Dakota Badlands Horse Registry. The entire Board of Directors wish to extend our gratitude to the entire TRNP park staff and in particular Wendy Ross-Acting Superintendent, Bill Whitworth-Resource Manager and Blake McCann-Wildlife Biologist. Please read the National Park Service Release below for more information.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park Enters Partnership with North Dakota Badlands Horse Registry

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Date: March 10, 2015
Contact: Eileen Andes, 701-623-4466
Contact: Bill Whitworth, 701-623-4466
MEDORA, ND: Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the North Dakota Badlands Horse Registry (NDBH) have signed a partnership agreement to facilitate transfer of excess feral horses from park lands in the South Unit to private ownership. The park maintains horses as an "historic demonstration herd" for visitor enjoyment, but these horses must be actively managed to avoid overgrazing and resource damage.

In recent years, the park has conducted helicopter based, large-scale roundups every four to five years. Surplus animals were then sold off-site through traditional sale barns. Roundups were expensive and labor intensive. The agreement provides a less expensive and safer management alternative using low-stress handling techniques and transferring them directly into private ownership.

NDBH is a non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization that promotes, advocates for, and registers horses removed from the park. Under the agreement, NDBH will develop a program to identify willing recipients who can provide long-term homes for the horses. Through direct sale, sealed bid, or auction, NDBH will assist park management in transferring horses to private owners. Proceeds will be used solely for covering costs incurred by NDBH and the park for the placement of animals. The agreement can be renewed after five years and does not preclude the concurrent development of other partnerships.

The park has long recognized the benefit of cooperators in its mission to conserve natural and cultural resources. Successful partnership agreements have been developed for managing elk, bighorn sheep, bison, wildland fire, historic preservation, water quality, invasive weeds, and native plant seed production.

"This partnership will provide an innovative solution to the long-standing safety and expense problem posed by horse roundup operations," said Acting Superintendent Wendy Ross. "We look forward to improving management techniques, conducting research, and enhancing public relations in cooperation with the North Dakota Badlands Horse Registry."

Friday, February 6, 2015

                  "Winds of Change"

I have known Amy Larson for many years.  She is a very gifted riding instructor, horse trainer, and artist.  In August of 2014 Amy and I met in Medora to hike in the park.  Amy had fallen in love with the wild horses there, wanted to experience being with them in their native setting, and wanted to photograph them in order to draw and paint them.

The original oil painting is a result of that visit.  Amy graciously donated this 16 x 24 print of the band stallion, Silver.  Others have donated the cost to have it professionally framed with triple matting, a quality wood frame that will go with modern or traditional furnishings, and museum glass.  This is a $435.00 value with all proceeds going to North Dakota Badlands Horse.  For a donation of $5:00 you can have 1 chance to win this beautiful piece of art.  $25 gives you 6 and $40 gives you 10 chances.

Ways of managing and handling wild horses all over this great country are gradually changing and evolving to be more humane and stress free.  North Dakota Badlands Horse wants to get in on the ground floor and make a difference in the lives of the wild horses at Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  Please help us by making a generous donation to NDBH.  You can use PayPal at the address below or send a check to :
12880 Bogus Jim Road
Rapid City, SD 57702


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I have finally finished a compilation of short stories, most of which are from this blog, but there are some new ones too.  This project was done mostly for my family at the insistence of Sandi, my sister.   A writer I am not, but she wanted me to record my stories of the adventures I have had while tracking the wild horses in TRNP over the past several years.  Realizing I have had the privilege of doing what many people only dream of doing, spending time with wild horses running free in a wild, sometimes hazardous land, I am sharing this book with friends and others who may find it entertaining.  I've had any family member I could coerce into helping me read through and proof it.  Going over it a hundred times myself has only resulted in sore, tired eyes.  Therefore, I hope there are no glaring mistakes in the book, but if there are, I don't want to know about them.  The book is available for $29.95 in soft cover at Blurb at the following site.  Eighty % of the profits for this book will go to North Dakota Badlands Horse, a 501 (c) (3) non profit established to promote and preserve the wild horses of TRNP.   There is also a hard cover version available now.  Thank you!


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The 2015 Guide to the Wild Horses of Theodore Roosevelt National Park is now available  for purchase on this site.  It contains photos and brief descriptions of all the wild horses currently living in TRNP.  It also has several pages intended to help you find a particular horse or know where to look for them.  North Dakota Badlands Horse will be using sales of this guide as a fund raiser so that we can do more to promote these great horses.  The Guide sells for $20/ea. + shipping.  Thank you for your support of the horses and this project.


Saturday, August 16, 2014


Spring of 2007, a dark colt opened his eyes for the first time, blinking at the sunshine streaming down on this land of buttes, juniper lined valleys, rock encrusted ridges, and grassy meadows. Theodore Roosevelt National Park had no meaning to him; this was just his world, his home, the place he would live out his life like all the other wild horses in his little band. Little did the blue colt know that his life would not be so simple, but for now he was intent on the only goal he must accomplish, standing up to nurse. His very first steps in life were pivotal in his survival. Stand and wobble on uncooperative legs to the sweet life-giving milk the pretty gray mare standing over him was patiently offering, or fall back to the ground, too weak to rise, succumb to the cold wind, and die. The dark colt took his first steps, reached his goal, drank in life, and grew in strength.

The first two weeks of a foal's life are tenuous with predators wanting to feed on their tender flesh and other stallions with flailing feet and biting teeth attempting to steal their dams during the foal heats. The land that provides shelter and nourishment to the band can be dangerous to foals running precariously on spindly legs through deep spring snow, hidden sink holes, and rocky gullies. Around 30% of newborn foals die in the first two weeks of life, but the blue colt was one of the lucky ones. With each day he grew stronger, soon adding bright green grass to his diet of milk.

Some time during his gestation, his dam, Winter, another cute red roan, maiden mare, Little Brother's Girl, and another gray mare, Rain, with her two fillies, were stolen from his sire, Thunder Cloud. Thunder Cloud had most likely been injured in the fight with Blaze, as he was now running with another bachelor, Copper, while he gained strength to fight again. The mares stayed several months with the feisty bay roan stud, Blaze, but by spring, his blue roan sire had gained enough strength to win them back. Unfortunately for the blue colt, at one year old, he was now also considered a threat and Thunder Cloud chased him away from the band before the blue colt could learn the ways of a wild stallion from his majestic sire.

The colt didn't have much choice but to join another young stallion who had been fiercely driven from his natal band. Though he was curious when he saw us, the two leggeds he would come upon on a regular basis, he was young and shy, and didn't want to get too close to us. He would hide behind the older, braver, bald faced colt. The bald faced black colt was a son of High Star out of the beautiful gray mare, Bella. His family had been taken by Embers, so he too needed company. We called the black, Baldy and the blue, Bashful, because of his shy behavior. It was already apparent that both would gray like their dams, though both had colored sires. They spent that summer and the next munching on the rich green grass and playing with other young stallions in the "bachelor" bands. The younger bachelors were often referred to as the "young guns" because they cruised the Park play fighting and looking for mischief. It was an idyllic life for a young horse; the valleys were filled with lush grass, water was abundant, and the young Bashful had not matured enough to worry about acquiring a band of his own. However, on a rainy day in October, life took another change for Bashful, forcing him to make another choice and another step into an unknown world

The helicopters hung low in the sky that day because of the overcast sky. As they came closer, the young stallions became frightened and started to run away from them. They could already see the forms of other horses moving away in the distance, up, out of the flats and onto Boicourt Ridge, then down again into Talkington valley. Though the helicopters were a constant reminder, looming behind with their rhythmic roaring, thumping like the heart in Bashful's chest, they didn't get too close, so the horses settled into a comfortable trot that was easy for the suckling foals who had joined them along with their dams. Most of the mares moved obediently up the trail toward the east ridge, not wanting to challenge the throbbing beasts above them. One pretty, light red roan mare, Pale Lady, was not to be intimidated; finding just the right gully to make her move, she suddenly broke from the herd and led her golden dun colt, Marquis, to safety. The pilots saw her go and one attempted to go after her, but not wanting to lose the others, they let her return to freedom. Along with several other wild horses, Bashful ran into the catch pen and into another chapter of his life.

The trip though the handling facility can be very frightening, but the Park people stayed quiet and as gentle as they could be to move the horses, one at a time, through the chutes. Bashful was so distracted by all the sights and sounds above the chute as he was weighed and measured that he barely felt the needle as Doc expertly drew blood for a Coggins test. All Bashful wanted was to get out of this tight spot; he hated being confined by the high solid walls and tried to focus on the blue sky ahead of him. It must have seemed like an eternity to him, but he was soon released to run down the ally to a large pen where his buddy, Baldy, was already munching on grass. They spent three days in the large wooden pen. The green grass soon turned to brown as their sharp hooves churned it into mud. They were given fresh hay, which was difficult to learn how to eat, but filled their nervous stomachs. Water was provided from a tank that they soon learned would not hurt them. They must have wondered what would happen next.

The horses destined for sale did not have long to wait; soon large trucks came and they were herded onto the noisy, smelly stock trailers. What was more frightening was the fact that they moved under the horses' feet. The rocking and bumping must have seemed to never end, but before long they were unloaded at the sales barn in Dickinson. Nothing could have prepared these wild horses for the noise and stress of sales day with hundreds of people flocking through the alleys to gaze at the horses and plan their purchases. Bashful was particularly nervous, as he hated confinement; his only comfort were his buddies in the pen with him. On October 23, 2009 Bashful made another step that would be pivotal to his survival.

Stepping into the sales ring itself, he moved around in a daze with all the noise and lights confusing him. He could see what seemed to be hundreds of the two legged creatures surrounding him and two in particular, flailing flags at him. He couldn't get his bearings; where were his buddies; where was the light leading him out of this chaos? Then he saw it, the light of day high above him. Bashful took a huge leap in order to reach the light, a jump like he had never attempted before, to take him away from this cacophony of sounds and pressure, away to freedom. He gathered his body, tucked his front legs under his chest, rocked back on his haunches, and pushed with all the power and adrenalin within him. Up he soared toward the light, but he didn't make it to freedom; the cruel cable fence caught his hind leg and he came crashing into the crowd of people. The people screamed with fright and Bashful screamed with pain as the cable slashed into his leg. He pawed and fought furiously to get free, but it was not to be. A man under him felt his fury; a vidiographer, Brad, put himself in jeopardy and reached in to pull the man to safety; another man, Dan, threw his jacket over Bashful's head to try to calm him, but Bashful was in too much pain and terror to be calmed. He fought the jacket and anything else in reach of his teeth until his blood left crimson stains where once enthusiastic buyers had been.

What would happen to Bashful now? How would they remove him from the cable fence? Not able to watch any more, I left my safe vantage point in the auctioneer's box. Sure that they would have to euthanize him to get him off the fence, I couldn't bear to see it. As people milled around outside the barn I wondered what Bashful's fate would be inside. As the ambulance rushed away with the injured man, I learned that Bashful was removed alive from the fence and was recovering from sedation far back in the lot, away from the crowd, away from the noise, away from the auctioneer's cry as he finished the sale in the back barn. I could hardly be happy for Bashful, since he had decided his fate when he took that leap. Injured and deemed a rogue, no one would want to take him home now.

At that instant, Michael Sparling, who I had known since he was a little kid, son of our good friends, a Parelli Professional trainer, came to me and said, "I want that horse!" I was a little taken aback and just said I didn't know if they would sell him right away but to go for it. When the decision was made to sell him, Michael stepped in and bought Bashful for $35. Michael had now made a step that would forever save Bashful from certain death. Michael had seen in him a challenge to turn a horse others had rejected into one others would one day admire. Since Michael was taking on a new job in Washington state and Bashful was too injured to travel, it was decided to leave him with Michael's dad, Dan, in Bismarck. Michael spent a little time, even one night, with Bashful before his job took him to Seattle. It must have been sad to leave the nervous, blue colt behind.

It happened that Dan was also a Parelli Natural Horsemanship trainer and, having wanted to buy one of the wild ones himself, he couldn't resist starting to see what he could do with Bashful.  Since Bashful was injured and Dan had injured his foot, his first tactic was to just sit outside the pen. Little by little and with generous use of treats, Dan was able to win Bashful over. He broke goals down into simple steps Bashful could understand and rewarded him for the right reactions.
With Dan's patience he gained Bashful's trust to the point of giving every part of his body up to be petted and scratched. Like other TRNP horses removed that fall, Bashful had winter ticks and loved to be scratched where they had been feeding on him. This became a way to keep Bashful coming back for attention. The scratching led to playing confidence building games, which led to under saddle training.

Over the summer Bashful became more and more reliable as a saddle horse. October 22, 2010 Dan rode Bashful back into the park. Bashful stepped with confidence onto the sun flooded ground where he was born, into the juniper lined valleys, across the rock strewn ridges, up the high buttes, and down the grassy meadows. He is in Dan's "herd of two" now and his future is bright.
Dan on Bashful at the 2013 Reunion Ride

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


After seeing the horses housed at the Sieben Live Stock headquarters, we climbed into the vehicles for the short drive to the corrals where the four once wild horses had been when they escaped for the winter.  Sage, the gray overo, and his older gray brother, Peace Pipe, were the only animals there at this time.  Iain sent the two into the high round pen from their corral.  Whit mentioned that when it was been built he thought the round pen was higher than necessary, but with the 3 and 4 year old wild horses, it didn't seem too high; the horses never looked to jump its rail sides.  Cutting Peace Pipe back into the corral, Iain started to work with young Sage.
With a braided rope called a reata in one hand, Iain sent Sage around the pen at a lofty trot. There was no need to wear him down; Iain was just allowing Sage to move freely and decide for himself when he wanted to stop.  When Sage stopped, Iain would immediately stop, releasing the pressure rewarding him so that Sage soon learned that stopping and standing still was what Iain expected.   That lesson learned, Iain went on to roping Sage by the neck and then by a front foot.  Sage was still a long way from leading readily, but he was getting the idea that he should yield to the pressure of the rope.  Now when he yielded to the pressure, Sage would get a gentle stroking on his face, neck, and shoulders.   After haltering him, Iain asked Sage to yield his hind and then his front quarters, teaching him to turn away from the pressure of the scary bag on the end of the stick which was the beginning of what would later be control of the front and hind quarters in order to move obediently to the cowboy’s cues.  Iain ended the session with Sage’s acceptance of the saddle pad.  It is always better to stop when positive acceptance has been achieved.  The saddle would come another day.  Sage had already been saddled so he was well on his way to the day he would be ridden.  The most important lesson of the day was that Sage could trust Iain not to hurt him.  As that trust is gained the horse begins to yield his whole body and spirit to the soft hands of the cowboy.
Sage wants to engage with Iain
Sage is rewarded with a soft rub on the nose.
By his actions, it is very apparent that Sage in interested in this cowboy.
The bond of friendship is being built both ways; horse and man benefit from this understanding.

Iain uses the rope to get Sage used to being touched with foreign objects.
The saddle pad is not frightening to Sage.
Sage learns to move at the direction of his handler.
Iain with his two young children

Cooper Hibbard

All the while Iain was working with Sage, Cooper had been watching and gleaning every tidbit of information from what he had just witnessed.  Cooper is, himself, an accomplished horseman though shy about working in front of an audience.  Letting Sage out of the pen and bringing Peace Pipe in, Cooper started to build a relationship with the frightened horse.  Peace Pipe was much more nervous than Sage had been so his trot around the pen was more animated, giving everyone watching a thrill at the power and suspension of his extended trot.  As nervous as he was, Peace Pipe soon learned, by pressure and release that he should move, stop, turn, and face up by the cues Cooper gave him though body language.  After working with Peace Pipe a few minutes at liberty, Cooper too roped Peace Pipe to teach him that it would not hurt him and that it was a way for Cooper to communicate with him.  Once the rope was around Peace Pipe’s neck, he was surprisingly soft to it, letting himself be encouraged around the pen with a soft feel.  He accepted the soft strokes of Cooper’s hands and the feel of the coiled rope rubbed on his body, but he was still tense, ready to bolt at any moment that the pressure became too much for him.  Cooper wanted him to accept his touch equally on both sides of his body.  What is done on one side of a horse must be done on the other because each eye works individually when watching for danger and needs to be acclimated to the hands and the equipment of the cowboy.  Working quietly, changing from one eye to the other, Cooper soothed the tense gelding with quiet hands and calm movement.  Peace Pipe was not ready to accept the halter or saddle pad yet; that would have to come another day, but Peace Pipe learned too that the young cowboy at the other end of the rope was not going to hurt him. 

This wasn't even Peace Pipe's biggest trot, but he is completely suspended above the ground.

Young Peace Pipe is attentive to Cooper.

Peace Pipe wants to engage with Cooper, but he is more wary than his younger brother, Sage.

Peace Pipe is rewarded with a face rub.

Cooper was working on getting Peace Pipe to allow him on both sides equally.

Peace Pipe was not so sure he wanted Cooper on his left side.

Notice the softness in Cooper and the slack rope.

Each horse needs to be treated as an individual so none of the horses can be expected to react the same to each step of their training, but carefully and patiently the young men will win the trust and devotion of the horses.  In training a horse there must be as much joy and appreciation of the journey as there is in the end result.  Realistically horse training is more about the journey because horse training is never finished; there is always more to learn and each time one is in the presence of a horse, both horse and human are learning.  The goal is to teach positive partnership so that both grow.  Sage and Peace Pipe will grow and learn as they develop trust in the people around them.

Friday, August 8, 2014