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:

2008
Wild Horses of Theodore Roosevelt National Park
2009
Tom Tescher's Story
The Boicourts
The Roundup

The Sale

For some of the special horses' stories:
2008
Fire's Story
Whisper's Story
2009
Our Boys Come Home
Dancing with a Wild Horse
Whit's Story
2010

The Dance Continues
Training Update

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

Post of Interest:
2009
Four Stallion Fight
Hazards, Did I Mention Hazards?

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.

http://www.blurb.com/b/5681785-2015-guide-to-the-wild-horses-of-theodore-roosevel

Saturday, August 16, 2014

BASHFUL, THE STEPS OF HIS LIFE by Marylu Weber

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
SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE TO SEE MORE PHOTOS OF BASHFUL AS A FOAL AND HIS FIRST STEP BACK INTO THE PARK WITH DAN.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

SAGE AND PEACE PIPE by Marylu Weber

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

Thursday, August 7, 2014

TOMAHAWK AND HAWTHORNE



Felice, Deb, Iain, Whit, Cooper, Henry, Bob, Iain's two children, and Whit and Felice's dog
Deb and Felice
Whit and Iain talking business
Deb and Hawthorne
Bob and Hawthorne
Bryce and Hawthorne
Tomahawk
By Marylu Weber
Spring had finally come to the sprawling Sieben Live Stock Co. ranch.  Bright green blades of rich grass were pushing through the soil of the mountain meadows, seeking the warmth of the sun.  It would soon be time to move cattle to summer pastures higher in the mountains and prepare for the arrival of new calves.  The registered ewes, the last remnant of the vast herds of sheep that used to roam the ranch, would also soon be lambing.  Saddle horses would be needed for all the spring and summer chores, so they were brought in from winter pastures, hooves trimmed, and shoes nailed on.
Warmer weather and good footing would make it easier to work with the four young blue geldings that still needed to be gentled and trained under saddle.  Time was limited but the cowboys would do the best they could.  Brent, who was to work with Peace Pipe, had moved on the find a home more accessible to schooling for his children, so Cooper would take on Peace Pipe and Bryce, with Iain’s help, would work with both Tomahawk, the challenging one, and Hawthorne, the friendly one. 
Deb, Bob, Henry, and I had planned for several months to visit the ranch, meet the cowboys, and see the horses again.  That sunny July morning as we drove the long gravel road to the ranch, we could hardly contain our excitement.  The scenery was beautiful as lush green pastures laced with small tree lined creeks gave way to rolling hills, evergreen strewn mountains, and rocky crags. 
Upon arrival we immediately met a young man dressed for ranch work in jeans, chambray shirt, and white cowboy hat, who came to us with his hand outstretched for firm handshakes all around.  This was Whit Hibbard’s nephew, Cooper Hibbard, the one I had talked to on the phone and bought the horses for.  He was the man who would one day take over the vast Sieben Live Stock Company.  We could tell right away why he would be great at the work as he was thoughtful and intelligent, polite, yet very confident.  He immediately began to tell us about the plans they had to sell grass fed beef directly to companies that care about the quality of the beef they use.  We could have spent the morning listening to him relate the progressive work they do on the ranch, but there were others to meet.  Whit, whom we had known for years, was there with his new wife, Felice.  We loved her immediately with her genuine friendliness and knowledge of horses.  Some people are easy to figure out, and this beautiful woman was exactly who she appeared to be.  We were so happy for Whit; Felice was a perfect match for him.
Another young man, dressed in similar manner as Cooper, came with two of his adorable children.  Again there was the welcoming handshake of an authentic man, used to working with his hands.   But these men are not what one might expect of a cowboy; these men, like Whit, are well educated, thoughtful men who chose the lifestyle of a cowboy, not because it is all they have ever known, but because there is no better life to be found than working with horses and cattle where one can breathe clean air and trust another man by his word and his handshake.    This young family man was Iain, one of the cowboys we had corresponded with before coming to the ranch.  He too was quiet and polite, but sure of himself and his ability.  They were all anxious to show us the ranch that was their home and the horses that would one day be their partners. 
The first horses we saw were in a large corral right there at the headquarters.  There were around 20 horses of various ages, mostly bay and sorrel Quarter horses, but two horses stood out, mainly for their color; they were the gray, Tomahawk and the blue, Hawthorne.  We spread out in the pen to scratch horses, and talk to Cooper, Whit, Felice, and Iain about the horses and the ranch.  Deb and Bob both loved on Hawthorne while I snapped pictures.  Hawthorne was very approachable as long as one was careful to take time to let him know there was nothing to fear.  He seemed to genuinely want the attention of the humans.  Tomahawk was much more timid.  He was OK with having us near, but not too near.  His comfort zone was about 20 ft. away from any human. 
Later in the day, when we were able to meet Bryce, also an engaging, kind, intelligent young man, he told us what he had been doing with the two young horses.  The men used the round pens to get the horses used to facing up to a human.  As expected Hawthorne was easy to get faced up and easier to touch.  They use a whip with a bag on the end of it as an extension of their arm, to acclimate the horse to strange touches and noises, and to encourage the horse to move.  The first thing to teach the horse is that the human can make him move his feet, establishing leadership.  Since a horse is a herd animal and a prey animal, he looks for a leader who will keep him safe.  Once he knows that the human is his leader, he begins to depend on that leader for safety and direction.  Both horses had been worked in the round pen, roped around the neck and each foot to get them used to the touch of the rope and to teach them to give to pressure so that they can one day be led and tied.  Both horses were OK with the rope and the flag, but Tomahawk would take much longer to allow himself to be touched by the “paws” of the predator, man.  Hawthorne had been saddled and had no problems with it so his education could progress much like that of a domestic horse, but Bryce so longed for the day that he could saddle up the strong handsome Tomahawk and ride him out to work cattle.  Well, he would have to bide his time and patiently let Tomahawk set the pace of his own education.  One day we will visit again and see the progress made with the once wild horses of the Sieben ranch.




Thursday, July 31, 2014

    From L to R are Bonnie and Sugar, Dan and Bashful, Whit and Teddy, Kristin and Baldy, Henry and Fire, Marylu and Hawk, Mya and Hail, and Bob and Crow.  These horses were all born in the park.


The 2nd Annual Reunion Ride will be based out of Sully Creek State Park just south of Medora, ND, September 5-7.   Come join us for trail rides in the park and other activities.  You don't need to be riding a North Dakota Badlands Horse, you don't even need a horse.  Just come and meet others who love the horses from Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  Go to the Facebook page: North Dakota Badlands Horse for more information.  Be sure to sign up for the event on that page.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

THE GREAT ESCAPE

Tracking in the snow
The Sieben Four Adventure

By Marylu Weber

At one mile above sea-level, winter comes early to the Sieben Live Stock Company ranch nestled in the foothills of the Big Belt Mountains of Montana.  The four wild young stallions that had been purchased from Theodore Roosevelt National Park had been gelded and kept together in a large corral separated from the ranch headquarters so they could adjust to ranch life gradually.  They had plenty to eat and drink, but something in their hearts must have been drawing them back to the wild.  One day in early winter while having lunch at Cooper Hibbard’s house, Iain Davis saw that Sage, Hawthorne, and Peace Pipe were on the wrong side of the fence around their corral.  Tomahawk was still inside but running back and forth trying to figure out how the others had gained freedom.  Iain watched as Tomahawk too jumped the narrow space between the wooden gate and the gatepost and all four galloped up the hill behind the corrals.  When a couple of them dropped their heads to graze Iain hoped they would stay on the sunny slope about ¾ of a mile from the corral complex. With any luck he could somehow lure them back into the corrals, but the young horses had other ideas and within the hour disappeared over a high ridge into what was wild, rugged breaks filled with all sorts of wildlife, including bears and mountain lions.

Iain took two bales of good hay up the mountain to entice the horses back or maybe even catch them there.  Hawthorne, always the tamer of the four, came with the others behind him.  Iain was able to get within 100 yards of them, but it was too much pressure for the wilder horses and they all ran farther into the rough country.  As more snow came Iain was able to track the horses but never get close to them.  Several times he saw the tracks of mountain lions following the horses.  Fascinated with the mountain lion tracks and how the dust from the barren areas the cat had walked on would drop off onto the snow tracks, Iain took his phone out and took a few pictures of the large tracks.  As he crouched there in the snow, intrigued with the size of the tracks and the dust encircling each indentation from the cat’s pads, he noticed that the wind was quickly blowing the dust away.  The cat must have been in that very spot only minutes earlier.  Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to be crouching in the snow so soon after the cat had passed that way; maybe he was being watched at that very moment.  After all a pocket knife wasn't much of a weapon against a mountain lion.  With the hair standing up on the back of his neck and being much more aware of possible hiding spots for the big cats, Iain hiked back out to the safety of the ranch, deciding the wild horses would have to fend for themselves or come back to the safety of the corrals on their own.


It was almost three months since the horses had run away to freedom.  Efforts to bring them back were scrapped because of the weather and the difficulty in traversing the back country in winter.  Would the ranchers ever see those four ungrateful equines again?  They could travel for 100s of miles if they wanted to.  Would they starve or become dinner for the mountain lions?  It was anyone’s guess, but toward spring some hunters reported seeing horses not too far from the corral complex so this time Iain baited his corral with hay, a mare in heat, and later another gelding.  The adventurous boys seemed to long for the company of the mare and her companion and gradually came back to the corral.  Seeing that they were hanging around by the corrals Iain was able to sneak in, open the corral gate, run down the fence line, and hide so that he could close the gate again if he was lucky enough to have them go in.  One by one the wary young horses entered the corral and went to eating the delicious hay.  The adventure was over and, though a little thin, they had all survived winter blizzards, pawing through drifts for forage, eating snow for water, and the teeth of the big cats.  It was no different than life in the Badlands of North Dakota to the four wild horses, but the cowboys on the ranch were not going to take any more chances, the four were separated and put with four groups of domestic saddle horses so that they were not drawn to the wild country any more. 
 That was the end of their adventure, but not the end of their story.
showing the size of this track

showing the dust in the track

The horses disappeared over the hills to the right.