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?

Sunday, January 24, 2010


It has been three months since we brought home the colts, Hail and Hawk. We have learned a little about wild horses and a lot about patience in our journey to communicate with these once wild animals. It has become apparent in visiting with many other owners of the wild horses, that each horse has his own individual personality which immensely affects the rate at which he accepts human touch and develops a trust in his human captors. It is our responsibility to learn the horse's language in order to win his trust. Time seems to be extremely important in the quest for communication as well as figuring out what motivates the horse to seek human attention. The horses are not on the same time table as we are and have not read the training books. It seems some young horses have been immediately approachable and others are still very wary. Some owners have reported an almost overnight change in the horse's acceptance of human presence and touch while many of the horses are still not convinced that there is any benefit from letting their humans near.

Our little Hail, always a more accepting individual, has become quite tolerant of touching all over his body when he is in the "play pen," the round pen. He knows that pen is where he gets rubbed and scratched. Before the storm hit this weekend, he was letting me rub him with ropes, pick up his feet, and halter him. He should be fairly easy to progress to leading once our weather improves.

Hawk continues to be my fascinating dance partner. He has now progressed to allowing me to approach him and rub his left cheek as soon as he enters the round pen. Since he had been a little sore on his right front from playing too hard with his little buddies, I am trying not to move him around the pen too much. I found that approaching him with the rhythmic forward and back swing of my hand rewarded me and him in a scratching session. When I stop scratching he still nods his head as if to say, "I like it; keep it up!" It has been important to change hands when petting him, but this was too much for him to tolerate at first. He would jump away when I reached for him with the other hand, so I made it part of our dance to pet him with one hand and then the other. If he jumped away, I would shoo him away and then invite him back. Since he craves the attention, he is usually quick to return, but if he is hesitant to approach me again, I give his hind feet the predator look and he moves them. Moving the hind feet always gets the front feet moving, and he soon returns for more scratching.

The left side has been easier to approach for some time, but it is necessary to teach both sides to allow approach and touch. I could scratch the right cheek and neck from the front, but he would move away to keep me from going to his right side. Some times we would circle in the center of the pen for several minutes, him backing away and me following, seeking to touch the right side. When he stopped, I stopped. It was here that I realized that Hawk already knows almost all of the Parelli games, the "friendly game," the "driving game," the "Yo-yo game," the "circling game," and the "squeeze game." What a smart horse! It's too bad his owner didn't catch on to "horse language" sooner.

When one of the wild horse owners discovered Winter Ticks on the horses, we were all concerned that our poor babies should have parasites feeding on them even in the dead of winter. I treated each boy with a spot insecticide, but Hawk still has them. This weekend I have discovered that the ticks are actually my allies. The ticks leave small swellings that itch, which causes Hawk to love to be scratched. When the warm still weather of Saturday's break in the storm allowed me to remove my gloves, I was able to work my fingers through Hawk's coat, starting at his head and working back all the way to his tail on the left side and back to his hip on the right. It was the first I had been that far back on his right side since I road the saddle horse in the pen with him. The rhythmic scratching and rubbing lulled Hawk into a more relaxed state than he has ever been with me. Once in a while he would seem to wake up and realize I was standing on the side he had never let me touch before; he would jump and move away but soon come back for the gentle massage. His head dropped and he did a lot of sighing and chewing, which showed that he was accepting and enjoying the whole procedure.

Hawk is an excellent teacher in the art of patience, him of me and me of him. I am able to dream about the times when he will completely trust me. Though this dance takes place in a snowy round pen in the middle of rural North Dakota, no ballroom gala could be more exciting or rewarding.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Because of all the enthusiasm of people who have supported us in the work with the wild horses of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, the unique heritage of the park horses, and our and others' desire to preserve that heritage when the horses leave the park, we have organized a new registry specifically for the park horses.

We are excited to officially introduce the

North Dakota Badlands Horse Registry

This registry will be available to all horses born in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, their future offspring, and any other horse with at least one parent with 100% Theodore Roosevelt National Park horse blood. As far as I know, there is no other registry available to the horses recently removed from the park, so their history and bloodlines would be lost without an organization designed to maintain their records outside the park. For new readers I will briefly review the history of the wild horses found in the park today.

These horses date back to the 1800's, before North Dakota became a state, when Native Americans, explorers, and immigrant settlers first came to the vast prairies of North America. They brought with them their horses of various breeds. Mixed with the feral horses that migrated north from Mexico, the escapees from those early people and the farmers and ranchers who followed them, ran free in the North Dakota Badlands long after the bison and other indigenous species became extinct. Their beauty, strength, and resilience were recorded by many of the early visitors to the Badlands, including Theodore Roosevelt, himself. Over the years, particularly after horses were replaced by vehicles for transportation and farming, and due to droughts of the 30's and the practice of open range grazing, other domestic horses found their way to the rough breaks of the Little Missouri valley, which became the last refuge for the wild horses of western North Dakota. However, even those deep ravines and rugged canyons could not protect the horses from those who wanted them gone from the rich grazing land; hundreds were run down and destroyed during the mid 1900's. Only those inadvertently enclosed within the boundaries of the national park survived, and those, only after public outcry forced the NPS to recognize them as a "historical demonstration herd."

Since then the horses have been managed so that they would not over populate the park. In the 1980's, inbreeding was showing in some bands in the form of crooked legs and backs, so some of the more prolific sires were removed and a total of seven domestic and BLM colts and one filly were released to add fresh blood to the gene pool. All but one of the introduced stallions had limited success and most of their offspring have since been removed. Less than a half dozen of the park horses still have some Tyger II Arabian and TVP Quarterhorse blood. The only successful domestic breeding stallion, the Brookman, a Shire/Paint stallion, left his mark on the horses running in the north and eastern areas in the form of larger size and bone. Several of the wild horses still carry his blood and, in my opinion, it has not been detrimental to the integrity of the wild horses. In reality, no one really knows the origins of the blood that courses through the veins of these magnificent horses, but they have become a symbol of the old west and of the will of both man and beast to survive in a harsh land.

Therefore, because the wild horses of the North Dakota Badlands hold a unique place in the history and settlement of North Dakota, the North Dakota Badlands Horse Registry was established to register, promote, appreciate, and preserve the wild, feral horses of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Anyone who owns a horse meeting the requirements of registry will be able to register their horse, recieve a five generation pedigree, and be invited to join a Facebook group where they will be able to share progress reports, training tips, photos, and other information regarding these horses. Anyone interested in the horses may join. For more information, please contact me at: