Wow, where do I start to report on the study? We have been so busy working there and working with our youngsters here at home that I have not had time to write about it. We are now over half done with the study this season and have had many interesting experiences with the wild ones. Mike started doing observations of the bands in early April. By the second week, Henry and I and our new Horse Project Technicians, Heidi, from Chicago, and Al, a local retired rancher, had joined him and were covering the park on foot and on horseback. Two more, Veterinary students from Colorado State, joined us in mid May. Alanna and Lindsey will work full time with Heidi, while Al, Henry, and I will work part time.
This year, besides the location, weather conditions, names and number in the band, 20 minute activity log, spatial chart, and all occurrence activity log, each mare will be evaluated once per week for body condition, injection site reactions, and expected date of foaling. New foals are reported as soon as they are found so that foal heats and next year's foaling dates can be calculated. Fortunately, we have not seen anything to indicate that foals of the treated mares are any less viable. The harsh winter and normal breeding activities of the horses have contributed to some foal mortality in the first 2 weeks of life, but is to be expected in a wild herd of this size. As of June 4 we had 27 live foals and had lost 6. We fully expect to lose a few more, as in that first 2 weeks, many perils face the delicate young foals; once the foal is stronger and has weathered it's dam's foal heat, it usually does well.
I do not have good photos of all the foals yet, because new moms are not very willing to share their new babies with anyone, but I will list the mares and their foals here and add as many photos as I can at the bottom of the blog.
In Little Sorrel's band we have three new fillies: Trouble's Girl's filly, Feather, Freckles' filly, Shawl, and Little Gray's filly, Dream.
Red Face has Molly with a filly, Dove, Flame with a filly, Bandanna, and Pretty Girl with a filly, Papoose. Singlefoot has Frosty with a colt, Wrangler, Lightning with a filly, Latigo, and Crow with a filly, Eagle. Eagle had not been seen the day after we found her.
Wind Canyon has a filly, Chaps, out of Betty Blue.
Embers has a colt, Arrowhead, out of Bella.
Blaze has a filly, Sky, out of Little Brother's Girl and a colt out of Domino. We fear the colt is a lethal white so may not live long.
Cocoa has a filly, Maiden, out of Busy Blue and a colt, Brave, out of Autumn. Stormy lost a filly that looked just like Cocoa Puff from last year.
Sidekick has a colt, Peace Pipe, out of Snip's Gray, a colt, Guitar, out of Embers' Girl and another colt, Stetson, out of Orphan Blue.
Mystery has a colt, Half Moon, out of Lacey and a filly, Tepee, out of Shale.
Copper has a colt, Wing, out of Angel, and a filly, Cowgirl, out of Bentonite. Both foals should be by the black stallion who died last summer, High Star.
Gary has a cute filly out of Twister, named Dancer.
Brutus has Tomahawk, a colt out of Maddie by Silver.
Thunder Cloud has a filly out of his mare, Winter, named Boots and and colt (we think) out of Pale Lady and High Star, named Reata.
We have seen some interesting and even surprising behavior out of the horses, but the most surprising happened June 2. Henry and I walked out to Sheep Butte because it had rained that morning and spoiled our plans to ride. We came upon Cocoa, Blaze, Red Face, Singlefoot and his "body guard" Satellite, Brutus, and Copper all on the flats below us. As we did our observations on Cocoa and his band, they climbed the steep side of Sheep Butte. We worked the double band of Red Face and Singlefoot next, keeping a close eye on Crow, who had just foaled and was being guarded by Satellite. He was trying to herd her closer to the double band while protecting her from Blaze. She would have none of it and just wanted to be left alone. Satellite's attempts to herd her met with kicks and constant circling of the new foal. As the double band moved farther to the north, he finally got her to move closer to them, but then she was too close and he prevented her from joining them.
While this was going on, Blaze also moved farther north, so we walked out along the top of the butte, around Cocoa's band now standing on top, and settled in on a ledge overlooking the whole of Lindbo Flats. While working Blaze, Brutus, and Copper's bands, Satellite continued to try to get Crow to follow the double band. Twice Blaze went out to challenge him, both stallions sniffing, posturing, squealing, stomping and spinning away with a kick. Crow was at last left at peace along the fence with Satellite, a little frustrated, still standing guard. Then, with Blaze and Brutus with easy access to Crow, Satellite took off the follow the double band, his need for his familiar place in their band overcoming his desire to keep a mare. Surprisingly, both Brutus and Blaze moved off and left poor, tired, Crow alone.
As we were busily working all the bands before us and starting the last band, Copper, I picked up the phone to call Al and let him know what bands we had finished. Having a hard time getting good signal on my cell phone, I turned my head to the right and caught a glimpse of a horse close behind me-very close. I dropped the phone as I turned to see Cocoa and all his band standing in a semi-circle about 20 feet from us. We had been so busy we didn't see or hear them coming, but now it seemed that had those pesky humans where they wanted them. It almost seemed that they wanted to push us off the ledge, but of coarse they didn't. They were just curious as to what we were doing. While we finished our observation of Copper they settled in to rest, the babies stretching out to soak up the warm sun.
I suggested we do another observation on them since Stormy should have been on the first day of her foal heat. Henry didn't even get his cover sheet completed before Cocoa started to show interest in Stormy. We watched in amazement as Cocoa courted Stormy with soft nickers and touches. While standing 12 feet from us he completed the breeding. We were a little concerned that they would run right into us, but they politely finished and went on to feeding. We had been wondering whether we should slide off the ledge, but we didn't want to miss any of the action, so I continued to snap pictures through the whole event. The only problem was that they were so close that I couldn't get much in my lens, but I have the photos to prove another amazing tale of the wild horse of TRNP.