The feral horse studies of 2011 have been difficult and frustrating with the weather and ground conditions in the Park this spring. Though we were supposed to began the study in March in order to find all the foals, we were held back by storm after storm. It would be safe to say that there has been a snow storm at least once a week since our target date of March 15. With only one full time person, our new tracker and office manger, Maggie, it has been a daunting challenge to even find all the bands. If not for the help of the Biologists, Mike and Wade, we would still be looking for some of the more remote bands, since it has been so wet that even Al and his horses were prevented from getting out.
With the hard work of the biologists, Maggie, Al, Jennifer, Henry and me all the bands have been accounted for and, to date, 12 foals have been found. Most of the bands were as they had been when we finished the 2010 observations in November, but there have been some changes, as there always are. Embers, the oldest stallion in the park, has lost his two mares, Bella and Mist, to the younger stallion, Sidekick. Bella has already dropped a pretty bay filly, Larkspur, that should roan like her sire, and Mist was about to pop the last time I saw her. Sidekick's mare, Embers' Girl has a new colt named Hawthorn.
Some of the red roan mares appeared to be trying to play some tricks on our trackers early this spring. There was a red roan mare with Mystery that they assumed was Shale, who had a yearling filly with a star with her, but the red roan mare from Gray Ghost's band, Ginger, was missing her yearling filly with a star and Nordie, the red roan mare from Little Sorrel's band, was nowhere to be found. They also had seen a few horses that didn't seem to fit the description of any of the bands. Maggie had never been able to get close enough to them to identify who they were, but they had a new dark foal with them.
When I was finally able to get out, we were able to figure out the puzzle. The unknown band turned out to be Smokey and Shale from Mystery's band along with Shale's yearling filly, Teepee. Smokey had a new foal that we called Crocus. Then who were the red roan mare and yearling filly with the star now in Mystery's band? Finding them again that day, we were able to determine that they were Ginger and her filly, Whiskey, from Gray Ghost's band. There was only one more piece of the puzzle to figure out; the red roan mare with Gray Ghost had to be the missing Nordie!
With all of that mix up straightened out, we were able to determine that we had only lost one horse over the long, cold winter. The broken, Randy, who had been badly injured in stallion fights, had finally succumbed to the draining task of digging for grass through the deep snow. It was a blessing for him to finally die.
It wasn't long before the horses started playing their tricks again, but this time Maggie was on to them. Nordie somehow found her way back to Little Sorrel and was replaced in Gray Ghost's band by the dark red roan mare, Tanker. It must have been a pretty intense fight between Little Sorrel and Gray Ghost, because Tanker was Little Sorrel's darling who stuck to him like glue. One day I was watching Gray Ghost's band and thinking how boring they were making my job; the next day he had taken the two mares Mystery had lost. I had seen Mystery running from the area, but the emaciated Gray Ghost had been strong enough to win the mares. By then, Shale also had a new foal, a bay filly we called Lupine, but Smokey's foal turned out to be a colt, not a filly, so we had to change his name to Prairie Smoke.
We gave the name Crocus to a beautiful flaxen chestnut foal out of Flame until I saw the foal up close and found out that Crocus was also a colt! We named him Flax! Two other foals in the Double band are Frosty's Fool, a cute black filly born on April 1st, and Indian Paintbrush, a bay filly out of Pretty Girl.
The two latest foals hadn't been named yet but our very first foal was out of Raven, the pretty little Esprit. Another one of Mystery's mares, Cheyenne, had an extremely active little bay filly, Sumac. Copper continued passing his color on in his new filly, Buttercup, out of River.
I will soon add photos at the bottom of this blog, but 10 of the foals are up on the North Dakota Badlands Horse Registry page on Facebook.