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Into the Valley of the Horses

4-5-12, Rio Grande River Valley - The Valley of the Horses is more magical than the name implies. In the southeastern portion of the San Luis Valley, a beautiful wilderness exists, where the Fairy Hills and the Brownie Hills choke the Rio Grande River into a narrow gorge. Living amongst this high desert landscape are several hundred wild horses, decedents of old Spanish horses that once roamed the west.

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At sundown, a herd of ten horses came down from the hills to chew the sweet spring grass growing along the river.  B.O.B., being a very social horse, took a lot of interest in his wild cousins.

Most of our ten mile trek today was through hills of empty, BLM range land.  The lofty crests of the Sangre De Cristo Range poke their snowy peaks over the top of the hills.

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Doc and Bill really like moving through God’s Country. The wilder the countryside gets, the more zip they have in their step.

The last mile of our journey was over a fairly rough road (path) but the boys knuckled down and pulled us to our destination on the river.

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Doc and Bill were happy to be at the end of our four day trek across the valley.

Irrigation season started on April 1st, so the river was down about 3 feet.  This opened up large benches near the water and the lower river allows an easier crossing on horseback.

I put together two reels of electric fencing to give the lads a full half acre playpen.  They didn’t waste anytime taking full advantage of it.  Ever an opportunist, B.O.B. took a nice cool bath in the pool of water I fenced in for their drinking water.

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Dave, scouting out a good fishing hole, while the team enjoys their downtime.

In the afternoon, I climbed a small hill and searched the surrounding hills for wild horses. I saw two herds; but, they were between 1 1/2 and 2 miles away.

Then, near sunset, they came down from the hills!

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The lead mare from a herd of 10 horses was the first to drink from the river. Traditionally, the wild horses are all blacks and sorrels, but over the last few years, they have crossed with some domestic horses that have been introduced to the area, so now you also see a few splashes of white or an occasional odd color.

Two years ago, I visited this area with a friend on horseback. We saw plenty of wild horses, but always at a distance. Imagine my surprise when they approached to within a 150 to 200 yards from our camp!

I was concerned that I couldn’t find a shallow ford to cross the river, but just as the sun went down, this herd of ten wild horses showed us the knee deep ford, located just upriver.

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B.O.B. admires the wild bunch, but would prefer to be a wagon horse. He only has to work a little and the feed is a whole lot better!

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As Dave, the Lads and I were gathered near the campfire, watching a full moon rise over the Brownie Hills, we could see four different herds of horses in the basin across the river.  As a herd walked down to the river and later crossed, we absolutely knew that things could not get better.

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I think Bill is thinking - ‘Now, this is living!’

And this is only day one of four in this unbelievable place!