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6-17-09 004_edited-1-2
Mustangs Everywhere


4-8-12, Rio Grande River Valley, CO - The events of the day were the most gratifying I have yet had on this trip.  Without half trying, Doc and I snuck up on 5 herds of horses that were loosely grazing near each other. In their shock at our close encounter, the bands formed one herd of about 40 horses and went galloping off. Wow, what an experience.

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This picture shows about a third of the horses that joined together as a result of Doc and I being sneaky!

The day started early for Dave.  At around 4 am, he witnessed a pack of coyotes testing the old injured mare that has been hanging out across the river. From the fleeting glances in the moonlight, and snarls, whinneys and yelps, the mare was still game enough to send the coyotes packing. Today, she waded through chest deep water to cross the river.  This gave her some fresh grazing and perhaps a little distance from her tormenters.

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From her color, I donít think this mare was born wild, but she gets upset if I ride within a 150 yards of her. She is entirely lamed up in her front left hoof. From the way sheís moving, it looks like the injury is in her hoof. Who knows, given time she could very well heal up.

I awoke to the site of the horse herd from yesterday grazing just across the river.  It was the same 10 black horses, minus the sorrel that was loosely associated with them.  The sight got my blood going, so I hurried up and fed Doc so we could saddle up and cross the river.

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My morning view from the wagon. 

After packing my cameras and some goodies in a pommel bag, I found a mound of dirt to help me climb up on Doc and headed for the river ford. Gone are the days when I could just sling myself up on an 18 hand horse. Now, I look for something to give me a little height advantage.

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With the look in his eye, doesnít Doc look like a crafty wild horse hunter?

When I got up on the mesa, across the river, I saw that there were several bands of horses.  One group of mustangs was far to the north, but several other herds were located in the southeast corner.

My plan was to circle around the band of ten from yesterday and use a 100 foot hill to stay out of sight of the others until we were fairly close to them.

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Occasionally, I got to close to the band of ten and they moved off.  My objective was to circle the hill in the upper left hand side of the picture and get a close approach to the mustangs in the background.

My herd-sour mount, Doc, was continuously neighing for Bill and Bob, so I never thought I would surprise the horses on the south side of the hill. But, the grass must have been sweet and they didnít care about the sound of a horse, because I sure took them by surprise.

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Coming up over the crest of a hill, I almost ran into this bay with his head buried in the grass.  He seemed surprised, but it took a few minutes for his contagion to spread.

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Seconds later, this was my view. You can see the bay (fourth horse from the left) had just spread the alarm. But when I looked up, I saw that I had about 40 horses within a few hundred yards.

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All the herds in the area were so surprised, they formed into one big mob and started running. In this shot, theyíre about 300 yards away.  They were so spread out I could only get less than half the herd in the camera lens at a time. I have some great video though that shows the whole thing - Truly incredible.

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Through all this, the original ĎHerd of Tení remained undisturbed. So, on the way back, I tried another experiment.  With the video camera rolling (with no zoom) I walked directly at the horses to film them bolting from a menace.  Itís a pretty cool sequence. With the herd bobbing up and down as Doc walked, you see them taking off when we got about 200 yards from them.

In the afternoon, Doc and I went exploring several miles downstream, on the east bank of the river. From a wildlife standpoint it was an uneventful trip, but we saw some pretty country.

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Headed down an arroyo after going around some rock that hung out into the river. It was a good time of the day for snakes to be out catching the sun, so we were both keeping a sharp eye out.

Later in the afternoon, several local ranchers and their families stopped by to say hi and do a little fishing. We had a nice chat and it was good to hear about the area from the locals. The big message I got is - things are just great the way they are. The more the government tries to meddle in the affairs of the local area, the more things get screwed up.

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Bill had to show the local kids that he has more room on his back then they have kids to fill it.

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After having a big brown trout break his line earlier in the day, Dave finally landed a five pound carp - at least he didnít get skunked!