Like every other herd except the Pryor Mountain herd, at the roundup, horses were not kept in their family bands, and so mares were separated from youngsters, stallions from mares, and families that had been together for many years were torn apart. The stallions were released together, and the mares were released together. But nothing will ever be the same. This is especially true since the decision was made to skew the sex ratio in this herd, leaving more stallions than mares, instead of roughly 50-50. The idea is that less mares and more stallions means less babies, less population increase. But it totally discounts the effect on the family structure, the heart, soul and glue of the herd.
What I found all over the herd area was single bachelors, bachelors in twos and threes hanging out together, and circling the family bands like sharks.
Two of my favorite stallions, Warbonnet (aka Medicine Boy) and Washakie (aka Rerun)who both had large family bands before the roundup I found with no mares (Washakie) or one mare (Warbonnet).
Indigo, the stallion who fathered my two cremello colts, who had one of the largest bands in the area now had two mares and a foal, and signs of recent battles on his body.
I was happy to see the late season foal of last year, Tall Socks who was one of the few foals left in the area after the roundup. He is growing up to be a handsome and outgoing colt.
Surprisingly, Tecumseh, a young stallion who had only had a family band for 1 year before the roundup had his family intact.
I was wondering why Washkie, who clearly outweighs him by quite a bit had not stolen his band, or some other older, more experienced stallion. In fact one evening by the waterhole, Tecumseh seems unconcerned by the proximity of Washakie to his band.
As I watched over several days it occured to me that Tecumseh was staying close to his father Tucson’s band, and Tucson spent a lot of energy chasing off bachelors who got too close. This alliance is clearly working for both stallions.
Another surpise I found was Signal, the bachelor stallion who had been such a troublemaker last year had muscled up and gotten a family for himself, including some of Warbonnet’s mares. He even chased Warbonnet far from his band, a real change of status for the two stallions.
Were there more skirmishes than normal? I don’t think so right now, but I cannot image that some of these senior band stallions who lost their mares will let the situation stand for too long. With more and more stallions reaching maturity and less mares to go around, this situation will only worsen. It is not good for mares and foals to be constantly in the middle of fighting stallions, nor is it good for mares to be chased and stolen by stallion after stallion.
This is another example of BLM’s mismanagement of wild horses. This is a small herd, so why can’t the contractor keep the horses in their family bands as they do in the Pryor Mountains? Why must they mess with the sex ration of the horses, without any prior field studies on the effects this manipulation might have, instead just contributing to the turmoil the horses went through at the roundup?
This is one of my favorite wild horse herds, and it was painful to see it is this fractured state. Of course the horses are beautiful, and wonderful to watch, and even Washakie has gotten fat in his new bachelor lifestyle, but as he looks out after the families that are not his, I am sad.
I remembered at the roundup in October 2009 one of Indigo’s buckskin mares looking back over her shoulder as she was released, never to see her foal or yearling or sister again. It breaks my heart.
At the meeting with the BLM in Denver all of the wild horse advocates repeatedly called for a moratorium on roundups until an actual workable plan can be put in place to properly manage the wild horses. These requests still go unheeded, and more and more horses continue to lose their freedom this summer.
Please go here to sign the petition for a moratorium on wild horse roundups: