On the eve of the 2017 Checkerboard Roundup, an old Adobe Town Friend is Found
by Carol J. Walker
In 2010 I was staying in Rawlins, Wyoming to observe the Adobe Town Roundup. The day before the roundup started, I had an encounter with a family of wild horses who would change my life forever.
Just before dawn, I saw a small family peeking out at me through the sagebrush – a grey mare, a pale palomino colt and two other youngsters. I turned and saw a sight that took my breath away – a majestic sorrel stallion with the early light falling on his reddish coat. He looked at me for a few seconds, then he and his family disappeared into the sagebrush.
The next day, after a long disheartening day of watching wild horses being herded into traps by a helicopter, then separated from their family and trucked off to a short term holding facility, I caught sight of the family I had seen the day before. This time, they appeared curious and circled me. The pale palomino colt followed his father, then moved over to his mother for security. The family was directly in the path of where the roundup was taking place, and I thought that it was such a sad shame that they would most likely be rounded up and separated forever.
They were rounded up along with over 2000 other wild horses in Adobe Town and Salt Wells Creek. I heard that a stunning sorrel stallion had been released and was hopeful that it was him. The pale palomino colt was shipped to Canon City. I never found out what happened to the rest of the family.
I adopted the palomino colt, named Mica. He is a member of my mustang family that lives with me in Colorado. Although I will always wish that he had had a chance to stay wild and free, I have been comforted and uplifted by the fact that his father is still wild and free.
Every time I have visited Adobe Town in the past 7 years I have looked for him, and have found him a surprising number of times, given that Adobe Town is over 400,000 acres and looking for one family is a challenge.
My first encounter with him was in spring 2012 I did not see him in the year after the roundup, and I actually saw very few horses at all that year. But in the spring, a group of horses were on a far distant hill, and I saw running and stallions rearing. I drove closer and then got out of my vehicle slowly. The horses were still very skittish since the roundup and I was quite a long way away, at the end of my long lens’s range when I had to stop so they would not leave. Mica’s father had a new family – an older grey mare, a young red roan mare, and the grey mare had a sorrel foal who looked like his father. Suddenly a grey stallion ran up to challenge Mica’s dad, and then the red roan mare tried to make a break for it. She did not get far, and was pushed back into the family group. I wondered how long she had been in the family. It can take time for a mare to adjust to being in a new family.
My next encounter later that year was at the waterhole. It had been a very dry year, and there were clear trails leading to the water. I saw several groups of horses coming in to drink then leaving, and I moved down the hill and was waiting for more horses to come in when I spotted Mica’s dad and behind him his mares, who ran up the hill the minute they spotted me.
I did visit Adobe Town in winter and was delighted to see Mica’s dad and his family. The older grey mare was not equally delighted to see me, and led the family away from me quickly. It was truly thrilling to have seen them. They looked very healthy and energetic as they ran away.
The next time I found them was a surprise – just days before the 2014 Checkerboard Roundup my friend caught a glimpse of them near an oil pad. We drove down the hill and the grey mare was off before we had a chance to get out of the car! There was a stunning red roan foal in the family. The good news was they were not in the Checkerboard area and so if they stayed in Adobe Town, they would not be rounded up. I was hoping that was the case, and checked for all of them at Canon City and Rock Springs after all the horses had been shipped there, and was extremely relieved not to find them in either of those facilities.
The next two years I looked for them every time I went out and was disappointed. I was confident that they were still there, and that I would see them again.
Finally last week I caught sight of a sorrel stallion just after dawn. He stood quietly as an oil tanker roared past him, and I drove closer and was able to see the other horses in his family. I was absolutely delighted to see them. I was not surprised that the old grey mare was not with him – she had been thin the last time I saw her, and probably did not make it through the winter. At least she was able to live out her entire life free in her home, with her family.
Mica’s dad looked very healthy. His mane was not as pristine as usual, but other than that he looked the same. The red roan mare had matured into an adult mare and had a red roan foal at her side. There was a new family member, a young grey mare with a sorrel foal at her side with a blaze very similar to her father’s. They tolerated my presence for a few minutes, then headed up the hill. Later that morning I found them again near an oil pad while looking through binoculars, so drove up the hill toward them. The red roan mare and foal stood still together for quite a while, the foal looking for reassurance, and finally the grey mare ran up the hill with her foal, and Mica’s dad brought up the rear as a good band stallion always does, protective of his family.
I have not given him or his family a catchy name. I firmly believe that wild horses should not be named – they are wild and free and deserve to be that way. Domestic horses are named. But this is just my opinion.
Aware that this may very well be the last time I see them together and free as a family, I am preparing to head to Wyoming for the Checkerboard Roundup. This time, they will be removing 1560 wild horses from Great Divide Basin, Salt Wells Creek and Adobe Town, and it is not just the Checkerboard they are targeting. The BLM says all three Herd Management Areas making up 2.4 million acres are over Appropriate Management Level, so they plan to remove 510 wild horses from Adobe Town, 725 from Salt Wells Creek and 322 from Great Divide Basin.
These horses that will be rounded up with a helicopter and shipped to short term holding facilities are in danger of being killed if the 2018 Budget passes with the provision to allow killing healthy wild horses and burros is left in the document.
I truly hope that this little family can evade capture.
Wondering how you can help our wild horses? Call your Senators!