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I am driving along a county road, hoping to find one of the wild horse families I have grown to love over the last 6 years in the Red Desert Complex of Wyoming. As I am looking I spot something black. Because there are still cattle out here, I wait before deciding that it a horse, and look through my binoculars. I see something white, spotted white. It is them! The wild stallion Looking Glass and his family. Now, how to get to them? I know there is a two track nearby but I am uncertain as to whether or not it will bring me closer to them. The wind is blowing hard and clouds are on the horizon, showing the gathering storm. The horses are grazing, unconcerned. I finally find a grown over little used two-track and turn onto it, and I drive closer to the horses. I stop my car and zip up my jacket and put up my hood. My camera is in my hand as I start to walk toward them. Not all of the horses in this area of Lost Creek would tolerate my approaching them especially in this wind, but I am familiar to this family, and Looking Glass is on of the most easygoing wild stallions I have ever encountered.
The first thing I notice as I walk closer is in what good condition they all are, especially Looking Glass and his first mare, black Brenna. They are fat and ready for winter. And when I see the adorable blanket Appaloosa filly Donata I found in August, I am struck by her color. She looked like she might be buckskin but now with her summer coat shedding and new winter coat coming in she is much darker, and I wonder what color she will be. Foals can change so much!
I watch her and her mother Grace, the gorgeous palomino pinto mare come toward me.
Donato is curious and unafraid. She stays close to her mother. Looking Glass approaches Grace and puts his head and neck against her, arching his neck, courting her but she squeals and turns away.
They all resume grazing. I take some photographs and some video. If they did not want me near it would be a simple thing for them to turn and walk away from me – they would not even have to run because I am so much slower especially among the sagebrush.
Allowing me to spend time with them is a gift. A huge one. The only sound is the wind whipping by and my coat rubbing when I move. We are all alone in the vast prairie, and I am there with these beautiful horses. They do not need anything from me. They are at home in this place, they know where the water is, they have plenty of forage, they have each other, and at least for this time they are unmolested by helicopters.
In these moments I forget all my worries, all my to dos, and I am simply breathing in the beauty and feeling connected with this remote and ruggedly beautiful place and this special family of wild horses.
The wild horses in America are not starving. They are not destroying the land they live on. They do not need to be rounded up with helicopters, separated from their families, hauled to filthy, disease ridden feedlots where they live in overcrowded conditions with other horses who are strangers. They do not need to be adopted and either trained to be ridden or sold off at auction to slaughter. They live their own lives with their own relationships to each other and they make the land they live on more beautiful by their presence. They contribute to the health of the range they inhabit, and when they are gone our lives will be so much poorer for their absence.
They are a gift. And before I leave this family, I tell them how much they mean to me. We don’t need words. They understand. And my heart is full and tears are running down my face. So many horses that once roamed here are gone forever. But they are still here, for now.