Wild Horses – Mustangs on the HillOctober 5, 2009
Wild Horses – The Roundup of the McCullough Peaks Herd in WYOctober 24, 2009
On my first trip to the Pryor Mountains of Montana in June 2004, the very first band of wild horses that I encountered was Shaman’s band. I was immediately captivated as I saw a band of horses running out from under the trees just after dawn.
There was a big dun stallion bringing up the rear, with mares and foals and a young palomino stallion. The foals played and capered together, then one by one the mares started laying down for a nap. I sat down at a respectful distance, just savoring the experience of being in the presence of these beautiful wild horses on the mountaintop,one of the most gorgeous places I have ever been. As I sat watching them, Shaman the band stallion grazed closer and closer to me. I held my breath, then realizing how soft the expression in those gorgeous eyes, I relaxed enough to take a photo I called “Stallion’s Eyes.”
I fell head over heels in love with Shaman from that moment, and as much as I adore Cloud, Shaman has always held a very special part of my heart.
Shaman was born in 1986. I was always amazed at how strong and vigorous he was even as a 19 year old stallion, grand old man of the mountain. He and Cloud always treated each other with respect when their bands came close to each other, and I once watched him fight with Baja over the salt licks, then run back to his band, leaping into the air like a young stallion!
Sometimes he made me laugh like the day I found him and his entire band giving my car a bath with their tongues.
Shaman was a wonderful and indulgent father to his foals, and perhaps too indulgent for his own good with Bolder. Bolder is Cloud’s son, but born into Shaman’s band and raised by Shaman. Usually stallions kick young colts out of the band when they reach 2 – 3 years old – but Bolder stayed in the band until he was 5 years old!
It was that next year, spring of 2007 that bolder challenged Shaman for his band, and won the band. That summer, Shaman followed the band, skirmishing with Bolder frequently. It was heart wrenching to watch Shaman get beaten time after time. By that next summer, Shaman had given up and was by himself.
It seemed to me that the light had gone out of Shaman’s eyes. A stallion’s reason for living is watching over and protecting his band, and without that family, the older stallions don’t seem to last long in the Pryor Mountains.
My last encounter with Shaman was this last June. I saw him looking out at the bands going down to water, and I had a strong feeling that this would be the last time that I would see him, which made me very sad. I said my goodbyes silently, tears running down my face.
The week before the Pryor Mountain roundup, Shaman was found beside the waterhole near Penn’s cabin. I heard the day before the roundup was due to start, and I was so thankful that Shaman would not have to go through the trauma of being driven down his beloved mountain – he was able to live out his life in his mountain home.
All old wild horses deserve to go this way.