Friday, February 24, 2012

My Boy Coy

The work week came to a slow stop Saturday afternoon. At last, my homework was done, the evening was all mine and I was finally alone. For the first time in two weeks I picked up my lens and headed out the door to catch the best light of the evening. 

I manage to snake my way through all the gates of the corrals, before opening the big gate on the cobble stone fence line that separates the mustangs from the domestic geldings. Its so dry out here in California, the grass is a flaxen gold color where it once was green. The paprika colored dirt kicked up from boots hangs in the air like fine powder. 

I bonded with six stallions of all ages and colors. They approach me, they smell me and nuzzle my hair! But the ultimate acceptance for me is the request of my breath. I blow my warm breath to their nostrils as they inhale deep. The Native Americans did this with their horses to show them partnership. I lovingly gave them nicknames based on their personality and their looks.  

One young roan (color) stallion, around three years old, courted me. He slowly sniffed my footsteps and zig zagged toward me. He was to timid to come in for a closer look, but walked on by. I held his gaze and talked to him the entire time. I decided to call him Coy because of the way he courted me.

Coy runs with band of two bachelors, he is too young and inexperienced to have a herd mares for himself. I call the bachelors Buck and Antonio; they weren’t afraid of me, in fact they seemed to welcome me with their perked ears. 

I embraced the moment like deep breath in of fresh mountain air after a rain and etched the details in my memory as I hiked through the sanctuary hills. In the distance I could here the soft rustle of leaves and occasional crack of a branch. I stood with camera aimed towards the sound when out came a Palomino bachelor following the sunset. 

I couldn’t resist a shot of this Paint with the setting sunbeams that looked like a laser fence.

A perfect evening that will stay with me for years to come. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tico and Timo

Imagine for moment a young boy sleeping. The boy can only sleep once complete exhaustion has taken over the fear, loneliness, pain and survival instinct that only an abused child knows. As the boy sleeps he begins to dream. The dream is a retreat for the mind. 

Out across the sky an angel is on his way, flying through the night sky with beauty and grace. The boy is gently awakened to the sound of a nicker. The angel is a bay horse with a five point star on his forehead.  The boy carefully eases onto the winged horse’s back. The winged horse whinnies softly as if to say are you ready to go?, and they are off into the night soaring across the sky; climbing higher and higher-far away from the house that is not a home.

The boy has this same recurring dream over and over for years to come. His love for horses grew right along with him. At age 15, the boy, now a young man, leaves home with a broken jaw and two stab wounds vowing never to return again. The young man’s name is Tim Harvey.

In 2001 Harvey adopted two mares and one stallion from the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) Sulphur Springs Herd located in Utah. The horses were shipped to a BLM holding facility in Tennessee. Tim had already paid for his horses and was getting ready to head home when Kathy Malloy stopped Tim and asked him to come and look at a young stallion. The yearling had been adopted by a family who changed their minds and didn’t want him. 

The two year old was in a paddock all alone and, as Harvey rounded the corner, he came face to face with the exact horse he had dreamed of as a child, a beautiful blood bay with a five point star on his forehead. This surreal horse stopped Tim dead in his tracks, he couldn’t believe his eyes. The yearling, Tico, was loaded up with other the mustangs heading for their new home in New Hampshire.

 Image provided by Tim Harvey

Tico was used as a stallion until he was six years old and sired many babies. Tico was gelded and Tim worked with Tico extensively. Tico was truly afraid and wanted nothing to do with people. Harvey understood fear and was ok with Tico taking his time.

In September 2005 Tim and Tico started working with Mark Rashid. The two men became fast friends and maintain a close relationship to this day. Tim and Tico went to Florida the following winter in February to work further with Mark. Harvey signed up for a series of three different, three-day clinics.

Image provided by Tim Harvey

Rashid’s book “A Life with Horses: The Spirit of the Work,” recounts the first time he met Tico and some of the progress Tim and Tico made together. 

Tim and Tico continued to work together for co-existence. Tim took Tico trail riding on a regular basis. Tico was even in a hometown parade on the fourth of July. 

“Tico’s training advanced nicely” Tim states, “when suddenly Tico starting having blow-ups.”  Tico just never quite settled into his domestic life style in spite of the bond he shared with Tim. Tim shared with me that he felt Tico’s spirit was fading, he could see it in Tico’s eyes and made the decision to let Tico go.

Image provided by Tim Harvey

In May of 2010 Tico came to the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary in Hot Springs, South Dakota.  Tico has been returned to the wild to live out his days, protected and free from any possibility of being rounded up again.

Mark Rashid stopped by the sanctuary to see Tico. I took him up to Tico's pasture. Mark said Tico looked like a completely different horse, so relaxed rather than muscles tensed, with his head held high and eyes wide. He was happy to see Tico looking so good.

Mark has completed his first novel “Out of the Wild” in which Tico is the fictional character. Mark also shared with me that he has another book in the works that will have a chapter about Tim and Tico.

Tico has a beautiful herd of 14 Spanish mares.

There is a new baby from a mare that came in pregnant. On the morning this image was taken I witnessed Tico gently nudging the new baby colt along with the rest of his mares. It was so amazing and beautiful. Tico has taken on the role of proud papa so naturally and yet he has never had a baby in a herd setting before.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Mouths to Feed

I was asked by two ranch hands, Dan and Walter, to do a photo shoot of feeding sanctuary mustangs in a snow storm. How could I resist! 

 Pre-Snow Picture courtesy of Walter Westberg

The picture above shows the majority of hay the sanctuary will feed over the winter months. Because winter can be so unpredictable, its not unusual to run out of hay before spring.

The sanctuary feeds hay to 300+ horses no matter how biting the weather is. Here's a look at feeding in a blizzard.

The sanctuary purchased a new grader this year for the ranch hands to use. Having a grader enables them to plow their way out to the mustangs with hay no matter how pounded with snow the winter months may be.

Dan plowed a path out to the horses and Walter followed behind with a load of 11 hay bales. 

The average hay consumption is 30 bales a week. The bales weigh 1200 pounds each- that's 36,000 pounds of hay!

The price of hay continues to skyrocket annually. This round’s price tag is $125.00 a bale, thats $3750.00 a week during the winter months. 

All Sanctuaries and rescue operations rely on donations to feed their horses and other animals that have been rescued. 

If you would like to help feed the horses, Click here for Montana Horse Sanctuary's Donate Page

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Remembering Matt

Last summer I took a drive to Kirkland, Arizona. I was given the pleasure of being invited to the Viterbo ranch, one of the most beautiful ranches I have ever seen. 

I met a young man named Eddy, who took me back to the days of my youth and memories of my good friend Matt. The two are complete carbon copies of each other. Matt and I first met in kindergarten and lost track of each other around age 15. We shared a love for horses and rode together often. Matt would even come out to my house to pick up me and my horse for horse shows. There was such joy, laughter and silliness between us at shows its amazing that we placed high in our events and got ribbons for being total goofballs. 

My attention span jumped like static as I looked through my lens. My eyes were delusive as I focused in on Eddy. I kept envisioning Matt in my mind and now standing before me for the first time in 25 years; his animated voice and belly laugh echoed through my mind. My imagination stirred with nostalgic short films of times we spent together. 

I photographed Eddy with his three horses Chocolate, Fancy and Frosty for five hours on that warm day. I didn’t want it to end. I imprisoned my emotions and yearning to be close to Eddy and the illusion of being close to Matt again. I now have a library of images sprinkled with sweet reflections of a dear friend.