Mustangs of Nevada November 2015
The first time I headed out to the Antelope Valley HMA (Horse Management Area) in Nevada was November 2015. The BLM had just finished rounding up a small group for fertility control. Fenced in, these horses were calm and banded together in group solidarity and comfort considering their circumstances. Mares in one pen attached to stallions in the next and young ones in the next. They were healthy looking and equipped with good fur coats ready for the impending winter season. After spending a bit of time with them, one decided to have a better look at me. This stallion in particular was very interested in what I was doing and ventured away from the group. He nosed around the base of the pen to see what my boots smelled like, while the others watched on in anticipation of what might happen to him. Needless to say, I fell in love with his courage and calm energy. I haven’t seen him since, but I’ll keep looking.
The weather was getting wintery, but the afternoons were glorious and sunny, reaching a balmy 50 degrees. The mornings, well, not so much, they were cold and well below freezing. Even in our down coats it was tough to get going before the sun came up, but it was all worth while, waiting for that Nevada sun and the hopes of seeing the horses. It was almost winter after all.
This area is remote and I suspect, not a lot of visitors, so these wild horses really are wild and you do have to work to get the good shots. It’s a good thing we have an excellent guide in Jeanne, she’s local and knows exactly where to find the bands, so it just increases our odds on having a great photographic day. (She’s also great company, a fantastic guide, an amazing photographic artist and makes a darned good picnic lunch.) I’m happy to call her a friend.
The first two days we were lucky enough to keep running into different bands and although they were skittish when they saw us, we did manage to get some good images of the horses in their winter woolies.
The high desert has since turned out to be one of my favourite places in the world. There is just a certain feeling that I haven’t been able to find anywhere else. The colours, purples, pinks. The orange red sunsets, the blue skies. The smell of the wild sage and the fresh clean scent of the cool mountain air. The landscapes and the vistas. The mountain silhouettes. The forever skies where you can see weather coming a mile off. It truly is God’s country. Peaceful, oh so very peaceful. There is a quiet energy and so much happens in the silence.
Antelope Valley? Yes there are antelope, and coyotes, and rabbits and deer and hares as big as your car. Well, maybe not that big, but in the glare of your headlights at night, you have to wonder. And Jackalopes. (Ok, well, I didn’t see any Jackalopes, but they are there.) Local legend I hear, I’ll keep looking. The rattlesnakes were sleeping for the winter, which was a good thing in the words of Martha.
I knew then that I’d be back.
Then there was Reign. He didn’t have a name back then, but there he was.
At the end of the second day, we were travelling back through the badlands of the Palomino Valley and when we arrived at the Huckleberry Flats watering hole, was this gorgeous red dun stallion. He seemed to appear out of nowhere, like a spirit horse. We turned around and there he was…. following us? We were moving slowly, it was almost time to head out but when we turned around he paused, and looked. Was he going to turn and run? No, he kept trailing us. His curiosity was clearly getting the better of him and eventually he got close enough for us to take some pictures. He was even comfortable enough with us there to have a drink at the watering hole. He was fairly confident and secure and certainly interested enough in us to keep up with our band of two-leggeds, all three of us. It started to feel like he was looking for a friend. I imagine the life of a bachelor stallion can be quite lonely, as horses are herd animals and have such a tight knit family circle.
The sun started to go down and it was time to head back to the hotel, so our visit ended and we left him behind.
I left feeling excited about the next day, I was looking forward to seeing if we could find this Stallion again, he had certainly had an impact on me, on us.
We awoke on our last day to a wicked blast of winter. There had been at least 6 inches of snow fall overnight in an unexpected storm with blustery frigid winter winds and the roads were a mess. Our rental car of course was equipped with summer tires so we wouldn’t be going out to see the horses on our last day. The next day, heading to the airport, and already, I couldn’t wait to return, but Reign’s story would have to continue at another time.