Are You Crazy Enough………..?


“People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – Steve Jobs

I spent yet another great weekend with a friend out at Sand Wash Basin searching for and photographing wild horses. Along the way we spotted 8 moose which delayed the early morning we had hoped to spend with the horses but it also allowed us to spend about 30 minutes with a gorgeous badger when we arrived. I’m not one to complain when the wildlife seems to want to be photogenic. Watching 2 young moose play and jump around each other was well worth being late.

This friend had never seen wild horses so I was hoping that she would be so impressed with the horses that she would become an advocate and join so many who have been changed by these horses. As we drove up the first road I was stunned when up on the hill I saw Picasso. About a year ago he was the very first wild horse that another friend and I had ever seen and he had changed how I would fight and think about wild horses from that point on. My friend asked if he would be flighty. Every day is a new day in the wild and it’s hard to say, we started walking toward where Picasso was on the hill about a half mile away and I smiled when I saw him actually walk our way, slowly grazing on the way. I thought to myself that there could not be a better advocate for wild horses than this stunning, aged, wild band stallion himself. Of all the horses that a new visitor could see, this was one that could change the world.

We spent all day in the 100 degree heat in Sand Wash Basin and spotted nearly 50 to 60 horses; some I haven’t seen or photographed before and some like Picasso and Corona who I’ve been blessed to see a few times. I don’t take these opportunities lightly; each and every one of them, each horse, is special. We didn’t see as many foals as I expected to see since there have been so many born out there this year and some of the ones we did see were actually missing parts of their ears – these horses are so tough and endure so much. A couple herds would not allow us within 200 yards of them and others like Picasso almost allowed us to feel as if we were a part of his band for a short time. I think the most shocking thing of the day was when Star who was with a couple other bachelor stallions, called out to us as we were walking away and trotted to a hill closer to us as if he didn’t want to be left out of the photo shoot.


On the way home I received word that several trucks loaded with wild horses were on their way to the slaughter houses from Nevada. This news is disappointing to say the least. We as a society have let down the wildlife we greedily take the wild lands from and claim as “ours.” I can honestly say that the HMA’s I have visited I have no desire to “own” and I’m not sure who in their right mind would want to. The “normal” human being wouldn’t survive, or want to live there. They are desolate, remote, lonely, have extreme weather conditions and although pretty in their own way not what I would consider the greatest of landscapes. The only things that can live out there without assistance are rattlesnakes, badgers, mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes and wild horses. Yet we continue to want and take and force the wild animals that belong there off.

Since my first encounter with wild horses last year I made the decision that I would advocate for them along with several others (some photographers, some horse lovers). When I sold my wild horse images and jewelry I would donate the profit of the sales back to the wild horses; hoping to help groups maintain the HMA the horses were on, help somebody with possibly adopting one, etc but the money was to go back to the horses. I was surprised when I inquired on donating the money I was saving that the groups and people I spoke with didn’t want the money and couldn’t point me in any direction where I could donate the money to help. I’ve never had anyone turn money away before. So I continued to save this money hoping that one day somebody could answer me; there had to be a trustworthy group out there that were making a difference for the horses that I have come to love. After all, if it weren’t for them I wouldn’t be selling these images to begin with.

While doing my search I contacted other photographers and asked where they donated money to in support of the horses; crickets. I was a bit surprised. I recalled asking several photographers when I moved here about viewing the different wild horses questions like the best way to get there, the best herds to visit, best times of the day to see them, etc. At the time only a handful responded to my emails, the ones who did respond were very helpful and I thank them for that. They obviously love these horses so much that they realize that the only way they are going to survive is to get others to love them as much as they do. I didn’t let the crickets scare me. They actually made me more determined and I did a lot of research on my own and since then I have met many, many more great people who are good advocates for the horses. We may not win every battle but we try very hard and we may not win at all like this recent Nevada horse slaughter issue makes us feel but we are trying and we care. We care for every one of those horses and deep down I believe those horses know that.


I’m a year into this fight now and like an elephant I do not forget. The wild horses have blessed me with more friends than I ever imagined from all over the United States and the world. They have also taught me a lot about humanity and exploitation. These lessons hurt as I feel if you use a wild animal to help promote yourself you should, in turn, support that wild animal. Support comes in very many forms; donations, your time, education and much more. I’m asked often what we can do to help and what we can do to keep these horses free on the land they run on. I’m saddened because a few thoughts come to mind and I’m not sure that I like them.

1) Together we can move mountains but alone we will not move a pebble. I think many of the wild horse advocates feel this way often. There are many days I feel like I’m alone and talking to myself. If so many people out there love these horses (and there are thousands) then why aren’t we making a difference? Why can’t we stop the horrible events?

2) The “What’s In It for Me?” disease. It’s a horrible sickness and consuming and selfish. If this is a question you ask yourself then I’m not sure you should be an advocate because there is a simple answer. What is in it for you is that you’re saving a life, a living breathing animal, a species. If this isn’t enough than I’m not sure what is.

3) I’ve seen several people be “turned off” or pushed out of groups. I’m not sure why that happens but it seems like favorites are chosen and others are tossed to the side. I think that is something to be careful with; what if those people are millions of dollars strong? What if they could make a difference? If they aren’t given the opportunity to be involved, if they aren’t included or allowed to grow then these groups maybe shutting the people out that could truly make a difference for these animals we claim to love so much.

After I met Picasso last year I made up my mind and decided I would fight for the wild horses. I didn’t know at the time what I would do or how, but I was determined to make sure that others fell in love with the wild horses so that more advocates joined the plight of these wonderful animals. I knew that to do that I had to do my part. I can share my images all day long with people but it helps to really get them to fall in love when they see the horses for themselves. So I take people out to visit the horses who have never seen them before and if I can’t go with them, I do my best to give those directions and helpful hints in experiencing the horses. I’m never let down; the looks on their faces and the comments I receive when they do get the chance are so rewarding. I’ve seen people cry and seen people laugh when they see their first wild horse and it’s worth every minute. We all own these horses and they are here to be shared, we have no right to keep them to ourselves and not sharing them only makes it harder for us to save them.

Don’t give up; we won’t win every battle. Don’t let others discourage you. Not everyone is going to share the same opinions or feelings that you have; that is what makes the world so interesting and difficult. But don’t give up. There is no such thing as a bad or crazy idea and I’ve seen many ideas that others may have counted out that were shared with somebody else become the ideas that made great changes.

I’ve worked in the veterinary medicine field my entire life; my verdict on PZP is still out. There is as much bad information as there is good. What I can say is that the herds that have been on PZP have fewer round ups happen and therefore less stress on them. From what I’ve seen they are healthy, they don’t seem to be starving. The ones who are not on PZP seem to have more and more round ups, are sickly and seem to be dying of starvation and harsh environments. Do I miss seeing foals running around and playing and growing up? Yes. However, with over 33,000 wild horses being in holding pens with a very limited chance of finding a forever home that now may be going to slaughter I would much rather miss a couple years with no foals than knowing these horses are going to slaughter. Until we have a better solution to manage these horses, until every horse is healthy or every wild horse is adopted I think we need to be a little more understanding on the PZP topic.

We have so many “excess” horses in the United States without counting the wild horses. These days’ horses are a luxury and/or business and a very expensive one. We can’t even find homes for domestic horses that irresponsible owners bred that have great bloodlines, some of which are pretty decently trained horses. How are we to find homes for over 33,000 wild horses that require “special handling?”

In addition to my promise to myself of sharing the wild horses with people who want to see them and know more about them, I wanted to help even more. I still have some money to donate to the cause, but there has to be more. I am a horse owner after all and have been since high school. I know that wild horses are very smart and need facilities that have to be far more secure than a domestic horse. Not only can they hurt themselves but they could destroy property if not taken care of properly. I’ve been thinking of all this for awhile now and now that I’m in my own home again and I’ve built the facilities I want I had planned on adopting a young mustang and starting from the ground up. However the other day I was asked if I’d be willing to take a 10 year old Adobe Town mustang who is broke already and just needs some work. The current owners can no longer keep him, they have too many horses. As soon as I saw him I liked him. No need to ask twice, he’ll be picked up on Saturday. Now I have to re-think Plan A and the young wild horse I’d like to adopt; I’m not giving up.

I have a crazy idea. If anyone out there is in a position to adopt a wild horse, now is a great time. If you can’t adopt, think about donating what the average adoption fee of a wild horse is to a group that you trust, that adoption fee is $125.00. Start talking more about these wonderful horses and spread the word; they now need us more than ever since the slaughter houses are opening up again. If anyone out there wants to learn more about these amazing horses and would like to see them, I’m willing to share and take groups out often; all you have to do is ask.


First Adventure Back……….


About 5 weeks after fracturing my skull one morning I woke up not feeling really well; I didn’t think too much about it, figured it was due to stress but I noticed my back was really hurting.  When I hadn’t been able to move by 3pm from the couch which is not like me at all, I again visited the emergency room.  Several of the nurses remembered me and we talked about them giving me my own office and frequent flyer miles.  This time they kept me over night because my gall bladder had decided it no longer wanted to call me home and we parted ways.  The doctor came back and asked if I was sure I hadn’t been sick for weeks; he said my gall bladder was rotted and that I should have been sick for at least 5 weeks.  Other than the headaches caused by the skull fracture I had been totally fine.  After the surgery I was out the very next day and feeling better than ever and had actually started walking within a few hours after the surgery; walking is the best medicine as far as I’m concerned.

During these two weeks off I spent some time going through some of my images from past adventures.  I came up with a plan to organize and label my Sand Wash Basin Wild Horse images so that I could identify the individual horses and what bands they were part of on that day.  Things change so quickly in the wild that just when you think you have the herds figured out, they are not what you saw.  I also developed a website for some friends of mine who raise and train some very nice cowhorses.  If you’re going to be sitting on your rear, no sense in wasting valuable time!  By day three I was bored.  By day five I was out hunting moose and found 7.  By day nine my house was completely unpacked, cleaned and organized.

This past weekend a friend of mine asked me if I felt up to visiting the Little Bookcliff Wild Horse herd.  I had to think about it for about 3 minutes……………Yes!!  Let’s go!  We drove out Friday night so that we could be on the HMA bright and early the next morning.  The week before I checked with friends to see if they would help with information on what to do, not what to do and the possible best places to see the horses.  All of them said the same thing; this is a difficult place to see wild horses and they have had no luck in several recent trips.  This HMA is not only big and home to rock cliffs, rolling hills and obscure areas but it is also covered in scrub oak, pinion, sage brush and pine trees.  I’ve wanted to visit this HMA since I moved to Colorado and I decided not to let this stop us.

I let my friend who was driving lead the way Saturday morning; we had great light and weather as we headed out.  As we drove down the narrow dirt road and over cattle guards we spotted fresh signs of a horse but after about 5 miles in we were unable to find him.  When the road ended we turned around to head back out.  She was a bit discouraged but I reminded myself that I had other directions in my hand and the day was really young – not even 10am yet.  As we neared the place where we started as we scanned the hills, red rocks and tall sage brush we saw the first horses.  Luckily the white pintos stood out!  They were what looked like a quarter mile up on the hillside and easy to get to.  After about 30 minutes of climbing steep hills and over rock formations I came to several conclusions; I was out of shape, I’m not a mountain goat and horses have a great sense of humor and tolerance.  After spending an hour photographing this small herd of five horses we slid on our rear ends over a mile back down the steep terrain we had climbed up, proud of ourselves for being able to scale the hillside to begin with.


We left that access area without seeing any other horses and I pulled out the information my other friends had sent me hoping that it would provide us better luck.  As we drove in from the east entrance I was stunned at the landscape and how it changed the further into this HMA.  If you ever want to see things to take your breath away, things that other’s will never be blessed to see and experience, you have to be willing to get off the paved road, willing to take the time and chance.  I’m glad that we did.

The landscape alone turned to different shades of red rock cliffs and rock formations.  We drove from the tops of the mesas to the bottoms.  From the sage brush and scrub oak trees to the pinion and pines.  From no water to streams.  In both areas it was obvious that finding any wild horses here was going to be difficult at best.  It would be easy to miss them in the sage, the pines and the shadows.


As we turned onto another road where the road forked I spotted our next small herd around a bend; a herd of 6, 3 mares and 3 stallions.  I was excited to see an appaloosa in this small herd, the first I’ve seen in the wild.  We spent another hour with this herd which included a gorgeous blue roan stallion, a pretty grey mare, a curious chestnut mare and brown stallion that I found stunning although I’m not normally a fan of that color.  His personality ended up winning me over and by the time we left he would become one of my favorites.

We went past a cabin and turned around to come back to another road when we had no luck there.  At the next fork in the road I spotted a pinto in a meadow which led me to a black mare tucked up under the scrub oak trees.  As we walked toward the small herd I stopped when I heard horses calling out and the thunder of hooves running.  I scanned the tree line but couldn’t see any other horses but it was very obvious they were there.  Suddenly a gorgeous bay pinto stallion appeared in the trees and ran directly into a bay stallion that had charged down the hills that I didn’t see until they ran into each other.  We watched as the herds confronted each other, mares and stallions, squealing and striking out at each other and then the pinto ran off the bay stallion, chasing him back up the hill and then returning to gather up his mares.  We stood in the meadow and photographed several more attempts from the bay stallion in taking the pinto’s small herd and as I scanned back through my images I noticed these confrontations must have been going on for more than a day or two as the pinto had a bloody gash across his shoulder.


Weather was starting to roll in and it was hard to pry ourselves away from the action we were observing.  The horses finally helped us.  The pinto stallion ran the bay stallion and his herd off once and for all and then he took his small band and forced them back deep within the trees until we could no longer see them.  We decided to try one more road to see if there were any horses before racing off the HMA.  As we drove to the last mesa top it wasn’t looking as if we’d see anymore horses and as we came around another bend I saw the hip of a red dun.  We stopped and walked in the rest of the way to find a small herd of bachelors – 2 black and one red dun who was breathtaking.  From their vantage point it seemed that they could see for miles.

The rain drops started to fall after about 20 minutes and we decided to head out.  We were hoping that maybe we would see more horses on the way back to the highway.  We missed a fork in the road and ended up coming out a different way than we had come into the HMA and saw different land.  As we left I realized how great I felt; we’d hiked a few miles, did some rock climbing and spent hours with some very pretty and strong horses.  On the 4 hour drive home my friend told me how lucky she felt to have me as a horse magnet.  I’m not so sure that is true.  You see the wild horses because they want you to see them, not because you want to see them.  It isn’t luck, it’s a blessing.   A mustang blessing; a strength, a determination and a spiritual blessing that when they feel the timing and person is right they will share.  I’m blessed.


Fight for Wolves………….

2382I was really happy when I saw that another very active wolf supporting Facebook page shared my blog last week. It really helps keep me inspired and motivated and it lets me know that the work I want to do has not been for nothing. Due to last year’s wolf hunt and the loss of several of our valuable Yellowstone wolves in addition to wolves that we don’t know personally I made the decision last week not to share posts or images that give current locations of the Yellowstone or Grand Teton packs. I have to say that I believe that by the time we get that information and it is shared the wolves have moved on and are no longer there but it is just something that concerns me a bit. I also believe that the murderers who are after the Yellowstone wolves most likely know their location far better than we do and that the way they are choosing to hunt is not a sport; shooting an animal that has become habituated to people and lost fear of them is not a challenge and therefore not “hunting.”

Yesterday I received a message that a wolf hating Facebook group had gotten the support of the PBR (Professional Bull Riders) and that the PBR would be placing their stickers of hatred on the PBR trucks. I know many bull riders and rodeo people and I thought this was an odd thing for the PBR to be a part of. That’s a pretty large association for a small group of hateful people to claim to be a part of so I contacted PBR and asked. I was relieved to receive a quick response that confirmed what I thought and PBR is in the process of having that mis-informed statement made by that group removed. I have to say thank you to PBR. I can understand individuals having their own thoughts and opinions and that is their right but for an association like PBR to take that stance I was a bit concerned.


Knowing that group has mis-informed the people that follow them makes me wonder what else that group has been mis-informing people about where wolves are concerned. I really believe if you are going to take a stand on an issue that you need to do your own research and seek your own knowledge and not be led by a group who is doing something based on hatred and spite. I do my best not to speak about something unless it’s a topic I know a lot about, something I’m passionate about and have done my own research to learn about; both the goods and the bads. If this group is willing to be dishonest about something like a large association supporting them what else have they mis-informed people about? That is really something important to think about.

Out of curiosity I visited their Facebook page and website; it is full of wolf hating products and comments which is what I expected. I was hoping to find a first and last name of the person behind it but it only had a first name so that I couldn’t find out any further information on them, that didn’t surprise me either. Of course the page goes on about elk hunting in Idaho and how the wolves are responsible for the population of elk declining since they were reintroduced; blah, blah and blah. I wonder if these same people believe that what the elk herds have done to the ecosystem in the Rocky Mountain National Park is okay and how much longer these herds will have food and will stay healthy when there are really no predators within the park to manage it? It isn’t a secret that there is already a serious problem and yet the park is hesitant to reintroduce wolves here and at the same time the public freaks out when the word “hunting” is tossed out. At the rate the elk population is growing it is obvious that something needs to be done it just depends on what makes more sense and sits better with the people. Keep in mind when the herds start to die of starvation or disease the blame will be placed on the ones who were not allowed to make a decision and no decision was acceptable.


I visited Rocky Mountain National Park last week; I went moose hunting. I have to say I understand the adrenaline rush that hunters get and the excitement they feel when they find that big bull elk they are looking for. When I found the big bull moose I was looking for I was pretty excited, I took a few shots but sadly the willows were in the way and I missed the shot I was looking for. Then I realized I was surrounded by about 20 other people all trying to get that shot too and the excitement quickly ran out; this moose was habituated to people and really there was no challenge. I decided to leave and try to find a big bull who was more of a challenge. A little later while hiking I got the shot I’ve been wanting for awhile; my blood was racing, my heart pounding! I raised my arms for the shot! It was right there in a green open meadow, walking across, stopping occasionally on its way to a stream. It doesn’t get any better than this. It was so quiet and peaceful. Once it crossed the meadow I could barely stand still! This was going to be a winning shot. I quickly looked around and there was nobody there. This was perfect. When it jumped off the embankment and into the water my heart lept into my throat and I took the shot. Now it was a fair hunt; this moose was not habituated to people, wasn’t posing and was more of a challenge.


God Only Gives You What You Can Take………..


Once again, I’ve been off line for a bit.  Just when I thought I had been given enough God added more to my plate.  So I wonder now, just how much does God think I can take?  I’ve devoted much of my life to fighting for animals.  The wild horses, wolves and many more who don’t have a voice, who can’t speak for themselves, who are being murdered or removed from the land that belongs to them.  So why does bad things happen to good people?

Those that know me know that I try to ride my own horses about every other night if not more.  I rush home after working an 11 hour day in Denver and if I don’t ride, I’m out walking, hiking or running.  Not only are my animals my top priority but in order to keep up with and photograph the wildlife I love, I have to be in good enough shape to get to them.

After returning home from California and my dad’s funeral all I wanted to do was spend time with Blueper, the horse who has been there for me through all my hard times, my best friend, a horse I rescued from abuse.  I never expected him to have a flash back moment and jump out and away from me a few weeks ago.  I landed on my left side; the first thing I noticed was that I couldn’t hear.  After figuring out I hadn’t broken anything I walked over to him, lounged him for awhile and started to get back on when I realized I still couldn’t hear.  I put him away and went in to the house to sit for awhile.  The horse trainer I’m friends with always manages to call at just the right time and so he didn’t ruin that reputation, he called right on time.  I explained to him what had happened and that I couldn’t hear and after about 20 minutes of arguing I decided to go to the emergency room.  I wasn’t sure why.  I wasn’t hurt, I just couldn’t hear.

I drove myself to the hospital, walked about a half mile around to find the emergency room, signed myself in and waited about 10 minutes to be seen.  I waited another 20 minutes to get a CT scan and while waiting during that 20 minutes I got very sore and stiff.  The doctors really hadn’t even touched me yet, but I they had already hurt me!  They came back to my room after getting the CT scan results, 2 trauma doctors – I almost felt special until they told me that I had a fractured skull and bleeding on the brain and told me I had to spend the night so that they could observe me in case I needed brain surgery.  Up until then I had no stomach upset but when you deliver that kind of news to somebody like myself, you can bet it will make a person puke!   Lucky for the horses and dogs I have great friends who stepped up to not only run and feed them but they also rushed to see me in the hospital.

By the next morning the bleeding had stopped, I still couldn’t hear and I had a wonderful headache and over night I swear a semi truck hit me.  Amazing how sore a body can get when your allowed to sit and do nothing.  I walked into the emergency room just fine, I was leaving barely able to stand or walk.  Over the next 10 days or so the headaches were enough to drop me to my knees, my hearing still hasn’t returned, I found out I lost my sense of smell, my new house finally closed escrow and my landlord needed me out of the home I was in a week after landing on my head, I had horse shows to photograph and animals to take care of.  Again, thank God for friends and family.  Friends pretty much moved all my things while I shot a horse show one weekend.  Pretty amazing.

The accident was about 5 weeks ago now and my hearing on the left side and sense of smell is still gone.  I still have my sense of humor when my head doesn’t hurt.  The support of my friends and family has been the best blessing ever and I’ve even met new friends who make me appreciate life even more.  A very wonderful wildlife photographer emailed me a couple days ago and let me know she was thinking about me and felt my tenacity and strength was amazing.  It made me think of the things I’ve been “given” lately that somebody above thinks I can handle.

Blueper has now made me go through all the emotions; what did I do to make him feel he needed to hurt me, is he in pain and I’m not seeing it, does he have a mean streak horses with his breeding are known to have, did he do this on purpose or did I hurt him to cause him to do this?  Fear has set in.  I wanted to start riding about 2 weeks after the accident, not him but my other horse, Reno who I feel I can trust but the doctors said I’m not allowed to do anything that might jar my skull; sadly that includes riding, running and even leading a horse.    For my lifestyle this is pretty much not acceptable.  I’ve been on my best behavior, I haven’t ridden but I’m leading and working my horses from the ground and I’m not running but I am walking with my wonderful dog Drifter again.  Walking has helped reduce the leg cramps a whole lot and also reduces my stress.  Drifter was really missing our journeys and is again a happy pup; if my animals are happy, than I’m happy.

After the pain reduced there was a time when I was sad when I realized I couldn’t smell anything.  I love the scents of fruit candles, cake and cookie batter.  I was proud that my house always smelled good when you walked in.  I love the smell of horses and the barn.  It’s always nice to be able to smell a bear, something dead or where a mountain lion marked it’s territory before they see or smell you.  The next day I realized how much I would be saving by not buying these candle scents.  And although it has to be done I often can’t handle the smell of cleaning the dog’s yard, now it isn’t so hard to do.

A couple weeks ago we spent a weekend with some friends of ours at their ranch.  They raise and train some amazing horses and I got to spend the day sitting on the fence to watch them ride; I may be a little bit afraid but my heart wanted to be riding one of those horses.  They also have a month old fawn they found as an orphan they are taking care of.  As I watched her run and play it really lifted my heart.  So tiny, so innocent, so precious.  I could have spent all day with her.


On the way home from the ranch I thought of my friend’s message.  If this is what I’m “given” then I’m lucky.  This accident could have been far worse; I can still see which allows me to see the things I love the most – the wildlife, my animals and the horses I love to be involved with.  I can still walk and hike so I can see the animals I so love in the places I love spending time.  I can still take photos and capture amazing memories.  For a moment I thought about what it would be like not to be able to see Hobo, Quad mom with her cubs, Spitfire or the wild horses.  That was a thought I wanted to erase just as quick as it came.  That wasn’t what I was “given,” thank God it was a lot less.  I have frustrating moments when I have to adapt to different ways but they are moments that go away.  I feel lucky.  I can still do the things that mean so much to me.  I’m hoping that as the fracture heals my hearing will as well and hopefully my sense of smell will return.  Time will heal the fear and I’ll ride again.

In the meantime I’m going to get back to working on the things that I want to accomplish; working on educating people and sharing wild animals with people who want to know more.  God wouldn’t give people gifts if He didn’t want you to use and enjoy them.


Thank you Legend of Lamar Valley

You ever have one of those weeks where when somebody says that “God only gives you what you can handle” makes you want to scream that God needs to find somebody else to pick on? I’ve had about 3 of those months now back to back. I really had to wonder what God was thinking when my father passed away in April; really!? Enough was enough. I’m more than happy to share the stage with somebody else. Add that to everything else that has been going on and saying I’ve had writer’s block is putting it very gently. Things have slowly been coming back around, and I do mean slowly. I’ve sat and stared at a blank paper for weeks now and nothing has come to me.

A couple of good friends and I took off to Yellowstone and the Tetons in May; a trip filled with mixed emotions but it is where I go to heal, a place my dad shared with me when I was a teenager, a place I love and a place I consider home. We had the trip of a lifetime. To say we saw wildlife is an understatement. Our days were filled with moose, grizzly and black bears, cubs, badgers, coyotes, bison calves, wild horses and most importantly……………wolves. I’m not sure what the reasons were behind such an amazing trip but we left feeling like three of the most blessed people on the planet. They had never been to the parks before, never seen wildlife like this and seeing the expressions and being able to share stories about these wonderful animals in the parks was wonderful.

A couple of days before we left the important, heart breaking news was the report of Daddy’s Girl (831F) being murdered by Bill Hoppe in Gardiner. I’m sorry if you feel “murder” is too strong a word to use but it’s true. Anyone who would knowingly leave out decaying animals in an area close to a national park known for grizzly bears and wolves so close to a tourist area is either a complete idiot or he knows exactly what he was wanting to do and how to do it. The fact that he forfeited the second permit he had was most likely simply because it occurred to him what he had just done to his business; after all it is mostly tourist money that sustains businesses in that area and most tourists there year round are there for one thing – to see wolves. I hate math, not a strong talent of mine, but even I can add this up.


Daddy’s Girl (831F)was a Yellowstone radio collared wolf, I think it is safe to say that the biologists and wolf supporters know more about these wolves than most parent’s know about their teenage children. The data from the radio collar showed that she was nowhere near his livestock the night they were killed and since Mr. Hoppe decided to leave decaying carcasses lying around during some unseasonably warm weather pretty much promises that anything that eats meat, including domestic dogs, were sure to become curious and come around. If this isn’t “baiting” than it is irresponsible livestock management. Not only does it attract predators who have behaved like this in this area for hundreds of years longer than Mr. Hoppe has resided there, but it is also a breeding ground for disease which no responsible rancher would want to subject their healthy livestock to. Sadly Daddy’s Girl was in the wrong place at the wrong time, brought out by natural instincts to check on a decaying carcass where Mr. Hoppe had declared that anything resembling a canine was guilty and he murdered her. Lucky for his neighbors their family dogs weren’t out roaming that night or they would have been the guilty party.


Hearing this news a couple of days before leaving on our trip was heart breaking. After seeing several images of her that photographers and wolf supporters posted I became very concerned that it was the wolf that I had encountered that changed my life a couple of years ago. I contacted several friends of mine and after doing some research we concluded that the wolf I knew was 831F’s sister, a year older. I was a bit relieved however it was short-lived. One evening we were on our way back to town when the Blacktail Pack was spotted. We watched them for over an hour, into dark, and we met a supporter who has done a lot of research on Yellowstone wolves over the years. We stood and chatted with Barbara once the Blacktail Pack left the area for a long time; out of the 60 or so remaining wolves in the park now only 27 are what they consider “visible” wolves. The remaining wolves are in remote sections of the park and seldom seen or noticed. To some that may not sound alarming but here is some additional information; Yellowstone is over 22 million acres. Place 27 wolves inside the park and calculate what sort of chance you have in being able to see a wolf. When there were over 200 wolves within the park boundaries the odds were greatly stacked against seeing wolves 3 years ago, now your chances are even far less. Everyone knows how much money wolves bring in to this area from wolf supporters who come to the parks just for them each year; it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that when people start to become discouraged because they can’t see wolves and after a period of time they will stop visiting. They will stop bringing their money and the only people this will hurt are the businesses that rely on them in the area (hotels, gas stations, restaraunts, etc). Bill Hoppe does not solely rely on livestock to make a living; he is actually an outfitter and owner of a guest ranch. Part of his livelihood was already affected by the ‘mistake’ he made. Imagine what not having visible wolves will do in a couple of years to these other business owners. It is sad that people like Mr. Hoppe who hate wolves for whatever reason, are so selfish and so wrapped up in that hatred, that they haven’t thought about what they are doing to other hard-working families who make a great deal of their livelihood taking care of visitors there to see wolves. Sadly they will start to lose revenue and start shutting their doors all because a few selfish people who they may not even know wanted revenge.


I finally worked up enough courage and asked Barbara if she knew anything about “my wolf,” the older sister to 831F. She said that she had left the park a few months after I had seen her. They won’t say that she is deceased, she has simply dispersed. Several members of the Blacktail Pack are also reported as “dispersed.” They have not returned to the park after another member of their pack was murdered out of the park boundaries. Last year this pack was relatively large and provided well for their family; now the alpha male and female are the only ones remaining and it looks like they will not have pups this year. One carries the blood lines of the Druid Pack. I hope and pray that those lines can prove to be strong enough to overcome the odds and next year they are blessed with all strong and healthy pups; pups that will make the Blacktail area come alive with singing.


Losing ’06 early this year was devastating, again – murdered outside of the park. There is no sport in the hunting of a collared or uncollared Yellowstone wolf. They are so accustomed to seeing people and have lost their natural shyness and are far from allusive. ’06 was very visible and would hunt and feed close to the roads as well as raise her family there. I remember seeing her before they would call her pack an official pack when the pups were first-born. I remember watching the two black males bring food back to the den from miles away when several live elk stood right at the den entrance. I remember checking on them every morning before dawn for over a week, hoping I would be able to see them without the help of a scope and how discouraged I was when it didn’t happen. Following her the next couple of years was simply an amazing blessing. The things she shared with and taught so many that had come to visit the park can never be replaced. She was a brave and strong girl and after seeing Spitfire several times in May, I’m happy to report that she is her momma’s daughter. ’06 taught her well.


I am also a daddy’s girl. My dad taught me to fight for what I believe in, be honest, fair and respectful. He was a lifelong firefighter and arson investigator; loved the outdoors. When I came home back in May 2009 and told him I was selling my gorgeous, brand new home in California and moving so that I could be closer to Yellowstone and the wild animals I love because of a once in a lifetime chance encounter with a black wolf, he smiled and said he understood. I explained that I want to be closer to them so I can work harder to see they are protected, that people are educated about them and I wanted to write about them he encouraged me. Losing my dad hurt and it is taking time to regain my focus and continue that fight. There hasn’t been anything to write about that was or is more important than him and how much I miss him. And then last night out of the blue, Jann with Legends of Lamar Valley who doesn’t know me at all nor have I ever shared my writings with, cross posted a poem I wrote after my encounter with the black wolf. It reminded me why I left my place in California and moved to a strange place so far away from all I knew. To fight for the animals I love; the wolves and wild horses. The ones without a voice who are facing the most danger right now. The ones we have lost who have given so many so much. I’ve always wanted my dad to be proud of me and he always challenged me to succeed.


Some may have taken away from us some wolves we loved, it hurts and we have lost our focus. Be warned however, soon we will find that focus again and we will find a way to come together to protect these wonderful animals who have as much right to be here as you do. We will renew our fight and we will be stronger than ever. I know this because I know my dad and now I have an angel watching over me and the wolves and he will see that we succeed.  Miss and love you dad.  Happy Father’s Day.

Four Gals and a Wild Horse Herd

Cosmo's band

Cosmo’s band

What happens when you mix a BLM meeting in Craig, CO with the Sand Wash Basin Wild Horses near Maybell, CO, winter weather in February and 4 gals who love wild mustangs?  You find strength you didn’t know you had, friendships that will last forever and adventures you have to experience yourself to appreciate.

Since I was able to finally share the meeting notes regarding the Sand Wash Basin horses recently I thought I would also add in some details about the trip out to Craig, CO.  You honestly didn’t think we would drive all that way and not attempt to see the horses did you?  Snow?   What snow?  We had a couple of weeks back to back before the 2/2/2013 meeting that dumped a few feet of snow.  I was contacting friends that lived out there or who were already there right up to the moment we were leaving.  They reported that roads weren’t too bad all the way to Craig, CO but that wasn’t what I cared about……………….what about the roads to the horses?  Every report that came in wasn’t good but there was a chance on our way out there Saturday that it would warm up and melt a bit.  Would it be too much to ask for 2 feet or more of melt in 8 hours?

Vogue, pinto mare from Cosmo's band

Vogue, pinto mare from Cosmo’s band

Deb met at my house, she doesn’t have horses but she has worked in the animal industry her whole life and loves all animals, especially the horses.  We picked up Megan who is proudly owned by a mustang she adopted a couple years ago and from Megan’s place we picked up Kriszta who has owned mustangs and horses and actually spends weeks in the back country re-enacting buffalo camps; like the cowboy and Indian days.  They spend weeks in the back country with no phone service, no internet and no bathroom.  Just so we are clear – that’s too much uncivilization for me and I’ll be staying home on her next trip out there wishing her well and much fun!  I’m happy to live that excitement through her eyes.

What I didn’t mention yet is that we didn’t all know each other very well; I’ve known Deb for years from a distance.  I met Megan about 8 months ago from a distance and Kriszta I had just met at a meeting about mustangs a few weeks before.  Megan knew Kriszta but they didn’t know Deb.  Four women in a rented 4 wheel drive, driving 5 hours one way on icy roads to a BLM meeting – what could possibly happen?  The things we do for the animals that we love.  Although Megan and Kriszta owned wild horses, none of my friends had ever seen the Sand Wash horses and two had never seen wild horses in the wild.

Cowgirl from Cosmo's band

Cowgirl from Cosmo’s band

Our trip to Craig went well, we made it with about an hour to spare and although the roads were icy they weren’t too bad.  We went to the BLM meeting at 1pm and the first question we asked was how much snow was still out where the horses are and has anyone been out there?  Oh yes, we did ask how some of our other friends were doing, but after we asked about the road conditions.  The news wasn’t great, almost everyone refused to attempt getting out there.  The meeting was a couple hours long which gave us a couple hours left of daylight to get out to Sand Wash Basin to check the roads.  You honestly didn’t think we’d give up and head home with our tails between our legs did you?

We rushed out to the horses, as a matter of fact I think the highway patrol officer said I was rushing too much but we made it safe and sound anyway.  Our spirits lifted a bit when we saw tire tracks and the vehicle we were in fit almost perfectly in those tracks.  Did I forget to mention that I only recently moved to Colorado in July and this was technically my first off road adventure in snow?  Well, that’s okay, it really isn’t important; the girls had given me great instructions on how to make this happen more than once on the way out to Craig.  I did pretty well not allowing it to fish tail and slide and we made it in about 3 miles, up around the hill you zig and zag up but we hadn’t seen any horses yet and we were starting to worry.  When we topped the hill I noticed there wasn’t much snow there, as a matter of fact you could see the dirt and my heart raced……………..we can go further!

Cosmo trying to flirt with Cowgirl who could careless

Cosmo trying to flirt with Cowgirl who could careless

We sat on the hill scanning the land below us and still, no horses, so I asked if we should continue on.  The three of them have done this all their lives pretty much and if anyone knows about this stuff it is them.  They all agreed and said we should keep going.  I looked down the road, picked my track and gave the car gas and away we went.  It was amazing!!  I think we went another 50 feet and the car suddenly slid to a stop.  We all sat in the car and looked at each other for a few seconds and then Megan and Kriszta jumped out to see what had stopped us.  Deb and I tried to jump out with them too however our doors kept bumping into the snow that was over two feet up the side of the doors.  I think that was when I realized how we got stuck and what stopped us.  I looked to see where the sun was, we had maybe two hours of light left.  Deb and I had thrown a camping shovel in the car at the last minute and they went to digging.  After the first 30 minutes it was pretty obvious that unless a flash heat wave were to occur, we weren’t going to budge.



At the meeting Megan had spoken with a lady who gives wild horse tours out at Sand Wash Basin all year long and the lady gave Megan a business card.  Megan wanted to talk to her more about riding a captive wild mustang out with the wild horses and how safe that was.  I don’t think we intended to use that phone number so soon, but that was the only person we knew or could call at the moment, if you have cell service of course.  Four cell phones and only one had service, we’d take it.  A little over an hour later this wonderful lady and her husband showed up to rescue us!  His Dodge pulled this 4 wheel drive right out of the snow with the parking brake still on and made it seem easy!  They had us follow them back out to the paved road and once there we asked them to let us take them to a big steak dinner or pay for fuel – they refused.  They mentioned that it would be best to stay out of Sand Wash until after spring when the snow melted and the mud dried and we agreed they were right.  We followed them back to town, dodging deer, elk and two domestic cats along the way.



We went to dinner and when we got back to the hotel Megan and I tried to find a way home that was safe where we might be able to see other wild horse herds.  Sadly the roads through Wyoming were horrible or closed and going home along the I70 with weekend ski traffic didn’t sound like much fun.  We were resigned to simply heading home in the morning.

Kriszta’s husband called late that night and his comments about why we would go so far, why would we give up, we can do this – was what she relayed to us that morning.  We all looked at each other, loaded up the car, grabbed something to eat and drink and headed right back out to Sand Wash Basin!  We knew we could safely get in for at least 3 miles and from there we would walk till we found horses.  The day before I had learned a very valuable lesson; do not ask three very experienced Colorado girls how far you should go UNLESS they are actually looking at the road!  So as we left the safety of the solid pavement, I made them promise not to look for horses but to watch the road to tell me when to stop while I looked for the horses!  Far safer.

The handsome young boy, Milagro

The handsome young boy, Milagro

About a mile in we passed some teenagers in a Dodge pickup exploring along the road which made me feel better, worse case they could help us out.  In another mile I was looking at all the snow and sage brush where the hills came into the flat land and in the middle of all that white, about a mile out, I saw grey horses nearly blending perfectly with the snow.  I yelled “horses” and slid the car to a stop.  I carefully checked all my mirrors for traffic and since there wasn’t much we left the car right in the middle of the road, changed clothes, grabbed the camera gear and started walking.

As we got closer to the horses I was able to see that it was Cosmo’s band and on the other side of a gully was Hoot, Kiowa, Juniper and another young stallion.  We stopped about 200 yards away as Vogue and Cowgirl watched us and as we were standing there the expressions on my friend’s faces made the whole trip worthwhile, tears of happiness at just being in the presence of these horses were on everyone’s cheeks.  We discussed the horse’s personal comfort zones and how each horse is different and that same horse might be comfortable with you being so close today and it might change tomorrow.  Cowgirl was a bit more concerned than the others but she did allow us in pretty close to the herd.  I scanned the hillside for any other horses that I may have missed and was stunned to see two other warmly dressed creatures with cameras on the opposite side of the gully!  We hadn’t passed any other vehicles coming in but the kids with the Dodge.  I finally spotted Robin’s truck on the top of the hill where we had gotten stuck the night before.

When ignored go roll in poop so you smell more attractive?

When ignored go roll in poop so you smell more attractive?

Kriszta headed across the gully to get closer to the four horses on the other side while Megan, Deb and I stayed with Cosmo’s herd.  We discussed the dynamics of the herds; the lead mares, who appeared to be very much in foal, how healthy they all looked and we watched as Rounder provoked Cosmo into proving who the official band stallion was here.  We marveled about how even though sorrels are not our first choice on the color list, how Milagro didn’t just have wonderful conformation but he had a wonderful disposition as well and if not able to remain free would make some lucky person an amazing horse.

Megan quickly filled an 8GB card with images as we watched Kiowa curiously approach first Robin and then Kriszta on the other side of the gully.  Hoot had his hooves full trying to prove he was the main stallion over Juniper and we watched him snake her around and spar with the other young stallion that followed behind them.

Three hours never goes by as quickly as it does when you’re standing in the middle of nowhere, in God’s country with God’s wonderful animals.  When you see wild horses that have been adopted and are now living safely with new owners you can’t help but notice the wildness about them and wonder what their lives were like.  Being out here with them, seeing them how they are meant to be, living free and watching over each other can bring you so much more joy than you can ever imagine.  It was difficult to pry ourselves away knowing we wanted to be close to home when the roads started to become icy again.  We still had to make it back to the main road which after seeing Cosmo’s band seemed so far away.

Our tires hadn’t even hit the pavement leaving Sand Wash Basin when we were all already planning on when we could return.  Of course it should be after the snow melted and the spring rains dried up and it would be safer when the deer and elk headed back to the high country.  How does next week sound?!

Cowgirl and Milagro

Cowgirl and Milagro

To my friends; Deb, Megan and Kriszta – thank you for sharing this adventure with me!  I couldn’t imagine anyone else I’d have as much fun doing this with as you guys!  I look forward to our next adventures and can’t wait!

Little Snake Field Office and Sand Wash Wild Horse Meeting Minutes 2/2/2013

Cosmo's band

Cosmo’s band

I had promised friends and follower’s that I have made since starting to photograph the Sand Wash Basin Wild Horse Herds that I would attend this meeting and post minutes from it.  Sorry for the delay but I’ve been trying to juggle a more than full time job, 2 of my horses, my photography business, another aspiring business and my life all at the same time and I’ll be darned if I don’t run out of time at the end of the day!

Since these horses have so many followers and supporters and many of you live all over the US and wish you could be here but cannot, I think this is the only way to keep everyone in the loop.  Your support is very much appreciated; these wild horses as well as others need people like you and I think this is a great start.  With that said, these are the meeting notes I myself took.  They are from my writing and my thoughts at the time during the meeting.  I’m as accurate as I can be, if there is emotion included, that is my emotion and I try to approach things with a sense of humor.  Please, if you have a question, feel free to ask me – I’d rather be asked then to have questions posed to others who may not have attended or didn’t perceive things the same way I may have.

My first impression – the Little Snake Field Office is gorgeous!  Aleta Wagner Wolf worked with this office in order for us to hold this meeting there on a Saturday afternoon which I felt was very accommodating.  Normally meetings with government agencies are not held when the public can attend.  Although I was prepared to take time off work it was nice not to have to do so.  The doors were open and welcoming!  As I looked around the room there were about 25 people in attendance.  A few I knew because of our conversations on Facebook; social media is a wonderful thing when used to gain positive results.

Cowgirl from Cosmo's band

Cowgirl from Cosmo’s band

The meeting was facilitated by GEMS ~ Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary which is located in Deer Trail, CO (  They have established a 900 acre eco sanctuary where they have adopted and are taking care of Spanish and American Mustangs.  More information can be located on their website as far as how many horses they have been able to rescue and/or adopt but it is my understanding that all of the Sand Wash Basin horses that were rounded up in 2008 that were still remaining at the Canon City BLM facility were adopted by GEMS and are now calling Deer Trail home.  They have some wonderful videos on- line and can also be found on Facebook along with a trainer who is assisting them with training some of these horses in order to find them forever homes; his name is Sean Davies ( from what I’ve seen so far, I like!

A few of the people from GEMS along with the help of Aleta and many others have established SWAT ~ Sand Wash Basin Advocate Team (  Aleta is monitoring this website and emails and fielding questions in regards to the team.  They are attempting to establish the Sand Wash Basin horses as a “Treasured Herd” therefore gaining them more protection.

Why care or why become a member of SWAT?

The horses need a solid group of advocates to work together with the BLM and the HSUS.  Many people who live within a reasonable (okay, define “reasonable”) distance of the Sand Wash Horses have spent numerous hours with them; documenting and photographing them.  Nancy Roberts has spent endless amounts of her own valuable time cataloging and documenting these horses on Facebook and her Blog bringing many of us closer together and these horses into our families.  Since this group of very dedicated wild horse lovers has been out there more than anyone else they know the horses better, are more familiar with them and know what is best for them.

Vogue and another mare from Cosmo's band

Vogue and another mare from Cosmo’s band

The group would help the HSUS with PZP documentation; which mares were treated?  When?  Did they foal since?  When?  And how often?

 This group also knows almost exactly how many horses are out there and have been able to track and account for them – approximately 362 horses.  At the meeting the BLM officers said they were unable to get accurate aerial accounts and they know that this group has more accurate numbers from the ground.

 We discussed ideas of annual foal counts done via horseback, camps, rides and clean ups in order to keep the horses safe and safely monitored.

 Heidi from the HSUS will be out in Sand Wash Basin for one more year in an effort to collect data and then that project will be completed.  There is currently a seasonal position open for a field tech to assist in this study which includes the monitoring, documenting and darting the horses with PZP.  I have to warn you, I considered applying for this position as it sounds like a lifetime dream of mine.  Then I read “camping in remote locations” ~ I immediately envisioned cramped spaces, no internet access and worse!  No shower!  It became quite obvious that this is not for me; with no way to enjoy my photography, share it with others and keep my camera sparkling clean it is not meant to be.

 Ed Hendricks is the ranger who oversees Sand Wash Basin and the horses, one man to over 160,000 acres.  I’m not sure why, but he doesn’t feel he can be all over Sand Wash at one time and that we can help him help the horses.  He asked that if we come across an injured horse or suspicious activity to please contact him and he will gladly do his best to respond to assist or investigate.

 Tim Wilson with the BLM advised us that the BLM is getting ready to re-write new Herd Management Plans.  Jerome Fox is the writer of these plans, they are starting fresh and will value any input.  Jerome is open to ideas and ways to help.

As of the day of this meeting, 2/2/2013, Tim and Ed shared with us that the week prior all herd gathers were placed on hold due to too many horses in holding.  They do not foresee the Sand Wash Basin horses being gathered until possibly 2014 unless the environment made it necessary.  They did ask us to realize that this could change at any moment but that they were committed to working with us.

They also asked us to please work with them and if there are any questions, to please ask and be understanding.

In order to keep information organized and not bombard the BLM office the SWAT team is taking all questions, input, thoughts, ideas and comments and will do what they can to get the information back to everyone in a timely manner.  They are also a 501 (c) non-profit group.  Please visit their website and see where you might be able to assist; they are seeking members with all sorts of skills and strengths and even if you’re a distance away you might still be able to help!  If nothing else, contact them, let them know what your talents are and they will find something for you.  I’m not very good at math but if I were to take some beads on a string and ride my horse or drive around Sand Wash Basin I’m sure I could count new foals!  And just a hint, they are about a quarter the size of the large horse standing over them.

There are also a lot more than just wild horses in Sand Wash Basin as well; there is a lot of history, archeology and paleontology and all of that should be preserved as well.

I left this meeting feeling pretty optimistic.  There are a lot of people who want to do wonderful things to support these horses and they can use all the help they can get.  If we can work together to keep this herd safe and managed respectfully, who’s to say that we stop there?

Please be sure to check out the ID cards that Nancy Roberts is working hard to create on the horses of Sand Wash Basin in order to raise money to support them.

I have listed several websites above for more information on the wild horses and you can find more here as well, and don’t forget to follow most of this ongoing, hard and dedicated work on Facebook:

Vogue, pinto mare from Cosmo's band

Vogue, pinto mare from Cosmo’s band

All images are copyrighted by Laura Tatum-Cowen/

Please do not copy or reproduce without permission.

Portions of the proceeds of all sales from my wild horse images are donated back to the wild horses for without them then my photography would not be possible.  Sales of my images are what allow me to continue my efforts of documenting the wild horses and volunteering to see that they remain wild and free where they belong.  Please join us in these efforts.

What Is In A Name?

The intense expression of a wonderful cutting horse!

The intense expression of a wonderful cutting horse!

Do you ever wonder how famous or important people ended up where they are now? Was it luck? Due to their family? That they had enough money to buy themselves in? Or because they were actually really recognized for the talents they were blessed with?

We were out at dinner last night with a couple that we have spent time with in the past. I’ll be honest, I think the husband is a wonderful, caring and helpful person, but I have to admit I struggle with the wife. Deep down I think she means well but there are times when she opens her mouth long before she ever thinks about what is going to spew out and it really gets to me.

Last night the conversation started out with what happened to her starting on Friday. The weather has been great here in Colorado, in the mid 60’s, perfect for riding. She owns 7 horses, ages vary and she has Quarter Horses and Arabians. From day one she has made it clear to me that she believes Quarter Horses are stupid and slow to learn while Arabians are such over achievers. I believe anyone who thinks horses are stupid believe so because they have been outsmarted by one or more regardless of breed. Like people, all horses learn at their own speed, their own way. My own horses are Quarter Horses and I will happily admit that I have been taught many lessons by all of them, including what I thought I knew that I really didn’t!

Relaxed flexion

Relaxed flexion

Sadly, her horses are more like lawn ornaments than riding horses. Those she enjoys riding are all around 8 or younger and get ridden maybe 12 times……………………….in the past 3 years. They are gorgeous and in great health ~ okay maybe they are a little chunky. Since I’ve moved to Colorado she has ridden with me maybe 3 times and my heart has been in my throat every time. I put my heart, soul and complete confidence in my young horse who is 6 this year; we do everything together and go everywhere. As far as a reliable trail horse he has often times been the one to take the lead and bring older, more experienced horses through horrifying situations, including one of this lady’s horses. Am I silly in having this much faith in a young horse? I’ve been riding him since he was 3 and he has never let me down, not even when I’ve let myself down.

I’m also confident in saying after working and training with several trainers from western pleasure to cutting, I don’t know a whole lot. I can learn from almost anyone and I pick and chose what I like and will remember. I’m not above asking for help and looked for a trainer the first few months after I arrived here, I wanted one who worked with cowhorses that lived close by. I found one! A very nice man; he admits he has a lot of learning to do himself and we actually share what knowledge we do have. I’ve ridden with him several times and he helped me right from the very first day.

Back to the lady who we were having dinner with………………………. She decided that for the first time in over a month she would ride her 6 year old mare with maybe 60 days training in 3 years. In the last 8 months she has been stepped on and broken a bone in her foot when a mare ran by, pushed her and then jumped onto her, she got stepped on a couple months later when her mare wouldn’t back out of the horse trailer so she drug her around by her bit inside the trailer when “spanking” her didn’t work and a few other incidents. I’m not sure why but I dared to hope that this weekend would be so much better for her. She was unable to catch any of the horses who have never run from her in the past, for the farrier on Friday. When she finally caught her mare on Saturday the mare literally drug her, face first through the sand injuring her arms and hands and then to end the perfect weekend, stepped on her other foot. I sat listening to this in stunned silence; I have learned that talking to her doesn’t help. Then she spews out how Quarter Horses are so slow they never learn. I started to point out that working with a horse only once every 3 months is probably the largest part of the issue but was quickly interrupted, so I continued to listen.

Ranch horse loping quietly

Ranch horse loping quietly

She informs me she has asked around about my “trainer” and nobody has heard of him and rattles off several names of well known trainers all of whom I’ve never heard of. To this I sit with no response. It actually makes me very sad; these horses will continue to disrespect this woman until she is seriously hurt again and it isn’t because they are mean animals by any means they just simply don’t know and have no boundaries.

World famous #10.  He is retired from running Mammoth in Yellowstone this year.

World famous #10. He is retired from running Mammoth in Yellowstone this year.

This morning during a conversation with another friend I mentioned how I would never stand a chance in a photography contest or competing with other well known wildlife photographers and that I don’t have a name for myself. My mind quickly went back to the dinner conversation last night about one of my trainers that nobody has heard of. Several revelations came to light:

1) Everybody has to start somewhere! Bob Avila, Teddy Robinson and Trevor Brazile didn’t just wake up one morning knowing everything, with numerous horses in their barns, being asked to put on clinics all over the US and winning everything. They actually had to learn, to gain experience and practice long before great things happened. Granted some have to practice and work harder at certain things than others but they were not born this way!
2) Everybody has their own special gifts and talents. What might come naturally to one person may not be so easy for the other person. I know people who can create videos and have mastered Photoshop but when you hand them a camera and tell them to catch that horse turning a cow on the fence I am greeted with a blank stare and asked if the camera is even on.
3) Everybody has something to learn. You can be great at what you do, maybe even be considered a professional but if there is nothing else you desire to learn then what? I was once told by a Native American that once you have decided you have nothing else to learn you are dead. I guess I have no need to worry about being dead soon as I have a whole lot left to learn!
4) Just because you don’t have a “name” for your self does not mean that you are not great at what you do or that you are not “worthy.” A lot of things have to do with being in the right place at the right time and desire. Maybe my “unknown” trainer is happy doing what he’s doing in life and he gets great joy in actually knowing all his customers by name and the horses they own. Maybe that photographer who isn’t on the cover of Nat Geo actually finds more value in knowing that the mustangs they photographed 6 weeks ago are safe and sound because they were able to see them again and have been able to spend hours volunteering to make sure other mustangs aren’t being rounded up and potentially being driven to slaughter.
5) Just because you have a “name” and are well known doesn’t make you a happy person. Enjoying what you are doing each and every time you step out to do it is what makes you happy; even when the horse your riding is having a bad day and spends more time dragging your knee on the fence than standing on its own feet or the eagle you set out to photograph does nothing but poop on your backpack you set down before it chose to land on that branch above you and your too afraid to go grab it for fear it will fly off.

Bison cow in Yellowstone National Park

Bison cow in Yellowstone National Park

I spent most of my day yesterday going through images for an upcoming show; I have thousands of wildlife and wild horse images that I haven’t had the time to actually look at or edit and I was stunned over some of them that I found last night. Although I love all wildlife, from my images it is pretty clear that I understand wild horses the most. I have a long way to go in understanding my camera and Photoshop however; there are things I want to learn how to do and have yet to find the time to do it. It frustrates me to no end and then I see an image like the ones I saw last night and I’m proud to say “no re-touching has been done to this image.”

I still have a lot of images I want to capture! I have images in my head of certain scenes and feelings and I won’t stop until I get that. I pride myself for not being a “traditional” horse show photographer. When I shoot horse shows I’m looking for something unique, something inspiring and an image that tells a story and shows emotion. Traditional images are wonderful to have but I want more.

As far as my “unknown” horse trainer is concerned, I’m not sure who he aspires to become but I do know he has a wonderful wife and some great kids. He knows all of his clients and a little about their lives and they are at his barn a lot and I’ll be darned if most the time he isn’t smiling when I have been there. I’m also not being charged $150.00 for an hour lesson and being told my horse needs to be left in training for 6 months so he can fix what I broke. My horses are ridden or turned out nearly every day; they are respectful and trustworthy, talented enough to overcome the problems I hinder them with and forgiving. They may not be on their way to the AQHA World Show but in my eyes they are winners every day as they continue to learn despite me, they give me 150% and I’ve done the work myself ~ I don’t just get on at the gate.

So the next time I’m feeling a little “inadequate” or unworthy I’m going to do my best to remember that everyone has to start somewhere. I’ll encourage people to go after their dreams and wants but most importantly to pursue what makes them happy. Most importantly I’ll remind others that just because they haven’t heard of or about a person doesn’t make that person any less important, talented or valuable. Maybe they just haven’t been discovered yet! And depending on the choices that they make on how “worthy” that they decide that person with “no name”  will be whether or not they are talking about how well they knew that person before everyone else did and are able to call them a friend or saying how sorry they were that they didn’t give that person a chance back when they were nobody.

Femur's mares from the Sand Wash Basin wild horses.

Femur’s mares from the Sand Wash Basin wild horses.

Wildlife Photography ~ How Close Is Too Close……..?

Cow elk and calf crossing the river in Estes Park

Cow elk and calf crossing the river in Estes Park

A friend of mine and I were talking about a photo we saw this morning of 4 photographers running away, one of them leaving their tripod with the camera as fast as they could; approaching the camera was a younger grizzly bear.  The bear wasn’t running at them, it actually appears like it’s on a Sunday stroll.  We were laughing and he said that bear spray may have prevented this.  His next comment was “Stupid photographers!” and then he said, “Ohh wait!  I’m a photographer!”  We both laughed.  The photo was sent around and it was meant to be funny and it was.  Of course this led us to even more conversations and memories.

I normally don’t like photographing animals when there are fences in the back ground or houses but if I see wildlife I will stop regardless of where they are just to take a look.  One afternoon a few months ago on the way to the Rocky Mountain National Park to hike in the snow; the snow hadn’t arrived yet, it was nice out and as we drove through Estes Park near the golf course, we spotted a herd of elk.  Of course we stopped.  We walked out taking in the herd and noticing who the big bulls in charge were and how far away they were.  The rut was over but that doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t react if you were to get too close.  We stopped after we noticed 2 pretty large bulls about 200 feet from each other, they were still singing away and we didn’t want to be in the middle if they wanted to discuss who was boss.

Big bull elk in the golf course in Estes Park

Big bull elk in the golf course in Estes Park

As we stood taking a few shots from about 80 yards and watching the cows and calves move by one of the bulls stood to his feet and started walking the direction we were standing so we started backing away.  There were no signs of aggression on his behalf but I like my personal space and I wanted to keep his happiness just the way it was.  I turned when I heard something running up behind me just in time to see a younger blonde woman run right by us with her iPhone in hand yelling about how cool it was to see a bull elk up so close.  Don’t worry, it’s okay, she stopped probably about 20 feet from him!  My friend and I looked at each other, our mouths dropped to the ground and our eyes huge!  It was obvious to us that day that God does protect certain people out there in the world!  She stood for a long time photographing this big bull and occasionally even got in closer while my friend and I stood in amazement.  When we finally walked back to the car we were laughing about the whole thing; had we attempted to do that it wouldn’t have ended so nicely.

I was reminded about the time I was out photographing Mountain Goats about 8 months ago.  I love sitting down a safe distance from the animals I am shooting and watch behavior and how they interact with each other.  I had never photographed Mountain Goats before, they were so pretty, there were so many of them ~ I planted myself on a rock, took a couple hundred images and then just sat and watched.  One younger kid seemed to have lost its mother.  I sat on that rock and watched her over 2 hours as she approached other mother’s and was chased off, other kids didn’t play and she continued her search, crying.  That made me want to cry.  I would take some shots off and on and as I continued watching her I started taking more images as she got closer, I was using my 300mm lens at the time.  At one point I felt myself leaning backwards so that I could get more of the little goat in my frame and I even started scooting backwards on my rock to get a better shot as I kept trying to pull my lens back.  I finally put the camera down frustrated that I was missing out on decent shots because my camera wasn’t helping me.  When I did I realized the little girl was nearly in my lap!  I guess it wasn’t the camera after all.  She stood in front of me crying out a few times before she realized I wasn’t her mom either and moved on.  About 30 minutes later her mother and twin jumped down from a rock formation behind me; they were not there when I sat down!  I had never intended to get that close and personal with the goats, but through my excitement with having the opportunity to spend time with them I got closer than I ever expected.

Not cropped in at all, and this was my 70mm lens and it was still too close

Not cropped in at all, and this was my 70mm lens and it was still too close

My friend and I continued to laugh about the image with the grizzly bear but I can say I have been so intrigued with shooting certain wildlife and forgotten my surroundings while looking through the view finder at times.  Lucky for me when I do shoot bears I’m with a group who is very experienced and we watch out for each other.  Normally I’m the one who forgets to shoot the images and am watching and learning from new behaviors and can sound the alarm if they are getting to close for my taste.  My favorite animals to shoot are normally horses, wild and domestic.  The domestic horses have no concept as to what personal space is and as soon as they see a camera feel that you want them to come in closer!  And I still haven’t figured out what it is with wildlife sticking out their tongues!

Blueper's nose on a snow day.  Didn't see the tongue till I got in the house and looked at the images

Blueper’s nose on a snow day. Didn’t see the tongue till I got in the house and looked at the images

Update ~ I Was Rescued Today

That saying about sometimes life gets in the way?  Sometimes I wish it wouldn’t and let me finish what I set out to do to begin with!  Since posting about the little mustang filly found wandering alone in Nevada who was injured and in very bad shape, alone, I have been back out visiting with our wild mustangs here in Colorado as well as attending a meeting with the BLM office there and a new group created to help our horses.

Taylor posted an update on the filly last night.  Many things have happened with the filly as well.  She wasn’t doing well at the prison facility she was taken to in hopes they could rehabilitate her and save her life.  The injuries she sustained most likely happened when she fell down a cliff or was attacked by a coyote.  At the prison facility they quickly realized she was in worse shape than originally thought and by the end of the week she was transferred to a private foal orphanage facility where she could receive more in-depth veterinary care.  She was having a difficult time lying down and then getting back up.  At the new facility she has other orphan foals her age that she is spending time with ~ this is very important for orphan foals as they really need to learn how to be horses.

The images that Taylor posted on her Facebook page last night showed huge improvement, she still has a long way to go but you could see improvement and most importantly the swelling in her face is nearly completely resolved, she is standing straighter in her hind end and there is even improvement in her neck.  There is even a brighter sparkle in her eyes.  It looks like this little girl is going to pull through thanks to so many prayers and so much encouragement from all over.

Chris Miller, the Department of Ag hero who assisted in the filly’s rescue is still in the picture.  His latest response to an email from Taylor thanking him and letting him know how valuable we all feel he was not only to this filly but to other horses as well was that it was how he was raised, to have compassion, and he always  wants to leave things better than the way he found it.  I personally think he has done a wonderful job where this filly is concerned.  If Taylor wouldn’t have seen her that day and been determined to find her again the next morning and Chris and a couple of others didn’t come in to help, this filly most likely would have perished.  If everyone could show this sort of compassion just once or twice this world would be a much better place.

Where there is a slim chance, where there is compassion, there is also Hope!  After much consideration and I’m sure Taylor did much soul-searching she has asked that the filly be named Hope.  I think that is a perfect name for a little one who wasn’t given much of a chance.

Please be sure to check out and follow the page Taylor started for Hope on Facebook:

Hope ~ The Baby Mustang Rescued in Nevada