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Family Dynamics in Wild Horse Bands

The mystique and beauty of America’s remaining wild horse herds are captured in the stunning photographs of Carol Walker. Her photographs, featured in the Cloud Foundation calendars, showcase the precarious situation of wild horses is.

Today Carol shares a story of the majestic animals behind her beautiful photographs:

This summer I took three trips to the Pryor Mountains of Montana, which is home to a small but famous herd of wild horses. Every summer, most of the herd moves into the high mountain meadows to graze, and having so many family bands together provides an amazing opportunity to observe wild horses interacting with each other.

Wild horses live in family bands, with a stallion who is the leader and protector, his mares, and the youngsters. Some mares and stallions have been together for over decade. The young fillies leave the family and find a new one when they go into estrous for the first time, around two years old. The young colts are kicked out by the stallion, who does not want the competition, at about 2 – 3 years old. The young bachelor stallions often form loose affiliations, called bachelor bands, and they roam about the mountain top playing, causing trouble and looking for an opportunity to steal a mare.

It was early morning, with the sun just barely reaching over the tree tops, falling softly on the grazing horses. I was watching the stallion Bolder’s family. Bolder is the son of Cloud, who is a 17 year old wild stallion made famous by the films of Ginger Kathrens, who has documented his life in the Pryor Mountains since he was born. Two years ago, Bolder’s beautiful black mare Cascade gave birth to a pale palomino foal that is the exact image of his grandfather Cloud, and his name is Echo. At eight years old, Cascade had never had a foal before, and she has made a wonderful mother, very protective of little Echo. Even though he is now over two years old, and very big for his age, sometimes playing with the three year olds, she still keeps an eagle eye on him, going to get him if he wanders off playing with the bachelors, interceding if she sees any roughhousing is getting out of hand, and he is still nursing.

Cascade kicking at Red Raven | Photo by Carol Walker

Cascade kicking at Red Raven | Photo by Carol Walker

 

I had an opportunity this morning to see that protective streak, and it really surprised me!

Echo was grazing, and Bolder’s band was spread out with about 100 feet between family members, typical for a relaxed morning. Nearby, Red Raven, who is Cloud’s half-brother, was with his family who was grazing as well. Generally, the stallions in the Pryor Mountains with families respect the other stallions, and even though their families may end up being physically close to one another, there is little friction. On this morning, Red Raven walked over to Echo, as if to say hello. He did it quietly, with no aggression in his posture. However, Cascade was not having it. She had been watching and responded very quickly. She rushed over to Red Raven and kicked at him! I have never seen a mare attack a stallion before, and I think Red Raven was shocked as well. The two faced off and then ended up sniffing noses with arched necks, but Cascade was still mad and ears back strikes out at him. Then Bolder finally ran up and chased Red Raven off. Then Bolder went over to Echo, and it looked to me like Echo was getting a scolding, as though Bolder was saying “your mother would kill me if anything happened to you – behave yourself!” Echo opened and closed his mouth several times, in the submissive baby horse posture.

I find myself wondering how Cascade is going to react when Bolder finally kicks Echo out of the band, most likely next year.

Echo, Bolder and Cloud are all three on the cover of the Generations: The Cloud Foundation 2013 Calendar.

Nose to nose with Red Raven | Photo by Carol Walker

Nose to nose with Red Raven | Photo by Carol Walker

Striking at Red Raven | Photo by Carol Walker

Striking at Red Raven | Photo by Carol Walker

Bolder chasing off Red Raven | Photo by Carol Walker

Bolder chasing off Red Raven | Photo by Carol Walker

Bolder scolding Echo. | Photo by Carol Walker

Bolder scolding Echo. | Photo by Carol Walker

About Carol J. Walker
Carol’s passion for photography started at an early age, with animals as her favorite subjects. She studied literature and photography as an undergraduate at Smith College, and continued her education in photography after graduating, studying portraiture and nature photography. She has travelled all over the world photographing wildlife for the past 30 years. In 2000, Carol started her business Living Images by Carol Walker, specializing in photographing horses. She markets her fine art prints from her website www.LivingImagesCJW.com as well as in several locations in Colorado. Nine years ago, Carol began photographing wild horses. As she spent time observing and photographing several herds in Wyoming, Colorado and Montana, she became aware of how precarious their situation on public lands had become. Since then, she has dedicated herself to educating people with her photographs and stories about the wild horses, becoming an ardent advocate to keep wild horses wild and free on our public lands. Her award-winning book Wild Hoofbeats: America’s Vanishing Wild Horses was released winter of 2008 and is currently in its second printing. Carol’s second award-winning book is Horse Photography: The Dynamic Guide for Horse Lovers and she is now at work on her third book, Galloping to Freedom: Saving America’s Wild Horses. Her website www.WildHoofbeats.com is dedicated to education, news and resources for wild horses.

Categories: Wild or Rescued Horses.

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