Thursday, June 28, 2012

 Journey to Black Mountain

John had to make a trip to Boise to pick up his company car, and I got to thinking.  I could go along and realize my dream of seeing where my Bella and Scout came from.  Her herd management area is Black Mountain, which is just an hour from the hotel we'd be staying in.

It only took me a few minutes to pack, I was so excited!  We drove down on Tuesday.  It was afternoon by the time we got there and Katia wanted to check out the downtown area (she really wants to be a city girl) so we did that.  Downtown Boise is kinda cool.  I had more fun than I thought I would. 

I almost forgot the best part of that little side trip!  I looked up saddle shops in the area and stopped by Flynn's Saddle Shop and boy was it worth the stop.  If' I'd had any money to spend, it would have been gone right there.  They had McCall saddles, lots of custom saddles, Crates saddles, and even a JJ Maxwell saddle.  I was really glad to get a chance to sit in that one, because it's one of the ones I've thought I'd like over the years, and it is not comfortable.  I looked on their site and I can't find this particular saddle, maybe they don't make them anymore.  Hopefully they have a different shape of seat now too.  Anyway, I got to see a 5 Star pad in person, and lots of other high-quality name brand gear that nobody carries locally.  They had lots of English stuff too, but I didn't look at it.

We had dinner at the Texas Steakhouse and it was amazing.  I ate too much.  Then we went swimming.  I know they say you're not supposed to do that but I lived through it just fine.  :)

The next morning we got up super early and headed out to Murphy, Idaho.  There was a cute little Owyhee county history museum there but it wasn't open yet.  (Did you know Owyhee is derived from Hawai'i?  The area is named after a some Hawaiians that helped explore the area 'way back when.)

 We drove into the BLM land, scanning the area with great determination.  Well, at least I was greatly determined.  I think Katia was less than impressed.  We saw some jackrabbits right off the bat.  And we saw...  POOP!  Horse poop!  But no sign of horses.  Well, one sign about horses:

I think this next photo may be Black Mountain itself, but I don't really know.  It's farther away than it looks.  I hate the way photos sometimes have no depth.

We saw lots of neat rocks.  Some of the rocks I thought might be horses, but upon closer inspection, they were rocks.

I thought this corral area with its picturesque background was pretty neat.  But still no horses to be seen.

And lest you think the whole area had neat rocks to look at, this is really what it looked like.  I just took more pictures of rocks than I did of the barren hillsides.

Oooh!  Excitement!  A sign!  About wild horses!  Where my wild horse came from!  But still no wild horses.  Sigh.

We drove a long time down a road to Black Mountain, which was intended for 4x4 vehicles, which was why we drove for a long time, even though we only went about three miles.  I decided to turn back when the road got too scary.  Didn't want to tear out the underneath of the car when it was just us two girls out there.

This picture below is an illustration of why Bella and Scout are so fat.  This is what they were genetically intended to eat.  There was nothing else out there.  A few trees here and there in the gullies, but not one bit of long, lush, green grass.

On our way back to the area where we saw poop, I saw what I thought was new poop.  Got out to check, and sure enough it was still damp.

 After I got my camera I realized there ought to be hoof prints if there was poop.  I love hoof prints of healthy hooves, and these would be my first real wild horse hoof prints.  So exciting!

 Sure enough:

 I saw another, some hundred feet away, and slowly it dawned on me that they were facing in the same direction. 

 "Looks like they were headed-"

And I looked up, and there they were, spread out right in front of me like a miracle.

The surprise of it, seeing them there behind where we'd been looking, made the moment so much more potent.

I wish I had a better camera with a big zoom lens, but I don't.

If you look real closely you can see a baby nursing though:

 I saw two babies in this group of 25 or so horses.  The mares who were over 2 years old were given PZP contraception in 2010.  I wonder if it's still effective now?  Of course there could easily have been babies hiding in the brush, but I like to think the PZP is doing its job.

Seeing these horses so peacefully living in obviously close family groups, in an area that I think is absolutely ideal for horses, really made me wish Bella could still be out there.  She'd be perfect there.  It would be right. Her mothering, watchful, quiet self was made for that life.

Too soon it was over.  There was no trail or road that would give us any better view, and I wasn't about to go through the brush in rattlesnake country.  Besides, it would have been selfish to try to get closer and possibly disturb them.  They weren't very bothered by us because they see plenty of people, but a few of them did watch us closely. 

From Murphy we headed straight home.  A long drive, but a beautiful one.

Here's what the BLM has to say about the wild horses of Owyhee county, Idaho:

"The Black Mountain Herd Management Area (HMA) comprises 50,611 acres, and the Hardtrigger HMA includes 66,063 total acres of public and other land. The HMAs are adjacent to each other in Owyhee County, south of the Snake River between Murphy and US Highway 95 to the west.  Both HMAs are located within rolling hills and sagebrush steppe. The horses share the HMA with other wildlife, including deer, antelope and upland game birds.  
Of all the HMAs the BLM adminsters, those in the Owyhee Field Office produce some of the finest wild horses. They are known to be of excellent size with good conformation and color.  This is the result of the influence of released Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse studs to the herds periodically up to 1978.  It is also suspected that horses bred for Cavalry Re-Mounts may have also influenced these herds.  In addition to the typical colors of bay, brown, and black, the wild horses include many chestnuts, pintos, paints, roans, grays, duns, grullos, and a few Appaloosas."


Lea and her Mustangs said...

I am so happy you got to go and got to see some of the wild horses. It is such a rush when you do. It is a rush even if you have seen them before. I get almost as excited to see them every time we go to Oregon as the very first time.

Kara said...

Very cool that you got to see the Idaho wild horses! And in your picture of that rock outcropping...I swear I can see horses with riders in those's very abstract and cool! Have you ever seen artwork by Bev Doolittle? It really reminds me of her work with rocks that look like horses, or horses that blend into rocks.

Laura said...

Andrea, I'm so happy your search for the horses was fruitful! I would love to go there or Oregon and see them one day. It's funny you mention that you wish Bella could still be there. The whole time we had Annie, I just couldn't get the thought out of my mind that she needed to be back out in the wild. It was so heartbreaking to me trying to make her conform to captivity. I'm sure most of the adopted mustangs thrive in their new homes, but she always had a look in her eye that brought me to tears.

Thanks for posting the pics! What a great trip!

Margaret said...

I am so glad you followed the poop and hoof prints :) A very different kind of beautiful - I bet the sense of space is amazing!

froglander said...

That sounds like it was an awesome tack store to visit!

So cool you got to see some wild ponies out there :)

Linda said...

Wow, that is so cool, Andrea. They all look healthy, too.