January 2012 (Part I)

They say when you go a little while without something, it makes you appreciate it all the more.

I have missed this….the wild beauty the highland country! After consulting with my Dad, who has backpacked all over Grayson Highlands/Mt Rogers numerous times, we decided to have a go at entering the recreation area via another route. As we wound through the back-country, we espied this waterfall and just had to stop and snap a few shots!

Over the summer I decided to quit doing photography professionally. I sold one of my dslrs (the funds went to the purchase of a rescue horse) ~ and unfortunately the other broke a short time later. It wasn’t until recently that I was able to purchase a Canon S1 for $40 on Ebay. The same week, my mom gave me her old Nikon D70 after purchasing a D200 for herself. (Thank you Mom!!) As I don’t have a telephoto lens yet for the dslr, the images from this trip were taken with both the DSLR and the point & shoot:)

We do some pretty crazy things to “get the shot”!

The result (her image, not mine:)

Okay, so this photo was actually taken on the way home in the evening, but I wanted you to see the sign that met us (and our vehicle) as we turned down the “road”  leading to the scales.

It was incredibly wet and rocky. Water ran in streams down the trail.

We were slightly nervous as we had no spare tire…but the Explorer is just that…and we encountered no problems.

We parked and began hiking up the first part of the trail….this was the view that greeted us!

It was VERRRRY wet! The trail had turned into a river!

Me in the “river”. I had waterproof boots ~ unfortunately Michelle didn’t!

The clouds/fog kept blowing across the scales ~ one minute we could see, the next we were enveloped in mist. We climbed to a high point and waited for the next clear moment….so we could scan the surrounding countryside for ponies. Although the day was warm, a cold wind was blowing. It made me shiver.

Me and Rambo, atop the rocks, almost lost in the mist.

Finally! The wind swept the fog away, revealing the mountain once again. Check out that pine tree ~ I get the impression that strong winds are not unusual at this elevation.

Hiking across the balds…same tree, different view.

Myself and Rambo…we’re getting tired, but won’t give up until we find ponies!

At some point Michelle’s dog Kamali, perked up and showed interest in something just over the horizon… Ponies!
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An elderly mare….she had dreadlocks in her mane that hung almost to her knees, and she looked heavily pregnant. Unfortunately I didn’t really get any good photos of her from the side…right as we reached the ponies, fog found us once more.

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The pony on the left was obviously the band stallion. He postured and pranced, demonstrating his authority. He was quite wary of us, and even more so of our dogs. His mares were more curious, but not in your face like some of the ponies near Massie Gap. I got the feeling that they were less accustomed to people.
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We christened the stallion “Jakob”. It was obvious that he had acquired the adoration and respect of his mares. Michelle counted 14 in this band.

The big black mare on the right was actually the first pony I noticed upon approaching. She was taller and broader than the rest ~ easily the biggest pony I’d ever seen on the mountain! We guesstimated that she was somewhere around 12 hands.

Jakob is without a doubt the wildest stallion I have encountered in the highlands! We were careful to keep our distance, to avoid stressing him out.

It was obvious that this band was not gathered in 2011, as they had all of last year’s offspring with them. Here is one of the youngsters, peeking out from behind Daddy.

Here is the “big mare” again. She has a certain nobility about her ~ she looks like a “Reyna” to me.

Another mare with unique, roan coloring. I think this may be the only shot I got of her. I name all the horses for documentation/cataloging purposes, so I am calling her Kacie.

This is the mare Michelle named “Smores”. No comment…lol;)

I am pretty sure the colt on the left is a 2 yr old. I am not sure of the sex of the rest of the youngsters…fuzzy winter coats disguise a lot and we didn’t get close enough to tell.

I fell in love with this colt…we named him Zebulun.

Reyna looking, well, regal!

I love their expressions.

This is Smore’s offspring, whom Michelle named “Cracker” (a good ambiguous name as we still don’t know if it is a him or a her).

Zeblun with a roan mare Michelle calls “Sass”. Sass was the boldest member of the herd ~ she marched right up to us! I flapped my jacket at her to urge her to move away.

Zebulun’s dam, a beautiful small chestnut mare called “Leah”.

Reyna ~ she looks a little like a Fell Pony, don’t you think?

Zebulun “talking” to Reyna.

Discussion over:)

Our dogs, (who were cowering behind a bush after getting a few evil looks from Jacob), caused a twig to snap and Zebulun spooked, running around to hide behind one of the more mature mares.

Sass’s offspring, with Jakob and another yearling. I don’t know where people get the idea that wild stallions kill foals. They obviously have never spent time among the wild ones.

Another one of the yearlings. I can’t quite remember who his/her mother was.

Cracker, peeking out from behind Smores. Cutie! I thought this image was appropriate to end Part I…with just a glimpse of the beauty we witnessed that day…

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Sadly…

I have struggled writing this post, because I’m not sure where to begin. Unfortunately, I will not be able to make it to the roundup/pony auction this year. The past few weeks have presented me with some unexpected hurdles – my main vehicle broke down, my camera crashed, we are in the process of moving (as the landlord of the home we’ve been renting suddenly announced that he is putting it up for sale), and to top things off my hours at work were cut in half. When it comes down to it, every spare penny from this last paycheck was put towards hay for my own horses, and I haven’t the funds for the drive to the highlands. In a strange way I am glad I won’t have to witness the roundup – although I know it is for their own good it breaks my heart whenever any of the ponies are removed from the mountain. Thus I am left feeling a measure of relief, mixed with sadness and guilt. As soon as I get my personal life sorted out, I will be back. And, one day, I hope to be at the auction as a buyer – departing with a pony of my very own.

Changes

Apologies for not posting lately! I have a good reason – and this is why!

Meet Skylar – a 16 yr old BLM mustang (and his brother, Cody, who you can see is hiding in the background).

Skylar and Cody are from Nevada – they were rounded up and brought to SC for adoption about 10-14 years ago. They changed hands several times before they finally ended up in the care of a wonderful lady who has had them the last 8 years. However, she no longer has time for them, and that is where I come in! I fell in love with both Skylar and Cody and on August 20th, they will be coming home with me!

Cody is trained to ride, but Skylar has had minimal handling. He can be approached in the round pen and has been haltered before, but is very wary of new people. I imagine it will take a lot of time and work before he comes to fully trust me.

If anyone is interested, I will be sharing my adventures with Skylar & Cody on a separate Facebook page ~ For Hooves of Thunder

Back to Grayson! I can scarcely believe that the roundup/pony auction is only a month away! I am going to do my best these coming weeks to showcase all the 2011 colts and fillies – some of whom may be available for purchase at the auction (which, by the way, is taking place on September 24th at 2pm).

Pictured above is America x Cortez’s filly – Victory! I imagine she looks a bit different now, as these photos were taken over a month ago. I will try to get back up there and get some new images soon!

Victory and Peregrine are never far apart. They have a special bond.

Little miss Liberty – Freedom’s 2011 filly! On this visit she was intrigued with my dog. She followed him around for a good fifteen minutes, bobbing her head and blowing at him. When he turned to look at her, she overreacted, leaping into the air and kicking up her heels as she tore off. But, just a few minutes later, she was back!

This time she met him head on. I don’t know what they were saying, but it seemed like a very deep conversation!

My boy Fritz! I won’t lie – Fritz has to be one of my favorite ponies – ever. In fact, I was hoping to purchase him at the 2011 auction this year. However, due to unforeseen & extenuating circumstances, it isn’t to be. I won’t lie – this is a big part of the reason I haven’t been to the Highlands in a while. As much as I am excited about the changes in my life, it hurts to realize that I will have to let go of this boy.

He’s special, for sure. I can only hope that if – when – he is rounded up, that he will go to someone who will love him as much as myself.

Another precious boy – Topaz! Remember him? Fox’s firstborn – protected and loved by Pippin. During this visit I was surprised to find that he and Fox had left Pippin’s band…we found them were grazing near Smokey and his.

What a cutie! Like Brook, I imagine his coat will darken. Will he be black? Dark bay? Time will tell!

Introducing…


The last time I saw River, she was heavily pregnant and looked about ready to pop!

Introducing her new colt! We are calling him “Downpour”, because minutes after this photo was taken the skies opened up and we were forced to take shelter under the pines.

It’s not hard to see that this boy will shed out to be black and white pinto, like his sister.

Speaking of which, Brook is now a year old! Happy birthday beautiful girl! Although now weaned, she still sticks close to her dam and little brother.

Another mountain miracle!

 

Battle on the Mountaintop

You’re going to have to forgive the poor quality of the photos in this post… I was hiking parallel to the Appalachian Trail, searching for Pippin’s band when I happened to glance toward the opposite ridge. I didn’t have time (or forethought) to set up my tripod or teleconverter, so these were simply taken handheld, at 400mm.

Although I had seen Smokey’s band in their usual range earlier that morning, I had noticed that EvaSince and Flicka were both missing. I didn’t think much of it – usually they are just out of sight, hidden by the rhododendrons. But when 3 ponies emerged on the opposite mountaintop, I immediately realized that one of them was Flicka.

An unknown filly was in the lead, with Flicka second and a stallion obviously bringing up the rear. From this distance I couldn’t positively identify him, however I was pretty sure it was either Outlaw or Renegade – the two bachelors I blogged about recently.

Unwittingly, they were headed straight for Smokey’s band. I don’t know if you can see it, but Brook has lifted her head and is watching them.

Out of the blue, Smokey appears!

Chaos ensues, with Smokey running circles around the 3, and the unknown stallion desperately trying to head him off.

I had assumed Smokey had come for Flicka, but to my surprise he was obviously after the other mare! He managed to separate her from the others and the two went racing away, leaving Flicka and the stallion behind.

In this shot, Smokey is still after the unknown mare, but in the far right of the photograph, you can see the other stallion is giving the chase!

At this point, they disappeared over the hill, and for a time I was left in the dark as to what had happened. But, 30 minutes later, I snapped another shot of Smokey’s band – still visible in their home pasture – and was able to see that both Flicka and Smokey had rejoined the group. There was no sign of the mystery stallion, or the pinto mare.

I figured that was that, and spent the rest of the day trailing Pippin’s band.

I was headed back down the mountain at sunset when I ran smack into the mystery stallion coming up. It was Outlaw!

…And Flicka! Had he won her back? Or had she left voluntarily? I’m still not sure which it was…

The pinto filly was also with them. I named her Avella. She also looked to be young – no more than 3 yrs old.

I was so absorbed in photographing them that I didn’t notice Pippin approaching and was nearly bowled over by the pinto stallion as he charged at Outlaw. The weary sorrel positioned himself between Pippin and his girls. He wanted to avoid a fight, but he wasn’t just going to let the other stallion just take them…

It baffled me that Pippin kept approaching from behind, rather than attempting to face Outlaw head on. But after thinking it over, I do believe that Pippin wasn’t at all interested in Flicka or Avella – his sole purpose was to drive Outlaw away. After all, his own band was just a little farther up the hill, and Fox was in her foaling heat.

Shooting directly into the sunset isn’t for the faint of heart. But I sort of like this shot… 🙂

Eventually Outlaw and his girls disappeared over the hill, with Pippin still in hot pursuit. I didn’t follow them. I had to get back before the park closed. By the time I reached Massie Gap, it was 9:20pm and I was the last car (truck) in the parking lot.

Windstar & Odyssey

As I followed Pippin’s band to the mineral lick, we espied two young ponies on the other side of the fence. They moved off as we approached, and I followed. They didn’t want me too close, but by staying on the other side of the fence and using my long lens, I was able to get a few shots of them at the edge of the woods.


I can’t say for sure, but I am inclined to think that the light/roan was a stallion, and the bay possibly a filly.


The bugs were horrendous and they were doing their best to escape them. Most of the ponies are looking quite patchy – all bug bitten and in between their winter and summer coats.

I am calling the roan Windstar, and the bay Odyssey. I tried to pick ambiguous names, since I am not sure as to their gender[s].

I am always grateful whenever I get the chance to photograph new ponies. Its bittersweet – knowing it may be some time before I see them again. If you visit the highlands, be sure to share your photos on our facebook page! It helps me to know where certain bands were spotted, and where I should look on my next visit!