Wyoming: Pilot Butte Wild Horse Tour
Between Green River, Wyoming and Rock Springs, Wyoming runs County Road 53, which has been designated by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) as the Pilot Butte Wild Horse Scenic Tour. The tour route runs through the BLM's White Mountain HMA (Herd Management Area).
This route can be done by car but a 4x4 vehicle would be even better. Or you can book a tour with Rich, who runs Green River Wild Horse Tours. He can take you into areas regular vehicles can't go with his super-vehicle, a Pinzgauer, and knows the movements of the horses. But really you can do this route yourself very easily if the road is dry. I suggest staying in the Hampton Inn in Green River, as it is located near the tour route and you can sometimes see horses right from the hotel.
But here is a note of caution. These horses aren't safe from round up. This is the Wyoming Checkerboard area, which is still reeling from a huge helicopter round up in 2014. So enjoy the photos of the horses but realize that these horses, and others like them, have no guarantees of remaining wild. Government, corporate, mining and ranching interests stand in opposition to wild horse advocates and each other. It's a mess. Once you start doing research into this subject one thing becomes very clear to anyone with a heart: we need a much more humane and scientifically sound way of managing wild horse populations and caring for these horses than is currently being done, or proposed, in many areas where wild horses are found in this country.
But back to this day and these moments out on this horse range. At first deer and pronghorn were the only large animals I was seeing. And there were lynx tracks on the road. It took quite a while to find horses this morning. Generally, horses will go to their usual watering holes and you can kind of predict where they will be, but this area had received more rain in the early spring than it usually does in an entire year. That means horses had no need to travel their predictable routes and were taking advantage of any water, even puddles, that they can find. And that is exactly what they were doing: enjoying some mud puddles. Not only were they drinking from them but two took good long rolls in them and decorated themselves and each other with plenty of mud.
There was also another drama going on with the small band I ended up photographing extensively. The band stallion was busy kicking another stallion out of his territory. He may have been kicking him out of the band or he was just warning him off his family. Either way he wasn't going to let the red roan (see below) anywhere near his band.
|After two hours of driving around and not finding any horses this gentleman bachelor graced me with his presence.|
|Then I found this band of horses on the move.|
|The battle scarred band stallion watching a departing rival.|
|The roan that the band stallion drove off. If you look closely he has growth or injury on the bottom of his stomach (barrel in horse anatomy terms).|
|Around two weeks old. This little foal was full of piss and vinegar combined with joie de vivre.|
|Foal investigating water but isn't convinced its something he wants.|
|Leaping toward mom. Click to replay .gif.|
|Now this is what he wanted!|
|Tummy filled he's bouncing around again!|
|And still bouncing around!|
|Wheeeeee! All four legs off the ground!|
|Soulful stallion keeping an eye on the competition (red roan). Look at that wavy mane and those curly feathers (long hair on lower legs and fetlocks).|
|Crazy mane needs a good shake!|
|There were two yearlings that can be considered Curly mustangs. Look at that hair. Obviously, inherited from their sire.|
|A closer look at the Curly yearlings.|
|This palomino and chestnut curly were also full of piss and vinegar. |
Palomino says: I was going to drink that!
|Chestnut: Here have some mud!|
|Palomino: Here have more mud!|
Chestnut: I'm not impressed by YOUR long blond locks!
|Palomino: In that case I'll just bite you.|
|Chestnut: Then I'll tackle you.|
Palomino: You stink at this.
|Now we shall be dramatic.|
|No we shall not behave!|
|Overlooking the area where wagon trains came west and would eventually split into the California and Oregon trails.|
|Horses, antelope, and mule deer weren't the only animals out that day. This gopher snake was warming itself in the road.|
|A good look at a gopher snake's tongue.|