Living with Wild Horses by Bev Pettit
He was big and fast! And he could turn on a dime in a split second. The black Onaqui wild stallion shows his sense of survival through the display of his many battle scars over his entire body. And those fiery eyes could speak –no, SHOUT – at you without hesitation. This big guy made darn sure that I would keep a good distance from his “stolen” band of mares and their foals. And any other stallion that may encroach upon his territory to threaten his place in the herd would witness his wrath even more severely.
I’ve enjoyed photographing horses, both wild and domestic, for many years. But I had never “lived” with them, out on the range, day and night, observing them and watching their behavior so closely as I did on a recent trip to Sand Wash Basin in Colorado and to Utah on the Onaqui Range.
In September of 2016, I left the comforts of my Arizona home for a 2,000-mile journey in my trusty 4-Runner … traveling north to where the wild horses live. After two days of travel I arrived on the range at night, under a pitch-black sky, which added to the adventure. Slowly trying to find any sign of “civilization” I came upon a trail off to the side of the road. I slowly pulled off onto the trail, turned off the car engine and climbed in the back for a “good” night’s sleep. Waking at daylight and looking out to where I had just spent the last six hours in total darkness was an eye-opener! Here I had parked, perched high on a grassy bluff, along the edge of a 500 foot drop off, down into a vast valley. My jaw dropped as I witness more than 100 wild horses spread out peacefully below.
This is where my journey began. A journey into the lives of wild horses that few others have the privilege of experiencing. I securely fastened on my back pack with camera and lenses while cautiously scaling the hill down to the herd below. I followed their every movement for the next five days as they grazed, fought, protected each other, watered, and slept.
I watched in awe as they moved in such precision and calm order along the edge of the watering ponds, taking turns to drink, mares and foals first, stallions casually keeping a watchful eye close-by. I relished every moment of this journey, while absorbing their majesty, freedom, independence, camaraderie, survival and grace.
One thing to remember …these are our wild horses. They graze on public lands out west. We pay the taxes on these lands. So I feel that it is up to us to make sure that the herds are “managed” well. I would encourage anyone who has an interest in seeing these majestic wild horses to add to a trip out west to their bucket list, real soon.