These are a (lot) of my favourite (horses)

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Baja leads his mares Bacardi and Washakie. 

You might wonder what place a subjective word like “favourite” has in an objective field like wildlife management. And truthfully, it shouldn’t really have a place. However, we would be remiss to forget that these horses are managed, followed and advocated for by people, and people are not wholly (or even mostly) objective.

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Inquisitive, distinctive and a rare colour, Pride is a natural candidate for favouritism. He is also likely the last offspring of his famous sire, Cloud. Representation-wise, however, he is a prime candidate for removal this coming year.

There is nothing wrong with having favourite horses, so long as this is not allowed to impact the overall health of the herd. The danger comes when people make management decisions that favour certain horses and their offspring, or a particular colour or other characterstic, leading to an over-representation of certain bloodlines and traits. This dilutes the genetic diversity in the population. In such a small, isolated population this is extremely risky, not only to the long term viability of the herd, but also to the health of the future offspring of a more concentrated gene pool.

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Oro (Odyssey). Because who doesn’t love Oro? 🙂

That’s not to say that it isn’t 100% natural (no pun intended) for the topic of favourites to come up in human conversation. People have their own preferences and emotional responses and that is nothing to be ashamed of. I love chatting to people about their favourite Pryor horses. And people ask me the same question all the time! To be honest, anyone who has ever asked me which horse in the Pryors is my favourite has received a very long-winded answer because, every time I find out something new about one of the horses, it further develops their character. I think they are all my favourites, though inevitably some do stand out  a little bit more to me.

At any rate, here is kind of highlight reel (part 1, at least) of, not so much my “favourite” horses, but the ones that particularly touched me on my first trip to the Pryors.

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Nimbus gets first spot, because she was the first Pryor Mustang I ever saw in person. It’s not hard to understand why a lot of people love Nimbus, she’s simply stunning! Not only does she look like a unicorn, but she has a very Romantic story. Separated as a yearling from her natal band, she was claimed by a group of bachelor stallions. It is not hard to imagine why this wouldn’t be the ideal situation for a young filly, but against all odds she managed, and wound up with a devoted young stallion (Knight, pictured in my blog header).

I saw Nimbus every day I was on the mountain, and she never ceased to amaze me with her beauty  and personality! Click here for more about Nimbus on my sister blog.

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Gaelic Princess is another beautiful mare. Naturally shy, she often gets overlooked in reports on her large band. One morning in camp we found her watching a couple of us rather closely. We were amazed to see her actually move towards us. Gaelic Princess was getting so inquisitive we actually had to retreat, but I’ll never forget meeting her eyes and seeing the battle between wariness and curiosity flickering there. It was an honour to me that she felt comfortable enough to let the curious side of her personality win out, even just for a few seconds.

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Jasper is tall(ish), dark and handsome so what more could you want? Not only is he positively stunning, but he has a very striking air about him. I really fell head over heels for this guy as I watched him interact gently with his band of young mares and two “step sons,” Okiotak and Oklahoma. Jasper clearly loves his family, and made this quite clear when he felt the stallion Fiesta had crossed a line by telling off his two youngest charges.

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Okiotak and Oklahoma were not born in the same band but they obviously wasted no time in becoming best friends!! These two were positively precious to watch. Because of the population control in the Pryors, it isn’t very common to see a band with more than one yearling or foal at the same time.

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Hamlet, Audubon and Niyaha were majorly elusive throughout my trip. Audubon was heavily pregnant at the time, and we spent a lot of time scanning the horizon for any sign of this small band and a new member! I saw them the first day I was on the mountain, and then not again until an hour or so before I left the mountain. It was very exciting to see them coming over the crest of a hill and completely unexpected. I haven’t met Audubon’s little filly, though!

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Limerick and Nirvana are sweet young mares in Galaxy’s band. We spent a lovely early evening watching them interact and pose for us until Galaxy decided that they’d had enough publicity for the evening.

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Tecumseh, Galadriel and Oceana are a tight little family band. Tecumseh fought long and hard to win back Galadriel, and absolutely dotes on his daughter, Oceana, who is certainly a daddy’s girl!

 

 

It Runs in the Family

I spend a lot of time scribbling lists of horses and drawing colour-coded family trees. Not (just) because I’m OCD, but because I strongly feel that one of the most important management strategies in wildlife, including the Pryor Mustangs, is Pedigree Management.

To clarify, what I mean by “pedigree management” is factoring in genetic diversity and bloodline representations when conducting removals and administering contraceptives. More complicated? Sure. Vital? Absolutely.

Horses are a fantastic model species for this form of management. Unlike deer, elk and bison, horses are highly individualized in appearance. A wide range of coat colours and a multitude of possible markings ensures that few horses look the same, and hardly any look identical to the familiar eye.

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Even though Millicent, Ketchikan and Oklahoma are all duns, they have individual characteristics that identify them.

It isn’t enough to simply look at the immediate parents. Pedigree management should also look at the representation of the ancestors, ie. the bloodlines, of an individual horse. The representation of the horse’s bloodlines must be considered when it comes to management decisions.

Thankfully, this form of management is considered, to a degree, in the Pryors. A notable flaw, however, is that Paternal lines are rarely given much weight. This is very dangerous when it comes to preserving a species. I understand that, without genetic testing, it is nearly impossible to guarentee paternity (just think of all of those milkman jokes), however, in many cases it is almost certain. Not only is the Pryor Herd closely monitored, but many mares are very loyal to their stallions. And a stallion in his prime isn’t going to let another stallion breed his mares without a serious fight. Some stallions “stamp” their offspring, others pass on rarer colour genes. Some offspring just simply look like Dad.

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Only so many horses in the Pryors could possibly be Nimbus’ sire with that palomino colour! It would be pretty obvious where Nimbus’ paternal influence came from, even if Feldspar hadn’t been with Cloud for several years.

For an example of how important paternity can be, consider that Winnemucca has only foal left on the range. That foal is Doc, a stallion. If we don’t consider the paternity of Doc’s offspring, we could very easily leave Winnemucca with no descendants on the range after such a long, successful life.

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Handsome Hamlet is in the same boat as Doc. He is the only remaining offspring of both of his parents. He has sired one foal to date; I hope that foal’s paternity is considered when the next removal takes place. It may not be as the foal’s dam has two other offspring.

Sadly, we live in a world where artificial management has become necessary. What we must strive for is to minimize the negative impacts of this management.