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I found an old friend this last week while out stalking deer to photograph. I looked up from the cottonwood groves flanking the river to the dry hills and saw three horses headed to water. Even from afar I thought that I recognized the distinctive markings of one of the horses. I hurried to catch up with them, any thought of sneaking up on deer forgotten as I hoped I could intersect with the horses without spooking them. I was able to get down wind and into some thick sagebrush and waited along their return path as they drank at the river.
Peeking at them through the brush I was thrilled to see that the paint mare trailing her colorful foal, was well-known to me. I had taken quite a few photos of her and her band the summer of 2009 when she was born. Her distinctive markings made her easy to recognize. I had last seen her in the fall of 2011 a good 12 miles to the west of this location. At that time, she had still been with her mother and several other mares. Her sire was still in possession of his band of mares. I took some photos of them and then did not see her again until this week.
Obviously she was now a mother herself. I looked at the condition she was in and that of her foal and my heart fell. The drought we have been having is taking a terrible toll on all of the wild horses but especially mares and foals. The lack of snow and rain last winter has left very little for the horses to eat. I saw the foal trying to nurse and I am not sure she had any milk to give. They are walking great distances to find feed everyday and burning a lot of calories. I have been praying, along with everyone else for a good winter with heavy snow this year but that will surely mean a lot of these horses are not going to make it.
Yesterday I think I saw the paint again with her stallion. I looked in vain for the foal. They were very far away so I can’t be sure it was her at all. I did not see a foal trailing them.