Patti Mosbey: Naming rights to Sand Wash Basin wild horses
When I first visited Sand Wash Basin to view the wild horses, we kept score of how many horses we saw that day, but the horses did not have names. Now they all have names, and I can identify many of them. Knowing the horses by name makes finding them more personal and fun, especially when discussing them with other advocates and Sand Wash visitors.
Some of the old time visitors to the basin started “dubbing” unique horse names for their own purposes, but it was very informal and not universal. Beginning in 2008, shortly after the last horse round-up at Sand Wash, Nancy Roberts began the task of documenting each individual horse name in the basin. Along with help from a few friends, they managed to name each of the remaining horses left over from the roundup. She started a blog and began detailing the lives of these beautiful animals. She identified bands, family groups and each new foal. Thanks to social media this process has evolved into the system that exists today.
Any individual that first discovers and documents (by photograph) the birth of a new foal gains naming rights. This has led to friendly competition among regular visitors to the area. The horses are generally identified, first by their color, (which can change from birth to maturity); secondly by the other horses that they are with; their sire and dam, other members of the band, etc. The third level and perhaps the most reliable is the unique identifying features of each individual animal are the shape of blaze on their face, the presence of white socks and how many, and so on. In future installments we will address what these features are and the nomenclature for each.
The naming of a horse is an emotional and uniquely personal act. Sometimes it is reminiscent of an event, place or family friend or pet; many times it is in honor of someone significant either in your life or the community in general. We have Picasso, Willie Nelson, Corona, Benson and Tri-Pod to name a few. Today’s photo feature of “Wanda Walker” is a great example of honor. Wanda Walker was a real person of exceptional character and part of a dying breed of pioneers and trail blazers that helped settle this country and make America what it is. She was a living legend in her own right that personified the spirit of the west. She lived a simple life without electricity, running water or inside toilets, and mostly on the back of a horse. Her obituary stated it best, “…She crossed the great divide wearing her boots and spurs at the grand old age of 87.” She was still on the back of a horse, rounding up cows and doing what she loved most.
I recently had the special pleasure of visiting her ranch at the base of Douglas Mountain in northwestern Moffat County. We spent several delightful and informative hours in the company of her daughter Dawn, who is just like her mother. She talked for hours and shared many stories about the history of this area, including the wild horses. Dawn talked about the days the wild horses roamed freely across the vast domain of Moffat County, long before they were contained in the Sand Wash Basin.
It was my pleasure to present Dawn with a photo of the beautiful dun filly that was named in honor of her mother, Wanda Walker. What a delightful visit and interesting to learn more about the history of the wild horses in our area from someone who knew it firsthand.
Plan a trip to Sand Wash Basin soon and discover this fascinating and beautiful land for yourself, and maybe catch a glimpse of “Wanda Walker.”
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