Patti Mosbey: Survivors of Sand Wash Basin

Patti Mosbey/For the Saturday Morning Press

It’s hot in Sand Wash Basin this time of year. The heat brings the annoying “no see’ums” those nasty little gnats that find their way down your collar, up your pant leg and into your clothing in the most aggravating places. You don’t notice them so much at the initial onslaught, but give it a few hours. You reach to scratch and then the burning, itching and welts began to rise. I’ve found about the only thing that works has to have deet in it and then there’s no guarantee.

While we humans swat, spray and itch our way thru the day the horses take on other venues to protect themselves. You will find them bobbing their heads, resting their chins on band mates, and standing nose to tail in their groups, hoping to get some relief from the biting flies and gnats. It’s a never-ending challenge with each warm day.

The summer woes of life in Sand Wash take on other challenges as well. Foaling season is in full swing. It’s an exciting time of year as many flock to the basin in hopes of being the first to discover a new foal and hopefully clinch the reward of naming the little one.

Along with the foaling also comes the breeding season as each mare that foals will cycle into her foaling heat generating lots of attention from her stallion as well as stirring up the testosterone of any other stallions including bachelors within her scent. Often the newborn foals can become injured and even killed in the action, thus, my title “Survivors” of Sand Wash Basin.

This past month has been one of joy, finding a few new foals, and grief as I was witness to the death of a filly I had named just a month earlier. I watched as her band stampeded to the waterhole from way up the side of Look Out Mountain. She had lagged behind already when no sooner had the band gotten to the waterhole a rogue stallion chased them back up the mountain side. It was moments later we realized she was left behind, stumbling down the hill.

As we approached her I immediately recognized her, Oakley, a month old filly from the Cody band. She was trembling and appeared to be in shock. There was little to nothing we could do for her. It was with great sorrow I had to walk away, this little one would not be a survivor.

Over the last year we have known of those with broken legs that had to be euthanized. Stallion battles, although exciting and amazing to photograph, can leave horses lame beyond recovery. Living wild and free can be a challenge.

There are some amazing survivor stories in Sand Wash Basin. Tripod is a 6-year old stallion who has survived with an injury to his hock since a weanling. May Day, the colt found stuck nose down in the miry clay of a mud hole, rescued by humans who risked the cold mud to drag him free. Ruby, the little red orphan filly, separated from her band at only a month old and overcame all odds of survival claiming the hearts of fans from all over the world.

Each trip to Sand Wash is a new adventure. Having just spent a full week there I come home with mixed feelings, joy, grief and anxiety for what the next chapter for the wild ones will be. What will be the next story for the Sand Wash Basin survivors?

Patti Mosbey has been involved with the wild horses at Sand Wash Basin for more than 15 years. Patti is a regular contributor to Sand Wash Advocate Team Facebook page. Her latest books, Sand Wash Basin “Survivors” as well as others are available at Downtown Books in Craig.

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