Backroads, Wild Horses – the foals are here!
Last Friday my photography buddy and I headed out in hopes of seeing some new foals. She desperately needed a break from ‘real life’ and I was happy to oblige. Plenty of pregnant mares, ready to drop, had been spotted on the last drive. We couldn’t have asked for a better day. Despite original forecasts of cloudy and rainy, it dawned with not a cloud in the sky.
West of Sundre we stopped briefly at a waterfowl sanctuary pond. The aroma of fresh leaves reminded us to breathe. The calls of a variety of waterfowl, and buzzing of busy bees were the only sounds. And reflections on a near mirror pond enable us to capture some gorgeous reflections. As we headed further west past Bearberry, the road changed from paved to gravel. There were damp patches, mud patches, and bone dry patches. My favourite kind of driving – a variety! Although I’d set a route, I’d also planned a mini detour, which paid off immensely. We spotted our first herd, complete with gangly-legged foal within minutes, but they were scared into the bushes by a speeding pickup. A white-tailed deer relaxed long enough for us to do a u-turn, but high-tailed it out of there after a couple of shots from the car.
Ears peeking over the crest of a hill alerted us to herd number two, so we peeled off the side track, and approached slowly. Parking 150 feet or so back, we quietly exited and walked a bit closer. A small herd with a foal from last year, and a newborn watched us with cautious eyes, then soon headed into the brush. I didn’t notice until I uploaded photos later that the baby had a large gash on the right side. Hope it will be ok! Clouds had started to build, adding pretty backdrop to the not quite leafed out trees.
A lone battle-scarred grazer peered at us from a hilltop beside the road. He paid more attention to something behind him, than us.
Another Lucky Find
My inner ‘autopilot’ guided me up a small hill leading to a compressor station for ‘just a look’. There in the meadow was a stallion, two mares, and two very young foals, grazing contentedly. They allowed us to watch for quite some time. The stallion disappeared into the woods for a short period. Suddenly something spooked him. (It wasn’t us! Although I did glance behind to ensure there was nothing we should have spooked at as well.) We captured some dream shots as the mares and foals raced to keep up. We exhaled a contented sigh as we ambled back to the car. They had returned to munch before we turned the car around, so whatever it was, wasn’t too scary!
Spotted a beautiful lone stallion, also bearing battle scars, dozing in the sun, as his mare and foal dined nearby on route to a tranquil lunch spot. Surrounded by mountains, still with a hint of snow, a deep green pond, and the songs of out of sight birds, we celebrated our morning successes!
And they just kept coming!
We approached the Ya Ha Tinda area. Doing this route ‘backwards’ compared to previous trips I’d made was quite fascinating. Same scenery, completely different perspective!
The sixth herd was considerably larger, and grazing on both sides of the road. A stunning dun coloured stallion and last year’s foals glowed with a hint of sunlight. I was sure I’d spotted a foal, but laying down hidden behind his mom, he was hard to see until he rose on spindly legs. Papa got annoyed at the young’un sassing him, and headed uphill with a sprint and a snort.
I didn’t want to move the vehicle through them, so was quite happy to pull off, watch and shoot. The souped up Dodge that passed didn’t give a damn. At least he slowed down, then deliberately revved his diesel engine as he got right alongside. Jackasses everywhere!! Clearly this wasn’t the first time the horses had heard it though. They did move up the hill a bit faster, then stopped to graze once more.
My buddy and I chuckled together as we realized yet another ‘oh, this trip will be a bit shorter than past ones’ was going to take as long, if not longer! A side jaunt up to one of our favourite viewpoints, then down to one of the back meadows where we’d had success before. No foals this time, but a small herd – complete with brown headed cowbirds along for the ride. Further on another small group of mares and a lone foal. Daddy popped his head up to make sure we weren’t trouble, then returned to fine dining.
The Grand Finale
By this time, we figured we were done. Our usual sighting areas (and then some) had been exhausted, we’d seen 8 herds (two is normally a good day), and we were on our way home. But the wildies had other ideas. Rounded one last corner, and spread out over the field below was a stallion, 6 mares, and three foals. We really couldn’t believe our luck. A quick stop at the Waiparous Lookout where the views are stunning, and different every time you pause, and another 10 hour round trip came to an end. Even though I’d not intentionally been awake since 4.30am, the adrenaline high and delight going through the photos kept me up until well past bedtime!
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