Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Sand Wash Herd Management Area in Moffat County, Colorado

          "Did you see Picasso?"  The question comes from a portly middle-aged man sporting a long-lens camera around his neck.  Unsure exactly what he's asking Tim and I answer with a short "Uh, no," and move on.

           Reflecting on his question later I realized that today we have seen irregular patterns of black and brown, a not-quite-pink combination of cream and beige, black mixed with roan to create a speckled blue.  I refer though, not to paintings by famous artists, but to wild horses.

           Native wild horses disappeared from North America thousands of years ago.  The horses we're viewing today are descendants of horses which escaped during the Spanish conquest of our continent in the 1500s.  The controversy surrounding wild horses is this:  Are they truly wild, or are they an invasive species?  Biologists tell us that domesticated horses revert quickly to their ancient behavioral patterns if lost or abandoned.  Considering that these horses have been roaming free on the land for 500 years, I would say they're more native than I am.

Several of the horses we saw while driving
the "Wild Horse Loop" displayed a healthy
interest in us.  This horse watched us for
several minutes before slowly turning away.

This small group of wild horses grazes the sage-covered high plains of
northwestern Colorado.

We were fortunate to encounter this little filly and her mother
by the side of the road.

           Human settlements in the west—and endless miles of fencing—are now the biggest obstacles to free-ranging wild horses.  Even in sparsely populated Moffat County, Colorado the wild herd is managed by the Bureau of Land Management to keep their numbers from overwhelming the designated habitat.  But, fortunately for these horses, the 156,500 acres of the herd management area in Sand Wash Basin sustains a healthy population.  And that population is filled with animals sporting every possible color combination.

          Now we get it.  The gentleman with the camera was asking about a horse named "Picasso",  most likely one exhibiting Picasso-esque colors.   So did we see him?  A Google search reveals multiple photos of the famed wild stallion and our question is answered.

Picasso (the painter) used shades of brown and black
in his "cubist" paintings.  You can see how this wild stallion
got his name.
Photo by John Wagner, from the website:

          No, we didn't see "Picasso" this day in the basin.  But it was an excellent day on the range, in the company of wild horses.

This mare trotted by the truck, her snorts and
whinnies singing to the sky as she passed by.

Lookout Mountain (straight ahead in center of photo)
defines the northern boundary of the Sand Wash Herd
Management Area.

"Mom" and her baby share a tender moment on the ridge.

            Plan your wild horse-viewing get-away in the wild country of northwestern Colorado by visiting this website:http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/fo/lsfo/programs/wild_horse.html
Note:  This is a remote and rugged region with the nearest services (limited) 25-30 miles away.  Be prepared when traveling in this area.

Our truck is a mere blip on the landscape.
We saw one other person (mentioned above) during
our three hours in Sand Wash Basin.

The dark green line delineates the Wild Horse Management Area.
The dark red lines are the County roads of the Wild Horse Loop.
We saw groupings of horses along each of the loops.