I have a really good reason for not blogging these past few weeks: I was busy preparing for, taking part in, and then recovering from my weekend photographing wild horses in the mountains of northern New Mexico. It was truly the experience of a lifetime. I will make up for the lack of blogging by posting a ton of photos. I am breaking them up by day, and will include a narrative about each day.
This was a workshop, led by Lynne Pomeranz. These Wild Horse Workshops are “Educational Adventures for Photographers, Horse & Nature Lovers”. Even if all you have is a point and shoot camera, I can assure you, if you like to spend time in nature and want a chance to see wild horses living completely off the land, I HIGHLY recommend you take a workshop from Lynne. She is a delightful person with a deep knowledge of wild horse history and behavior, including how to find them and approach them so as to stay safe and respect their wild nature. Lynne has published a book entitled “Among WIld Horses” that I would also highly recommend. I’ll share more about it in my last post.
On a technical note – I shot mostly with my Canon 70-200 2.8 lens with a 1.4 teleconverter. I shot in Av mode, with exposure compensation turned down a click or two because the brush often caused overexposure. Why not shoot manual? Because the action happens so fast! I was actually quite impressed with how accurate my exposures were. My wide angle shots were taken with my new 35 1.4 L.
I flew to New Mexico on Thursday and Linda and her husband Jim picked me up at the airport. Linda and I planned to do this workshop together, and it turned out we were the only ones to sign up for this one, so it was a really fun, intimate experience for all of us. Jim didn’t go on the photo shoots, but shared meals and lots of great stories with us each day.
We made it to Chama, NM at dinner time and ate at “High Country,” a sweet little café that served fantastic New Mexican food. I had a combo plate with all sorts of things that made my mouth burn!
The next morning, we got up extremely early and headed up to the Jicarilla Horse Territory, located in Carson National Forest.
Lynne scoped out the park from an overlook, and we spotted a small band of horses!
I also have to add here that this was my first adult experience of, well, going potty in the woods! Yes, I guess I’m not the country girl I thought I was and I needed advice on how to execute this successfully. I actually got pretty good at it, which was good because the roads were very rough and bumpy, and we had to drink a lot to stay hydrated in these elevations and dry environments.
This was the first band we found. We wondered if the yearlings might have been twins, as they were exactly the same size.
In most cases, we would only have a few seconds to take photos before they would run out of sight. This was a bit frustrating at first, but I learned to love the excitement of searching for horses and approaching them softly to try and get close without making them run away. We would never chase them. As the first workshop of the year, we had a responsibility to start “training” the horses to get used to our presence, so future groups have the same opportunity (or even better) to see and enjoy the horses.
A stallion from another group running through the brush. Much of the brush was made up of sage – which smelled so wonderful!
Horses are, by nature, very curious. They would run, then stop and watch us.
Then run again!
For the mid-afternoon, we headed back to Chama to rest. On our way home, we stopped for gas and there were some roadside stands where Jicarialla Apache Indians were selling fry bread and other yummy foods. I got myself some lunch!
That evening, we headed to the Monero Mustangs Sanctuary at Yellow Hills Ranch. We met Sandi Claypool, who runs the sanctuary, where she cares for mustangs that have been removed from the wild for various reasons. On this property, the horses are returned to their wild state, meaning they are not given the same kind of daily food, water and care that domestic horses are given. What they are given is hundreds of acres to roam freely and live the way they were intended without being in danger of bring rounded up and sold at auction.
These are Sandi’s hands, gently touching her riding mare’s nose. I have rarely met someone who loves animals the way she does.
These horses, though wild, are much more accustomed to the presence of people, so we were able to be much closer to them and they didn’t run away from us like the Jicarilla horses did. We did, however, still need to be careful about getting too close, because the horses are wild and therefore can be dangerous.
This little mare is named Pluma. We all felt bad for her because she was being rejected by all the other horses and was always on the perimeter of the herd. You will see a lot of pictures of her because I thought she was beautiful. :)
Did I mention how beautiful New Mexico is?
There are several geldings in these herds who spent the better part of their lives as stallions. Wonderfully, they have retained their stallion ways and each one has a herd of mares and fight to steal each other’s mares, just as stallions do in the wild. This is Roanie (left) and a Bay Stallion, whose name I cannot remember.
They gave us quite a show that evening. The bay stallion came up to Roanie’s herd to steal some mares, and Roanie took almost all of the bay stallion’s mares! You will see a lot of that drama in the following photos.
After all that drama, the horses needed a drink!
There was one foal. She was super cute and friendly!
I really liked this mare too.
These horses come in a beautiful palette of colors.
These two mares seemed to be friends. They would stand back and watch the action without getting too involved.
Roanie has such beautiful muscling. I probably have more photos of him than any other horse.
Lynne, our instructor and my newest friend. :)
Ready for Part 2?