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Feb 10, 2021
This photograph taken of “Old Man” aka “Gandalf” was taken in spring. Every year, people who know him, look for him…why you ask…everybody is wondering…
Did he make it through the winter?
Does he look healthy?
Is he alone or does he have a companion with him?
He is old, nobody knows for sure how old he is but the guess is between 24-28 years old. He has been rounded up 2 maybe 3 times and has been lucky to have been released every time. We are always happy to see that he made it through another Utah winter and know that his years are numbered.
Like a lot of wild mustangs around the country that have stayed free, he, one day, will disappear, becoming a legend like Cloud in the Pryor Mountains or Picasso at the Sand Wash Basin. It makes me sad to think about it but also happy that they will have lived and died on their range and not in a BLM holding cell.
The wild mustangs have challenging lives and the Utah horses are no exception: from cold winters and hot summers; trying to find food and water (water that is sometimes stolen from them by ranchers that syphon the water out to give to the cattle); being fed things that kill them by tourists; helicopters from the military base which I have seen harass them and even worse, the ongoing threat of being rounded up by BLM helicopters.
But even through all that, they survive and thrive. I really can’t describe the feeling of seeing him and the group he hangs around. It always brings tears to my eyes when I first see them, not of sadness, it is an overwhelming feeling, my heart quickens, my breath shortens and my whole being feels whole again: I am back where I belong.
You become protective of them and yes, as humans we want to interfere when one is hurt or doesn’t look healthy, but in the end, mother nature takes care of them, one way or another. When I leave them after being around them for a few days, it tears my heart in minuscule pieces, all I want to do is stand guard over them, protect them because I know that the next time I see them, Old Man might not be there and others that had families last year, might lose their family this year; the older stallion losing to a stronger and younger stallion. That’s just how it is.
This year I won’t be back to see the Utah wild ones until September, I am traveling to other parts of the country photographing our other wild mustangs and visiting sanctuaries that save them from slaughterhouses and even though, I fall in love with all the different bands I encounter my heart belongs to the Onaqui Wild Mustangs (in Utah), my first love
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