*Photo above by Neali Austin - Hidden Freedom Photography
Our second guest blog post is from wild horse photographer, Neali Austin. Last week Neali, Amber, Danielle and I all traveled to Theodore Roosevelt National Park together, and had some pretty awesome wild horse encounters. Neali talks about one unforgettable moment, that had our hearts racing. Enjoy! - Jamie
"Last Saturday, I was hiking out on the Upper Talkington Trail in Theodore Roosevelt National Park with Jamie, Amber, Danielle, and Deb. We had gone out at sunrise so we could find Arrowhead’s little band in order to photograph stallion Blaze’s newest filly (and possibly his last as he passed away in March). We had hiked probably a mile or so out to them from the loop road. Once we got our photos and had sat and observed them for a while, we started meandering our way back to the car stopping to observe the bands we had bypassed on the way out.
Red Face’s band was the last one for us to stop at on our way out. Amber was most excited for this group as she adopted his 2014 filly out of Sundance. We saw them just below a hill, so we moved northwest of them to stay on the opposite nearby hilltop in order to observe from a distance. I started doing roll call in my head and sometimes aloud. Everyone was accounted for, even the 2 new foals. Everyone that is, except for Red Face himself. This was odd. He’s never far from his band. We started talking amongst ourselves where he might be. The band gradually moved up onto the opposite hill from us, and we waited for Red Face to show up there with them. Still nothing. At that moment, Satellite had moved his mares closer to Red Face’s band and made a move towards Red Face’s 3-year-old filly Opal. Her dam Molly did not appreciate his posturing and attention towards her filly, and moved in to push him away, ears back and squealing. Deb said, “Oh, he’ll show up now. He won’t tolerate this.” Again, no Red Face.
Deb decided to hike down from our hilltop and circle around the opposite hill that the bands were on to see if Red Face might possibly be grazing on the other side. The rest of us stood where we were, waiting to see if she saw anything. Deb got to where she could see around the other side of the hill, but just shook her head. He wasn’t over there either! Now it was just weird. We debated where he might be, “Did he see Singlefoot and go with him?”, “Did Flax run over and Red Face was chasing him off?” Danielle interrupted, “GUYS! Do you hear thunder?!” We stopped talking and listened. We heard hooves. Pounding hooves moving at a fast pace from behind us, but couldn’t see below the hill. We started scrambling trying to find the best place to stand and be ready for what was going to come up onto the small hill top on even ground with us. Bison? Horses? Red Face?? Sure enough, Red Face crested that ridge, pausing for just a brief second as he saw us. His muscles bulged as he tensed up, and then he was moving again, circling around us to get to his band on the opposite hill (see photo with post). Once there, he relaxed and all the horses went back to grazing. Deb came back from her position below the hill, and we all laughed at how nervous we had been. She told us he must have been down in the gorge for water and his band had moved on without him.
Tracking, finding, and photographing wild horses is exciting! It’s easy to get caught up in the moment when you’re with them, but it’s important to always remain aware of what is going on around you. We were thankful Red Face was aware as he crested that ridge so he didn’t plow us over, we were also thankful that Danielle heard his hooves first so we could at least be ready and facing whatever was coming up that ridge behind us. No matter how peaceful the situation is it can change in an instant. Learn the cues and signals of the body language of the wild ones, and always give yourself distance between you and them so there is time to react if the situation changes. Be a responsible observer, and have fun!"
I really want to thank Neali for sharing her Red Face encounter with us! It's little moments like those that make Wild Horse Photography so exciting, but also dangerous! To see more of Neali's work please visit her Facebook and Instagram. You will love it!