Wild Horses of Nevada

May 4, 2021 at 10:48 am (Nevada, Wild Horses of the Southwest) (, )

Wild horses of Fish Springs area, Gardnerville, Nevada.

I have had a deep love of horses since I was a girl, and even though I rarely got to ride one, I have been fortunate to spend time with the “wild” horses of Sand Wash Basin Herd Management Area in northwestern Colorado when I worked as a seasonal park ranger at Dinosaur National Monument in 2014.

Wild horses of Fish Springs area, Gardnerville, Nevada.

The horses there have several Facebook fan pages, with people (generally women) who know every horse’s lineage, age, habits, and name. Yes, they all get names. I was pleased to discover that there are herds in Nevada which also have Facebook fan pages and the same love from hundreds, if not thousands, of people who may not have even seen them in person.

Wild horses of Fish Springs area, Gardnerville, Nevada.

I had a chance to finally visit the Fish Springs, Nevada herd (Gardnerville-Minden area) several weeks ago. I should have asked the FB admins how to find them, but figured people in the area would be happy to direct me. However, there was some hesitancy at the Chamber of Commerce, understandably, since not everyone is respectful of the horses, wildlife, or their habitat. (Just see what goes on in National Parks to see what I mean.)

Blue roans – among the most beautiful of the wild horses of Fish Springs area, Gardnerville, Nevada.

While I was there, an old man walked in with his wife. He sported a face mask that said “Trump Forever” and a hat that said some very derogatory things about Joe Biden. I bristled and almost said something to him. But when he heard I was looking for the horses he said he’d seen some up on Bald Mountain and told me to take the road past the town dump. I was grateful and said, “Thank you for helping a Democrat.” He remarked, “We’re all Americans.” I saw him a few minutes later in the parking lot. There were about Trumpian six ball caps on the dash. Nevertheless it was a friendly parting. I am so glad I bit my tongue.

I followed his directions and drove through a residential area where there were signs posted, “We love our wild horses.” The houses became more spread out in the sagebrush, then I entered an area burned by the Numbers Fire last summer. I saw some contractors taking a break. I asked about the horses and one was very knowledgeable. Told me the horses moved to another area after the fire and directed me to the road that led into BLM land of wide-open sage and grass hills.

I didn’t have to drive too far to spot them on a hillside just past the four watering tanks. Another vehicle was parked below, its driver observing them. I met him at the intersection and he told me there had been about 60 horses the day before, and that there was a black stallion among this herd. He told me to drive up the hill where I could see them better. The picnic table beside a lone juniper was the perfect spot to boondock, and I drove around a little ways and parked.

The herd was taking it easy, with most of the herd napping. This was high country, and very few deciduous trees down below were leafing out. Many wildflowers were scattered on the ground amid the new grass, though very few were in bloom. It was a comfortable afternoon and I took out my camp chair and my salad from dinner the night before, and ate while I watched and took photos through the heat waves.

Wild horses of Fish Springs area, Gardnerville, Nevada.

The black stallion was on the small side and tended to keep to himself. Black is one of my favorite colors in horses.

It took awhile to figure out the herd dynamics. There were plenty of bachelor stallions, sometimes getting up the energy to spar playfully. The bay horses tended to stay in a tight bunch. I figured them to be the mares, jealously guarded by the band stallion, who I think is the one called Blondie. I’m sure more knowledgeable folks will set me straight on their names.

I love open spaces with wide skies. Forests feel claustrophobic to me.

Wild horses of Fish Springs area, Gardnerville, Nevada.

As you can tell by the photos, I kept my distance from the herd. However, the next morning when I woke up in my bookdock spot there were horses very close by. One of them was a blue roan I don’t think was there yesterday – perhaps the one named Blue? He was with two bays. There was also another herd below at the water tanks.

Blue roan near me before dawn

The light was poor but the experience was magical. It seemed I was invisible to the horses, who are used to people watching them.

The photo above shows the blue roan and his companion on alert as two pronghorns ran by far below.

This is the one who appeared to be the band stallion. He did a lot of “snaking” movements to move mares where he wanted them, and to move out some troublesome young stallions.

Wild horses of Fish Springs area, Gardnerville, Nevada.
Wild horses of Fish Springs area, Gardnerville, Nevada.

The bachelor stallions were quite energetic in the cool morning air, and one of the blue roans engaged in mock battles with two others. There always seemed to be one or the other of them on the sidelines waiting to join in.

Wild horses of Fish Springs area, Gardnerville, Nevada.

Some of this horseplay came quite close to me, which was thrilling. Some of the band even came up to the picnic table about 30 feet away from me. Not sure what to make of their interest. I didn’t even eat on the table, so there was no food to sniff out.

A Roman-nosed stallion was also looking for a fight. He challenged the golden-maned band stallion at one point and they kicked up some dirt before the challenger was chased down the hill into the junipers.

Wild horses of Fish Springs area, Gardnerville, Nevada.

While the three stallions I was watching continued to play, the rest of the herd slowly disappeared. Before I knew it, all were gone. I had been up there for about 21 hours total, and that was my cue to move on. I had planned to continue toward Carson City to visit the Pine Nut Mountains Herd Management Area, but I didn’t think I could top the experience I had just had.

That morning was the highlight of my entire week on the road. I saw only one half-grown foal that was still nursing. The people that oversee the herd have been darting the mares with contraceptive, so there were no new foals. This is to keep down the population so the BLM doesn’t conduct round-ups which take many of them off the range.

Wild horses of Fish Springs area, Gardnerville, Nevada.
Wild horses of Fish Springs area, Gardnerville, Nevada.

Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre
Feel free to reblog or share
Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com
Online gallery:  Smugmug and Fine Art America
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