The second herd that I visited last week is pretty much the opposite of what I described in Act 1. They are visited often. In fact, when I first began driving by McCullough Peaks HMA I could see 2 vehicles plus an atv out on the two tracks , and I wasn’t planning on stopping. When I got further up the road and saw some horses without anyone around, I did decide to drive back and see them.
While there are some wilder horses in McCullough, most are pretty calm around humans. Even though I have only visited there for a few years, it definitely seems to me that they have changed a lot as a herd and are less wild than when I first visited. There is a badlands area, but the horses are usually in the wide open with just grass and sage as a backdrop if you don’t catch them at water. In the desert during the day, any distance is going have the heat waves cause soft pictures and you won’t be able to get a sharp focus. Don’t go in the heat of the day and expect really crisp shots from afar.
Even though some are mostly calm around humans, there is a right way and a wrong way to interact with the horses. The first thing to do with friendlier horses is to let them see you so that you don’t startle them. Once you have done this do not just walk right at them or into them. I saw someone do this at Pryor Mountain a few years ago and while the horses didn’t run you could definitely see them change their pattern and try moving away from the person. Let the horses be the ones to walk closer to you on their terms. In this case, I moved around the horses in a large circle to get on the right side for the sun first. In the first picture you will see the harsh contrast on the horse. If the body is exposed right, the back while be washed out. If the back is toned down, the body will be dark and lose detail. In the second the lighting is much more even. The horse was still a decent distance away for these, but I wanted to stress how much of a difference getting the sun in the right spot can make.
Even with the sun on the right side, when it is higher in the sky you will still get shadows from the horses head if it isn’t turned just right. This can require patience and waiting for a certain pose. It isn’t bad in the next shot, but you will notice more shadow on the front of the horse.
The horses could watch me as I slowly made the arc around them to get the sun on the correct side. Instead of pushing in close to them, I just watched and eventually they decided to move by me. They could have gone the other way, but I was lucky and they chose my way to move. The one horse I can definitely identify from this group is Indian Paintbrush (last 2 in this set), but I think another one is Woya. That would most likely make the bay Hudson Bay. I think this is Moon Pie’s band, but finding pictures of them isn’t easy.
Also hanging out with this band was the only horse that did seem bothered by me being around, but he wanted to follow the rest so he made his way by me. He stopped long enough to make some faces. I am pretty sure this is Booker Rose.
I am not sure if the other horses in the area were one band, or some smaller ones that happened to be close to each other. Utah and Shakira were together for sure.
The next horse was most likely with them, but I don’t know for sure. I am including 2 pictures because it illustrates why I usually pick the shots with the horse looking at me even though most of the time they are eating. In the first picture, you can tell there is a blaze, but not much detail. In the second, you can tell that it isn’t just a straight star/blaze, but has a more unique pattern that should help with someone confirming the identity of the horse. Neither of these pictures does a great job, but I will often wait until the horse is clear of any sagebrush so that feet can clearly be seen for socks/stockings/coronets. This isn’t as easy as even grass can block the view, but usually with multiple pictures you can find shots of different feet and piece together the whole story.
The reason I am not sure if the horse was with Utah and Shikira is that it was also as close to the next horse and interacted at one point ( the following picture was part of that), but this horse would not be Siska or Garth. The only horses I could find pictures of close to it are either Major or Bridger, but I really don’t know.
The last horse is actually the first horse I posted. He seemed to be more of a bachelor, and I don’t know who he is.