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Saturday, November 5, 2011

My New 2012 Wild Mustang Day Planner is here

The 2012 Wild Mustang Day Planner is here!
A wild horse image for each month and some of my quotes scattered here and there. There's lots of room to write, make appointments, or jot down thoughts or ideas.140 pages....

Softcover US $34.50
Hardcover, Dust Jacket US $52.50
Hardcover, ImageWrap US $54.50

Volume Discounts
Discounts apply toward orders of seven or more books.
Quantity Savings
7 – 9 (single order)5%
10 – 49 (single order)10%
50 – 249 (single order)15%

Thursday, September 23, 2010

My Buckin' Tailbone

I had looked forward to this ride with a couple friends on hilly and brushy trails, and pushing cattle to another pasture. I was riding a borrowed unknown-to-me buckskin mare. She was a grumpy old girl, that hadn't been handled much or ridden in a few years (I even wondered if she were only greenbroke in her younger years), pretty much simply a broodmare. Our task for the day was moving cow-calf pairs and some hefty bulls to another pasture. We had a heck of a time moving one particular big, young, and athletic beefcake who refused to pass the area he knew to be 'hot' where he had a run-in with the electric fence before, which used to cross there. It was the job for the three of us, along with another hand to push this impressive black angus ribeye over and beyond this 'hangup' to get him with the rest of the herd. The still-in-shock buckskin broodmare I rode, never having experienced any of this before, did surprisingly well. Though far less responsive than I was used to with my rope horse, Gus, and I spent much time and energy with my heels in her sides, but she minded reasonable well considering her life as a paddock pet... with this bull that outweighed her two times.

We finished our job of moving the herd, however, no matter the tricks, the reins, the hollers and clucks, we couldn't convince Ribeye to see things our way, and instead of risking life and limb as he grew ever more agitated with our coaxing, demonstrating his disdain for our help by mock-charging our horses and pawing the grass, we figured he'd follow the herd once they began moving up the hill and out of his sight, on his own. Calling it good, it was time to head a big stretch back to the stocktrailer and go home, so the three of us did what cowgirls 'on coffee' do and that is run our cowponies, full throttle, all the way back yipping and hollering. My two friends were up ahead of me, and me being me, couldn't let that happen... but my rusty ride, now tired and irritated with my heels in her sides demanding mock speed to regain lost ground, refused to go up another gear- and as she was galloping began bucking trying to rid herself of her coffee'd cowgirl with a need for speed.

I've ridden out bucking horses while working them in roundpens before, but never while on the run. Unwilling to be beat I held on with determined might- my legs and mostly my pride reined her in hard. The buckskin finally pulled up hard & fast but put in one more hard heave and dive onto her front legs. My pride still held strong, but not without my seat passing the saddle horn, as I watched the bronc's neck and flying mane rise at my face....and nearly going completely over. With time for only momentary surprise when I pushed forward and down in my stirrps that I regained my balance, and slamming my tailbone down... but not into the comfortable thrown of the saddle, but right onto the saddle horn itself- and hard. Momentarily stunned by the uncomfortable surprise, but relieved, as I could feel the angry old mare give to my reins, I reflected on my successful buckout as I got the mare to stop. Snorting & shaking her head mad, but stopped. Regaining composure and overall pleased with my performance, I looked ahead expecting to see my friends waving their hats with admiring smiles and adoration. However, instead I took note that they apparently missed my impressive ride, they even appeared somewhat let down to see my gentle lope to catch up to them (after the bucking). I made more than 8 seconds but no one noticed but Ribeye. Friends being friends, laughed their heads off when I told them about my buckin' saddle horn mishap. I still hear about it today.

Nope, I didn't go to the doctor, what can they do, certainly can't put a cast on it. Just dealt with the hand given me... a sore fanny. And if I sit on the hard ground, I'm still reminded of that day, especially when I'm out by the firepit and enjoying a good ribeye. ;)

Where the wild winds blow,

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Mustang Management in the Guise of Sheep's Clothing

More chair time has created this note for you to read, use, pass on, or ignore. Someone had received a reply letter to their wild horse concerns from a government official, and in it was a reasonable explanation as to why they do what they do in terms of mustang management. They then asked me if any of that was true. Here was my reply:

Thank you for writing to our lawmakers on behalf of our wild horses, every letter and every question makes a difference overtime to the care, protection, and ultimate preservation of our wild equids. I am very sorry to hear/see that it was an unfeeling form letter. In fact, many people on here and on my personal page have been sending me examples of the replies they've received, and it's very much the same- quite possibly word for word. How much of this is true? Very good question. Please be patient with my answer, though I tried to be brief, this is a very complicated issue:

It is indeed important to know both sides of the story. Looking at regional herd management, or "close up", there may be correct management, where the small regional BLM offices of the 10 western states are simply keeping wild horse numbers at predetermined "appropriate management levels" or AML. But when one looks beyond the day to day simple AML management duties of BLM personnel and turns attention "outward" and over the years, at the numbers, and at the government level, or more specifically, the Department of the Interior, from where whole herd elimination orders rain down, one sees a more sinister and questionable picture. For instance -discovering that nearly 50% of the horses to be maintained and "kept free from harm and harrassement" with the 1971 Act, have disappeared ... and that's just in the last decade, since year 2000 alone. There's an unaccounted number of mustangs in the 30,000+ which BLM records cannot tell you what happened to them. In 1997 the director of the Wild Horse and Burro Program admitted that eventually about 90% of our wild horses end up going to slaughter. Now, this is just one part, then the other-

-There's the question of the 19 MILLION acres taken away from wild horse management- with eliminated whole herds. When you set those two numbers side by side (40-50% horses gone, and 19 MILLION acres no longer for herd managment), you see the smoking gun. It becomes an obvious correlation with the percentage of wild horses gone along with the huge amounts of land. I asked the question where has this land gone- it's been sold off, traded interagency, turned into recreational areas, road development, livestock grazing, developed, and exploited for natural resources. This is your land and this is my land- a wilderness lost, for the benefit of those in Washington- and in the name of progress, we have now more homes scarring our west along with stripmalls for instance.

When the government zero's out whole herds of the very horses we entrusted in their care, and they under guise of "sheep's clothing"- the seemingly benign government officials in Washington, claiming that it's due to their "concern and welfare for the animals and to protect them from famine by keeping mustang numbers down"... are the SAME government officials who have recommended the euthanizing of the 36,000 mustangs captured and currently in government facilities (I can provide a link). We're now nearing 40,000 mustangs and burros in corrals around the US with uncertain futures, doubling/outnumbering what we have estimated left on the range (24,500 or less and declining). They've mismanaged our herds and chose instead to stockpile our American wild horses into government holding facilities because they don't know what else to do with them, and that they're costing tax-payers millions ($34M). Yet they continue to roundup more, feverishly against worldwide outcry- several thousand more of "our" wild horses and burros by October. Is this making any sense to anyone?? Why round up more to add to the problem on our dime, just to possibly destroy them... again, on our dime? And why not take the $1Million it costs (for an average sized roundup) to remove horses and instead, apply it to improve the water and range for all wildlife? By the end of this October, another 4,000 mustangs and burros are slated for removal. But it doesn't stop there, I have seen the roundup schedule in 2011- again, with whole herds to be eliminated. And if not completely eliminated, then unique bands vastly reduced, causing genetic viability to take a nose-dive.... a methodical "management to extinction".

For most anyone, it may be soothing and nice to hear gov/BLM say "it's for the welfare of these horses". Wild horses like ALL wild animals can do just fine without human intervention. True, the only predators wild horses have (beside the obvious~ man) are cougars (thanks again to "intervention"), so some form of managment will always be necessary, but hopefully to a less invasive, costly, and deadly degree. BLM also operates on the assumption that equine birthrates are 20-25 percent when they established AMLs. The National Academy of Sciences has determined it as 10%, and also having to take into account mortality rates (5% depending on range/climate conditions). During drought conditions or severe winters, survival is tested, as with all wildlife but of course only the fittest survive through natural selection, a benefit to the herds. A lack of forage for whatever the reason, IS also a process of nature, and keeps numbers in check. Insufficient forage or stressful range/climatic conditions means a further decrease in birth rates. The natural laws of survival and ecosystems are fully functional and self-adjusting. If a horse is lost to famine, nature also has a way to give back and recycles it to benefit other animals or organisms.

The "big picture" is key to understand the seriousness of this and why it's essential we don't sit idlely by. If we don't act we have much to lose and why we must protect our wild horses and burros, preserving them for the future, along wtih our wild lands. But why the "frantic removals despite massive outcry and protests worldwide"???.... Because protected wild horses and burros "LOCK UP" our public lands from use/exploitation. "They" know we're working hard to restore the wild horse and burro Act in '71 (prior to the devestating amendment which shot holes into it's protection)... known as the R.O.A.M Act... The Restoring Our American Mustangs (ROAM) Act (H.R. 1018). Watch for it, push for it, demand it!

"With every roundup, our west becomes less wild". ~Sonya, aka Mustang Meg

As a reminder, under the 1971 Act designed to "protect" our wild equids, 54 MILLION ACRES were set aside for our wild horses and burros. We have now lost 19 MILLION of those acres (and counting with each herd elimination), in addition- 111 herds have been zero'd out.... we've lost over 40% of our wild horses. Please protect "our" public wild lands from sales, development, and exploitation. These people WORK FOR US!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


1st of my "For the Mustangs" series where 50% will benefit a wild horse preservation program.

Update in prints: Finalized and approved the proof of the limited edition of 250 giclee prints of "Untamed" and ready for the presses. Prints will be 16x22.75 and printed on high quality 48# archival paper and inks. So far have raised over $500 for Return to Freedom wild horse organization with this image, first one of a series. Thanks to those of you supporting our wild horses, and keeping our western rangelands WILD!

Prints are still available, let me know if you want one!

The story: Nevada paint mustang mare that is an exceptionally good mother and has been so for the last five years, per Mark Terrell's observation. Original photograph used for this art is courtesy of wonderful mustang photographer, Mark Terrell.

Only 250 printed. Will go to the printer soon, taking reservations. Watermark does not appear on the limited edition giclee print. or email me on fb.

Prints $90 with shipping included. 50% goes to wild horse organization, Return to Freedom. You're welcome to contact me to be placed on a reservation list.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Horse Spit


Ah, the lazy days of summer. What a beautiful day, 81 degrees and a gentle summer breeze. Life as a ranch kid has its perks.

The boys somehow found themselves in the newly scrubbed water trough... Of course seeing me approach, they attempted to scamper out, that is until they heard me laughing with camera in hand. Of course, having not lead our horses to water, while I was there all three horses took turns to slurp the water the boys were playing in. Reno, the playful, still baby of the herd, spent much time there wiggling her lips in the water, even after she had her fill.

The boys, being boys, marveled at how the horses suck up the water through their lips, and of course with that there was plenty of "horse spit" involved. "Cool" was a favorite term at that moment. Of course, Reno would play in the water, drink some up, lift her head near one of the boys with water still pouring from her lips and onto one of the boys. Shrieks resounded through our little valley. I'm certain her well-placed wet lips were fully premeditated!

Simple things.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Why the Suspicions in terms of Mustang Mismanagement?

While I am one of those who usually sees the "glass as half full", many of those who know me, ask why the government suspicion regarding the recent escalated roundups, and where did it originate from? I believe it was in 2005 following the Burns Ammendment (2004) without any public notice or review, 30 years of the wild horse act was ammended. It escalated in my mind when I followed the Sheldon-Hart Mt. Complex on a controversial wild horse gather. I am not a range ecologist, but I spend a lot of time and thought on wild horses, wildlife, and the natural rangelands, and came across these photos as provided by US Fish & Wildlife Service to justify removal of wild horses.

Again, not being a rangeland ecologist, but I am highly aware of my natural surroundings. Look carefully on these two photos, provided by the US National Wildlifethe first one is labeled BEFORE Horse Gather 2004, the second as AFTER Horse gather 2005 " one year later", showing that the riperian area improved following the removal.

Pay close attention to the yellow flowering rabbitbrush and the 'greyed'-mature sagebrush. Those indicate the time of year to be late late summer/fall (where land typically looks dry anyway). In the second lower photo, they said it was the same time of year (one year later... following horse removal), that "riperian conditions improved". However, from my own field knowledge/experience in the high desert, and researching flowering times for Rabbitbrush, the second photo, if you'll notice the rabbitbrush is merely in the immature budding phase, and the sage has tender young bluish-silver tender new-growth. This photo indicates roughly the time frame to be 'approximately' May. (want to know more? Does this appear misleading?

I have contacted them with all my questions and my concern of possibly misleading the public along with my relevant OSU and range ecology references, but my comments/concerns were ignored. Was this an oversight/error on their part? I truly hope so. But from what I've been finding, my suspicions grow... So I continue my endeavor to help protect OUR mustangs in my own small way.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Mustangs and the "Land of the Lost"

This was my reply to some anti-mustang people on a facebook "Save the Wild Horses" group:

Here I go again (I know all my buddies on here are rolling their eyes... LOLL). It would save me a lot of time and a sore hiney sitting here, if people would go back and read what's already been said PRIOR to trying to make friends. But no problem, bc it's "just" for our last frontier here in N. America and mustangs... and I suppose there are always new people who come aboard in need of an education, so I'll take another deep breath and put in my poker chips.

Some of your points are valid, however please read in full (click on the link provided) about the ancestry posted earlier, line by line... and word for word, and you will have a clearer understanding about that topic. And along with that, MANY species during that period, were whiped out or effected in some way, along with the horse here in N. America. BUT NOT bc the continent couldn't support them, but bc of environmental factors....the last ice age (and ironically, quite possibly due to early man). But ancestry is just a part of what's at stake.

Yes, you're correct in stating there's a bigger picture. THE bigger picture is the CORRELATION between losing 40-50% of our wild horses since year 2000 & the fact that 19 MILLION acres of the original 49 MILLION -and- PUBLIC acres (originally set aside for wild horse management) is also gone. ... See More

By someone NOT wanting these horses protected (here in our west), IS AS GOOD AS SAYING they WANT our wide open spaces DEVELOPED. Bottom line people. Besides all the "wittle horsies", why do you think this is so important? Why else am I sitting here, instead of breaking up my own children's arguments, or helping them with their homework?

American mustangs... with EVEN MINIMAL PROTECTION (ie, 1971 Act), "LOCK UP" the wild public lands from development. Is anyone finally getting it????? Don't turn at eachother, face those yanking your chain, and making a buck at it!

WHERE has the 19 MILLION of OUR public ACRES gone? Besides some allocated to private cattle, that land was SOLD OFF, or TRADED with other gov't agencies. Like I originally said, to pay some 'big bills' (note: our economy is in crisis). THAT's where the true hostility should be. So yes, Holly, thank you for pointing that out, there IS a bigger picture. The mustangs are important, but there even something greater at stake.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Educating Some Anti-Mustang People...

This was my latest response and attempt to educate a couple loose cannons with bad attitudes about our wild horses on the "Save the Wild Mustangs" group:

I know a few of the responders on here. While I hail those who work tirelessly for our mustangs, at the same time I breathe a heavy sigh as it's painfully apparent that there are others where information from previous discussions hasn't been fully grasped and intellectualized, but rather passed silently over the tops of hairlines. I also see that some still haven't learned their manners. It's advised that if one wants to make a point, to avoid rude remarks or name calling, as subsequent comments will hold no merit bc it becomes apparent that those off-color remarks are merely fillers when there is no substantial thought to make an attempted point.

With that said, the common thread to this issue is the federal government and it's need for our lands. Ranchers are not the culprits, they feed our nations and other countries. Nor are the local/regional BLM personnel rounding these horses up, they're just following orders and doing their jobs. Our ranchers are essential and a good way to also utilize our public lands through leasing, and as an added benefit, the cattle are an excellent measure to the health of the rangelands enjoyed by all... private livestock or wildlife. But one must not lose sight of the fact that these lands were set aside for our wild horses, and for the American people. For the ranchers, I would like to see the government reduce the lease per head where there are wild horses sharing the same ranges. With money talking instead of 'smokescreeners', ranchers will be happier to share their borrowed land.

Again, this is not a wild horse and cattle war, my next remarks are to point out some false statements by head officials justifying escalated roundups, even zeroing out many herds across the west. As most of you know by now, cattle to wild horse ratio is 200:1 and there's been approval of cattle grazing by up to 300% on some of the rangelands also shared with our mustangs, (current ratio soon to be outdated). This approval to increase cattle grazing by 300% occured shortly after Ken Salazar deemed the removal of our wild horses as necessary bc "they are starving", and the lands were too poor to sustain them. Have any of you seen a herd of the many millions of cattle 'a bag on bones' on these same rangelands? I'm all over the high deserts of SE Oregon, and not a one. I look high and low for wild horses and often come up short but bump into a bovine around any given rimrock. Simply propaganda on the federal level.

Management is necessary, but the wild horse act needs to be changed before our wild horses are managed to extinction. Once a horse is born wild, it IS wild (I don't even need to go into the DNA, as it's all over the place and a fact they're a native species). These hundreds of generations of mustangs since the RE-introduction of our native species have adapted genetically and behaviorally to fit the high desert environment. Management is necessary but must be done at the least invasive level. It must comprise of a united coalition including an expert wild horse group, ranchers, government BLM, with unbiased annual range analysis by a third party. Also as previously mentioned, reduced lease per head for the cattle ranchers to keep them happy, and inturn advocating for the mustangs. Mustangs will need to be culled, but only to the amount of adoptions or other programs available rather than utilizing American taxpayers to flip millions to roundup/feed/vet our 33,000 CAPTURED and retained mustangs in holding facilities, when they cost nothing in the wild. The BLM even suggested euthanizing these horses, and there's also a current effort to bypass our laws and as a "work around" ship them 'live' overseas to fine restaurants. We will soon have a mere 25,000 horses left roaming our west in small bands in several western states, and dwindling at about 12,000 per year (current assessment for 2010). The BLM stats of roundups are public record... why are there herds being permanently zeroed out?

The government needs to pay it's big bills aka the deficit, and they're struggling to stay above water, which makes this country vulnerable to buy-outs of property and land by other countries. Funny how since year 2000 we've lost 40% of our protected mustangs (that's more then a healthy culling), and funny how we've also lost 19 MILLION acres of OUR public lands (originally 49 million was allotted for mustang management. It doesn't take much cerebral energy to see a CORRELATION. THAT'S why I am always saying "With every roundup, our west is less wild" bc it's more than the mustangs now, it's also about the last of our wide open spaces, our "wild west". You see, our "protected" wild horses, simply by residing on these public (ours, your and mine) rangelands, are PROTECTING those very same lands simply by being there. I'm hoping the bigger picture is now in view.

Another sobering thought.... our mustangs are so MISmanaged, that by simply human shallow "tastes", like a breeding program selecting (what nature does best) which horses are to be culled or left... will undoubtedly result in a bunch of 'show ponies' with genetic flaws... instead of wild horses shaped by the environment to survive best. I study wild horses, and I appreciate watching the NATURAL mustangs resulting from NATURAL selection, not human fads.

Bridger, I think even you appreciate our western heritage and our wide open spaces to hunt on.... truly, the high desert basin and other areas where wild horses roam are the last frontier, but if everyone idly sits by scratching beneath their ballcaps...they'll no longer be there.

I don't know of many people who would like stripmalls in place of the last open wild lands, and it's equivalent... where there are NO MORE MUSTANGS. THAT's what IS happening here... the federal government will be moving mustangs to artificial preserves in the east, and off our wild rangelands in the west. Now, can anyone guess why?

"Together THEY stand. Divided THEY fall"
~aka Mustang Meg

Group this information was in ‘Save the Wild Mustangs’ January 3rd, 2010

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Newest Drawing, "Tessa" Progression from pencil to color...

Newest drawing, "Tessa"....
Completed December 9, 2009

Here you can see a progress comparison, from pencil to pastel...

Simple things.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Facebook | Sonya Malecky Spaziani

Facebook | Sonya Malecky Spaziani: "Beautiful sunny day, some frost is now only in the shadows. Cute to see a momma cow still maintaining her duties, licking her full grown sleeping calf; and my horses laying flat out on their sides soaking in the warming sun. Surprised to see some of the yellow roses still in bloom in the flowerbeds. Now, time for a pan...cake brunch, and then back to coloring with my crayons. LOLL"

Facebook | Sonya Malecky Spaziani

Facebook | Sonya Malecky Spaziani: "Beautiful sunny day, some frost is now only in the shadows. Cute to see a momma cow still maintaining her duties, licking her full grown sleeping calf; and my horses laying flat out on their sides soaking in the warming sun. Surprised to see some of the yellow roses still in bloom in the flowerbeds. Now, time for a pan...cake brunch, and then back to coloring 'with my crayons'."

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Wild Horses of the Playa~ SE Oregon Journal, Part II

Here is the second entry in my wild horse journal. I watch the various herds in south east Oregon, this herd lives on the east side of bare white playa flats in the rain shadow of the Steens Mountain range.

Zones of Tolerance: Wild Horses of the Playa

Besides searching for and observing the wild horses on Steens, another pleasure of ours when in the area is playing on the 10 mile long playa flat on the east side of the mountain, also known as the Alvord Desert. However, on this day, we didn't know the dried lakebed would lead us to a different herd of mustangs, a herd we'd never seen before. The playa flat is a stark white, parched and powdery alkali area- the remaining sign of what once was a shallow lake. It is roughly 10 miles north and south running parallel near the flank of the mountain, and runs about 5 miles east and west. It's spectacular sitting up on top of the mile high mountain from the desert floor, witnessing the full moon rise over Sheephead mountains to the east and then shining on the white of the Alvord Desert below. Mere words cannot accurately describe the incredible and stunning sight. The high desert of SE Oregon is one of the last frontiers in Oregon, with the lowest amount of human population, and little if any regulations. You won't see signs prohibiting your sense of adventure; it's a wonderful place for the wild little renegade in your playful Soul.

Rick and I enjoy taking a dip in the hot springs that well up from Steens. Steens Mountain is a 30 mile long fault block caused by volcanic uplift. From melting ice fields up high and volcanic thermal activities below, a beautiful hot spring is a result. The hot spring then spills its fiery liquid over the surface and becomes a stream of sulfur smelling water, meandering its way to the dried-up lakebed to a flood plane and then dissipating into the parched land. The spring water is too hot to touch, but interestingly some very long hair-like algae of different colors flourishes within it. Far enough away from the spring, a hot bath area was constructed. A little concrete outdoor pool, large enough for two people comfortably, up to 4 for close quarters, exists with vast views of the wide-open desert on one side and the enormous mountain on the other. There is also a sheltered sitting pool, the size of a hot tub (for those of us who exercise modesty for the most part) and is constructed with aluminum flashing ~ not without the artistry of bullet holes… convenient to use as lookout peepholes to scan the area for intruders. To sit in the hot water, naturally emitted from this large mountain, overlooking the vast Alvord Desert while drinking in the wildness and the pungent smells of the desert, is food for the Soul. There you feel part of the mountain. When you get out of the hot mineral water, you feel refreshed and relaxed all at the same time, not to mention as red as a blushing lobster. This tub is also known as the local wranglers' bathhouse.

After our bath and knocking off some dust-poundage, we drove our pickup across the alkali desert powder. A surreal experience it is, to be in the middle of the 10 mile long stretch of white powdery ground. The ground gets so parched it has cracks all over of about an inch wide and from all different angles. One solid section, on the average is about 6-8 inches in diameter. With no one around and nothing to crash into for miles, we've had tons of fun driving with our eyes closed or setting the truck in gear and letting it drive itself as we ran after it, and jumped on top of it as it was slowly rolling along. Of course, never try this at home, or near anything you can mow over! This place offers another incredible perspective, and that's to be out in the middle of this lakebed at night during a full moon-in the flats with nothing around you for miles, wearing what you choose! With the white playa surface and the light of the moon, it almost looks like day with a night sky!

We continued our trek and headed east to where there seemingly is not much but the dusty playa's edge, which has only little islands of bunchgrasses, until you travel out further where it turns into the well-known sea of sage and yellow Rabbit brush. On the surface we found some curious small pebbles (some a half inch in diameter), which were hollow and float in water. We came across a set of hoof prints… no sign of horseshoes anywhere. Initially, I didn't think much of it, other than free-ranging ranch horses, or someone had ridden out there. But why there, out literally in "no man's land"? So while my husband scanned the ground for mineral and other rock treasures, I followed these horse tracks up toward the sagebrush. The higher up I went the more pronounced the trail, with many more horse tracks and horse apples, and soon stallion piles. By this time, the "little horse trail", was obviously a major horse-highway! Apparently they traveled a regular well-used path, at it largest was approximately 8' across. Coming down over the sage lands, when they got to the playa flats, they apparently fanned out. But why? Why would wild horses- or any living creature come out here, this no man's land, with no shade, or shelter, or water? I still don't know for certain, but believe most likely, for the salt and mineral composition of the playa bed.

Farther up as we drove out of the playa and onto a single lane gravel rutted road, we came across a small band of wild horses. It appeared there were six mares of various ages and one stallion. I wasn't sure, considering the topography of the area, if this was one small band of a larger herd that split off temporarily for foraging purposes, or if this were a successful bachelor stallion that has been quite good at stealing mares. This is where my hunch chose to take residence. It most likely was a relatively newly established band within the year, as there were no foals with these mares…. yet. In my years of observing wild horses, I'm still fascinated today with herd dynamics and social structures that dispell the myth and folklore about "a wild stallion leading his band of mares to safety". I have found that it is usually the matriarch, the lead mare, who chooses when to go to the local drinking hole; move to other grazing grounds; or where to run when there is real or perceived danger. The stallion often runs the flank or rear of the herd, usually placing himself between his herd and the intruder, whether it be another stallion, human, or other predatory animal.

Within this band on the east side of the Alvord desert, there was one rather stocky stallion, a stout mahogany bay, all neck and long dark and knotted mane. We got out of our truck and eased our way towards the band with cameras in hand, daring to see how close we could get to these magnificent horses. The stallion whipped around with tangled mane flying with the motion of his head, as he turned to face us, snorting loudly 3 times, so loudly and suddenly it startled us. The mares quickly lifted their heads and shifted their positions nervously without taking an eye off of us. One big chestnut mare with much authority and equal grace and power, wielded around and galloped to a safer distance with others following suite, and again faced us trying to detect what we were by trying to catch our scent. This whole time, the stout young stallion stood his ground and stayed between his herd and us, but trotted side to side with both his head and tail elevated. He too was trying to catch our scent, however, the breeze was in our favor. His high tail carriage was a sign to his mares of the potential danger, and his arched neck and elevated head turning at different angles was to get a better view of us, as well as an attempt to detect our scent. He snorted several more times, and at one point with determined demeanor and arched neck, trotted a few steps towards us. My husband and I looked at each other and I'm sure I heard myself gulp, as we were a ways from our vehicle, as where there was no trees or boulders to jump onto to get out of his way. But the better of me "slapped myself silly" and back to what I know about horse behavior, and reminded myself that they on occasion, will posture to test intruders. But they will always preserve themselves first and usually flee, before taking a chance that they lose (flight usually wins over fight, unless it's another stallion interested in his mares or they're backed into a corner and scared for their life). Had he flattened his ears and charged at us, I'm sure I would have probably scrambled onto my husband's shoulders! We stood our ground, and I raised my arms in the air to make myself look bigger, and the stud decided my 5'2" stature plus waving arms was too much and wheeled around and followed his mares and stayed at their back, stopping every once in a while to re-assess us and the situation. Afterwards, I was in awe to see that he was trying to get us to 'show our cards'. Soon after, all we saw was a dust trail where the horses were.

Besides deep and complicated social structures, horse herds have very effective safety measures. Safety measures such as warning behaviors of each horse for the herd to recognize and respond to, as well as for the intruder to be aware of. They also have built-in zones of tolerance for safety, in terms of proximity to the herd…. all in the name of herd preservation. I observed a "zone of tolerance" with my own "band" of four at home. I have my rope horse gelding "Gus" who has labeled himself as "herd stallion". I have a mare who foaled "Storm", and a newly broke big bruiser of a gelding named "Henry" aka Hudini. I watch in amazement as the mare kept both geldings at a safe distance from Storm...... gracefully whirling around that fragile new colt, teeth bared, charging the geldings, never bumping into her newborn. That was the inner circle. From there, Gus, "the wanna-be stallion" didn't allow my other gelding within his "safety zone" of the mare and colt, or the outer circle. If Henry got too close to "his mare and colt", Gus would charge him and move him to a preferable distance. And then of course Henry kept the dogs and cats at bay, outside his own circle of tolerance outside of the lead gelding's, and so on in. When long-horns moved near the area (across a fence though about ¼ mile away, both geldings joined forces, and spent much time between the cattle and the mare and foal, and always facing the long-horns, until they got bored and used to their distant presence. Though not as structured within the wild herd itself, but there is a obvious boundary, or circle the stallion will allow between he and the 'intruder', before the inner circle of his mares and foals.

There are miles of fenceless deserts and no telephone poles…. nothing but natural ecosystems and room to breath. And still people ask, "You're going to the desert for your vacation… why?" If they only knew….

For the plight of the mustang: The longer I view and witness the deep tight-knit social structures of both wild and domestic horses, the more I am aware of how important it is to preserve them as "families" as much as possible. With domestic horses, there is a financial precedence that intercepts that concept, unfortunately. However, there is an opportunity to play a part in preserving the wild horse herds and their intense social structures, through in-the-wild management which, besides keeping thousands of horses from being frightened, removed from their families, and trucked thousands of miles, would also save millions of tax-dollars. For more information about the plight of the wild horses, and re-establishing the protection of the 1971 Wild Horse and Burro Act, please go to

Thursday, November 19, 2009

If It Were Your Last Day....

Someone on my facebook page asked the question "What would you do if it were your last day?", I mulled it around, and here's what I came up with. One day, I will have to draw the image of the steel grey mustang....

"... so last days, like Paul asked....
As I already mentioned but it got buried in the bantering :).... I would ride off on my favorite horse and old '76 Circle Y. Paul, I think roping and beer are really good choices. So had to rethink my choice and combine the two... roping some and riding the rest of the day...
... I would rope like my 30' RH 3... Read More/8" true's on fire, roping the fastest steer on the fastest headin horse I could sink my spurs into, breaking some records and getting a story in newspapers and magazines, with local... heck national news coverage. Then, riding fast with my duster flying behind me, I'd ride off to the big open country on my favorite horse~ where there are no fences (but I bring my Leatherman's just in case... ). I would then look for and locate my steel gray mustang with the windknots tunneling through her insanely long mane.... and grab handfuls and ride the badlands. At the close of the day, I would then blog and status about it (LM@O) as I'm sitting by the fire drinking a Snakebite and eating the best ribeye! Yup, sounds like a good last day to me...
What would others do?"

Simple things.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Facebook | Sonya Malecky Spaziani

Facebook | Sonya Malecky Spaziani: "I was surprised earlier today when headed to the barn, to hear a local starling mimick a MEADOW LARK. Starlings make all kinds of sounds, but in Oregon, Meadow Larks are NOW only found in the high desert of EASTERN Oregon (they used to be plentiful in the Willamette Valley more than 50 years ago). That's over the mountain chain and hundreds of miles away. How in the world did he hear this unmistakeable song to replay it for the barn critters?
Starlings have developed... for whatever odd fetish, the ability to mimick the sounds around them... such as crickets, even cats... but I was surprised to hear the beauty & clarity of one of the most beautiful bird songs, from this common and 'not-so-pretty' bird. This made me think of a story I wrote in July about this creative crooner ..."

Simple things.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Newest Art: BARBARO

I finally completed my latest drawing of the late-great racehorse, Barbaro...

Graphite & Pastel

"In riding horses, you breathe in the very breath they take away..." ~Sonya Spaziani

Simple things.

Facebook | Sonya Malecky Spaziani

Facebook | Sonya Malecky Spaziani: "I must have a reputation with the blue heron by our pond like the 'poporoci'. He's gone in a flash as soon as he sees me with camera in hand at the top of the pasture, yet he's calmly perched on one leg with 3,300 lbs of horses around him."

Simple things.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Facebook | Sonya Malecky Spaziani Today... I am THANKFUL for all animals big and small, and the richness they bring into our lives~ making us better people.

"Perfect Circle"
Goldie and Storm
My ferocious over-protective mare and her new foal

Facebook | Sonya Malecky Spaziani The Fury and Grace of a Mother : "you know, I've heard this time and time again about horses being so gentle around small children. I've also seen it with the tiniest and most fragile of foals as well.

I had my pregnant mare on close watch seperated from the other horses in a round corral. Then one early morning, I walked out to check on Goldie, and she had somehow gotten out and foaled in the pasture around the others. I felt like I was rooted to the ground watching this mare in action. I watched Goldie behave in such a protectively, vicous manner, equipped with such an instinct so strong to protect her offspring. She was so terrorizing to the nearing and curious geldings (including Gus... sheesh.. the 'herd stallion'). So manacing was she, that they respectively kept a safe radius from the pair, until their curiousity took over and took some steps closer, and her maternal fury kicked in..... and yet amazingly careful around her new foal.

I winced with a fearful and aching heart as I watched her "ferociousness" keep the curious boys at bay- running at them with thundering hooves, kicking, and striking towards them, with bared teeth! With the fast and flying commotion, I feared for the delicate and fragile little foal's safety. However, the longer I watched, the greater my confidence grew in Goldie's ability to care of her little man. I can recall as if in slow motion, those menacing moves, yet somehow at the same time, so graceful and agile was she when near the foal, keeping him in a 'protective bubble'. She'd run the geldings off with bared teeth, shaking her head at them, but each time return calmly to lovingly tend to her baby, looking him over, and licking him clean. Always aware of where her big body and strong legs were when near him when she wealed and turned on her haunches for another go at the pesky gelding.... so much protection, with such strength and grace.....

So much unyeilding determination to protect offspring.... the bare and basic instincts kick in, when a mother gives birth. The familial bonds and 'spirit' of horses are powerful, amazing, and inspiring.... something which cannot be taught and something which cannot be broken."

Simple things.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Facebook | Sonya Malecky Spaziani

Facebook | Sonya Malecky Spaziani: "jetting it through the countryside, a favorite observation is watching a little lone heifer mingle, trying to fit in with a large herd of sheep. Today, the wooly herd was making it's way south with the little cow right in the middle, walking along like she was 'part of the flock', none of which looked very confused."

Simple things.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Cash... You Never Count the Cost

Last winter, during a heavy wind storm, I found Cash stumbling in the wind and rain outside when I went to feed. I didn't know what happened, as it was dark, could barely see by the ambiant, residual light. He nearly toppled over me as I was putting on his blanket. I walked him two steps at a time back to the barn, and closed him into a smaller stall with a door to be seperated from the other horses. Being late at night, with only a small flashlight, I assumed perhaps a stroke/seisure. He stood with frightened eyes, and stood with his legs splayed out for additional balance. It was a long night.

The following day, I found 2x4 boards in one of the stalls bent and broken, and the vet also concluded head trauma by viewing his eyes and witnessing the structural damage to the barn. Not sure how it occured, but mostly likely the fierce wind had something to do with it. The horses have free access into the barn at will from the pasture.

Nearly a year later, he's still recovering, with still a slight tilt of the head, but even that is nearly gone. He's doing well, even kicks up his heels when called up for dinner, though his gait is a tad unsteady. He has a harder time keeping his weight up, probably bc he eats slower. It was touch and go last year, as he got so thin and sick that we nearly lost him. It was daily intensive care, as well as the meaningful times sitting in his stall, talking to him. He needed to be stalled for long periods of time away from the other horses, as well as for the harsh Oregon winter weather.

Prior to his head trauma, he was top of the rung in the equine social pecking order here, but sadly dropped below the young filly, who too also attempted to pick on him, and behaved like a cutting horse in attempt to dominate him. He had to be kept away from the other horses, for his safety, as well as being able to eat enough without the other running him off.

Now, he waivers between being back at the top, down to second with the mane mare, Blaze.... but he continues to assert himself and continues slow but steady improvement.

It was a long road, but Cash is one of those horses with those big gentle eyes, that no matter how bleak the situation, and how I was urged to put him down by others... I couldn't let go, and wouldn't give up, no matter the cost.

Simple things.