Photos by Shawn Hamilton
As you step out of your teepee on an early moonlit morning to tack up your horse before sunrise, you wonder if you're really on vacation. Yet by the second day, as you slowly sneak up on a herd of wild horses using your own mount as camouflage, you realize the reward.
Bobbi and Mike Wade of Blue Sky Horseback Adventures in Wyoming have a permit to access almost a million acres of Bureau of Land Management land a few hours southeast of Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
They provide a unique combination of energetic riding partnered with getting up close and personal with herds of wild mustangs in the Great Divide Basin.
[For a description of the group's wild-horse encounters, and a photo gallery from the trip, see below. For a complete account of this excursion, see The Trail Rider, April 2011.]
We stopped just shy of a ridge. Mike and Bobbi motioned us to stay back. Following instruction, we've been silent for more than an hour, not an easy feat for me.
On Mike's signal, we dismounted and positioned our horses broadside to the herd, hiding behind our horses' shoulders. We slowly approached the ridge, trying not to step on the crackling sagebrush while keeping hidden behind our horses.
We finally rose to view a single cremello stallion. I watched in awe, amazed by his clean, healthy, strong appearance.
The lone stallion stared at us for quite some time, then took off. We feared he'd warn the others. We could clearly view four bands; an additional 9 to 11 were off in the distance.
We approached a herd of eight with baby steps, decreasing the distance by 20 to 30 feet at a time. We stopped intermittently to peer over our horses' necks.
A cremello mare with foal raised her head. Then mare and foal trotted toward us, full of curiosity, and stopped just 50 yards away. Still camouflaged by our horses, we stood our ground, pretending to be just another herd out in this vast openness.
The remaining six wild horses decided to see what the commotion was about. All of a sudden, mares and foals, chestnuts and cremellos, and a few young studs were running full speed toward us.