Wild Horse Photo Safari

Last week we drove out to a few new mustang areas that were new to me. You won't find these spots marked on any map; you have to have someone guide you. And, you have to have a good dose of luck! 

After driving a couple of hours east from Sacramento, we took a series of turns that took us to increasingly desolate country and decreasingly maintained roads. There's no speeding on these trails!

The sun had been up just a little while when we saw a band of four horses in the distance. Immediately, we jumped out of the jeep and walked obliquely toward them. We avoid walking directly toward the horses because that just scares them away. Even walking at an angle is a bit like a game of "Red Light, Green Light." We take a few steps and check to see if the horses are concerned. If they lift their heads and look our way, we hold still. If they start moving away, we back off. If they seem to be grazing contentedly, we continue moving forward until the sun is at our back or side and our view of the horses is clear. 

With the first group, we were never able to get in an ideal position for photographing the horses before they moved away. Still, it was wonderful that after a few minutes of our standing in an area, they came toward us so we could see them clearly. Even wild horses are naturally curious and will sometimes approach people. One of the colts was especially cute.

After seeing that group, we drove to a nearby waterhole, anticipating that these horses were heading there. We drove up one side of a hill, but encountered such deep ruts that we had to backtrack and try the other side. Once we got to the waterhole, we hid the jeep behind some bushes and moved to sheltered positions by large rocks to wait for the horses. And we waited, and waited. Finally, I decided to scout around to see if the horses were coming. I climbed to the top of a hill and saw that the horses were moving away from the area. But, when I turned around, I saw another band coming toward us from the opposite side.

Immediately, I scrambled down the hill and got in a good place to get photos. However, the second band was very skittish. Our proximity had them on high alert. They stopped in their tracks and would not move forward. We didn't want to keep the horses from water -- no photograph is worth that, so we backed off right away. Not only did we move away from the water hole, we walked down into a ravine and then behind bushes. Once the horses felt safe, they approached the water and began to drink, always with one horse standing guard. 

 These horses looked like classic mustangs in their fuzzy winter coats, and check out the mane on that horse! Her mane and her tail both reach almost to the ground!

Once that group of horses left the waterhole, we drove to a small canyon and took a jeep-only road I'd never been on. This was one precarious road that I'll never try in my Subaru! We wound our way up to the peak of a tall hill and, at a place wide enough to turn around, we did. After all, we hadn't seen any horses yet and the risk just didn't seem to be justified. However, on our way back down, we encountered a band of gorgeous horses who "posed" for us for more than 30 minutes. At one point the stallion stood on a ledge above me and turned his face to the sun. That's when I got his portrait, the best photo of the day, and available to you in my Neutrals gallery

My friend and I had a great day searching for wild horses. We're so lucky to live nearby and to be able to safely explore the desert and photograph the mustangs.