In July 2020 I made the 1000 mile trek from Kansas to Montana to see family, friends and also for a chance to photograph the Pryor Mountain Mustangs.
We camped in the valley near Big Horn Canyon Recreation area and set up camp for the night. On the way in to find a camping spot we did glimpse a black bachelor stud, just chilling and being magnificent. After research on the Pryor Mountain Mustang Facebook page, I found that his name was Hawk. And what a fitting name for this big, black, if-a-horse-was-in-a-biker-gang-leather-wearing-hunk, because his scars and the big brown eyes in his noble head definitely told a story.
We also came up on some bug-eyed and gangly Big Horned Sheep. Odd creatures!!! We got up the next morning with a late start because we were all just exhausted from the week’s events of our lives. Cowboy coffee, sausage and eggs fueled us for the morning. We drove up a road we weren’t entirely certain that we would see the mustangs off of, and instead turned around and retraced our steps to where we had seen Hawk the night before. We grabbed our gear and began hiking in to the desert that laid at the base of the jaggedly beautiful mountains, and shortly into our walk were rewarded with a glimpse of Hidatsa, a grulla bachelor. He was quite the chubby little fella, but after sighting us he was quick to find his buddy Hidalgo and continue pushing him away from us. I trekked up the hill a bit to capture images from a different angle and besides a few looks in my direction they were relatively unbothered by our presence.
We spent the afternoon cooling off in the water of the Big Horn Canyon and slowly made our way out of the Mustang area, hoping to stop by the Mustang Center which unfortunately ended up being closed. On our way out I spotted a red dun horse about 400 yards into the desert in a similar area as we saw Hidatsa and Hidalgo. I ventured in only to find that it was Hidalgo, and Hidatsa was also with him. It was my last day in Montana before the trek home, so in my bathing suit and Chacos I made one last effort to get some shots of these critters. I got some cactus spines in my feet a few times but thankfully didn’t see any rattlesnakes, and was rewarded by some up close shots of Hidalgo while still keeping appropriate distancing and using my zoom.
As I crouched and continued to snap away with my camera, Hidalgo started moving in my direction calmly and quietly. He knew I was there, and though I backed up a few times to keep the appropriate viewing distance, he kept coming closer. I just finally stopped and grabbed shots as he walked right past me with a soft eye covered by an unruly forelock and with no fear in his body language whatsoever. He just kept munching and eating about 15-20 feet away and I slowly walked away without him paying me any mind. I don’t think my heart had been that awakened in a long time to such a breathtaking experience.
We continued on our way and suddenly passed a group of ‘stangs trying to keep cool in the summer heat. Nova, the chestnut mare, stood watch over her sleeping 2020 foal, Uinta, while her son Sundance and I believe a stud named Quasar had a brief, half-assed altercation that quickly dissipated after Nova came between them. Sundance watched us, ears pricked, but with no concern as we took some pictures and continued on our way.
2500 miles, 3000 total just being in a vehicle that week, was totally worth seeing my peeps and getting a glimpse at some of our four-legged history. I have plans to trek back up there for more time and opportunities to see the Pryor Mustangs but am also going to pursue photographing herds in Utah, Colorado, North Dakota and beyond. I am so incredibly excited
All images are property of Olivia Danielle Photography
©Olivia Danielle Photography 2020