Mustangs at Steens Mountain 2023

Mustangs at Steens Mountain 2023

Hello equine art enthusiast!

After a two-year hiatus, I made it to South Steens HMA in late July. One of my happiest places on earth. A place where the silence exists and the only sound you hear is the breath of a wild mustang in the fields afar. I arrived at the first water hole early evening, a conflict was unfolding between a small group of stallions with one mare (coincidentally a filly that I photographed as a foal in 2021) and one strikingly handsome pinto stallion. The pinto, who I have since learned is named Spirit, put on quite the show, crested neck, elegant prancing, enticing snorting...But, the lead stallion, Ditto, would not have any part of Spirit stealing his one prized mare. The other stallions mainly one dunalino, aided Ditto's efforts to maintain his position. I consider my timing so fortunate, I was a guest watching the drama unfold. Set up with my long lens, I captured the inspiration to bring the imagery to my studio.
Spirit, left, facing off with Ditto and Dunalino Stallions, protecting paint mare. 
On this same trip, I was lucky yet again to view two backcountry stallions. These are stallions that humans don't see often, or vice versa. From my few times out to Steens, I have learned from watching which herds are used to encountering people and the ones that are not. With backcountry stallions, there is a feeling of uneasy tension. The stallions present as protective and skittish. Their body is almost always facing you and they sniff the air consistently. I always maintain distance, but even so, with my big long lens, they do not relax to eat and keep their mares close by or snake them away. With these horses, it feels even more privileged to view. I don't like to linger too long as my presence seems uncomfortable for them in their environment.
Backcountry Stallion Casino, left, with band at waterhole, dusk
Zain - keeping an eye on me

I've been so incredibly fortunate to have this glorious summer filled with adventure. In late August I did a pack ride out into the mountains in the Wallowas. I will share more on that trip next blog post. Sadly, it ended very abruptly when my oldest brother Greg passed away on Labor Day weekend. I received the call the morning we were packing to leave Joseph. 

As I begin to move on with life without him, I ease myself into painting. I am trying to reconnect with the feelings that I felt at the water hole at Steens and the joy of life's adventures, yet infused with some furious strokes brought on by life chaos - here is the first painting. Thank you for viewing. I will be working towards more in the series in the upcoming weeks..months...

'Conflict at the Waterhole' - 8" x 10" oil on panel


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