Here we go — Part V:
Jumping forward to the fall of 2014 — it had begun, the preparation for Fly Without Wings. My husband and I, made the decision to debut Fly the second weekend in October of 2015 in the same historic barn as Celebrate, and the plan was clear — it would take at least three months of ‘living’ with a herd of wild horses daily to truly capture their spirit, the American Spirit, and be able to pull together a body of work from that experience that would raise awareness for ALL the wild horses of America and after much discussion we choose the TRNP herd. The commitment to the project was huge; three months away from home, three months in a hotel but we, Michael and I, both felt America’s wild horses were worth the effort.
At this same time, friends had mentioned an opportunity to work for Colorado State University (CSU) as a field research technician on the contraceptive study being done on this herd of horses. After much thought, I applied. I was not hired, BUT I was offered the opportunity to work as a volunteer at twenty hours per week beginning in the spring of 2015 and I accepted. Afterall, I was going to be in Medora working on Fly anyway and if my past reproductive experience on quarter horse ranches in Texas and Tennessee along with raising my own horses was helpful to the other research techs, it would be a win/win for everyone.
The journey to capture Fly Without Wings was demanding work — 900 hours spent searching for wild stories, 600 miles hiked, and over 46,000 thousand images captured! Arising like I do now, way before sunrise, I was in the park hunting for stories before I would do my volunteer hours, and then back out in the evening and weekends!
Arriving home in June of 2015, after those three months away, now faced with the grueling task of choosing forty or so images for Fly, create each image, and at the same time coordinate and plan a catered preview night and weekend exhibit for October 10th, along with reacclimating to life at home, I almost called it off.
The pressure and enormous responsibility of planning for the event itself — advertising, catering for the preview night, ticket sales, renting equipment, coordinating volunteers to help at the event, in addition to wading through all of those memories and images, create those images — deliver to the printing company for printing, review, title, sign, and then to the framer for the final touch — well it was my first experience with a creative block and it hit me the end of July! I was numb and blank.
Intervention arrived with the support of my husband and friends, the creative block hurdle was avoided, and the exhibit itself would not have happened without the help, encouragement, and belief of many amazing people! Not enough credit and good things can be said about the countless human hearts who believe in these incredible wild horses of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
Why would anyone put themselves under that numbing stress? That is easy to answer…all because of that one horse…that spirited blue eyed stallion Blaze!
Was Fly Without Wings worth it? Oh yes, without a doubt!
Without Fly, the stories would not be written and shared, and there are many:
Flax, choosing Mischief as his first harem mare, after Mischief had been driven out of her natal band by Cocoa, slipping and falling under a rock, pinning herself. After park staff freed her, she roamed alone in Flax’s range near Chicken Head. Melissa and I giddy about the possibility Flax and Mischief would become a ‘couple,’ Lincoln tolerating our female obsession with a wild, love story, and lo and behold Flax finally had the courage to claim her as his first harem mare, thus witnessing the historic first step in Flax’s journey as a band stallion and thus was born the image — Wild Passions.
Their ‘love’ story was history in the making!
Documenting Pinnacles arrival into the world in April and not yet knowing she would be a forever part of our lives. The many Blaze stories and encounters, not yet knowing in two short years he would be gone forever. The story behind Wild and Wicked, Wild and Mighty, Wild Ballet, or Wild Bolt! Forever Wild! Gah…just so many and many never making it to an audience — yet anyway.
Pinnacles, named after Pinnacles National Park, the wee daughter of that smokin’ hot sire, Blaze, born in April 0f 2015 now lives in Minnesota. Her adoption made possible by eight crazy women, and the offer to be gentled by a very talented gentleman!
Wild and Wicked!
Wild band stallion, Thunder (front), defending his harem from the intense bachelor stallion (at that moment), Copper. An all day battle.
Wild band stallion, Cloud, searching for the harem mare, Ruby and her foal. Cloud had stolen, Ruby and her foal from another band stallion, and ‘drove’ her six miles back to his own harem. This new acquisition caused much turmoil in his harem.
That weekend in October of 2015 the wild ones were introduced to a sold out preview night, over 600 people attended the weekend’s activities, and we were able to give a substantial donation to the North Dakota Badlands Horse non-profit group that document and support the wild horses of TRNP.
Since then, the exhibit has been many places, even going home to Medora the summer of 2016. The fall/winter of 2016 Blaze, Satellite, Thunder, and a wee foal named Voyageurs graced the big city of Minneapolis for three months bigger than life! Their life-size images were displayed downtown Minneapolis in the Solera Building windows part of the Spirit:Made Here installation, all thanks to corporate sponsor Andersen Windows!
Wild band stallions, Satellite, Blaze, Thunder and 2015 weanling filly, Voyageurs were displayed downtown Minneapolis, larger than life, for three months as part of the Spirit:Made Here exhibit sponsored by Andersen Windows.
In 2016, after being offered the chance to come back in March as a part-time, but now paid status research tech with CSU, west I headed again for three months to TRNP. This was the year Pinnacles, with the help of the “crazy eight” women and a gentle heart named, Bob, became a part of our herd, which is a whole story on its own. (The four part story can be read here – “Born of Fires”.)
Then in 2017, again offered the opportunity to be a part of the CSU research project but now fulltime, west I headed again to TRNP for three months. This was the year Blaze’s last whinny rode the wind as he left this world, again another whole story on its own.
The last time I saw Blaze alive, the last time his stare pierced the heart, March 14, 2017, below Buck Hill, five days later on March 19th he was gone.
In 2017, my wild and creative side-kick, Jamie, of This Mustang Life, said, “Let’s make a docu-series and get America to fall in love with our wild horses.” This statement was inspired by the numerous sundowner discussions we had, as we would sit watching the sun go down after a long day observing the wilds — speculating why no change seems to happen for our wild horses. Thus, was born the idea for Wild Lands Wild Horses Series & Fund! (You can find it here, along with link to our award winning pilot episode.)
The Wild Lands Wild Horses docu-series was inspired by the desire to educate America on the historic value and contribution the wild, free roaming horses in America provide to the fabric of this nation.
Although the wild horses are protected by the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971, they, and all wild species, are threatened by encroaching civilization and ongoing special interests. Through this docu-series, we will spark conversations that will lead to solutions, solutions that will cause the least amount of harm to every living form that call our ‘public’ lands home and allow them to thrive for our future generations.
My artistic focus remained on the wild ones with a body of work titled, “Stallions: Wild and Untethered” exhibited in October of 2019 with the help of a grant. Those images captured in 2018, after yet another spring of travel looking for untold stories, heading west this time to Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada, and Utah — searching for any stallion that would make your heart thump out of your chest like Blaze did.
Defending Wild, LE 1/1 from the Wild and Untethered boy of work was captured in the McCullough Peaks HMA near Cody, WY.
This limited edition of one is sold and a portion of the sale donated to a non-profit in Wyoming that advocate for wild horses.
To view this body of work go here!
ALL of this because of that fateful day on November 30th, 2012 at 9:55 am off the Upper Talkginton trail when that piercing blue eye stared right through my soul, or was it the fateful day I met Al, or was it the fateful week in May of 2006 when the rain kept us from mountain biking the Maah Daah Hey trail, or was it because my mother rode horse when she was pregnant with me?
Regardless of fate, I hope you have not been bored with this ‘pocket-size’ introduction, an attempt to set the stage for what is to be revealed on March 19th, the fifth anniversary of when the badlands of North Dakota claimed one of their own, the day Blaze lost his battle with another stallion, and took his last step. You are invited to continue to follow along on this journey, backwards and forwards, as we explore the fantastic and colorful history of that rugged, colorful and spirit filled corner of North Dakota!
Although the wild horses are protected by the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971, they, and all wild species, are threatened by encroaching civilization and ongoing special interests. Blaze’s legacy will be to continue to inspire humans to fall in love with America’s wild horses, to honor the wild, free-roaming horses historical and spiritual contribution to the human story, to spark conversations that could lead to solutions that will cause the least amount of harm to every living form that call our ‘public’ lands home and allow them to thrive for our future generations.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for being an integral part of Blaze’s great human herd here on Earth!