On day 8 our journey we had a special and heartbreaking experience. We decided to wrap up the day with shorter mileage and found a nice camp spot tucked in a thick juniper grove deep in the White Pine Range. We set up camp and Ryan drove ahead to scout while Sage and I stayed behind to nap. While I was dozing I was awakened by Sage whinnying. I looked in the direction he was focused and caught a glimpse of horse legs moving through the trees. I immediately ran to get my handy plastic bag (100% effective wild horse deterrent) but when I went to investigate the horse was gone.
A few minutes later Ryan returned and told me he saw a horse just down the road. I figured it was the same one I had seen and we agreed to be vigilant in case he returned. Sure enough, that evening Sage began whinnying again. We scanned the trees and finally spotted a horse creeping trough the brush. He was not charging, but slowly making his way toward camp. When he finally got close enough Ryan and I both were shocked to see that it was a very young colt, barely a yearling. Judging by the extensive wounds to his neck and flanks, he had very recently been violently rejected from his herd.
We immediately took pity on the little guy as it was obvious he was looking for companionship, not a fight. We let him continue his slow creep toward camp. Finally he got close enough that Ryan and I agreed we should chase him off. It broke my heart to chase him away with the plastic bag but I knew it was best for him to maintain a healthy fear of people.
The evening passed uneventfully and we eventually went to sleep. Around midnight I was awoken by a noise. I sat up in the tent and squinted to see what was happening in camp. The nearly full moon illuminated everything brightly and as my eyes adjusted I could make out two silhouettes - Sage and the young colt were nuzzling over the fence line of the corral! I couldn't believe it! I woke Ryan to look and we both watched in disbelief. Sage wasn't acting aggressive, quite the opposite he seemed to enjoy the little colt's company! We decided to let them be and fell back asleep.
The next morning when we awoke, the little colt was gone. During breakfast Sage gave out a little whinny and Ryan said, "Sage is saying 'Where are you Oscar?'" "Oscar?," I laughed. "It seems like that would be his name," Ryan explained. I agreed and so the little colt got a name. We talked about Oscar a lot that morning. He was so little, maybe too little to be on his own? Or maybe not. Either way we felt bad for him - wandering alone and no doubt scared. It was clear he was just looking for a herd.
After breakfast I saddled up and Sage and I hit the trail. Just a few minutes outside of camp and Oscar came bounding out of the trees to join us!
Oscar tentatively approached Sage, making the gumming or champing gesture with his mouth that young horses do to signify submission. Sage seemed totally at ease with Oscar. I figured if I mounted up it might scare him off, but instead as Sage and I started to ride, Oscar just fell into place behind Sage as if it were the most natural place in the world!
Oscar happily followed us for the next few miles, flitting around excitedly behind us, bumping into Sage, and occasionally snaking his head at Bella when she got too close.
After a few miles we came to a spring where some cows were resting. Behind them was a fence line and on the other side was resting a small band of wild horses. They saw us and ran to the fence line inquisitively. Sage looked at them with casual indifference, but Oscar went into a full fledged panic! He practically threw himself into Sage to hide, and I think if he could have crawled underneath Sage he would have! The whole time he cowered beside Sage he kept making the submissive gesture with his mouth. I felt so bad for Oscar - clearly terrified of the big bad older horses and desperate for protection - which he found in Sage.
I realized Oscar would probably follow us forever and for a moment I allowed myself to think fantastical thoughts. Maybe I could just take him with me and tame him on the trail? But as quickly as the thoughts came I forced myself back to reality. Not only is our journey too arduous for him, but it would be illegal to remove a wild horse from public land. Sobered by reality, we continued down the trail with Oscar close behind.
Eventually we came to a fence line with a cattle guard and I knew our time with Oscar was at an end. I got off and opened the barbed wire gate to let Sage through. Oscar tried to follow but I quickly shooed him back. Oscar again panicked and began pacing the cattle guard trying to figure out a way across. It was absolutely heartbreaking to witness.
I told Oscar to be brave, mounted up, and began to ride away. Sage let out one final whinny for his new friend. I refused to let myself turn around and tried, unsuccessfully, to keep the tears from my eyes.
Disclaimer: You should always keep your distance from wild horses. Even young ones can cause injury with their teeth and hooves. Also remember it is illegal to feed, touch, or harass wild horses.
The latest updates from Samantha on the Nevada Discovery Ride.