It’s Self Isolation Day…I’ve lost count. Day 35?? I’m not totally sure. Just like you, members of our team are struggling to find a new ‘normal’. One of the positive things about this stay at home order is it has provided dedicated time to log details, locations, and land changes for some exciting new projects on our horizon! It also lets me see changes like this.
We’ve had our share of skinny horses arrive at ECR, three of the most notable being Rocky, Jude & Billie. Since being released in 2017, all three (our whole herd, in fact) have blossomed beautifully, though it happened at different times. Rocky & Jude still hold the title of being the most fearful Mustangs to join our herd. The photo included of them above was taken weeks after their release. It’s hard to believe, but they had looked far worse!
For several months, we couldn’t get anywhere near them. They would run at the sight, sound or smell of a vehicle approaching, even from miles away. Eventually, they found a little corner that the rowdy boys and other bands ignored, and they stayed put there for over a year. It wasn’t until we were hit with a record-breaking drought that they were forced to move to greener pastures, literally…though there was no green left to be found. They’d eaten all they could and had no water left, so they began to hesitantly trail behind our four senior burros, the Golden Girls. For unknown reasons, we stopped seeing them together in the coming weeks and poor Jude was left on his own.
During this time, we also had our eyes on a lonely black Mustang. It was heartbreaking to see him month after month, alone. Utterly alone. We had a herd of 104 at that time, but nobody would go anywhere near him. If he tried to approach the boundary of even low ranking stragglers, he was quickly runoff. We suspect he may have an underlying health issue and perhaps that is the reason why none of the bands will accept him, but we don’t know for sure. As my heartache grew painfully deeper for him, we spotted the most wonderful surprise; On the peripheral of Billie’s little pocket (he’d been hiding in a small patch of saltbush for about a year) was Jude!
They slowly buddied up and have been inseparable since. It fills my heart with great comfort to know that they have found each other. Followers of our page may remember my surprise as I posted a video of Billie & Jude together; I had wrongly assumed that they were underdogs and were being picked on by the bachelor bands, until I witnessed Jude defend Billie against a band of five or six. I had been bringing Billie extra feed in an effort to help him regain his weight. This, unfortunately, has proven to be pointless, as he doesn’t trust people enough to eat anything we bring, but we still try. These rowdy bachelors had learned that these food drops were the perfect opportunity to demonstrate their hierarchy and run Billie & Jude off, though they won’t eat the feed either. I have witnessed it twice now where they ran up with clear dominance towards Billie, but Jude runs forward to draw a line in the sand, literally. He made the point clear that they weren’t to come one step closer, and they weren’t going to touch his friend! Jude was the one that ran the boys off, not the other way. It was truly incredible to see. **I will search for the clip and repost it for those interested **
During this isolation, I have been pouring over 100,000’s of photos…and making heartwarming finds like this. Billie & Jude remain together to this day, and their weights look marvelous! We occasionally see them socializing on a very polite boundary when Mira, Pete, and their band travel through, but they still keep mostly to themselves. Now we know, it’s by choice. Their weights have been stable and Billie is looking far more energetic these days! We still suspect he may struggle with underlying health issues, but he certainly looks better than he did. We’re not sure how the futures of these two will evolve, but we’re sure they’ll do it together.
For those curious, here is a more recent photo of Rocky (Jude’s former buddy). He’s joined up with a bachelor band that hangs out on the far west side of our sanctuary. He now runs with Dante, Caleb, and Ringo, pictured below.
If you like our work, please share and consider donating if you’re able. The costs of running a project this size are steep, and fencing, waterline repairs, and forage building are constant costs that we face, in addition to working on our second release site. We have 7000 acres earmarked for our next herd, but the land isn’t yet safe. We have fencing underway, but still require water sources and shelter before it can be used. Your donations are tax-deductible and 100% stays with our herd. This land is owned and protected by the Serengeti Foundation, so our horses are here to stay! To learn more or donate, please visit https://serengetifoundation.com/project/engler-canyon-ranch/