I went out looking for mustangs.
The wild horses of Sand Wash Basin, in northwest Colorado, roam 160,000 acres of harsh and vast land.
Not knowing what to expect or really where to begin, C and I drove through the range along dirt roads, following piles of manure, which I thought for sure would lead us to horses.
I said "you look on the left, and I'll look on the right". That never works. (Haven't you done that before?) So, we continued to look in every direction we chose. Searching high and low, we drove for miles on the winding road and at one point, got out to hike around. We climbed to the high spots to scan the basin with binoculars.
I wanted to see a wild horse soooooo bad.
The weather was hot, the terrain was dry and the vegetation was sparse. I discovered a salt lick block and an empty trough, but next to it was a small muddy water hole, with horse hoove tracks in the mud.
But no horses.
Exploring the area some more, we climbed another hill. Looking through binoculars, I heard C say, "we've got ponies". Three horses were spotted! A "yellow" one, most likely a palomino, and two blacks. I was excited to finally see something move out there, but seriously, they looked like ants from where we were. We took turns glassing them until they slowly disappeared from sight.
Unless you know the area well, have someone with you who is a seasoned wild horse groupie, and unless you have an ATV, the chances of being near the horses are rare. That was my hunch anyway, after spending half a day out there.
We got the BLM map out and looked for another road to explore on the northern part of the herd management area. An area with better views of the mesas and ridges.
Standing at the highest point on Seven Mile Ridge you can see the entire basin. It takes patience and a slow and steady hand to span this enormous and empty land with binoculars, hoping and praying for the sight of a paint or a strawberry roan.
We saw two different groups of horses from up on that ridge. I was thrilled. I was satisfied. Even though they looked like ants with manes and tails, there they were. Those velvet eared beasts with the long and tangled forelocks, the stallion scars, the bad boy bachelors and the desirable mares. The unshod wild bunch.