Saving The Onaqui Pt 4

A great horse will change your life. The truly special ones define it…” – Author Unknown

FACES OF THE ONAQUI

The Onaqui herd can currently be found living their best lives in the West Utah desert however in exactly 80 days from today they face a decimation of population numbers, band continuity and genetic viability. On July 12th a roundup will begin capturing 400 of 475 horses via helicopter, loading them into crowded stock trailers and transporting them to the off-site BLM facility in Delta where the processing and sorting will take place. They receive freeze brands and tags tied around their necks which then determine their new identities. They will be vaccinated, stallions will be gelded and then they will be separated by age and gender to be kept in holding pens. Of the 400 captured, 52 mares and 52 stallions will be handpicked to be returned to the ranged based on age and the females past tolerance to being darted with the equine contraceptive PZP in the field.

After the return of the 104 wild horses the herd count will now be at approximately 179. New bands will have to form, new patterns of seeking forage and finding water established as horses from the north and south who’ve never met will likely have to co-mingle and understand lands they’ve never seen. (ie: north herd living in the south range and visa versa)

Just as the quote above says, “A great horse will change your life. The truly special ones define it…” I think anyone who has had the privilege of being exposed to the grace, the tolerance and the love that swirls amongst the Onaqui bands will agree these are truly special wild horses. I decided to create a little tribute to some of my favorites with images and some details about them or what they’ve meant to me personally. They’re all so different and so unique and they all deserve their own story so I hope you enjoy the Faces of the Onaqui pictured below.

Anyone that’s come to the Onaqui range or even heard of it has likely heard of this precious old fella. They call him The Old Man or Gandalf (OQ36gS) and he’s like the ambassador of all that is good and right with these horses. It is guessed that he has reached his late 20s and is still managing to slowly make his way around the north side of the range following the herd as they move about in search of water and fresh grasses. He stood tall on the side of the mountain all winter often greeted by the other members of the herd who would purposefully make the trip up the side of the hill to kindly greet him and lend him some companionship.

This little fella is Red Bird (OQ345gS). He was born late last August to a beautiful grey mare (OQ344gM) in Golliath’s band in the south herd. He was lucky enough to have 3 other foals born around the same time period in his band (OQ347zM, OQ346zS, OQ348zS) so he’s had lots of friends to grow up with. He is a total momma’s boy, always staying close to her side and looking to her for comfort if he gets unsure. He is especially fond of the young filly I call Little Star (OQ347zM) and follows her lead in seeking out new things. There is a brand new little Chestnut colt (OQ395bS) born to dam OQ351zm in early April and Red Bird is completely in love. He follows the new baby around cleaning it, and trying to teach it to play and standing over it while it sleeps to block the sun.

Little Red Birds momma (OQ344gM) and one of Goliath’s leading ladies. What a perfect example of a mom of any species should be like and a very, very sweet mare.
Speaking of Goliath, (OQ142gS) this is him on the left having a disagreement with another band stallion in the South Herd known locally as Sparrow (OQ211zS) on the right. Both of these stallions are pretty phenomenal in my book and for very different reasons. Goliath is an older stallion and is never separated from his son known as Goliath’s Boy (OQ360gS). They have recently been staying a bit more on the outskirts of the band as two large roan stallions (OQ353brS & OQ366brS) are taking over the roll of breeding mares, defending territory and moving their band. Goliath is very beautiful with a dark grey stripe down the left side of his face and very mild mannered choosing to avoid conflict rather than to create it. Sparrow on the other hand I refer to as the Sheriff because he’s very vigilant about keeping order and not only for his own bands but for other bands in the area as well. I’ve seen him multiple times come flying out of nowhere to break up a fight among other band stallions, then just turn around and walk off like it never happened. He’s an excellent leader and takes his job seriously but show much tolerance to those of us humans who enjoy spending time in the vicinity.
Here is another image of Sparrow (OQ211zS) with the white star and snip in the back chasing away a youngster in an effort to protect the rest of his band in the Onaqui HMA.
This gorgeous girl is The Blue Eyed Filly (OQ135upM). Her mother is the wonderful Dotty (see below) and her father was The Cremello Stallion who was sadly captured and removed in the Onaqui Round up of September of 2019. At this point her family was split up and her mother Dotty joined up with Sparrow’s band where she still remains while the Blue Eyed Filly has joined up with a small but mighty little black stallion with a much smaller band (OQ254zS). This stunning mare is nearing 3 years old and is a confident and curious girl often bossing her man around the range. It’s nothing short of a miracle really that she is so sweet natured around humans considering what she must have gone through. She has very nice “horse boundaries” with her behavior and other than being bossy, she’s very even tempered with her family.
Meet Dotty (OQ136bpM)! The Blue Eyed Filly’s momma and also momma to Jasper (see below). Dotty lost her family band during the 2019 roundup when her stallion was captured and removed. She then moved along with her daughter to join up with Sparrow (a great choice in my book) and is still there today. Dotty is probably one of the sweetest mares on the range and has a perfect brown heart on her right shoulder. As of 4/22/21 she is heavily pregnant and is expected to have a new beautiful little foal any time.
This gorgeous grey Stallion is called Maverick (OQ237gS) and if you’ve known me for more than 10 minutes you know how much I absolutely LOVE this boy. He is a bachelor stallion in the south herd and son of Goliath. Like his father he has a wonderful temperament and tends to choose to avoid confrontation rather than create it. He can be seen standing patiently on the outskirts of the bands always observing. Maverick is good pals with Eclipse, (OQ174zS) a 4 year old very sweet bachelor with beautiful white facial markings, but I have no doubt he’d be much happier with a mare of his own.
And THIS is the beloved Eclipse (OQ174zS) son of Dee Dee and friend of Maverick. It’s hard to see how that his mane has grown out, but he has a perfect round black dot in the center of his forehead hence his name Eclipse. This boy just turned four and is still more preoccupied with making friends among the bachelors than is his winning the hearts of girls. He can almost always be found with Maverick and other young bay bachelor stallion and enjoys playful sparring, meeting new friends and long walks in the desert.
Say hello to little Salt (OQ230cS)! Salt is very excited that he just became a big brother a week ago to an absolutely adorable little filly nicknamed Moonbeam (see below). His mother (OQ229yM) is the epitome of what a good horse momma should be and is gentle and nurturing and tolerant to her babies but is an absolute spitfire when band stallion Avalanche (OQ233gS) starts trying to push either her or her babies around. Little Salt is nearing a year old and I’m so proud to watch him already sticking up for his mom and little sister and trying to push the band stallion off them as well. He’s very playful with other yearlings and is building up a wonderful sense of confidence that will hopefully serve him well for many years to come.
This beautiful girl is Salts Mom (OQ229yM) with her brand new little baby born on approximately 4/16/21 to the South Herd. The little filly has been nicknamed Moonbeam and her brother Salt couldn’t be happier about her arrival.
I remember the first day I saw this bachelor racing through the south section of the HMA and I think my jaw might have literally dropped. He was absolutely stunning and quite the little firecracker so I began calling him Remy (OQ221gS). Since that day I’m always thrilled when I find him, and it’s begun to happen more and more as he skirts the south herd in search of a girlfriend. I would guess he’s around 4 years old and although he’s a bachelor he mostly travels by himself. He will defend himself if necessary, but mostly when I’ve seen him he’d prefer to avoid unnecessary conflict. As young ones are he is very curious and is often seen approaching the other bachelors for companionship rather than sparring.
Can you believe what a stunning stallion this guy is? His name is Wildfire (OQ322bS) and he thinks he’s a cow. I can’t even make that up. He appeared on the range in late December and has been keeping isolated from the rest of the north herd in a lower pasture area with herds of cows. We all hold hope that soon enough he’ll go back to his roots and rejoin the rest of the horses and maybe even pick up a pretty lady to stay by his side.
Band stallion Avalanche (OQ233gS) can be seen on the far left of the image next to a couple sleeping youngsters resting with the rest of his band in the warm early afternoon hours after they enjoyed a lengthy drink in a nearby watering hole and then settled down for a siesta as the desert winds raged.
This stunner is little Ariel (OQ383upM) born to momma Audrey (OQ143spM) in March 2021 in the norther herd. On top of being a looker she has quite a delightful temperament to match. Ariel enjoys long naps in the sun and giving her mom a run for her money. I’m sure band stallion Sunstar (OQ214gS) will be less than thrilled when she gets to a dating age.
Cream Puff (OQ159cM) is part of the northern herd and can always be found with bff Angel (OQ101cM) and the stunning bay roan stallion Evander (OQ11brS). Born in May of 2019 to mother Princess (OQ109gM) she is nearing the two year mark and is becoming quite tall like a little horse supermodel. Although a bit shy when you catch her on an overcast day and give plenty of space she will give you some of the the most beautiful looks out there.
Conflict often arises around the watering holes and in this photo the bay roan stallion on the left (OQ366brS) and the liver stallion on the right (OQ366sS) had quite a conversation while emerging from the water regarding spatial awareness and who thought the space belonged to them.
Meet Valentina (OQ336zpM). A new 2021 little filly born to momma OQ52bpM of Coppers band who had another adorable little bay pinto colt in 2020 who’s never far away. Valentina loves her mom and hates the snow.
Norman (OQ50cpS). A staple of the north herd. Even though he’s a bachelor he is never separated from his bachelor buddies Rudy (OQ260sS) and the Bay Roan Stallion. Norman is a quirky one but you can’t help but be fond of him. His best buddy Rudy, a large chestnut bachelor, is always the talkative one shouting back and forth to the main herd of any changes in the surroundings.
Goliath (OQ142gS) and his son and best friend (OQ360gS) are seen in the foreground enjoying a well deserved drink as other members of the south herd move on.
This is band stallion OQ288gS. I call him Silver Star. Some of my most favorite images from the desert are of this stallion. He is an absolute enforcer and will do whatever it takes to protect his band from interlopers. Hence my nickname. He recently became a new dad (see below) and I was lucky enough to stumble across his family about a mile from the main group with his mare laying in a field and a brand spanking new baby with wet fur and crinkled ears lying beside her. As he does, he was standing watch looking out over the valley for any threats to this new little addition.
Allow me to introduce the lovely mare Lady (OQ25upM) who has produced some of the most beautiful horse to wander the desert including The Cremello Stallion, Norman, Angel, OQ181upM, and this little precious girl named Patches (OQ335bpM). Patches was the first foal born in 2021 at the end of January and has grown quite a bit since this photo was taken. She started out looking like a mobile little stuffed animal next to her momma, but now has grown into a very happy healthy little darling. Both Lady and Patches can be found with a black band stallion (OQ323zS) who recently took the band over from the very popular Charger (OQ102bpS) who he has graciously allowed to remain with the band.
Meet baby Cosmo (OQ355zrS) born late February of 2021 to doting momma OQ241bpM from Rocky’s band (OQ112zS). Both mom and colt are really something special and just have this presence about them. Rocky is a very good dad letting his youngster explore and test some boundaries before he scampers back to his mommas side. His eyes are almost a silver blue and I can hardly wait to see his color develop as he ages and fingers are crossed that he keeps those baby blues.
This lovely lady is one of Moondrinker’s mares (OQ184gM) in the North Herd and she appears to be an older girl by her flea bitten coat and gentle ways. She has a delicate fairy knot in the right side of her mane and some of the most soulful eyes you’ll find on the range.
Bonnie left (OQ403brM) and Clyde right (OQ365bS) with their moms on either side. Both were born this spring to Oreo’s band (OQ84zpS) and are inseparable at all times. They sleep together, they play together, they annoy their parents together – they literally do everything together. Both mares are exceptionally tolerant of their exuberance and the mares seem to be best of friends as well staying side by side even when the kids are off running around.
This handsome man is Jasper (OQ137bsS). He was also part of the 2019 roundup and was only 2 at the time. He was with Dotty in The Cremello Stallions band which was split up when he was taken by BLM. Jasper then took to living the bachelor life with other boys until he very recently acquired a little family which had a new foal about 2 weeks ago. Now he stays at a good distance from the rest of the south herd being protective and watchful over the little foal. When I first met Jasper and didn’t know his name I’d just call him Romeo because not only is he gorgeous with his one blue eye, but he’s also a charming little devil that’s curious and playful with the other bachelors.
Black roan band stallion OQ125zrS is seen giving his family the telltale sign to move on along during an incoming spring storm. He is father to adorable baby Cosmo seen with his momma below.
Curly (OQ153sS). Curly has a small band which includes a beautiful white mare who’s almost ethereal in nature (see below) and has a son Shorty (OQ378sS) who’s his near mirror image less rear leg markings and a slight difference in their white facial markings. Curly is a short, stout little chap and is absolutely a doll for being a band stallion. Rarely have I ever seen him in conflict, instead he will lead his band safely out of the fray and he’s never pushy with his mares, nor is he aggressive towards other stallions who lack proper horse etiquette.
This bay roan stallion is known as Dash (OQ220brS). Dash is an absolute specimen of a horse in perfect condition and conformation. He is part of the south Onaqui herd and has a pretty little bay mare and her adorable 2020 foal all to himself. Despite his size he’s very calm and when faced with conflict he often chooses to lead his family to safer areas rather than fight. However when his buttons do get pushed he is one powerful boy and I’ve seen him knock other stallions to the ground only to then wait for them to rise to start their battle on equal terms.
As promised, this is Silver Stars mare with her brand spanking new 2021 edition baby Onaqui I nicknamed Clover for a perfect “C” on her forehead (OQ363bM). Her mother (OQ289bM) is a very dotting mother and I was pleased to see how quickly she regained her weight after the birth. Little Clover and the new 2021 colt in Goliath’s band have become fast friends and are often snuggling and playing as the little fella tries to win her over.
Because Clover is just too cute to stop at one photo, here is a second photo of her on the right with her first boyfriend on the left who is a little colt born to momma OQ351zM in Goliath’s band down south who I have affectionately nicknamed Marley because of the plethora of fairy braids found in her mane. This little colt is Red Birds favorite thing in the world, but much to his displeasure the new baby is completely smitten with little Clover and whenever they’re bands are close he will mosey on over and try to win her heart. Keep it up little buddy!
This love of a mare is Dee Dee (OQ99uM) and travels with a liver band stallion (OQ356sS) and her 2019 buckskin filly (OQ164uM) in the south range. She is mother to the lovely bachelor stallion Eclipse (seen below) who’s great pals with Maverick.
A force to be reckoned with. This black bachelor stallion (OQ63zS) lives in the south herd and can most often be found shadowing other bands of Goliath and Silver Star. Unlike some of the other bachelors who have maintained a somewhat docile nature, this boy is very serious about vying for mares attention and doesn’t hesitate to take on anyone in his path to do so.
The image above is of south bachelor stallion (OQ68gS) enjoying a rest in the heat of the day. This stallion has been trying with all his might to win the girls attention since the bitter winter set in. Despite his persistence and his very best efforts so far he hasn’t had any success with the ladies and the other band stallions have lost all patience for his persistent antics making for some wonderful sparring photos for me!
New momma (OQ144brM) on the right watches over her new little filly (OQ392bM) as she sleeps under the protection of the rest of the band.
Pictured above is bachelor stallion OQ268gS. The very first time I met this handsome guy he was all alone on the side of a desolate road in the south section of the HMA a couple miles from the rest of the herd. He was in amazing shape and quite beautiful to photograph. However our level of “like” for each other definitely wasn’t equal as he began quite a dramatic display of head shaking and actually reared up in place. For the record I didn’t feel like there was actually any intention behind it, I just chalked it up to him being overly dramatic and gave him his solstice back. Since then I’ve seen him numerous times, always running in from the far reaches of the flats to be greeted rather politely by the other stallions. On more than one occasion I’ve returned from a long walk to the car to find him just standing there with my car like he’s lonely or guarding it, or waiting for what might exit the vehicle. He’s followed me for LONG walks away from the main herd as I return to my vehicle and every time I turn around he’s casually look the other way like “who me? I wasn’t even paying attention to you at all!” Then I begin walking again and sure enough the tailgater continues his pursuit. I completely forgive him for his first impressions and he’s actually grown on me after all this time.
This wonderful boy belongs to what I call affectionately “the white noses” because they all have just about the cutest little white nose markings like their band stallion (OQ26bS) seen below. This handsome guy (OQ388bS) is estimated to be born in early 2019 and carries a lovely little good luck horseshoe marking on his nose. He’s quite loving with his other band members and agreeable to whatever they tell him to do and also seems to have a distinct liking for photographers.
Band stallion OQ26bS is protector and leader of “the white noses” and his age and wisdom show in his battle scarred body. He is always found vigilantly standing watch over his family and doesn’t hesitate to round them up if they stray too far away.
Over the rivers and through the woods these two little yearlings will race. Although they grew up in different bands I can’t count the times I’ve seen Diamond’s little buckskin colt (OQ163uS) and the little unidentified black colt tearing around through the desert basin like it was their own personal race track. Round and round they go, dust swirling and rocks flying while they twirl and drop to their knees only to quickly return to their feet to practice sparring while the rest of the herd watches on.
This image is particularly special because the little baby filly leading the way, nicknamed Hope, was found on March 4th with the north herd. She was very, very new and her little ears hadn’t quite straightened out all the way meaning she was likely born 1-2 days prior at the same time BLM was making the public announcement that they would be removing approximately 80% of the Onaqui herd. She was born to mare OQ87uM with band stallion OQ86bS.
This gorgeous stallion is a bachelor found with the north herd (OQ12brS) and is a sight to behold. He often stays a distance from the majority of the herd venturing near occasionally and sparring with other band stallions before sauntering back where he came from. I’m sure he’ll make some Onaqui lady a lucky mare someday soon.
Doesn’t this mare just steal your heart? This is Strawberry (OQ227bM) and her little colt Cullen (OQ381sS) born early March of 2021 in the north herd. Strawberry is a very protective mother making sure that little Cullen stays close and tending to him tenderly. He is going to be quite the stunner with one blue eye and one brown and I have no doubt their band stallion OQ244bs will teach him the ways of the world in being a wise, strong wild stallion along the way.
This little darling is a stallion in the north herd named Feather (OQ173bS). He was born in 2018 and has flitted around between being a bachelor and being a member of a band. As you can tell by expression he’s a curious fella and extraordinarily calm. Perhaps in between trying to friends to travel with, a girlfriend to make a band with and all those other horse things he also likes to investigate what us humans are up to now and again.
So this little buckskin filly (OQ257uM) is in a band with Valentino and the little filly on the ground is Bonnie (OQ403brM) who is in Oreo’s band. Little Bonnie had completely sacked out dead to the world as her band continued to slowly graze north towards the base of the mountain. Insert the little Buckskin mare who showed up with Valentino and her mother (OQ131gM) and couldn’t take her eyes off little Bonnie. She slowly approached and gently started nudging her with her nose to wake up and when that proved pointless she began ever so lightly pawing her. You see here Bonnie waking up and getting horsey kisses until Bonnie’s band stallion noticed his missing kid and came racing over to give her a stern talking a lengthy snaking until she made it back to momma.
Little baby Quinn. Quinn (OQ372brS) was born on Thursday March 18th at 4:30pm to mare OQ354bM in Dude’s band (OQ80brS). Dude is a huge, handsome strapping bay roan stallion and Quinn’s dam is sweet bay from the north herd. I was lucky enough to be present for the birth and the photos and narrative from that special time is recapped in a previous blog post. These days Quinn has grown a little and also has been treated to birth of a new little filly who looks like his twin. These two babies are already visibly bonded spending lots of time together learning how to be a horse.
This gorgeous chestnut mare (OQ270sM) resides in with the south herd and spent some time last fall shopping for stallions as she was seen back and forth between a couple of different bands. She seems to prefers the greys, who wouldn’t, and with a gaze like this I suspect they’ll let her into whatever family she finally chooses.
The north Onaqui herd stampeding to water last winter. Following the leader and trusting in each other where one goes they all go. The family bonds and unwavering loyalty running deep.
The bond between the mares and their little ones is something we should all learn from. Here mare OQ410bM of the north herd with her new 2021 colt spend some quality snuggling as the rest of her band members including new baby Hope and her mom rest nearby.
North stallion Charger (OQ102bpS) facing off with his rival stallion OQ323zS who has since taken over this band once lead by King who has since gone missing. The black stallion has allowed Charger to stay a part of the band after several skirmishes which makes Charger very happy. Charger still has been seen breeding with the mares of the band without interference from the black band stallion so it is with some hope his genes will continue to live on in the desert for many years to come.
This sweet fella (OQ163uS) was born in the spring of 2019 to experienced mom Diamond (OQ100uM) who is also the mother to Dee Dee pictured above. He’s just as sweet as Dee Dee and hasn’t been kicked out of the nest just yet by band stallion OQ180brS so fingers crossed he’ll get to spend more time with the family before having to go find bachelor friends of his own to hang out with.

Who to contact & how you can help

In addition to contacting the Department of the Interior Directly, please see your support to the list of local elected officials below who can directly speak up for our Onaqui Wild Horses and their protection for living in the wild.

Deb Haaland Secretary of the Interior (202) 208-3100

Utah Senator Romney (202) 224-5251 or via email: https://www.romney.senate.gov/contact

District 2 State Representative Chris Stewart (202) 225-9730, (435) 364-5500 or (435) 627-1500 or via email https://stewart.house.gov/contact/

Tooele City Mayor Debbie Winn (435) 843-2104 dwinn@tooelecity.org

Tooele City Council Members:

Tooele County Council Members:

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall (801) 535-7704  mayor@slcgov.com

Salt Lake City Council (801) 535-7600 council.comments@slcgov.com

One Comment on “Saving The Onaqui Pt 4

  1. Pingback: Saving The Onaqui Pt 8 | Wild Horse Photo Safaris

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