Updated: Nov 20, 2021
Do I share, don't I? Do I hold back sharing real life on the Carter Range or do I only show the pretty side? If I don't share this story, I feel like I am lying because I'm not showing the whole picture of life, that my eyes are seeing while out documenting this magnificent Carter Reservoir wild horse herd. After much thought, I have decided to share this story of Sparrow Hawk written by someone who wishes to remain anonymous.
As I type this forward message, my heart breaks again. The events of this day were not something I ever thought I would see and was not prepared mentally for it, hence the hesitation in publishing this writing and photos. I do believe that as much as possible wild horse herds should be left alone to live life as they have for hundreds of years.
The young and the old are the ones that we most often think of as the most susceptible to death on the range. Not a healthy viable stallion somewhere in the age range of 5 - 8 years old. That's what makes the events of this day so shocking.
WARNING!!! Very graphic photos.
My name is Sparrow Hawk, or Hawk, for short. I’m a wild mustang dun stallion living on the Carter Reservoir HMA (Herd Management Area) in Cedarville, Ca. My ancestors and I are of Spanish-Iberian descent and most of us have the ancient primitive dun factor color markings - bi-colored manes, dorsal stripes down our backs, sometimes ventral stripes, shoulder bars or capes, leg stripes, herringbone markings, chest hair patterns, face mask, dipped and black-outlined ears. Pretty flashy markings if I do say so myself!
We wild mustangs are native wildlife being that our ancestors originally evolved in N. America millions of years ago. Most folks don’t realize that. We weren’t created or born domesticated over millennia of time. We were created and born wild to the core and in our ancient DNA, including our domesticated counterparts. My ancestors have roamed in this particular area of California and Nevada for a long, long time. In fact, they used to roam all the way to the Oregon border before the original HA (Herd Area) of about 350K acres back in the 1970’s was cut down to the present-day 23K-acre HMA. I don’t know why that happened. My herd mates and I need a lot of space to thrive with our families and friends. It sure would be nice to run and roam on all of that previous public land following in the footsteps of our for-sires and dams. Maybe that will happen one day.
But, for now, my herd mates and I roam on as much of our ancestors’ lands as we can get to. We love to frolic in the big valleys, and graze the bluffs, and rocky outcroppings. The tall sage brush, and juniper trees offer shade and a place to hide. We drink from the watering ponds, springs, a couple of streams and the long, shallow Carter Reservoir. Succulent grasses grow after a really good winter. I love my life out here in the wild. I love being free. I love being with my small family, protecting them from danger and from being stolen from me by other powerful stallions. I love being super alert and aware. I have to be on guard every minute of the day. I love being strong, powerful, spirited and interdependent with my herd mates. That’s who I am and what I do.
My herd mates and I share this small public land home with livestock about half the year. We hightail it to higher ground when the two legged’s bring in cattle. We don’t mind sharing, but there’s an awful lot of them and not very many of us. I wonder why that is? We’re kind of leery of the two legged’s because sometimes they come in and scare the livin’ daylights out of us with a flying object, forcing us into small corrals after being run for miles over rocks and hill and dale. Then they separate us from our families and herd mates and they remove some of us from our homeland forever. Some get hurt in the process and are never seen again. That part I don’t love about being out here on the range and I sure wish all of that would stop.
For now, I’m sure thankful to be out here wild and free with some resemblance to my ancestor's way of living wild. Spring of 2017 has been the best ever, with plenty of good grass and fresh water after a pretty tough, cold and snowy winter. We had to paw through snow to get nibbles of grass and break the ice with our hooves to get to small amounts of water. Sometimes, we had to just eat snow when we couldn’t find water. My herd mates and I are pretty tough critters. We have a really strong survival instinct, which helps us get through it every year. However, some of the older members of the herd don’t make it through winter and aren’t here with the rest of us come spring. I wonder where they go? I miss not seeing and being with them anymore. Some foals that are born a little early can’t make it through either. Life out here is definitely not easy, but we’re wild and somewhat free and we make the very best of it every single day.
(Above & below photos show a weary and tired Sparrow Hawk during breeding season)
We never know what nature and circumstance have in store for us out here in the wild. In fact, just this last May I was doing great and feeling my oats and kicking up a storm, being in my prime and all. My mare had a baby foal and other mares were also foaling. Other stallions were creating a ruckus, so of course, I had to join in. I mean it’s what we do! But, something happened that I don’t understand. One minute I was rearing, twisting, running, kicking and biting and the next minute I could barely move. What did I do? What happened? My right rear leg, the pain is excruciating! I can’t put any weight on it. What am I to do? How can I graze and get to water? How can I protect my little family? How do I survive?
…I’m alone now. I’ve lost my family. I’ve lost my ability to be the proud strong stallion I once was. I have to stay away from my herd mates in my weakened condition. I’ve lost a lot of weight and my right rear leg still won’t work right and is really painful.
I was hobbling with much difficulty over a rocky hillside when a couple of two legged’s came upon me discovering my grave predicament. They seemed really concerned about me wanting to help but were powerless to do so. Remember, I’m a wild mustang stallion and must take what nature and circumstance dole out. Like I said, life is not easy out here, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s the way of the wild. So, I’ll do the best I can do for as long as I can, to continue to survive by instinct on the land that I have loved and known so well, with my herd mates and former family off in the distance around the bend or over the hill somewhere. I’ll dream of the days, months and years of my good and fulfilled life, free on the range with the wind blowing through my mane and tail and the fiery spirit always dwelling in my heart. That’s the way I think the Creator meant it to be for all wild mustangs like me.
Note, the two legged’s who came upon Hawk were indeed very concerned about his condition and wanted to help. They discovered his right rear leg was severely broken below the hock with no way for it to heal. They couldn’t believe he had survived for as many days as he had after the accident. How did it happen? From a powerful kick from another stallion? From stepping in a hole while he was running? No one will ever know. The two legged’s noted Hawk’s location and notified the BLM early the next morning of their findings. Through experience in these situations, they suggested that Hawk is put down to ease his passage to the other side. Due to the remote location, BLM requested they go back out to confirm he was still in the same area. They were able to track him upwards of a mile but lost his tracks in the rocks. More time was spent checking out the closest water pit, where they did find some horse tracks but again they just disappeared. The two legged’s left no rock unturned, but as much as they wanted to help as some compassionate humans do, it was not meant to be. Nature and circumstance ruled the day. The magnificent Carter Reservoir wild mustang stallion, Sparrow Hawk, would deal with life and death on his own terms, in his own way, when the time was right for him, with no well-meaning human intervention. And so it is. Fly high and free, proud Sparrow Hawk!
The two legged’s gave this magnificent young stallion his name upon an encounter with a sparrow hawk moments after the injured stallion, severely limping, calmly walked away, stopping multiple times then turning as if to say, "Goodbye, I will fly free on my own terms as I have lived free for these years I have lived." The hawk seemed to flutter overhead saying, “he will be free to fly, just let him go.”
It seemed a fitting and noble name for the grand, brave Carter Reservoir wild stallion whose spirit will always fly free in the hearts of the two legged’s who encountered him that day.