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Salt Wells Creek Mustang Shiloh Comes Home!

Salt Wells Creek mustang Shiloh comes home to me a year after our wild dance. It’s a romantic story with many twists and turns along the way. I’ll tell it mostly in pictures, since that’s where it all began. I know many of you don’t know the whole story. Even this is extremely abbreviated, but it’s a big part…

I found Lieutenant’s band deep in the Salt Wells Creek/Adobe Town complex September 13, 2014, two days before the heavily disputed Checkerboard gathers were started in Wyoming.


Where I spent September 2014. Dark yellow is BLM. 40 mile swath along I 80 is Checkerboard.


After giving up for the day and starting home, as often happens… I spotted them.

Wyoming Checkerboard Wild Horses

You can read about my extraordinary experience playing with these two mixed bands with little human contact, here: http://kerryobrien.org/2014/09/


Wyoming checkerboard mustangs - Photography by Kerry O'Brien .

The yet un-named red Appaloosa figured prominently in the band of the grey stud.


WY Wild Horses, Checkerboard, BLM, WH&B

You can see the older white mare’s legs in the background and the grey mare’s nose to the left in the photo above. They play prominently in the story.


Wyoming Checkerboard Wild Horses

The red mare and the grey mare (not shown) with black points that looked exactly like this grey stud, were both clearly pregnant.


Wyoming Checkerboard Wild Horses

We played together for several hours until I lost the light, when they lined up on the ridge to watch me go. Magic does not describe it.


Salt Wells Creek wild horses, BLM, Canon City, CO

After the gathers were completed I contacted Lona, the adoption coordinator in Canon City, and she confirmed that they had the red mare and the grey stud.


BLM Mustangs, Wyoming Checkerboard Wild horse - Photography by Kerry O'Brien

I dreamed about them day and night and held them briefly. I wanted a saddle and pack horse team to disappear me into the Rocky Mountains. (Little did I know Ben Masters had beaten me to the punch! DO NOT MISS the film, Unbranded. You can see the trailer here: www.unbrandedthefilm.com.) I had only just started on my journey and was living out of a 16′ Casita trailer. I had no home, no rig, no way to swing it. Dreaming too big again, I relinquished my hold and within hours both the red mare and the grey stud were snatched up.


Wild Mustang Mares, Checkerboard, BLM, Canon City

I quickly became friends with Tammy Morgan in N.C. who adopted both the red mare and her grey band sister. They were inseparable in the Canon City pens, even protecting the older white mare when she was injured. These three mares were together, maintaining their family structure, in nearly all the photographs from Canon City. Thank you Amanda Wilder for your dedication!


Sadly, the grey mare “Sister,” was too heavily pregnant to ship on the January shipment. The next day her full term foal was found dead in the pens. Sister and the white mare called Ghost are still in Canon City as far as I know but have not been able to confirm. (Addendum: I visited the two mares in April 2016. They are still there.)


As fate would have it, I was in Florida that January when the load of Canon City mustangs was shipped to N.C. I wouldn’t miss it for the world and made the trip to Asheville to meet Tammy and her sister Michelle, also adopting.


BLM Mustang, Wyoming Checkerboard Wild horse - Photography by Kerry O'Brien

The driver said it was a good looking load of horses. It was very cold and we were very excited. You can read about the arrival day here: http://kerryobrien.org/2015/01/meet-the-mustangs/


BLM Mustang Filly, Wyoming Checkerboard Wild horse - Photography by Kerry O'Brien

Tammy, bless her heart, also adopted Paisley, a filly who’s adopter bailed on in the eleventh hour. Shiloh took her under her wing and they penned together until Shiloh’s foal arrived in April.


Shiloh, pregnant mustang mare - photograph by Kerry O'Brien

She just got bigger, and bigger and bigger….


Wild mustang Shiloh delivers healthy foal

And in April dropped a ginormous filly foal. This beast is newborn! Just a few hours old!


All was well in N.C. through the summer. Then I got the call. Tammy and I had made a deal that if push ever came to shove for her and Shiloh, she would call me first. Because of some personal issues, she needed to re-home some of her adult horses. The baby, Denali was old enough to wean.

I was caught. I wasn’t ready. I couldn’t afford it. I’m traveling. I don’t have a home. But… this was the third time this horse had come to me. How could I say no?

There was scrambling, praying, exercises of faith. Friends, friends of friends and the amazing community of mustangers I have come to know, all contributed to making this happen.


Shiloh TrailerAshley Rose, who I had met at a BLM adoption event in Florida (read about it here: http://kerryobrien.org/2015/02/mustang-adoption-event/) was coming west for the Kiger Adoptions in Oregon and tag driving with her mom. Tammy and Michelle met her in Chattanooga and Ashley and her mom drove the rest of the way, delivering the smutty nosed mare to Colorado Springs on Monday.







She took a good look around, scenting the other horses and they her.




Salt Wells Creek Mustang comes home- Kerry O'BrienShe took her time taking it in, then decided to trust me, stepped off and calmly went to the round pen where she will be making her home for at least the next month. Thank you to Annie Noonan for hooking me up with Gib Franciscotti and to Gib for his gallant generosity and open heartedness.










BLM Mustang Shiloh gets new home in Colorado


Day One: Shiloh was very, very thin. The beasty foal had pulled her down severely. The twenty plus hour trip exhausted her. She was hurting, not feeling well, confused and sad. Very, very sad.


Shiloh Skinny

Day Two: More of the same. I was very concerned. Not eating. Not drinking. Getting very gaunt. I’m lucky some over zealous advocates were not reporting me to BLM. On the other hand, maybe they’d be offering to bring hay and water like they did in Fish Creek. Certainly she looks worse than the horses there that everyone was so hysterical about. Oh, didn’t catch that drama? You can read about it here: Fish Creek Debacle.

Oddly (or not), I too felt extremely, extreeeeeemly tired, unfocused, lethargic and without appetite. I should have been over the moon excited, but I was not. It sounds crazy, but my bond with this horse is such, that I was feeling what she was feeling. And I was worried. She was listless, dehydrated and probably on the verge of colic. I expected to have to call in an emergency vet first thing in the morning. Not getting off on the good foot.


Shiloh Eating

I’m sorry, this video takes forever to load. If you are on Facebook, you can see it more easily here: facebook.com/Mustang-Chronicles

I woke an hour before dawn. I felt good and went up to check on her. She was up and eating! She ate and drank all morning long. Peed and pooped good poo! She had turned the corner! YAY!!!

She felt good enough to give me a little attitude so we had a short Come To Jesus about presenting her butt to me. It took very little to convince her that wasn’t a good idea. Crows and coyotes made a racket in the rosy dawn. I think we’re out of the woods.


Shiloh I Spy


From the rear window of my Casita I can keep an eye on her. When I left to write this post, she was keeping an eye on me. A good start.

It takes a damn village: I’d like to thank all the mustang people, too numerous to mention, for their support making this happen, and support and advice during these tough couple of days. Oh, yes. And for railroading me into adopting a mustang. Love to you all.


Eureka County Stages Public Tour of Fish Creek HMA

Eureka County Public Tour of Fish Creek HMA: More questions than answers.

Yesterday Eureka County Staged a Public Tour of Fish Creek HMA and I was privileged to attend. After meeting at the Eureka County administration building we regrouped at Hwy. 50 and Antelope Rd. This was also the site of recent conflicts between BLM and rancher Kevin Borba. Eureka County Natural Resource Manager Jake Tibbitts, well prepared with multiple talking points, made a rather lengthy presentation of grievances. Clarifications were made, including how I happened to be involved. I explained I’d met WH&B specialist Shawna Richardson at the Elko RAC meeting last October. As I realize the need for controlling wild horse numbers, I had been following the development and implementation of the Fish Creek Fertility Control Program. There was also much animosity expressed about Laura Leigh’s involvement. There some confusion about her role as an official BLM volunteer versus her actions as a public citizen, which I will not debate here.

Fish Creek HMA, Eureka County, Borba, BLM Photo by Kerry O'Brien

BLM District Manager Doug Furtado in discussion with the Eureka County tour of Fish Creek HMA. Eureka County Natural Resource Manager Jake Tibbitts (center).

There were approximately 20-25 people in attendance. In addition to Mr. Tibbitts was  Eureka County Commission Chairman JJ Goicoechea, BLM Battle Mountain District Manager Doug Furtado, Acting State Director John Ruhs, a number of local ranchers and journalists from Progressive Rancher and  Range magazine. I offered clarification about the KB brand, that it does not mean Kick Butt (this was the first I’d heard of that!) but is code for the date and HMA. More on that in a later post.


Fish Creek HMA, Eureka County, Borba, BLM Photo by Kerry O'Brien


Water Rights

We caravaned to most of the major watering sites on the HMA, going deeply south to the Davis Pipeline where a small group of horses was watering. There was discussion of who actually owns the water rights. I got an education in just how confusing water rights are in Nevada. Mr. Tibbitts had the original maps from the State Water Engineer and it appears that the water rights on much of the property go back to 1905 – 1926. What is confusing is that there are several overlapping layers of “rights” and permits. In general the rights are historical and go with the land. Mr. Tibbitts suggested that the only way to absolutely solve the question is to adjudicate, a legal process presenting evidence to a judge who makes a decision. In this case the evidence appears to favor Mr. Borba who made a point of telling everyone, once again, that the Number Four Spring “hadn’t run for eight years and we got it running.” Interestingly, it states on all grazing permits, “The permittee will be required to repair and maintain all functional water wells, pipelines and troughs prior to turnout. Grazing use will not be authorized unless water wells, pipelines and troughs are functional.” I’m not sure how this makes him a hero. On the State of Nevada Division of Water Resources website I found three permits for the Number Four Spring, two for BLM and one for the previous permittee. View here: Permit. Again, the confusion about permits, versus rights.


Fish Creek HMA, Eureka County, Borba, BLM Photo by Kerry O'Brien

Small family band at the Davis Pipeline. Fish Creek HMA, You can see the trails to the trough, and that this is rather rough country.


HMA Boundaries

Below is a map provided by Mr. Tibbitts. The horse icon in the upper left is the intersect between Hwy 50 and Antelope Rd. where horses lingered because they found water before, both in the seasonal depression and when Mr. Borba hauled water to them. The point was made repeatedly that the horses were off the HMA. (Just for yuks here’s a pic of cows in my fence out campground Cows in Camp)


Fish Creek HMA, Eureka County, Borba, BLM Photo by Kerry O'Brien

Fish Creek HMA with major water sources


Bob Brown Well

We proceeded to Bob Brown Well, (see map) which was a major bone of contention. This was one of the water sources that went dry the week before my arrival in Battle Mountain. BLM does own the rights to this water but, it is roughly a thousand feet outside the HMA. Oopsie. Much was made of BLM not keeping to the same regulations that it demands of it’s permittees. It seems there have been numerous bureaucratic oversights by BLM in regard to the various water sources. The solution proposed by Mr. Furtado for Bob Brown Well is to pipe the water back up into the HMA but the details are fuzzy at this time.

Fish Creek HMA NV - Photo by Kerry O'Brien

Bob Brown Well. Contrary to accusations that were made, the Metadata embedded in the file indicates this photo was taken Thursday, July 30, 2015, 2:45pm


On the way to view the Slough Water Haul (see map) we saw several family groups. I truly don’t think there was a person there, from the ranchers, to officials, to the sheriff, who didn’t appreciate the sight of wild horses running in distance.


Fish Creek HMA, Eureka County, Borba, BLM Photo by Kerry O'Brien


Slough Water Haul

The Slough Water Haul was the second of the water sources that failed at the end of July. 3800 gallons of water is hauled on a regular basis from Diamond Valley. Again, the complicated nature of Nevada water rights asserted itself. It’s not simply buying water. (Mr. Borba relayed to me that BLM said they didn’t have money to haul water.) Actually, the issue is not money, but that the water is coming from Diamond Valley. That makes it an “inter-basin transfer.” Because the point of use (the Slough) is different from the point of diversion (Diamond Valley) it requires a permit that has not been secured. Again it was argued that BLM was not adhering to the same types of regulations that it requires of permittees. The reasons for how the Slough tank came to be dry or why water deliveries contracted by BLM were discontinued remained a mystery.


Wild Horse Numbers

Many of the ranchers responded angrily toward BLM representatives, expressing their frustration that same solutions have been offered repeatedly since the 1990’s. While ranchers have been cut and are now voluntarily keeping their grazing numbers at roughly half of what is allowed, promises that were made with each succeeding program, that horses will be kept at AML and have never been kept.

Fish Creek HMA Population

While their anger is understandable, the fact that 246 horses were removed and NOT returned to the range is a point that seems to have been lost along with the fact that removal numbers were limited to 200 at the federal level, not the local level (because of lack of holding space). Also lost is the fact that nearly fifty horses beyond that quota actually were taken off. Final numbers according to WH&B Specialist Shawna Richardson are as follows:*

  • 247 horses removed and NOT returned, including those euthanized and adopted.
  • 168 horses branded, the mares treated with PZP-22 and returned to the range.
  • 15 mares with foals are still in holding awaiting release.
  • 120 horses estimated NOT captured.
  • 351 horses estimated to currently be on the HMA, not including spring foals.

*Numbers may differ very slightly.

Here are some links with some brief background info:

History on Fish Creek HMA

Fish Creek HMA Gather Info

Horses released in spite of protest


PZP Follow Through

There was a great deal of mistrust of and misunderstanding about the current PZP program. The mistrust is understandable since PZP was administered once in 1998, was estimated to be 90% effective in preventing foal births in 1999 and failed once again due to lack of commitment and follow through. Everything the ranchers are hearing now, they have heard before. Repeatedly. It is incumbent upon BLM to keep their commitment, both to the ranchers, the horses and the American public. This means follow through, treating the remaining untreated mares and boosters to the treated mares, regardless of whether it is accomplished with water trapping or requires helicopter gathers. The breach of trust in this community is so deep it’s going to require BLM to follow through with cooperation and action. Acting State Director John Ruhs listened well and offered assurances. Time will tell.


Fish Creek HMA, Eureka County, Borba, BLM Photo by Kerry O'Brien


After the tour I attended the Eureka County Natural Resources Advisory Commission. That’s for another post, probably after I field the flack from this one.

I want to offer a special thank you to Eureka County Sheriff Keith Logan for allowing me to ride along and share his insights. Could not even take my van on those roads!


*Update. Because of the severe resistance in the ranching community, the contraceptive program has been suspended, dooming a thorough and committed plan to failure. I fail to see the logic of this.



Borba-Landia: Where Truth Takes a Holiday

I’ve been spending the past week in Borba-Landia: Where Truth Takes a Holiday for scofflaw trespass rancher Kevin Borba. It started innocently enough. Last Tuesday, July 28 on Hwy 50 in Nevada, I noticed something didn’t geel quite right and wrote about that in the last post. A beat up long yearling that had been pushed out and fenced out.

Little did I know I was about to step into a middle of a range war between a trespass rancher and BLM.

It was late so I found a place to camp and continued on to Battle Mountain the next morning to meet Shawna Richardson, the Wild Horse and Burro Specialist. She had invited me to come find out about the comprehensive contraception she had implemented there. I met Shawna last October at the Great Basin Advisory Committee meeting in Elko. She has nearly twenty years experience managing the BLM wild horses and I’d come to respect not only her passion and commitment, but her transparency.

I’d tried to get here for over a month, but fate had different had plans and my delay put me right in the middle of a rancher/BLM sh*t storm. Made it to Battle Mountain Wed afternoon. One of the angry signs in the empty lot across from the Mount Lewis Field Office said, “Impeach Doug Furtado” the district manager, and other epitaphs. It was disconcerting. I showed Shawna the pics of the colt. She had concerns. The next morning, Thursday, July 30 I drove to the Fish Creek HMA with she and Laura Leigh. Leigh, who has been a thorn in the side of both ranchers and BLM, was now an official volunteer, trained by Dr. Jay Kirkpatrick to dart the contraceptive PZP.  We were to set panels near the southern water source in preparation for possible water trapping and contraception treatment later this year.

When we got there horses were at the road head and Shawna remarked that something did not feel right.


Fish Creek HMA NV - Photo by Kerry O'Brien  Fish Creek HMA NV - Photo by Kerry O'Brien

We were lucky to have the  fire crew guys to do the heavy lifting. (Woo hoo!) Shawna and Laura changed out the cards in the game cameras and we looped back north to check other water sources.


Fish Creek HMA NV - Photo by Kerry O'Brien

We spotted several bands moving toward a marginal water source. They don’t look so bad here on Thursday. Rancher Kevin Borba apparently shadowed us to the place where we set the panels and right after we left  recorded a video, carefully implying the water was his without actually saying so. I pulled the permits and BLM owns two of the three permits for that water. There is a third registered to the previous lease owner. Seems like someone forgot to do their paperwork. Part of the grazing lease agreement is the responsibility of the leasee to maintain water sources. Not only that, on any HMA in Nevada, wild horses have a right to water. Click here: Nevada Water Rights for Wild Horses You can see the Borba video here: Kevin Borba water claim video.


Fish Creek HMA NV - Photo by Kerry O'Brien

Here some of the Fish Creek horses go down to a marginal water source. We were soon to discover the reason. A float malfunction on their main water source had caused the water to drain prematurely.


Fish Creek HMA NV - Photo by Kerry O'Brien

We immediately drove to Eureka, about 30 minutes away to procure gas for the generator that fills this tank. It’s Thursday, July 30, 2014 at 2:46 pm (date and time taken from the photo metadata) and the water is running. Problem solved, one would think. We won’t know how long the horses were without a good source of water until the game camera photos are analyzed. While we had coverage in Eureka it was discovered that there was “slam the BLM” video on Facebook, linked above, where Mr. Borba implies the southern water is his. Tensions escalated.

Things began to unravel from there. Later Mr. Borba took it upon himself to begin watering horses  at the road and continued to do so, posting inflammatory videos and stirring up an enormous backlash. Click here to view  Borba video 2 This would later snowball in the media sensation around Sarge, the extremely sick horse that became once again, a propaganda pawn. You have to wonder how a busy rancher has so much time to kill.

The storm that brewed over the weekend had hysterical people calling literally, from all over the world. I had put my ass on the line saying that there was water there and was being accused of using old photographs, even though this was the first and only time I’d been here. I felt compelled to drive the 150 miles back down to Fish Creek to make sure for myself. I was warned that Mr. Borba was filming, probably with Protect the Harvest, a right wing, pro rancher coalition and maker of propaganda videos, financed by by Dave Duquette and Lucas Oil, gazillionaire, pro-slaughter rancher and race car aficionado, who have been using Mr. Borba as their poster child. One of the last videos posted by Borba show him expressing his gratitude to Protect the Harvest for the ATV they gave him.

I was warned to be careful. Tensions were running high in Nevada. There was a dispute, similar to the Cliven Bundy issue over the Argenta Allotment. The tension in the air was palpable.

It was dark by the time I got there so I slept in the van.  I woke early and reveled momentarily in the peace of dawn in the desert dawn. When I got to Antelope Rd. this is what I saw.

Fish Creek HMA NV - Photo by Kerry O'Brien

Mr. Borba’s trough was dry and I hoped that he had ceased watering as asked so the horses would return to their regular source. There were no horses visible. I hoped that they had gone back up to their good water.


Fish Creek HMA NV - Photo by Kerry O'Brien

Far in the distance I saw a group of eight horses making their way back up in the direction of water.


Fish Creek HMA NV - Photo by Kerry O'Brien

Taking their sweet time, grazing as they went. So much for the hysteria on FB with people wanting to bring them food. Plenty of graze out here right now, thank Dog.


Fish Creek HMA NV - Photo by Kerry O'Brien

Relieved, I saw that there was plenty of good water.


Fish Creek HMA NV - Photo by Kerry O'Brien

And glad to see hoof prints, including a foal’s as well as deer and pronghorn. Something bothered me though. There should have been a lot more action at the trough. It seemed that only 4 or 5 horses had been there. I hoped that Mr. Borba had stopped watering and that the horses that I saw coming this way would show up soon. But they did not.


Fish Creek HMA NV - Photo by Kerry O'Brien

I went to Eureka for breakfast and came back in the afternoon. Good water and still no horses. Hmmm… But wait… more videos from Mr. Borba!  Borba video 3

After illegally watering horses for five days, when they had good water waiting for them, and the viral nature of these self promotional propaganda videos there is a massive backlash against BLM for “not doing something.” Shawna Richardson, managing twenty eight Horse Management Areas, and stationed 150 miles away, was catching flack for not being the all seeing eye. Seems Mr. Borba, who is having financial issues with his ranch, saw an opportunity and grabbed it.

For more background on this here are some links:

Horseback Magazine 2/15 gives even-handed background on the Fish Creek Contraceptive program and why it’s important as well as a bit on Borba.


I will continue with more details as I have time to post. This is just the half of it.


Shunned Colt Fenced from his Buddy

Shunned Colt is Fenced from his Buddy.

Driving from Colorado through Nevada on Higway 50, “The Loneliest Highway” I spotted  what I first thought was a ranch horse grazing on the south side of the road. Then I saw a band of wild horses. I had to turn around. A story unfolded there, told here in pictures.

Co-incidentally, and specifically to this point, Dr. Kirkpatrick in his recent interview stated, “Public grazing isn’t the problem: only 1-3% of America’s beef cattle, for example, are grazed on public land. The problem is that we no longer have any free-roaming wild horses in this country: they are blocked by fencelines and man-made barriers. The horses cannot migrate to avoid natural challenges, like blizzards or drought.”  Case in point. For full article with Dr. Kirkpatrick on PZP immunocontraceptive, click here.


Separated Colt, NV-Photo by Kerry O'Brien

The colt is watching a band of wild horses on the right who locked onto me the minute I raised my binoculars. Skittish, the second time I glassed them, they dropped into a draw leaving only dust. This yearling stayed up near the road, next to the fence, watching them disappear into the distance.

At first I thought he was muddy. Closer inspection with binoculars revealed that he was very beaten up, unusual for such a youngster.


Separated Colt, NV-8918


Here he goes back to the fence where a good looking bachelor stallion grazes on the other side.


Shunned Colt Fenced from his Buddy


This guy was grazing in a depression that holds seasonal water, now grass.


Shunned Colt Fenced from his Buddy


Turns out all the horses are supposed to be on the side where the bay stud is.


Colt gets separated from band


The colt keeps looking off into the distance too where his band disappeared.


Colt gets separated from band


Back and forth. Back and forth.


Colt gets separated from band




Separated wild colt, Photo by Kerry O'Brien


The older bachelor moves south, still on the east side of the fence line.


Separated wild colt, Photo by Kerry O'Brien


The yearling moves off along the fence line, pacing the older stud.


Separated wild colt, Photo by Kerry O'Brien


Separated wild colt, Photo by Kerry O'Brien


Clearly known by the older stud, they continued like that, with the fence between them, until they dropped out of site.

Seems that the problems that wild horses and burros face are endless.

More to come…

Between Loveland and Spring Creek Basin

Between Loveland and Spring Creek Basin… Huh?

A quick redux is in order. What happened between Loveland and Spring Creek Basin? Lots!!! What follows is a mostly photographic retrospective of the recent whirlwind. After leaving Loveland Extreme Mustang Makeover spent a few days enjoying Ft. Collins while getting repairs (again) to my fridge. Lots of $$$ and it broke down again soon after. Grrrr… more to come on that.

Stopped in Boulder to treat my body to some Gyrotonic therapy at Gyrotonic Boulder, where I will be returning around Labor Day for Gyrotonic Applications for the Equestrian course, keeping my Gyro up!

After that, headed down to Manitou Springs, a delightful hippie town, and visited Garden of the Gods on Colorado’s Front Range.

Garden of the Gods - Kerry O'BrienGarden of the Gods - Kerry O'Brien


Garden of the Gods - Kerry O'BrienGarden of the Gods - Kerry O'Brien


Las Vegas, NM - Photography by Kerry O'Brien


Sweet long drive along the Front Range, through Colorado Springs and Pueblo along the southern edge of the Rockies. You know you’re in New Mexico when the skies get ridiculous. Headed to Las Vegas, NM to meet and visit with wild horse painter and song writer extraordinaire, Melody Perez and her husband Sip. We became Face Book friends and had so much in common we determined to meet. Spent some lovely time with them and at Melody’s fabulous Running Horses Studio right on the old central plaza in Las Vegas, an Spanish land grant frontier town as notorious as Deadwood or Tombstone, as well as the shooting location of the western detective series Longmire.

Melody Perez - Running Horses Studio

Can’t say enough about Melody and Sip’s open hearted generosity. Also had tons of fun playing music with them, even laying a few Dobro tracks on some of Melody’s songs about wild mustangs. Total respect for Melody’s decision to advocate for wild horses through art and song.  You can check out her prodigious paintings and hear her songs on the website: www.runninghorses.org


Las Vegas, NM - Photography by Kerry O'Brien

Nuestra Señora de los dolores, Las Vegas, NM town plaza


San Ignacio, NM - Las Vegas, Photography by Kerry O'Brien

Cemetary of very old parish of San Ignacio near Melody and Sip’s place.


San Ignacio, NM - Las Vegas, Photography by Kerry O'Brien


Coming back late at dusk on a Saturday night, mass was in session in the tiny church that had always been locked! I didn’t want to disturb them, but I did peak. Five elderly people. Liturgy and singing in español. Sweet.


San Ignacio, NM - Las Vegas, Photography by Kerry O'Brien



Mora, NM - Photography by Kerry O'Brien


Melody took me on a tour of Mora and the surrounding areas and was patient with my shooting.


Mora, NM - Photography by Kerry O'Brien



Liza and Mack - Photography by Kerry O'BrienNext on to Santa Fe and visit friends of good LA friends, artist, singer and guitar player Liza Williams and her drummer husband, Mack. More music, fun, food and taking in the sensory delights of Santa Fe. So much fun! Her abstract concrete angels are a trip!




Liza Williams Gallery, Santa Fe,NM - Photography by Kerry O'Brien




The Liza Williams Gallery shown here is full of whimsical stuff and fine art.







Coincidentally photographer Cat Gwynn, who I am honored to call my mentor, was in town and her brilliant photos from her series, Cry For Me was making quite a buzz at the invitational review. You can see her stunning work at www.catgwynn.com.
CO-NM 2015-2100


In spite of her hectic schedule, we managed to meet for breakfast, a walk and a tad of shopping. I got a good dose of inspiration and got tipped off about Upaya Zen Center.


Liza WiSanta Fe,NM - Photography by Kerry O'Brien

Just for fun…


Tibetan Buddhist Monk Mandala - Photography by Kerry O'Brien

The touring Tibetan Buddhist monks were in town, doing their sand painting mandala thing. Once completed the mandala is “dispersed.” Half the sand is given to the spectators and the other half carried to a water body  to rejoin the sea and intended to heal the earth.


Upaya Zen Center Santa Fe, NM - Photography by Kerry O'Brien

Even found time for sitting meditation at Upaya, a much-needed break. Here a peek over the garden fence.


What? There’s more? Of course. The magical skies followed me north through Abiquiu, the  home of  Georgia O’Keeffe and on toward more adventures in Colorado, including horse camp on the famous Colorado Trail and visit to TJ Holmes and the Spring Creek Herd of Disappointment Valley. Stay tuned!


Mexican Hat - Photography by Kerry O'Brien

Mexican Hats


Extreme Mustang Makeover in Loveland, CO

So excited to get to Loveland, CO to shoot the Mustang Heritage Foundations’s Extreme Mustang Makeover in Loveland, CO at the end of May. Several friends were competing so it was personal as well. My mustang friend Amanda Wilson’s work as ambassador for the Cañon City facility has helped many horses get adopted, in big part because of her tireless work photographing the horses in holding pens and disseminating information about individual animal’s size and personality.

Loveland Extreme Mustang Makeover - Photography by Kerry O'Brien

Amanda and Dragon showing off their stuff.

In the Extreme Mustang Makeover, each participant gets an untamed, raw mustang by luck of the draw, and then has 100 days to tame and train it.

Loveland EMM-kerry obrien photographerLoveland EMM-kerry obrien photographer

In this EMM all the horses were mares, since they’re tougher to adopt. Approximately twenty adults participated, and there is also a youth division for kids 12-18 who train young horses under two. In addition there were untouched BLM mustangs and burros available for adoption.

Loveland EMM-kerry obrien photographer  Loveland EMM-3236

There are required objectives, such as ground manners, leading, grooming, picking up all four feet and loading in and out of a trailer.

Loveland EMM-kerry obrien photographerLoveland EMM-kerry obrien photographer

For some horses things went well until they heard something new and frightening: applause!

Loveland EMM-kerry obrien photographerLoveland EMM-kerry obrien photographer

In the trail class horse and rider negotiate obstacles they might encounter in daily life such as removing and replacing the bridle, stepping up and over obstacles, backing into a chute, opening and closing gates and dragging an item.

Loveland EMM-3782 Loveland EMM-kerry obrien photographer


Loveland EMM-3727  Loveland EMM-3599


The sportsmanship was of the highest order, exceeded only by the showmanship of the youth group since the last part is a freestyle competition where certain objectives must be met, but the theme is wide open. The kids killed it.

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They were beyond adorable, whether or not their horses were perfect, their joy was contagious.

It was a great few days, full of ups and downs. Since there were also a big rodeo, BBQ cook-off and concerts going on at the same time, the horses that did best were exposed to a lot of stimulation by the trainers who were able to take them on trail rides and to competitions. There was also a fabulous Missouri mule that walks a treadmill, that drives a cam, that churns ice cream!!!

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The final night ten adult finalists competed with some theme based freestyle offerings. There definitely were some crowd favorites, including some repeat competitors.

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Fill in the audio and imagine the Pharrell Williams song Happy playing here! (Plus respect a man who would come out in yellow tights!)

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After the freestyle events all horses are up for auction. Most of the trainers try to show their horses off to their best advantage. But it’s heartbreaking for others who get extremely bonded to their horses and are determined to go home with them. Sometimes they do, sometimes the bidding goes beyond their budget. That’s the deal.

I had to be careful. I was taking photos but must have made some kind of secret bidding move and almost bought a horse!

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I could be wrong, but I think the highest bid horse went for about $7,000. Most were much less. One woman got the trained mustang of her dreams for 500 bucks! She wanted a small horse so she didn’t have much competition and was thrilled to get just what she wanted.

An Extreme Mustang Makeover is a great place to get a proven, well started horse for very little money. Plus the trainers are extremely generous with their help and support to the new adoptive owners.

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Like all mustangs, BLM retains title for one year. One has to meet certain requirements and prove up before the title can be transferred after the year is up and the horse is officially yours.

If you haven’t seen the film Wild Horse, Wild Ride, it does a terrific job of profiling the challenges faced by a half-dozen or so of the hundred participants in the big Ft. Worth EMM a few years back. You’ll be rooting for each one of them.

I saw this film about a year before I set out from LA. It moved me to tears, re-awakening my deep connection with horses. At the time I had no idea the path my life would take by deviating 15 minutes on my way to Jackson to visit the wild horses in Green River, WY.

Rotten Tomatoes actually gave this film a 4-1/2 star rating! It’s available on Netflix and you can see the trailer here: Wild Horse Wild Ride. If it doesn’t move you, have your pulse checked.

By the way, my friend Amanda was able to keep Dragon, the horse of her heart!

Telluride Mountain Film Festival

Intense week at the Telluride Mountain Film Festival!

Wow, I feel like have to apologize for taking such a long time off from the blog! Unlike last year which afforded me lots of time by myself in the wilderness, this year I have been going from one event and/or visit to another. So over the next couple of weeks, I’ll try and get you caught up.

Telluride Mountain Film - Photo by Kerry O'Brien

After only 1 day to decompress, camped north of Flagstaff I hit Telluride ground running as a volunteer for the Mountain Film Festival. Intense week of friends, films and LOTS of input. My head exploded. The highlight for me definitely was meeting Ben Masters, the guy behind Unbranded. Unbranded is the true story of four friends and sixteen mustangs who make an epic trip, horse packing from Mexico to Canada. Visually stunning, with lots of laughs, it also manages to convey some shocking facts about America’s wild horses and their overpopulation issues.

Kerry O'Brien and Ben Masters, Unbranded

Thank dog I made Ben’s acquaintance before the film showed. In a six hundred seat theater I was still about two hundred from getting a seat. Ben showed his big heart and enormous generosity by coming out to collect me and seat me in the front row with the crew. This gave me a unique opportunity for a great talk with producer Dennis Aig, Director of the School of Film and Photography at Montana State University and its MFA in Science and Natural History Filmmaking.

Not surprisingly, Unbranded won the Audience Favorite Award (at Hot Docs as well) and was shown again the following week, so I got to see it again, taking in all the stuff I missed the first time. Boy, there was a lot going on! It also showed again July 5th.

As far as I know it has not got distribution yet, which is a bummer since it’s a stunning film that can inspire the whole family. There is also a beautiful companion book by the same name. You can decide for yourself by viewing the trailer here: Unbranded

Telluride Mountain Film Festival-Kerry O'Brien

Though I got to see all the films I “worked” checking tickets and passes, while also enjoying my omnificent power (Urban Dictionary: having unlimited awesomeness, being all-awesome), there were dozens of great films I did not get to see. Sigh. Here’s a few of the favorites I actually did see. (Yes, cold and rainy was the order of the week.)

Racing Extinction a film by Oscar®-winner Louie Psihoyos (who also directed The Cove), is a life changer. The ominous title and shocking undercover footage is offset by hope in the things we can do to alter our course, along with amazing art and technology. Mind-blowing and encompassing, you won’t look at our world the same way. Racing Extinction was picked up by Discovery Channel who plans a theatrical run in the United States and video-on-demand release. In the Q&A, Phihoyos said it will be available to screen for free in schools. If you have kids in school, I highly recommend looking into getting a screening for your school. View the trailer here: Racing Extinction

Rolling Papers was a humorous look at the Denver Post’s award winning coverage of Colorado’s first year of legalized marijuana. Lots of laughs, but also raising questions that are mostly unanswered as Colorado (and Washington) find their way through the maze of this ground breaking legislation. Which by the way, has put to rest the hysteria about increased crime and drug addiction. DUI and criminal arrests for drug use are down. A lot. I don’t have hard stats, but I’m sure it’s put a dent in the Cartel biz as well. In addition it showed how an award winning but declining newspaper has adapted to new readership and media outlets. Did I mention funny? View the trailer here: Rolling Papers

In Afghanistan under the Taliban photography was a crime until 2001. Frame by Frame was a difficult, inspiring film about four Afghani photojournalists, three men and a woman, Farzana Wahidy, who risk their lives working to rebuild a free press in Afghanistan. Farzana has won numerous humanitarian awards for her work for women’s rights and immolation victims. I had the honor of meeting her and the other journalists. Really puts things in perspective when you meet people who are doing such difficult, heartbreaking and important work. I strongly recommend seeking out this courageous film. The trailer and screening schedule are here: Frame by Frame

There were so many fantastic films. I expect Academy Award nominations for Unbranded, Racing Extinction and Frame by Frame so see them if you can.

After the Telluride marathon the next stop is the Extreme Mustang Makeover in Loveland, CO. Stay tuned! The rig made it over Vail Pass, elevation 10,662′.

Vail Pass-Photography by Kerry O'Brien

Tibetan Monk Sand Mandala

Tibetan Monk Sand Mandala in Santa Fe, NM

Tibetan Sand Painting-Kerry O'Brien Photographer

Those Tibetan Monks are at it again, making sand mandalas for the healing of the planet.

Kerry O'Brien Photographer - Tibetan Monk Sand Paintings

There will be a “dispersion” ceremony today. After  painstaking creation they will sweep the sand into a vessel and distribute half the sand to the spectators and take the other half to a local river where it will be carried to the sea, for the healing of the planet.

Tibetan Sand Painting-photo by Kerry O'Brien

I’ve been waiting a long time to actually see one of these and it was wonderful. Gotta love those monks!

Tibetan Sand Painting - Kerry O'Brien Photographer

If you are interested in finding out more or checking their schedule (these guys are touring maniacs!) click here: http://www.mysticalartsoftibet.org/Mandala.htm#top

LA to Telluride – A few snaps from the road

Made it to Telluride and snapped a few pics along the way. Recent rains made the Painted Desert amazing to behold once more. Good weather continued to bless me. Red Mesa - Photo by Kerry O'Brien

This is near the Navajo community of Red Mesa. Approaching Cortez I could likewise reckon I was approaching the town by the 300 foot “C” carved into the mountains. Hmmm…

Reservation horses - Photo by Kerry O'Brien

Throughout the res the grazing was good and what look exactly like mustangs had a healthy crop of foals. Saw lots of beautiful red roans, palominos and paints.

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The drive along the Dolores River from Cortez north to Telluride was terrific. The aspens are just beginning to leaf out. Made it over 10,000 foot plus Lizard Head Pass uneventfully, thank Dog. The van seems to be holding out okay so far. I’m running much lighter and rebalanced the trailer and may have hit upon a good equation.

Telluride Mountain Film - Photo by Kerry O'Brien

Made it! Fest starts Friday with an art walk in the afternoon. I’ve got lots to do tomorrow am and tomorrow work one of the theaters in Mountain Village from 6-midnight, so you probably won’t hear from me tomorrow!

Mojave Through Hikers & Flagstaff

Pacific Coast Trail through hikers - photo by Kerry O' Brien

It was a fantastic May day in the Mojave as I finally broke through LA’s gravitational force field. First stop in Hesperia met with a flurry of Pacific Crest Trail through hikers scarfing McDonalds. Hailing from all over the country most had been out for a month at this point, had been snowed on and were loading for the push through Tehachpi before hitting the good water in the Sierras.

Mojave Desert landscape-photo by Kerry O'Brien

May is always a great month in California and this was the best desert crossing I’ve ever had. Only mid eighties so I could actually drive in the daytime!

Tree in rest stop, altered - Photo by Kerry O'Brien

Lots of folks loved this grab photograph of a tree at the last rest area in CA last Nov. Coming out this time I grabbed the same tree again. A little different this time!

Tree in rest stop, altered - Photo by Kerry O'Brien

Cheap gas - Photo by Kerry O'BrienAlways good to get gas once past the CA border. When I came back in early March the story was gas prices were up in CA because we were getting the special “Summer Blend.” More recently the story was a break down in an “undisclosed” refinery. What is UP with that?

I love driving along old Route 66 from Kingman through Peach Springs on the Hualapai Tribal Lands. I think I’ve finally found the magic equation for loading the van and balancing the trailer tongue weight, and the van isn’t burning tons of oil, meaning the machine shot finally got the valve guides right. Feeling hopeful as I come up the grade into Flagstaff. Love seeing the San Franciscos come into sight. Gonna be a chilly night.

San Francisco Mountains - Photo by Kerry O'Brien