Two years ago, when I stumbled upon the blog Wild in the Pryors on Freshly Pressed about a wild stallion named Lakota, I was captivated by the author’s emotional account of her connection to an animal she had christened her “spirit horse.” Moreover, Sandy’s pictures of Lakota and the other wild mustangs who roam the Pryor Mountains in southern Montana made me feel like I was up on the mountain with her experiencing the horses in person with my own eyes. There are no words to describe the way she manages to capture these horses on camera–her pictures are that remarkable. I became an instant fan and did not think twice when I hit the “follow” button. And before you read any further, I highly suggest you read the Freshly Pressed post that brought me to Sandy’s blog. Trust me, it’s worth the read! You can read the Lakota post here.
I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would actually get to go to Montana and see these horses in person. It just did not seem to be in the cards for several reasons. Montana is on the opposite side of the country from New York and so very far away. Reaching an elevation of over 8000 feet, most of the mountain range is only accessible in the summer months which means the rest of the year it is buried under the snow. I have zero experience driving on treacherous, steep mountain roads. And of course there is that pesky factor known as money, something that always seems to pop up when travel is involved. I resigned myself to stalking Sandy’s blog to see the horses.
One of my favorite moments of my trip. Feldspar and her colt Ohanzee.
As it turns out, Sandy is licensed to give tours in the Pryor Mountains. In the fall of 2013 she posted her camping tour dates for the summer of 2014 on her blog. As soon as I saw the post, it wasn’t even a question. I was going and that was it. I asked my friend Julia who I thought would be interested in this kind of trip to come along. She accepted and we then told Sandy to book us for the following summer. I was ecstatic about getting to see the horses in person and meeting Sandy. I was less ecstatic I had to wait a whole year and since time-traveling was not an option, I had to resort to browsing Sandy’s blog for my wild horse fix.
If you find yourself in Montana near the Pryor Mountains and you want to see these horses, go with Sandy Elmore. I cannot say enough good things about her. She knows the range like the back of her hand and she is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to this herd because she spends so much time on the range. She knows all of the approximately 170 horses by name and can recognize them by sight. From what I understand, she has been visiting the Pryors since 2009 but to me it feels like she has known these horses her whole life. She understands the dynamics and connections between these horses so well. She doesn’t mind repeating for the millionth time which horses you are looking at or explaining how they are related. She knows how to approach the horses and will make sure you are at a safe distance, respecting the horses’ need for space. And even when all the horses seem to have vanished into thin air, she knows where they like to hide and is really good at spotting them. You are guaranteed to see horses if you do one of her camping tours.
Two stallions Coronado and Santa Fe grazing at dusk. Look at that tail swishing action!
She went above and beyond the role of camping tour guide. She picked up and dropped off Julia and me at the tiny Cody, WY airport and made arrangements for a place to stay the night before we went up and the night of the day we came down the mountain. She provided the transportation up and down the mountain which is an accomplishment in itself. The road we took up the mountain was very rocky, very steep, and not for inexperienced drivers. I don’t care how good of a driver you think you are–you probably will not be able to make it up there on your own unless you have a lot of experience driving on top of rocks. Sandy has driven it so many times, it is almost like second nature but she uses a huge truck and we were still jostling around like Mexican jumping beans.
She also provided the camping equipment and delicious food (FYI Sandy I LOVE YOUR BROWNIES). She was very concerned for me when I started to experience symptoms of altitude sickness the second day (more about that in another post) and tried to figure out a way for me to possibly get down the mountain (you’ll have to read my upcoming posts to see if I stayed or not! Dun dun dun).
Sandy also has magical powers and is a horse whisperer (just kidding!). However the filly Niyaha is standing only about five feet from her. More about this encounter later too.
On top of it all, she is so sweet and so nice! She is the first blogger I’ve met in all my years of blogging and it was all thanks to WordPress deciding to Freshly Press one of her posts. So thank you WordPress, I guess? This trip would never have happened had I not read that post.
Oh and just for fun here is a disclaimer: This post was not sponsored by any kind of organization apart from my love for horses. I paid the camping tour fees just like the rest of Sandy’s guests. I paid for my flights, I paid for transportation and lodgings. And I would gladly pay for that all over again.
I will be writing more posts about my trip but I need to go through my pictures and I may need Sandy’s help identifying the horses. There is no way I can remember all of their names. I hope you enjoyed this preview.
PS. Don’t forget to follow Sandy’s blog! You can also follow her on Facebook at Wild in the Pryors.