For those of you who are not familiar with the herd of wild mustangs that call the Pryor Mountains home in Montana, it is reasonable to assume you may have never heard of a wild stallion named Cloud. When I initially discovered Sandy’s blog Wild in the Pryors, I ooh-ed and  ah-ed over her exceptional pictures of the horses but I did not try to keep track of all their names. There were just too many of them to remember. Gradually, I started noticing other posters freaking out in the comments every time Sandy posted a picture of Cloud or mentioned him in a post. Yet I remained utterly baffled by the amount of attention this horse seemed to receive. Seriously, what was the big deal with this stallion? Just the mere mention of his name sent people into a frenzy, not unlike the mania that used to accompany the Beatles whenever they went out in public.

beatlemania We just want to see Cloud!!! Please!!!! Source

As it turns out, it is impossible to have a conversation about the Pryor Mountains wild mustangs without mentioning Cloud the stallion. That is like trying to talk about the wild horses on Assateague Island off the coast of Virginia and Maryland without mentioning Misty of Chincoteague who is arguably more famous. So why is Cloud so special and why do people seem to lose their marbles and act as if he is the reincarnation of Elvis Presley? I mean, you never know, right? People get really weird with their Elvis conspiracy theories.

cloudwalkingThe rock n roll star of horses Cloud the stallion. Source

Cloud’s life has been captured on film since he was just an hours old tiny snow-white colt when he was born in 1995 and has gone on to star in three separate documentaries that have all aired on PBS: Cloud: Wild Stallion of the Rockies (you can watch the first documentary on pbs.com for free here), Cloud’s Legacy: the Wild Stallion Returnsand Cloud: Challenge of the Stallions. After the documentaries aired on PBS, viewers fell in love with Cloud’s story and wanted to learn more about Cloud’s herd. I’m assuming this is why The Cloud Foundation was established, a non-profit organization that seeks to protect the legacy of Cloud’s herd and other American wild horses.

Despite all the coverage Cloud has received, I had never heard of him or any of the PBS documentaries when I came across Sandy’s blog two years ago. I am starting to wonder if I am one of the few people who did not learn about the Pryor Mountains through Cloud. My friend Julia who accompanied me on my trip did not even know who Cloud was until right before we headed up the mountain in Sandy’s truck. In all our conversations about our upcoming trip, I had neglected to mention Cloud. We were more excited about getting to see cute little foals and possibly getting to name one.

062Like this little guy! Maia and her colt Odyssey. (Thanks Sandy for the ID!)

While this may come as a surprise to Cloud fans, I do not actually know anyone who has heard of Cloud, apart from people who are already knowledgeable about the mustangs in the Pryor Mountains and I can count those people on one hand. I realize he is massively popular–a quick search on Google gave me over 2 million search results for “Cloud the stallion.” But there are still many people out there who are unaware of his existence. It took me a long time to connect the dots and to understand why so many people voraciously commented on all of Sandy’s Cloud posts. I merely thought it was maybe due to his pale palomino coat–he definitely stands out from the rest of the herd and is easy to spot because of his lighter color.

When I finally made the connection with the PBS documentaries, I was hesitant to embrace Cloud Mania and I was ambivalent about the role Cloud unwittingly plays in the wild horse community. It is wonderful to have such a charismatic and beloved ambassador for wild horses. I am thrilled that Cloud introduces people to the Pryor Mountains, an often overlooked destination that has to deal with stiff competition from its louder and flashier neighbors Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and Glacier National Park in Montana. However, I get the impression that some people are so mesmerized by Cloud’s palomino silhouette that they forget there are about 169 other horses in the herd that are present on the range. Cloud is not the only horse living in the Pryor Mountains. All the horses have their own story to tell and are worthy of our consideration.

074Here is Cloud with one of his mares Innocentes and his colt Ohanzee hiding in the trees. Most likely trying to get away from the mid-day bugs.

I made the very conscious decision to not watch any of the Cloud documentaries before my trip. While I looked forward to possibly seeing him, I did not want my experience on the mountain to revolve around Cloud. I did not want to have any preconceived notions about any of the horses or have a built-in favorite before seeing the horses in person. I think this is the reason why I would have been perfectly okay had Cloud chosen not to show himself during my time in the Pryors.

As luck would have it, we spotted him several times and shared some special moments with his band. He is a very handsome and majestic looking stallion and acted very protective of his mare Innocentes. As you can see from the pictures, we were able to get very close to him. I am guessing that so many people have come up the mountain to see Cloud that at this point we humans do not faze him in the slightest.

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097I took this picture through the windshield of Sandy’s truck so not the greatest quality. We saw Cloud’s band a bit later in the day out of the trees. Cloud and Innocentes were attached at the hip all day coupled up standing mostly like this.

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It is important to remember that Cloud has never sought fame or to become the poster horse for wild horses–he is just doing what he knows best, doing his wild horse thing, and that is the way it should be.  He has lived for 19 years blissfully unaware of the hysteria surrounding him. There is no room for fame in the animal kingdom because the concept does not exist. We humans are the ones who have made him famous. If given the choice, I do not think Cloud would have wanted to be famous. Who wants to live with that kind of pressure?

Unless he really is the reincarnation of Elvis, then it all makes sense.

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