Mustang Trails

June 19, 2006

Our horses spend a good bit of each day climbing up and down the mountain on switchback trails they have created. During spring and fall, they generally climb up once in the early morning and again around ten at night. I can usually hear the sound of their bare hooves on the granite bluff and sometimes I catch a glimpse of them in the moonlight. Now that fly season is here, they reserve their climbs for after dark to escape biting deer and horseflies.


I haven’t had a chance to read Jaime Jackson’s book, Paddock Paradise, a Guide to Natural Horse Boarding, but I understand he refers to behavior patterns he has observed in wild horses. We find our band of four formerly wild mustangs consistantly climb and come back down the mountain in the same direction and always in a roughly clockwise pattern. The following photo show a portion of the trail they have created that starts the uphill climb after crossing through the bottom of an arroyo.


This portion of trail comes directly across a mostly smooth expanse of granite bluff at the top of our property. It isn’t terribly steep, but can be quite slick. I don’t think our horses would manage it nearly as well with shoes as they do barefoot. Our drought situation is currently so severe here in New Mexico we hear the forests are likely to be closed soon. I remember during my trail riding days in California when the parks would be closed to horses wearing shoes due to the sparks caused by steel hitting granite rocks and I’m glad we have kept our boys barefoot.


After coming across the top of the property, the horses begin to move downward and around a steep bluff we call Cuervo Point. This portion of trail is remarkably steep and treacherous but I have seen the boys come down it at a trot with no hesitation.


And finally, as the horses come down through the last section of loose pine thatch and granite sand, they have created a series of tight switchbacks to get them safely back to the lower portion of the property. We find our horses keep their hooves more laterally balanced than most do. It’s totally a theory, but we feel that might be due to their switchback activities – each time they change directions the outside of one front and back foot and the inside of the others get extra wear.


The bottom of the property is relatively smooth and gently sloping. This is the area that is used for feeding, water and general socializing. During these hot summer days, the boys spend the majority of their time sharing tail swishing and rolling in the sand.


One Response to “Mustang Trails”

  1. Austin of Sundrip Journals Says:

    i didn’t realize that horses had herding behavior or alfa behavior. it blows me away how little i know about horses. I love reading these stories. I learn a lot and it’s almost like I’m reading a story book.

    I’m happy the new guy is doing well and I do hope that V (I can’t spell it) but I hope he is able to adjust soon so that he can enjoy his friends again.

    smiles to you,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: