It's not often that ask for a guest to write a blog article on our site, but every once in a while someone has such a great story to tell that it has to be told by them directly. Let me introduce you to Abbie Branchflower, who is dedicating her life to preserving America's wild Mustangs by getting right out on the range with them to study their behavior and the health of the herds. Abbie has been a customer of ours since she bought her Flagship model Beachcomber from us in 2016, and we have sent many horses her way since. She has now published a book about the Pryor Herd, and sales will help her continue her research into the best ways to insure our wild horses stay safe and wild for generations to come. ~ Eleda
Thanks to Cloud, the palomino stallion of PBS and Breyer model fame, many people are aware of a remote population of free-roaming horses in the mountains of Wyoming and Montana. This herd is the Pryor Mountain Mustang Herd, and their range was the first designated public wild horse range in North America.
Nimbus, a daughter of Cloud, takes after her sire’s pale colouring. She was separated from her band as a yearling and proved just how tough she is by growing into the beautiful, healthy mare she is today.
These small, hardy horses have lived in their environment for centuries. They, like free-roaming horses throughout the world, have captured the hearts and imaginations of countless people; I am one such person. When Ginger Kathren’s first Cloud documentary was released I was mesmerized by this window into the world of the wild horses. To my surprise, I noticed that some of the horses in the documentary graced photos already on my walls – it was as though the mustangs had been always been part of my life. Throughout the years, the mustangs kept calling to me. Although I lived in Ontario, I still wrote letters as a child to the U.S. government, urging them to maintain protection for these beautiful animals.
Ryden is doted on by all his aunties!
A young girl’s fascination turned into a lifelong passion, and a drive to ensure that free-roaming horses are treated humanely and fairly. I have continued advocating for the herd, and I recently graduated with my Masters in Animal Behaviour and Welfare, which I conducted on the use of fertility control in the Pryor population. I have created, and maintain, family trees for the horses based on information generously shared with me or deduced through hours of perusing records. I gratefully thank Sandy Palen, owner of Wild in the Pryors, as well as the Pryor Mountain Mustang Center in Lovell, WY, for much of this information.
Sandy and I were the first to see Rue – my first time discovering a foal! I named him after the plant theme in his maternal line. Horses born in 2017 must have names beginning with ‘R.’
I finally made my first visit to the Pryor Mountain Mustang Range in 2015, able to do so as the recipient of Lakota’s Gift, a generous trip provided by Sandy to a young person invested in the herd. I have continued to go to the mountain each subsequent year, spending as many as five weeks out West as Sandy’s assistant. Camping for extended periods of time on the range has gifted me with an intimate familiarity with the horses; I truly feel as if I know them each individually. Of course, while I love these horses deeply, I never approach, attempt to touch, or feed the horses. Part of loving them is allowing them to remain wild, and not interfering with their daily lives.
Jackson, a senior bachelor, and Mandan. Jackson injured his eye in 2017 and is now partially blind – he tends to keep to himself to avoid trouble. However, he’s always there when someone needs him. Mandan was gravely injured this year, and Jackson stayed by his side until the younger stallion was recovered enough to engage with the rest of the herd.
As someone with a keen interest in animal welfare, coupled with a love for writing and photography, it seemed only natural that I create a book about my experiences. I self-published “Pryor Hoofprints: Portraits of the Pryor Mustangs 2018” in celebration of the 50th Anniversary year of the Pryor Mountain Range. This book is a photo journal and collection of stories from my experiences in 2018 with the horses. It features the individual stories of several of the Pryor Herd, and full colour photographs showcasing their beauty, as well as the remarkable landscape they live in.
Cappuccino’s tightknit family, with 2018 colt Shoshone in the foreground.
It is my hope that through my work I can bring people closer to the horses and foster a love for and understanding of the complexity of wild horse society. Not everyone has the opportunity to visit the range, but many share my love for the horses all the same. Through this book I can bring people closer to the horses they see and hear about, and portray the horses as individuals, quirks and all. For example, Brumby is incredibly opinionated, and Jasper dotes on his stepsons. Cappuccino is well-loved by his tight-knit family, while Doc’s mares happily cohabit with him but are bonded to each other over their stallion.
Miss Opinionated: The sass is real with Brumby!
The Pryor Horses have become extended family to me, and I will forever treasure the moments I get to spend in their presence and continue to advocate for them to the very extent of my abilities.
If you are interested in purchasing a copy of my book, please visit my Etsy page: Pryor Hoofprints: Portraits of the Pryor Mustangs
Pryor Hoofprints can be found online at: https://www.facebook.com/pryorhoofprints/