Beware: Wild horse encounters can be dangerous during mating season
Article submitted by Laura Tennant
Laura is a Nevada native, Dayton historian and the Leader-Courier’s formar editor. She continues to write a weekly column for the Mason Valley News, where this article originally appeared on May 6, 2016
Stony and I live near an old wagon road in southeast Dayton and one of my favorite pastimes during the 45 years we have lived out here has been hiking up the road into the Pine Nut Mountains or walking on the adjacent BLM land.
On April 24 though, I had one of the scariest experiences of my life on that roadway.
Our dog Bert and I were near the bottom of the road, where the ascent begins, when I noticed a herd of horses trailing hundreds of feet west of us. This is not an unusual sight. I know the horses are wild and give them a wide berth. Bert has never been allowed to chase the horses and ignores them.
Suddenly, though, that day, one horse left the herd and came closer and closer to me with a threatening attitude. I have never had this happen. I clapped my hands and the horse kept coming so I threw a few rocks and yelled and it turned away. I was not afraid but I am a realist when it comes to respecting wild animals.
Yet, I am a born scaredy-cat and decided to move farther out of the horses way. Bert and I left the roadway and headed southwest across the desert to go the opposite direction from the horses that were walking north.
Meanwhile, below me, a few horses had broken away from the band and had crossed the road. A couple of stallions were fighting and when they finished, the other horses joined them and the leaders began making a wide loop and the whole herd began following me, getting closer and closer. My heart began beating faster and faster. Now, I am scared!
In no time, I was facing four young studs with white blazes on their noses while the herd followed them. I screamed and waved my arms and threw rocks. They backed off. I figured they thought Bert was a coyote. He has been trained to lay down when Stony or I make make a hand motion, so I gave him the signal and he laid down. The horses started to charge him. I yelled, “Run Bert, run!”
I ran as fast as I could. Bert bounded away with the speed of light, and I formed a plan: I would have Bert lay down to lure the horses to him and I would run as fast as I could to get away –– he could outrun the horses but I could not.
Fortunately, the horses did not follow us again; yet, just in case, Bert and I ran as fast as we could over the rocky, brushy terrain for more than a mile to reach the gate on the road.
Later, Stony and I drove to check the horses. They were milling around at the Dayton Valley and Bullion roads gate and a number of stallions were still fighting for supremacy. One older black stallion had been kicked out but he returned while we watched and two other stallions were limping and we believe one had a broken leg. (These injuries were reported to the Wild Horse Preservation Group.)
Doing what comes naturally
The horses main breeding season is in the spring and that is when young studs attempt to kick the older stallions out.
I now believe the healthy-looking 17 horses in the herd comprised two bands, not one, because there were so many horses vying for supremcy.
Kicking out old stallions and bringing in new blood is nature’s way to control inner-breeding.
Other scary horse stories
After my story appeared on FaceBook, Christy McGill, who hikes near the same area, related a similar story that happened to her and her children one spring day 11 years ago:
“We accidentally got in-between two herds of stallions vying for each other’s mares. All my tactics to shoo them away did not work and we ran for the gate.”
Christie’s brother’s Border Collie, Chewy, saved the day when he challenged the horses by circling around the stud’s feet and biting its ankles.
“I will never forget the stallion’s scream as he reared up to crush the dog as the children and I ran for the gate about four feet away.”
Although Chewy is no longer alive, Christie learned about Border Collies and her collie Bo hikes with her. If they encounter a band of horses, Bo paces between Christie and horses. Also, the day after my nightmarish experience, I walked in on a discussion between a Stagecoach resident and Ellen, a postal clerk at the Dayton Post Office. The man said a stallion had threatened him in his backyard and he too feared for his life.
Wild horse range changes
In the 1950s, when Dayton was an agricultural community instead of a residential area, the horses stayed in the mountains. My high school friend Dave Dull said he and his brother Garth were hunting in the mountains near the Wild Rose Mine about five miles east of Dayton beyond today’s DVR when a stallion began charging Garth. This horse would have killed Garth if Dave had not shot him. We cannot handle things that way so it is best to stay clear of the horses.