By Deborah Sutherland
(March 8, 2023) It’s almost springtime in the Virginia Range and the band shuffling has begun. This is the time of year when many wild horse bands acquire new family members. Band stallions fight each other and steal mares while bachelors get restless and wrestle with each other, also in competition for mares. Even though the wind blows and snow falls, the springtime band shuffles have started.
It was a cold winter day just after a snowstorm when I met Curly’s band for the first time. They were walking close together as they marched down the road toward me. I didn’t recognize the band as I documented them but later found out it was the cute pinto stallion Curly and his mares Maeve and Cameron who had come down the mountain. They stayed for a while and as I was leaving I saw them quietly resting near Apache’s band. They looked tired from their long journey.
A few weeks later when I was out on the range, I noticed a few new faces in the distance with stallion Lionheart and his mares Valentine and Tesari. It was Curly’s mares Maeve and Cameron, and Curly was nowhere to be seen. Lionheart stole Curly’s mares! As Lionheart’s now larger band crossed my path his mare Valentine, who was attacked by a bear a few months ago, stopped to look at me. I was happy to see that the claw marks on her neck and face were completely healed and that young Tesari was still with the band. In just a few months this handsome red roan stallion Lionheart went from being a bachelor to having a band family with four beautiful mares. He stood in front of them on guard that day as he watched the other stallions who were traveling nearby. I didn’t see Curly but I’m sure he was out actively searching for a new family.
Only a few days later in the same area of the range, I observed Rooster’s band grazing in a field not too far from Steener’s band. A team member noticed from a distance that Rooster had lost two mares but we weren’t sure which ones. We finally figured out that one of Rooster’s missing mares was Georgia when we saw her with Steener’s band.
While I was documenting this band change I watched Steener as he guarded his band closely as some bachelors approached them. The young bachelor Paulo, who was usually no threat, bravely walked right up to Steener. They wrestled for a while but neither stallion was hurt and when they were finished, Steener escorted Paulo away from his family and a newly acquired mare who were gathered together watching the commotion.
These are only a few of the band switches that have taken place and time will tell what other changes will happen on the range this spring but it’s clear that the band shuffling has already begun!