Open Range #14159

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The Story

This is what horse herding can look like across the open range of sagebrush landscape in upper Colorado. It’s the high desert country where you can see for miles. The cowboy outrider is moving this small group of breakaways back into the herd that is moving just to the right out of frame. Usually, the animals will mostly stay together but there are always a few stragglers and those with a mind of their own.

The image was taken on a large horse drive across miles and miles of this sagebrush terrain. Hundreds of saddle horses live here through the winter. A rancher can’t afford to feed 1200 head of horses with bought hay, so he’ll let Mother Nature provide for them. They survive on the narrow thin grass that grows under every sagebrush plant and drink from small natural springs. In early Spring, cowboys gather the far-flung bands of horses scattered across miles of this high desert into a larger herd. Over two days of horse herding, that herd is moved over this sagebrush landscape to the main ranch sixty miles distant. There the horses are vet checked before being distributed across the West by truck for their summer work as rented saddle horses in tourist season.

I took this image from a hay bale in the back of a slow-moving pickup truck as we went down miles of dirt back roads alongside the herd.  There was a slow sway to the dusty ride, punctuated by some banging drops into some nice semi-wild Colorado potholes. A good grip on the camera was important for creating unblurred images, but the vibration reduction technology in modern lenses was a great help here.

Location: very remote Moffat County, Colorado.



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