Sierra’s Return: The Journey of a Freedom Fund Mare (New video!)

Dear Friends of Cloud’s Herd & the Freedom Fund horses;

As many of you know, a devastating 2009 roundup of Cloud’s Herd in the Pryor Mountains included the permanent removal of an entire sub-population of Pryor Mustangs living outside the designated boundaries of the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range on Commissary Ridge in the Custer National Forest.

Sierra & the rest of her band driven into the trap atop Commissary Ridge, Sept. 2009

Those horses included then 21 year-old Grumpy Grulla, Raven’s mare for many years, and 19 year-old,Conquistador, the striking dun who Cloud fought with in my first PBS documentary about the Pryor wild horses. In all, we ended up with four little bands, which included a blaze-faced, 13 year-old chestnut mare named Sierra.  I have known her all her life, and I knew the three foals I can confirm she gave birth to. The first two foals were likely killed by mountain lions, but the third—the light sorrel with the blazed-face lived to adulthood.

Sierra & one of her foals who fell prey to a mountain lion

Fortunatus was his name, an August 2005 baby born out in the Forest Service—the son of the “super-sized” black stallion, Zeppelin. Makendra and I saw “Fortunatus” when he was a week or so old. It was her first visit to the Pryor Mountains and I will always remember her reaction to the beautiful sight of Zeppelin, Sierra, and their little son walking toward us through a clearing in the forest, backlit in the afternoon light.

Fortunatus. Can you see the family resemblance?

As a five year-old, Fortunatus decided it was time to start his own family. He spent the summer and fall of 2010 dogging the band stallion, Cabaret, trying to steal his little band. Then winter came and we lost track of them.

Cabaret, his band, & Fortunatus

In late June, Ann Evans and I walked below the huge, new Forest Service fence that now prevents the wild horses of the Pryors from freely traveling where they have for centuries (Removing this fence is one of the outcomes if we can win our lawsuit against both the BLM and the Custer National Forest).

Dead bodies were about the last thing Ann and I expected to discover on our hike.  The first body o four was a mare, partially exposed in the small, still snowy gully below the fence. They all died less than a hundred yards below the new fence.

Cabaret - 2010 (Photo by Sandy Elmore)

With the help of Sandy Elmore, we now know the bodies we found were those of Cabaret’s band. The small and flashy grullo stallion with the unusual facial marking died with his mare, Duchess, their yearling, Jericho, and their foal, Kalika. I believe Cabaret and his family were trying to go home, to the place where they had always wintered in the Forest Service lands around the Big Ice Cave. But, they were stopped by the fence and died in the deep snows of last winter. Fortunatus has not been seen this year, and I fear he died as well.


Fortunatus dogs Cabaret (in the lead) and his family (2010)

So Sierra, like others of the unique Pryor mustangs from Commissary Ridge, is the last of her line. We call our wild horse families the Freedom Fund horses. It was only because of the outpouring of donations that we were able to acquire them and keep them together in their family groups in a free setting. We first found a ranch for them near the little town of Pryor, and since last year, a 1,200-acre property outside Billings which we lease.

This spring, Laura and Carl Pivonka of Billings were visiting the horses and noticed a quarter-sized wound just above Sierra’s left front hoof. It looked anything but serious. In time, however, she began limping on that leg. When she grew worse, she had to be removed from her family. For the past 6 months she has been under a vet’s care, enduring multiple operations and a long rehabilitation. I believe her calm, sweet demeanor and the loving care of Lisa Jacobson DVM, allowed her to heal.

Sierra, minutes before her release back to the pasture

We’ve have edited a five-minute program entitled “Sierra’s Return” and invite you to watch this saga of a brave little mare.  Thanks to those of you who contributed to offsetting some fairly staggering vet bills. But, in the end, I think you will agree, it was worth every dime!

We hope you’ll smile along with us when you watch our tribute to Sierra.  By the way, her handsome dun band stallion you will meet in the video – he is the full brother of Cabaret.

Happy Trails!



7 Responses to “Sierra’s Return: The Journey of a Freedom Fund Mare (New video!)”

  1. Lethie Lanham Says:

    Wonderful story, some sad but also a good outcome for one. Wish there were more good stories than bad one about what is happening to those thousands that are being rounded up and sent to holding pens for life.

  2. Jonathan Says:

    Im so happy for Sierra to be back with her family. What happened to Sand and Bo?

    • Jonathan Says:

      When I was watching the video of the Freedom Fund horses in the spring on Youtube, I noticed that Sand and Bo werent there. I didnt know where they were and I thought they were with Sierra when she was recovering. Are they at a different ranch now or are they with The Freedom Fund horses still?

  3. Louie Cocroft Says:

    Comment at Dan Rather Reports at Face Book now!!

    Please come and comment where Laura has. Add your voice to convince Dan Rather to report on the wild horses and burros!

    This is Friday night around midnight in the Rockies. Please comment!!

  4. Chris Posey Says:

    “…. Cabaret and his family were trying to go home, to the place where they had always wintered in the Forest Service lands around the Big Ice Cave. But, they were stopped by the fence and died in the deep snows of last winter. Fortunatus has not been seen this year, and I fear he died as well”……..

    I’m still haunted by the fates of Cabaret, Duchess, Jericho, and their foal, Kalika and of course Fortunatus. It’s bad enough when horses or any animals suffer because of natural causes as Lobo and Lariat. But for the Forest Service, who is paid by the taxpayers for the benefit of the animals, to deliberately cause these animals to suffer and die because they erected a fence to thwart them from their winter home, is unconscionable.

    We need to protest the fence while we are waiting the results of the law suit. Just let us know some details and where to write. Thanks.

  5. Photos taken on a drive to the Pryor Mountains, 9-20-2011 | Four Blue Hills (A repository, of sorts) Says:

    […] Sierra’s Return: The Journey of a Freedom Fund Mare (New video!) ( […]

  6. Jonathan Says:

    Do you know where Bo is? I heard what had happened to Sand and how did she get her knee injury?

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