Friday, October 9, 2009

Goodbye to Shaman, wild stallion of the Pryor Mountains

On my first trip to the Pryor Mountains of Montana in June 2004, the very first band of wild horses that I encountered was Shaman's band. I was immediately captivated as I saw a band of horses running out from under the trees just after dawn.

There was a big dun stallion bringing up the rear, with mares and foals and a young palomino stallion. The foals played and capered together, then one by one the mares started laying down for a nap. I sat down at a respectful distance, just savoring the experience of being in the presence of these beautiful wild horses on the mountaintop,one of the most gorgeous places I have ever been. As I sat watching them, Shaman the band stallion grazed closer and closer to me. I held my breath, then realizing how soft the expression in those gorgeous eyes, I relaxed enough to take a photo I called "Stallion's Eyes."

I fell head over heels in love with Shaman from that moment, and as much as I adore Cloud, Shaman has always held a very special part of my heart.

Shaman was born in 1986. I was always amazed at how strong and vigorous he was even as a 19 year old stallion, grand old man of the mountain. He and Cloud always treated each other with respect when their bands came close to each other, and I once watched him fight with Baja over the salt licks, then run back to his band, leaping into the air like a young stallion!

Sometimes he made me laugh like the day I found him and his entire band giving my car a bath with their tongues.
Shaman was a wonderful and indulgent father to his foals, and perhaps too indulgent for his own good with Bolder. Bolder is Cloud's son, but born into Shaman's band and raised by Shaman. Usually stallions kick young colts out of the band when they reach 2 - 3 years old - but Bolder stayed in the band until he was 5 years old!

It was that next year, spring of 2007 that bolder challenged Shaman for his band, and won the band. That summer, Shaman followed the band, skirmishing with Bolder frequently. It was heart wrenching to watch Shaman get beaten time after time. By that next summer, Shaman had given up and was by himself.

It seemed to me that the light had gone out of Shaman's eyes. A stallion's reason for living is watching over and protecting his band, and without that family, the older stallions don't seem to last long in the Pryor Mountains.
My last encounter with Shaman was this last June. I saw him looking out at the bands going down to water, and I had a strong feeling that this would be the last time that I would see him, which made me very sad. I said my goodbyes silently, tears running down my face.

The week before the Pryor Mountain roundup, Shaman was found beside the waterhole near Penn's cabin. I heard the day before the roundup was due to start, and I was so thankful that Shaman would not have to go through the trauma of being driven down his beloved mountain - he was able to live out his life in his mountain home.
All old wild horses deserve to go this way.
Goodbye to Shaman, wild stallion of the Pryor MountainsSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


  1. Thank you Carol for sharing this heartwarming encounter with Shaman - I am crying as I read it. I can only imagine how intense your bond was with this beautiful horse. Yes I am grateful he was spared the nightmare of losing his home after losing his band to Bolder.
    Thank you again. I love your photos and stories. Monika

  2. Carol, you've touched my heart this morning. Thank you for your wonderful view of this very special American resource.

  3. Dear Carol, What a beautiful and moving tribute to a noble beast. Both your thoughts and pictures capture a rapidly passing moment in American history -- so sad it must go.
    Pamela de Maigret

  4. Beautiful words, beautiful images! Thank you for sharing your experiences.

  5. I wish they could all go so peacefully. Thank you so much, tears wetting the page.....

    Rebecca Smith

  6. Carol,
    Such a moving tribute, an honor to Shaman. We saw his band on the mountaintop in 2003, I believe. To be there, among the horses, is an unforgettable experience. I was privileged to meet you at "Mustangs on the Hill" and have enjoyed your "Wild Hoofbeats". Thanks for all you do in behalf of the wild horses, may they always be.
    Judy Cassario

  7. What a moving and beautiful story. What an amazing experience I'm sure it was to have gotten to know Shaman like you did. I'm so glad that Shaman got to live a nice, full, life! Beautiful pictures!

  8. What a wonderful, moving story. To tell you the truth, I've been looking at the title for days, afraid to read the post for fear it would break my heart. However, even though I'm crying now, I'm so glad I finally read your tribute to Shaman.

    I'm sad that he lost his band, but this is the way of the wild I guess and I'm sure HE understood that. I too, and so thankful he did not have to endure the roundup...

    Rest In Peace, Shaman

  9. Oh Carol, I am so sorry to read about Shaman, but like everyone else I am go glad he went on his terms.
    You are a fabulous writer and have a way of taking me away and putting me right in the middle of your story. Thank you for the great writing, keeping us posted, and the larger than life pictures!

    Karen C.

  10. Shaman was a unique creature who lived a magical life in one of the beautiful horse ranges in the world. I would be giddy with joy watching Shaman and Bolder with their hardy family dance through the seasons. Why Shaman kept Bolder on we'll never no, yet that sealed the old Stallions fate. It was heartbreaking to watch, but nature is never fair. Mercilessly Shaman died immediately before a roundup that surely would have taken him from his ancestral home. Now his spirit will remain in the Pryor Range for eternity.
    RIP Shaman.

  11. I met Shaman and the Pryor Mustangs in June of 2009. Without knowing any names or history of the horses, I witnessed unique moments between Bolder and Shaman. When Shaman wanted to take more distance of Bolder his band, Bolder urged him to stay with them. They even cuddled. It was all very friendly.

    Shaman was my #1 on the Pryor Mountains. He was already in bad condition. As wise and spiritual stallion, he knew there was nothing he could do when the round up started. Going to the other side was his last wise move. I am convinced Shaman is watching over the herd for eternity.

  12. Ahhh Carol, bless your heart! Thank you for such a heart warming story about one of our American heros and his triumphs and battles through a life born free. You were my eyes and ears as I listen for the water splashing at the waterin hole and the pounding hooves racing down the side of the mountian.
    Thank you for going the 2nd mile so that we can hear and see God's handy work in one of his most glorious creatures! As I read your words my heart ached for their freedom....realizing that freedom is much different now than my childhood dreams.